June 2008 archive

Sweet and Sugar-free Raspberry Lemon Swirl Bars

To make use of the gorgeous produce we have readily available right now, I decided to make something I hadn’t really even liked in my carb-addicted dark past. Lemon bars had never really appealed to me, probably because they don’t involve chocolate. And yet they just sounded really good the other day for some reason, with their refreshing tartness and shortbread crust. The recipe is well-suited to a healthful makeover because of the low carb content of eggs and lemons, so I just couldn’t resist trying a batch. After demolishing a trial batch along with my faithful testers, it’s safe to say these gluten-free low carb lemon bars are just as church picnic worthy as their high carb counterparts!

In all their tangy, swirled glory…

As far as the technical baking stuff goes, you do need erythritol if you want to add bulk and lessen the carb count per bar, not to mention the nice rounded sweetness from combining it with the stevia. It also adds a nice crunchiness when it crystallizes, but no overwhelming cooling effect. However, if you refrigerate these bars, you’ll want to pop ‘em in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to warm them up for the best mouth feel. Furthermore, you can use a product like ThickenThin Not Sugar (or pure acacia gum) to lessen the amount of recrystallization if you want a smoother texture. You can forgo the erythritol altogether, but you’ll have to use a lot of stevia or just accept a less sweet finished product. Finally, the xanthan gum takes the place of flour in the original recipe to firm up the top of the bars. You could probably use a bit of coconut flour for a similar effect.

Health-wise, these bars are a delicious vehicle for the goodness of raspberries and lemons, which are bursting with vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds. In lemon, the limonins have the free radical scavenging cytotoxic effects. In red raspberries, ellagitannins may block carcinogens and ward off sickness. Both raspberries and lemons are low in carbs, which makes them perfect candidates for a after-dinner treat or a pre-workout snack. I sip at stevia-sweetened lemonade all day, which is supposed to aid in the absorption of the catechins (antioxidants) in my green tea. I’ll drink to that!

Healthy Raspberry Lemon Swirl Bars

Makes eight bars

Ingredients:

Shortbread crust:

1/4 cup butter
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening:
-1 tablespoon erythritol or xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract

Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons almond meal
1/4 cup oat or buckwheat flour (oat flour is a lot prettier!)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum

Filling:
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1/2 cup erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract (NuNaturals brand)
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Raspberry Swirl:
1/2 cup organic raspberries
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon erythritol
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Preparation:
Soften butter for shortbread. Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or blender. Cream butter and erythritol together, then work in flours and gums with a fork until thoroughly combined. Add a pinch of salt and stevia. You want it to be a bit sweeter from the stevia than you can stand it, because some of the stevia’s sweetness breaks down under heat. Press or spread into an 8″ by 4″ loaf pan lined with buttered parchment. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Let crust cool while you prepare the filling. Stick it in the freezer to speed the process.

Powder erythritol. Beat erythritol with eggs, lemon juice, and zest. Add gums. Add a pinch of sea salt and stevia to taste. Pour over shortbread crust.

Puree raspberries with lemon juice and erythritol. Strain through a mesh colander, pushing the puree through with a spatula, if you don’t want seeds in your bars. Drop raspberry puree onto lemon filling in different spots and swirl with the spatula. Dot batter with fresh raspberries if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set. I left the center of mine slightly jiggly, and it firmed up after cooling.

~3.75g net carbs per bar!

(Almost) Instant Low Carb Ice Cream

After making many batches of my ice cream bars, I got sick of the peanut butter flavor and wanted something more creamy and spoonable for my fix. More traditional. Ice cream is still my first love in terms of treats. Nothing can replace the milky cold sweetness of it, and during summer time the feelings of longing are the strongest. Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I caved to the craving and stopped at a DQ for a blizzard. And if you have this quick and dirty ice cream sitting in your freezer, you won’t have to think twice about it. It’s thick and creamy, just like you remember. And the best part? No fancy machinery required!

This sugar-free, all natural ice cream made with luxuriously thick ricotta cheese will give you 50% of your RDA of calcium per half cup serving, and contains 4 measly carbs. Use your favorite minimally processed cocoa powder for an antioxidant boost. I’ll admit to using Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa for that Wendy’s frosty chocolate flavoring, but the non-Dutched stuff is best for the preservation of nutrients.

Healthy Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes two servings


Ingredients:

1 cup ricotta cheese (part skim or whole milk)
1 fresh organic egg yolk (Egg Beaters if you’re afraid of salmonella)
Tiny splash of pure vanilla extract
Sweeteners, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening:
-2-3 tablespoons erythritol (get it here and here) or xylitol
-Pure stevia extract
Pinch of xanthan/guar gum (optional, for a creamier texture)

Jamocha Almond Flavoring:
2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
sliced almonds
85% cacao chocolate, grated

Mint Chocolate Chip Variation:

a few drops of pure peppermint extract
85% cacao chocolate, grated

Preparation:
Blend ricotta, egg yolk, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, sweeteners, xanthan gum, and other flavorings together in a blender or food processor until totally smooth. Stir in nuts and chocolate shavings if desired. Pour into plastic tub with a lid and freeze for an hour, stirring well every 20 minutes to break up the ice so it freezes properly. Serve as soon as it’s frozen enough to be scoopable. If you decide not to eat it immediately, let it sit out for 10 minutes when you remove it from the freezer before serving.

~5g net carbs per serving!

Topped with hard shell topping, fresh whipped cream, and slivered almonds. Best lunch EVER.


Hard Shell Topping


Makes two servings

Ingredients:
1 square Lindt 85% cacao bar (I’m loving Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie lately)
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil or non-hydrogenated palm shortening
1/2 teaspoon heavy cream or coconut milk
sweeteners, to taste (I use NuNaturals stevia)

Preparation:
Nuke chocolate and coconut oil together, stirring at 20 seconds intervals until smooth. Stir in cream and sweeteners, tasting and adjusting if necessary.

Digging in…

Give it a try! If you have a flavor idea, let me know about it and we can work on re-creating it.

The taste of summer– Creamsicle Cupcakes

First things first: I am still working on the perfect sugar-free gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tested a fourth batch today, but it was a bit crumbly. The flavor is spot on, though. They’ve come a long way from the hockey pucks I was making when I first started this journey a year ago. Re-creating processed foods out of all natural ingredients takes some trial and error, but it is so worth it when you get it right. For me, anyway. Sticking to a whole foods plan can get monotonous if you don’t mix things up! Interestingly enough, I eat pretty much the same thing every day except when a specific craving hits me. I think we all have a routine that we stick to, food-wise. My biology professor said we do 99% of our actions without thinking. That other one percent of the time I spend in my kitchen, with a full sink of dirty dishes as evidence!

Do you remember creamsicles? They’re still around, and they even make ‘em sugar-free for us health-conscious folk. Unfortunately, the pre-packaged treats are laden with sugar alcohols (the scary kind with unpleasant side effects) and artificial sweeteners, so I stick to one mini creamsicle a couple times a week. They make up the only Splenda intake in my diet, so I think my brain is safe from whatever as yet unknown side effects the sucralose molecule is inflicting on us. We are all human guinea pigs with this stuff!

Back to creamsicles. The pairing of vanilla and orange is so fragrant and complementary, with the tang of the citrus balancing out the cloying sweetness that vanilla can impart. These moist, dense cupcakes showcase the full spectrum of the fruit’s bright flavor, containing one whole orange pureed in the batter. The health benefits of oranges are concentrated in the peel, which contain prebiotic oligosaccharides which promote intestinal health. With 13 grams effective carbs per orange, you can eat 1/2 at a time as a healthy snack. Furthermore, the flavonoids have been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Psh, like you need more reasons to try these cupcakes.

Top the cream cheese frosting with fruit puree to imitate the old-fashioned ice cream bar, or just drop a dollop on top with some zest.

Healthy Creamsicle Cupcakes
adapted from this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman

Makes 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups almond meal, ground fine
6 eggs
Sweetener, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use both of the following:
-1 cup erythritol or xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract

4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 medium thin-skinned organic oranges (yielding 1 1/4 cups fruit puree)
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:

Wash oranges well and boil for 20 minutes in a microwave safe dish with a cover until fork tender. Wait until oranges are cooled, then slice them (but do NOT peel them) into sections and remove seeds. Puree in food processor until smooth. Measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of the puree and reserve the rest for a glaze to go with the cream cheese icing.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Beat eggs and sugar substitute until batter is thick and golden. Beat in vanilla extract. Stir in fruit puree, almond meal, baking powder, and sea salt. Pour into buttered silicone muffin cups, paper tins (filled at least 3/4 way full), or a bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes or until slightly browned. Do NOT overbake. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Place in tupperware container with a lid when the cupcakes are lukewarm to the touch.

~2.5 grams net carbs per cupcake!

Orange Glaze

Ingredients:
reserved orange puree
lemon juice
sweeteners, to taste
-powdered erythritol
-stevia

Preparation:
Stir lemon juice into orange puree until soupy. Add sweeteners to taste. Spread or drizzle on top of cream cheese icing.

And now for the best part. I had to swat my friend’s finger out of the bowl numerous times (but I let her lick the spatula). :)

Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes more than enough cream cheese for twelve cupcakes

Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese
5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
sweetener, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use both of the following:

-1 or 2 tablespoons powdered erythritol or xylitol
-stevia, to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:
Bring butter to room temperature by leaving out on the counter for 20 minutes or nuking for 10 seconds. Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract together until Smooth. Add sweeteners to taste. Spread on cooled cupcakes or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for later use. Just bring to room temperature and beat until creamy before use.

My batch made fresh this morning is mysteriously almost gone!

Low Carb Pizza and Ranch– the Dynamic Duo

UPDATE on 7.23.08: I made this recipe again here, using coconut flour in place of the protein powder.

Quick update. I just had a blog-worthy lunch, and felt the recipe needed to be shared. It’s a healthy take on everyone’s favorite–PIZZA! What’s make a pizza a pizza? The crust, of course! I modified this recipe for an easy and delicious gluten-free low carb (almost no carb) crust. Many thanks to NancyElle at the low carb friends forum who came up with the amazing original recipe.

Simple Low-Carb Pizza Crust

Makes two to four servings

Ingredients:
2 cups whole or part-skim organic mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 large organic eggs
2 tablespoons golden flaxseed meal (optional)
2 tablespoons unflavored whey protein powder or coconut flour (optional)
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

Preparation:
Mix cheese, eggs, flax meal (if using), protein powder or coconut flour (if using), and baking powder. Spread with a spatula to 1/4″ thickness on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees, flipping halfway through the baking process. Remove from oven, slide off of parchment paper, and flip over again onto the pan so the crust cools with the pretty side up. Once crust is cooled, top with sauce, pre-cooked veggies or meats, and cheese. Broil on high for 2 minutes, or until cheese topping is melted and bubbly.

~8g net carbs, 974 calories per crust (made with coconut flour)

Now comes the fun part… toppings! Ranch makes everything better (try it on eggs, I kid you not), and it’s the star ingredient in this Bacon Chicken Ranch pizza. I had some homemade ranch sitting in the fridge (recipe coming soon!), and it really made a difference in the flavor. This half of the pizza pie is definitely my favorite. For you less adventurous types, I tossed sauteed red pepper and onions on the other half. It’ll make for some good cold pizza come breakfast time tomorrow!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Makes two to four servings

Ingredients:
10 slices nitrate-free bacon, fried and crumbled
1 lb cooked organic chicken breast or thighs, chopped into chunks
organic cheddar, shredded
ranch dressing (check for carb count and additives)

Preparation:
Spread ranch over crust in a thin layer. Top with chunks of chicken and crumbled bacon. Sprinkle shredded cheese over everything. Broil until cheese melts, and drizzle ranch dressing over slices before serving. Leave the dressing off of leftovers.

Tips:
~Use chicken thighs for better flavor and value. If you’re buying organic, the cost savings can be huge.
~Cut up the chicken thighs and sautee them in the bacon grease conserved from frying, and season with a ranch seasoning packet or herbs to add another layer of flavor. It’s quick and easy!
~Look for nitrate-free bacon for a healthier option. Niman Ranch makes a delicious all natural product.


~1g net carbs per slice (plus toppings)

Apple Crisp Nostalgia

I’m interrupting the series on peanut butter to fulfill a sudden craving. Yesterday I was trying to figure out what to do with some chayotes I found at the farmer’s market which have been sitting in my fruit bowl for a month. Considering their use as an apple substitute in low-carb cooking, I went over the possibilities. Fried cinnamon “apples,” stuffed “apples,” “apple” muffins… nah. And then it hit me. I saw visions of steaming casserole dishes full of fragrant, crumbly apple crisp. The red box with the ready-made topping mixture stands out in my memory, as does the extensive peeling over the sink required to reap the rewards. Labor intensive, but so worth it. I had to recapture the magic of this childhood favorite sans the sugar so it wouldn’t leave me furtively cleaning out half the tupperware container at midnight, Redi-whip can in hand.

Instead of replacing all the apples to cut down the amount of fructose sugar, I let a couple of big, juicy organic apples work their magic with some thinly sliced chayotes. These ugly green squashes are pretty nondescript in flavor, and have the perfect texture after some heavy duty steaming to play well with the sweeter, softer apples. The chayotes will suck up all the apple-y goodess in the marinating and cooking process, leaving anyone who tastes this dish blissfully unaware of their presence. Flour and brown sugar are usually the main ingredients in the crunchy topping, but nuts and a touch of blackstrap molasses work just as well, with a ton more flavor. With this sugar- and gluten-free apple crisp, you get all of the health benefits of apples with none of the blood sugar spike and fat storing insulin response. The phytochemicals in apples may promote lung health, protect against cancer, and prevent cardiovascular disease. Okay, need any more reasons to eat apple crisp?

Nutty Apple Crisp

Makes 10-12 servings

Ingredients:
2 medium-sized apples, thinly sliced (1/4″ thick)
2 chayotes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Sweeteners
For ALL NATURAL sweetening, use all three of the following:
-6 tablespoons erythritol
-Pure stevia extract, to taste
-1/2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses

1 cup nut meal (almond, pecan, hazelnut, etc.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans and walnuts)
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon oat flour (optional)
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum (optional, firms up the filling)

Preparation:
Peel and slice apples and chayotes, tossing apples in a bowl with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and placing chayotes in a microwave safe dish. Add the other 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, water, and 3 tablespoons of the erythritol to the chayotes, stirring the squash around to coat. Microwave for 12-14 minutes on high or until fork tender, stirring half way through the cooking process. Remove from microwave and let cool. Taste and add additional sweeteners to the chayotes if necessary. You want them to be as sweet as the apples.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter in the microwave until liquified. Whisk in erythritol, blackstrap molasses, and vanilla extract. Mix with dry ingredients until crumbly. Taste and add additional sweetener to the topping if necessary. Add chayotes to bowl of apples and fold in xanthan gum thoroughly. Butter a baking dish, and fill it with layered chayote and apple slices. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until crisp is bubbly and browned. Crisp the top under the broiler setting for a few minutes if necessary. Let cool for 10 minutes. This is best eaten fresh, so make a small batch if you have to!

~5.5 grams net carbs per serving

Serve with fresh whipped cream and garnish with cinnamon sticks (50 cents in the Mexican aisle!) for a classy touch.

Paean to Peanut Butter– Peanut Butter Granola

Peanut butter is a substance that makes me dangerous. Chillin’ in the fridge, accessible by spoon and finger, it’s in mortal peril every minute. To avoid this internal struggle, I only purchase jars of this spreadable bliss for immediate consumption in recipes.

This post is dedicated to George Carver.

Fortunately, this nirvana-in-a-jar is healthy and relatively low in carbohydrates, containing 4g net carbs per 2 tablespoons. That’s a good-sized portion for its satiety factor. It’s a good source of biotin, vitamin e, and antioxidant polyphenols (heart-healthy compounds that fight free radicals). It also contains a small amount of resveratrol, the anti-aging component of red wine. Who knew? Be happy and combat wrinkles with PB (taken internally, not topically)!

Start your day in a good mood with a big dose of PB! This version of my grain-free (no oats here!) granola is heavenly with a rich peanut butter-y taste and smell. It’s a very flexible recipe, so if you don’t have some of the nuts and seeds listed, fear not! Just throw whatever you have in there and it’ll come out crunchy and roasted with a sweet coating. Pair it with sliced apples and yogurt for the perfect flavoring combination. I’m thinking peanut butter granola in almond milk with a few teensy slices of banana (1/4 of a large one) for a decadent pre-workout breakfast. It’d also be pretty kickass making sweet love to my chocolate granola in the same bowl. Reese’s cups cereal, anyone?


Peanut Butter Granola (Grain-Free)

Makes two heaping cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or oil
-3 tablespoons erythritol or xylitol, powdered
-1/4 teaspoon black molasses (optional)
-1/8 + 1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract 

1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons nut meal (almond, pecan, whatever you like)
1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter or oil with peanut butter in a small bowl in microwave until liquified. Powder erythritol in a coffee grinder or blender. Whisk erythritol, blackstrap molasses, additional sweeteners, and sea salt into peanut butter mixture. Mix dry ingredients together and stir in wet ingredients, using your hands to coat the nut and seed blend. Spread mixture over a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture around occasionally. Remove from oven and spread over a paper towel set on a baking rack. It will continue to dry out as the moisture evaporates. Bake granola for an extra 10 minutes if the mixture still seems moist after cooling. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.


~7g net carbs per half cup

Homemade Cocoa Cereal

Walking down the cereal aisle as a kid, I always looked longingly at the sugar-coated puffs and multicolored flakes made out of who-knows-what. The cartoon characters called to me from commercials, shilling cookies and rice crispy treats for breakfast. What kid doesn’t want a bowlful of dessert in place of those boring bran flakes her parents choke down? My mother rarely indulged my fantasies, but that didn’t mean I went without. Every chance I got to try one of those mythical products at a friends house, I did, filling up the bowl again and again until the milk was used up. The coolest part was the milk turning chocolately brown, or pink and fruity. Oh, to be so young and carefree…

If your kids are coo-coo for sugar cereals, or if you’re feeling nostalgic, OR if you just really like chocolate, try this super simple grain-free granola cereal made with real cocoa and a blend of nutrient-rich nuts and seeds. It provides you with a healthy dose of antioxidants, medium-chain saturated fats from the coconut oil, and polyphenols from the cocoa. You’ll be satisfied after one serving**, full for hours, and your teeth won’t feel like jumping out of your head when you’re finished!

I always have a bunch of different bags of munchies from the bulk bins at my local health food store stashed in the freezer. This recipe is so versatile that you can change up the nuts and seeds depending on what you have on hand. Just remember that nuts and seeds vary in carb counts, so adjust the proportions of different ingredients to your dietary needs.

Serve with unsweetened vanilla almond milk to maximize indulgence factor.
**DISCLAIMER: This stuff is dangerously good. Portion control with baggies and half recipes if necessary!

Chocolatey Granola Cereal

Ingredients:

For Granola:

Makes 2 heaping cups

1/4 cup unsalted butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder (don’t get Dutch-processed for maximum nutritional punch)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
sweeteners, to taste
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening:
-3 tablespoons erythritol or xylitol
-1/2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (optional)
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract)

1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 squares of lindt 85% chocolate, melted (optional)
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons nut meal (almond, pecan, whatever you like)
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

For Cereal Flakes:

Makes about one cup

1/2 cup nut meal (pecan, almond, etc.)
2 tablespoons flax meal
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
sweetener, to taste (I used 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals stevia)
1 egg white

Preparation:

For Granola:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt coconut oil or butter and chocolate squares (if using) in a small bowl in microwave until liquified. Stir in cocoa powder until smooth, with no lumps. Powder erythritol in a coffee grinder or blender. Whisk vanilla extract, erythritol, blackstrap molasses, additional sweeteners, and sea salt into coconut oil mixture. Mix dry ingredients together and stir in wet ingredients, using your hands to coat the nut and seed blend. Spread mixture over a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Bake for 55 minutes, stirring the mixture around occasionally. Remove from oven and spread over a paper towel set on a baking rack. It will continue to crisp up as the moisture evaporates.

For Flakes:

Mix together ingredients and roll in between pieces of parchment paper until very thin. Microwave on a piece of parchment paper, 50% power, for two minutes, stopping every 20 seconds to blot off oil. Let it dry out on a paper towel placed on a baking rack, then break up into flakes. To get them more crisp, stick ‘em in the oven with the granola for a few minutes.

~8g net carbs per 1/2 cup serving

Tips:
~For richer granola, use the chocolate squares! It’s pretty great without them, too.
~The sesame seeds at a very distinct, addictive flavor to this. It won’t be the same without ‘em, so get some!
~For more “clumpy” granola, use a couple of egg whites with the wet ingredients. I don’t mind my granola in small pieces, so I don’t waste the eggs on it.
~For cinnamon-nut granola, use cinnamon in place of the cocoa powder, and omit the cacao nibs. You could also replace the coconut flakes with more nuts, and use almond extract in place of vanilla.

Healthy Ice Cream Bars, Take Two!

After much tweaking and experimentation, here’s a vanilla version of my Easy Ice Cream Bars. The texture isn’t as smooth as it is with the peanut butter, so you should let ‘em sit out for a moment before taking a bite. The yogurt brings a pleasant tang to the party.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the miraculous calorie-free naturally occurring sweetener: Erythritol! Erythritol is totally safe and has no aftertaste or unpleasant side effects like the other sugar alcohols. It has 70% of the sweetening power of sugar, with many of the properties that sugar imparts in baking (structure, mouthfeel, etc.) The one caveat: the “cooling” effect you can taste when erythritol re-crystallizes. It’s the weirdest sensation. You have to figure out a way to make the majority of erythritol present in the recipe stay dissolved so you can avoid that effect. I’m still tinkering around with it in recipes, but it’s slow-going because erythritol is precious stuff and I’m on a student budget. Z-sweet is the brand available locally. You pay a premium for buying it in stores, but it is worth the cost if you’re looking for a product not produced with genetically modified corn. I’ve been ordering 5 lb bags of erythritol online lately because I go through it so quickly. The best price I’ve found for it is at iherb.com, and online supplement retailer. No, erythritol is not something that cavemen would’ve consumed while foraging for food, but it does not wreak havoc on your body like sugar does. My justification for using it is that it was impossible to consume concentrated amounts of any form of sugar while living off the land, making erythritol the more “natural” way of eating than using, say, honey or maple syrup. We were not able to eat any refined sweeteners or copious amounts of fruit on a regular basis before the advent of agriculture, so it makes sense that our bodies are not designed to handle the 300+ carb per day diet that is standard now. Did you know that bears are the only animal in the wild showing signs of tooth decay?

The one I chomped into (shown on the left, obviously) is filled with a layer of mooshed up Sugar-Free Brownies. Yum! 

Easy Ice Cream Bars (Vanilla version)

Makes 6 small rounds

Ingredients:

Filling:
2 oz heavy cream, preferably organic
2 oz cream cheese
3 Tablespoons of ricotta cheese or strained greek-style yogurt
2 Tablespoons of erythritol (or 1.5 Tablespoons xylitol)
A pinch of pure stevia extract

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Coating:
1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
2 squares Lindt extra dark 85% chocolate bar (or Ghirardelli 86% chocolate bar)
A pinch of pure stevia extract
Chopped nuts (optional)

Peanut Butter Coating:

4 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil or non-hydrogenated shortening
A pinch of pure stevia extract

Preparation:

Beat heavy cream with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Do not over beat or it will get clumpy, and turn to butter! Set whipped cream aside. Measure out granular erythritol or xylitol and powder in a coffee grinder or blender. Beat cream cheese, yogurt, erythritol, sweetener, and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth and clump free. Test for sweetness. It should be a bit sweeter than you want the finished product. Using a spatula, fold cream cheese into the whipped cream until well combined. Shape ice cream rounds on a pan lined with parchment or waxed paper. Freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Melt coating ingredients in the microwave in 10 second intervals, until liquified. Stir until smooth and add sweetener, to taste. Remove rounds from freezer and dip into coatings, or top with a layer of mushed up brownie/cookie dough/etc before dipping. You may need to set the round on the paper and spoon the coating over bare spots. Sprinkle bars with nuts immediately after dipping in the coating, if desired. Chill for another few minutes until the coating hardens.

So stuffed from all of this experimenting in the kitchen! Goodness, healthy eating is so trying. I’ve gotta go dump these off on my friends asap. For some reason, I don’t think they’ll mind.