The Cheesiest Macaroni & Cheese, and Saucy Sodium Citrate Science?! (Low carb, gluten free, vegetarian adaptable)

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STORY TIME: Several years ago, I had surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. I was advised to eat softer, easy-to-chew foods while recovering. Miserable, swollen, and doped up on painkillers, I ate macaroni and cheese exclusively for every meal that week.

It was the greatest week of my life.

YOU GET IT. Mac and cheese is one of those foods that just completes me. I am definitely in the majority when I say this. It is among the finest of melty cheese delivery systems ever conceived.

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Honestly I still can’t see blue and yellow together without my brain autofilling KRAFT® MACARONI AND CHEESE. It could be dish soap. It could be the Swedish flag. It doesn’t even matter. I have been CONDITIONED.

This is probably why it took me a super long time to question the fact that everyone’s favorite cheese sauce was from a packet of day-glow orange powder. I am not going to tell you what I have since learned about this powder. I’ll just say the good news is that at least the second to last ingredient actually references cheese. After Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

Well. All right. But cheese is the # 1 ingredient of my SOUL. It stands to reason that it should also be the #1 ingredient in my cheese sauce.

IMG_5979SEND HELP.

So I did what I do best and asked the internet. And the internet provided. 

Let me tell you about the magical ingredient called sodium citrate. Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid (which occurs naturally in citrus fruits). In a cheese sauce, sodium citrate allows the proteins to become more soluble which creates a smooth emulsion without curdling.

So science science, blah blah. What’s my point? My point is that with nothing but water and just a pinch of sodium citrate, you can use literally any cheese you want and make the perfect, smooth melty cheese sauce of your dreams. We’re talking gruyere, gouda, cheddar, muenster, you name it. A nacho cheese sauce made of BRIE. The sheer possibilities are overwhelming. I am overwhelmed.

This was definitely more ideal than cheese as my #1 ingredient. This was pretty much cheese as my only ingredient. This is a pure, unadulterated cheese sauce without added thickeners, flours, or preservatives of any kind. Like homemade Velveeta, but incomparably better! Plus, mad scientist food chemistry!! SIGN ME RIGHT UP.

Sodium citrate can be easily purchased online and will last you for ages. HOWEVER: I understand that this isn’t exactly up everyone’s alley, so I’ve also provided a simple, more classic (still low-carb!) cheese sauce recipe for your macaroni and cheese needs.

To keep this low-carb and grain free, I’m using the same noodle I used in my ramen recipe – a ziti-shaped shirataki noodle. Again, you’re more than welcome to substitute in zucchini noodles (aka zoodles), kelp noodles, spaghetti squash, cabbage, or just some plain old gluten-free noodles (keeping in mind the carb count would change).

So come join me for some saucy sodium citrate science! Lab coats and safety goggles optional, but encouraged.

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The Cheesiest Mac & Cheese, and Saucy Sodium Citrate Science (Low carb, gluten free, vegetarian adaptable)

Recipe adapted from Modernist Cuisine

Yields: Around 6 servings

Ingredients:
3-4 packages of ziti or elbow shaped shirataki noodles/tofu shirataki 
11-14 grams sodium citrate (I used a scale)
Water, around 1/2 cup or just enough to dissolve the sodium citrate
3-4 cups cheese of your choice (I used a light mild cheddar)
12 oz. chicken, cooked
1 cup zucchini (or broccoli, spinach, etc), diced
1-2 tbsp grated parmesan, optional
Olive oil spray

Instructions:

If using shirataki noodles, empty bags into a colander and drain all the liquid. Rinse well under water.

Drain noodles and transfer to a hot pan without any oil, grease, or liquid. Heat on medium-high for 5-10 minutes, or until noodles release steam and shrink slightly (but not too much!).

Add diced zucchini to pan and sautee until slightly browned. Set aside.

Place water in a large saucepan, add the sodium citrate, and stir until dissolved. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Gradually add cheese to the simmering liquid, using a wire whisk to combine after each addition, until all of the cheese is melted and smooth.

IMG_6046The process of deliciousness.

TIP: If the sauce begins to separate, add a pinch more sodium citrate and a splash of water. Bring back to a boil, and continue whisking until sauce is smooth again. 

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Once the cheese sauce has reached the desired consistency, add in cooked chicken and the shirataki and zucchini mixture. Combine until evenly coated in cheese sauce.

Spray an 8″ x 11″ casserole dish with non-stick spray or olive oil. Transfer mac and cheese mixture into dish and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Place under broiler for 5-10 minutes (keep an eye on it!) until golden brown. Serve hot! (Cheese will thicken slightly as it cools.)

 

And as promised, a more traditional recipe for cheese sauce:

Recipe adapted from The Keto Kitchen

1 cup heavy cream or milk of choice (half & half, almond, coconut, etc)
2 oz neufchâtel or cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded
12 oz. chicken, cooked
1 cup zucchini, diced (or broccoli, spinach, etc)
1-2 tbsp grated parmesan, for topping
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the cream or milk to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in the cream cheese and mustard until smooth.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over the shirataki, zucchini, and chicken and stir to combine.

Spray an 8″ x 11″ casserole dish with non-stick spray or olive oil. Transfer mac and cheese mixture into dish and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Place until broiler until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot!

Nutritional Info (As calculated with shirataki, zucchini, and sodium citrate sauce):

mac n cheese nutrition

Healthy Shamrock Shake! (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, vegan)

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I have always been under the impression that there is not a single drop of Irish blood in my entire body.

But living in a country containing such rich and diverse multicultural histories, I needed to know for sure. So I decided to do some research. Where to start? I considered investigating the brittle, dog-eared pages of our aged photo albums; breaking into the library by moonlight and stealing the newspaper microforms of days past-

But that seemed like a lot of work so I just decided to ask my parents. Anyway I was right and I am not even a little bit Irish.

But!! If you thought that was going to stop me from presenting you with a traditionally green-tinted recipe celebrating our dearest Saint Patrick, THINK AGAIN.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday all around the world, and as you might imagine, each country has its own meaningful traditions and customs to celebrate. Religious ceremonies, parades, and music festivals, just to name a few.

In America, we have McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Limited time only!!

Yes, nothing fills me with a second-hand Irish glow of pride like driving past a McDonald’s at the end of February and seeing the familiar letters proclaiming: IT’S BACK. They don’t even need to say it. We know.

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So I took a look at the ingredients in a Shamrock Shake. I regretted it immediately. And then, as my train of thought usually goes: I CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS.

To be fair, the bar was set kinda low. There are approximately 700 ingredients in a Shamrock Shake. Cutting down on that isn’t hard when you can’t walk into a grocery store and pick up a fresh tub of Polysorbate 80.

But it wasn’t enough that my version be without all the junk. No, it had to also include HEALTHY STUFF. Oh yes. Time to feel extra self-righteous.

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First things first: it needed to be green. This was the perfect opportunity to include my favorite ~*~SECRET INGREDIENT~*~ which I have openly displayed in my header photo. You got it: avocado!!

shamrock1SO BEAUTIFUL I COULD WEEP.

Naturally green? Check.
Smooth, creamy texture without a dominating flavor? Check.
LOADED with several B vitamins and vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium? Check.
PACKED with fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats? CHECKI could go on. 

The rest was easy. Almond milk (for our vegan friends!), sweetener, and some natural flavor extracts, and it’s like it was meant to be. Six ingredients, guys. That’s including ICE CUBES. And just for kicks, I’ve included McDonald’s nutritional info for a small Shamrock Shake in comparison with a serving of mine below. Check it out, and gasp dramatically for hours!

So get in touch with your (BASICALLY) Irish side and celebrate St. Paddy’s Day all year round with this recipe!

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Healthy Shamrock Shake! (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe adapted from Holistically Engineered

Yields: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup powdered sweetener (I used Confectioners Swerve)
1 tsp mint or peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup ice cubes

Optional, for topping:
Homemade whipped cream (heavy whipping cream, awwww yess) or whipped coconut cream for dairy free/vegan

Instructions:

Place all ingredients except toppings into a blender and blend on high power until smooth. Divide between four fancy glasses (or honestly, don’t even share). If using, top with whipped cream or coconut cream.

Nutritional Info:

My version (if you CAN’T TELL) is on the left (calculated without optional toppings). McDonald’s nutritional info (…on the right) for a small, 12 oz. shake found here on their website.

 

 

Deconstructed Deep Dish Pizza Casserole (low carb, gluten free)

 

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Nothing brings out the absolute best in me like pizza. For the purposes of this post, “the absolute best” will be defined as “an uncontrollable, rabid animal who single-mindedly annihilates the largest amount of food in the shortest amount of time possible.”

Nothing else in the room exists until the pizza has been completely demolished. It borders on primal. Probably this goes back to when our Paleolithic ancestors roamed the earth, hunting day and night for the freshest wild mozzarella and pepperonis. It’s just evolution at work. It’s SCIENCE.

Dat melty, cheesy ooze. I need a moment. 

So while there’s an appropriate time and place for a quality (low carb or otherwise) pizza dough, my prehistoric tendencies demanded a more basic approach. Meat. Cheese. Toppings. More cheese. MORE MEAT. This would be pizza: DECONSTRUCTED.

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A lot of people seem to be under the impression that pizza could never be a low carb food. These people would be very wrong. What is pizza if not the sum of its toppings? I don’t need dough as a vehicle. I have my HANDS. And in the presence of others, begrudgingly, a fork.

That’s where this magnificent casserole comes into play. With a base of seasoned chicken sausage, LOADED with vegetables and crowned with beautifully bubbling and browned cheeses, you will be lacking for literally nothing when it comes to pizza night. Which you can now justify renaming “every night”.

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Deconstructed Deep Dish Pizza Casserole (low carb, gluten free)

Recipe adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

*I hate to leave our vegetarian or vegan friends out of the fun! If they’re part of your diet, feel free to substitute veggie versions of the protein or vegan cheese alternatives for this recipe! They’ll work just fine. 

Yields: Around 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used a ‘no salt added‘ variety)
5 links (19.5 oz.) uncooked chicken or turkey Italian sausage (I used Italian bulk chicken sausage)
1-2 tsp Italian herb seasoning (I used Penzeys – a mix of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and rosemary)
8-12 oz. fresh mushrooms, washed and cut into thick slices
1/4 cup green peppers
1/4 cup green onions/scallions
1 cup spinach
1 1/2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella)
1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
14 slices regular or turkey pepperoni, cut in half (I used this brand)
Fresh basil, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray an 8″ x 11″ casserole dish with non-stick spray or olive oil.

Pour the diced tomatoes into a colander placed in the sink. While tomatoes drain, spray olive oil/non-stick spray into a large frying pan, squeeze the sausage out of the casing, and brown over medium-high heat, breaking it apart as it cooks.

While sausage cooks, prepare other vegetables. Wash mushrooms, pat dry, and slice into thick slices. Dice green peppers and scallions.

When the sausage is done, make a layer of sausage in the bottom of the casserole dish and top with the drained tomatoes, spreading them out over the top of the sausage. Season with Italian herb spices.

Return to pan, and spray with olive oil or a non-stick spray. Add in green peppers and scallions and cook at medium high heat for around two minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid is released and the mushrooms are starting to brown. Add spinach and cook until just wilted.

Layer the mushrooms, pepper, scallion, and spinach over the sausage-tomato mixture. Cut pepperoni in half. Sprinkle the shredded Mozzarella over the top of the casserole and lay the pepperoni pieces on top of the cheese, spacing them evenly so the whole top is covered with pepperoni. Sprinkle the grated parmesan on top.

pizza8Cheese for miles.

Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. If desired, run under the broiler in the last 2-4 minutes (keep an eye on it!) to brown the cheese. Top with fresh basil, and serve hot.

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Nutritional Info (As calculated with the above ingredients):

deconstructed pizza nutrition

Super Easy Chicken Ramen; Or, What’s A Shirataki? (Low carb, gluten free, dairy free, vegan adaptable)

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I understand you may be confused by the images you are seeing right now because they do not appear to feature a dessert. Honestly, even I’m confused. That is not a picture of dessert. That is definitely soup. Right? That isn’t a dessert. 

Well, I hope you’re sitting down: all of this was…INTENTIONAL. Yes, not unlike my Buffalo Salmon and Avocado Salad, occasionally I will find myself eating something other than cake. AND HERE LIES THE PROOF.

Part of the inspiration here is how fuh-reezing it’s been lately. To be fair I have been known to define anything under 50° as ‘freezing’, but still. It’s been the perfect kind of crisp, chilly winter air I love to romanticize while actually barricading myself indoors and turning my heated blanket setting up to ‘electrocute’.

Oh, and but of course: making some simmering, savory soup. Yeeesssss.

You really can’t go wrong with ramen. Cheap, easy, and delicious. And here, as is always the promise: healthy, too! Loaded with veggies, protein, and aaall that good stuff.

To make this a low carb dish, I’ve opted to use shirataki noodles over a more traditional noodle. What on earth is shirataki, you say? Why, I’m glad you asked!

Shirataki noodles (or yamflour noodles, konjac noodles, konnyaku noodles, etc) are a thin, transparent Japanese noodle made from the gelatinous fiber of the konjac yam. As an ingredient, they’re very low in carbohydrates and calories, and have little flavor of their own. They’re available in a bunch of different shapes, too – fettucini, angel hair, elbow, etc.

You can usually find them in the refrigerated section next to the tofu – they come packaged in liquid that smells a bit fishy upon opening. A quick rinse and any kind of heating (par-boiling, stir-frying, dry-roasting etc) should clear that up. Other than that, they’re ready right out of the bag! Some kinds of shirataki are made with tofu as well, which adds a minimal amount of calories and carbs, but some people prefer the texture. If you’re watching your carbs, keep an eye out for brands that sneak in various starches and flours.

So they’re a bit of an acquired taste, for sure. But are they healthy? WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR? I’ll let the clever minds behind the Keto Diet Blog summarize:

This study shows that the soluble fibre called glucomannan found in shirataki noodles may help you lose weight and improve health. Below are the main benefits of glucomannan:

  • Soluble fiber is very low in calories and lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that is consumed.
  • It has shown to promote satiety via several mechanisms. Including shirataki noodles will keep you fuller for longer!
  • It slows down digestion which again induces satiety.
  • It inhibits carbohydrate absorption and improves glycemic parameters (lowering blood glucose levels and inhibiting insulin spikes).
  • It reduces fat and protein absorption (only beneficial for excessive calorie consumption).

Sounds good to me. But if shirataki is too far out for you, you’re not out of healthy options! Try the ever-popular zucchini noodles (aka zoodles), kelp noodles, spaghetti squash, cabbage, or just some plain old gluten-free noodles (keeping in mind the carb count would change).

While I used some of my personal favorite veggies for this recipe, feel free to substitute or add in your own favorites! For our vegetarian/vegan friends, try switching in some tofu, seitan, portobello etc. instead of chicken. The possibilities are endless!

So the sooner we get this started, the better – my heated blanket’s power cord isn’t long enough to reach the kitchen.

Super Easy Chicken Ramen (Low carb, gluten free, dairy free, vegan adaptable)

Yields: around 4 servings

Ingredients: 

2-3 packages of shirataki noodles/tofu shirataki (I used plain shirataki)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced mushroom
2 cups baby bok choy, chopped (leaves separated from stalks)
1-2 tbsp minced garlic, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt or onion salt
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
4 cups chicken stock (I used a lower sodium chicken bone broth)
1-2 cups water
4-5 tbsp gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (I used a low sodium tamari)
12 oz. chicken, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup shredded or coined carrots
1/4 cup green onion, diced

Optional, for topping:
Nori (seaweed)
Boiled egg
Sriracha

Directions:

If using shirataki noodles, empty bags into a colander and drain all the liquid. Rinse well under water.

Drain noodles and transfer to a hot pan without any oil, grease, or liquid. Heat on medium-high for 5-10 minutes, or until noodles release steam and shrink slightly (but not too much!). Set aside.

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add minced garlic and heat until fragrant. Add mushrooms and bok choy stalks and sauté until they just begin to soften and release water. Add powdered ginger, black pepper, salt, and chili powder. Stir to combine.

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Add in chicken stock/bone broth, water, and tamari. Add in the rest of the bok choy leaves. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Add in shirataki noodles and cooked chicken. Simmer for 1-2 minutes more – shirataki noodles are great at absorbing flavors!

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Remove from heat and pour into bowls. Top with diced green onion, carrots, and anything else you’d like! Devour, and then crawl back under your comforter.

 

Nutritional Info (calculated without optional toppings):

ramen nutrition info

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:

simply lite whole label

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.

IMG_5330Yes excellent this will do nicely 

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)

Super Bowl Collage

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.