Archive of ‘Vegan’ category

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

Healthier Nutella and the Best Cupcakes Ever

NUTELLAFINAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthier Not-tella (Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)

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

Preparation:

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

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

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

NUTELLA SWIRL CUPCAKES!
minimuffins7

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

Healthy Nutella Swirl Cupcake

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

minimuffinsfinal2

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

Makes enough for two muffin trays

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

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

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

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

…or just drizzle it generously over the tops!
minimuffins4

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

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

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


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

Paean to Peanut Butter– Peanut Butter Granola

Peanut butter is a substance that makes me dangerous. Chillin’ in the fridge, accessible by spoon and finger, it’s in mortal peril every minute. To avoid this internal struggle, I only purchase jars of this spreadable bliss for immediate consumption in recipes.

This post is dedicated to George Carver.

Fortunately, this nirvana-in-a-jar is healthy and relatively low in carbohydrates, containing 4g net carbs per 2 tablespoons. That’s a good-sized portion for its satiety factor. It’s a good source of biotin, vitamin e, and antioxidant polyphenols (heart-healthy compounds that fight free radicals). It also contains a small amount of resveratrol, the anti-aging component of red wine. Who knew? Be happy and combat wrinkles with PB (taken internally, not topically)!

Start your day in a good mood with a big dose of PB! This version of my grain-free (no oats here!) granola is heavenly with a rich peanut butter-y taste and smell. It’s a very flexible recipe, so if you don’t have some of the nuts and seeds listed, fear not! Just throw whatever you have in there and it’ll come out crunchy and roasted with a sweet coating. Pair it with sliced apples and yogurt for the perfect flavoring combination. I’m thinking peanut butter granola in almond milk with a few teensy slices of banana (1/4 of a large one) for a decadent pre-workout breakfast. It’d also be pretty kickass making sweet love to my chocolate granola in the same bowl. Reese’s cups cereal, anyone?


Peanut Butter Granola (Grain-Free)

Makes two heaping cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or oil
-3 tablespoons erythritol or xylitol, powdered
-1/4 teaspoon black molasses (optional)
-1/8 + 1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract 

1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons nut meal (almond, pecan, whatever you like)
1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt butter or oil with peanut butter in a small bowl in microwave until liquified. Powder erythritol in a coffee grinder or blender. Whisk erythritol, blackstrap molasses, additional sweeteners, and sea salt into peanut butter mixture. Mix dry ingredients together and stir in wet ingredients, using your hands to coat the nut and seed blend. Spread mixture over a parchment paper-lined baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture around occasionally. Remove from oven and spread over a paper towel set on a baking rack. It will continue to dry out as the moisture evaporates. Bake granola for an extra 10 minutes if the mixture still seems moist after cooling. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.


~7g net carbs per half cup

Grain-Free, Low Carb Fried “Rice” – Not an Oxymoron!

“Asians are skinny and we eat tons of rice!” A Chinese friend of mine voiced that opinion when I mentioned coming up with a diabetic-friendly, low carb substitute for his beloved white rice. 😉

My answer: Asians get diabetes, too! My Vietnamese friend’s father has had to scale back his consumption of refined carbs to keep his blood sugars under control.

Although I don’t have diabetes, I enjoy lower glycemic alternatives to starchy meals because of the carb hangover that sets in from too much Chinese takeout. The combination of starch and sweet n’ salty flavor creates a seratonin high that hits you hard, making it too easy to eat until you’re uncomfortably full. Then, the inevitable crash comes, leaving you listless and unfocused. My exam weeks in college were probably a lot more stressful than they should have been with all the Dragon Gate sesame chicken I would pack away under pressure. You can’t perform at your best when you’re riding the blood sugar roller coaster! 

Enjoy the salty, flavorful goodness of a beloved Americanized asian staple and your stable blood glucose levels with this Grain-Free, Shrimp Fried “Rice”. The rice component is replaced by–get this–grated cauliflower, prepared with the same familiar flavorings. It’ll smell funky in the pan for a moment, but then your kitchen will fill with the mouthwatering aroma of a Panda Express kitchen. Bonuses: It takes less time to cook and packs a nutritional punch (courtesy of the phytochemical-rich brassica family of veggies)!

This recipe is totally flexible. Use whatever veggies you like. Make it yours! I happened to have peas on hand, and was out of green onions. Carrots are pretty traditional in this, too. Be warned: this is just as tasty as the original, and possibly more flavorful because of how cauliflower absorbs flavor so well. Seriously, you might want to make this with a hungry friend to solve any portion control issues.

Fake out take out always taste better with chopsticks!
low-carb-cauliflower-fried-rice-grated-caulirice-atkins-substitute-diet-healthy-south-beach-low-glycemic

Shrimp Fried Cauli-Rice
Serves 3
Get your chopsticks out! This grain-free shrimp fried “rice” is a taste substitute for take out! You can find wheat-free tamari on grocery store shelves next to the soy sauce. For a soy-free version, use coconut aminos.


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Ingredients
  1. 2 heaping cups of grated fresh cauliflower
  2. 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  3. 1/2 cup sugar snap pea pods
  4. 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  5. 4 tablespoons wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
  6. 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  7. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  8. Dash of garlic powder
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  10. 1/4 cup of green peas
  11. 2 eggs, beaten
  12. Protein of choice (I used 1-4 oz can of baby shrimp)
  13. Green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Grate cauliflower using a fine cheese grater. Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in heavy saucepan. Mix together sesame oil, tamari, and seasonings in a bowl. Sautee onions for 3 minutes over medium heat, or until translucent. Remove from pan and set aside. Sautee sugar snap peas until tender. Add more oil if necessary and all of the cauliflower, stir frying for a couple of minutes. Pour in 1/2 of the soy sauce mixture and stir fry to coat the cauliflower evenly. When the cauliflower is tender, add cooked vegetables, shrimp, and peas along with the rest of the soy sauce mixture. Push “rice” to the side of the pan and scramble eggs on the other side, moving spatula quickly to incorporate eggs with the “rice” mixture. Serve in cute bowls with chopsticks and pig out with no regrets!
Notes
  1. ~7g net carbs per serving
Healthy Indulgences http://healthyindulgences.net/

Excuse me now…

Riced Cauliflower in a Stir Fry (Grain-Free, Low Glycemic)

~7g net carbs

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