This time of year, I like to cool off with my treats. My new Cuisinart ice cream maker has been running constantly lately. To mix things up and take a break from the brain freeze, I decided to try something new. Cheesecake is the ultimate cool, creamy indulgence that’s naturally low in carbs. There are tons of variations and different recipes out there for this classic dessert. I’ve never made it, though. The idea of using a whole pound of cream cheese, a giant round pan, and a water bath was always intimidating. It just sounds hard, worrying about cracks in the top and achieving the right consistency and whatnot. Though I’ve never experienced intense cravings for this particular food, cheesecake seemed like the perfect excuse to use up a CostCo-sized tub of blueberries sitting in my fruit bin.
Blueberry cheesecake called my name! It’s rather simple to de-carb cheescake–you simply remove the sugar. Erythritol (see the bold term for info) works like a charm for “wet” applications like cheesecake, so you don’t have to worry about using any special ingredients to offset its menthol-like “cooling” effect. Stevia rounds out the sweetness of these incredibly creamy bars. This sour-cream based cheesecake recipe posted in its original form here is a real winner. Thanks to BawdyWench for her simple, delicious recipe!
Even if you’re not a “cheesecake person,” you should definitely give this recipe a try. It takes minutes to whip up, and doesn’t have that thick, gummy mouthfeel elicited by a ton of cream cheese. The blueberries burst in your mouth as you bite through the silky base and nontraditional but oh-so-delicious gluten-free shortbread crust (check oats for gf label!). Get your brain-boosting antioxidants in for the day with these fresh blueberries. Studies show that blueberry consumption positively affects your memory. These delicious summer fruits are naturally low in carbs, so eat up! The batch of cheesecake bars from yesterday is almost gone. Some serious nibbling has been happening. I don’t blame the cheesecake bandit–it was love at first bite with these babies!
Creamy Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from this recipe by BawdyWench
Makes eight servings
3/4 cup finely ground almonds
2 tablespoons sifted oat flour (check for gluten-free certification if necessary)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup organic sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons erythritol
1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract
8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), softened
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together dry ingredients for crust. Mix in melted butter and press into the bottom of a foiled lined 8 by 5 loaf pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Let crust cool.
Turn oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blend together eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and sweeteners. Beat cream cheese and melted butter together until smooth, then add to first ingredients and beat until just combined and smooth. Stir in half of the blueberries. Pour cheesecake batter into loaf pan and sprinkle the rest of the blueberries over the filling. Bake for 35 minutes using the water bath method (see this post). Remove from oven and let the cheesecake bars cool completely, still submerged within the water bath. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and move it to the refrigerator when the bars have cooled to room temperature. Cover with a layer of paper towels and plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or until firm. Don’t sneak a bite until they have set up properly and attained the perfect creamy consistency!
~6 grams net carbs per serving
To make use of the gorgeous produce we have readily available right now, I decided to make something I hadn’t really even liked in my carb-addicted dark past. Lemon bars had never really appealed to me, probably because they don’t involve chocolate. And yet they just sounded really good the other day for some reason, with their refreshing tartness and shortbread crust. The recipe is well-suited to a healthful makeover because of the low carb content of eggs and lemons, so I just couldn’t resist trying a batch. After demolishing a trial batch along with my faithful testers, it’s safe to say these gluten-free low carb lemon bars are just as church picnic worthy as their high carb counterparts!
As far as the technical baking stuff goes, you do need erythritol if you want to add bulk and lessen the carb count per bar, not to mention the nice rounded sweetness from combining it with the stevia. It also adds a nice crunchiness when it crystallizes, but no overwhelming cooling effect. However, if you refrigerate these bars, you’ll want to pop ‘em in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to warm them up for the best mouth feel. Furthermore, you can use a product like ThickenThin Not Sugar (or pure acacia gum) to lessen the amount of recrystallization if you want a smoother texture. You can forgo the erythritol altogether, but you’ll have to use a lot of stevia or just accept a less sweet finished product. Finally, the xanthan gum takes the place of flour in the original recipe to firm up the top of the bars. You could probably use a bit of coconut flour for a similar effect.
Health-wise, these bars are a delicious vehicle for the goodness of raspberries and lemons, which are bursting with vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds. In lemon, the limonins have the free radical scavenging cytotoxic effects. In red raspberries, ellagitannins may block carcinogens and ward off sickness. Both raspberries and lemons are low in carbs, which makes them perfect candidates for a after-dinner treat or a pre-workout snack. I sip at stevia-sweetened lemonade all day, which is supposed to aid in the absorption of the catechins (antioxidants) in my green tea. I’ll drink to that!
Healthy Raspberry Lemon Swirl Bars
Makes eight bars
1/4 cup butter
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening:
-1 tablespoon erythritol or xylitol
-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract (NuNaturals is the best!)
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons almond meal
1/4 cup oat or buckwheat flour (oat flour is a lot prettier!)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1/2 cup erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract (NuNaturals brand)
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup organic raspberries
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon erythritol
Fresh raspberries for garnish
Soften butter for shortbread. Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or blender. Cream butter and erythritol together, then work in flours and gums with a fork until thoroughly combined. Add a pinch of salt and stevia. You want it to be a bit sweeter from the stevia than you can stand it, because some of the stevia’s sweetness breaks down under heat. Press or spread into an 8″ by 4″ loaf pan lined with buttered parchment. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Let crust cool while you prepare the filling. Stick it in the freezer to speed the process.
Powder erythritol. Beat erythritol with eggs, lemon juice, and zest. Add gums. Add a pinch of sea salt and stevia to taste. Pour over shortbread crust.
Puree raspberries with lemon juice and erythritol. Strain through a mesh colander, pushing the puree through with a spatula, if you don’t want seeds in your bars. Drop raspberry puree onto lemon filling in different spots and swirl with the spatula. Dot batter with fresh raspberries if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set. I left the center of mine slightly jiggly, and it firmed up after cooling.
~3.75g net carbs per bar!
Okay, let’s start simple. No cooking required with this one!
Being a chick, chocolate makes everything better. No really, it does. This is why I try to incorporate it into as many meals as possible, and was perfectly content, in the throes of my sugar addiction, replacing real food with vending machine fare. There is something about chocolate that goes straight your head and makes problems magically disappear while you’re licking the melty stuff off the Snickers wrapper. Problem is, the after effects of processed candy can kill the mood. The good news is, dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants exceeding the levels found in red wine (<– not a good breakfast option). The nibs are raw, unprocessed cacao with. Additionally, the saturated fat in cocoa is found to boost good cholesterol levels. Scientific debate aside, it just tastes so darn good!
Paired all of that goodness with yogurt, which provides 15% of your RDA of calcium along with 14g of protein, not to mention the probiotic boost courtesy of the friendly bacterial strains that give yogurt its delectable tang. You wanna get sick less and possibly live longer? You wanna burn fat and keep your hip bones intact when you’re 80? Eat up! It’s kinda crazy how many health benefits are associated with this stuff. With only 11g net carbs, you won’t feel a bit of remorse indulging in what looks (and tastes… promise!) like dessert for breakfast.
from left: flavorganics sugar-free vanilla extract, scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa powder, hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, lindt 85% cacao extra dark chocolate bar, raw cacao nibs
Triple Chocolate Yogurt Parfait
1 7 oz container strained greek-style yogurt (I love FAGE total!)
1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 squares of 85% cacao extra dark chocolate (I like Lindt or Ghirardelli)
sweeteners, to taste
splash of pure vanilla extract
sugar-free whipped cream (optional)
grated chocolate (optional)
Stir cocoa powder into yogurt until thoroughly combined. Melt squares of dark chocolate until liquified in microwave, watching carefully to avoid burning. I like to do this in 10 seconds increments, stirring every time. When chocolate is melted, stir it quickly into a couple of spoonfuls of the yogurt. Add it back into the rest of the yogurt and combine until streaks of chocolate are no longer visibile. Add sweeteners and vanilla extract, tasting and adjusting accordingly. Layer with cacao nibs so you get some crunch with every bite, or just sprinkle the nibs over the top. Garnish with whipped cream and more grated chocolate (use a cheese grater or zester).
Note the spoon standing up in the yogurt. It really is that luxuriously thick!
~11g net carbs per massive sundae