Almond Flour: Where Have You Been All My Life?

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I love baking. LOVE it. I love changing recipes, adding veggies and beans to cakes and brownies, tricking my family with nutrient-rich chocolate chip cookies, making the house smell a bakery, and I get giddy when I’m declared the best mom ever for feeding my tribe secretly healthy desserts.

Now, as some of you know, my son Jake has type 1 diabetes. He’s nearly 7 years old and also happens to be one of my pickiest eaters. This stinks (in a non-bakery nice smelling way) because I’ll make or bake something that has lots of healthy protein from hemp seeds or chia seeds, is low in white carbs, and will be perfect for preventing roller coaster blood sugars, and everyone will love it but him. Makes me CRAZY!!!

Until finally…. the stars aligned and I was clued into Simple Mills gluten-free, handful-of-natural-ingredient baking mixes based on almond flour. Not the crunchy, coarse almond meal that was in my fridge, but a fine, delicate, rare gem-quality flour made from blanched almonds. The Simple Mills mixes are pricey, so after I tried making one of each of their offerings, I decided that all I really needed to do was replace regular flour with almond flour in my favorite (and Jake’s favorite) recipes. This is why:

almond-flour-table

Almost 1/4 the carbs, 6 times the fiber (so 1/7th the net carbs) and twice as much protein. I knew right away that if this simple substitution worked, I would have discovered the Holy Grail of diabetic baking.

So. I learned that Jake doesn’t care for pumpkin anything (no son of mine). But, if chocolate chips are involved, he’s all in (definitely my child!). I’ve redone my famous marriage-inducing and TJ’s-published Chocolate Things recipe, with Jake, health, and flatline blood sugars in mind. Now presenting!:

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Chocolate Things: Almond Flour Version

Makes 9 large squares

This is a lower carb, lower sugar, higher protein version of my classic “Chocolate Things.” It may look like there’s a bizarre combo of sweeteners. There is! While I tried to make these 100% sugar-free, too much erythritol or stevia gave them a not-so-funky funk. Feel free to replace the erythritol, sugar, and maple syrup with 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 teaspoon maple extract (optional).

2 cups fine almond flour (like Bob’s on Amazon here)
1/2 cup white, wheat, or oat flour (blend gluten-free rolled oats to make oat flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp iodized salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal
2 Tbsp Swerve (erythritol)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lite maple syrup (like Wholesome! brand with 33 g carbs per 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup melted Smart Balance, Earth Balance, or other non-hydrogenated margarine
3 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened soymilk or other nondairy milk
1/2 cup (100 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour and spread into a lightly greased 9 x 9-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Per square: 21 g total carbs, 4 grams fiber (17 g net carbs), 7 grams protein

And here is Jake’s blood sugar graph after eating one of these sweet little thangs at 10am. No spike! And no crash! We did it!

Let me know how almond flour works for you. It’s been a baking lifesaver for us.

xo

Jen

Breakfast in Dessert Clothes

Choc Chip Protein

If you’re a busy parent, busy person, or night owl, this is one of the best quick breakfasts that has ever come out of my Bitchin’ Kitchen. Make a batch on a slow morning or weekend, freeze individual portions, and booyah! when the natives (or you) get restless and hungry. I went into the kitchen with my lab coat on specifically trying to invent a lower-carb, higher-protein, cravey (crave-able?) breakfast for my type 1 diabetic 5 year-old in prep for his upcoming kindergarten year — using stevia-sweetened protein powder to both boost and sweeten it. But now, we have something that is a family staple for the whole team. Best thing is, it tastes like dessert! Why not get the chocolate river flowing first thing in the morning? You only live once!

Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars
Makes 12 large bars
325 degrees, 40 minutes

WET INGREDIENTS: Stir to combine
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup milk (I use vanilla soy)
1/4 vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

DRY INGREDIENTS: Sift together in a separate bowl
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 scoop Plantfusion protein powder or other protein powder providing ~20 grams protein per scoop

COMBINE WET & DRY, THEN STIR IN:
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal, or ground or whole chia seeds
1/4 cup hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds, ok to use other seeds or leave out)
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9X9-inch pan.

Stir to combine wet ingredients in a large bowl, and in a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine, and then stir in flax, hemp seeds, and chocolate chips.

Bake in a 9X9-inch pan for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

NUTRITION FACTS PER BAR: 227 calories, 8.5 g fat, 32 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 6 g protein, 9% daily iron.

Sweet Potato Mashup: A Thanksgiving Must

Sweet Potato Mash

Sweet Potato Mashup

Hate to admit it, but sweet potato mush is the one thing I continue to pass at the Thanksgiving feast. Even with its beta-carotene-rich orange goodness, it just doesn’t tickle my tofu.

Until now.

Determined to one day fall in love with denture-friendly sweet potatoes (of course sweet potato fries have always been a favorite), and inspired by Kathy’s Famous Sweet Potato Mash, it has happened. I am in love with this sweet potato mush!

Sweet Potato Mashup
Makes 5-6 cups (about 10 ½-cup servings)

2 large sweet potatoes, baked or boiled
1 cup vidalia onion, chopped

1/3 cup garlic hummus
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh tangerine or orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
salt/pepper to taste


1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.

2. Mash well, but leaving some chunks.



3. Heat/reheat over the stovetop, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. 

Nutrition info per serving: 68 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3.5 g sugar, 2 g protein, 43% vitamin A, 3% iron

My version has fewer ingredients than Kathy’s, but please check hers out. Her photos are profesh and her ingredient combos (in this recipe and others) are uniquely gut-pleasing. I don’t know if it’s the garlic hummus, the fresh garlic, the raw onion, or the parsley, but this is definitely a must-try. Hello, Thanksgiving, and hello, orange taters!

Happy healthy holidays!

“Mom, You Make the Best Brownies”

Simple Bean Brownies

Simple Bean Brownies

Hello vitamin friends! It’s been a while! Look for many new tips and recipes because I’ve been conquering the BEST quinoa chili, homemade slow-cooker applesauce, and countless healthy concoctions for picky kids. But, for now, I must post our new favorite dessert. Just 2 ingredients, it’s low-fat, gooey, crowd-pleasing, and includes beans. Booyah! I knew you’d be sold when I said ‘beans!’

Simple Bean Brownies
Makes 16 squares

1 package brownie mix (my favorite is Trader Joe’s Brownie Truffle Baking Mix, reviewed and pictured here)
1 15-oz can black beans (or 1 3/4 cups cooked black beans plus 3/4 cup water), blended (including liquid)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Stir mix with blended beans.

3. Lightly oil the bottom of a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan, and pour/spread brownie batter into pan evenly.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until fully cooked in the center.

5. Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar (I do this through a sifter) – Optional. 

Surprise and scare all your favorite family and friends! 

Nutrition info per mouth-watering square: 144 calories, 3 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 146 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 2.5 g protein, 11% iron.

Note: For an extra health punch, stir 1/2 cup shredded zucchini or carrots into the batter, OR blend a handful of spinach or kale with the beans. 

You can’t even taste the beans (or the veggies). And, I kid you not, my kids won’t eat ANY other brownie. Chocolate cheers!

Farinata: Italian Chickpea Flatbread That’ll Knock Your Glutens Off

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Farinata Batch #2: Less Salt, More Crisp

A close friend and closet gourmet chef—we’ll call him “Joe”—served this bread at his last food fest. He had eaten it in Italy, and then miraculously saw a recipe for it in the New York Times (the next best thing to Italian cuisine itself).

I wanted to recreate Joe’s recreation, and thought I found that very recipe in a 2005 NYTimes post. My first attempt was nothing like Joe’s. Super salty, floppy not crispy, and looked like cracked, dehydrated dessert groundcover. Disgustoso!

Thankfully, Joe then disclosed his gourmet chef fine-tunings: 1. let the batter sit for a few hours rather than a few minutes, 2. bake it longer (like, double the time), 3. sprinkle salt and pepper over the top instead of mixing it into the batter. Uffa.

Version due was tested on some friends who went to Italy one time a few years ago (so obviously had the credentials). Here is the result, a Bitchin’-Joe-Times collaboration.

Farinata (Gluten-Free)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Batter Sitting Time: 2 hours (or overnight)
Baking Time: 25 minutes

Makes 6 appetizer-size portions

1 cup chickpea flour (or garbanzo bean flour; same thing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or in my variety: 1 tsp dried basil + 1 tsp. dried oregano

1. Sift chickpea flour into a bowl; add salt and pepper (or reserve to sprinkle on final product); then slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps.

2. Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cover, and let sit for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours. Go organize your workshop or take a nap. Batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Pour 2 tablespoons oil into a 12-inch pizza pan or cast-iron skillet. Place it in the heated oven for 15 min. 

3. Stir herb(s) into batter. Take pan out of the oven and pour batter into it. Bake 25 minutes, or until “pancake” is firm and edges set. 

4. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot, or at least warm.

Nutrition Info Per Wedge (1/6th of recipe): 159 calories, 12.3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 8.8 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber, 3.5 g protein, 206 mg sodium, 4.4% iron. 

While this bread doesn’t get you out of eating beans for the day, it does give you a gold star with your dietitian and gluten-free enthusiasts. Enjoy it as is, or as a bean dip vehicle. Figo. Fantastico. Delicioso! 

Thanksgiving with a Diabetic Child: Insulin Pumps & Carb Charts

Today is our first Thanksgiving with Jake (nearly 3 years-old) and his diabetes. We’re pretty psyched and THANKFUL for his new insulin pump (no more shots!). It’s not only awesome all around, but it’s definitely going to make today easier. He can have dinner, we’ll count the carbs he ate, dose him his insulin with the pump. And then an hour later, he can have dessert, we’ll count the carbs, and dose him with more insulin. When he was still getting shots (which he HATED, understandably!), he would’ve had to get 2 shots, and it was advised that you wait 2 hours between shots. The pump tells you how much insulin is “on board” so you can give insulin doses super close to eachother. Woo hoo!

Just to give you an idea of how meals go with a diabetic child — and the ultimate annual meal at that! — I’ve posted a link below (after the videos) to the chart I made to count Jake’s Thanksgiving meal carbs. No need for a Sudoku book to prevent Alzheimer’s in OUR house! We’ve got all the math and calculating exercises we need 3 or more times a day 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving and Carb Day, everyone!

Here is Jake *practicing” wearing his pump before we went “live” 3 weeks ago:

And here is our very first insulin “shot” we gave him with his pump (video also served as an instructional video for Jake’s caregivers):

And the chart (plus calculator and food scale) that will come in handy later today.

Jake’s Carb Chart for Thanksgiving

Product Review: Almond Milk with Added Protein

Ran into this Almond Plus single-serve almond milk by So Delicious at Whole Foods the other day and couldn’t resist the spontaneous purchase. Most non-dairy milks–except soymilk and to some degree oat milk–are devoid of protein, making them simply a great calcium and Vitamin D source, but a less-balanced addition to a meal. Ta da! So Delicious Inc. rocks the boat! Their new “Almond Plus” comes in Unsweetened (40 calories, 1 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein/ cup), Original (70 calories, 8 g carbs, 5 g protein), and Vanilla (70 calories, 8 g carbs, 5 g protein). Get it in the half-gallon or get the single-serve vanilla for lunches. The Vanilla is as you would expect: SO Delicious. And for the carb-conscious, it’s lower carb than skim milk and tastes like a milkshake. Magic! And btw, it has pea protein. That can only be good.

Look for it at your local Whole Foods Market or health food store. Bottom’s up!

Easy-as-Pie Low Sugar Monkey Cake

Light, Fluffy, Rich, Lower Sugar!

Looking for a sweet dessert without the chemicals, weird artificial flavor taste, and without added sugar? Impossible! Forget it! Oh wait. Enter: Monkey Cake.

Sugar–with it’s highly inflammatory, blood sugar-spiking, acne-growing, and teeth-rotting attributes, combined with the fact that it doesn’t even do your laundry–has sent me on a dessert mission. A mission to create a lower sugar baked good that’s not only highly tolerable, but bordering on cravable. This one does it, especially if you’re part monkey. The sweetness comes from bananas and a touch of Truvia, a natural calorie-free sweetener from the stevia plant. The coconut oil–gaining new health praise–adds a subtle tropical kick. Give it a whirl–it’s easy as pie!

Money Cake (Low Sugar)
Makes 12 hunks
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup filtered water
3 Tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend (or other stevia leaf extract for baking)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, or vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (like Bob’s), or 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour (like Bob’s)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mash banana, water, and stevia together, and stir in oil and vanilla until well-mixed.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl. Combine flour mixture and cinnamon with wet mixture by stirring in gradually.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″ x 9″ square or 9″ round baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until top is golden brown. Let the cake cool before cutting.

Nutrition Info Per Hunk: 150 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 202 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 3 g protein, 7% Iron.

The trick with using stevia baking blend in recipes is to substitute it at a 1:2 ratio for sugar. The stevia is sweeter and has a nasty aftertaste if overdone. The original version of this recipe called for 1/2 cup sugar (8 Tablespoons), and 3 Tablespoons of stevia baking blend does the trick without any nasty.

And Here It Is: Diet Soda Causes Heart Problems

Photo by: Rafakoy

Diet soda always seemed so good to be true, didn’t it? Sweet but no calories? A sugary, bubbly, and guilt-free green card? Well, a new study out of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center found that people who drank diet soda daily had a 43% increased chance of suffering a vascular event (heart attack, stroke, vascular death) than people who drank none, and that was after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. The researchers are unclear why diet soda had such harmful effects. Interestingly enough, however, researchers found that regular soft drink consumption and a more moderate intake of diet soft drinks did not appear to be linked to a higher risk of vascular events.

I’ve long discouraged diet sodas and artificial sweeteners because while they can technically help you meet your fluid needs, they leave your body wondering why it didn’t get any sugar out of the sweet-tasting beverage, causing you to eventually crave and scavenge for sugary treats. This makes you grumpy and crazy, and causes you to cycle through diet sodas, candy bars, guilt, more diet sodas, free-based sugar, and so on. Plus, many individuals feel more anxious after consuming artificial sweeteners and often have trouble falling asleep at night, regardless of caffeine consumption.

If you need to sweeten and a touch of real raw sugar or agave nectar won’t do it, stevia powder like Truvia (made from stevia leaves) has zero calories and is made from nature, not chemistry. Plus, it doesn’t have the unhealthy heart or  sugar-craving delirium side-effects. For beverages, however, straight up water jazzed with fresh fruit and cucumber wedges, or filtered water seltzered with the at-home Soda Stream, are always best.

Sorry to bear the bad news, diet soda lovers! But, the good news is that after 3 diet soda-free weeks, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll be clear out of the health risk woods. Plus, you’ll feel shockingly amazing. No more panicked vending machine runs!

Microwaved Potatoes Help Lower High Blood Pressure

Mr. Potato Head on the Loose by Sam Howzit

Remember way back when I pushed potatoes in a potatophobiac world with Welcome Back, Instant Mashed Potatoes? Remember how you all thought I was crazy? Well, well, well! A new research study presented at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado just proclaimed that a couple spud servings a day helps lower high blood pressure in obese individuals by 4% (just as well as oatmeal), and without the fattening effects declared by the anti-potatans.

The phytochemicals in potatoes act similarly to ACE-inhibitor medications which are used to lower high blood pressure in overweight individuals. The best way to preserve the potato phytochemicals isn’t to French fry or potato chip them, but rather microwave them with their skins on (and then of course skip the sour cream and butter). The study used purple potatoes, but researchers are certain the same effect would be seen with white or red potatoes. Read the whole story here.

Welcome Back, Microwaved Potatoes!

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