This Mom Says…. PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! Low-Carb Comfort Foods

Rani Merens

The Low Carb Cook’s Corner

If you’re involved in any online support groups, chats or boards or lists, you’ve probably read low-carbers bemoaning missing certain foods. I miss bread, I miss pasta, I miss chocolate, I miss pizza… potatoes… rice… stuffing… The list goes on and on.

In addition to writing for CarbSmart, I used to host a low-carb cooking chat on AOL, and periodically I use Comfort Foods as a topic for the chat; it amazes me, every time, to find out the wide variety of what people consider a Comfort Food!

So I concoct recipes. And collect recipes. And convert recipes. And swap recipes. I find myself frequently explaining to people how to break out of their preconceived notions as to what foods ARE. In fact, that very subject is what landed me here at CarbSmart. Di Bauer, our editor, wrote an article about “What I’m Thankful For” and wrote:

As a beginning low carber, I was flummoxed by how to begin “thinking” low carb when I was cooking. You know what I mean; we all go through this phase. All of a sudden burgers and scrambled eggs just don’t cut it anymore. The person who turned the key and opened my mind to all the wonderful possibilities of low carbohydrate cooking was Rani Merens. We have all been the beneficiaries of Rani’s culinary expertise and her willingness to share her knowledge and her amazing recipes. Rani has enabled us to “think outside the box.”

Thus came about my last article about “Thinking Outside the Box.”

I received a lovely email from a reader, Joseph, who took that to heart, ran with it, and WOW, I can only tell you that this is the kind of response writers live for!

If anyone had told me two weeks ago that I would be going through 4 bags of pork rinds a week, I would have laughed in disbelief. I think pork rinds are one of the vilest food items available for human consumption. That is until Rani convinced me that they could be dressed up tastefully. I tried her “Bread Pudding,” “Stuffing,” and “French Toast” recipes a bit hesitantly. I was absolutely STUNNED by the outcome.

My first attempt with “Bread Pudding” was a disaster. My interpretation of “lightly crushed” was not crushed enough. I used too much Splenda and not enough cinnamon. It cooked up more like an omelet than a bread pudding. Even the ants refused to eat it. It did show promise, though, so I gave it another shot. I threw everything in the blender the next time, adjusted the measures and whipped it into a thick batter. I added some ground cloves to the mix and it baked up much like a dense spice cake. This was pretty good but still “missing something” for my taste. I made it again, exactly the same way, adding 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the batter. OMG! It rounded out the flavor perfectly. It tastes even better if given a few hours for the flavors to “marry.” I served this with a generous dollop of my basic whipped topping flavored with almond extract. It brought back childhood memories of my grandma’s spice cake with “sea-foam” icing. Mmm-mm!

The “Stuffing” recipe is ‘to die for.’ Amazingly versatile and the taste rivals that of any bread stuffing I’ve ever come across. I added Portobello Mushrooms to this recipe with great results as a side dish. I’ll be experimenting with oysters, and bite-sized portions of chicken, turkey, and pork added to the mix and baked as a main course casserole. This recipe has stolen my heart and is well working it’s way onto my table on a regular basis.

With both of these recipes, I’ve found that I get the best-tasting results by using ingredients with the lowest sodium count I can find, i.e., unsalted butter, lower sodium chicken broth, and you just have to check around for the pork rinds. The lowest sodium count pork rinds I could find at the market weigh in at 230 mg per 1/2-ounce serving. (Are unsalted pork rinds available? If anyone knows, a lead would be appreciated.)

If you haven’t tried these recipes, all I can say is: “What are you waiting for?” (: And Rani, words alone cannot sing my praise. Thanks so much for sharing these remarkably creative dishes. Pork rinds, eh? I’d have never believed it.

Be happy.

Stay healthy.


Please, dear readers, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD!If you prefer cardamon to ginger or tarragon to oregano, feel free to tinker with recipes. Make them your own and for goodness sakes, when you hit on a good variation, share it with other low carbers!

So let’s have a few other recipes that came about because I played with my food!

When I was growing up, I used to make lasagna, manicotti, and stuffed shells with this luscious ricotta filling. All the filling ingredients are low carb, sooooooooooo… what can be used for the pasta?

Turkey Ranicotti (Quick ‘n’ EZ!)

  • 1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
  • a pinch of nutmeg (don’t omit this, it adds SO much!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 slices of deli turkey breast, sliced to about the thickness of a tortilla
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I use Hunt’s Garlic and Herb, which has 8 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup serving)

Mix together the ricotta cheese, egg(s), 3/4 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Spoon the filling down the center of each turkey slice, dividing it evenly between the 8 slices. Roll up.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a casserole dish.

Lay the rolled-up “manicotti” on the sauce, top with the rest of the sauce.

Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and more Parmesan, if desired.

Bake in a 350 oven until heated through and the cheese on top is bubbly.

Serves 4.

Low-Carb & Keto Cannoli Rustica A La LoCarbo


  • 1 scoop (2 tablespoons) protein powder (I used NRG: you could use any soy or soy/whey protein powder)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons water, enough to make a thin batter
  • ¼ teaspoon marsala or other wine flavoring (You can find wine flavorings at:

Combine all the ingredients to make a thin batter. 

Make 2 crepes from the batter, using a buttered nonstick pan.

Make a “finger” of crumpled foil, approximately 1 inch in diameter and 5 to 6 inches long. Wrap the cooled crepe around it and secure the seam with a dab of cream cheese, egg white, or leftover batter.

Place the rolled crepes on a foil-covered pan and bake at them at 200°, checking them every ten minutes or so to turn them, until they are lightly brown and beginning to harden.

Take the crepes out of the oven and let them cool slightly before removing the foil.


  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoons heavy cream (This is optional. I like a creamy filling; purists will prefer it drier.)
  • 2 teaspoons Splenda (to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon orange peel
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 teaspoons chopped almonds
  • shaved chocolate (Approximately 1/8 of a 1-ounce square of unsweetened chocolate or a run a vegetable peeler over one of the sugar free dark chocolate bars available at CarbSmart: Low-Carb Sugar-Free chocolates, candies, and mints

    Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Shortly before serving, gently fill the cooled shells with the filling.

    The next recipe is for Zucchini Carbonara. So, what inspired this? My husband and his two brothers all bring GUSTO to cooking, and the traditional Carbonara recipe is a favorite of theirs. Steve asked me to find a way to make it low carb, and here’s what I did:

    Low-Carb & Keto Zucchachini Carbonara Recipe

    • 4 good-sized zucchini
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2 strips of bacon
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • ¼ of a medium onion, chopped
    • ground pepper

    Cook the bacon in a large skillet, put the cooked bacon aside, but save the bacon grease.

    Sauté the onion in the bacon grease and set aside.

    While the bacon is cooking, begin peeling the zucchini with a vegetable peeler; keep peeling and turning, peeling and turning, down past the skin, until you have nothing left except a skinny, wobbly core that you can snack on while you continue cooking.

    Put the zucchini peelings into the skillet with the onions, cook over medium heat until cooked al denté.

    Cut the butter into chunks and toss it with the zucchini until it melts.

    Take the skillet off the stove. Pour the beaten egg over the peelings and toss till coated. Add the parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon. Toss well.

    Grind some pepper over the top and serve hot.

    So remember, when it comes to creative cookery, YOU CAN PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! In fact, you should!

    More Low Carb Recipes & Articles by Rani Merens

Check Also

Low-Carb & Keto Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Low-Carb & Keto Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Cover the Keto Stuffed Peppers with plastic wrap and microwave on high for ten minutes, or bake them, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven until the peppers are softened.

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