July 2009 archive

Easy Sugar-Free Strawberry Mousse–a Low Carb Summer Treat!

Thanks to the readers who entered the contest for the Organic Zero erythritol packets! Andrea is the randomly generated winner. Here is why she eats sugar-free:

“I live sugar-free because my life depends on it. Both of my parents died from diabetes complications and I do not want to go down the same path. We are so fortunate that there are now so many alternatives to sugar such as the product you are promoting. When I was growing up, there was just saccharin which did dnot taste very good. Thank you for your excellent information.”

And now for a surprise second winner! I ordered some vanilla beans on ebay, and have an extra bundle to give away. Rachel can have these vanilla beans if she would like them! The beans can be used as a sugar-free flavoring for baked goods, custard, ice cream, and to make vanilla extract. Here is why Rachel eats sugar-free:

“Lauren,

I eat sugar-free because it’s what my body wants. How do I know this? Sugar and carbs were ruining my life. I had no idea why I constantly craved sugar and processed carbs, and my obsession quickly turned into an eating disorder. I had no control over my cravings…my body wanted more and more and I became a slave to it. I’d binge on sugary, carb-loaded foods and then feel horrible about it and go to great lengths to undo my binges (which I will not describe in detail here). I also suffered from wild mood swings, irritability and fatigue, all of which everyone (including my doctors!) attributed to PMDD.

But I knew it was more than that. All of the treatments I tried for PMDD symptoms had failed. Eventually, completely exhausted, and my body ravaged from my bingeing cycles, I began to do desperate research into blood sugar and its effects on the body. I was shocked to find out that SO many of the symptoms I suffered from, especially the constant sugar and carb cravings, could be due to extremely unstable blood sugar levels!

I immediately stopped eating all sugar and carbs, and have never felt better. I almost never suffer from cravings anymore, I have stopped my destructive bingeing cycles, and am no longer controlled by food. My emotions and moods have leveled, and I have an energy I never knew existed…one that occurs naturally, not feuled by carbs!

I’m not really writing this for your contest, but mostly to tell you that your blog has been a godsend for new sugar- and carb-free eaters like me. I was beginning to accept that I would never be able to enjoy some of my favorite foods again, but your recipes have given me the ability to do that, while still staying within the confines of my diet and without hurting my body.

Thank you so much! I don’t know where you find the time to cook and blog like you do, but I pray that you never stop.

Rachel”

Check out of the rest of the comments from readers about why they eat sugar-free. I really enjoyed reading all of your stories, and seeing how this way of eating is helping people with so many health issues.

Healthy Strawberry Mousse

Do you crave fresh fruit in this summer heat?

I do, and tend to satisfy that desire with stevia-sweetened lemonade instead of “Nature’s Candy.” Some days though, you just gotta indulge in those natural sugars, so here’s how to on your low carb sugar-free lifestyle. Pair the fruit with fat! It dilutes the sugar carbs, making you satisfied with a smaller portion. It also stops your blood sugar from fluctuating wildly and making you hungry an hour after your fruit snack. Besides, fat makes everything tastes better, especially if it comes in the form of organic heavy cream. It’s a divine combination of flavors that inspired countless songs and many different types of desserts.

This strawberry mousse will be the first dessert in a series of easy, quick low carb desserts that require minimal effort, yet will still impress that surprise company coming over for dinner! Besides, who wants to make a big mess in a hot kitchen in this weather? This naturally gluten-free, egg-free mousse can also be made dairy-free with the use of full fat coconut milk! It can be made sugar-free using a combination of stevia and powdered erythritol, but any zero calorie sweetener would work well here. I tried this dessert with Splenda as well, because I have decided to include a measurement for it alongside my preferred natural sweeteners from now on. Although I don’t prefer the taste and chemical nature of Splenda for personal use, it is used by so many diabetics and other carb watchers who need to eat a low insulin producing diet to live. Most importantly, there little empirical evidence showing adverse side effects from its use. If by creating an option for sweetening with Splenda in my recipes, I can broaden the appeal of these healthful low carb treats, I am willing to do so. Keep in mind that combining sugar-free sweeteners yields the best taste, and allows you to use less of them overall. Use the sweetening option that works for your lifestyle, beliefs, budgetary constraints, and health concerns.

This mousse might work with honey as well, but I didn’t try making it like that since I am attempting to limit consumption of all forms of sugar. I’d start with a 2-3 tablespoons of honey, cooked with the strawberries, if you’d like to go this route.

Healthy Sugar-Free Strawberry Mousse

Strawberry Mousse
Adapted from this recipe at Sugar & Everything Nice

Makes 5 servings

Ingredients:

8 ounces fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled and sliced

Sweetener options:
1/4 cup erythritol, powdered, plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
OR
1/2 cup Splenda plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract (or 1/4 cup more Splenda)
OR
2-3 tablespoons honey plus 1/8 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon zest from an organic lemon
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup organic heavy cream

Preparation:
Sprinkle the gelatin over the tablespoon of water in a small bowl, and set aside to soften. Puree the strawberries with the zest, the juice, and the salt. Heat the puree in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring together the strawberries and sweetener just until hot. Add gelatin and stir until melted. Let mixture cool. Beat the cream to soft peaks, and beat in vanilla and stevia. Gently fold strawberry mixture into cream. Pour into serving cups and chill for two hours.

For a stiff, pipeable mousse (like you see in the photos), follow these directions after soaking the gelatin:
Place the strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat, and add the sweetener (erythritol, Splenda, or honey–don’t add the stevia yet) and water and cook, breaking up with your spatula. Stir around the pan gently until the sweetener has dissolved. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the strawberries have slightly thickened. Add the gelatin to the pan, and stir until it is completely melted. Puree in a blender (I used my Magic Bullet) or food processor. Let cool to room temperature. Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks with a hand mixer, and beat in vanilla and stevia. Once the strawberries are cooled, carefully fold the whipped cream into the fruit puree. Pipe mixture into serving bowls, and chill for at least an hour. I used an 8″ Wilton piping bag with the largest tip I could find at Michael’s craft store. The tip was $1.99 and the piping bag was $1.99.

~6.2g net carbs per 1/5th of a recipe using ½ cup Splenda w/stevia
~4g net carbs per 1/5th of a recipe using erythritol/stevia

mousse bite

A Giveaway! And Sugar-Free Rice Krispie Treats and Marshmallows

Does anyone else love shopping for groceries? There’s something about perusing the shelves, discovering new foods and special sale items, that makes supermarket shopping trips secretly exciting for me. The international and organic food sections are my favorite areas of the store to wander around in aimlessly, scanning the shelves for anything that jumps out at me. Today I was looking at the gluten-free grains in Kroger, and spotted brown rice “krispies.” Immediately the thought of sweet, gooey Rice Krispy treats popped into my head. A reader had asked about the possibility of a low carb, sugar-free version, so I thought I’d give it a shot today.

So let’s start by deconstructing rice krispie treats. Crispy rice cereal is not something I’d consume on a daily basis because of its processed nature, starchiness, and low protein content, but it lends that familiar crunch that’s so essential for these kid-friendly treats. Next, we need to do something about that corn syrup filled marshmallow. It’s 100% sugar! Fortunately, xylitol works well in homemade marshmallows. It’s a one for one swap, with a touch of honey to keep the marshmallows moist and soft, and stevia to boost the sweetness. Finally, we need to cut back on the brown rice if we want to make these treats low carb. I replaced half of the cereal with blanched sliced almonds that I dry toasted in a skillet. They’re a crunchy, high protein addition to rice krispie (krispy?) treats that I hope you’ll enjoy as a healthy twist to old classic!

Now for the fun part! I’d like to share my other food find from the organic foods section at Kroger. It’s organic erythritol, on sale for a Manager’s Special promotion! I’m passing the savings on to you guys by giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment, telling me why you eat sugar-free, to be entered into a drawing for a box of this natural, calorie free sweetener.

Erythritol (a natural sweetener)
Erythritol (a natural sweetener)

You have a whole week to enter! I’ll ship the box to the winner as long as you’re located in the U.S.
———————————————–
And now, back to marshmallows! Don’t be intimidated by the number of the steps for this recipe. The process is pretty straightforward. You don’t even have to use a thermometer. Just set up your bowls in advance, and have your ingredients already measured out if you’re trying to do this with a hand mixer, like I did. You’ll be adding everything with one hand, and mixing with the other. Isn’t a little bit of labor worth it for (almost) sugar-free marshmallows, though?

They look a little rustic, but taste every bit as good as regular marshmallows…

Sugar-Free Marshmallows

Sugar-Free Marshmallows
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com

Makes about 7 cups mini marshmallows

Ingredients:
1 cup xylitol
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear imitation is recommended)
Big pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon good tasting pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
Organic cornstarch or toasted coconut, for dusting (optional)

Preparation:
You can find step by step photos of this process here. I use a different method, but the pictures of the beaten marshmallow are accurate.

Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan with butter or nonhydrogenated shortening. Set out a saucepan and a large stainless steel bowl, or a large pot. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together xylitol, honey and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water. Heat xylitol mixture, without stirring, until it bubbles vigorously. Place remaining water in a large bowl or saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over the surface of this water. Heat bowl containing gelatin and water over a saucepan of simmering water to melt and liquefy the gelatin. Remove gelatin from heat. Turn down xylitol mixture to medium heat and boil solution until it turns a deep amber color, as seen in this photo. Remove immediately from heat and pour into bowl of dissolved gelatin. It will foam up considerably, thus the need for the large bowl in which to heat the gelatin. Whisk together once the foam dies down, and transfer the amber colored liquid to a glass measuring cup. In a clean bowl (preferably metal), start whipping egg white with a pinch of cream of tartar, or one drop of vinegar. Whip until the egg white is at the stage of soft peaks. Slowly stream in xylitol solution over the course of a minute or so, beating all the time. Try not to hit the sides of the bowl as you stream in the hot xylitol mixture. Turn up mixer speed to high and beat egg white xylitol mixture for 5-10 minutes, until fluffy and thick. Beat in vanilla, stevia, and salt. When marshmallow is beginning to set, it will pull on the beaters a lot and leave tracks. Pour immediately into greased dish and spread around with a spatula. Let set out on the counter for about 8 eight hours. If you are eating the marshmallows out of hand, invert the pan onto a clean surface, like a cutting board. Marshmallows should flop out onto surface after a bit of shaking. Pry them out gently with a buttered silicone spatula if necessary. If you are eating these out of hand, place sifted cornstarch into a large bowl. Chop marshmallow block into 1 inch cubes, or 1/2 inch for mini marshmallows, with a large buttered knife. Toss handfuls of marshmallows into cornstarch and shake around the bowl. Store in a ziptop bag on the counter.

~17g net carbs for the whole recipe, depending on how you count xylitol (add 7g net carbs for each tablespoon of cornstarch you toss the marshmallows in)

Sugar-Free Rice Krispie Treats

Low Carb Rice Krispy Treats

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:
4 cups sugar-free mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons regular organic butter or nonhydrogenated shortening
2.5 cups sliced blanched almonds
2 cups GF organic crisped brown rice cereal
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (if you use shortening; just a pinch if you use butter)

Preparation:
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and crunchy. Do NOT let them brown, or they will taste burned. Set aside to cool.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add salt and mini marshmallows, and stir until melted and thoroughly blended into a smooth mixture. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal and almonds. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula, press mixture evenly and firmly into a buttered 8 by 8 inch pan. Cut into squares when cool.

~7g net carbs per 1/12th of a recipe

Sugar-Free Rice Krispie Treats

Don’t forget to enter the contest with a comment! It closes Friday of next week, July 12th.

Healthy Cake with a Secret, Part 2- Gluten-Free Low Carb Yellow Cake!

yellow cake close up

(Please ignore the robots on the paper liners. They were on sale!)

Since posting my chocolate cake made with black beans last month, I’ve received quite a few requests for a vanilla version of this incredibly moist, easy recipe. You ask, I deliver! These gluten-free sugar-free low carb (grain-free!) yellow cupcakes are made with coconut flour in place of the cocoa powder, and white beans instead of black beans. Cocoa powder and coconut flour seem to work interchangeably! It’s a pretty cool discovery that I hope y’all can make use of in your own gluten-free low carb baking pursuits. And because someone will ask: These cupcakes do not taste like beans or coconut! Just butter and vanilla and moist yumminess. Using beans and coconut flour in place of almond flour is budget-friendly, so you can experiment with this recipe by adding cinnamon, nuts, sugar-free chocolate chunks, different extracts… have fun!

(more…)