October 2008 archive

Dairy-Free Indulgences: Decadent Low-Carb Hot Chocolate

UPDATE: Kimi over at The Nourishing Gourmet blog recently put up a very informative post regarding the best type of coconut milk. Check it out!

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Now that it’s cooling down, I like to warm up with my sweet treats. There’s nothing like a big frothy mug of hot cocoa to relax all of the tension in those cold muscles. Apart from satisfying your sweet tooth, hot chocolate can actually do your body good… if prepared with wholesome ingredients! Studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate may even improve insulin sensitivity and reduce heart disease risk. Check out these journal articles regarding the health effects of cocoa if you’re feeling nerdy:

~Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a
significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood
pressure in healthy persons

~Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans
~Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults
~Effect of Dark Chocolate on Arterial Function in Healthy Individuals

Coconut milk, the creamy base for my cocoa, is also packed with good stuff–lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides, which raise HDL cholesterol and are less likely to be stored as body fat! It’s a much better option than soy milk, which is often genetically modified and contains phytates.

To make this dairy-free hot chocolate every bit as creamy as the dairy-filled version, I add melted dark chocolate, full fat coconut milk, and a whole fresh egg in addition to the cocoa powder. This makes for a very filling, nutrient-packed drink! You can use any 85% cacao content chocolate you prefer. Lindt 85% is widely available, reasonably priced, and delicious. This luscious drink is almost like a pourable chocolate custard. You can sweeten it with any combination of sugar-free sweeteners you like. Just remember that using multiple sweeteners is key to making sugarless chocolate treats taste yummy.

Yes, you read that right–this drink calls for a raw egg. The risk of contracting salmonella from conventional eggs is exceptionally low. For organic eggs, which come from healthy hens, the risk is close to zero. I have been consuming one to two raw eggs per day in smoothies for over a year, because the nutrients in the yolk are best preserved in raw form. If you’re still squeamish, go hunt down some pasteurized shell eggs, which are available in many supermarkets. As for the taste, raw eggs make smoothies and shakes unbelievably creamy and frothy. Try it and you won’t go back to egg-less smoothies!

If you’re wary about the coconut milk tasting strange in hot chocolate, fear not. The flavor of coconut milk is so subtle that it is not noticeable in most recipes. I promise you it does not distract one bit from the rich chocolate taste. If you like, you can add flavor extracts to keep your cocoa interesting. Use whatever strikes your fancy! I’ve been adding mint flavor extract to my mug lately, making a liquified Thin Mint type drink. You don’t miss those transfat-laden cookies at all when you’re sippin’ on this mug of heaven.

I like to eat the frothy cap with a spoon first.
sugar-free-hot-cocoa


Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate

Serves 1

Ingredients:
2 squares (.7 ounces) 85% cacao content chocolate
2 teaspoons good tasting cocoa powder
4 ounces of coconut milk
2-3 ounces piping hot water
Combination of sugar-free sweeteners, to taste
-1 tablespoon erythritol
-Pinch of NuNaturals Pure Stevia Extract

Splash of pure vanilla extract
1 fresh organic egg (optional)

Preparation:
Break up chocolate squares with your fingers, or chop into chunks. Add cocoa powder and pour in coconut milk. Microwave for 30-50 seconds, and stir coconut milk and chocolate together until chocolate has melted completely. Whisk egg lightly in a separate bowl. Transfer chocolate mixture to a blender. Add flavor extracts and sweeteners, and blend the mixture at low speed. With the blender running, add beaten egg and then piping hot water. Taste, and add more sweeteners or extract if necessary. Serve immediately–do not reheat.

~7-8 grams net carbs per mug

All gone!
low-carb-hot-chocolate

Quick Indulgences: Low Carb Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt with Apples

Low Carb Apples with Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt

I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled homework to bring you one of those easy snacks you can throw together on a whim. There will be a few of these coming up since play time is limited lately, with classes and homework superseding kitchen experimentation! My skillet and my spatula are my weapons of choice for go-to quick meals–flavored yogurt for breakfast, and stir fries for lunch and dinner. Even using grass-fed beef and organic produce from Whole Foods, it’s much more budget friendly to prepare your meals from scratch instead of subsisting on campus fare. Not to mention the limited availability of gluten-free low carb meals here. Everything is served with a piece of bread!

Back to the topic at hand. You can combine almost anything with plain yogurt and a little vanilla extract to make your own custom flavors, which can get rather addictive once you stock your pantry with extracts and spices. Get creative and add nuts, nut butters, blackstrap molasses, cocoa, toasted coconut flakes, flax meal, coconut oil, lemon juice and zest… whatever you want, ’cause it’ll probably taste good in the rich, full fat yogurt we, as low-carbers, can indulge in without guilt! I’ve been (finally) getting into fall with pumpkin pie yogurt. All you need is a scoop of canned pumpkin, a few drops of vanilla extract, and a big pinch of pumpkin pie spice to enjoy this wonderful holiday dessert for breakfast. I’ll throw it in tupperware and eat my yogurt during morning lecture, garnering more than a few strange looks as I dig into my orange goo!

If you like peanut butter honey sandwiches, or apples and peanut butter, you’re gonna flip for this. We’re revisiting those chayote apples that I used in my apple crisp, this time cooking them up quickly in a skillet with no added spices. Still incredibly apple-y (even if you use lime juice because you’re out of lemon juice like I was for this photo shoot!). The chayote’s texture mimics the apple’s crispness, paired with the perfect level of tartness and sweetness from the citrus juice and stevia. Use as much or as little honey as your needs allow, keeping in mind that honey is 6 grams of carbs per teaspoon. Buy as dark a honey as you can find for the most flavor. I buy local raw honey from the bulk section at Whole Foods, filling the plastic tub with as much or as little of the sticky stuff as I need. One teaspoon is all it takes to satisfy my taste for honey, which goes back to Sunday morning breakfasts consisting of fried eggs (over hard!), Brown n’ Serve sausages, and English muffins slathered in honey that I squeezed greedily from the plastic bear. Yes, you can have honey on a lifestyle that is sugar-free 99% of the time. If honey is a flavor you miss, incorporate a tiny amount into your daily diet and find out if this little bit of real sugar kicks up cravings for sweets.

And peanut butter makes everything better. Now get mixing!

Chayote, before after being turned into sugar-free apple-y goodness!
Low Carb Chayote Apples

“Apples” with Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt

Makes two servings

Ingredients:
For Chayote “Apples”:
1 chayote, chopped
1/8 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract (I use NuNaturals)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For Yogurt:
1 small container Greek yogurt (I like FAGE), or 1/2 cup plain full fat yogurt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon raw honey (darkest in color you can find)
2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter
Good-tasting pure stevia extract, to taste (I use NuNaturals)

Preparation:
Stir together yogurt, peanut butter, and honey**. Add a pinch of stevia extract and taste for sweetness. Add more stevia if necessary. Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Wash and peel chayote, rinsing off the sap under the faucet. Split down the middle with a knife (cutting through the “crack”), and pry out soft seed. Cut chayote into chunks. Mix together water, lemon juice, and stevia. Once pan is hot, add chopped chayotes and lemon juice mixture, stirring a bit to coat the chayote pieces. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, shaking the skillet around once during cooking to redistribute the chayote pieces. You want to cook it until it is fork tender and the water has just evaporated. Uncover and remove from heat. Let cool and serve with yogurt, or toss in melted butter and cinnamon for fried apples. Can also be pureed for applesauce!

**You can also leave the honey out until serving time and just drizzle it on top for a pretty effect, stirring it in before you eat.

~6-9 grams of net carbs per serving (depending on how much honey you use)