Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

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

The Taste of Summer, pt. 2– Sugar-Free Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

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

Ingredients:

Shortbread Crust:
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

Filling:
1 egg
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

Preparation:
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

Cuts like a hot knife through buttah!

Sugar-Free Low Carb Candy Bars… really.

This is my last recipe involving peanut butter for awhile, I swear! I’m finally tiring of the taste, which is a move in the right direction for me. The silky richness of nut butters can make it easy to consume them in excess! While nut butters are certainly healthier than processed junk food, they are very calorie dense, and laden with polyunsaturated oils.

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 some would consider it a more nourishing alternative to peanut butter. Admittedly, the real reason I’m not addicted to almond butter is the $12 a jar price tag!

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


Ingredients:
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (no-stir type preferred)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR coconut oil
2 teaspoons honey (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons sweetener of choice (I use 2 Tablespoons of my stevia blend or Truvia)
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

Preparation:
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

Ingredients:
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
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup whey protein powder (check for additives and carb content)

Preparation:
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

Naked protein bars. Consume with gulps of water between bites.

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.

From drab to fab! I present to you mock Atkins bars, covered in dark chocolate and filled with caramel bars with a nice crunch from slivered almonds:

No preservatives or soy in that delicious bite.

Healthy Ice Cream Bars, Take Two!

After much tweaking and experimentation, here’s a vanilla version of my Easy Ice Cream Bars. The texture isn’t as smooth as it is with the peanut butter, so you should let ’em sit out for a moment before taking a bite. The yogurt brings a pleasant tang to the party.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the miraculous calorie-free naturally occurring sweetener: Erythritol! Erythritol is totally safe and has no aftertaste or unpleasant side effects like the other sugar alcohols. It has 70% of the sweetening power of sugar, with many of the properties that sugar imparts in baking (structure, mouthfeel, etc.) The one caveat: the “cooling” effect you can taste when erythritol re-crystallizes. It’s the weirdest sensation. You have to figure out a way to make the majority of erythritol present in the recipe stay dissolved so you can avoid that effect. I’m still tinkering around with it in recipes, but it’s slow-going because erythritol is precious stuff and I’m on a student budget. Z-sweet is the brand available locally. You pay a premium for buying it in stores, but it is worth the cost if you’re looking for a product not produced with genetically modified corn. I’ve been ordering 5 lb bags of erythritol online lately because I go through it so quickly. The best price I’ve found for it is at iherb.com, and online supplement retailer. No, erythritol is not something that cavemen would’ve consumed while foraging for food, but it does not wreak havoc on your body like sugar does. My justification for using it is that it was impossible to consume concentrated amounts of any form of sugar while living off the land, making erythritol the more “natural” way of eating than using, say, honey or maple syrup. We were not able to eat any refined sweeteners or copious amounts of fruit on a regular basis before the advent of agriculture, so it makes sense that our bodies are not designed to handle the 300+ carb per day diet that is standard now. Did you know that bears are the only animal in the wild showing signs of tooth decay?

The one I chomped into (shown on the left, obviously) is filled with a layer of mooshed up Sugar-Free Brownies. Yum! 

Easy Ice Cream Bars (Vanilla version)

Makes 6 small rounds

Ingredients:

Filling:
2 oz heavy cream, preferably organic
2 oz cream cheese
3 Tablespoons of ricotta cheese or strained greek-style yogurt
2 Tablespoons of erythritol (or 1.5 Tablespoons xylitol)
A pinch of pure stevia extract

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Coating:
1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
2 squares Lindt extra dark 85% chocolate bar (or Ghirardelli 86% chocolate bar)
A pinch of pure stevia extract
Chopped nuts (optional)

Peanut Butter Coating:

4 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil or non-hydrogenated shortening
A pinch of pure stevia extract

Preparation:

Beat heavy cream with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Do not over beat or it will get clumpy, and turn to butter! Set whipped cream aside. Measure out granular erythritol or xylitol and powder in a coffee grinder or blender. Beat cream cheese, yogurt, erythritol, sweetener, and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth and clump free. Test for sweetness. It should be a bit sweeter than you want the finished product. Using a spatula, fold cream cheese into the whipped cream until well combined. Shape ice cream rounds on a pan lined with parchment or waxed paper. Freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Melt coating ingredients in the microwave in 10 second intervals, until liquified. Stir until smooth and add sweetener, to taste. Remove rounds from freezer and dip into coatings, or top with a layer of mushed up brownie/cookie dough/etc before dipping. You may need to set the round on the paper and spoon the coating over bare spots. Sprinkle bars with nuts immediately after dipping in the coating, if desired. Chill for another few minutes until the coating hardens.

So stuffed from all of this experimenting in the kitchen! Goodness, healthy eating is so trying. I’ve gotta go dump these off on my friends asap. For some reason, I don’t think they’ll mind.

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