Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gluten-free, low-carb Lemon Coconut Bars

Gluten-free, low-carb Lemon-Coconut-Bars

One year ago, I had my first ever lemon bar. I converted a conventional recipe into a gluten free one, and it was utterly delicious. Not low-carb, though.
So today, I decided to make my own gluten free, low carb version. It uses partly defatted almond flour for the custard. If you don't get this kind of flour, never mind: It works well with smooth white cashew butter instead!
The base is like a soft shortcrust pastry, and the custard is lemony, creamy, sweet and tart.

Here you go:

Ingredients for one 8x8 inch pan:
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (normal almond flour, i.e. finely ground blanched almonds)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup powdered erythritol or xylitol (or sugar)
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, cubed

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (this was from 4 lemons for me)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup erythritol or xylitol or sugar (or something like truvia or swerve)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid stevia (I use this one which is glycerine based)
  • 2 tablespoons partly defatted almond flour OR 2 tablespoons smooth white cashew butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour

  • Preheat static oven to 325°F or 160° C.
  • Line an 8x8 inch pan with baking paper which reaches above two sides of the pan for easier removal of the bars. Grease the other two sides of the pan.
  • Combine almond and coconut flour and flaked coconut with powdered erythritol or which ever sweetener you use.
  • Cut in the butter or margarine cubes, then work in with your hands until you have a smooth dough.
  • Press dough into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes until it is golden brown.

  • While crust is baking, juice and zest your lemons (or not, if you use bottled lemon juice...)
  • Cream together eggs and erythritol/xylitol/stevia, then add lemon juice and zest, stir well, and add flours or cashew butter and coconut flour. If necessary, use immersion blender to get the mixture smooth and without lumps.
  • When crust is golden brown, reduce temperature to 300°F or 150°C and pour custard over the crust, put back into oven and bake for another 40 minutes or until custard is set. It will remain a bit jiggly but set after cooling.
  • If you wish, sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes 5 minutes before removing from the oven.
  • Let cool and chill for about 1 hour.
  • If you wish, you can sprinkle the cake with powdered erythritol / xylitol or sugar before slicing.
  • The filling remains creamy, but gets firm enough to slice the cake.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gluten free, low carb pecan pie muffins

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Pecan Pie Muffins

American pecan pie muffins meet German grandma's Rosenthal porcelain which meets Romanian grandma's doily ...

There are two reasons why I maintain an English blog besides my German one: First, most of my foodie friends are based in English speaking countries, and second, I love this language.
I wouldn't go as far as to say that I despise my German native tongue, but yeah, it would come pretty close. Why is that?
When I made these muffins, I first planned on posting them in my German blog.
Usually the text for a post starts forming in my head while I'm still in the kitchen, stirring my cauldron and muttering arcane incantations such as "Shall I add one more tablespoon of sweetener??"
In this case, I discussed something not kitchen related with myself while putting the muffins together, so no text appeared in my mind - neither English nor German.
Only when I got them out of the oven, I thought: What a mouthwatering smell!
And that's why I'm anything but fond of my mother tongue. You cannot say "mouthwatering smell" in German because no such adjective exists. Instead of "mouthwatering smell" you have to say "at the smell of these muffins the water in my mouth runs together."
Thirteen words instead of two. THIRTEEN!!! How utterly idiotic.
And there are many more examples for short English expressions which translate into long-winded phrases in German.
That's neither on the point nor poetic, it's laborious and clumsy.
Don't get me wrong - I'm quite comfortable with German being my native tongue, because I wouldn't want to have the misfortune to be forced to learn it. Besides being laborious and clumsy, it's a difficult and illogical language.

And then there are measuring cups.
Ever since I discovered them, I've preferred them to the weighing method - I love them because I find them *way* more practical than using a scale.
Again - why that?
Just recently I came across an article about why Americans keep sticking to their measuring cup method, even though the weighing method is so much more practical.
"Rubbish," I thought, "it isn't! Cups are the best method!"
But I started to wonder and ask myself what made me think cups are more practical than a scale. From a logical point of view, they aren't. But for me, they are.
The answer actually is my way of thinking. I think visually - in pictures. If I try to imagine the amount of flour which I need for something, I cannot imagine one hundred and fifty grams. My mind is unable to make a picture out of numbers because they are abstract. But I can imagine two cups of flour, because they are tangible, they have a bodily form which I can visualize.
So if I make up a recipe, I do it with cups. And sometimes I forget to weigh what I put into the cups, and I have to write a German recipe with cups instead of grams and litres. Or post it in my English blog.

Today I was too lazy to weigh something, and my musing about the long-winded German language and my odd fondness of measuring cups made its way into the computer, so here we are.

As usual, feel free to use any sweetener you like: Sugar, Erythritol, Truvia, Swerve or Xylitol.
And as usual, feel free to up the amount of sweetener to your taste. DH and I found these muffins to be pleasantly sweet, but I know most people would double the sweetener.
The muffins are low-carb, no flour and no sugar except for the two tablespoons of maple syrup. Feel free to omit them and use more sugar, erythritol, xylitol or whatever you like instead.
For the chocolate, I used 85% chocolate sweetened with xylitol.

Ingredients for 10 muffins:
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 3.5 ounces almond flour
  • 1/8 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 tablespoon psyllium husks or ground chia seeds (or 1 teaspoon xanthan or 2 more tablespoons ground flax seeds)
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon erythritol or xylitol
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, cold
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 ounces Greek yoghurt (can be made from soy yoghurt, too: just put one pound of unflavoured soy yoghurt into a cheesecloth and let drip for some time - you'll find precise instructions via google, it's really easy to make)


  • Grind 1 cup of pecan halves. Then separate 1/3 cup of ground pecans from the rest and set aside for the topping.
  • For the batter, combine the rest of the ground pecans, the almond flour, ground flax seeds, psyllium husks (or substitute), 1/4 cup erythritol or sugar, baking powder and vanilla, mix well.
  • Chop chocolate and add to batter mixture.
  • Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of pecans.
  • In another bowl combine the 1/3 cup ground pecans with the chopped pecans, 1 tablespoon erythritol, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and the tablespoon of cold butter. If desired, add some more vanilla to the crumble mixture. Using your fingers, crumble the mixture. You will get a wet crumbly mess, that's fine.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Cream together 2 eggs, Greek yoghurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Beat at high speed for about 3 minutes until you get a slightly foamy pale yellow liquid.
  • Grease and flour 10 muffin tins or use silicon tins (I don't know if paper liners will work, but feel free to try and tell me what happened).
  • Combine egg cream with the dry batter ingredients, stir well. The batter will be quite liquid. Fill about 2/3 of the muffin tins with batter, then divide the topping between the ten tins.
  • Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes (not longer or the topping will burn!).
  • Remove the tray from the oven and let cool until the muffins are only slightly warm and feel solid to the touch. Remove from tins and let cool completely.
  • They are soft and mellow with a crunchy topping.
  • Enjoy with your favourite cup of coffee or tea!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Low-Carb Dairy-Free Green Surprise Protein Smoothie

Low-Carb Dairy-Free Green Surprise Protein Smoothie

Typing this, I feel like advertising some brand new nutritional supplement made from an as of yet unheard fruit with exotic super-powers from the Bahamas.
This is neither exotic nor new nor as of yet unheard. It's just a combination I threw together the other day, wanting to mingle local super-foods to get a glass full of protein and antioxidants.
It turned out perfect.
Somehow things use to get perfect when I just throw them together, and luckily I got accustomed to having pencil and paper ready whenever I run into the kitchen with only five minutes to put something together.
The sixth minute ends up being the minute I scribble down what I did.
Just let me tell you that broccoli (of which you know that it's good for you) looses its super-power when it gets heated too much. It's an enzyme thing. Enzymes are proteins which are not heat stable. The famous anti-cancer compound sulforaphane is inactive in the broccoli cells. It only gets activated when the tiny broccoli cells are cracked open (by chewing, for example) and come together with a specific enzyme which is hidden in other compartments of the cell. Heating destroys the enzymes, so the sulforaphane stays inactive and is useless.
If you want to use frozen broccoli and still have all the advantages of active sulforaphane, buy fresh broccoli in bulk and freeze it yourself, without blanching it. Store bought frozen broccoli is blanched at high temperatures prior to freezing, so you can assume that at least a big part of the enzymes is dead.
Admittedly, the broccoli in my picture was organic frozen broccoli which has been blanched prior to freezing. That's why the colour is so brightly green. The only fresh one I would have been able to get was non organic broccoli from Spain. There are many reasons for me not to buy conventionally grown vegetables from Spain. Basically, I just don't do it. So sometimes I have to do without all the enzymes, until I find organic fresh broccoli to freeze in bulk.
Now, why do I talk about broccoli in a *sweet* low carb protein smoothie in the first place?
Because the combination of broccoli, raspberries and blueberries is not only healthy, but also yummy, believe it or not.
Raspberries, btw, contain ellagic acid which is a strong antioxidant, too (it's in the raspberry kernels), and the blueberries contain anthocyanins, another strong antioxidant.
I do love bananas, but I don't like the tons of sugar in them, so I don't think it is really useful to use lots of bananas in smoothies. One reason why I'm no fan of green smoothies - way too many carbohydrates and not nearly enough protein.

To make this smoothie, I use vanilla flavoured and stevia sweetened plant protein. You can use neutral protein powder, too, but then you might want to add some sweetener.
I'd use either stevia or xylitol to keep the smoothie low-carb.
Also I use full fat coconut milk - fat instead of carbohydrates. If you're afraid of fat, and specifically of saturated coconut fat, I can assure you that despite the fact that I eat large amounts of it, my cholesterol is very low. The thing that raises cholesterol levels is not fat, but carbohydrates.

Now this smoothie will fill you up and keep you satisfied for a much longer time than any banana drink, because it doesn't elevate your blood sugar much and thus keep your insulin levels low.

Her we go.

  • 1 hand full of raw broccoli florets (fresh or frozen, see note above)
  • 1 hand full of raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 hand full of blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 100 ml full fat coconut milk
  • 150 ml water

  • Throw all ingredients into a blender.
  • Blend at high speed until it looks like this:

Serve and enjoy immediately!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Black Bean Mint Brownies (gluten, dairy, egg free)

Black Bean Mint Brownies (gluten, egg and dairy free)

We don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Germany, but it's fun to make things green and minty.
Specifically the minty part. I love the combination of chocolate and mint, and just today I happened to have some left over chopped pistachios for green decoration.
Actually the first time I heard of St. Patrick's Day was from my mom, back when I was a kid. I loved her stories about her college time in the 1950s, and she told me that once she visited a friend in Berlin who dated a US officer stationed there. So she had the unique occasion to spend St. Patrick's Day in an American Officer's Club. Evidently, they had the time of their life. I tried to imagine the picture, based on 1950 movies which I'd seen, and since then I was totally fond of "St. Patrick's Day".
It also happens to be the day my MIL has her name's day, too. No, not Patrick - her name is Gertrud. And the next day is DH's birthday! So, in some way we do celebrate - I think we could include good old St. Patrick, too.

These brownies turn out to be the moistest, most gooey brownies I've ever made. I know, I know, black bean brownies are starting to get old, but I'm fond of bean cakes and keep creating different versions all the time. After all, they are healthy. They're gluten free, low carb, rich in good protein and antioxidants from the beans and chocolate, no added sugar if you stick to erythritol or xylitol or stevia or a combination. My chocolate chips are sweetened with xylitol, too.
Good fat from the coconut oil and milk and a lot of fibre from the beans and the bran.
The bran which I use is ultra-fine gluten free oat bran with practically no carbs, just fibre which soak up a lot of liquid. Consequently, I had to increase the liquid from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, but I'd recommend that you start with the 1/4 cup and then go ahead if necessary.
Oh, and not to forget that they're dairy free if you use 70% chocolate chips. I'm not vegan, so I could have used eggs, but then my diet already contains a good amount of eggs, and I don't think it's too good to put them in everything you eat.
Actually I prefer eating eggs in the form of egg dishes.
Kale frittata, anybody?
Um, okay, we're talking brownies right now.
Here you go.

Ingredients for one 8x8 inch dish (I cut them into 9 big squares)
  • 15 oz. black beans, cooked (about 1 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (or other plant milk)
  • 1/8 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cashew butter (or other nut or seed butter)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup erythritol or xylitol or sugar of choice (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1/8 cup almond meal
  • 1/8 cup gluten free oat or rice bran
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • depending on the bran up to an additional 1/4 cup coconut milk (or other plant milk)
  • chopped pistachios, for decoration

  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.
  • Grease an 8x8 pan or line with parchment paper.
  • Melt 1/8 cup chocolate chips with 2 tbsp. coconut oil and 1/4 cup coconut milk.
  • Combine black beans, cashew butter, vanilla, erythritol, xylitol or sugar and blend with an immersion blender (I didn't succeed in using a regular bender or food processor, but you might try). The mixture should be as smooth as possible.
  • In another bowl combine bran, almond meal, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  • Pour wet mixture into dry and stir well to combine. You want it to be a stiff paste. If it's too tough, add some more coconut milk, until it's a stiff but smooth paste.
  • Add peppermint extract and 1/3 cup chocolate chips, mix well.
  • Pour the batter into the pan, smooth top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired.
  • Bake at 350°F / 180°C for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool before slicing and enjoy!

What's your favourite St. Patrick's Day dish?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gluten-free Vegan Chocolate Chip Bars

Gluten-free Vegan Chocolate Chip Bars

I've been playing around with fermented dough and batter lately. Not just in bread, but generally - there's no reason why you shouldn't ferment your cake batter, too.
Dough and batter with baking powder does not help break down the anti-nutrients like phytic acid in whole grains.
Phytic acid is necessary for grains to sprout; it binds minerals - which is not desirable in our organism, though, because we want to use the minerals.
Soaking and fermenting helps reduce phytic acid in whole grains. Sprouting is great, too, but actually there's no way to convince rolled oats or brown rice flour to germinate. So it's fermentation which we want for this.
I had made these chocolate chip bars several times already when I had the idea to let the dough sit overnight so that at least some fermentation could take place.
The result was terrific - the bars are so moist and yummy that I'll never make them the old way anymore!
Don't let you scare by the olive oil: You won't taste it. If you don't trust me, just use melted virgin coconut oil ;-)

So, here you got:

Ingredients for 14 small bars:
  • 3/8 cup rolled gluten free oats
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 3 tbsp. yoghurt of choice (I used soy yoghurt)
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
  • 1/8 cup soy flour
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 cup plus 1 tsp. erythritol or sugar
  • 2-5 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. yoghurt of choice
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/8 cup chocolate chips

  • In the evening, combine 3/8 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup almond meal, 3 tbsp. yoghurt, 1 tbsp. water and 1 tbsp. coconut sugar or rapadura sugar. Mix well, cover and let stand in a warm place overnight.
  • In the morning, preheat oven to 160°C or 320°F and line a 4x8 inch pan with baking paper so that the paper overlaps the rim of the pan. That makes removing the cake easier.
  • Combine soy flour, coconut flour, erythritol (or sugar), stevia to taste, vanilla, baking powder, chocolate chips and add to the fermented dough.
  • Add another tbsp. yoghurt and 4 tbsp. olive or coconut oil.
  • Mix dough well (I do it with my hands) and press evenly into prepared pan.
  • Bake at 160°C or 320°F for 30 minutes.
  • Let the cake rest in the pan until it has cooled considerably, then remove from pan and cool on a rack.
  • Wait until it's completely cool - yeah, that's hard, I know. But it crumbles less if you wait. So wait until it's completely cool before you slice it as you like.

Easy, right?

Have you ever tried Amish friendship starter or Hermann cake? Do you know a good gluten free version?