Food These Days

A post from my green blog, but I thought it was pertinent here, too, what with all the modern food being much higher in sugar than its ancestors.

Green Me Up, Scotty!

I wanted to pass on an article I read in the New York Times on Breeding the Nutrition out of our Food. It’s a little discouraging, but it’s something we should all know… So give it a read.

For a little teaser, have a look at their infographic below (click on it for the source URL of the graphic, the article is here).

On an up note, our CSA (community supported agriculture) Plan B Organic Farms grows some of the old breeds, like purple carrots and purple potatoes, and often include arugula and other dark green leafies, which is encouraging.

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low-carb chicken taco

Sorry for the gap in posts. I’ve been actively blogging the 30×30 Nature Challenge  from on my green blog over here for the past month. I do have a couple of posts in mind, though, so let’s get started with tacos.

I had a hankering a couple of weeks ago for Tex-Mex and searched online for a low-carb tortilla recipe. After looking at several, I decided to go with this one from, because it seemed the least complicated. I used half the recipe and made 8 small tortillas, but they weren’t very malleable so I changed tack and went with tacos instead, and they worked rather well! We didn’t have any soy protein powder, so I used plain whey protein isolate. I found that it was way too much water, so I would suggest just adding water until a ball forms, however this is likely because of the soy/whey substitution. (After I had added way too much water, I added more almond flour and whey protein isolate until it seemed the right consistency.)

Anyway, it was such a success, I did it again this past week again.

Lynn’s Mud Pie (dark chocolate and orange with nut crust)

Lynn's no added sugar gluten-free mud pie slice

© Owen Lewery 2013

Have I mentioned that I love chocolate? We use sweetened chocolate, but it’s generally very dark, and if we use semi-sweet chocolate, then we mix it half and half with unsweetened chocolate to bring down the carb count and bring up the cocoa count.

I used to (in the early 1990s) work in a restaurant in Vancouver that made a delicious mud pie, and I’ve recently been craving it. So I decided I’d try something similar, but without the sugary cookie crust and overly sweet filling. I’ve had a few goes, the first couple of times using Dana Carpender’s hazelnut crust from 500 Low Carb Recipes. That is a delicious crust, but I’ve always found it a bit too crumbly for my liking. Also, I don’t love having to buy specialty ingredients like Vanilla Whey Protein Isolate Powder. Not everyone has that stuff around.

So the last time I made it, I made a change and used vanilla extract, and it actually turned out better! It holds together much better.

Notes/updates are at the bottom about variations. It’s a pretty flexible recipe.

Note: A tart pan (shown below) is best for this recipe, as it’s not a very deep pie, but a pie pan or small springform will work fine if you don’t have one.

Lynn’s Mud Pie

gluten-free sugar-free hazelnut crust

© Owen Lewery 2013

Hazelnut crust

  • 200g / 1.5 cups hazelnuts
  • 56 g / 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Pulse hazelnuts in food processor until they are ground to medium-fine texture. Add vanilla and melted butter, and pulse to combine.
  3. Grease a tart pan, pie plate, or springform pan, and press mixture firmly and evenly into pan. Build it up the sides a bit, and if you’re using a springform pan, be sure to cover the seam around the bottom. Take a fork and poke a few holes in the bottom.
  4. Place crust in preheated oven on bottom rack and bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and let cool while you make filling.

Dark chocolate orange filling

I have two bowls ready, one that will sit inside the other. Prepare an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water into the bigger bowl. I use the smaller bowl on a pot for my double boiler. If you’re using a double boiler, make sure the inner pot fits in your ice bath, or you’ll just have to pour the melted chocolate into your smaller bowl before whisking.

  • 260 g extra dark (85%) chocolate, broken in pieces
  • 210 ml water
  • peel of 1 orange, finely grated (this is approximately 1 tablespoon. Also,who knew? The USDA nutrient database lists orange peel here! I counted it as 20 g in my nutrition data below, just to be safe)
  1. Melt chocolate and water in a double boiler, stirring frequently, until smooth.

    whisking chocolate

    © Owen Lewery 2013

  2. Move the bowl of chocolate (or the top of double boiler) to your ice bath. Add the orange peel and vanilla and mix well.
  3. Whisk just until you start to see lines in your chocolate (2 minutes or so – see photo right). You can also do this with an electric mixer. It should thicken a bit but you should still be able to pour it.

    pouring chocolate into gluten-free sugar-free hazelnut crust

    © Owen Lewery 2013

  4. Pour into your crust.
  5. Refrigerate at least an hour or 2 before serving.

Why orange peel? Because when I serve this to folks who are used to really sweet desserts, they need something to distract them from the fact that this isn’t overly sweet. And the delicious orange zest does just that. This has been very well-received by my 13 year old nephew, as well as many friends and family, so non-low-carb folks take heart and give this rich low-sugar, gluten-free deliciousness a try!

Nutrition data for 1/10 of the pie:

Calories: 317.69
Protein: 5.47 g
Fat: 28.1 g
Net Carbs: 7.69 g

UPDATE MAY 11, 2013: 

I made the crust with coconut oil last night and it works just as well as with butter. Also, I ran out of hazelnuts and made the crust half hazelnuts and half almonds and it was great.

Coconut Porridge!

low-carb coconut flax gluten-free sugar-free oatmeal

I don’t remember how I got to this recipe for coconut porridge, but I think it may have started on Pinterest and ended with a duckduckgo search.

In any case, it was intriguing enough to try, and I gave it a go this morning, and it was pretty darn good! I used almond milk instead of the coconut milk and added a few blueberries for colour and a little sweetness instead of the suggested honey. If you check out the comments on the linked recipe’s post, people have varied it and added different spices (cinnamon, pumpkin spices) used chia for the flax or almond flour, and one person used hazelnut meal instead of almonds, which I am definitely going to have to try.

One more cereal (because I do love cereal) to add to the master breakfast list! And we can all use a little more flax seed, can’t we?

Oh, and I haven’t worked out the nutrition data, but as it’s only flax seed, almonds, unsweetened coconut, coconut milk, and a teaspoon or two of blueberries, I think it’s pretty good. There are carbs in there, but there’s also a lot of fibre. (Click on any of those ingredients for links to the USDA nutrient database entry for them.)

Chocolate cake

gluten free no added sugar low-carb chocolate cake

So we’ve been doing this low carb thing for around a year now, which means we’ve had a few birthdays. I’ve been trying to perfect the birthday cake and I think I finally got it. We have tried it out on family and friends and the non-low-carbers enjoy it as well.

But before I get to that recipe I’d like to just let you know how it’s going and what we are doing in our diet. Basically, I’m not really counting carbohydrates anymore. I cut out added sugar (and honey and maple syrup – it all hits the bloodstream with the same effect) with the exception of what’s in dark (70% and up) chocolate. We cut out white flour (including pasta, but we love mockeroni cheese from Rose Eliot’s cookbook and pasta-free lasagna). I was never big on rice (but I love riced cauliflower) but the kids still eat it. We eat all veggies (even the carby ones like sweet potatoes, potatoes and squash), and, obviously, fruit. We don’t drink juice, but we haven’t for years (or not since I found out when I had gestational diabetes that fruit juices have as much sugar in them as pop, and no fibre to slow down the absorption like the whole fruit does). Our bread intake is minimal. My husband has tried a few of the low-carb wheat free “breads” but they are really more like cakes. Every once in a while, I crave his pain ordinaire – fresh out of the oven with a good slathering of butter. (Actually, in recent years he changed up that recipe to a live starter and half wheat.) I lost 15 pounds, although it comes back quickly when I go away for the weekend and eat whatever my host is serving for a few days (you forget how much pasta, bread, chips, crackers, and sugary desserts people generally eat). It goes away quickly once I get back home and on track again. My guilty pleasure is buttered popcorn a once or twice a month.

Basically, we don’t eat processed foods (but friends can tell you that we didn’t before either), sugar, or flour. We like our treats, but have managed to tame the sweet tooth we all have, although it took a few months for me (a bar of 80% dark chocolate saved me there when I got sweet cravings. Just a single square was enough.) and longer for my eldest.

So, back to the chocolate cake, which everybody could use every once in a while. It’s not exactly low-carb, but it is lower carb, and it is delicious.

Lynn’s (fruit sweetened, wheat free) Chocolate Cake

  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups almond flour – I use our dehydrated almond flour (by-product of making our own almond milk) but the last time I tried a mix of 2 cups of freshly ground almonds plus 2 tablespoons of coconut flour and it worked out great
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt

Beat wet (first five) ingredients.
Mix dry ingredients separately.
Add dry to wet and mix. Pour into a greased cake pan (we use our 9″ cheesecake ring for easy access).
Bake at 325F for 30-45 min or when knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool then glaze with dark chocolate ganache (see below).

Dark chocolate ganache:

  • 2.5 oz (70 g) bittersweet (70% cocoa) chocolate
  • 1/2 oz (14 g) unsweetened chocolate
  • 80-90 ml full cream

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium to low heat, then lower the heat (or if it’s at the lowest, remove from heat) and add the cream, whisking until smooth. Glaze cooled cake.

The nutrition info all depends, literally, on how you slice it. We cut pretty small. I’m guessing 14 slices in total but I’ll make note of it next time.

Without ganache – 1/14 of cake:

Calories: 308.9
Protein: 8.7 g
Fat: 26.2 g
Net Carbs: 10 g

With ganache (which I calculated as 80% dark chocolate since I had that in my database and I didn’t have 70% or unsweetened) – 1/14 of cake:

Calories: 366.33
Protein: 9.3 g
Fat: 31.2 g
Net Carbs: 12 g

Update March 20, 2013:

Just a quick note to let you know that this works well when making crazy theme cakes as well. Below is my husband’s race car cake for my son’s most recent birthday. I believe the icing was a cream cheese icing. And we break out the food dye on the boys’ birthdays.

Race car low carb gluten free birthday cake

Race car low carb gluten free birthday cake!

Breakfast Cookies

gluten free sugar free breakfast cookies

A friend pinned this recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies by The Girl Who Went Paleo on Pinterest and said she would cut the honey in half as they were very sweet so I thought I’d give it a try without the honey. They are delicious! They would be a perfect breakfast to bring when you are travelling. Make a batch and they’d last a week or so. They are also great as a not-s0-sweet snack anytime.

I made 20 cookies. I also edited the recipe slightly so my ingredients were as follows:

  • 1/4 cup puréed cooked sweet potato (I didn’t have any pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • pinch salt

With the ingredients above, and if I had divided it into 12 large cookies, as the recipe suggests, the nutrition facts per serving (1/12 of recipe) are:

Calories:  159.6
Protein: 4.88 g
Fat: 12.8 g
Net Carbohydrates: 6.2 g

(And if you don’t want to bother following the link to the original recipe, bake 10-15 minutes at 350F.)

More low carb cookies!

Ever in the search for the perfect lower carb cookies for my kids, I tried the Wheat Belly Cookbook Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. But there is some confusion in there as a note at the bottom refers to omitting coconut flour that isn’t actually listed in the recipe (the wheat belly blog claims this mistake is only in the ebook but they are mistaken. It’s definitely in the paperback version.). The recipe does, however, list peanut flour. As I didn’t have any peanut flour, I used coconut flour instead. Also, I hate stevia aftertaste so I didn’t use the stevia. And they were delicious!

However, we have lots of friends who are allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts. But none of them are allergic to coconut or almonds. So the next time I made the recipe, I made them Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and changed several of the ingredients, using the following:
Low carb no added sugar no dairy gluten free Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 200 g almonds, ground
  • 70 g coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 260 g natural almond butter (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 c almond milk (plain, unsweetened)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170 g bittersweet chocolate chips

(It’s the usual cookie recipe: mix wet and dry separately, then mix all together, bake 15-20 minutes at 350F.)

I also rolled them into balls and flattened them, and they turned out crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The perfect cookie consistency in a gluten-free, dairy-free (but not egg-free), peanut-free, low-carb cookie! I think the combination of coconut flour, almond butter, and the vanilla makes them naturally taste sweet without the sugar. Next I’ll try with half chocolate chips and half cacao nibs.

Davis lists the original recipe as making 20 cookies, but I easily made double that (apparently I make my cookies very small). If we go with dividing this recipe into 20, the nutrition facts are:

Per serving (1/20 of recipe):

Calories 206.76
Protein 5.9 g
Fat 15.62 g
Net Carbs (carbohydrates less fibre) 8.69 g

I also tried the Gingerbread Cookies recipe in the book, but they weren’t as good. However, I’m working on that myself so I’ll post when that’s ready.