This healthy yet decadent spin on the beloved One Minute Muffin is sure to hit the spot when you’re crunched for time and craving the sweet stuff.
Does anyone else love shopping for groceries? There’s something about perusing the shelves, discovering new foods and special sale items, that makes supermarket shopping trips secretly exciting for me. The international and organic food sections are my favorite areas of the store to wander around in aimlessly, scanning the shelves for anything that jumps out at me. Today I was looking at the gluten-free grains in Kroger, and spotted brown rice “krispies.” Immediately the thought of sweet, gooey Rice Krispy treats popped into my head. A reader had asked about the possibility of a low carb, sugar-free version, so I thought I’d give it a shot today.
So let’s start by deconstructing rice krispie treats. Crispy rice cereal is not something I’d consume on a daily basis because of its processed nature, starchiness, and low protein content, but it lends that familiar crunch that’s so essential for these kid-friendly treats. Next, we need to do something about that corn syrup filled marshmallow. It’s 100% sugar! Fortunately, xylitol works well in homemade marshmallows. It’s a one for one swap, with a touch of honey to keep the marshmallows moist and soft, and stevia to boost the sweetness. Finally, we need to cut back on the brown rice if we want to make these treats low carb. I replaced half of the cereal with blanched sliced almonds that I dry toasted in a skillet. They’re a crunchy, high protein addition to rice krispie (krispy?) treats that I hope you’ll enjoy as a healthy twist to old classic!
Now for the fun part! I’d like to share my other food find from the organic foods section at Kroger. It’s organic erythritol, on sale for a Manager’s Special promotion! I’m passing the savings on to you guys by giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment, telling me why you eat sugar-free, to be entered into a drawing for a box of this natural, calorie free sweetener.
You have a whole week to enter! I’ll ship the box to the winner as long as you’re located in the U.S.
And now, back to marshmallows! Don’t be intimidated by the number of the steps for this recipe. The process is pretty straightforward. You don’t even have to use a thermometer. Just set up your bowls in advance, and have your ingredients already measured out if you’re trying to do this with a hand mixer, like I did. You’ll be adding everything with one hand, and mixing with the other. Isn’t a little bit of labor worth it for (almost) sugar-free marshmallows, though?
They look a little rustic, but taste every bit as good as regular marshmallows…
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com
Makes about 7 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup xylitol
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear imitation is recommended)
Big pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon good tasting pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
Organic cornstarch or toasted coconut, for dusting (optional)
You can find step by step photos of this process here. I use a different method, but the pictures of the beaten marshmallow are accurate.
Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan with butter or nonhydrogenated shortening. Set out a saucepan and a large stainless steel bowl, or a large pot. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together xylitol, honey and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water. Heat xylitol mixture, without stirring, until it bubbles vigorously. Place remaining water in a large bowl or saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over the surface of this water. Heat bowl containing gelatin and water over a saucepan of simmering water to melt and liquefy the gelatin. Remove gelatin from heat. Turn down xylitol mixture to medium heat and boil solution until it turns a deep amber color, as seen in this photo. Remove immediately from heat and pour into bowl of dissolved gelatin. It will foam up considerably, thus the need for the large bowl in which to heat the gelatin. Whisk together once the foam dies down, and transfer the amber colored liquid to a glass measuring cup. In a clean bowl (preferably metal), start whipping egg white with a pinch of cream of tartar, or one drop of vinegar. Whip until the egg white is at the stage of soft peaks. Slowly stream in xylitol solution over the course of a minute or so, beating all the time. Try not to hit the sides of the bowl as you stream in the hot xylitol mixture. Turn up mixer speed to high and beat egg white xylitol mixture for 5-10 minutes, until fluffy and thick. Beat in vanilla, stevia, and salt. When marshmallow is beginning to set, it will pull on the beaters a lot and leave tracks. Pour immediately into greased dish and spread around with a spatula. Let set out on the counter for about 8 eight hours. If you are eating the marshmallows out of hand, invert the pan onto a clean surface, like a cutting board. Marshmallows should flop out onto surface after a bit of shaking. Pry them out gently with a buttered silicone spatula if necessary. If you are eating these out of hand, place sifted cornstarch into a large bowl. Chop marshmallow block into 1 inch cubes, or 1/2 inch for mini marshmallows, with a large buttered knife. Toss handfuls of marshmallows into cornstarch and shake around the bowl. Store in a ziptop bag on the counter.
~17g net carbs for the whole recipe, depending on how you count xylitol (add 7g net carbs for each tablespoon of cornstarch you toss the marshmallows in)
Low Carb Rice Krispy Treats
Makes 12 servings
4 cups sugar-free mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons regular organic butter or nonhydrogenated shortening
2.5 cups sliced blanched almonds
2 cups GF organic crisped brown rice cereal
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (if you use shortening; just a pinch if you use butter)
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and crunchy. Do NOT let them brown, or they will taste burned. Set aside to cool.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add salt and mini marshmallows, and stir until melted and thoroughly blended into a smooth mixture. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal and almonds. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula, press mixture evenly and firmly into a buttered 8 by 8 inch pan. Cut into squares when cool.
~7g net carbs per 1/12th of a recipe
Don’t forget to enter the contest with a comment! It closes Friday of next week, July 12th.
Since y’all enjoyed the chocolate cake (made with beans!) so much, I’m going to create more desserts that don’t rely heavily on almond flour a.k.a. powdered gold for low carb bakers! Does this sound like a good plan? Leave some feedback and let me know what you think.
These moist little cake bites contain all of the decadence of a classic Southern coconut cake, with none of the highly refined ingredients that make the original only an occasional treat. You could eat these sugar-free gluten-free low carb (dairy-free!) treats every day if you wanted, getting the benefits of coconut, almonds, and eggs without the grains and sugar to spike your insulin. Us low carbers can enjoy saturated fat laden coconut products precisely because we maintain a diet free of foods that release a lot of insulin. The same goes for butter, cheese, cream, bacon… basically, everything delicious in life! That is what makes this healthy lifestyle so luxurious. Embracing it for the long term is not difficult if you focus on what you CAN have!
If a low insulin diet is healthy, then what about so-called “natural sweeteners”? If you believe that saturated fat is part of a healthy paleolithic style diet, then you should also recognize the dangers that concentrated sweeteners in any form, natural or not, pose. When combined with saturated fat, high levels of carbohydrates–found in maple syrup, evaporated cane juice (Sucanat), agave, honey, brown rice syrup, molasses, etc.–release insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage. This insulin response can lead to insulin resistance down the line, which is associated with a host of problems, including elevated triglycerides, heart disease, and diabetes.
A higher carb, lower fat diet can also be healthy, if you’re committed to it. Overall caloric restriction has shown similar benefits to a low carb diet. Find the way of eating that suits your lifestyle, and go with it!
With my recipes, it’s all about insulin. That’s my justification for using erythritol, xylitol, and even artificial sweeteners once in a blue moon at Starbucks. And for giving guidelines for using various noncaloric sweeteners in these recipes. Not everyone agrees on these points, and that is okay! That’s what so wonderful about the blogosphere–there are recipes for all dietary plans. Just do your research before accepting “natural” options automatically as the best for your body.
For more information about this, see Good Calories, Bad Calories. Check out the Google Books preview here. Taubes is apparently coming out with a version of this tome for mass public consumption. It’s a very large, dry compendium of research, which needs to be simplified for easier reading. It is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to eat a diet based on past and current nutrition research. I’m not any sort of healthcare professional–just a student and an avid reader.
And finally, the recipe! It’s a moist, tender cake, with a loose crumb. You could definitely amp up the coconut flavor with coconut extract used for half of the vanilla. Bake it into a layer for a coconut layer cake! My cream cheese frosting flavored with a bit of coconut extract would be perfect for it.
Grain-Free Coconut Cupcakes
Makes 20 mini cupcakes
2 tablespoons organic coconut oil OR unsalted butter
1/4 cup blanched almond flour, packed
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (may replace 1 tsp with coconut extract)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, ground to a meal
1 tablespoon sifted coconut flour (sub with 2 tablespoons brown rice flour or 1 tablespoon protein powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup erythritol OR 1/4 cup honey OR 1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals pure stevia extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a Magic Bullet or food processor, grind shredded coconut into a fine, powdery meal. Scoop almond flour into measuring cup, and pack it in firmly with your hands, like you’re measuring brown sugar. Sweep it level. Add to coconut and the rest of the dry ingredients. Melt butter, and beat in eggs, vanilla extract, and coconut milk. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and beat together for a couple of minutes. Line a mini muffin pan with mini muffin papers, and spray with extra virgin olive oil spray. Alternatively, grease mini muffin wells very well with coconut oil. Pour batter almost to the top of mini muffin cups. Rap muffin tin gently on the counter to pop air bubbles. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until springy and firm to the touch. You might have to bake these longer since my oven in this apartment runs hot. Remove cakes from muffin tins as soon as they are cool to the touch, and cool on a wire rack. Dip cakes into glaze. Serve at room temperature.
Coconut Milk Glaze
Whisk together coconut milk, and sift in coconut flour. Whisk in coconut flour until no lumps remain, then add a pinch of salt, and sweeteners. Taste and adjust sweetness level if necessary. Dip cakes into glaze and sprinkle with unsweetened coconut.
~3.5g net carbs for the whole batch of glaze
All of my baking supplies are gone. They were taken from the dorm kitchen under the cover of night, either by a prankster or an angry cleaning lady (I’m assuming the latter). I asked around as to the whereabouts of my cake pans, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and Magic Bullet parts, and got no answers. Such is college life!
With my new limited stock of kitchen tools, I bring you these simple, comforting Banana Bread Muffins. With a touch of cinnamon and a sprinkling of pecans, these gluten-free sugar-free low carb muffins will trick your senses into thinking you are eating more than the sum of their parts. Flourless and sugarless, you might ask what exactly makes up these delicious morsels. Mashed banana, organic butter, eggs, and one of my favorite healthy ingredients… coconut flour!
Baked goods made with coconut flour are nothing short of miraculous. Lots of eggs and a bit of ground defatted coconut can be transformed into everything from English Muffins to Red Velvet Cake to Brownies to Pancakes. The possibilities are endless, and easily adaptable to a sugar-free lifestyle. For me, the best aspect of baking with coconut flour is not having to grind almonds! Every time I want to make baked goods using almond flour, I grind the sliced almonds myself with my trusty Magic Bullet blender. Being able to scoop flour directly from the bag (well, after sifting) always feels like such a luxury now!
Pick up some coconut flour at your local Whole Foods, or inquire about this product at the health food store in your area. If you’re worried about coconut flour causing everything you make to taste like coconut, fear not. In fragrant, flavorful treats like these healthy banana muffins, there is not even a hint of coconut flavor to confuse your palate. These muffins would be wonderful as a banana bread loaf, baked for a bit longer at a lower temperature.
Banana Bread Muffins
Makes 10 muffins
1/2 cup sifted organic coconut flour
4 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, softened
6 large eggs
3/4 cup mashed banana (2 medium bananas, overripe to the point of being black)
1/2 cup erythritol
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat butter with erythritol until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Combine coconut flour with baking powder, cinnamon, stevia, and salt, and beat into batter until there are no lumps. Beat in mashed banana. Fold in nuts, reserving a couple tablespoons for sprinkling the tops. Pour batter almost up the top of greased muffin papers (the shiny tins work best), and top with nuts. Bake 35 minutes, covering the muffins with a sheet of foil after the 30 minute mark. Let cool in pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let muffins finish cooling on a wire rack. When completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature for 24 hours, then move to the refrigerator.
~5.5g net carbs per muffin of a recipe
What do YOU like to make with coconut flour? Leave a comment and share!
This is my submission to Kimi’s Nourishing Sweets and Treats event at her wonderful blog, The Nourishing Gourmet.
Exams are over and I’m back in Florida, where the mood is festive despite the 80 degree beach weather. I’ve planned a bit of Christmas baking for you guys, so stay tuned! In addition to attempting to make over classic holiday treats like chocolates and gingerbread cookies, I’ll be mixing it up with a few original healthful creations that will hopefully tantalize your tastebuds just as much as familiar favorites. Once you get the hang of working with almond flour and alternative sweeteners, non-traditional baking gets a lot easier. Make these upcoming weeks, filled with office parties and decadent meals, nourishing for your soul and your body, with good friends and healthful food.
This first recipe calls for a bit of honey as a sweetener, which works so well with stevia to achieve the perfect flavor in these gluten-free, low carb Honey Nut Cookies. These cookies are also, incidentally, egg-free! I’m still waiting for my erythritol to get here, and thought it would be good to share some recipes that don’t involve it. Erythritol is all natural and delicious, but it is so expensive that in these hard times, it’s nice to have a more reasonably priced healthy option. If I am using honey, I make sure to use as little as is necessary to sweeten adequately, and just count the carbs. If you’re worried about the fructose content, just know that per serving, you’re probably not ingesting enough to worry about. I feel much safer using a bit of honey and blackstrap molasses here and there than artificial sweeteners. It’s a personal decision!
In the pioneering footsteps (hah!) of Ree Drummond, I’m doing a step-by-step photo spread for making these cookies. They are so simple that this tutorial really isn’t necessary, but my sister and I had fun killing time this first afternoon back home, bumming around the house for the holidays!
Let’s make some cookies, shall we?
First things first: We need to make almond flour, the star ingredient in a low carb healthy baking arsenal. It’s so flippin’ easy.
Tutorial: How To Make Homemade Almond Flour
Chewy Honey Nut Cookies
Makes eight to twelve cookies
1 cup blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey (raw, if you can get it)
4 packets or 1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/16 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 275 (yes, 275) degrees Fahrenheit.
Chop pecans, and toast them for 12 minutes. Melt butter. Stir together all ingredients except almond flour and pecans. Mix in almond flour until a smooth dough forms, then fold in nuts until dispersed throughout dough. Shape into flat cookie rounds on parchment paper. Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until slightly browned around the edges. Let cookies cool and harden for a full 10 minutes before removing from parchment.
~6g net carbs per 1/8 of a recipe, 4.5g net carbs per 1/10th, and 3.5g net carbs per 1/12th
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)
What’s the fun part of going to Red Lobster? How do you get the gravy mopped off of your plate in a satisfying yet dignified manner? What’s better than toast as a carrier for fruity jam? The answer to all of these important questions comes in the form of the fluffy, moist, and positively addictive biscuit. I always associate them with memories of volleyball tournament weekends and team breakfasts at Cracker Barrel. Soft white biscuits with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey were a meal all by themselves for my former carboholic self. Baking powder biscuits are made with a pretty standard technique and recipe, consisting of all purpose flour, baking powder, and some sort of fat cut into the flour. It’s not that simple, though. You have to handle the dough tenderly, working it just to the point where it comes together without aiding gluten formation, which acts to toughen it. You have to consider the protein content of the flour you’re using along with the way you cut out the biscuits (press, not twist!) so as to ensure flakiness. Shockingly, it’s much easier to make gluten-free nutrient dense biscuits. For once, we health nuts have an easier time of making a baked good! Let’s celebrate with some good eats, shall we?
You may be wondering at this point how such a feat is possible. Biscuits with no flour and no fancy shmancy natural ingredients to imitate gluten? How can this be? It’s all in the egg whites, my friend. They are the solution to all of your problems. They fluff, they puff, they create airy little clouds with just a little coaxing and some hot steamy lovin’ from the oven. Egg whites are all protein, zero carbs, 20 calories a pop. Fortunately, egg whites happen to play nicely with almonds, another hero of the low carb bakingverse. Finely ground blanched almonds have very little nutty taste and yield a light, moist texture to these easy peasy biscuits.
Finally, we introduce the fat to the party in the form of butter or shortening. Not just ANY shortening mind you! Trans-fat free shortening made from organic palm oil will fluff up your pastries without shortening (hah!) your lifespan. It has a higher melting point than butter, allowing the protein structure of the egg whites to puff up more around the fat before it melts away. Butter for flavor, shortening for texture is the rule. That rule doesn’t totally apply here since almonds already have a nice flavoring and fat component, unlike the processed “enriched” garbage that is white flour. When I was testing batches, I noticed that butter allowed for more browning on the tops. The flavor was comparable when the biscuits made from both fats were tasted side by side. If you want a better rise, it’s worth the special trip to your local health food store to find Spectrum Organic Palm Oil Shortening. That’s the only kind I’ve ever seen around here. It’s priced comparably to organic butter, so you have no excuse for not trying it out!
The technique for these biscuits is simple. All you need is a fork and couple of bowls. Follow these simple steps to biscuit perfection!
1. Cut cold fat (butter or shortening) into dry ingredients with the tines of your fork, rotating the bowl around with your other hand until the mixture has pea-sized chunks throughout. You could also use a pastry blender, in which case you probably don’t need to read these instructions.
2. Chill mixture in the fridge for 5-10 minutes or as long as you can stand it. The longer the better. The more the fat can get cold and hard, the puffier your biscuits will be. Remember that!
3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (using the shell halves to tip the yolk back and forth a few times). Reserve yolks (save all that creamy goodness for ice cream or homemade mayo!) and whisk egg whites with a fork in a bowl for 20 seconds, until no longer stringy and gloopy. You just want ‘em a little foamy.
4. Remove mixture from fridge and whisk in the egg whites for a couple of seconds, breaking up any massive chunks in the dough with your whisk or fork. It’ll be an extremely runny dough with chunks of the almond mixture. Pour it into greased foil-lined ramekins/nonstick muffin cups/a muffin top pan and get that sucker in the hot oven before the fat can even THINK about softening!
The plain version is just lovely all by itself, hot out of the oven or toasted with homemade strawberry preserves. A teeny drizzle of honey whipped into butter would be a heavenly spread. I had to eat a few fresh biscuits to make sure they were as good as my tastebuds were telling me. You, too, might feel compelled to eat more than one, so beware!
Adapted from this recipe by Laura Dolson
Makes four biscuits
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted organic butter or nonhydrogenated shortening
1 cup plus two tablespoons of finely ground almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
4 egg whites (see comments for results using 2 egg whites)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
See numbered steps listed above! IF YOU ARE USING FOIL-LINED RAMEKINS, bake for 15 minutes. IF YOU ARE USING A MUFFIN TOP PAN, bake for 12 minutes. The edges of these biscuits stick really badly, so be sure to grease liberally whatever vessel you’re using to bake these. Some sort of non-stick pan works best here! Silicone muffin cups are great, too. Greased foil-lined ramekins are alright, but you have to gently tease the muffins out of the foil.
~243 calories, 4 grams net carbs per biscuit
Try some of these variations just for fun. These little guys are versatile, so play around with them and share your flavor combos with me, please!
Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
One basic biscuit recipe
4-8 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Add most of the cheese and all of the garlic powder to dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and chill dough. Whisk in egg whites and fill ramekins. Top with a bit of the reserved cheese. Bake as directed.
Parmesan Herb Biscuits
One basic biscuit recipe
4-8 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried italian herb blend
Add most of the cheese and all of the herbs to dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and chill dough. Whisk in egg whites and fill ramekins. Top with a bit of the reserved cheese. Bake as directed.
Sweet Cinnamon Biscuits
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons sweetener (I used erythritol)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon stevia
For Cinnamon Swirl:
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon blackstrap molasses or honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon erythritol (powdered in your coffee grinder)
2 teaspoons water
pinch of xanthan gum (optional, for thickening)
pinch of sea salt
Add vanilla and sweeteners to dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and chill dough. Melt butter and molasses together in a microwave safe dish for 15-20 seconds, until butter is melted. Stir in stevia, erythritol, water, xanthan gum, and sea salt. Heat mixture in microwave for another 15 seconds or so until erythritol is dissolved. Pop the filling into the fridge and let it cool until it thickens a bit. Whisk egg whites into flour mixture and fill ramekins. Dollop cinnamon filling on top of the dough in a swirl and bake as directed.
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
If you haven’t seen the news or read the paper lately, check out how we low-carbers have finally been vindicated! They’ll come around eventually and acknowledge the importance of natural saturated fats, but this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the Atkins craze will start up again and more people can experience the joys of healthy living!
Have you ever tried to fulfill a craving for Mexican food with one of those store bought low carb tortillas? They certainly look like their high carb starchy cousins. They may even smell like them. Then reality hits as you take a bite and chew the bland lump of oat fiber and soy protein held together by cornstarch. It goes down as a gummy lump in your throat. “That wasn’t so bad, but I could’ve spent those carbs on something better… like peanut butter. Or mashed faux-tatoes. Or…” At least that’s how my thought process works. Frankenfood tortillas feel like low carb “junk” food with little nutritional value and a lot of unnecessary additions to my diet. When do we ever need to be ingesting wheat flour or soy oil on this lifestyle? What about sodium metabisulfate, microcrystalline cellulose and dicalcium phosphate? That mouth full (no pun intended) of ingredients doesn’t sound yummy to me, either.
If you want a fresh-tasting, nourishing tortilla or wrap substitute that you can make at home, look no further. This gluten-free low carb creation was inspired by this recipe at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked (not low carb, but still wonderful!). Gluten-free (GF) recipes can give you helpful hints for how to hold together your low carb flourless doughs. Sadly, GF flour blends are made up of all kinds of starches and grains, making them even higher in carbs than all purpose flour! Poor celiac low-carbers. Fortunately some of the same binding tricks can be applied to our beloved nut meals and seed flours.
Unadulterated wraps, fresh from the oven, full of promise!
You should be able to find all of the ingredients for these wraps at your local health food store. When I first figured out what specialty ingredients were necessary for re-creating most of my favorite high carb treats, I bit the bullet and made quite a few initial investments. Some of these essential cooking/baking ingredients are used in such small amounts that I don’t have to buy them often. They include the following:
Xanthan/Guar Gum – Vegetable fibers grown on micro-organisms or trees. Useful in very small amounts for thickening, gelling, acting like gluten, and lending a “creamy” mouth feel to cold items. I’ve only worked with xanthan gum, but they function similarly. Guar gum is cheaper, but can cause digestive “issues” and is harder to find.
Coconut Flour – Coconut meat pulverized into a fragrant creamy white powder. Acts similarly to protein powder by drying out baked goods. Requires many eggs in the batter to balance out its dryness. Lends a nice dense texture and heaviness to baked goods, perfect for brownies and carrot cake. Adds bulk and texture to no-bake recipes.
Pure Vanilla Extract – Alcoholic soaking liquid of a vanilla bean. Imparts lots of nice vanilla flavoring and aroma with close to no carbs. Check label for added corn syrup or agave.
Erythritol – A sugar alcohol naturally occurring in melons, corn, and other plants. Lightly sweetens, and adds textural properties of sugar. The only sugar alcohol with close to zero carbs and cals and NO unpleasant side effects! Has a “minty” taste if it’s not dissolved in water.
Pure Stevia Extract – High intensity sweetener extracted from a plant that can be bitter if you buy the wrong brand or use too much. Does not add textural properties or mouthfeel of sugar to recipes. Best tasting when combined with a sugar alcohol like erythritol. NuNaturals is the one and only brand I use.
Whey Protein Powder – Ultra-filtered bi-product of cheese making that is a natural source of all of the essential amino acids. Pulls moisture out of baked goods. Provides structure for pastries. Can be used in smoothies or shakes as a “creamy” base. Comes either plain or with added artificial sweeteners.
Blackstrap Molasses- The dark liquid bi-product of processing the sugar cane plant. A little bit of this unrefined sweetener goes a long way! It has only 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon, and most recipes don’t even need that much to benefit from its strong flavor. Has a brown sugar-like taste with a distinct smokiness to it. Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron–not totally stripped of nutrients like other forms of sugar.
Oat Flour – Not super low in carbs, but can be used in small amounts to lend the textural properties of all purpose flour. It’s gluten-free (check for certification) and indispensable to make baked goods resembling anything close to their high carb counterparts. Nut meals stuck together with butter do not a cookie make. Low carb pastries usually need a little bit of a grain product in order to resemble foods previously made with 100% refined grains!
So that’s what you’ll find if you go snooping through my pantry on any given day. Every week, I go on a shopping trip to restock the perishable ingredients I use in larger amounts. Those include the following:
Nuts, Seeds, and Nut/Seed Meals – Of principle importance in so many low-carb dessert recipes. Nut “flours” can be purchased pre-bagged like almond or flax meal, whereas others you must grind yourself. It’s much more cost efficient to do the “processing” at home with a good food processor or magic bullet blender. I make my own flax and sesame flours with my magic bullet. These add bulk and texture to low carb baked goods, and can be used as “breading.”
Nut and Seed Butters – Again, you can make these yourself, but it’s much easier to buy them in jars. I like peanut butter (but you already knew that!), almond butter, and sunflower seed butter. They lend creaminess, flavor, and heaviness to anything from salad dressing to sweet fillings to baked goods. My favorite application of these: jar to forefinger to mouth.
Heavy Cream – Self explanatory. It’s low in carbs and makes anything delicious.
Coconut Milk – Non-dairy cream or milk substitute with a hint of coconut flavoring. Thickness and amount of additives varies by brand. Look for high quality pure coconut milk products like those made by Thai Kitchen. You can make your own if you have a lot of time on your hands.
Cream Cheese – Add bulk and moisture to baked goods. Great in smoothies, on scrambled eggs, flavored and spread on veggies and sandwiches. A panacea of the low-carb cooking realm.
Butter – The second darling of low carb cooking. Make like Paula Deen and use butter to your heart’s content (your heart will thank you!). Adds bulk, mouth feel, and flavor. Also adds a ton of calories, so watch it if you’re maintaining or close to goal weight.
Coconut Oil/Non-hydrogenated Shortening – Dairy free butter alternatives that each have special properties. They both become very firm under cold temperatures. Perfect for low carb hard shell topping, which is reason enough to buy them! Shortening is ideal for cookies that don’t spread, and for thinning out extra dark chocolate. Coconut oil produces more moist baked goods and tasty refrigerated candies with a crisp “snap.”
That’s an incomplete list, but it’ll get you started cooking up dreamy replacements for your old favorite junk foods. Just a note: I don’t bake faux-junk food all the time. I don’t even make it often. I’ll make something when a craving hits, usually around a certain time of the month. After eating one (or two!) servings, I’ll store the treats away in the back of the freezer. Forcing yourself to have one serving of a treat every morning with breakfast will take the allure out of these “special” foods and make you crave the foods that should make up the bulk of your diet – high quality animal protein sources, natural fats, and fresh vegetables. You really can tire of sweet-tasting goodies. It’s possible. It happened to me.
If you’ve been skipping down through the boring parts of the post, you can stop here.
Here is the much anticipated (by me) recipe for all natural low carb sandwich/tortilla wraps. This is a response to a request from a friend, and has been in the works for a month. After much trial and error, I’ve hit upon a solid formula. These wraps are pleasantly light in texture, but do not fall apart (yay!) and can be rolled for wrap sandwiches, baked into chips, fried for quesadillas, toasted for a thin cracker crust pizza. They can basically do everything except solve global warming. Please try them and make yourself a fat quesadilla stuffed to capacity with steak and jack cheese. You deserve it after all this cookin’!
Recipe Notes: You don’t need any special equipment for this recipe, but I found a trick to help with rolling out and unsticking the wraps. A silicone baking mat that I got at a discount store for $5 really makes the process easier. Parchment paper will absolutely NOT work, as it crinkles up from the moisture of the dough, producing a bumpy wrap “bottom” prone to tearing. To make your wraps pretty, use golden flax meal, almond flour, and oat flour. Regular flax and pecan flour produced the dark whole-grainy looking wraps. Both variations taste the same, so it all comes down to how much you’re bothered by ugly food.
Healthy Gluten-Free Wraps/Tortillas
Makes two wraps
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1 tablespoon sesame seed meal (Could sub more flax meal here)
2 tablespoons pecan or almond meal
1 tablespoon oat OR buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon protein powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut milk OR heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon honey OR blackstrap molasses
4 tablespoons warm water
Herbs and spices, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix together dry ingredients. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients vigorously with a mixer or whisk. Divide batter into two sticky masses. Drop in balls on to a greased cookie sheet or silicone baking mat. Press a piece of plastic wrap over dough balls. Flatten rounds with hand, and use a rolling pin over the plastic wrap until dough is 1/8 inch thickness. Peel off plastic wrap and smooth over any bubbles with fingertips. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Let wraps rest on silicone mat until lukewarm to the touch, then carefully run a sharp spatula around the bottom to unstick. Let cool completely and store between sheets of paper towel in a plastic baggie on the countertop.
If you over bake the wraps, there will be dry crispy spots on them. If you under bake them, they will be doughy on the inside. The key is the make sure the dough is spread evenly, with the thickness uniform throughout. It might take a couple of tries because of variations in oven temperatures. Hopefully it won’t take you as many failed batches as it did me. I blew through a lot of ingredients testing out these puppies!
~4g net carbs per wrap
The best meal I’ve had in a long time: STEAK QUESADILLAS, BABY.
This is my last recipe involving peanut butter for awhile, I swear! I’m finally getting sick of the taste, which is a move in the right direction for me. My addiction to junk food had transferred to peanut butter for a few months. No part of me pines for sugary cakes or cookies any longer. It’s the silky richness of nut butters that get me. They give new meaning to the phrase “comfort food.” Peanut butter is certainly healthier than carby, sugary food, but the excessive intake of polyunsaturated oils or aflatoxins wasn’t doing my body any favors.
If you too have peanut butter issues, or if you don’t like the taste (gasp!) use almond butter or sun butter in this recipe. Almond butter has higher proportion of monounsaturated fats, so it’s an even healthier option than peanut butter. Admittedly, the real reason I’m not addicted to almond butter is the $12 a jar price tag. Alas, if only peanut butter were that costly a commodity.
This recipe was way too much fun to play around with, so I went a little crazy with the variations. The best part about it is the simple and readily available ingredients! You can use the microwave and get just one bowl dirty. If your mind hasn’t been blown yet, it will be when you find out this can be made dairy-free. Creamy unsweetened coconut milk is the magic maker for this trick. It will be a hint coconut-ty unless you use expeller-pressed coconut oil, but the texture will be just as dreamy.
These treats are smooth and peanut-buttery, with a salty crunch from the peanuts. They don’t really taste like Pay Day at all because they’re a hundred times better and don’t stick to your teeth. These treats are named after those corn syrup-filled bars because of the similarity in appearances. Don’t be fooled.
Mock “PayDay” Peanut Treats
Inspired by this recipe by “Blenders”
Makes 6 bars
1/4 cup peanut butter (no-stir type preferred)
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening, unsalted butter, or coconut oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
sugar-free sweetener, to taste (I use NuNaturals stevia)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)
Add peanut butter, honey, and butter to a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and immediately whisk in vanilla extract and heavy cream or coconut milk. Stir in sweetener, xanthan gum (if using), and pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if necessary. Fold in peanuts and drop in globs on to a pan lined with wax paper. Chill in freezer until firm, then transfer to refrigerator.
~6g net carbs per treat
For Peanut Butter Dessert Topping, whisk extra cream or coconut milk into “Pay Day” treat mixture ingredients until the sauce is smooth and light in color. Use almond butter for the most neutral taste. This sauce is also delicious made dairy-free. If you use coconut milk in place of heavy cream, there will be a subtle coconut flavoring. The sauce will be just as creamy, though. This would be heavenly over low carb ice cream. You could also dip apples or strawberries into it!
Ditch the polysyllabic ingredients of pre-packaged bars with these easy homemade protein bars. No refrigeration required! This recipe is easy on your digestive system, with no harsh sugar alcohols (maltitol is truly evil!) or an ungodly amount of fiber. It’s also pocketbook friendly since the ingredients are pretty cheap. Start with a quality whey (not soy!) protein powder free of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. I like Jay Robb or Jarrow Formulas unflavored whey protein. These protein bars may look like cookies, and they may smell like cookies, but they are NOT peanut butter cookies! I have a recipe for those and will get around posting at some point. I repeat, these are not cookies. They are dry and chewy because of the high whey protein content, just like real protein bars. If you’re using stevia, remember to make the dough a bit sweeter than you want the baked product to be.
Just for fun, let’s have a look at the ingredients for an Atkins Advantage Chocolate Peanut Butter protein bar:
Ingredients: protein blend [soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed collagen, whey protein isolate (milk), sodium caseinate], glycerine, polydextrose, dry roasted peanut, peanut flour, palm kernel and palm oil, cellulose, coconut oil, cocoa powder (processed with alkali), natural and artificial flavor, olive oil, butter oil, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, salt, guar gum, citric acid, sucralose, mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate, acesulfame potassium. nutrition blend: tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, vitamin a palmitate, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, alpha tocopheryl acetate, niacinamide, biotin, calcium pantothenate, zinc oxide, folic acid, chromium chelate, phytonadione, sodium selenite. contains: soy, milk and peanuts.
I’ll admit to ingesting this frankenfood every once in awhile when I’m desperate for a sweet fix or on the road. It’s relieving to have a better option now!
Mock Protein/Atkins Bars
Makes four bars
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (any nut butter would work)
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter OR coconut oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract (I used NuNaturals)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup whey protein powder (check for additives and carb content)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add nut butter, honey, and butter to a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and immediately whisk in vanilla extract and heavy cream or coconut milk. Stir in sweetener and pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if necessary. Stir in protein powder until mixture clumps together. Don’t worry if it separates and some of the liquid weeps out of the dough. Press mixture as flat as you can into a greased loaf pan. I like to place a piece of wax paper over the dough and press it flat with a smaller loaf pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan. The dough will absorb all of the liquid that has bubbled up. Slice with a sharp knife and store in baggies. Does not need to be refrigerated.
~5g net carbs and 29g protein per bar
Take your protein bars to the next level. Melt some 85% cacao content chocolate and sweeten it with stevia, to taste. Paint it across the bottoms of the protein bars with the small end of a spoon. Place chocolate side down on a chilled pan lined with wax paper. Make a recipe of the caramel sauce and spread it over the tops of the protein bars. Press sliced almonds into the caramel sauce. Paint chocolate over the tops and sides. Chill to firm up the chocolate. Place in a baggy for transport in your gym bag.