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

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.

 

 

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 –

simply lite close up

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! ♥

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 

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:

aerialinzer

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

 

Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, paleo, vegan)

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Do you see what has been artfully spread on a charming tablecloth in the picture above. 

THAT’S RIGHT.

CHIA SEEDS.

Sara always keeps her promises. (note: Sara is me.)

(addendum to note: this is still not actually the chia seed recipe my sister requested I’M SORRY I’M GONNA GET IT RIGHT EVENTUALLY)

Let me teach you the way of the chia seed. 

These are indeed the very same chia of the ch-ch-ch-chia pet fame. And they’re just fantastic. They’re these tiny little powerhouses of nutrition and versatility, and I haven’t even come close to unlocking their full potential yet as an ingredient. In fact: preliminary research hasn’t not shown that eating chia seeds on a regular basis makes you better than everyone else.* 

On their own, chia seeds taste pretty neutral, so they can work in both savory and sweet applications. Throw ’em on a salad, in a smoothie, your cereal, yogurt, even as an egg substitute for vegan-types!

Or you could make pudding with them.

It's a TABLEAU.

It’s a TABLEAU.

Among many other delightful qualities, chia seeds are loaded with fiber. And it’s thanks to this fiber that helps chia seeds absorb any liquid you mix it with and form a pudding-like gel. I learned this from the google and also real-life application, so I’m qualified to speak on this.

This pudding is yet another incredibly low maintenance recipe for all of those out there like myself who enjoy throwing things into a bowl and then walking away. This also isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, so that can also be adjusted according to preference. PLUS the options for different flavor combinations is endless! Throw in some chocolate, nut butters, pumpkin, coconut, whatever. Go wild. I won’t hold you back.

Because I am apparently only capable of making recipes containing cinnamon, vanilla, and almond in some capacity, I went ahead and made some vanilla cinnamon chia seed pudding with almond milk.

Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding

Original recipe from an edible mosaic

Yields: four 1/2 cup servings

Ingredients: 

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
6 tbsp chia seeds
1-2 packets stevia/choice of sweetener to taste (I use SweetLeaf Stevia)
4-8 drops liquid vanilla stevia, or to taste (…also SweetLeaf no they aren’t paying me BUT THEY SHOULD)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
teeny pinch of salt

Directions:

The lineup.

The lineup.

Add all ingredients into a bowl, and stir to combine.

Action shot!!!!!

Action shot!!!!!

I know. It’s going to seem like the cinnamon will never want to mix in. But you just have to believe. 

~*~BELIEVE~*~

~*~JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF~*~

Good enough. Then, let the chia seeds work their mysterious and exotic magic and refrigerate until pudding thickens, at least 2 hours or overnight. Feel free to pop in and stir occasionally.

Then, place into fancy dishes (not optional) and be sure to sprinkle various ingredients all over your table so everyone knows that you are better than them for eating chia seeds.*

"I ate this, and I'm better than you" -you

“Statistics don’t not show that I am better than you for eating this ” -you

And enjoy!
*Source: Authority for the Creation of Deceptively Phrased Facts About Chia Seeds

Nutritional Info:

Calculated with stevia. Dat FIBER.
ChiaSeedPudding NutritionLabel