July 2008 archive

The Taste of Summer, pt. 2– Sugar-Free Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

This time of year, I like to cool off with my treats. My new Cuisinart ice cream maker has been running constantly lately. To mix things up and take a break from the brain freeze, I decided to try something new. Cheesecake is the ultimate cool, creamy indulgence that’s naturally low in carbs. There are tons of variations and different recipes out there for this classic dessert. I’ve never made it, though. The idea of using a whole pound of cream cheese, a giant round pan, and a water bath was always intimidating. It just sounds hard, worrying about cracks in the top and achieving the right consistency and whatnot. Though I’ve never experienced intense cravings for this particular food, cheesecake seemed like the perfect excuse to use up a CostCo-sized tub of blueberries sitting in my fruit bin.

Blueberry cheesecake called my name! It’s rather simple to de-carb cheescake–you simply remove the sugar. Erythritol (see the bold term for info) works like a charm for “wet” applications like cheesecake, so you don’t have to worry about using any special ingredients to offset its menthol-like “cooling” effect. Stevia rounds out the sweetness of these incredibly creamy bars. This sour-cream based cheesecake recipe posted in its original form here is a real winner. Thanks to BawdyWench for her simple, delicious recipe!

Even if you’re not a “cheesecake person,” you should definitely give this recipe a try. It takes minutes to whip up, and doesn’t have that thick, gummy mouthfeel elicited by a ton of cream cheese. The blueberries burst in your mouth as you bite through the silky base and nontraditional but oh-so-delicious gluten-free shortbread crust (check oats for gf label!). Get your brain-boosting antioxidants in for the day with these fresh blueberries. Studies show that blueberry consumption positively affects your memory. These delicious summer fruits are naturally low in carbs, so eat up! The batch of cheesecake bars from yesterday is almost gone. Some serious nibbling has been happening. I don’t blame the cheesecake bandit–it was love at first bite with these babies!

Creamy Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from this recipe by BawdyWench

Makes eight servings

Ingredients:

Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup finely ground almonds
2 tablespoons sifted oat flour (check for gluten-free certification if necessary)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup organic sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons erythritol
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract
8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), softened
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together dry ingredients for crust. Mix in melted butter and press into the bottom of a foiled lined 8 by 5 loaf pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Let crust cool.

Turn oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blend together eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and sweeteners. Beat cream cheese and melted butter together until smooth, then add to first ingredients and beat until just combined and smooth. Stir in half of the blueberries. Pour cheesecake batter into loaf pan and sprinkle the rest of the blueberries over the filling. Bake for 35 minutes using the water bath method (see this post). Remove from oven and let the cheesecake bars cool completely, still submerged within the water bath. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and move it to the refrigerator when the bars have cooled to room temperature. Cover with a layer of paper towels and plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or until firm. Don’t sneak a bite until they have set up properly and attained the perfect creamy consistency!

~6 grams net carbs per serving

Cuts like a hot knife through buttah!

Ooey, Gooey and Gluten-Free: Brownies, Baby!

 

On certain very special Saturday mornings when I was growing up, a sweet aroma would tickle my nose, gently nudging me out of bed and into the kitchen. It was the smell of freshly baked brownies, cooling on the stove top in their 8 by 8 tin pan. It was my number one favorite treat when I was growing up–dense, fudgy (never cakey!) squares that fell apart in your napkin when you scooped ‘em out of the hot pan. My mom always made the standard recipe out of the red checkered Homes and Gardens cookbook, never using a packaged mix or fancy toppings. The beauty was in the simplicity of these unadorned and positively addictive chocolate treats. They never lasted long around our house, although I do remember peeling back saran wrap and gnawing on cold brownie bits from the freezer. Yu-umm.

My first attempts to adapt that treasured recipe failed. There was something not quite right about my sugar-free concoctions. I tried tweaking the Homes and Gardens recipe by replacing the flour with various flour blends, and the sugar with erythritol. I would end up with shapeless goo or dry, flat blocks that were light and airy–decidedly unbrownie like. The standard low carb brownie recipes made out of various combinations of almond meal, flax meal, and cream cheese always lacked a characteristic “heaviness” of the stick-to-your-ribs treats of my childhood.

Enter the hero of our story, coconut flour. If you haven’t heard of it, listen closely, because what I’m about to say will change your life. It’s just coconut meat with the fat pressed out, pulverized into a fine powder. Though it may look like all purpose flour (cue ominous music), this magical substance is so fragrant and alive compared to its refined evil twin. Get it here, or pay twice as much at your local health food store.

I always have to stick my nose in the bag and inhale before baking with coconut flour. Now coconut flour can be tricky to work with, so you must follow a tried and true recipe, or be stuck with a pan full of door stops. The moisture-sucking quality of coconut flour must be tamed with copious amounts of eggs. Once you get the hang of it, you will be turning out moist muffins and fudgy brownies that put my Mom’s old recipe to shame. Blasphemy, I know!

Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber, which correlates with a lowered glycemic index for whatever you’re baking. Low-carb, sugar-free, and gluten-free, these brownies can be part of a wholesome breakfast… or maybe a midnight snack. ;)

These are ah-mazing. The center of the brownie pan is almost molten chocolate. I like to eat this part first, with a spoon. The edge pieces are firm, but moist. These brownies are a hit of pure chocolate to the brain–not the least bit coconut-ty, if you’re worried about that. They’re perfectly sweet with a subtle hint of caramel flavor from the molasses. They’re so incredibly rich that one serving should be enough, with all of the healthful natural saturated fat these brownies contain. Make a small pan if you are feeling emotional, ladies.

UPDATE, 5.2.09: This recipe for coconut flour brownies is MUCH more reliable, and even more delicious!

Homemade Low Carb Gluten-free Wraps: You can do it too!

If you haven’t seen the news or read the paper lately, check out how we low-carbers have finally been vindicated! They’ll come around eventually and acknowledge the importance of natural saturated fats, but this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the Atkins craze will start up again and more people can experience the joys of healthy living!

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Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

Have you ever tried to fulfill a craving for Mexican food with one of those store bought low carb tortillas? They certainly look like their high carb starchy cousins. They may even smell like them. Then reality hits as you take a bite and chew the bland lump of oat fiber and soy protein held together by cornstarch. It goes down as a gummy lump in your throat. “That wasn’t so bad, but I could’ve spent those carbs on something better… like peanut butter. Or mashed faux-tatoes. Or…” At least that’s how my thought process works. Frankenfood tortillas feel like low carb “junk” food with little nutritional value and a lot of unnecessary additions to my diet. When do we ever need to be ingesting wheat flour or soy oil on this lifestyle? What about sodium metabisulfate, microcrystalline cellulose and dicalcium phosphate? That mouth full (no pun intended) of ingredients doesn’t sound yummy to me, either.

If you want a fresh-tasting, nourishing tortilla or wrap substitute that you can make at home, look no further. This gluten-free low carb creation was inspired by this recipe at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked (not low carb, but still wonderful!). Gluten-free (GF) recipes can give you helpful hints for how to hold together your low carb flourless doughs. Sadly, GF flour blends are made up of all kinds of starches and grains, making them even higher in carbs than all purpose flour! Poor celiac low-carbers. Fortunately some of the same binding tricks can be applied to our beloved nut meals and seed flours.

Unadulterated wraps, fresh from the oven, full of promise!

Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

You should be able to find all of the ingredients for these wraps at your local health food store. When I first figured out what specialty ingredients were necessary for re-creating most of my favorite high carb treats, I bit the bullet and made quite a few initial investments. Some of these essential cooking/baking ingredients are used in such small amounts that I don’t have to buy them often. They include the following:

Xanthan/Guar Gum – Vegetable fibers grown on micro-organisms or trees. Useful in very small amounts for thickening, gelling, acting like gluten, and lending a “creamy” mouth feel to cold items. I’ve only worked with xanthan gum, but they function similarly. Guar gum is cheaper, but can cause digestive “issues” and is harder to find.

Coconut Flour – Coconut meat pulverized into a fragrant creamy white powder. Acts similarly to protein powder by drying out baked goods. Requires many eggs in the batter to balance out its dryness. Lends a nice dense texture and heaviness to baked goods, perfect for brownies and carrot cake. Adds bulk and texture to no-bake recipes.

Pure Vanilla Extract – Alcoholic soaking liquid of a vanilla bean. Imparts lots of nice vanilla flavoring and aroma with close to no carbs. Check label for added corn syrup or agave.

Erythritol – A sugar alcohol naturally occurring in melons, corn, and other plants. Lightly sweetens, and adds textural properties of sugar. The only sugar alcohol with close to zero carbs and cals and NO unpleasant side effects! Has a “minty” taste if it’s not dissolved in water.

Pure Stevia Extract – High intensity sweetener extracted from a plant that can be bitter if you buy the wrong brand or use too much. Does not add textural properties or mouthfeel of sugar to recipes. Best tasting when combined with a sugar alcohol like erythritol. NuNaturals is the one and only brand I use.

Whey Protein Powder – Ultra-filtered bi-product of cheese making that is a natural source of all of the essential amino acids. Pulls moisture out of baked goods. Provides structure for pastries. Can be used in smoothies or shakes as a “creamy” base. Comes either plain or with added artificial sweeteners.

Blackstrap Molasses
- The dark liquid bi-product of processing the sugar cane plant. A little bit of this unrefined sweetener goes a long way! It has only 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon, and most recipes don’t even need that much to benefit from its strong flavor. Has a brown sugar-like taste with a distinct smokiness to it. Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron–not totally stripped of nutrients like other forms of sugar.

Oat Flour – Not super low in carbs, but can be used in small amounts to lend the textural properties of all purpose flour. It’s gluten-free (check for certification) and indispensable to make baked goods resembling anything close to their high carb counterparts. Nut meals stuck together with butter do not a cookie make. Low carb pastries usually need a little bit of a grain product in order to resemble foods previously made with 100% refined grains!

So that’s what you’ll find if you go snooping through my pantry on any given day. Every week, I go on a shopping trip to restock the perishable ingredients I use in larger amounts. Those include the following:

Nuts, Seeds, and Nut/Seed Meals – Of principle importance in so many low-carb dessert recipes. Nut “flours” can be purchased pre-bagged like almond or flax meal, whereas others you must grind yourself. It’s much more cost efficient to do the “processing” at home with a good food processor or magic bullet blender. I make my own flax and sesame flours with my magic bullet. These add bulk and texture to low carb baked goods, and can be used as “breading.”

Nut and Seed Butters – Again, you can make these yourself, but it’s much easier to buy them in jars. I like peanut butter (but you already knew that!), almond butter, and sunflower seed butter. They lend creaminess, flavor, and heaviness to anything from salad dressing to sweet fillings to baked goods. My favorite application of these: jar to forefinger to mouth.

Heavy Cream – Self explanatory. It’s low in carbs and makes anything delicious.

Coconut Milk – Non-dairy cream or milk substitute with a hint of coconut flavoring. Thickness and amount of additives varies by brand. Look for high quality pure coconut milk products like those made by Thai Kitchen. You can make your own if you have a lot of time on your hands.

Cream Cheese – Add bulk and moisture to baked goods. Great in smoothies, on scrambled eggs, flavored and spread on veggies and sandwiches. A panacea of the low-carb cooking realm.

Butter – The second darling of low carb cooking. Make like Paula Deen and use butter to your heart’s content (your heart will thank you!). Adds bulk, mouth feel, and flavor. Also adds a ton of calories, so watch it if you’re maintaining or close to goal weight.

Coconut Oil/Non-hydrogenated Shortening – Dairy free butter alternatives that each have special properties. They both become very firm under cold temperatures. Perfect for low carb hard shell topping, which is reason enough to buy them! Shortening is ideal for cookies that don’t spread, and for thinning out extra dark chocolate. Coconut oil produces more moist baked goods and tasty refrigerated candies with a crisp “snap.”

That’s an incomplete list, but it’ll get you started cooking up dreamy replacements for your old favorite junk foods. Just a note: I don’t bake faux-junk food all the time. I don’t even make it often. I’ll make something when a craving hits, usually around a certain time of the month. After eating one (or two!) servings, I’ll store the treats away in the back of the freezer. Forcing yourself to have one serving of a treat every morning with breakfast will take the allure out of these “special” foods and make you crave the foods that should make up the bulk of your diet – high quality animal protein sources, natural fats, and fresh vegetables. You really can tire of sweet-tasting goodies. It’s possible. It happened to me.
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If you’ve been skipping down through the boring parts of the post, you can stop here.

Here is the much anticipated (by me) recipe for all natural low carb sandwich/tortilla wraps. This is a response to a request from a friend, and has been in the works for a month. After much trial and error, I’ve hit upon a solid formula. These wraps are pleasantly light in texture, but do not fall apart (yay!) and can be rolled for wrap sandwiches, baked into chips, fried for quesadillas, toasted for a thin cracker crust pizza. They can basically do everything except solve global warming. Please try them and make yourself a fat quesadilla stuffed to capacity with steak and jack cheese. You deserve it after all this cookin’!

Recipe Notes: You don’t need any special equipment for this recipe, but I found a trick to help with rolling out and unsticking the wraps. A silicone baking mat that I got at a discount store for $5 really makes the process easier. Parchment paper will absolutely NOT work, as it crinkles up from the moisture of the dough, producing a bumpy wrap “bottom” prone to tearing. To make your wraps pretty, use golden flax meal, almond flour, and oat flour. Regular flax and pecan flour produced the dark whole-grainy looking wraps. Both variations taste the same, so it all comes down to how much you’re bothered by ugly food.

A golden flax wrap, a pecan flax wrap, and an herb wrap, bonding.
Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

 

Healthier Gluten-Free Wraps/Tortillas

This nourishing tortilla or wrap substitute is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. One of these wraps makes a mean quesadilla!

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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
  2. 1 tablespoon sesame seed meal (Could sub more flax meal here)
  3. 2 tablespoons pecan or almond meal
  4. 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour*
  5. 1/2 teaspoon protein powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  7. 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  9. 1/4 teaspoon olive oil
  10. 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  11. 1 tablespoon coconut milk OR heavy cream
  12. 1/4 teaspoon honey OR blackstrap molasses
  13. 4 tablespoons warm water
  14. Herbs and spices, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients.
  3. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients vigorously with a mixer or whisk.
  5. Divide batter into two sticky masses.
  6. Drop in balls on to a greased cookie sheet or silicone baking mat.
  7. Press a piece of plastic wrap over dough balls.
  8. Flatten rounds with hand, and use a rolling pin over the plastic wrap until dough is 1/8 inch thickness. Peel off plastic wrap and smooth over any bubbles with fingertips.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.
  10. Let wraps rest on silicone mat until lukewarm to the touch, then carefully run a sharp spatula around the bottom to unstick.
  11. Let cool completely and store between sheets of paper towel in a plastic baggie on the countertop.
  12. If you over bake the wraps, there will be dry crispy spots on them. If you under bake them, they will be doughy on the inside. The key is the make sure the dough is spread evenly, with the thickness uniform throughout.
Notes
  1. *Oat or buckwheat flour work well in this recipe. For paleo wraps, you might be able to substitute tapioca or arrowroot starch.
Adapted from Gluten-Free Gobsmacked Blog
Healthy Indulgences http://healthyindulgences.net/

~4g net carbs per wrap

The best meal I’ve had in a long time: STEAK QUESADILLAS, BABY.
Gluten-Free, High Protein Wraps used as Quesadillas

Cheeeesy!
Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

My lunch today: Chicken bacon ranch wrap sandwich with red peppers, carrots, and garlic cream cheese spread
Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

Gluten-Free, Low Carb Wraps

Sugar-Free Low Carb Candy Bars… really.

This is my last recipe involving peanut butter for awhile, I swear! I’m finally tiring of the taste, which is a move in the right direction for me. The silky richness of nut butters can make it easy to consume them in excess! While nut butters are certainly healthier than processed junk food, they are very calorie dense, and laden with polyunsaturated oils.

If you too have peanut butter issues, or if you don’t like the taste (gasp!) use almond butter or sun butter in this recipe. Almond butter has higher proportion of monounsaturated fats, so some would consider it a more nourishing alternative to peanut butter. Admittedly, the real reason I’m not addicted to almond butter is the $12 a jar price tag!

This recipe was way too much fun to play around with, so I went a little crazy with the variations. The best part about it is the simple and readily available ingredients! You can use the microwave and get just one bowl dirty. If your mind hasn’t been blown yet, it will be when you find out this can be made dairy-free. Creamy unsweetened coconut milk is the magic maker for this trick. It will be a hint coconut-ty unless you use expeller-pressed coconut oil, but the texture will be just as dreamy.

These treats are smooth and peanut-buttery, with a salty crunch from the peanuts. They don’t really taste like Pay Day at all because they’re a hundred times better, and don’t stick to your teeth! These treats are named after those corn syrup-filled bars because of the similarity in appearances. Don’t be fooled.

Mock “PayDay” Peanut Treats
Inspired by this recipe by “Blenders”

Makes 6 bars


Ingredients:
1/4 cup peanut butter (no-stir type preferred)
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening, unsalted butter, or coconut oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract OR sugar-free sweetener of choice
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

Preparation:
Add peanut butter, honey, and butter to a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and immediately whisk in vanilla extract and heavy cream or coconut milk. Stir in sweetener, xanthan gum (if using), and pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if necessary. Fold in peanuts and drop in globs on to a pan lined with wax paper. Chill in freezer until firm, then transfer to refrigerator.

~6g net carbs per treat

For Peanut Butter Dessert Topping, whisk extra cream or coconut milk into “Pay Day” treat mixture ingredients until the sauce is smooth and light in color. Use almond butter for the most neutral taste. This sauce is also delicious made dairy-free. If you use coconut milk in place of heavy cream, there will be a subtle coconut flavoring. The sauce will be just as creamy, though. This would be heavenly over low carb ice cream. You could also dip apples or strawberries into it!

Ditch the polysyllabic ingredients of pre-packaged bars with these easy homemade protein bars. No refrigeration required! This recipe is easy on your digestive system, with no harsh sugar alcohols (maltitol is truly evil!) or an ungodly amount of fiber. It’s also pocketbook friendly since the ingredients are pretty cheap. Start with a quality whey (not soy!) protein powder free of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. I like Jay Robb or Jarrow Formulas unflavored whey protein. These protein bars may look like cookies, and they may smell like cookies, but they are NOT peanut butter cookies! I have a recipe for those and will get around posting at some point. I repeat, these are not cookies. They are dry and chewy because of the high whey protein content, just like real protein bars. If you’re using stevia, remember to make the dough a bit sweeter than you want the baked product to be.

Just for fun, let’s have a look at the ingredients for an Atkins Advantage Chocolate Peanut Butter protein bar:
Ingredients: protein blend [soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed collagen, whey protein isolate (milk), sodium caseinate], glycerine, polydextrose, dry roasted peanut, peanut flour, palm kernel and palm oil, cellulose, coconut oil, cocoa powder (processed with alkali), natural and artificial flavor, olive oil, butter oil, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, salt, guar gum, citric acid, sucralose, mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate, acesulfame potassium. nutrition blend: tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, vitamin a palmitate, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, alpha tocopheryl acetate, niacinamide, biotin, calcium pantothenate, zinc oxide, folic acid, chromium chelate, phytonadione, sodium selenite. contains: soy, milk and peanuts.

I’ll admit to ingesting this frankenfood every once in awhile when I’m desperate for a sweet fix or on the road. It’s relieving to have a better option now!

Mock Protein/Atkins Bars

Makes four bars

Ingredients:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (any nut butter would work)
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter OR coconut oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup whey protein powder (check for additives and carb content)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add nut butter, honey, and butter to a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and immediately whisk in vanilla extract and heavy cream or coconut milk. Stir in sweetener and pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if necessary. Stir in protein powder until mixture clumps together. Don’t worry if it separates and some of the liquid weeps out of the dough. Press mixture as flat as you can into a greased loaf pan. I like to place a piece of wax paper over the dough and press it flat with a smaller loaf pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan. The dough will absorb all of the liquid that has bubbled up. Slice with a sharp knife and store in baggies. Does not need to be refrigerated.

~5g net carbs and 29g protein per bar

Naked protein bars. Consume with gulps of water between bites.

Take your protein bars to the next level. Melt some 85% cacao content chocolate and sweeten it with stevia, to taste. Paint it across the bottoms of the protein bars with the small end of a spoon. Place chocolate side down on a chilled pan lined with wax paper. Make a recipe of the caramel sauce and spread it over the tops of the protein bars. Press sliced almonds into the caramel sauce. Paint chocolate over the tops and sides. Chill to firm up the chocolate. Place in a baggy for transport in your gym bag.

From drab to fab! I present to you mock Atkins bars, covered in dark chocolate and filled with caramel bars with a nice crunch from slivered almonds:

No preservatives or soy in that delicious bite.

Tribute to Peanut Butter, pt. 3– Low Carb Sesame Noodles and Buckeye Candies

Update: I got the coconut flour I ordered and can make some wraps and brownies! Tropical Traditions shipped my order lightning fast and I got it in two days. They are a wonderful company if you’re looking to order coconut products online.

It’s a toasty 92 degrees outside in southwest Florida, so I’m not in the mood to heat up the kitchen. Been digging cold foods lately. To fulfill this need, I bring you Tyler Florence’s Cold Sesame Noodles, with a few tweaks to make it low carb and gluten-free, of course. It incorporates my obsession with peanut butter into a savory dish, and is a delicious way to get in your daily veggies. So what if you’re impatient like I am, and just can’t wait for whatever you’re cooking to cool down because it smells ridiculously good? Fear not my impulsive friend, because these flavorful noodles are amazing served hot as well. I enjoy them most after they’ve been chilling in the fridge, though. Gotta give time for the flavors to meld, baby!

To make over this dish, we gotta ditch the sugar and standard noodle varieties, which pack a carby punch. This feat is simpler than it sounds! If you can find shirataki noodles in your area, they’re nothing short of miraculous. They contain only 2 grams net carbs per 8 ounce package if you can believe it! The only caveat is their chewiness, which I don’t mind, but a couple of my pasta-loving testers called out. I guess when you haven’t had noodles in a year, you take what you can get! Another note about this recipe is that it makes a ton of the peanut dressing, so I reserved about one third of it for later use. This sweet and spicy sauce would be delicious with some chicken or a crisp salad. It’s seriously good enough to drink.

Another option if you prefer to abstain from processed soy food products is julienned zucchini. Sounds weird and looks disconcertingly green, but it’s actually refreshing, with no funky cooked zucchini taste. Try it! If you want to go this route, you need to find a mandoline slicer at a closeout store to save a half hour of prep and keeps the tips of your fingers intact. Once you get started julienning, you might become addicted. Shredding stuff is fun. Go crazy with it, you fibrous-veggie loving health nut!

Cold Sesame Noodles
Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
2-8 oz packages of shirataki noodles, or 4 cups organic zucchini, julienned
1 organic carrot, julienned (optional)
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons unrefined peanut nut oil (any neutral-tasting cooking oil is fine)
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced (or 1 dried ginger)
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (I used 2 tablespoons erythritol and a pinch of stevia)
1/2 cup creamy all natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
6 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Cucumber, julienned, for garnish
Peanuts, chopped, for garnish
Green onion, for garnish
Sea salt

Preparation:

If you are using shirataki noodles, empty out both packages into a colander. Rinse for 1-2 minutes, until there is no lingering fishy smell. Line colander in paper towel and mix a few big pinches of sea salt in with the noodles, stirring them around to coat. Drain for 30 minutes. Rinse again and dry well. Heat sesame oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir noodles around skillet for a couple of minutes, until they start to release some moisture. Transfer noodles to a plate or a bowl.

Shirataki noodles: A mite chewy, but oh so satisfying.

If you are using zucchini, use mandoline slicer to julienne into long thin strips. You can cut out the core of the zucchini first if you don’t want seeds in your zucchini noodles. Salt zucchini liberally, then transfer to a paper towel-lined colander. Let sit for 30 minutes to draw some of the moisture from it. Rinse well and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat sesame oil in skillet over medium low heat. Add zucchini and carrots to skillet and stir it all around for 1-2 minutes, until heated through and a bit more tender. Just barely cook the veggies. You don’t want them soft and mushy! Transfer to a plate or bowl.

Mince up ginger, green onions, and garlic cloves. Whisk sweeteners, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water together until sweeteners are dissolved and a smooth sauce is formed. In a skillet, heat the macadamia nut oil over medium-low heat. Add the minced mixture along with the red pepper flakes and cook for 3 minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Add peanut sauce to skillet and cook for one minute. Add noodles or zucchini to pan, and remove pan from the heat. Stir well to coat, adding half the sesame seeds if desired. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later use. Garnish with the rest of the sesame seeds, julienned cucumber, red pepper flakes, and chopped peanuts if desired.

Using 2/3 of the sauce—
With shirataki- 5.5g net carbs each for 4 servings
With zucchini- 7g net carbs for 4 servings

Using all of the sauce—
With shiritaki- 9g net carbs each for 4 servings
With zucchini- 10g net carbs each for 4 servings

A peanut buttery main course must be followed up with an equally peanut buttery dessert. Any Ohio State fans out there? I never realized that Buckeyes were associated with anything other than Christmas until Google enlightened me. Whatever these addictive candies mean to you, they rock, with a smooth and sweet peanut butter filling coated in rich chocolate. To replace the copious amounts of powdered sugar in the traditional recipe, I used a couple of surprising ingredients–ricotta cheese and coconut flour. I promise they don’t taste like cheese or coconuts. They’re basically a party in your mouth. Make a small batch if you like PB as much as I do!

**Updated recipe for Buckeyes HERE!**

So I had to sample a few before the photo. Had to make sure the recipe was just right!

Chomp!

Fourth of July Fun: Gluten-Free Low Carb Chocolate Cupcakes

I was in a celebratory kind of mood after class today, so I whipped up something indulgent for Independence Day!

We had been discussing fourth of July plans in my lab group, and I was thinking about what kind of dishes we’d have at the table this year. This time last year, I wouldn’t have given the issue a second thought. I wasn’t a reformed carboholic at that time. Thinking back, I’m having visions of potato salad and oh, those Lofthouse cookies. Now the thought of how sickly sweet those bland disks of white flour and sugar were is making my mouth pucker.

It’s funny how much your taste buds change after giving up processed food. After taste-testing the fruit puree for this dish, I had to gulp down my sparkling water because of the sweet taste coating my tongue. Even natural sugars are sometimes too intense for this steak salad lovin’ palate. Methinks this is a good thing, if considerably less exciting in how it limits my exploration of the bounty that processed food companies have to offer. No cute snacks to nosh on, exempting what I cook up myself, which basically entails cheese sticks and zucchini slices with salsa. Too lazy to put effort into snack food. It’s hard enough finding time to makeover the good stuff, the piece de resistance of the meal, the apex of the dining experience… dessert!

Bring these festive sugar- and gluten-free chocolate cupcakes to your fourth of July picnic, and be good to your friends and family. Or just save yourself the expense (Let’s be real–the weird natural ingredients add up!) and partake in one of these rich, dark chocolate treats before you’re surrounded by Ruffle chips, baked beans, and American flag sheet cake. One you’ve had your sweet fix, you can thoroughly enjoy your bunless burger and first and foremost, the good company. That’s what living well is all about, huh? It’s not having to worry about feeling uncomfortable from what simply fuels our bodies.

Witness explosions of tangy berry goodness.


Fudgey Firework Cupcakes

adapted from this recipe by Linda Sue

Yields 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup organic butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sweetener equivalent
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use all three of the following:
-1/2 cup erythritol or xylitol
-1/4-1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
5 organic eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons nut meal (almond, pecan, etc.)
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum (optional, to reduce crumbliness)
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
4 squares 85% cacao chocolate (Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie is my new favorite)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soften butter and cream cheese in the microwave in 10 second intervals. Cream butter and cream cheese along with sweeteners until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate. Add eggs one at a time, beating continuously. Stir together nut flour, baking powder, sea salt, gum, and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in 2 steps, incorporating thoroughly after each time. Finally, beat in melted chocolate (use microwave and 15 second intervals). Grease muffin tins or silicone cups with non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening or butter. Mound batter just up to the tops of the tins, because it will rise and settle back down to the original level. Bake for 20 minutes, and remove cupcakes from the pan in their liners as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Let cupcakes cool individually on a wire rack for 20 minutes and store in an airtight container just as the cupcakes are lukewarm to the touch. You want to keep them moist, as erythritol doesn’t hold water in the baked good like sugar does. If you refrigerate the cupcakes, warm ‘em up in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to get them soft again. Best consumed fresh, like anything made with all natural ingredients!

Tips:
~I used pecan meal because it’s more reasonably priced, but almond meal or any other finely ground nut would work just as well.
~Use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa to give your cupcakes that super chocolatey taste you remember from when you were a kid!
~Use 1/2 teaspoon stevia if you want them to be as sweet as traditional chocolate cupcakes. I don’t like anything that sweet any more and use 1/4 teaspoon stevia.
~Remember to look for SUGAR-FREE vanilla extract! Many products have added sugar.

I used my Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting recipe with pure raspberry and blueberry puree. You might add some organic blue food coloring to the blueberry puree to make the color scheme truly patriotic! If you have extra puree, save it to flavor some Almost Instant Ice Cream or sweeten your morning cup of Fage yogurt.

Cowering in terror, waiting for the chocoholic to come back for more…

Berry Puree

Makes lots of puree!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh or frozen organic raspberries or blueberries
stevia, to taste
Pinch of xanthan or guar gum (optional)

Preparation:
Microwave berries until soft and heated through. Blend until liquified. Add a pinch of veggie gum and stir well. Let puree rest for a few minutes to let it thicken. Spoon into a ziptop bag and snip a tiny piece off one of the corners. Pipe puree onto cupcakes.