Sugar Free Almond Coconut Cupcakes

For my birthday last week I adapted a recipe I found online for almond coconut cake. It’s the most successful grain free, sugar free cake I’ve ever made. The texture is light and fluffy, the flavor is buttery and sweet with a hint of almond. I had it with previously frozen blueberries for breakfast and with fresh raspberries and real whipped cream for dessert after dinner.

Almond coconut cake

I again used Pyure brand pre-blended stevia extract and erythritol and am still very happy with it’s performance. A word of caution, though, don’t buy the baking blend which has added maltodextrin and measures 1:1  with sugar rather than 2:1. With stevia and erythritol blends, less is more. Truvia also is a stevia extract/erythritol blend. Making your own is also easy if you buy granulated erythritol and powdered stevia extract. Until I found the Pyure stevia blend, I made my own.  1/2 cup erythritol + 1/2 tsp stevia extract = 1 cup sugar = 1/2 cup stevia/erythritol blend.

I used giant muffin tins to bake these cupcakes in and greased them with a liberal coat of coconut oil so I didn’t need paper cupcake wrappers. The thick batter filled the cups about 3/4 of the way full. I used the back of a spoon even out the top of the batter and push the batter down into the cups. It made 6 perfect large cupcakes. If baking in a 8″ or 9″ round or square cake pan, bake for 45-60 minutes and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

I use the scoop and press method for measuring my almond flour. It yields more flour than the fluff and spoon method but I find it works best for my recipes.

1 1/2 cups extra fine milled almond
3/4 cups cold butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into thick slices
1/2 cup stevia/erythritol blend
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond milk
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease the cups of a muffin tin with softened coconut oil or butter. In a large mixing bowl, cream cold butter and stevia/erythritol blend. Add one egg at a time, blending well before adding the next egg. Add the rest of the ingredients, leaving the mixer running the entire time, if possible. Mix until batter is well combined, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, level the batter with the back of a spoon, and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly brown and slightly cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove them from the tin.

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Coconut Mango Popsicles

It’s supposed to be over 90°F here the next few days so in preparation I made dairy free, sugar free popsicles. I used Pyure brand Organic Stevia, a stevia/erythritol blend, I found at my local Walmart as the sweetener. It’s nearly same ratio of stevia extract to erythritol I use in my baking but I only need to buy one product instead of two. Decrease the stevia blend by half if you leave out the lime juice. I used the “glass method” for peeling the mangos and it worked pretty well but was a little messy. It involves using the edge of a drinking glass to separate the flesh of a mango from the skin. You can find videos online if you’re interested.

This recipe made 12 1/3 cup sized popsicles. It’ll make more or less depending on the size of your molds, the mangos, and the coconut milk (cans variety in size between 13.5-14oz).

1 can full fat coconut milk

2 mangos, peeled and diced

1/4 cup stevia/erythritol blend

Juice of one lime

Add all ingredients into the large cup of a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight before eating. Run hot water on the outside of the molds to make removal of the popsicles easier.

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Green Banana Mango Smoothie

Last fall I made huge changes to my eating style: fruit smoothies for breakfast, 2 tablespoons of light olive oil in a few ounces of water for lunch, and roasted vegetables with 3-4 ounces of protein for dinner. I lost weight, had more energy than I’d had in years, and felt great until three months into it when my neuropathy returned in part because I wasn’t eating quite enough protein or nutrients. My blood glucose levels were also elevated. I’m now trying to return to that diet but with a few major changes: less carbohydrates and more protein.

Bananas were the base of my fruit smoothies but they’re very high is carbohydrates and sugar. A little research showed that unripe (green) bananas are high is resistant starch but not sugar. Resistant starch doesn’t affect blood glucose levels like other carbohydrates. Green bananas aren’t the tastiest fruit, though. They are used much like their cousin the plantain in many parts of the world. They’re fried, boiled, and sometimes used in curries. That gave me the idea for this smoothie. I choose the other ingredients for their flavor or nutrient values. It’s a little more savory than most smoothies but it tastes good and is nutritious. The turmeric in yellow curry powder is supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and cinnamon improves blood glucose levels. I also add my liquid iron supplement to the smoothie.

Chia seed meal could be used instead of flaxseed meal, both are high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seed protein powder can be used instead of hempseed protein powder, both are complete proteins. And coconut milk can be used instead of almond milk, I just keep almond milk on hand.

1 unripe banana, sliced
1 cup frozen mango, diced
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
1 Tbs hempseed protein powder
1 tsp mild yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
dash of ground cloves

Add all ingredients in the cup of a blender. Blend until smooth and serve.

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Sugar Free Almond Teff Banana Muffins

Teff is the newest flour I’m experimenting with for baking. It has a slight flavor of toasted almonds and pairs beautifully with the almond flour and almond extract in this recipe. I added a teaspoon of molasses to give the erythritol and stevia blend the deeper flavor of brown sugar. These muffins have a great texture and freeze well.

1 cup almond flour
1 cup teff flour
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup erythritol
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 Tbs flaxseed meal
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp stevia extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350*F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Mash bananas with a fork and put in a medium bowl along with the coconut oil, erythritol, molasses, and stevia extract. Cream ingredients together with an electric or stand mixer until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk them together. Add a third of the dry ingredients and one egg to the banana, oil, and sweetener mixture. Blend together until well combined. Slowly add the rest of the dry ingredients, the other egg, almond extract, and almond milk until the batter is smooth. Ladle the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool 15-20 minutes before serving.

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Pumpkin Stuffed with Turkey, Pears, and Cranberries

I picked up some gorgeous sugar pumpkins and winter squash from my mom’s garden last month. The first thing I made was this stuffed pumpkin. It was perfect. It has all the flavors and smells of a harvest meal. It’d make an impressive looking dinner party or potluck dish. To serve it, I sliced it in wedges and once plated, removed the peeling and cut the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces. The only thing really missing was a sauce so I recommend making turkey gravy to serve with it.

I used pears because that’s what I had on hand but apples would work just as well. I had a sunflower and pumpkin seed mix but one or the other would work. To remove the seeds and other innards of the pumpkin, I use a serrated grapefruit spoon. It cleans all the strings off the sides of the pumpkin better than anything else I’ve used.

As usual I forgot to weigh or measure the pumpkin. It fit snugly in my 9″ across round baking dish if that helps.

1 sugar pumpkin (about 9″ across), washed, stem end cut off, and seeds removed
1 lb ground turkey
2 pears, cored and diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbs grapeseed oil
2 Tbs fresh sage leaves, minced (2 tsp dried)
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, minced (1 tsp dried)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, destemmed (1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350*F. Prepare a deep sided baking dish with a roasting rack and half an inch of water. Saute onion, garlic, and grapeseed oil until the onion is translucent. Add the ground turkey, cranberries, pears, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until the turkey is cooked through. Stir in the sunflower seeds and pepitas. Stuff the turkey mixture into the pumpkin, leaving room to put the top back on the pumpkin. Put the pumpkin on the roasting rack and tent it with foil. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft when stuck with a fork. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before moving the pumpkin to a plate or serving platter, removing the top, and cutting into wedges.

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Dairy Free Bacon Pumpkin Soup

Autumn is my favorite time of year and one of the things I love about it is the huge bounty of winter squashes and pumpkins available in the markets. I titled this pumpkin soup but I used a beautiful orange squash from my mom’s garden. I think it’s an orange hubbard squash but don’t quote me on that.
Hubbard Squash

Breaking down a winter squash or pumpkin can be challenging. I use the method for peeling and cutting melons and pineapples I learned long ago at my first job after college at a salad bar. Cut the stem and flower ends off the squash. Set one end firmly on a cutting board and working from top to bottom with a large chef’s knife, cut the peeling off in strips, working your way all around the vegetable. Once the peeling is removed, cut in half, remove the seeds (save them to toast later), and dice the rest of the squash. Removing the peeling first with this method is easier than trying to cut all the way through a hard shelled squash.

This soup was conceived as an alternative to creamy potato soup with fewer carbs and more nutrients. I’m impressed by how well it turned out. I used an immersion blender to puree the soup but it can be pureed in batches in a food processor or standard blender, too. I guesstimated at how many cups of squash I used since I forgot to weigh it before I cut into it or measure it before dropping it in the soup pot. I didn’t add salt to the recipe since the bacon supplied enough. If you use reduced salt bacon, you may need to add a teaspoon or more. Coconut milk is optional but I like the added creaminess.

6 cups of chicken stock or water
5 cups squash, rough chopped
1/4 lb bacon, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 14oz can coconut milk, optional

In a large stockpot, saute the bacon until the fat is rendered, stirring often. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add carrots, celery, squash, chicken stock, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for at least an hour until all the veggies are soft. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Puree and serve.

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Marinated Artichoke Heart Salad

I’ve made this twice recently, serving it with lamb shoulder blade steak. I love the Greek inspired flavors and using the oven dried cherry tomatoes from my garden. I used the olive oil I preserved the cherry tomatoes in and saved the rest to turn into a salad dressing later.

Artichokes are a staple in my diet and when I can’t get fresh ones I buy frozen artichoke hearts. I used one box of frozen then thawed artichoke hearts for this recipe. If you haven’t bought them they’re worth looking for.

This salad can be served as is or mixed with greens for a more substantial salad. Feta cheese crumbles would also be a nice addition.

8oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup oven dried cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt

Combine artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, thyme, and salt together. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Stir until all the vegetables are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

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