Daily Keto Go-to’s

MCT (medium-chain triglycerides ) oil is a quickly absorbed, energy-producing fat made from coconut oil.

I always start my day with bulletproof coffee. A lot of keto folks are on the fence about BP coffee “It tastes gross””Limit fat if you are trying to lose fat” etc. For me however, having 2 BP coffees through the morning make it easier for me to make it to dinner and not go over my daily calories but still hit my healthy fats. (pssst…I reallllllly love my coffee). One of the main reasons I started drinking my coffee this way, however, was to get away from the use of sweeteners like stevia, monkfruit etc. These sweeteners do not raise your blood sugar levels but they can stall you out, as I found out in month 4, while trying to lose weight and make you keep your sweet tooth cravings. Don’t get me wrong they are good for folks just starting out trying to get away from real sugar and high carb foods, think of it like a transition food, nicotine gum for smokers if you will. Some people will not have any issues in this department but that is where experimenting comes in. Experimenting is a big part of keto, a lot of folks have food sensitivities that cause IBS, constipation, inflammation etc. and don’t even know it.

Bulletproof Coffee

Anyway back to my coffee, I add 2 tbsp Kerrygold butter, 1 tbsp of MCT oil and coffee in a bullet blender and pulse for 5-10 seconds. It makes a creamy coffee with foam on top for you latte lovers. I have made it other ways, with sweeteners, cinnamon and with just blending with a milk frother (doesn’t work as good, I would have to add heavy cream to get the right consistency) but I always go back to old tried and true.

My other go-to drink besides water is my version of keto-aid. Because of the loss of water weight due to inflammation, your body loses electrolytes easily. To replenish these you can drink bone broth (homemade tastes best and is the most affordable) or make keto-aid. I take a 1lt mason jar (my cup of choice) and add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of Real Salt (salt is a vital mineral, the recommended daily amount is far less than the amount we should be consuming), 1/2 tsp No Salt (a salt substitute made from potassium) OR 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar (which is what I use), stevia drops to taste, water and ice. I have also used flavored and sweetened collagen powder (lemon and berry) but be sure to check your labels. Not all things labeled keto are keto.

Real Salt is a brand of salt mined from an ancient sea bed in Utah so there are no microplastics and the mineral composition is more beneficial.

So you may ask “Why should I drink apple cider vinegar?” I am not going to tote it as some miraculous and amazing thing like some do because I am not equipped to do so. But if you suffer from acid reflux/heartburn you will thank me later. Acid reflux is, at the root, caused by not eating enough fat in your diet, which helps your gall bladder make bile, which helps break down the food you eat. However, if you do not have enough bile/stomach acid in your stomach the valve at the base of your esophagus will remain open causing the bile to creep up and cause the discomfort. Most people will now take an antacid to relieve it but it is a temporary fix because it just essentially causes the discomfort in the first place by reducing the acid in your stomach even more. By adding the apple cider vinegar and upping the acid in your stomach you will digest your foods with less gas and indigestion and resolve your heartburn issue. I use to get heartburn every day all day pretty much, even drinking water would cause the burn but since starting keto 10 months ago and drinking this, I have only had it twice and both times were from just eating too large of a meal.

Explore While Quarantined?

What a time to start a blog on exploring the first coast! (sarcasm) So like many of you, we have holed ourselves up at home not leaving the house unless it is to work or to run out for essentials. We were not able to stock up like most because we had to wait to do our grocery run until we got paid (bi-weekly) and by then people had already cleared most things out, like the toilet paper. But boy oh boy I found me a couple of hefty industrial style rolls at a discount food store that so far has lasted over a week with 5 people in the house!

So toilet paper aside I thought I would do a post on different things you can do while stuck in the house to pass the time either as a family or on your own since we can’t really venture out and about at the moment.

Virtual Tours

Live Cams

Reading Material

Apps for Kids

Family Fun

  • Have a dance party in silly dress-up clothes
  • Help your kids write a simple slapstick skit and post it on Facebook for family and friends.
  • Start a family Youtube channel.
  • Get everyone in the family to pick one ingredient from the cupboard and try to make a meal using all the ingredients, a home version of Chopped! You know you have some pickled pigs feet in the back of the cabinet somewhere!
  • Learn how to do a new exercise like yoga, there are a lot of videos on Youtube.
  • Play eye spy in your backyard.
  • Layout in the backyard and see what you see in the clouds.
  • Start a blog.
  • Start a family journal.
  • Have a scavenger hunt. Make a list of items and go out in your car and find everything on your list. Just don’t leave your car, take a picnic with you!
  • Research history in your town/city and go on a driving tour.

Being stuck at home doesn’t have to be boring but in all honesty, I think today’s kids could stand to be a little bored now and then. Aside from all the things listed above, you can take this time to teach your kiddos how to do things that aren’t really taught anymore. Like folding a fitted sheet, making certain foods from scratch like alfredo sauce, bread, apple sauce or butter. It is like home economics and chemistry all in one! (and if you don’t know either, it will be all the more fun for the kiddo). For the older kids, you could teach them about interest rates and how to apply for a loan.

The best advice I can give those of you not used to being home with your kids all day every day is to set up a schedule with timers/alarms on your phone to keep you all on task. It will help the day go by a lot smoother. Just remember that anything you do with your kids is going to be what they remembered about being home not the lack of toilet paper (yeah I went there again) or tension settling in on everyone.

Keto Breakfast Bake

~Recipe~

  • 20 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  • 4 packed cups of fresh spinach
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar (don’t use pre-shredded)
  • 15 thick slices of applewood bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 425 and lay out the bacon on a sheet pan. Squeeze them on there, all 15 pieces should fit. Cook in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy.
  • Chop the spinach roughly and wilt in a pan without oil to release some of the water, set aside to cool.
  • Grate your cheese, about 3/4 of a pound.
  • Crack all your eggs into a bowl adding the heavy cream and seasonings, mix together well.
  • Take a 9×13 glass pan and spray with avocado oil or lightly grease with bacon drippings.
  • Once the bacon is done, chop it up and reduce the oven temp to 375.
  • Next is the layering in the glass pan. Layer the bacon, then spinach(it should be cool enough now to squeeze some of the water out), half the cheese, egg mixture and then the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is firm to the touch and depending on your desired brownness.
  • Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into 10 portions.

Nutrition Information

10 servings in total

  • Calories 355
  • Fat 26.5g
  • Net carbs 1.2g
  • Protein 25g

Keto and Costco – A Match Made in Heaven

Great seasoning for steak and vegetables without added sugar/oils/flours at an awesome price!

For anyone with a big family, Costco is your best friend. Whether you are Keto or just want healthy options for your family, you can find it all there if you have a bit of imagination. Costco has plenty of processed foods you find in the center isles at regular grocery stores but their primary focus is on the outer ring like meats, produce and dairy.

A great option if you can not afford something like ribeye at $15.99/lb. Full of flavor and very tender.

First off, what is Keto? Keto is a diet which at its base is very low in carb and high in healthy fats. Fats? Healthy? What is this, 1988?….yeah….healthy. So put away your leg warmers and sweatbands and hear me out! Fats such as avocados, good quality olive oil (low-quality oil or oil that has been sitting a while will start to oxidize, which is a whole other article) grass-fed cheeses and butter and high-fat proteins such as salmon, sardines and ribeyes. “So we just eat nothing but steak and cheese? I’m in!” No. The typical macros (macronutrients) for keto heads are 70% of calories from fat, 25% from protein and 5% from carbs or about 20 – 50 Net carbs per day. Net carbs are carbohydrates minus fiber. So many vegetables out there have very low Net carbs. For example, 6oz of broccoli has 7 Net carbs and 2 cups of cabbage has 5 Net carbs.

Keto-Friendly Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Green Beans
  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Kale and other greens
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
I usually saute these with some bacon and scrambled eggs.

A lot of people start keto wanting to lose weight but keto is not a weight loss diet. Keto is a get healthy diet that has a side effect of helping you lose weight. A high carb diet has been found to cause so many different issues in people it amazes me we still push the food pyramid! The biggest issue with an excess of carbs is insulin production, which causes diabetes, fatty liver disease, hormone imbalances and excessive weight gain, especially in the belly area. Look down, what do you see? Yeah, I see it too.

Now don’t go running out to buy your favorite vegetable oil, margarine and hellman’s mayo to hit that 70% fat macro. Besides lowering insulin levels the keto diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. In the first couple weeks that you are on the Keto diet, you will lose a significant amount of weight which is all water weight from inflammation caused by the high carb and oxidized (over-processed) foods in pretty much everything. Unless you are eating a whole foods diet. And while inflammation is a very critical process to keeping us healthy, too much inflammation can cause issues in the body, including muscle and joint pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, fatigue, headaches, and more. Worse, more and more diseases and disorders are being associated with inflammation, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, autoimmune disorders, and Parkinson’s.(s)

Fantastic for smoothies and your morning coffee.

Good Fats

  • Avocados
  • Salmon and other high fat fish
  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • MCT Oil
  • Butter (preferably grass-fed)
  • Cheese (not shredded or low fat)
  • Heavy Cream and other full-fat dairies (in moderation)
  • Avocado Oil
  • Quality higher fat meats such as beef sirloin and lean ground beef
  • Quality mayo made from avocado oil or olive oil only (a lot of mayos claim they are made with one of these oils but they are mixed with others such as soybean or sunflower oils)

“But I need carbs for energy! If I don’t eat them I’ll die!” The only process your body needs carbs/glucose for is brain function and your body itself makes what is needed. Once you have adapted to the Keto diet you will burn ketones for energy which are made from fat. And before you say it, ketones are not the same as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition resulting from dangerously high levels of ketones and blood sugar. This combination makes your blood too acidic, which can change the normal functioning of internal organs like your liver and kidneys. Being in ketosis would give you a reading of 0.6-3 mmol/L on a ketone blood testing meter and ketoacidosis would register anywhere from 7- 10 mmol/L . For anyone thinking that 3 mmol/L to 7mmol/L is not that far of a stretch, believe me, it is. I have fasted for 48 hours (fasting/eating 0 carbs increases ketone production) and still have only hit 1 mmol/L. If you are hitting 3 mmol/L on the keto diet regularly you are more then likely fully fat-adapted or just incredibly efficient at making and burning ketones, making me incredibly jealous.

You can get riced cauliflower in the freezer section as well.

Now that I have rattled off about 2% of the useful info about keto that I can think of. (please do your own research, and make a decision that fits you and your family best) I will get on with my go-to’s at Costco in NE Florida with prices. Costco ..please…give us an online inventory, even if you can’t actually order! I had to go into the store, take pics and make my own excel spreadsheet.

In a perfect world, we would eat only grass-fed/grass-finished meats and dairy, free-range eggs, wild-caught seafood and everything organic. But for most, like us, that is just not in the budget. With everything we get we feel we are getting the best quality we can afford all the while being able to throw in some more of the luxury items each trip like the Kerrygold cheese/butter and the more-expensive-then-I-would-normally-buy steak.

Great for cooking, coffee, baking, and DIY lotion/deodorant.

Costco Staples

  • Kerrygold Grass-fed Butter $12.99
  • Kerrygold Grass-fed Cheddar $5.89/lb
  • Organic MCT Oil $13.99
  • Organic Coconut Oil $13.99
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil $13.99
  • Organic Power Greens $5.99
  • Cauliflower Rice $10.99 (shelf-stable)
  • Organic Hemp Hearts $13.99
  • 88/12 Lean Ground Beef $3.09/lb
  • Beef Top Sirloin (budget-friendly steak) $5.29/lb
  • Chosen Foods Mayo $6.99
  • Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (3-pack) $7.99
  • Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener $8.99
  • Avocado Oil $9.49
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (so good!) $5.99
  • Organic Cacao Powder $8.49
  • Wild Sardines $9.99
  • Hillshire Farms Naturals Turkey Breast $9.69
  • Grass-fed Beef Sticks $14.99
  • Shredded Mozzarella $12.69
  • 2lb Sharp Cheddar Block $5.89
  • Heavy Cream $3.99
  • Eggs 60ct $7.99
  • Organic Mushrooms $5.69
  • Frozen Tripple Berry Blend $8.99
  • Sour Cream $3.99
  • Cream Cheese$6.99
  • Frozen Avocado Chunks $9.99
  • Fresh Avocados $6.99
  • Cherry Tomatoes $5.59
  • Whole pork Loin $1.69/lb
  • Country Style Ribs $2.19lb
  • Pork Belly $3.99/lb
  • Shelf Stable Almond Milk $11.99
  • Organic Frozen Broccoli $7.99
  • Organic Frozen Brussel Sprouts $9.79
  • Organic Frozen Green Beans $6.69
  • Organic Frozen Zucchini Noodles $10.99
  • Applewood Bacon $15.69
  • String Cheese $9.99
  • Frozen Wild Caught Salmon Filets $19.99
  • Everything Bagel Seasoning $4.49
  • Almond Flour $11.99

Keto Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

~Recipe~

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup Lakanto monk fruit sweetener (or whatever natural sweetener you have)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil cooled
  • 1/4 cup melted butter cooled
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (you can use coconut milk as well)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 drops of stevia (optional)

Buttercream

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered erythritol (I use Swerve or Anthony’s)
  • 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp flavoring of choice (vanilla, almond, etc.)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • In a bowl whisk together coconut flour, cocoa powder, monk fruit, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add eggs, vanilla extract, stevia (if adding), coconut oil, melted butter, and almond milk. Mix until ingredients are well combined.
  • Fill liners about 2/3 (makes about 10 regular cupcakes)
  • Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • For the buttercream, place the softened butter in a bowl or mixer and whip until color lightens or about 3 minutes.
  • Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix until combined, scraping down the sides.
  • Whip with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes to incorporate air and create a light and fluffy buttercream.

Tips:

Coconut flour is very absorbent. If you find the batter is too thick before putting it into the pans you can add a tbsp of water to thin it out.

Be sure to let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

If you are not accustomed to using sweeteners like erythritol, I would go a touch lighter when frosting the cupcakes because it can cause stomach discomfort in some.

Allow cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving if you are storing them in the fridge.

Ingredients should be room temperature before mixing to prevent uneven baking.

For those with nut allergies, the coconut oil can be replaced with butter and the almond milk with heavy cream or water.

Nutrition Info – 1 Frosted Cupcake

  • Calories – 345
  • Fat – 34g
  • Net Carbs – 4.5
  • Protein – 5

An Introduction!

Welcome to our new blog, FirstCoastExplorers.com! We are a multi-generational household of 5 in Jacksonville, FL. We love to discover and explore new areas whenever possible. We explore on a budget and stick to the First Coast and surrounding areas. We’ve started this blog to document and share our travels with other families and folks who might be on a budget but like to get out and explore.

Our adventures have taken us south to the quiet beaches of Palm Coast and North to the culturally and historically rich city of Savannah, Ga. We’ve walked Little Talbot Island’s driftwood beaches, descended the 132 steps into Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole in Gainesville and hiked the hilly trails around Big Shoals State Park to see Florida’s largest whitewater rapids!

As our adventures are usually on a strict budget, we try to stay under $50, we mainly stick to the great outdoors as Florida and South Georgia have an abundance of State and National Parks. We do sometimes manage to get a great deal on other cultural attractions and sporting events.

We’ve visited the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville. Watched the Jacksonville Icemen slap around the puck (and their opponents ;), Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp load the bases and the Jaguars, well….play football.

My wife, Tara and I have been married for 12 years. She is an AMAZING cook, has been on the keto diet for just under a year with amazing results. She will be a regular contributor, sharing our travels as well as recipes and other lifestyle-related content. She is talented at many things and, as I type this, is growing her online business of small animal accessories through Etsy.com

My name is Michael. I was born and raised right here in Jacksonville and I am a Realtor® with Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage. Despite living here my whole life, I honestly did not know just how much our region had to offer until Tara and I decided that passing our, and more importantly, our kids free time in front of a screen wasn’t any way to live. I look forward to sharing our family’s travels and experiences with you all!