Happy Valentine’s Day! Homemade sugar free chocolate truffles? YES.

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Remember that one time when I, a bold and fearless trailblazer, decided that cinnamon was the new hotness for Valentine’s Day, and not chocolate?

Yes. Well. That lasted less than a week. WE’RE BACK TO CHOCOLATE.

This is because I am nothing if not a slave to suggestion. And the suggestion, from literally everywhere on this earth, was to buy some chocolate. I’m not kidding when I say I saw a car commercial heavily imply that my loved ones would abandon me if I did not purchase some chocolate (…well, and a car) for this hallowed holiday of Saint Valentine.

So there was that, but then also I would go out and buy chocolate even if someone explicitly instructed me not to. The lesson here being that I am completely lost on how I thought chocolate wasn’t going to factor heavily into my Valentine’s Day agenda.

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There was one problem, though. Most commercial chocolates are loaded with about 17 different forms of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and fillers. Low carb they are not. Think you’re safe buying sugar free? Let’s take a look at a pretty standard label for sugar free chocolate:

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Not so bad, you might say. Short list, mostly recognizable ingredients. WAIT A MINUTE –

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Charming. Maltitol: not even trying to be your friend. A lot of sugar alcohols (sorbitol, isomalt, etc.) can have this affect. Add that to some other fun facts (as summarized by About.com):

Although claims are often made that maltitol has little impact on blood sugar, this turns out not to be the case.

Maltitol is a carbohydrate. Although our bodies do not absorb all the calories in maltitol, this substance does provide us with 2 to 3 calories per gram, compared to the 4 calories per gram of sugar. Since maltitol is a carbohydrate, and since it provides calories, you would expect it to impact blood glucose.

In particular, maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52, which approaches that of table sugar at 60. The powdered form has a glycemic index of 36, which is still higher than most other sugar alcohols and all artificial sweeteners.

Estimates run from 75% to 90% of the sweetness of sugar.

So, if maltitol has ¾ of the sweetness of sugar, ¾ the calories of sugar, and ¾ the glycemic index of sugar, it isn’t a far leap to the conclusion that you need ¼ more maltitol to get the same effect of sugar.

Cool. So it’s basically expensive sugar that gives you indigestion. This is where we learn that “sugar free” ≠ “low carb”. So forgive me for being a little picky with my “sugar free” (please insert copious air quotations) options here.

I was stuck. What’s a dedicated chocoholic to do? Then suddenly, an epiphany: obviously, I needed to MAKE MY OWN TRUFFLES.

Ha! Ha ha!! Yes. HINT: Not obvious. This is actually the conclusion crazy people reach. I will be cleaning chocolate out from my fingernails for the next ten years.

But if nothing else, I am a woman of CONVICTION (read: stubborn). I could not give my loved ones chocolate-flavored corn syrup in a box, nor could I bring myself to purchase a fancily disguised laxative.

It took me about 100 years, but I finally settled on six different truffle varieties: marzipan hearts (recipe here at All Day I Dream About Food), fudgy ganache, fudgy ganache covered in MORE chocolate, peanut butter cups, cream filled, and white chocolate with strawberry buttercream. Go big or go home, I say.

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There is no real recipe here, per se. More of an EXPERIENCE. But I can share some tips (if you really must insist on going through with any of this), and let me know if you’d like me to write up a specific recipe for anything, and I SHALL PROVIDE.

FIRST: 

Use a quality sugar free chocolate. Some of my personal favorite brands include Coco Polo and Innocent Chocolate. A truffle can only taste as good as the chocolate you put into it! Same for if you opt to go the cocoa powder route – get the good stuff. IF YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES.

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SECOND:

Use a powdered sweetener for all your sweetening purposes. Chocolate is finicky. It doesn’t WANT to cooperate with you. If you need to sweeten, use a powdered sweetener to dissolve and blend better. This was especially helpful for making a sugar free white chocolate. My powdered sweetener of choice is Confectioners Swerve. You can also powder a granulated sweetener in a food processor.

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THIRD:

Use a double boiler to melt/temper chocolate on low heat. I’ve said it before, but chocolate is a jerk and wants to seize, clump or separate. For the best (and safest!) results, melt with a double boiler, and preferably not a microwave. I mean, you can make a microwave work, but it’s uneven, easier to burn, and harder to estimate doneness.

IMG_5258Dat ganache.

GODSPEED. And happy Valentine’s Day! ♥

Cinnamon Crunch Tea Cookies (Low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, there’s nothing more touching than the moment your special someone turns to you and says those three little words: “Eat this cookie.”

Because anyone that really loved you would definitely want you to eat these. That’s how you know the love is real.

And that’s what so great about Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter who your special someone is – fancy paramours, family, friends, your reflection in the mirror – we’re all allowed to embrace the gigantic amount of chocolate on sale for no reason in the middle of February. Plus: excuses to incorporate pink into food! I for one am SOLD.

Cinnamon (not chocolate for once) felt right for Valentine’s Day. Actually, cinnamon feels right for most holidays. And days. And mostly I just like putting cinnamon in everything.

Also in unrelated news, I recently had a coupon for $2 off clotted cream. And get this – my fridge appeared to have an empty space just about clotted cream jar size!! Complete coincidence.

Cinnamon (of the popular ‘Cassia’ variety) actually has a fairly long history of health benefits, too! To name a few:

Add that to a festive soiree of low carb nut flour, healthy fats, free from gluten, dairy (well, minus the clotted cream) and OF COURSE no added sugar, and we’ve got ourselves a winner!

HENCE: cinnamon crunch tea cookies. Crunchy on the outside, all sweet ‘n’ spicy – but soft and light on the inside. It practically melts in your mouth.  They taste fabulous as is, but then I went and glazed ’em. Honestly, because I wanted – no, NEEDED – pink somewhere. Add a spot of tea, a dab of jam, and a dollop of clotted cream (please do this if dairy doesn’t kill you), and you just guaranteed those three little words will lead to something even better. You know what I mean. Actually eating these cookies.

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Cinnamon Crunch Tea Cookies (Low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)

Recipe adapted from Mom’s Own Words and recommended by my friend Lindsay, who is a genius and a true visionary.

Yields: around 12-18 cookies (depending on how small or large you make them)

Ingredients: 

Cookies:
4 large egg whites, beaten until just frothy
2 cups almond flour or any nut flour (I used Honeyville walnut flour)
2/3 cup granulated sweetener (I used Swerve)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling/Topping:
2 tbsp granulated sweetener
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (more or less depending on how ~spicy~ you like it!)
1 1/2 tsp sugar free brown sugar substitute, optional (I used this)

Glaze:
1 tbsp hot water or milk of choice, more or less depending on the consistency you want
1/4 tsp vanilla, or other extracts
1 /2 cup powdered sweetener
1-1 1/2 tbsp softened cream cheese, optional (I used this dairy free spread just for kicks)
Red food coloring, optional (IS IT REALLY OPTIONAL??)

(NOT) optional, for topping:
Clotted cream
Reduced sugar/sugar free jam or jelly of choice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, and mix well to create a batter.

In a small bowl, whisk together filling ingredients. Sprinkle just under half of filling into batter and mix in, but do not fully incorporate, so that it remains streaky.

Use a tablespoon to drop 12-18 evenly spaced cookies on the lined pan. Sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until cookies begin to lightly brown and slightly bounce back at the touch.

For the glaze, whisk cream cheese (if using) and milk or water together until smooth. Beat in powdered sweetener and vanilla extract until combined. Add one or two drops of red food coloring for perfect pinkery! Pipe or spread over cooled cookies. Delicious served warm or cooled!

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Nutritional Info (As 15 servings, calculated with almond flour and glaze, and without toppings):

tea cookie nutrition

14 Healthier Recipes For Your Super Bowl Sunday (Low carb, paleo, vegan, sugar free)

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Being that I am a patriotic, warm-blooded American, it would only follow that of course I love football. I am saying this with a backdrop of the American flag billowing valiantly behind me. There is also a bald eagle.

There may be naysayers who doubt this claim, asking strange questions like “But what about the time you asked who was winning an hour and a half before the game even started?” Ha! Well – “Or what about when you asked how many quarters were in a game?” UHH I CAN EXPLAIN- “Or when you-“

ok FINE YOU CAUGHT ME AND MAYBE I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT FOOTBALL. But. I do love the Super Bowl. Wanna guess why? HINT: It starts with ‘f’ and ends with ‘ood’. GIVE UP YET?

Yes, and no one is surprised. The Super Bowl has given rise to some truly fantastic snackage over the years. And the excuse to make and inhale all of them in short order (like I even need an excuse).

It has come to my attention, however, that many are justifiably hesitant to participate in this nationalistic tradition of Super Bowl snacking, since most traditional Super Bowl fare is not exactly the epitome of healthy eating. And that just ain’t right. So here’s a little collection that covers some of our favorites: low carb, gluten free, paleo, vegan – NO ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND.

Recipe links below! And remember, with a few simple substitutions (vegan cheese products, switching out proteins, using alternative sweeteners) most of these recipes can easily be adapted to dairy free, vegan, or sugar free if not already!

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Buffalo Salmon Avocado Salad here at The M’Academia Nut

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Football Deviled Eggs at Full-Thyme Student

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Mini Bun-less Cheeseburger Bites with Thousand Island Dip from Sugar-Free Mom

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Buffalo Spiced Cocktail Nuts at All Day I Dream About Food

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Zucchini Nacho Chips from Keto Adapted

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Crunchy Cucumber Rolls with Herb Cheeze from Nutrition Stripped 

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Quick and Easy Guacamole from KetoDiet

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Loaded Mexican Nachos – Paleo Style from Primally Inspired 

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Kickin’ Chili from Peace, Love and Low Carb

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Jalapeño Popper Dip from Simply Gourmet (TIP: leave out the cracker crumbs for a lower carb topping!)

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Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding at The M’Academia Nut

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Truffles from I Breathe I’m Hungry

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse – Two Ways! from Chocolate-Covered Katie

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Cosmopolitan Jello Shots from All Day I Dream About Food 

Pumpkin Spice Butterscotch Blondies (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free)

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I think I may fit the criteria for a basic fall girl. I realized this recently while excitedly purchasing a seasonal caramel apple tea and babbling endlessly about the brisk autumn air and oversized sweaters.

Witnesses have confirmed I appeared to be wearing leggings and a puffy faux-fur lined vest at the time.

It was, then, no surprise that the notorious pumpkin spice essentially took over my entire life and has continued well into the winter, which brings us now to this fine recipe featuring all the seasonal elements you JUST MIGHT EXPECT FROM ME. You can take the girl out of the fall, but you can’t take the fall out of the girl.

But of course, with some extra credit: grain free, sugar free, low carb, easily made dairy free, with healthy fats and proteins from both almond flour and almond butter!

What we got here is some dense, gooey, butterscotch-y blondies featuring notes of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg – I regret nothing!! And actually, go make this. You probably won’t regret anything either.

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Pumpkin Spice Butterscotch Blondies (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free)

Recipe adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

Yields: around 30 squares

Ingredients: 

2 cups almond flour
2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup natural almond butter (or any mild-flavored nut butter)
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, softened (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Melt Organic Spread would also work for dairy free)
1 cup sweetener (I use Swerve)
4 large egg whites, or just under 3/4 cup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 – 1 1/2 tsp butterscotch extract (I use Frontier)
1/2 tsp liquid stevia extract (I use Sweetleaf)

Optional:
1 tbsp sugar free brown sugar substitute (like this)
1 tsp maple or molasses flavoring OR 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and salt.

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WASTE NOT.

In a large bowl, beat almond butter, butter and sweetener until smooth and well combined.

Beat in egg whites, vanilla, butterscotch and stevia extracts until well combined.

Beat in almond flour mixture until fully incorporated; spread mixture in prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a knife or an offset spatula.

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Stirring this counted as my entire year’s worth of arm reps.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes (less for a gooey consistency, more for a cakier consistency), until just set. I’ve found that the edges will be done before the center, which is fine – they’ll just be a little lighter and cakier.

Remove and let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Nutritional Info:

Calculated with 1 tbsp brown sugar substitute, without molasses.

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Raspberry Linzer Cookies AND Bars! (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free)

 

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Cookies. So classic. So RELIABLE. Every time I need to make a dessert, I think, “Cookies. So classic and so reliable. Why do I never make cookies?”

And then I make the cookies and I’m like “ok THIS is why I don’t make cookies.”

Look. It’s nothing against cookies as an actual dessert. It’s everything against the rolling and cutting and re-rolling and re-cutting and getting the thickness just right and then having to eat all the extra ones you burned (well, that part’s ok) because you decided to guess what “1/4 of an inch” actually looked like.

(………burnt cookies not featured.)

But I wanted to be like a fancy Viennese pastry chef and make those pretty little Linzer cookies – or die klassischen Linzer Augen, AS IT WERE. I also knew this would take me approximately several hundred years to do because cookies are a high-maintenance dessert and I refuse to hear otherwise.

So for those in the “aggressively lazy” camp (this is a running theme you can always expect here), I thought: what if you made Linzer cookies but instead of cookies they were bars? Ideal! And THEN I discovered I wasn’t even the first to have thought of this! Super ideal!!

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But then I made both anyway, because it was just so exciting. I don’t think that actually saved me any time, in retrospect, but it meant there was a lot of sampling and I’m ok with that.

Simple and healthy ingredients, dairy-free adaptable, perfect for the holidays and also every other day. Oh, and did I mention? LESS THAN SIX INGREDIENTS. As I always say, lassen Sie es sich schmecken!

Recipes and nutritional info for both cookies and bars below:

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Raspberry Linzer Cookies (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free adaptable)

Recipe adapted from I Breathe I’m Hungry

Yields: About 32 cookies

Ingredients: 
Cookies:
1 cup granulated sweetener (I used Swerve)
4 cups blanched almond flour
3/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Melt Organic Spread would also work for dairy free)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Filling:
1 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar raspberry preserves
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional, but helps filling set and hold together)
Powdered sweetener, for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with oil.

Combine the sweetener, almond flour, butter/oil/spread, and extracts. Stir together until a crumbly but firm dough forms.

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Roll dough out onto parchment paper until about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut using a Linzer cookie cutter or a medium round or fluted cookie cutter, then using a smaller round, heart, or star shape to cut out the center (or honestly just buy this). Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 8-12 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.

Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves filling on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cutout cookies with powdered sweetener, and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the powdered sweetener on the top.

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The Ghost of Cookies Past.

And now for your bars, as promised:

Raspberry Linzer Bars (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free adaptable)

Recipe adapted from I Breathe I’m Hungry

Yields: Around 30 squares

Ingredients: 
Crust:
1 cup granulated sweetener (I used Swerve)
4 cups blanched almond flour
3/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Melt Organic Spread would also work for dairy free)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Filling:
1 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar raspberry preserves
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional, but helps filling set)

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F and line a 9×13 with parchment paper, or spray with oil.

Combine the sweetener, almond flour, butter/oil/spread, and extracts. Stir together until a crumbly but firm dough forms. Press about 2/3 of the dough into the pan.

In a separate bowl, combine the raspberry preserves, almond extract, and xanthan gum (if using).

Spread the preserves mixture evenly over the crust, and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over the top of the preserves layer.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 28 – 30 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

 

Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into 2 inch squares. Voila!

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Nutritional Info:

As calculated with sugar free raspberry preserves:

linzer bar nutrition info

 

Seasonal Baking Extravaganza – A Preview of Upcoming Healthy/Low-Carb Recipes!

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Could anything be more exciting?! Let me explain: a veritable smörgåsbord of healthy delights awaits you in short order. An extravaganza!

 

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The aforementioned smörgåsbord and/or extravaganza.

I’ve only just now emerged from the colossal heap of disposable baking pans burying my kitchen. I feel like an avalanche survivor. And with me, I bring a trove of seasonal recipes for everyone to enjoy over the holiday, New Years, and beyond!

If you’re looking for some healthy low-carb eatin’, this lady’s got you covered. Blondies, bars ‘n’ buttercreams, tell ya what. Keep an eye out for recipes coming out over the next few weeks!

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Ah, the textures of the season.

Buffalo Salmon and Avocado Salad (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free)

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At this point in time we are going to aggressively ignore my shameful update schedule and instead focus our energy on other shameful concerns. For example: how did it take me this long to discover buffalo sauce?

I have no idea where this came from, but it’s like I got hit with a truck. Just outta nowhere. It’s been rough, guys. I can recognize a buffalo recipe on Pinterest from across the room. I’m obsessed with buffalo covered everything and no one even cares since they’ve already been enjoying their chicken dips and wings since the dawn of time.

While feverishly trying to incorporate hot sauce into everything I eat, I came across this Salmon & Avocado Salad recipe at The Healthy Foodie . With a few tweaks (aka ADDING MORE HOT SAUCE), I knew it would be an excellent vehicle to help me shovel more buffalo-type stuff in my face. And finally, a savory recipe to share! I eat that stuff, too! Not just cake! Honest!

Adding celery was key for me – I think celery legally has to be included with all buffalo dishes? Look, I don’t make the rules. But at least this time we can subtly dice it up and use it to add a little texture and crunch. Cilantro provides an excellent zip and balance for all that creamy avocado, too. This has become a staple in my fridge – I always try and have a batch available. It keeps really well!

Avocado: a little TOO photogenic.

Avocado: a little TOO photogenic.

So what makes this recipe in particular so fantastic? It’s cheap, quick, and easy for starters. (Canned or pouched salmon is almost always wild-caught!) Frankly, those three factors pretty much seal the deal for me, but it’s also – surprise!! – really GOOD FOR YOU. It’s low in carbs, high in fiber, and provides enough healthy, anti-inflammatory fats (don’t fear the fats!) to keep you satiated until the next time you’re trying to figure out how to inhale more buffalo sauce.

Buffalo Salmon & Avocado Salad

Recipe adapted from The Healthy Foodie

Yields: four servings (I have been known to eat it in less)

Ingredients: 

2 (5 oz.) pouches wild-caught salmon
1 ripe avocado
1 stalk celery, diced
2-4 tbsp chopped cilantro, or to taste
2 tbsp hot sauce (I use Frank’s Original)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Only FOUR ingredients, y'all!!!

I forgot the celery PLEASE FORGIVE ME.

Add the salmon into a bowl, and use a fork to separate it a bit. Then, add your avocado and smoosh it all right in there.

Then add all remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Feel free to add whatever other mix-ins or spices tickle your fancy! I like letting it sit in the refrigerator for a bit, so all the flavors can ~*~blend~*~, but you could also just go to town on it. Roll it in nori, put it in a lettuce cup, wrap it, press it into a 1950s jello mold (don’t do that) – whatever you like!

Adding the hot sauce does not add to the visual appeal, unfortunately. This would explain the distinct lack of pictures accompanying this recipe. :| My recommendation is to visit the original recipe on The Healthy Foodie and pretend her gorgeous photos are my gorgeous photos.

Nutritional Info:

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