Archive of ‘Chocolate’ category

Healthier Chocolate Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-free!)

Creamy, Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream (Sugar-Free)

It’s too chilly outside to walk to Whole Foods, and it’s so convenient shop on campus with our dining points. As luck would have it, two of my healthy cooking staples-coconut milk and extra dark chocolate–happen to be available at the coffee shop by my dorm building. I decided to make a comforting treat using truly “local” ingredients. With the swipe of my student I.D. card, I stocked up on my favorite Lindt 85% chocolate and canned coconut milk and pondered the possibilities.

Even though NC has been cold enough to make me long for the dearth of seasonal weather that is southwest Florida, ice cream sounded really good yesterday afternoon. It may have had something to do with my friend wanting to stop at Ben and Jerry’s after a quiet dinner out at a delicious Mediterranean restaurant. I was pretty full that night from meat skewers with tzaziki and baba ghanoush, but for old times sake, we went into the colorful ice cream shop. I ended up getting a tiny Kid-sized scoop of their sugar-free ice cream, just to try it. A little processed food once in a blue moon when you’re out with a good friend can’t hurt.

The Ben and Jerry’s experience was honestly a bit of a disappointment. The texture of the No Sugar Added Vanilla Fudge ice cream was grainy (because of the lowfat milk I’m guessing), had an aftertaste from the Splenda, and worst of all, caused the telltale tummy “rumbling” associated with maltitol. Fortunately, the scoop I had was small enough not to cause any side effects, but I was truly worried for a moment there. After tossing out the little paper cup and feeling cheated out of $4.50, I hatched a plan to make my own healthy ice cream. Without Splenda, skim milk, artificial flavorings, maltitol…. or an ice cream maker.

This sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate walnut ice cream turned out much better than I ever could have expected. You just whip it up and freeze it in a dish… no ice cream machine required! It’s rich, creamy, scoopable from the freezer, and pleasantly sweet. Forgo storebought low-carb ice cream and make up a batch of this. It’s even lower in carbs than the prepackaged kind because of the use of my favorite natural sweetener, erythritol (instead of sorbitol and maltitol which are higher on the glycemic index).

The coconut milk imparts creaminess and a subtle flavor, while the coconut oil makes for a smooth mouthfeel. The fresh organic egg yolk emulsifies the whole mix into ice cold dairy-free bliss. I added homemade low carb chocolate chunks that melt in your mouth as you eat the ice cream instead of staying cold hard bits (which always ruins the fun of chocolate chip ice cream for me). The walnuts add crunch. There’s also a spoonful of rum to make the ice cream stay soft enough to scoop. You can’t taste the alcohol, though. If you don’t mind your ice cream freezing very hard, simply leave it out. I must say that the rum was by far the most accessible ingredient since there are people turning 21 every day in my dorm hall!

Dairy-Free Rich Chocolate Ice Cream (Sugar-Free, Vegan)


Dairy-Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes five rich scoops

Ingredients:
2 ounces 85% cacao chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
9 tablespoons erythritol or 7 tablespoons xylitol
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract
2 cups full fat coconut milk (preferably Thai Kitchen brand)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rum or vodka (to keep ice cream soft and scoopable)
Pinch unrefined sea salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 recipe ice cream chips (see below)

Optional:

1 fresh, organic egg yolk

Preparation:
Melt together chocolate, erythritol, coconut milk, sea salt, coconut oil, and microwave on HIGH for 30-40 seconds until chocolate and coconut oil are melted. Blend with stevia, rum, and vanilla until smooth. Add the egg yolk and blend once more. Pour into a glass dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for one hour, then remove from freezer and whisk vigorously. Stir once more after another hour, adding in the walnuts and chips. I let mine freeze overnight. You could also just pour the mix into an ice cream maker and freeze per your manufacturer’s instructions.

~35g net carbs for the whole batch (with walnuts and chips)

Melt-in-your-mouth Ice Cream Chips:

Makes enough for one batch of ice cream

1 oz 85% cacao chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon erythritol, or 1 tablespoon xylitol
1 teaspoon nonhydrogenated shortening or coconut oil
Pinch good-tasting pure stevia extract

Powder erythritol or xylitol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Melt chocolate with powdered sweetener and shortening. Stir in a pinch of stevia and taste for sweetness. Spread in a thin layer onto a sheet of wax paper or aluminum foil and freeze until set. Chop into small square chunks. Keep chilled.

~5.5g net carbs per batch

Warning: Not a single serving size! It was even more delicious shared with four friends. 🙂
Healthy Dairy-Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Healthy Homemade Almond Joy Bars! (Sugar-Free and Paleo)

Paleo Almond Joy Bars

There are certain flavors that you miss when you strip your diet of most processed foods and sugar. Most cravings can be satisfied with natural foods, but particular taste memories require you to get creative. One of my absolute favorite candy bars was the Almond Joy candy bar, a chocolate coated candy bar with a sticky sweet coconut filling (known as a Mounds bar minus the almonds). My roommate, Bethany, reminded me of this old obsession a couple of nights ago when we were having a quiet night in, doing homework and socializing in the dorm kitchen.

I brainstormed how to recreate the gooey coconut filling sans the sugar. Coconut oil, coconut milk, and unsweetened coconut would add plenty of fresh coconut flavor and moisture to the filling. A blend of natural sweeteners–stevia and erythritol–would add sweetness without the carbohydrates. I came up with a test batch and ceremoniously handed Bethany one of the freshly coated treats on a tiny paper plate. Moments later, she gave me a chocolate covered thumbs up. We had a winner!

 

Real Almond Joy bars contain two types of sugar (corn syrup and white sugar) and two different transfats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil). Just one candy bar has a whopping 25 grams net carbs! These homemade gluten-free, low carb candy bars will boost your immune system and fuel your cells as opposed to breaking them down. Since they contain no dairy, these treats are incidentally vegan. As one helpful reader pointed out, these candy bars are nearly sugar-free as the Lindt chocolate in the coating contains just 19g net carbs (for the whole 85% bar) or 35g net carbs (for the whole 70% bar). The amount of sugar per serving is low enough to incorporate into my healthy eating plan, but if it is important for you to go totally sugar-free, try experimenting with unsweetened chocolate. Update: If you’d like the coating to be totally sugar-free, try melting down a Lily’s sugar-free chocolate bar. They’re super yummy and available for purchase Whole Foods supermarkets.

You can coat these bars in a snap with 70% cacao content chocolate, or make up a chocolate ganache to lower the carb content. The only problem with the ganache is that it is thicker and must be stored in the freezer to remain firm. Both coatings taste equally delicious, though!

Sugar-Free Almond Joy Bars

Healthy Almond Joy Bars

Yields 20
You can make these sugar-free (recommended for diabetics) or paleo by using your preferred sweeteners. This recipe is flexible, so play around with it! Be aware that if you use honey, the flavor of it will compete with the coconut and chocolate, so it won’t taste exactly like the traditional candy bar, but it’ll still be yummy! You can’t really go wrong with a sweet coconut filling enveloped in chocolate, now can you?


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Prep Time
20 min

Prep Time
20 min

Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups (142g) fine unsweetened shredded coconut
  2. 5-6 tablespoons (75 mL)coconut oil, melted
  3. 1/3 cup (78 mL) full fat coconut milk
  4. 1/3 cup erythritol* (67g) OR 1/4 cup (50g) xylitol
  5. 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure stevia extract (I recommend Trader Joe’s organic stevia)
  6. Whole almonds
  7. 2-3.5 oz (200g) Lindt 70% chocolate bars** OR sugar-free chocolate
  8. 1/16 teaspoon (0.3 mL) unrefined sea salt
To Prepare Filling
  1. Chill a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper in the freezer or fridge while you are prepping the candy filling.
  2. If you are making sugar-free candies, start by grinding the erythritol, xylitol, and sea salt into a fine powder using a coffee grinder.
  3. Whisk together coconut oil, coconut milk, unsweetened coconut, and honey (for the paleo version) or powdered sweeteners until you form a smooth paste.
  4. Add stevia, a little at a time, tasting for sweetness. Add more stevia if necessary. If you use one of the recommended brands, the listed quantity should provide just the right amount of non-bitter sweetness!
  5. Drop dollops of the coconut mixture on to aluminum foil or waxed paper, and shape into flat logs with your fingertips.
  6. Top with almonds, pressing the nuts down gently into the filling.
  7. Freeze filling on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, or until it is firm and cold.
To Prepare Coating
  1. Microwave chopped chocolate for 30 seconds on HIGH, and stir until smooth. Add 1/16 teaspoon of stevia and taste. Adjust sweetness level if necessary. Stick toothpicks into cold filling logs. Dip filling log into chocolate, return to wax paper, and remove toothpick. Wait a minute or two for chocolate coating to harden, and enjoy!
Notes
  1. *If you are making the filling with sugar-free sweeteners, I recommended using erythritol with a tablespoon of xylitol mixed in. To learn why I always combine sweeteners, check out the Healthy Indulgences E-Cookbook!
  2. **You can use sugar-free chocolate for the coating, like Lily’s, if you are trying to completely avoid sugar.
  3. ~0.57g net carbs per candy bar without the chocolate coating
  4. ~35g net carbs per 1-3.5 oz 70% Lindt bar
  5. ~4g net carbs per bar made with 70% Lindt chocolate bar coating
Healthy Indulgences http://healthyindulgences.net/

I made quick nut clusters by dipping raw almonds into the ganache. Grab one from the freezer when you feel a chocolate craving coming on!

freezerclusters

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1-3.5 oz 85% cacao content chocolate bar (I used Lindt)
5 tablespoons organic heavy cream
1/3 cup erythritol or 1/4 cup xylitol, powdered
1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract

Grind erythritol to the consistency of powdered sugar (see this post) in coffee grinder or Magic Bullet. Chop chocolate and combine with erythritol and cream. Microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH and stir until smooth. Add a couple more tablespoons of heavy cream if coating is too thick. Stir in stevia, and taste. Adjust sweetness level if necessary. Use for nut clusters, Almond Joy bars, topping cupcakes… whatever you like! Store candies made with ganache in the freezer.

~22g of carbs for the whole batch

Healthy Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

This is my submission for “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free” hosted by Heather at Life, Gluten Free as well as for Real Food Wednesdays at Cheeseslave!

I am back at school, so posting will be more infrequent as the semester gets going. Thank you all for the nice feedback on the holiday baking posts!

moltencake3

Chocolate Lava Cake needs no introduction. It’s an explosion of ooey gooey chocolate that taunts you with how sinful and decadent it is. Fortunately, you can have your sugar-free, gluten-free, low carb molten cake and eat it, too. It also happens to be nut-free, for all of you folks who cannot tolerate almond flour. I made these cakes for some good friends and got great reviews. Treat your company or just yourself to this beloved dessert with a healthful twist. It’s better than the kind you get at Chili’s, with none of funky processed ingredients. Promise. With one of these lil’ cakes, you can get in a healthy dose of natural saturated fat from the butter and cacao as well as protein and choline from the eggs (Nature’s perfect food!). Smile, because you are not taxing your pancreas and immune system from sugar carbs. It can be our delicious secret that this dreamy dessert contains all of the good flavor and none of the toxic ingredients of a “normal” molten cake. No one will notice if you don’t tell them!

Healthy Molten Chocolate Cake

Healthy Molten Chocolate Cake
Adapted from a recipe at AllRecipes.com

Serves 12

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) organic unsalted butter, cut into chunks
8 ounces 85% cacao chocolate, broken up (I used Lindt)
5 eggs
1 cup erythritol, powdered
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
Pinch of unrefined sea salt
4 teaspoons gluten-free flour (oat, buckwheat, etc.)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Set out eggs to bring to room temperature. Section out 3 chocolate bars into seven pieces each, so you can measure out the ounces (each piece is .5 ounces). Chop up chocolate. Melt butter and chocolate together for 30 seconds in the microwave, and stir. Melt mixture for 15 second intervals, and stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs. Add beaten eggs, erythritol, stevia, and salt to chocolate mixture. Stir in GF flour. Pour into 12 silicone muffin cups and bake for about 14 minutes (check at 12), or until puffed up and still a bit moist looking on the tops. Do NOT overbake. Let cakes sit in muffin pans for one minute, and then invert cakes on to individual serving dishes. Dust with powdered erythritol, or top with fresh whipped cream and berries, if desired. Consume immediately while warm and gooey!

Wrap up leftover cakes after they have cooled, and nuke them (unwrapped) for 15-25 seconds to get them gooey again.

~4.5g net carbs per cake

Other blog posts you might like:
Flourless Dark Chocolate Espresso Cake @ Cindalou’s Kitchen Blues
Sugar-Free Chocolate Pecan Torte @ About.com

Healthier Nutella and the Best Cupcakes Ever

NUTELLAFINAL

Raise your hand if you are guilty of dipping your finger into a jar of Nutella at some point. Is your hand up high? Mine too! It’s becoming more and more common to come across Nutella addicts from all walks of life. I still remember the first time I sampled Nutella at a Spanish language immersion summer camp. I hesitantly spread it on my toast, took a dainty little bite, and was instantly hooked! A few years later, Nutella cropped up in U.S. grocery stores, dooming me to a life of temptation every time I reached for an innocent jar of peanut butter placed strategically beside the jar with the white lid and Kobe Bryant smiling out at you.

This rich, sweet chocolate hazelnut spread is (well, was) good on just about anything, from pretzels to fresh fruit to crepes to straight-off-the-spoon-when-you-think-no-one’s-looking. Let’s have a look at the ingredients of this popular peanut butter alternative:

sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skimmed milk, soy lecithin, vanillin, reduced mineral whey

Sugar makes up the bulk of the spread? No wonder it’s so tasty! Modified palm oil? Palm oil is shelf stable and full of healthful saturated fats as is, which makes me curious as to why it is adulterated for Nutella. Madness! Let’s make some chocolate hazelnut spread that won’t leech nutrients from your body…

This low sugar version of Nutella (Not-tella?) packs a nutrient punch with antioxidants, healthful saturated fat, and iron from the chocolate, and monounsaturated fat and magnesium from the nuts and oil. The milk contributes a bit of calcium as well. Best of all, the net carbohydrate grams have been cut down from 168 per cup to 56! Spread your Nutella on an almond flour biscuit and enjoy chocolately decadence without the sugar crash!

The recipe for Not-tella is so simple! You just have to do a bit of chopping and stirring (and taste-testing as you go along, shh). You can find powdered milk at most supermarkets and even Wal-Mart. If you’re dairy-free or vegan, perhaps powdered coconut or soy milk would be a good stand in. As for the oil in the recipe, you have options. I used cold-pressed peanut oil because it has the best taste and least heat processing for the most reasonable price, but any nutty or neutral tasting oil would work. A touch of vanilla bean paste would be lovely in this spread, if you have access to it. Just don’t add water and ruin the smooth, luxurious consistency!

Healthier Not-tella (Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (heaped) fresh hazelnuts
5 tablespoons oil
1-3.5 oz Lindt 70% cacao content bar
1/4 teaspoon (scant) of good-tasting pure stevia extract
4 tablespoons powdered milk (I used Organic Valley)
Pinch sea salt

Preparation:

Toast hazelnuts in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, stirring twice. Dump hot hazelnuts into a clean dish towel and rub vigorously for a few moments to remove some of the skins. Don’t worry if some of the skins are still left on. Chop up nuts well (unless you have a really powerful blender). Pour oil into blender or Magic Bullet cup. Add nuts. Blend for a minute or two until nuts are ground as smooth as you can get them. Make sure your hands are dry, and break or chop up chocolate bar into pieces and microwave for 30 seconds, then for 15 seconds, or until it can be stirred smooth. Stir in powdered milk (sifted, if it has lumps), stevia, and sea salt. Store tightly in a glass jar for 24 hours to let the flavors meld. Reheat cold Nutella to make it spreadable, as it will harden in the fridge.

~56g net carbs for the whole recipe, with 7g net carbs per 2 tablespoons

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And now, a little somethin’ special for New Year’s festivities…

NUTELLA SWIRL CUPCAKES!
minimuffins7

These cupcakes are darn good. They really deserve their own post, but this recipe came together as I was working on a cupcake base for swirls of Not-tella. If you haven’t tried coconut flour-based cake (and even if you HAVE tried it), you are in for a treat! My standard coconut cake recipe is adapted from one of Bruce Fife’s recipes, but one little twist on the method of preparation has yielded the best sugar-free gluten-free (and dairy-free!) cupcakes I’ve ever eaten.

Healthy Nutella Swirl Cupcake

The big twist is… whipping the egg whites and folding them back in! That’s it. That’s all you have to do to get a nice fluffy consistency with pretty rounded tops and a perfectly moist interior. If you’re intimidated by egg whites, read this helpful tutorial. I’ll never make cupcakes with the old, lazy method again. It seriously takes less than 5 extra minutes to attain white flour-less cupcake nirvana. It also cuts the calories per serving drastically, which means you can “eat more,” and have 2 cupcakes instead of one. And this, my friends, is totally sweet.

minimuffinsfinal2

Nutella Swirl Cupcakes a.k.a The Best Cupcakes Ever

Makes enough for two muffin trays

Ingredients:
1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup extra virgin olive and 1/4 cup coconut)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic half and half or coconut milk
1/2 cup sifted coconut flour
1/2 cup erythritol
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease muffin pans with nonhydrogenated shortening, or line with paper cups. Spray paper liners with cooking spray if using. Stir together oils, vanilla, and half and half. Mix together coconut flour, erythritol, stevia, baking powder, and salt. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then whisk in egg yolks. In a separate, meticulously clean bowl using clean beaters, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Stir a bit of the whites into the yolk batter to lighten it up, then proceed to fold in the rest of the whites. Don’t worry the batter has streaks or a few chunks of foam. Spoon batter into greased pans, leaving a little room at the top (do NOT overfill or cupcakes can sink in the middle).

Use a teaspoon to drop chocolate spread onto the top of cupcakes, and swirl in with a toothpick, pulling batter up and over the filling. Bake mini muffins for 20-25 minutes, and regular muffins for 25-30 minutes. Cupcakes may became very browned in some spots on the top, but they will not dry out. Remove when the top of the cupcakes spring back. Let cool for 10 minutes in pans, then invert onto a clean towel or wire rack. Store at room temperature for a couple of days, then refrigerate.

For extra decadence, stuff the insides of cupcakes with Not-tella…
cupcakepour

…or just drizzle it generously over the tops!
minimuffins4

The filling didn’t quite make it down to the center in this one, but it was still yummy!
cupcake2

~2g net carbs per plain, regular-sized cupcake
~.8g net carbs per minicupcake

Related recipes you might like:
Real, Homemade Nutella @ Seattle Local Food
Let’s Go Nuts: Nutella! @ Food & Thoughts
Cocoa Nib Hazelnut Spread @ vegan visitor


What are you making for a New Year’s party? I’m looking for ideas. 🙂

Chocolate Giveaways, Healthier Buckeyes, and Christmas Candy Making

Sugar-Free Buckeyes, how I love you so!
Sugar-Free Buckeye Candies (Low Carb)

To celebrate the season, I’m giving away two prizes to two readers who comment on this post. Up for grabs is a package of Green & Black’s Organic 85% cacao chocolate along with my cooking chocolate of choice, the Lindt Excellence 85% cacao bar. I have two of these bundles all wrapped up for the lucky readers!

Contest closes December 25th. The contest is closed. Thank you for your entry!
chocolategiveaway

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Healthier Magic Cookie Bars (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free)

Seven Layer Bars a.k.a Magic Cookie Bars, are my absolute favorite holiday treats. The combination of rich chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and the sticky sweetness of condensed milk all coalesce into an incredibly addictive bar cookie. My take on Seven (Six?) Layer Bars is sugar-free, gluten-free, and low carb. It’s a good thing they freeze well ’cause the batch I made today was just too tempting, sitting around on the counter top lookin’ all delicious and gooey!

Healthier Magic Cookie Bars (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free)

You’ll need to make a homemade sugar-free caramel sauce to replace that Eagle Brand Condensed Milk that holds these bars together. With a touch of real honey, the sauce is smooth, creamy, and perfect for any dessert that calls for a drizzle of caramel. It doesn’t keep well, so you should prepare and use it immediately. Fortunately, it takes minutes to make.

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Holiday Indulgences: Best Low Carb Cocoa Brownies, with a Twist

This is my submission to the Nourishing Holiday Food Carnival, hosted by Kimi Harris over at the Nourishing Gourmet blog. Check out the other recipes and her fabulous blog!

sugar-free-brownies

I’m in a bit of a rush lately with the end of the term approaching quickly (and then Christmas, yay!), so I’ll make this post brief. My dairy-free pumpkin pie didn’t turn out as attractive as I’d hoped, so here’s a considerably easier treat for those of you who don’t like fighting with crumbly crusts and temperamental custards. Cranberry brownies sound a bit unusual, but I promise that you will like this tart twist on the ultimate chocolate indulgence. And if you don’t care for the cranberries, these are darn good regular brownies. They may have just usurped the ooey gooey kind as the best low carb sugar-free brownies. The best part about these almond oat flour brownies is that they are ridiculously easy to prepare!

low-carb-brownies

A few notes about the recipe…

1. The brownies are shaped like muffin tins because I don’t have real pans in my school apartment. Feel free to use an 8 by 8 inch pan. You might have to adjust the baking time a bit, though.

2. The oat flour is not certified gluten-free (I’m not celiac, just intolerant), but you can certainly make your own oat flour with certified gluten-free oats.

3. The type of cocoa you use affects the flavor–use Dutch-processed for that old school Little Debbie Snack cake cocoa flavor. Natural cocoa will give you a more complex chocolate flavor depending on what brand you use.

4. You can use dried UNSWEETENED cranberries (check the Whole Foods in your area if you have one!), fresh, or frozen berries. If using frozen berries, be sure to defrost them and squeeze out all of the excess moisture with paper towels.

5. Toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes or until fragrant (but not brown) in the oven as you are preparing the batter. If you can’t find hazelnuts, walnuts work just as well.

cranberry-healthy-brownies

Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Brownies

Ingredients:

One recipe of Simple Cocoa Brownies
1/2 cup frozen cranberries, chopped into halves
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted

If you are using frozen cranberries, thaw chopped halves in 10 second intervals in the microwave until heated through and no longer icy. Squeeze as much moisture out as you can with paper towels. Mix into batter.


Simple Cocoa Brownies

Yields 10-12 brownies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup erythritol or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons xylitol
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
2 large organic eggs
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup oat flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter and cocoa together and stir until smooth. Whisk in eggs and erythritol. Pour cream in, whisking for a minute or two to dissolve all of the erythritol. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving nuts to stir in last. Pour batter into silicone muffins cups or an 8 by 8 inch pan lined with parchment or greased aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool COMPLETELY before cutting and serving. These brownies are at their BEST after letting them sit overnight. They’re yummy and fudgy straight from the refrigerator.

~3g net carbs per brownie (made with erythritol)

low-carb-cranberries

Holiday Indulgences: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

Thanksgiving and holiday baking are on the horizon. My upcoming recipes will be incorporating my absolute favorite seasonal ingredient: pumpkin! Yes, it’s everywhere right now on the food blogs, but for good reason. Pumpkin embodies the taste of fall, with its smoky warmth, mirroring the auburn spectrum painting the leaves. It lends vibrant color and an air of comfort food to every dish it touches. Not to mention the health benefits! It’s low in carbs and packed with beta carotene. You may associate it with just desserts, but it pairs beautifully with caramelized onions and black pepper, making a mean dish of breakfast faux-tatoes (more on those later!).

Due to limited access to a real grocery store and fancy ingredients this semester, I am paring down my cooking arsenal and sticking to what I can find on campus. A bit of honey can do wonderful things for low carb gluten-free cookies. It acts as a binder, and complements stevia’s sweetness–a little bit of honey goes a long way. Yes, it is real sugar, but it is not heat processed, and low enough in carbs distributed throughout the whole recipe. As long as I count the carbs (6 grams per teaspoon), I am fine with honey and experience no cravings or portion control issues. Your tolerance may vary, of course!

One question I have received multiple times is why I don’t use agave nectar. I am certainly no expert, but it doesn’t seem like any food that has been boiled down for hours to concentrate its sugar can be considered healthful. There is no such thing as “raw” agave nectar, since you can’t use the sap straight from the plant. A second strike against it is that it contains a disproportionately high concentration of fructose, which causes a whole host of problems for the human body as documented in Good Calories, Bad Calories. Taubes sums up the research on fructose in an eye-opening chapter that will scare you silly of this “low glycemic” sweetener. Let’s have a look at the break down of components in natural sweeteners:

Raw honey:
38.5% fructose
31% glucose
12.9% maltose

Agave nectar:
90% fructose
10% glucose

I’ll be sticking to raw honey when I need a little of the properties that real sugar affords. Count the carbs for your daily total and be on your merry way. A bit of real sugar is not inherently evil for healthy individuals, when used responsibly.

Enough chatter… let’s talk cookies! These are not your momma’s pumpkin cookies. They are dense and moist, but NOT cakey! These are just sweet enough with a bit of rich chocolate in every bite, which nicely complements the spicy undertones. And the best part? They’re miraculously gluten-free (of course), dairy-free and egg-free. That means almost vegan, but I’ve heard that vegans care about bee welfare, too. Bless them!

What did I do for the chocolate chips? I’ll admit to being lazy and just breaking up a 70% Lindt bar, but if you are watching your carbs more closely you can use my homemade erythritol-sweetened chips. You could just use a chopped up 85% cocao Lindt bar if you can handle that intense chocolate flavor.
Low-Carb-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

Healthy-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

Pumpkin Chip Cookies (Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)

Yields sixteen cookies

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Spectrum organic)
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, pulsed into a meal
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
3 squares Lindt 70% chocolate, broken into chunks
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Pulse coconut until it forms a coarse flour (using flat blade in Magic Bullet). Level off 1/4 cup. Pulse chopped almonds into a meal if you don’t have pre-ground almond flour. Break chocolate into chunks with your fingers. Melt shortening. Whisk in honey, pumpkin puree, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients, excluding chocolate, until dough forms a smooth paste. Mix in chocolate chunks. Dollop with a tablespoon onto greased aluminum foil or parchment paper, spreading and patting into flat cookie shapes (these don’t spread). Bake for 15 minutes, then move cookie sheet to top oven rack and bake for 5 more minutes. Let cool completely on cookie sheet. Store in plastic baggies lined with paper towels.

~3.5g net carbs per cookie

Sugar-Free-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

Preview:

Chocolate Pie w/Peanut Butter Cookie Crust (Dairy-Free)
Sugar-Free-Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Pie

What are you cooking up for the holidays? Leave a comment and share!

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

Taking a Study Break with Chocolate Chip Cookies

UPDATE: I had a friend try these with Splenda, her preferred sweetener, and they turned out well. She said they could have been sweeter, but the sweetness level was just right for her taste.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I’m stressed, I bake. There’s something comforting about the mindless measuring, the systematic method of the steps, and of course, the instant gratification. Not that I’m too uptight this time of the semester. It’s just really nice to step away from my reading material a few moments for a sweet reward. Cookies fit the bill nicely!

After working and re-working this all natural sugar-free gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, I am now satisfied with the results. Cookies without real sugars (including natural sugars–agave, honey, etc.) OR artificial sweeteners are a tough nut to crack! I really try to avoid both because of the metabolic response caused by sucrose and fructose (e.g. agave nectar!), as well as the artificial nature of manmade molecules such as Splenda. This may be an overly cautious approach, but being the science junkie that I am, stevia and erythritol seem like the safest options for now. If you like Splenda and other artificial sweeteners, and they help you to stay on your low carb plan, use ’em. You’re likely healthier than you would otherwise be eating “real” sugar. You have find what works for you.

These fabulous cookies are flavorful, soft, and just sweet enough. The recipe was inspired by this wonderful basic cookie by Batspit at the Active Low Carber forum. If you can tolerate dairy, definitely use butter in this recipe for the most flavor. The slight cooling from the erythritol is not distracting, but “refreshing,” as my roommate and faithful tester phrased it in her lovely British accent. That was the problem with every cookie recipe I had tried before–the erythritol would make the pastry feel like a mint the minute it hit your tongue. Not very chocolate chip cookie-like. The key ingredient here is xanthan gum, so if you haven’t invested in a bag, do it now. I mean it! Grab your keys, drive to the health food store, and make a positive change in your life by buying this miraculous gluten replacer. It keeps the erythritol from causing its mischief, leaving you with a tray full of pleasantly sweet chocolate chip cookies instead of icy pucks.

Other reasons to buy xanthan gum: It thickens smoothies, ice cream, homemade salad dressings, keeps your gluten-free quickbreads from crumbling, and stabilizes whipped cream for longer term storage. A little bit of it goes a long way, so use a light hand or you’ll end up with barbeque sauce flavored pudding… not that I would know!

If you want to save time, pick up some 73% cacao chocolate disks from Whole Foods. I used El Rey’s Apamate Chocolate, but Dagoba makes a nice product as well. No, the chocolate isn’t super low carb, but you’re only using a touch of luxurious chocolate in these adorable drop cookies. Just remember that it’s not a healthy indulgence if you eat the whole batch at once! I recommend just baking these cookies as you’d like to eat them, both to aid in portion control and to experience them at their peak–warm from the oven. Like most gluten-free baked goods, you don’t want to wait around to indulge. A quick zap in the nuker can also restore these cookies to their former glory. Keep the dough in a ball in the fridge and pop a couple of cookies in the toaster oven when you need a sweet escape from the madness.

Flourless, sugar-free, dairy-free… flavor-FULL!
Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies, 2

BLOG PHOTOS choc chip cookies3

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 18 large cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted organic butter OR coconut oil
2 cage-free organic eggs
3/4 cup erythritol OR 1/2 cup preferred sugar-free sweetener
3 cups blanched almond flour (can replace 1 cup with unsweetened coconut)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon organic blackstrap molasses
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract (omit if you use Splenda)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (not necessary if you use Splenda)
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 heaping cup homemade chocolate chunks OR a chopped Lindt 70% cacao bar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Powder erythritol with sea salt in coffee grinder or magic bullet (use the flat blade). Melt butter or oil in mixing bowl with the microwave, using 15 second intervals. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Whisk in erythritol, sea salt, stevia extract, and blackstrap molasses. Pulse coconut flakes into a powder in magic bullet, if desired. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients together and stir into wet ingredients, adding nuts and chocolate chunks after the dough comes together. Shape dough into balls and squish on an ungreased cookie sheet with the clean bottom of glass–these cookies will not spread. If you are making the drop cookies, omit the blackstrap molasses and press chocolate drops into the tops of your cookie dough rounds, smoothing the edges with your fingertips if they crack.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until barely brown on the bottom. You don’t want to overcook these and dry them out! Let cool completely on the cookie sheet without touching, then remove from the pan and store in an airtight tupperware container. Nuke in the microwave before consuming for maximum enjoyment and gooeyness! Serve with unsweetened almond milk, flavored with a touch of stevia.

~3 grams net carbs per big cookie (with homemade chocolate chunks included)

Dairy-Free Option: Use coconut oil or palm oil based shortening (shortening NOT recommended, as it doesn’t add any flavor) in place of butter. Use full fat coconut milk in place of the cream added to the chocolate chunks.

Dainty little drop cookies wearing cute chocolate buttons. Aren’t they adorable?
healthy-chocolate-chip-cookies

Sugar-Free Milk Chocolate Chunks (updated recipe HERE):

Ingredients:
1-3.5 oz 85% cacao chocolate bar (Lindt or Ghirardelli)
3 tablespoons erythritol, powdered
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract

Preparation:
chop chocolate bar and add powdered erythritol. Microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH and stir. Mixture will be clumpy. Heat for 15 more seconds and stir until chocolate is smooth. Microwave in 10 second intervals to melt completely if necessary. Stir in stevia and pour into a pan lined with parchment paper. Quick set in the freezer for 10 minutes. Chop into chunks and store in a zip top baggy.

BLOG PHOTOS choc chip cookie bite

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