Archive of ‘Paleo/Primal’ category

Healthier Banana Nut Muffins

banana-nut-muffins-low-carb-sugar-free

Nothin’ like a moist muffin with a pat of Kerrygold butter to start off your day.
banana-nut-muffins-low-carb-sugar-free-3

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 irritated 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! You live and you learn.

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

Creamy, Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream (Sugar-Free)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dairy-Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes five rich scoops

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

Optional:

1 fresh, organic egg yolk

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

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

Melt-in-your-mouth Ice Cream Chips:

Makes enough for one batch of ice cream

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

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

~5.5g net carbs per batch

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

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

Paleo Almond Joy Bars

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

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

 

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

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

Sugar-Free Almond Joy Bars

Healthy Almond Joy Bars

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


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Prep Time
20 min

Prep Time
20 min

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

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

freezerclusters

Dark Chocolate Ganache

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

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

~22g of carbs for the whole batch

Kid-Friendly Indulgences: Healthier Gingerbread Cookies

This is my entry to Eat Christmas Cookies, an event sponsored by FoodBlogga! Check out all of the drool-worthy recipes there.
Healthier Gingerbread Cookies (Paleo, Low Carb)
Get the little ones into the kitchen with these easy-peasy healthy gingerbread cookies, dolled up with colorful sugar-free cream cheese frosting! These classic Christmas cookies are adapted from my versatile recipe for Honey Nut Cookies. The only changes are the addition of blackstrap molasses and lots of yummy spices to impart that distinct gingerbread flavor to these gluten-free, egg-free, low carb cookies! The texture is chewy and crispy all at once. They’re a bit different from traditional gingerbread, but just as delicious and fun to decorate.

A word about the food coloring: Don’t try to make it “all natural” by using the organic food coloring you see at the health food store. With good intentions, I bought some natural blue food coloring on sale for $3.99 (yow!). It’s made from “pure blueberry extract,” so I thought it sounded like it would be a healthier substitute for the artificial stuff. It dyed my cream cheese frosting a lovely brownish purple hue. If you want to go the natural route, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Gingerbread Santa and Rudolph, poking his nose in
Healthy Gingerbread Cookies, pt.3

Simple Nourishing Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 25 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters

Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter or nonhydrogenated shortening (for dairy-free)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 275 (yes, 275) degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter and mix with honey, molasses, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry ingredients. Dough will be soft and sticky. Cut out two long pieces of parchment paper. Roll dough to 1/8th of an inch thickness (or thinner) sandwiched in between pieces of parchment paper. Peel off top sheet of parchment and flip dough from bottom sheet to the top sheet so that dough has been peeled off of both sheets of parchment, ensuring that it will be easier to transfer to cookie sheet. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and peel away bits of dough around cut outs, or flip cut outs onto cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 18 minutes. Let cool completely for about 10 minutes or so before moving to a work surface. Decorate with piped cream cheese frosting and bits of chopped raisins and dried apricots.

Simple Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese or neufatchel cheese
1/4 cup of erythritol, powdered
Good-tasting pure stevia extract, to taste
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Drops of food coloring

Leave cream cheese at room temperature for 30 minutes. Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or Magic Bullet. Beat together cream cheese, vanilla, and erythritol for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very smooth and erythritol has mostly dissolved. Mix in stevia starting with 1/16 of a teaspoon, taste, and adjust sweetness level if necessary. Spoon frosting into separate bowls, and beat in drops of food coloring, wiping off the beaters after each color has been mixed. Transfer colored frosting into zip top bags and snip off the corners. Use immediately.

Poor gingerbread lady. 🙁 She was too yummy for her own good!
Healthy Gingerbread Cookies, pt. 2

~1.6g net carbs per 1/25th of the cookie recipe

~13g carbs for the whole batch of frosting

Christmas Baking: Golden Cranberry Pavlova (Marshmallow cake)

Golden Cranberry Pavlova

Do you want an easy, light, and festive dessert to top off your Christmas dinner? Do you have a fear of beating egg whites? Join me, while I take you on a journey to the land of fluffy, airy, and sometimes temperamental… meringues!

This cake may have a funny name (Pavlova… sounds like some sort of Russian dancer? Or tennis player?), but the taste of this delicate confection should be familiar. It’s a cross between an angel food cake and a marshmallow. Gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free, low carb… it’s perfect for everyone except those allergic to eggs (and for you folks, I am sad). Whatever you want to call this elegant dessert, it’s good. Too easy to polish off in one sitting. However, one of the many redeeming qualities of a meringue cake is that it’s fat-free, so you can have a nice big serving. And you’ll want a big serving, trust me.

Make this cake. It took me 10 minutes to whip this up and overcome my fear of deflated meringues. Just be sure to use a powerful mixer and pay attention to your egg whites. Love them. Tend them. Don’t try to beat them into submission; they need gentle coaxing. Internalize this approach, and become one with the pavlova.

Won’t you join me?

Step One: Line up ingredients! You don’t want to be scrambling for measuring spoons with one hand while keeping the egg whites going with the other.

Use honey if you want a golden pavlova. Use erythritol if you want a more traditional snowy white pavlova. The choice is yours!

Saw Palmetto Honey

Ingredients for Pavlova

Separate eggs from yolks, taking care not to get a trace of yolk in the white.

separatingeggs

In a meticulously CLEAN bowl with sparkling CLEAN beaters, start beating egg whites on low speed.

Egg whites, low speed

Add cream of tartar. See these soft peaks? You’re going to add the sweeteners right after we get to this point.

eggwhitessoftpeaks

eggwhitessoftpeaks2

Scrape your stevia and honey in as quickly as possible, and frantically keep beating until you get stiff peaks.

eggwhitesstiffpeaks

eggwhitesstiffpeaks2

Beat in vanilla and vinegar, and keep going for another minute. Feel it out. Just go till you have still peaks that look like the above photo. You don’t want the whites to move around the bowl when you tip it back and forth.

Pavlova batter

Aaand your done! Now time to plop it on a sheet of parchment. Don’t mind my unbleached hippie parchment that I got suckered into buying at Fresh Market. The normal, budget-friendly white parchment works well, too.

Forming the Pavlova

Spread and smooth it around, keeping the batter mounded as high as possible. Shape a well in the center to hold your toppings.

Forming the Pavlova, pt. 3

Shaped Pavlova Batter

Stick it in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes, and you get this:

Golden Cranberry Pavlova

It might deflate. It might get wrinkly. Once it is covered in toppings, no one will know the difference. Tease it off the parchment gently.

Make up your cranberry orange compote. I used an organic tangerine because of it’s glossy vibrant orange skin. Add zest, 1/2 cup erythritol, 3 tablespoons juice, vanilla, and 1 cup of water to cranberries.

Adding lemon juice to cranberries

Boil over medium heat for 8 minutes, and you should get a thick sauce, with some visible chunks of berries. Add stevia after removing sauce from the heat and cooling for a couple of minutes.

Cranberry Orange Compote

Taste test, and adjust sweeteners if necessary. Let the sauce cool completely. Sneak another spoonful and attempt to save some for the cake.

Once sauce has cooled, whip up your heavy cream and assemble the cake. Start mixing on low speed.

Whipping cream, low speed

Once you see soft peaks, bump up the speed until it looks like this.

Whipped cream, stiff peaks

Beat up another cup of cream if you overbeat the first one, like I did. It should look soft and smooth, not grainy. Proceed to slather it all over the top of the cake.

Spreading Whipped Cream on Pavlova
Spoon on the compote.

pavlovacranberry

Jazz it up with fresh fruit, chocolate curls, tinsel, Mr. Frosty figurines, whatever flips your switch. Yummmm!

Slice of Golden Cranberry Pavlova

Golden Cranberry Pavlova (Marshmallow Cake)
Adapted from this recipe at JoyOfBaking.com

Serve 4-5


Ingredients:

4 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey, or 1/2 cup erythritol, powdered
4 packets or 1/4 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or food processor. Line up ingredients. Dunk eggs in hot tap water for 30 seconds, or until lukewarm to the touch. Remove eggs from tap water and dry off shells. Separate eggs, reserving yolks for another use. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and trace out a 7 inch circle as a guideline for the pavlova. Take care not to get a drop of yolk in the whites. Beat egg whites starting on the lowest setting, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and increase to medium speed until you see soft peaks. Add sweetener and increase to high speed until you get stiff peaks. Beat in vanilla and vinegar. Working quickly, spread batter within the circle, mounding the whites up and leaving a slight depression in the center. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (this website has an explanation for how to tell if it is done). Turn heat off, crack the oven door open, and let cake cool in the oven. Remove from oven and store in an airtight container until use. Immediately before serving, spread with whipped cream and top with fresh fruit or cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 organic tangerine or orange, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup erythritol or preferred sugar-free sweetener
4 packets stevia, or 1/8-1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract (NuNaturals)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water

Preparation:
To make sauce, combine all ingredients except stevia in a saucepan over medium heat. Once mixture comes to a boil, start a timer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat after 8 minutes and let cool until lukewarm. Stir in stevia, and taste to adjust sweetener. Let cool completely before topping pavlova.

Whipped Cream Topping

Yields about 2 cups whipped cream

Ingredients:
1 cup organic heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 packets NuNaturals stevia extract, or powdered erythritol to taste

Preparation:

Whip cream to soft peaks. Add sweetener and vanilla, and whip until incorporated. Use immediately.

~.25g net carbs per serving for pavlova cake made with erythritol, and 7g net carbs with honey

~38.3 net carbs for the whole recipe of cranberry sauce

~1-2g net carbs for 1/5 of the whipped cream topping

Twelve Days of Baking: Honey Nut Cookies and How To Make Almond Flour

This is my submission to Kimi’s Nourishing Sweets and Treats event at her wonderful blog, The Nourishing Gourmet.

Honey Nut Cookies (Low Carb, Paleo)

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

Step One: Add sliced, blanched almonds to food processor. Refrigerate or freeze the nuts beforehand for the best results.
Sliced almonds in food processor

Sliced almonds in food processor

Step Two: Whizz ’em up for a minute or two until finely ground.
Homemade almond flour

Homemade almond flour
Homemade almond flour

Pecans!
Chopped pecans

NuNaturals stevia
Nunaturals stevia!

Cookie dough!
Cookie dough

Scooping cookies

Cookie dough, patted and poked into cute rounds
Flattened cookie dough

Chewy Honey Nut Cookies

Chewy Honey Nut Cookies

Makes eight to twelve cookies

Ingredients:
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

Preparation:
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

Holiday Indulgences: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

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

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

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

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

Agave nectar:
90% fructose
10% glucose

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

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

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

Healthy-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

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

Yields sixteen cookies

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

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

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

~3.5g net carbs per cookie

Sugar-Free-Pumpkin-Chip-Cookies

Preview:

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

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

Dairy-Free Indulgences: Decadent Low-Carb Hot Chocolate

UPDATE: Kimi over at The Nourishing Gourmet blog recently put up a very informative post regarding the best type of coconut milk. Check it out!

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Now that it’s cooling down, I like to warm up with my sweet treats. There’s nothing like a big frothy mug of hot cocoa to relax all of the tension in those cold muscles. Apart from satisfying your sweet tooth, hot chocolate can actually do your body good… if prepared with wholesome ingredients! Studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate may even improve insulin sensitivity and reduce heart disease risk. Check out these journal articles regarding the health effects of cocoa if you’re feeling nerdy:

~Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a
significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood
pressure in healthy persons

~Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans
~Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults
~Effect of Dark Chocolate on Arterial Function in Healthy Individuals

Coconut milk, the creamy base for my cocoa, is also packed with good stuff–lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides, which raise HDL cholesterol and are less likely to be stored as body fat! It’s a much better option than soy milk, which is often genetically modified and contains phytates.

To make this dairy-free hot chocolate every bit as creamy as the dairy-filled version, I add melted dark chocolate, full fat coconut milk, and a whole fresh egg in addition to the cocoa powder. This makes for a very filling, nutrient-packed drink! You can use any 85% cacao content chocolate you prefer. Lindt 85% is widely available, reasonably priced, and delicious. This luscious drink is almost like a pourable chocolate custard. You can sweeten it with any combination of sugar-free sweeteners you like. Just remember that using multiple sweeteners is key to making sugarless chocolate treats taste yummy.

Yes, you read that right–this drink calls for a raw egg. The risk of contracting salmonella from conventional eggs is exceptionally low. For organic eggs, which come from healthy hens, the risk is close to zero. I have been consuming one to two raw eggs per day in smoothies for over a year, because the nutrients in the yolk are best preserved in raw form. If you’re still squeamish, go hunt down some pasteurized shell eggs, which are available in many supermarkets. As for the taste, raw eggs make smoothies and shakes unbelievably creamy and frothy. Try it and you won’t go back to egg-less smoothies!

If you’re wary about the coconut milk tasting strange in hot chocolate, fear not. The flavor of coconut milk is so subtle that it is not noticeable in most recipes. I promise you it does not distract one bit from the rich chocolate taste. If you like, you can add flavor extracts to keep your cocoa interesting. Use whatever strikes your fancy! I’ve been adding mint flavor extract to my mug lately, making a liquified Thin Mint type drink. You don’t miss those transfat-laden cookies at all when you’re sippin’ on this mug of heaven.

I like to eat the frothy cap with a spoon first.
sugar-free-hot-cocoa


Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate

Serves 1

Ingredients:
2 squares (.7 ounces) 85% cacao content chocolate
2 teaspoons good tasting cocoa powder
4 ounces of coconut milk
2-3 ounces piping hot water
Combination of sugar-free sweeteners, to taste
-1 tablespoon erythritol
-Pinch of NuNaturals Pure Stevia Extract

Splash of pure vanilla extract
1 fresh organic egg (optional)

Preparation:
Break up chocolate squares with your fingers, or chop into chunks. Add cocoa powder and pour in coconut milk. Microwave for 30-50 seconds, and stir coconut milk and chocolate together until chocolate has melted completely. Whisk egg lightly in a separate bowl. Transfer chocolate mixture to a blender. Add flavor extracts and sweeteners, and blend the mixture at low speed. With the blender running, add beaten egg and then piping hot water. Taste, and add more sweeteners or extract if necessary. Serve immediately–do not reheat.

~7-8 grams net carbs per mug

All gone!
low-carb-hot-chocolate

Crunchy Low Carb Snack Bars

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!

Crunchy and sweet, topped with a layer of smooth dark chocolate! You won’t believe they’re free of sugar and gluten. Promise.

Recipe Notes:
~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

Ingredients:
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

Ingredients:
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)

Preparation:
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

Low Carb Chocolate Pots De Creme

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

Ingredients:
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.

Preparation:
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

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