Classic Hamantaschen (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar, dairy free)

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With all the accidental Lenten festivities going on last week, it only seemed right to include some other theological treats in the fun. And with Purim right around the corner, what better than a makeover of the classic hamantaschen cookie?

Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a huge jerk that planned to murder all of them because he didn’t like one guy in particular. Hamantaschen are a traditional filled pastry folded into a triangle, generally thought to be referencing Haman’s three-pointed hat. Eating the hat of your enemies: APPROVED.

Now I have seen recipes for hamantaschen that put this one to shame – red velvet, brownie-filled, funfetti-cheesecake hamantaschen – but what’s the hurry? Build up to those, I say. Let’s start with the classics.

Well, classically, hamantaschen are filled with a variety of sweet fillings, like poppy seed (the oldest and most traditional variety), apricot, raspberry, raisins, fruit preserves, cherry, fig, chocolate, or even caramel or cheese.

Being a cheap lady of distinguished taste and discretion, I opted for apricot and raspberry as my fillings of choice, also because I already had a jar of each. (But THAT was because those two are the best fillings for anything, so really it all comes full circle.)

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I acknowledge that for someone who hates making cookies as much as I do, I am doing an EXCELLENT job at finding recipes to make them at every opportunity. That being said, these are pretty painless in terms of effort, even though they look so fancy. I promise! I’ve included pictures on how to fold them and everything!

With some simple substitutions for flour and sweetener, it was almost TOO easy to create an authentic hamantaschen minus all the wheaty-ness, sugary-ness, and gluten…ness. Plus, this is a cultural learning experience! This way, we all win.

Come, let us nosh.

Classic Hamantaschen (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar, dairy free)

Recipe adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

Yields: About 15 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup sweetener
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white, or about 2-3 tbsp egg white
2 1/2 tbsp butter or dairy-free spread, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp stevia extract
1/4 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar raspberry preserves
1/4 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar apricot preserves

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine almond flour, sweetener, and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg white, vanilla and stevia extracts, and melted butter or dairy-free spread, and stir until dough comes together.

Always make a tiny version of the thing you are making when the opportunity presents itself.

Roll out dough onto a large piece of parchment paper. Using another large piece of parchment on top, roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out rounds using (no smaller than) a 3 inch round cookie cutter.

Using a spatula or knife, very gently loosen rounds from parchment and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Re-roll dough and cut out more rounds as necessary, until dough runs out. Spoon about 3/4 tsp of either raspberry or apricot preserves into the center of each circle.

Fold the dough in from three sides and firmly pinch the corners. The dough will be delicate, so don’t worry if you find yourself patching up little tears and cracks along the way.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Remove and let cool completely before attempting to transfer to any other plate/dish. Nosh away!

Nutritional Info (Calculated with dairy-free spread and sugar-free preserves):

hamantaschen nutrition

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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

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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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.