I have a crush on the Cronometer food tracking app

While I hate tracking, I find it necessary as I fine-tune my routine and get to a place where it might not be necessary. I have tried a lot of nutrition calculators and most of them ranged from passible to useless. I spent a lot of time with LoseIt! but it was always a one-sided relationship where I had to accommodate the app instead of it accommodating me.

I deleted it.

MyFitnessPal. Apparently beloved by millions – but not by me. Deleted.

KetoDiet was another. Minimalistic. Simple – but perhap too simple. Also, their units were quirky and to put in some foods I had to do tortured math in my head to come up with equivalents – and relationships that require me to do math in my head are doomed to fail.

There were others. One-night-stands that got deleted within a day. Frankly, most diet apps that even take keto into account only seem to pay it lip service.

Net carbs, for example, can be a nightmare. Scans of the barcode can be so off as to be laughable – or most of the foods I eat aren’t on the list.

Then came along Cronometer.

We’re early on in or relationship, but adding food is easy with many options for measuring – one will typically work without pulling out a calculator. Recipes are a breeze to manage, and the scanning works well and seems pretty accurate so far.

The secret sauce – what make it stand out to me? It elegantly shows me my micronutrients. This quickly showed me I was deficient in calcium and magnesium – I would have never know in other apps – or maybe it was just hidden. This allowed me to alter my supplements to make sure I wasn’t deficient. You can also put in your own target ranges as opposed to the app calculating the macros for you.

Now with any relationship, there is always a downside. With Cronometer, it is ads. Not only banner ads, but full-screen overlays that prompt me to play a mini golf game while all I wanted to do was enter that I ate an avocado.

There’s also some features I don’t have but I don’t miss them because I don’t have them. Can’t miss what you never had.

While I might consider paying for the ad-free experience, I have not been crippled by the interruptions.

While tracking sucks, I find Cronometer sucks less than all the others I’ve used.

Give it a whirl and see what you think. A month from now I might write another post explaining why I hate it, but right now it’s my new BFF.

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Spicy Italian Pork Sausage Keto Meatballs – Dairy-Free, Cheese-Free, Nut Flour-Free

I try to cook new things on the weekend to increase the variety. It’s gotta be pretty simple though because while I like to experiment, I don’t like it to take that long.

I’ve seen sausage balls – meatballs, essentially – but all of them had ingredients I didn’t want – so I invented my own:

In a mixing bowl, I added:

Ingredient Calories Fat Net Carbs Protein
14 oz. mild Italian pork sausage (Whole Foods 365 Brand) 900 60 6 78
2 jumbo eggs 180 14 2 16
1/2 cup coconut flour 240 8 12 8
3 tbsp nutritional yeast 60 0.5 2 8
2 tsp cayenne pepper 12 0 2 0
2 tsp baking powder 10 0 4.6
1/2 tsp salt 0 0 0 0
Total for the entire recipe 1402 82.5 28.6 110
Total Per serving (1/21) 67 4 1 5

I mixed all this together with a fork, then rolled them into cocktail-size meatballs, and put on a baking sheet into an oven at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

The Verdict: pretty damn good. It tasted like an Italian meatball. No one would know there’s coconut flour in it. It was maybe a tad spicy for some folks but I like spice. You might want to eliminate that if you’re not into too much spice.

This was my first time using nutritional yeast. I don’t know if it really added anything to the flavor but they do taste good – and nutritional yeast has a lot of, well, nutrition in it. If you don’t want to use that, it would probably taste OK, but I really don’t know.

As to the effort: not bad. One mixing bowl to wash. One piece of parchment paper to throw away. Rolling up the meatballs was probably the longest part but prep time total couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes.

Might be nice with a little low carb pasta sauce.

I asked my younger daughter to try one. she looked at them suspiciously: “What’s in them?”

“Pork sausage meat.” Is all I said.

She tried one. There was a pause and then: “Woah! that’s a good meatball.” Of course if I had told her they contained nutritional yeast and coconut flour she never would have tried them.

Sneaky.

After having a few more I noticed that some were a little salty in spots. Perhaps that’s a warning to mix better or cut back on the salt.

Beef and Bacon Keto Chili Recipe Version 2

I’ve been more strict in counting my carbs, and while the last Bacon & Beef Chili was great, there were carbs in some of the things I added and didn’t taste the difference.

Version 2 leaves out the unnecessary ingredients, really ups the bacon to the majority of two packages, and adds more flavor with an additional pepper and mushroom to add a nice texture.

So here’s the ingredients and the numbers:

Ingredient Calories Fat Net Carbs Protein
2 lbs. 80/20 ground beef 2272 179 0 152
5 Tbsp bacon fat 570 60 0 0
2 packages of bacon, precooked 840 42 0 56
1 can Trader Joes Chiles 40 0 8 0
1 14.5 oz can Trader Joes Fire roasted organic tomatoes with green chiles 87 0 14 4
1 large green bell pepper 48 0 8 2
1 large red bell pepper 48 0 8 2
2 tbsp chili powder 42 2 2 2
2 tsp ground cumin 16 1 2 1
Trader Joe’s – Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms – 10 oz Container 72 0 10 7
Salt 0 0 0 0
Pepper 14 0 1 1
Total for the entire pot 4049 284 53 227
Total Per Portion (1/12) 337 24 4 19

(The portions last time were a guesstimate. This time I put the chili in 1 cup covered glassware. While I already ate some, I think if were using one cup of the stuff, the number are pretty correct.)

The instructions are simple:

  1. Melt the bacon fat in the bottom of a pot
  2. Set the burner to high and add ground beef, black pepper, and some salt (add to taste later)
  3. Let it cook on high while you deal with cutting the vegetables and bacon, stirring occasionally
  4. Dice the bacon and toss in the pot
  5. Cut the peppers and toss in the and give it a stir
  6. Toss in the can of chilis and tomatoes
  7. Add the remaining spices. I tend to go heavy on the chili powder and grind the cumin in a mortar and pestle – what a great fragrance
  8. Add salt and pepper, but remember that there’s a lot of salt in the bacon so don’t overdo it.

Now set it to a low simmer and let cook for 2 hours to let the flavors meld.

The verdict: very enjoyable. As I am attempting to cut back on dairy I’ll skip the cheeses and sour cream – but you’re free to use it if you like.

Beef and Bacon Keto Chili Recipe

A quick update for the old gang: I’ve been away because, well, I had nothing to write about. On April 2nd, however, I went full-bore into a strict ketogenic diet. I’ve written a whole lot about that, but it’s not ready for publishing yet – but how about a recipe?

I’ve been deep into ketosis and have been very strict for the past 2 weeks. I use the weekends to cook and wanted to have a goto meal for the week so I thought: why not chili?

In the past I have not watched my carbs as closely as I am now, and it has paid off: a 10 lb. loss in 2 weeks, a 20-40 point drop in blood glucose levels, and ketones as measured by a blood testing meter averaging between 2-3 mmol/ml.

So unlike in the past where I might have gone apeshit with onions and other higher carb vegetables, this chili measures nutrients down to every damn spice.

So here’s the ingredients and the numbers:

Ingredient Calories Fat Net Carbs Protein
2 lbs. 80/20 ground beef 2272 179 0 152
5 Tbsp bacon fat 570 60 0 0
7 slices bacon 308 25 1 20
1 medium onion 46 0 3 1
1 can Trader Joes Chiles 40 0 8 0
1 14.5 oz can Trader Joes Fire roasted organic tomatoes with green chiles 87 0 14 4
1 large green bell pepper 48 0 8 2
2 tbsp chili powder 42 2 2 2
2 tsp ground cumin 16 1 2 1
2 tsp garlic powder 18 0 4 1
Salt 0 0 0 0
Pepper 14 0 1 1
Total for the entire pot 3461 267 43 184
Total Per Portion (1/10) 346 27 4 18

It was a pain in the ass to pull these numbers together – especially as different sources give different nutrient counts for the same thing, but I think this is about as accurate as I’m going to be able to get it.

The instructions are simple:

  1. Melt the bacon fat in the bottom of a pot
  2. Set the burner to high and add ground beef, black pepper, and some salt (add to taste later)
  3. Let it cook on high while you deal with cutting the vegetables and bacon, stirring occasionally
  4. Dice the bacon and toss in the pot
  5. Cut the onion and toss in the and give it a stir
  6. Do the same for the pepper
  7. Toss in the can of chilis and tomatoes
  8. Add the remaining spices

Now set it to a low simmer and let cook for 2 hours to let the flavors meld.

The verdict: pretty darn good. I’ll be eating this all week. I found it very flavorful by itself, but I’m sure with a little shredded cheese on the top – and maybe a dollop of sour cream – I’d be in some serious flavor territory.

Kielbasa and Zucchini Recipe

IMG_4890Forgive if you will the sloppy recipe amounts as you read below. This started as a way to dispose of mismatched items I found in the fridge by either rendering them inedible by cooking or by pure chance making something edible.

I think this came out so good that I must make this accident again.

While I am listing the ingredients I added, I see no reason why – with one exception – you can’t riff on this with whatever low carb veggies and sausage you find lying around.

I think the secret was the bacon fat. I have kept bacon fat for years but always ended up throwing it out. This was the first time I added it to a recipe – and Oh. Boy.

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium-sized zucchini, diced
  • 1 Polish Kielbasa, sliced
  • 2 andouille sausages, maybe each 6″ long, sliced
  • 1/2 cup bacon fat
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Few dashes of salt
  • dash of oregano

Cook all the ingredients in a pan as shown above covered on a high flame for a half-hour, stirring frequently until the liquids come out of the veggies and more liquid appears. This is not a bad thing – this liquid is awesome.

How awesome you say, my younger daughter, who has earned the nickname ‘carbs on carbs on carbs’ because of her eating habits gobbled up 3 servings of this stuff. Her only complaint? the andouille sausage – she preferred the kielbasa.

 

 

 

Chicken Broccolli Casserole with Cheese

I whipped this up last night with ingredients I found in the house.

  • 5-6 IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) chicken breasts
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 3 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In my convection oven, I cooked the chicken for about 20 minutes while defrosting the broccoli for about 8 minutes in the microwave. I then cut up the chicken with kitchen scissors, gave it a healthy coating of the seasoning mix. After a few minutes, in went the broccoli while I shredded the cheese with a cheese grater.

After mixing and cooking a few more minutes, the mixture went into the casserole dish and I then covered the entire top with a lot of cheese. When done I sprinkled the top with paprika more for color than anything and put it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

I had some for dinner – it was pretty good. The cheese was more hard than gooey, and maybe the cayenne pepper was a bit too much, but I ate it and enjoyed. Trader Joe’s @1 Salute seasoning is a handy blend of seasonings for those of us clueless at the sight of a spice rack.

What surprised me was the family also enjoyed it. “It’s actually pretty good.” was one comment – which shows both the typical expectations of my low carb cooking as well as the review of this particular dish in comparison.

I’d say it’s a keeper and I’ll be making it again.

Creamed Asparagus and Scallion Soup

UPDATE: I’ve been eating this the past couple of days and have a few tweaks to add

I love my immersion blender. 12 bucks or so at most large grocery stores, these things can take the place of a regular blender or food processor with minimal cleanup.

I was searching the Internet for something low carb I might be able to make with some ingredients I have lying about and came up with this idea based off another recipe I found.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of fresh asparagus
  • 10 scallions
  • 1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/3 pint heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 20 turns of the pepper mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a soup pot I melted the butter on high heat while washing and cleaning the asparagus and scallions. I chopped it in 1/4″ lengths. Thrown into the pot with the butter, I stirred on high flame intermittently for about 10 minutes while looking for the rest of the ingredients and the immersion blender.

Be careful with asparagus. While I cut off more than an inch of the bottom stems, it was still more fibrous than I would have liked and might be off-putting to some. My solution: cut the asparagus – especially at the stem end very, very closely together to be sure any fibers will be as short as possible. The immersion blender won’t fix this.

I do this with kale when I make kale soup and use the stems and it works splendidly.

After that, in went the chicken broth. I brought to a boil, then added the garlic and onion powder, turned down the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Once the simmering was done, I turned off the heat and blended until smooth. Then I slowly poured in the cream with the immersion blender on.

Now it was time for a taste – and I came up with a trick to have a good-sized taste with the extremely hot soup not burning my mouth.

We have some small metal ingredient cups about the size of the business end of a soup ladle. The keyword here is ‘metal’. Using a soup ladle I put a few tablespoons into the cup. It became almost too hot to touch – good. All that heat was being conducted out of the soup into the metal cup. To make something hot, you got to make something else cold. In less than 30 seconds I had a mouthful of the stuff at a temperature that would let me taste it.

It was very good – creamy and flavorful. I did think it needed a little salt and put in a teaspoon at that point and mixed it again with the immersion blender.

Oops – maybe just a teensy-weensy too much salt – the broth and butter brought their own salt and it was *almost* enough. My advice if you try this: be careful with the salt.

The final product was delicious. It’s a one-pot meal using only a few utensils and in a half-hour you have a great soup for a cold, possibly snowy day. It’s also suitable for vegetarians who use dairy – not usual for my recipes.

I did find after repeated lunches of the stuff that it was missing ‘something’. I added more salt and pepper at work and it was better, but it could have used some other ‘something’ – but what?

Any ideas out there?