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.

High & Mighty Brownie Cookies

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Ever thought to put veggies and beans into brownie mix and then turn them into cookies? Wait, that’s not what you think about as you lie in bed at night? Oh. Well, I’ve taken on the age-old question and attempted an answer: How do we make brownies a complete meal? Announcing the High & Mighty Brownie Cookie. High in nutrients, mighty in taste and energy. And while I still serve them for dessert, they can certainly pass for a side dish or maybe even a main squeeze…

High & Mighty Brownie Cookies
Makes 48

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained & rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups cooked beans)
Large handful kale, about 2 cups chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (the canned type)
1 box brownie mix
1/2 cup coconut flour, almond meal, or cashew meal

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Blend or food process beans, kale, and pumpkin into a smooth, olive green glop (probably not wise to taste-test this…).

Stir glop together with brownie mix and coconut flour (or almond or cashew meal).

With slightly wet hands, form into 1 1/2-inch round balls (slightly smaller than golf balls) and drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart.

Press down gently with a fork in a criss-cross fashion.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and chow down!

Nutrition Information Per Cookie: 74 calories, 1 g fat, 36 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 1 g protein, 21% vitamin A, 3% iron.

Now you (or at least I) can rest soundly. Cheers to chocolate! xo

Full of Plants, Free of Gluten

Baby Carotene

Baby Carotene

Hello healthy herbivores! What’s the word?!? I have been happily sucked into MOMLAND for the last couple months. It’s a pretty place where you put your feet up, drench yourself in life’s miracles, and sip organic green smoothies out of martini glasses. Actually, it’s more like Legoland. Bright lights, fast moving humans, and too many colors to count. Too bad it’s not vegetables whizzing by! Or is it?

Not only do we have an amazing new being in our brood (a little girl, born at 8.1 lbs in early May), but life for the other 3 kids hasn’t stopped, nor has the Vitamix! But now I am back, and I am full-on gluten-free-fabulous.

When the new baby was born, I read a neat article about a new study that had just been published in the journal Diabetes: Could a Maternal Gluten-Free Diet Protect Protect Offspring Against Type 1 Diabetes? I read it while sipping tea and quickly inhaling my very last piece of whole wheat peanut butter toast. Sure, the study was done in mice, but when you have 1 child with type 1, even a study done with mice is motivating. Plus, with a few pesky baby weight pounds to dissolve, perhaps GF is a grand idea anyway. Bring it, Stuart Little!

So as I ventured into GF land, I realized most GF snack foods, breads, and muffin mixes are high-calorie, low-fiber, and rich in eggs, oils, and dairy (not so good for the squishy tubular mid-section of which I’m trying to bid adieu). And EXPENSIVE! Am I supposed to diaper the new baby with the GF Flour Mix packaging? Better idea anyway, I’m sticking with a GF plan that skips the processed goods and highlights the whole ones, and am on a mission to make a high-fiber, plant-hearty GF sandwich bread (read on). This mission may take the remainder of my life on earth.

My day at the moment:

First thing:
Huge glass water, then coffee with coconut creamer (I do love me a cup ‘a joe!) while nursing baby
Exercise:
2 mile hilly run/walk, 100 crunches, 50 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 squats, 600 beads of sweat pouring down face
Breakfast:
Green smoothie: 1 scoop Plantfusion vanilla, 2 c dino kale, 1 c frozen fruit, 1 banana, water
Snack:
KIND bar, apple, OR peanut butter on corn thins
Lunch:
Huge green salad with lots of veggies and beans w olive oil-lemon-salt dressing, 2 pc dark chocolate
Snack:
Veggies, hummus, Brown rice cakes (2, 3, 4…), TJ’s Roasted Seaweed or TJ’s Kale Chips
Dinner:
Stir-fry veggies with tempeh or tofu, OR overloaded veggie burrito fixin’s piled on 2 corn tortillas
2 pc dark chocolate
Bedtime snack:
2 chilled sliced apples topped with cinnamon

For baking, I’ve been substituting GF all-purpose flour blend for regular flour and things have come out well. Until I tried my hand at a healthy, vegan GF sandwich bread, modeled after this one (except using King Arthur’s multipurpose GF flour and flax instead of chia). Mine was edible, and bordering on tasty if you like dense, heavy bread. Yum! I mean, HELP!!

Hugs to plants,
Jen

GF Vegan Sandwich Bread, Take 1

GF Vegan Sandwich Bread, Take 1

 

4 Year-Old Tests His Own Blood Sugar

Type 1 folks and type 1 fans! I thought you’d appreciate a video of my son Jake who just turned 4 and just started testing his own blood sugar. What an inspiration!

“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!

Upcycled Earrings: Not Edible!

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Wearing my earrings with my type 1 son Jake

Foodie Gang! I’m now making jewelry in the kitchen (no joke) from my diabetic son’s old diabetes supplies. They’re upcycled! A whole slew of earrings are done and I’m working on bracelets, necklaces, and more. Here’s a preview pic. If you’re interested, 100% of the profit (which is $9.50 of the $10 charge) goes to the JDRF.

Check out my Jake’s Jewelry page here for all the goods and details.

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Earrings made from old Accucheck glucometer chips

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

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.

Even a Dietitian’s Child Gets Diabetes

Jake in the ER, Chowing down after his first insulin shot

Health Champs and Nutrition Superheroes,

My post today is a personal one. This past week, we found out that my 2 year-old son has type 1 diabetes (the need-insulin-shots-for-the-rest-of-his-life kind). Despite our uber healthy diet topping the charts with veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains, an autoimmune response to a virus or reason unknown caused my littlest dude’s immune system to attack the insulin-producing cells of his pancreas. When this happens, insulin (which is like the key that unlocks cells’ doors to allow glucose to get in and do its job) can no longer be produced, leaving excessive glucose floating around the bloodstream. A normal body’s pancreas produces just enough insulin to deal with whatever carbohydrate is or isn’t eaten–no thought, shot, or pill needed. The glucose gets into the cells, blood sugars are stable, and none of it requires any extra effort.

As type 1 diabetes is hitting, however, and the insulin-producing cells are being destroyed, the body panics with the extra glucose floating around the bloodstream and reacts by pulling fluid from every store to try and eliminate the glucose through the urine. Dehydration and extreme thirst result. Those are the first signs. The next are usually lethargy and vomiting.

About 5 days before we discovered Jake’s diabetes, he had been asking for more water and urinating more. Not crazy amounts, we just had to change his diaper more often. He was getting over a cold, so of course he was thirstier. He even had a fever one night and I took him to the pediatrician first thing the following morning suspecting an ear infection. But nothing was wrong. Well, once Day 5 hit and he was still asking for “wa wa please” every several minutes (and his grandma also noticed he was cold and his skin looked a little thin), I asked the nurses at my work if they thought anything of his excessive thirst, and asked if I might borrow a glucometer to test his blood sugar levels, just to rule out diabetes. They had seen this before and were worried. They encouraged me to postpone my patients for the day and go home to test his blood sugar, and then I could return if all was well.

His blood sugar level was 560 and then retested at 549. Normal is 100-200 for a 2 year-old. Obviously, it was a faulty machine. I tested MY levels: 73. Crap. Fast-forward past the ER at Children’s hospital, IV fluids to rehydrate him, the official diabetes diagnosis, and a daylong diabetes bootcamp with a diabetes educator to learn how to test blood sugars (I was very awkward in testing his levels at home!), give insulin shots, and manage his meals. All I kept thinking was thank gosh I have the nutrition stuff down because the insulin and blood sugar monitoring was about all the new learning our brains could take!

So, here we are now on Day 3 at home and are getting used to our new ways. We’ve only now realized how much more alive Jake is compared to last week. His body is happy, he laughs and jokes constantly, he’s gained nearly 3 lbs since getting insulin shots because his cells are finally getting the glucose they need, and he’s even telling us which finger to prick for each of his glucose checks. Our days consist of 4 insulin shots, several blood sugar checks to help detect low blood sugar levels (which can be serious)–including 2 while he’s sleeping. My husband and I sneak in there like a diabetes SWAT team with our headlamps and blood sugar checking gear. Most of the time, he sleeps right through! Blood sugar checks also determine what kind of snack he can have: low-carb if his blood sugars are within the normal range, and carby if his blood sugars are low. Our days no longer include enticing desserts to encourage veggie consumption at mealtime, and there are no more meals on the run. Meals MUST be balanced: moderate carbohydrates (about 30-40 grams per meal), protein, and fat. Carbohydrates turn into glucose in the bloodstream immediately, 40% of protein turns into glucose 1-2 hours after consumption, and 10% of fat turns into glucose about 4 hours after consumption. A balanced meal means blood glucose levels are less likely to drop too low between meals. We can do this!

Thanks to our previously healthy habits, the nutrition part of diabetes management is pretty much the same, and any changes have been for the better (we WERE probably getting a little too crazy with the desserts…). Today for lunch, we all had hummus (some carb, some protein, some fat), broccoli (a “free” and healthy food), whole wheat crackers (only a few, so Jake also had a banana to meet his carbohydrate needs), avocado slices (fat), and ice water. The morning snack which would have been pretzels, became a naturally low-carb peanut butter spoon, one of Jake’s all-time favorite treats. We’re all having to change some–We, and my other 2 kids can’t be chowing on foods that Jake can’t have (like pretzels at snacktime) until Jake understands what’s going on. But we’re realizing that his diet is actually just a balanced one that leaves the junk behind. We’ll all be even healthier now!

Obviously, this new life is no walk in the park, and my anti-carb-counting and anti-low-carb days are over. I appreciate both now. But, we are so blessed to have this super cool kid, who can still be a kid and live a healthy, normal life. We’re finding that type 1 diabetes isn’t hard, it’s just more. More to watch and do. So we’ll probably just put off getting that puppy for now…🙂

Even a dietitian’s child gets diabetes, and even a dietitian’s family can improve their eating habits. Stay tuned for a new tab: Bitchin’ Diabetes! And please share stories and tips.

Peace and balance,

xoxoxo
Jen

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