If you’ve heard of Paula Deen, you know what this awe-inspiring seasonal dessert creation is. Or more importantly, how it tastes. When I made this for my family as a freshman in high school, a new holiday tradition was born. We couldn’t stop eating it, and somehow a day after Thanksgiving there was nary a crumb in the pan of leftovers.
Archive of ‘By Cravings’ category
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!
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!
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 Hazelnut Holiday Brownies
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
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
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)
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:
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.
Pumpkin Chip Cookies (Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)
Yields sixteen cookies
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
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
What are you cooking up for the holidays? Leave a comment and share!
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!
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.
Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate
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)
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
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!
“Apples” with Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt
Makes two servings
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
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)
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)
The leaves are just starting to turn in North Carolina, with a bit of a chill in the air as the sun goes down. Being the Florida girl that I am, I dread the proposition of trading in my flip-flops for actual shoes, my cool button down shirts for unwieldy coats! Mid terms have passed, and school is in full swing. The local Whole Foods market has had berries on sale for the past few weeks, which I have been partaking in as often as possible. Berries are the food that epitomizes summer for me–not too sweet, with a lovely tartness and enough juice to quench your thirst. They are even better straight from the freezer, like miniature natural popsicles. I digress!
Snap up those last few boxes of fresh berries from your local market and toss them into a batch of these light, perfectly moist muffins. Simple ingredients and simple preparation yield a cross between a cupcake and a muffin that is gluten-free, sugar-free, and even dairy-free for all of your lactose- and casein-intolerant folks. The lemon flavor is very faint, just detectable enough to add some intrigue and complement the olive oil. The topping forms a crunchy crust over the tops. Just a word of warning: These are not your average “healthy” muffins, loaded with whole wheat flour (sugar), applesauce (sugar), bran (a processed waste product made of insoluble fiber), bananas (sugar), and other low fat ingredients yielding un-muffiny flavors. Nourish the body and the soul with these flavorful, nutrient-packed muffins, full of protein from the almonds, antioxidants from the berries, and a dash of omega-3s from the flax meal topping.
Take note of the key ingredient–olive oil, as the liquid fat in these muffins. Now don’t wrinkle your nose just yet! The fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil pairs so well with the citrus zest and lemon extract. I am the first person who would balk at the idea of olive oil coming anywhere near a perfectly good sweet treat. I loathe the stuff, and prefer to keep my distance from it 99% of the time. And yet, you really can’t use anything else in this recipe to get the same complexity of flavors. Tasting is believing!
You might notice that the muffins in the photographs have flat tops! Their perfect peaks fell because I piled the batter right up to the brim of my trusty silicone muffins cups, hoping for a massive meal-in-a-muffin. Bad idea! These mammoth muffins didn’t fluff up properly, and remained undercooked on the bottoms. Stick with the 12 dainty muffins the recipe is supposed to yield, and you will have fluffy, attractive breakfast pastries to go with your morning cup of a coffee.
Blueberry Crunch Top Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cage-free organic eggs
1/2 cup erythritol or preferred sugar-free sweetener
1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup lite coconut milk (or half n’ half if you can use dairy)
1 cup blueberries or raspberries
oat flour, for dusting (optional)
For Crunch Topping (optional):
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons golden flax meal
2 tablespoons erythritol
1/4 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon stevia extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mash together the ingredients for the topping with a fork, then stick it in the freezer while you make the muffins. Whisk together wet ingredients plus the erythritol in one bowl. Stir together the dry ingredients in a different bowl. Add the wet to the dry ingredients, whisking until incorporated. Coat berries with a light dusting of oat flour (to keep them from sinking), and gently fold 3/4 of them into the batter. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full, and sprinkle remaining berries over the tops. Pinch off bits of the cold topping, dropping them over the tops of the muffins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Let cool until lukewarm, then turn muffins out of the silicone muffin cups (if using) so the tops are facing down. After completely cooled, store in baggies or tupperware with paper towels.
~3.5 grams net carbs per muffin (using bluberries)
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.
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.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 large cookies
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
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.
Sugar-Free Milk Chocolate Chunks (updated recipe HERE):
1-3.5 oz 85% cacao chocolate bar (Lindt or Ghirardelli)
3 tablespoons erythritol, powdered
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
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.
This will be my last post for awhile. I’ll be heading back to university this Monday and having an actual life!
When a good little low-carber wants something to snack on, she usually reaches for string cheese, sliced veggies, or a spoonful (or five, in my case) of peanut butter. Packaged diet bars and cookies just won’t do. They fail to satisfy the hunger like whole foods. Scary artificial sweeteners and the polyols that accompany them have very unpleasant side effects. Abstain from the “M” word–MALTITOL–if you have a social life and want to keep it. On top of that, a chewy, dry bar encased in a chocolate vegetable oil coating is a big disappointment to the natural food adapted palette. What’s a hungry health foodie to do?
A brilliant gal named Elana came up with a fancy shmancy version of coconut bark, chock full of nuts and seeds, slathered with a blanket of rich chocolate to make your snack time extra special. Spoil yourself rotten with these babies when you can’t look at another cold cut or celery stick. The coconut oil makes them a bit crunchy, tickling your corn chip- and pretzel-deprived taste buds. I cut down on the sugar, de-carbed the chocolate coating, and punched up the flavor with a little twist on the preparation. The testers absolutely flipped for the toasted pecan version. I’d recommend starting there and then following wherever your culinary imagination takes you! There are no hard and fast rules with this wonderfully versatile recipe.
One trick to maximize the lovely flavors of these natural ingredients: Toasting, my friend! Don’t be afraid of somehow “destroying the nutrients” in the nuts. Roasting the nuts can actually improve digestibility. I like to think that our tongue is so well designed that it knows what’s best for us, in the same way that it regulates sodium intake. These bars are even more fabulous with the aromatic, slightly smoky flavor that toasting imparts to the nuts and coconut, so don’t skip this step!
~To toast the ingredients, spread nuts and coconut flakes around a small pan. Pop ’em in the toaster oven and toast for one cycle on medium heat, watching closely to prevent excess browning of the coconut flakes. You might have to stir them around the pan mid-cycle.
~I buy unhulled sesame seeds for the highest calcium content. Get them at the bulk bin or refrigerated section of your local health food store.
~Non-hydrogenated palm oil based shortening is sold under two names, to my knowledge–Spectrum Organic shortening and Jungle brand shortening.
~I get my nuts, seeds, honey and almond butter from the bulk bin section at the health food store. You can buy as much or as little as you want that way. Just be sure to sample the almond butter for freshness.
~Peanut butter is the cheapest option, but almond butter lends a more neutral flavor. Make your own macadamia nut butter with a magic bullet or powerful food processor. Heat the nuts in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and blend. Macadamia nuts contain enough natural oil to turn into a smooth paste after enough pulsing and scraping.
~If you buy roasted pistachios, rinse the salt off under a colander, pat them dry, and toast them for one cycle under medium heat to crisp the pistachios back up.
~For the 85% chocolate, I alternate between Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Green & Black’s organic. Use whatever brand you prefer–the carb counts are similar.
~DON’T heat the flax seeds or hemp seeds. You want to keep those precious omega-3s intact!
The following is my absolute favorite version. It smells like a Samoa cookie, no joke!
Crunchy No-Bake Snack Bars
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup golden flax meal (could also use sesame seed meal)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond butter (could also use peanut or mac nut butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of raw honey
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon of pure stevia extract
Easy Chocolate Ganache Topping
4 squares of 85% cacao chocolate
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening (could also use more coconut oil or organic unsalted butter)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon organic heavy cream (or full fat coconut milk)
For Snack Bars:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Toast coconut and nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat or the toaster oven, until slightly browned. Pulse nut and seed mixture in a food processor just until nuts are chopped. Melt coconut oil and nut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla extract, honey, erythritol, stevia, and sea salt, stirring until incorporating. Fold into nut mixture. Press into an 8 by 4 pan with a spatula. Quick set in the freezer for 20 minutes. Cut into 6 bars. Store in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel and plastic wrap.
For Ganache Topping:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Melt shortening and chocolate in microwave in for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in cream, erythritol, and stevia, until mixture is completely blended. Spread over cooled bars immediately.
~4.35 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe
Check out that funky green color! It’s from all the pistachios and pepitas. The flavor is pretty phenomenal, too. Very pistachio-y.
Pepita Pistachio Variation (a.k.a. REPTAR BARS, RAWRR!)
1/2 cup pistachios, roasted
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons pepitas, toasted
2 tablespoons hemp seeds (could use more pepitas)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (could also use golden flax seeds)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup macadamia nut butter (could also use almond butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
Follow the steps listed above.
~6 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe
Calling all chocolate lovers! You will think you’ve died and gone to heaven with this one. After testing out a few batches of Super Simple Biscuits, I had a lot of leftover egg yolks. Eight of them went into a traditional custard-based ice cream. To use up the rest, I googled “egg yolk dessert recipes” and found these yummy sounding ideas at GourmetSleuth. The Pots De Creme looked intriguing. Simple ingredients, check. Easy to de-carb, check. What really caught my eye was the variation using chocolate! After giving a test batch to my faithful friends slash recipe testers, it has become my most requested dessert. I promise that it only sounds intimidating with that fancy french name–preparation is a snap. This is one of the easiest and most delicious sugar-free, gluten-free desserts, ever. Step one for being the Hostess with the Mostest: Buy some adorable ramekins and serve up personal portions of this rich chocolate custard. Step two: Watch your guests’ eyes roll back in their heads and silently congratulate yourself!
Cut the intensity of the dark chocolate with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. You can make this dessert dairy-free by replacing the heavy cream with full fat coconut milk. To flavor the custard, use whatever flavoring you think pairs well with chocolate. I used pure almond extract for the pots de creme pictured here. Peppermint and orange would also be delicious. Top with a sprig of mint or a curl of orange zest for an elegant touch. I grated some leftover chocolate and sprinkled it over the custard. C’est magnifique!
Chocolate Pots De Creme
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe
Makes 3 servings
1 cup organic heavy cream OR coconut milk
**2 ounces 85% percent cacao dark chocolate (I like Lindt and Green & Black’s), chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use whatever flavor you like) OR espresso powder
3 large organic egg yolks
5 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
pinch of sea salt
**Cut the chocolate bar into thirds and use of two of them. Just eyeball it.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 3 ramekins in a large roasting pan. Combine cream, chocolate, and espresso powder in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk every few minutes until chocolate melts. Stir to blend cream and chocolate completely. Do NOT overheat! You don’t want it to bubble up.
Powder erythritol in a coffee grinder or magic bullet. Whisk erythritol and stevia into egg yolks until mixture is smooth. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Stir the mixture until totally smooth and divide between the 3 ramekins. Optional step: Use a toothpick to pop the little bubbles that form on the surface of the custards. Heat a measuring cup full of water for a couple of minutes in the microwave, and pour water in the roasting pan until it reaches about an inch up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes. The centers of the custards should still be very jiggly. Remove ramekins from water bath (wear potholders!). Let the custards cool to room temperature. Store them in the fridge covered with a paper towel and foil for at least 2 hours. I’d recommend making these before you go to bed so you don’t get antsy and sneak a taste before they’re ready!
~5g net carbs per huge serving
After experimenting with various flavors of Protein Packed Ice Cream, I had a lot of low fat cottage cheese leftover. I’ve been obsessed with pureeing cottage cheese lately. It can sub for anything creamy, sneaking in extra protein to keep you satisfied. It also makes this typical “diet food” more sexy to eat. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love heavy cream and FAGE total and all of the lovely wholesome saturated fat those contain. If you haven’t read Good Calories, Bad Calories yet, pick up it up and prepare to be blown away by what the scientific evidence really shows regarding the relationship between heart health, disease risk, and saturated fats. Hint: It’s not what the processed food-pushing establishment tells you! There are many ways to incorporate healthful natural fats into your diets: Eat grass-fed 85/15 beef and chicken thighs, use cream in your coffee, sauté with butter or coconut oil, and my favorite way–pop a square of extra dark chocolate! There can, however, be too much of a good thing, especially when you’re watching your waistline. Your body won’t tap into your stored fat if there is too much dietary fat coming in. And no, a high-protein diet won’t wear out your kidneys!
Regardless of whether you use full-fat yogurt or pureed cottage cheese, this curry is packed full of flavor and will leave you wanting more. No need to slave over a hot stove since it takes less than a half hour (he-ey, Rachel Ray!) to whip up. If your cabinet isn’t already stocked will all of these lovely spices, don’t hesitate to make the investment. You will want to make this dish over and over. The only ingredients I had to run out for were the ginger root and the garam marsala. Garam marsala, an aromatic blend of spices, is ideal for adding an Indian flair to omelets, stir fries, and other quick n’ dirty meals. The downside of making curry is that the whole house still smells like all of those wonderful spices, reminding me that my dad ate the leftovers. Guess that means I’ll have to make more…
Indian Chicken Curry
Adapted from an AllRecipes recipe
Makes 4 small servings
1-3 tablespoons of oil, butter, or ghee
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon of garam marsala
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 boneless chicken thighs or 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup plain yogurt or pureed cottage cheese (I used Friendship 1%)
3/4 cup coconut milk (lite, if you prefer)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional–omit if you don’t like spicy foods)
Prep vegetables. Heat fat in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until browned and fragrant. Add garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sweetener, and sea salt, stirring around the pan for 2 minutes. Use a food processor or magic bullet to puree cottage cheese or yogurt with coconut milk and tomato paste. Add chicken and coconut milk mixture to pan. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, squeeze in the lime juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, and stir in the cayenne pepper if you’re using it. Finish with more lime juice to taste, and serve over riced cauliflower.
~6 grams net carbs per serving, using lite coconut milk and pureed cottage cheese
Makes four small servings
4 cups of fresh grated cauliflower
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter
1/2 crumbled organic boullion cube (watch out for MSG!)
Grate cauliflower with a cheese grater. Add butter to a pan over medium heat. Stir fry cauliflower for 2 minutes, crumbling the boullion cube over it during the cooking process. Cook until just tender, and remove from pan.
~3g net carbs per serving
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