Birthday Vacay, the Keto Way!

 

If you’re anything like me, food is your go-to for any and all celebratory needs. Any bit of good news meant food. In fact, any bit of sad or bad news meant food. Having a bad day? Comfort food. Having a great day? Cocktails! Promotion? Fancy dinner. Stressed out? Peanut butter M&Ms by the handful (just me?). Since food has played such a pivotal role in my life for so long, having a birthday without all the food options I’m used to celebrating with could’ve presented a challenge. But not only did I have an awesome birthday weekend, I managed to keep it keto the entire time. Win-win!

I spent the weekend in Rochester visiting Kyle, my bestie from Seattle whose birthday happens to be the day after mine — which means double the celebration! Luckily, Kyle’s the reason I started keto to begin with, so we were able to make so much delicious keto food while I was there. Straight from the train station (I love, love, love riding the train, by the way; we will have to discuss train travel in the Northeast in a future post!), we hit Wegmans. Even though Kyle really talked up Wegmans while we were in Seattle, I have to say it completely lives up to all the hype. I would totally live in Rochester to shop at Wegmans (and to hang out with Kyle, obviously).

It’s not a birthday without a cake — and ours did not disappoint! This was the perfect opportunity to try a Swerve chocolate cake mix (find it here), which turned out even better than I expected. We topped it with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting we found online here. And then we took the festive-ness up another level and sprinkled it with Lilly’s dark chocolate chips and Costco roasted peanuts. If you haven’t tried them, the Costco peanuts are the absolute best, I don’t know how they do it. Super strict keto followers don’t eat peanuts, peanut butter, etc. But I need these in my life, they’re one my favorite snacks, and they haven’t caused an issue with my diet yet. The Lilly’s dark chocolate chips are sweetened with stevia, and are great in all kinds of recipes or to throw on a spoonful of peanut butter for a super quick snack (or so I’m told).

If you love the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden as much as I do, you have to try the keto version here. Basically instead of using potatoes, substitute cauliflower (we used my go-to, frozen cauliflower rice). The kale, bacon, Italian sausage, heavy cream and spices are all good to go. Sprinkle some Parmesan on it as you serve. Delicious enough to make you forget about those starchy potatoes. Even those not on keto loved this batch of soup.

For the main course, we made a killer Chicken Parmesan bake. After baking chicken breasts in the oven with olive oil and seasonings, we cubed them and then layered the chicken with marinara sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta mixed with more herbs. The bubbly, browned ricotta on the top was almost too pretty to eat…Almost. I want to try this next with ground beef instead of chicken. Can’t send you to a recipe, we basically made this one up.

We didn’t make every single thing we ate while I was there, though. When in Buffalo (or the vicinity), you must eat like the Buffalonians (I Googled this term). Thankfully, Duff’s Famous Wings of Buffalo fame (the best!) has a location in Rochester. We had all the wings! We were too busy eating to take pictures of these, so enjoy some photos from the restaurant’s website here.

It was so nice to be able to cook with Kyle again, I forget how much I miss him until I see him for a minute. Time flies when you’re having fun, and my time in Rochester went by so fast. I’m already back on the train as I write this, with a grocery haul from Wegmans and leftover chocolate cake in my bag!  Also, all photo credits go to Kyle, he’s essentially a professional food photographer.

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