I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled homework to bring you one of those easy snacks you can throw together on a whim. There will be a few of these coming up since play time is limited lately, with classes and homework superseding kitchen experimentation! My skillet and my spatula are my weapons of choice for go-to quick meals–flavored yogurt for breakfast, and stir fries for lunch and dinner. Even using grass-fed beef and organic produce from Whole Foods, it’s much more budget friendly to prepare your meals from scratch instead of subsisting on campus fare. Not to mention the limited availability of gluten-free low carb meals here. Everything is served with a piece of bread!
Back to the topic at hand. You can combine almost anything with plain yogurt and a little vanilla extract to make your own custom flavors, which can get rather addictive once you stock your pantry with extracts and spices. Get creative and add nuts, nut butters, blackstrap molasses, cocoa, toasted coconut flakes, flax meal, coconut oil, lemon juice and zest… whatever you want, ’cause it’ll probably taste good in the rich, full fat yogurt we, as low-carbers, can indulge in without guilt! I’ve been (finally) getting into fall with pumpkin pie yogurt. All you need is a scoop of canned pumpkin, a few drops of vanilla extract, and a big pinch of pumpkin pie spice to enjoy this wonderful holiday dessert for breakfast. I’ll throw it in tupperware and eat my yogurt during morning lecture, garnering more than a few strange looks as I dig into my orange goo!
If you like peanut butter honey sandwiches, or apples and peanut butter, you’re gonna flip for this. We’re revisiting those chayote apples that I used in my apple crisp, this time cooking them up quickly in a skillet with no added spices. Still incredibly apple-y (even if you use lime juice because you’re out of lemon juice like I was for this photo shoot!). The chayote’s texture mimics the apple’s crispness, paired with the perfect level of tartness and sweetness from the citrus juice and stevia. Use as much or as little honey as your needs allow, keeping in mind that honey is 6 grams of carbs per teaspoon. Buy as dark a honey as you can find for the most flavor. I buy local raw honey from the bulk section at Whole Foods, filling the plastic tub with as much or as little of the sticky stuff as I need. One teaspoon is all it takes to satisfy my taste for honey, which goes back to Sunday morning breakfasts consisting of fried eggs (over hard!), Brown n’ Serve sausages, and English muffins slathered in honey that I squeezed greedily from the plastic bear. Yes, you can have honey on a lifestyle that is sugar-free 99% of the time. If honey is a flavor you miss, incorporate a tiny amount into your daily diet and find out if this little bit of real sugar kicks up cravings for sweets.
And peanut butter makes everything better. Now get mixing!
“Apples” with Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt
Makes two servings
For Chayote “Apples”:
1 chayote, chopped
1/8 teaspoon good-tasting pure stevia extract (I use NuNaturals)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small container Greek yogurt (I like FAGE), or 1/2 cup plain full fat yogurt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon raw honey (darkest in color you can find)
2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter
Good-tasting pure stevia extract, to taste (I use NuNaturals)
Stir together yogurt, peanut butter, and honey**. Add a pinch of stevia extract and taste for sweetness. Add more stevia if necessary. Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Wash and peel chayote, rinsing off the sap under the faucet. Split down the middle with a knife (cutting through the “crack”), and pry out soft seed. Cut chayote into chunks. Mix together water, lemon juice, and stevia. Once pan is hot, add chopped chayotes and lemon juice mixture, stirring a bit to coat the chayote pieces. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, shaking the skillet around once during cooking to redistribute the chayote pieces. You want to cook it until it is fork tender and the water has just evaporated. Uncover and remove from heat. Let cool and serve with yogurt, or toss in melted butter and cinnamon for fried apples. Can also be pureed for applesauce!
**You can also leave the honey out until serving time and just drizzle it on top for a pretty effect, stirring it in before you eat.
~6-9 grams of net carbs per serving (depending on how much honey you use)
After experimenting with various flavors of Protein Packed Ice Cream, I had a lot of low fat cottage cheese leftover. I’ve been obsessed with pureeing cottage cheese lately. It can sub for anything creamy, sneaking in extra protein to keep you satisfied. It also makes this typical “diet food” more sexy to eat. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love heavy cream and FAGE total and all of the lovely wholesome saturated fat those contain. If you haven’t read Good Calories, Bad Calories yet, pick up it up and prepare to be blown away by what the scientific evidence really shows regarding the relationship between heart health, disease risk, and saturated fats. Hint: It’s not what the processed food-pushing establishment tells you! There are many ways to incorporate healthful natural fats into your diets: Eat grass-fed 85/15 beef and chicken thighs, use cream in your coffee, sauté with butter or coconut oil, and my favorite way–pop a square of extra dark chocolate! There can, however, be too much of a good thing, especially when you’re watching your waistline. Your body won’t tap into your stored fat if there is too much dietary fat coming in. And no, a high-protein diet won’t wear out your kidneys!
Regardless of whether you use full-fat yogurt or pureed cottage cheese, this curry is packed full of flavor and will leave you wanting more. No need to slave over a hot stove since it takes less than a half hour (he-ey, Rachel Ray!) to whip up. If your cabinet isn’t already stocked will all of these lovely spices, don’t hesitate to make the investment. You will want to make this dish over and over. The only ingredients I had to run out for were the ginger root and the garam marsala. Garam marsala, an aromatic blend of spices, is ideal for adding an Indian flair to omelets, stir fries, and other quick n’ dirty meals. The downside of making curry is that the whole house still smells like all of those wonderful spices, reminding me that my dad ate the leftovers. Guess that means I’ll have to make more…
Indian Chicken Curry
Adapted from an AllRecipes recipe
Makes 4 small servings
1-3 tablespoons of oil, butter, or ghee
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon of garam marsala
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 boneless chicken thighs or 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup plain yogurt or pureed cottage cheese (I used Friendship 1%)
3/4 cup coconut milk (lite, if you prefer)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional–omit if you don’t like spicy foods)
Prep vegetables. Heat fat in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until browned and fragrant. Add garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sweetener, and sea salt, stirring around the pan for 2 minutes. Use a food processor or magic bullet to puree cottage cheese or yogurt with coconut milk and tomato paste. Add chicken and coconut milk mixture to pan. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, squeeze in the lime juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, and stir in the cayenne pepper if you’re using it. Finish with more lime juice to taste, and serve over riced cauliflower.
~6 grams net carbs per serving, using lite coconut milk and pureed cottage cheese
Makes four small servings
4 cups of fresh grated cauliflower
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter
1/2 crumbled organic boullion cube (watch out for MSG!)
Grate cauliflower with a cheese grater. Add butter to a pan over medium heat. Stir fry cauliflower for 2 minutes, crumbling the boullion cube over it during the cooking process. Cook until just tender, and remove from pan.
~3g net carbs per serving
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
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 NuNaturals 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
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.
Okay, let’s start simple. No cooking required with this one!
Being a chick, chocolate makes everything better. No really, it does. This is why I try to incorporate it into as many meals as possible, and was perfectly content, in the throes of my sugar addiction, replacing real food with vending machine fare. There is something about chocolate that goes straight your head and makes problems magically disappear while you’re licking the melty stuff off the Snickers wrapper. Problem is, the after effects of processed candy can kill the mood. The good news is, dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants exceeding the levels found in red wine (<– not a good breakfast option). The nibs are raw, unprocessed cacao with. Additionally, the saturated fat in cocoa is found to boost good cholesterol levels. Scientific debate aside, it just tastes so darn good!
Paired all of that goodness with yogurt, which provides 15% of your RDA of calcium along with 14g of protein, not to mention the probiotic boost courtesy of the friendly bacterial strains that give yogurt its delectable tang. You wanna get sick less and possibly live longer? You wanna burn fat and keep your hip bones intact when you’re 80? Eat up! It’s kinda crazy how many health benefits are associated with this stuff. With only 11g net carbs, you won’t feel a bit of remorse indulging in what looks (and tastes… promise!) like dessert for breakfast.
from left: flavorganics sugar-free vanilla extract, scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa powder, hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, lindt 85% cacao extra dark chocolate bar, raw cacao nibs
Triple Chocolate Yogurt Parfait
1 7 oz container strained greek-style yogurt (I love FAGE total!)
1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 squares of 85% cacao extra dark chocolate (I like Lindt or Ghirardelli)
sweeteners, to taste
splash of pure vanilla extract
sugar-free whipped cream (optional)
grated chocolate (optional)
Stir cocoa powder into yogurt until thoroughly combined. Melt squares of dark chocolate until liquified in microwave, watching carefully to avoid burning. I like to do this in 10 seconds increments, stirring every time. When chocolate is melted, stir it quickly into a couple of spoonfuls of the yogurt. Add it back into the rest of the yogurt and combine until streaks of chocolate are no longer visibile. Add sweeteners and vanilla extract, tasting and adjusting accordingly. Layer with cacao nibs so you get some crunch with every bite, or just sprinkle the nibs over the top. Garnish with whipped cream and more grated chocolate (use a cheese grater or zester).
Note the spoon standing up in the yogurt. It really is that luxuriously thick!
~11g net carbs per massive sundae