Cheesy Spicy Italian Sausage Casserole

plateI love dishes that can be anything: breakfast, lunch or dinner.  This one fits that description, plus it’s Keto Friendly!

Cheesy Italian Sausage Casserole

  • 1 Pound Mild Italian Sausage ( I use Johnsonville)
  • 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 TBLS Dried Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 TBLS Parsley Flakes
  • 1/4 Chopped Yellow Onion
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly Grated Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 TBLS Cajun Spice Blend (I use Zatarain’s)
  • 1 Cup Frozen Chopped Broccoli Rabe, Defrosted and Drained

Preheat oven to 375 and spray bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish with olive oil spray.casserole

Sprinkle 1/2 of cheese then 1/2 of the broccoli rabe in bottom of baking dish and set aside.  In a 4 cup measuring cup, combine the eggs, heavy whipping cream, and Cajun spice and set aside.

Spray a medium skillet lightly with olive oil spray and break ground sausage apart into the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley flakes over the top of the sausage.  Brown the sausage over medium heat, stirring until browned but not cooked all the way through.

Layer the sausage over the top of the broccoli rabe in the baking dish.

Lightly spray the pan again with the olive oil spray and quickly saute the onions until translucent, then stir in the remaining broccoli rabe until just combined.  Layer over the sausage then give the egg mixture a quick stir and pour it over the top of the broccoli rabe layer.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Cook in the preheated oven for 25-28 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Allow to set for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.  Great with a dollop of sour cream!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Nutrition Information (15 Servings)

  • 109.3  Calories
  • 9.6 g  Fat
  • .5 g  Carbs
  • 6.13 g  Protein

Pepper-Jelly Cream Cheese Chicken

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When I am in a snacking mood, I adore spreading hot pepper jelly on crackers topped with cream cheese.  I don’t get to indulge in that guilty pleasure very often on my #KetoDietPlan, but I had a couple of tablespoons left in a jar of my favorite cranberry, pomegranate, pepper jelly and wondered why I couldn’t use the same combination with chicken, and still stay in my Keto guidelines, so I did.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Pepper Jelly Cream Cheese Chicken

  • 4 Skin-on, Bone-in Chicken Thighs (about 8 oz each)
  • 4 TBLS Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 3 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg (divided)
  • 2 TBLS Pepper Jelly (Any Flavor)
  • Olive Oil Spray

Preheat oven to 375° F and spray the bottom of an 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Using your hands (I wear disposable gloves) combine the  softened cream cheese, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and the spinach leaves in a medium bowl.

Place the thighs in your backing dish and gently lift the skin away from the meat to form a pocket sos you can divide the spinach mixture and fill each thigh with it.  Once you’ve filled each thigh pocket (A.K.A. Saddlebag LOL) spray the skin lightly with olive oil spray then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp of nutmeg & spoon 1/2 tbls of the jelly on top of each thigh.

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Bake for 40 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165° – 180° F.  The higher the temperature the more the muscle fiber breaks down and the more tender your meat will be.

Nutrition Information (Serving Size 1 Thigh)

  • 280 Calories
  • 19 g Fat
  • 7 g Carbs
  • 21 g Protein

 

Spinach Stuffed Chicken

thighsWhen I’m prepping for meals there is nothing that brings me more inspiration than chicken thighs.  There are so many ways to dress them up and keep them from being boring and they don’t take forever to cook!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Thighs

  • 6 Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Thighs (about 8 oz each)
  • 3 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Freshly Ground Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 375° F and spray the bottom of a 13 x 9 Pyrex Baking Dish with Olive Oil Spray.  Mix together your spices in a small bowl.

Toss Spinach with 1 TBLS Olive Oil and 2 tsp of your dried spice mix in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle each thigh with some of the spice mix and massage into both top and bottom.  Leave about 1 tsp of spice mix to sprinkle over tops at the end.

Gently lift the skin away from the meat and make a pocket for the spinach leaves.  Stuff each thigh with the spinach leaves until equally distributed.

Place the thighs in the baking dish and spray tops lightly with olive oil spray.  Sprinkle remaining tsp spice mix over thighs and put into preheated oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes divide the Parmesan cheese evenly between the breasts and put back into the oven until cheese is melted and begins to brown, about 15 minutes more.

Nutrition Information (Serving Size 1 Thigh)

  • 306 Calories
  • 22 g Fat
  • 1 g Carbs
  • 24 g Protein

Buttermilk Air Fried Chicken

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Yesterday was #NationalFriedChickenDay so, because I adore southern fried chicken, I tried to make it #KetoFriendly without losing texture or taste.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Buttermilk Air Fried Chicken

  • 1 pkg (4 – 5 lbs) 5 Chicken Leg & Thigh Quarters (or your favorite cut)
  • 3 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper
  • 3 tsp Salt
  • 3 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 4 Cups Buttermilk

Combine all of your spices in a bowl and stir until well mixed.

Place your chicken into a bowl large enough to hold your chicken pieces, with room for the liquid.  Wearing disposable gloves, rub each piece of chicken generously with the spice mixture.  Moving the pieces around in the bowl as you go, pour your buttermilk over and around the chicken.  Make sure you are moving the pieces around so the spices that come off the chicken mix into the buttermilk.  Once all pieces are covered, and remain submerged, in the buttermilk, cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 but preferably 6 hours or more.  Ideally, if you can, marinate it overnight or all day while you are at work.

When you are ready to fry your chicken stir together your dredging mixture with a fork in a shallow baking pan.  TIP: I like to put my dredge mixture together at least an hour ahead of frying, if I have the time, so that my spices have extra time for their flavors to absorb into the flours.

  • 2 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour
  • 1 Cup Superfine Almond Flour
  • 1 TBLS Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder

When you’re ready to cook follow these steps for juicy fried chicken without the grease, extra fat and mess that you get when you fry in peanut or vegetable oil.

  1.  Lightly spray the basket of our air fryer with olive oil spray to keep your skin from sticking
  2. Take one piece of chicken out of the buttermilk marinade and hold it over the bowl until it stops dripping (you don’t want to drop a sopping wet quarter into the dredge mixture)
  3. Lay your chicken quarter in the pan of dredge mixture and spoon the mixture over the chicken.  Lift the chicken up by the drumstick end and lightly shake to release any extra mixture.  You want a thin coating so it crisps up perfectly and isn’t soggy between the coating and the chicken.
  4. Lay your chicken quarter in the basket of your air fryer skin side up.  Repeat with as many pieces of chicken as will fit in your basket but don’t crowd the pieces.  You want the air to flow around the pieces so they all cook evenly.  My quarters were large, so I cooked 3 at a time.
  5. Set your air fryer to 375° F and set your timer according to what pieces you are cooking (except where noted, all assume your chicken has bones/skin):  Leg Quarters 25 – 30 Minutes – Cook to 165° F to 180° F in the thickest part of the thigh.  Time will be solely based on the size/thickness of your pieces.  Cooking to a higher temp breaks down the fibers of the tougher thigh meat and gives you a more tender result.  Breasts: 22 to 25 Minutes – Cook to 165° F in the thickest part of the breast.  Boneless Chicken Tenders:  12-16 Minutes – Cook to 165° F in the thickest part.
  6. Using tongs, turn your chicken pieces over 15 minutes into cooking so that your chicken gets evenly browned.  Turn tenders over 1/2 way through your cooking time.
  7. When your chicken has reached the desired temperature, remove from the air fryer, set on a cooling rack (or your plate if your serving right away) and repeat the steps with your remaining chicken.

Nutrition Information & Comparison to Traditionally Fried Chicken (1 Leg/Thigh Quarter)

  • Air Fried:  290 Calories     Deep Fried: 1262 Calories (972 Less)
  • Air Fried:  5 g Fat     Deep Fried:  85 g Fat (80 g Less)
  • Air Fried:  7 g Carbs     Deep Fried: 56 g Carbs (49 g Less)
  • Air Fried:  23 g Protein     Deep Fried: 66 g Protein (43 g Less)

What you give up in apples to apples crispiness, you more than make up in the health benefits of converting this to a Keto Air Fried recipe!

Protein Packed Meatballs

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I am guilty of not getting enough protein in my diet and need to take every chance I can to pack extra grams in where I can.  These #KetoFriendly meatballs can be served as an appetizer, between meal snack, light lunch main with a salad or vegetables, or even added to a sauce with zoodles for a perfect #KetoMeal.  Of course, if you aren’t Keto, feel free to add them to any rice, potato, or pasta dish you choose!

Protein Packed Meatballs

Combine everything except the ground beef in the container for your blender, food processor, or Vitamix.  Set your speed to the lowest, or start with a pulse, to begin chopping your spinach up.  Once the spinach is broken down, turn the speed up to medium to make sure your ingredients are combined but not liquified.  It should only take about 15 – 20 seconds.

Put your ground beef into a medium mixing bowl and pour/scrape the blender contents on top.  I put on rubber gloves at this point and use my hands to mix everything thoroughly.

Give the bottom of the basket of your air fryer a very light, quick spritz with olive oil spray.  Roll balls with about 1 TBLS of the meat mixture (doesn’t have to be exact) and set them into your air fryer basket.  Leave a bit of space between them, you want the air to circulate around them so they cook evenly.

When you’ve filled your basket with 12-15 about 1″ meatballs (that’s how many fit in my Dash Deluxe 6 Qt Air Fryer basket), set your timer for 9 minutes at 375° F.

Shake your basket at about 6 minutes to make sure the bottoms release and get browned.  When they’re lightly browned all over, remove them from the basket and cook the rest of the meatballs.  You should end up with about 30.

If desired, serve with your favorite low-carb / sugar free marinara sauce.  Some good ones are Rao’s, Newman’s Own and Yo Mama’s.  You can see all of them (and their nutrition information) at this link#ThisGirlLovesToEat

Nutrition Information (Serving Size 5 Meatballs)

  • 231 Calories
  • 15 g Fat
  • <1 g Carbs
  • 18 g Protein

 

Keto Friendly Anytime Smoothie

AnytimeSmoothieDeciding how you spend your carb allowance, when you are following a #KetoLifestyle, presents you with many options, depending on what stage of Keto you are at.  When you are in your induction and weight loss phase, smoothies are generally not the way to spend your day’s allotted carbohydrates, but this one tops out at 9 Net Carbs so it can be included from day 1.  This light and frothy smoothie a great #PickMeUp for that late afternoon slump plus it gives you a big protein, vitamin and fiber boost without piling on the calories.

Once you’ve hit maintenance phase smoothies packed with a higher berry to spinach ratio are a great way to get your fruits and veggies in with relatively little impact on your carb count.

Keto Friendly Anytime Smoothie

  • 1 Cup Cold Water
  • 1 Cup Halved Strawberries
  • 2 Cups (packed) Fresh Baby Spinach
  • 1 Scoop No Carb Protein Powder (I use Isopure Zero Carb Creamy Vanilla)
  • 1 Cup Ice Cubes

Starting with your water, put all of your ingredients, except your ice, into your blender or Vitamix.  If you have a smoothie setting, like I do on my Vitamix, include the ice, switch to that mode and hit start.  Your Vitamix will stop when it’s ready.  Otherwise, start on a low setting until ingredients are combined then turn your machine up to medium high and blend until smooth.  Without turning your machine off, Open your ingredient addition port (hole in top of blender lid) and add in the ice until desired consistency.

Nutrition Information (Serves 1)

  • 162 Calories
  • 0 g Fat
  • 8 g Carbohydrates
  • 28 g Protein

Cheesy Keto Cauli-Grits

I like a big breakfast and thought that living a Keto Lifestyle limited my breakfast choices.  A little experimentation corrected that notion.

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Truth be told, I failed miserably on my first attempt at this recipe.  I envisioned a perfectly browned patty that resembled hash browns on the outside but inside had the creamy deliciousness of cheesy grits.  Not so much.  The ingredients were fine, it was that I thought using a lightly oiled cast iron pan would give me the results I wanted.  Instead I ended up with a burned mess that was impossible to turn.  Strike One!

The second attempt though nailed it!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Cheesy Keto Cauli-Grits

  • 2 Cups Shredded Cauliflower
  • 4 oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Sea Salt

Tip:  I used my Vitamix to pulse the cauliflower down to rice sized crumbles.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a food processor, blender, or Vitamix, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, salt & pepper, and cauliflower.  Process until combined but not completely smooth.

Scoop the mixture (about 1/4 cup) into mounds about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Lightly press each mound down to about 1/2″ thickness.

Bake in 350° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until tops turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet to cool for 5 minutes.

Serve alongside scrambled eggs and bacon for a perfect Keto breakfast, or alongside beef, chicken, or fish for a perfect dinner side dish.

Nutrition Information per Patty (8 Servings)

  • 83.25 Calories
  • 7.2 g Fat
  • 1 g Carbs
  • 3.32 g Protein