Easy Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken and Cauliflower Rice (low carb, gluten free, dairy free)

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There is a reason The United States of America is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth.

This is because I am FREE. Free to eat whatever cuisine I want on Independence Day. Because America. When your country is a delicious fondue melting pot, there are a lot of ways to be American. Burgers and apple pie notwithstanding.

Like most sentient creatures on earth, takeout food holds a special place in my heart. Sometimes I just wanna eat something kinda greasy and gross. This is a universal experience of the human condition. Probably sociologists talk about it a lot. Probably over some takeout.

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My point here is that I could pretty much bathe in sweet and sour sauce. BUT I can think of more than a few reasons that might not be an excellent habit (…proper hygiene aside). The obscene amount of sodium, for one. Or the fact that one lunch-sized portion of your average sweet and sour chicken with rice contains about as many carbs as a liter of coke.

So that’s one thing. But takeout in and of itself isn’t a crime!! The problem is when everyone is super tired, and overworked, and in a rush, and trying to save money. This is when, justifiably, it’s a whooole lot easier to fall back on delivery, drive-thru, or pick-up for a quick meal that tastes pretty good. After while, takeout isn’t even fun anymore. It’s just dinner.

Ok I just depressed myself so IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON TO MY MAIN POINT HERE. Which is: Chinese takeout is the best and also super easy to make at home, HEALTHY STYLE. Plus, this recipe uses a slow cooker for those who 1) enjoy throwing everything into one pot and running away, and 2) laughing forever about turning on the oven when it’s a million degrees outside.

GOD BLESS ‘MURRICA.

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Easy Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken and Cauliflower Rice (low carb, gluten free, dairy free)

Yields: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

Chicken and sauce:
Around 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
2 ⁄3 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar apricot preserves
3 tbsp gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (I used a low sodium tamari)
2 tbsp reduced sugar ketchup
1 tsp fresh minced ginger OR ¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp liquid stevia OR about 1 tbsp lemon juice

Cauliflower rice:
Around 12 oz (1¼ cup) riced cauliflower (I seriously recommend grabbing a bag from Trader Joe’s if there’s one around you)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Around 8 oz (1 cup) sliced mushroom
½ cup broccoli florets
1 tbsp gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (I used a low sodium tamari)
1-2 tbsp minced garlic, or to taste
¼ tsp ground ginger
Salt & pepper to taste
Diced green onions, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Stir the preserves, tamari, ketchup, ginger and stevia or lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. 

Place chicken breast in the crockpot and top with apricot sauce. Let cook for 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. After cooking, open crockpot and shred chicken with two forks. Replace lid and let sit.

To make the cauliflower rice, place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add minced garlic and heat until fragrant. Add mushrooms and sauté until they just begin to soften and release water. Add broccoli florets and cook until bright and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Add riced cauliflower and sautee for a few minutes until more tender.

Add tamari, powdered ginger, black pepper, and salt. Stir to combine.

Serve them up together IN THE LAND OF THE FREE. 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸

Nutrition (Calculated with sugar-free preserves, lemon juice, and tamari):
apricot chicken w caulirice nutrition

Healthy Glazed Chocolate Donut Holes – With a Secret Ingredient! (low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, grain free)

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IT ISN’T KALE. I repeat, the secret ingredient IS NOT KALE. I just wanted to put that out there first. We can all breathe easy now.

There’s something especially unappealing to me about the idea of “tricking” your family and friends into eating something healthy. When it comes to food, I am not into secrets. I think we already have enough creepy secrets about what’s in what we eat. No thank you, move along.

Because honestly? Healthy food can taste great. And the more we treat certain foods like they need to be a secret, the more people will assume they’re not worth eating without being disguised. You dig?

So in the interest of full disclosure, I shall reveal to you a fine example with my actually not that “secret” ingredient – CHIA SEEDS. In your chocolate cake donut holes. Because what’s the point in eating a healthy dessert if you can’t be openly smug about it to your peers? I swear this is not my main motivation for making healthy desserts. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve extolled the virtues of the mighty chia seed. I used them enthusiastically in my vanilla cinnamon chia seed pudding, for example. Often referred to as a ‘superfood’ (don’t we all just love that term), chia seeds boast an intimidating amount of nutritiousness:

  • Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3s in chia seeds can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol.
  • Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, with a whopping 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons.
  • Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer. The high antioxidant profile also helps them have a long shelf life. They last almost two years without refrigeration.
  • Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18 percent of the DRI for calcium, 35 percent for phosphorus, 24 percent for magnesium and about 50 percent for manganese.
  • The outer layer of chia seeds swells when mixed with liquids to form a gel. This can used in place of eggs to lower cholesterol and increase the nutrient content of foods and baked goods. To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes.
  •  Chia seeds can play an important role in regulating insulin levels. They can reduce insulin resistance and decrease abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood. (healthyeating.sfgate.com)

Also: Chia Pets. Never forget. 

Because chia seeds are capable of absorbing up to 10-12 times their weight in liquid, your batter will develop a thick, almost gel-like texture the longer it sits. This is ok. They all bake up the same! As in, PERFECTLY.

It was entirely by accident that I discovered the texture of ground chia seed provided the perfect texture and mouthfeel for a Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin. The fluffy air pockets, the slight crunch of the glaze giving way into the crumbly, cakey inside. Wait, where were we?

OH YES. You, making these, and feeling great about it. ALLOW ME TO ENABLE YOU:

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Healthy Glazed Chocolate Donut Holes – With a Secret Ingredient (low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, grain free)

Yields: About 20-22 donut holes

Ingredients:

Donut Holes:
¾ cup sweetener
¼ cup milled/ground chia seeds (if grinding whole seeds, use about 2 heaping tbsp)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
3 egg whites, or about 1/3 cup egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:
1 ½ cups powdered sweetener
3 to 4 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease or spray a cake pop mold/donut hole/muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, and mix well to create a batter. Reminder: The longer you let your batter sit, the thicker it gels. Not a problem! Spoon batter into prepared tin, almost to the top.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

To make glaze, whisk powdered sweetener, almond milk or water, and vanilla extract until smooth. If you prefer a thinner glaze, add in more milk or water one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Allow the donut holes to cool slightly. Place a cooling rack atop a baking sheet, and dip each donut hole into the glaze. Cover all sides with glaze and lift using a fork, tapping off excess glaze.

Transfer donut holes to the rack to allow any more extra glaze to drip off. Let glaze set, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Nutritional Info (As calculated for 20 servings, using water in glaze):

donut holes nutrition

 

 

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar)

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When inspiration hits, it’s a lot like getting hit by a truck. Ignoring it is incredibly difficult.

A totally hypothetical example: seeing some “snickerdoodle sandwich cookies with cream cheese frosting” on sale and then thinking of how great that sounds for three days straight.

Outside of this totally hypothetical example, we all know how I feel about cookies. (TL;DR: High. Maintenance.) But the flavor combination was irresistible. Anything cinnamonAnything cream cheese. But cookies? No. Life is too short for that.

And this is where the Truck of Inspiration™ came hurtling merrily down The M’Academia Nut highway. Cheesecake bars. Of course. Bars are my everything. I would make everything into a bar version if I could (AND I HAVE). THE ANSWER WAS CLEAR. We were making snickerdoodle cheesecake bars.

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But this brought about its own set of challenges. I was immediately imagining a graham cracker crust. This does not fit very neatly into a low-carb or grain-free diet. Then the Truck of Inspiration™ made an entirely legal U-Turn and came back around at top speed.

PECANSWhether you pronounce them “pee-can” or “puh-kahn”, we can all agree that (second only to the macadamia), the pecan is a superior nut:

With a little cinnamon and nutmeg, you’ve got yourself the perfect graham cracker crust analogue. No need for butter with the natural oils in the pecans providing all the binding power. And how could we forget the sweet, crunchy cinnamon “sugar” topping, so crucial to the snickerdoodle experience?? We could not.

So now the problem is that I ate all of these already and I’ve been thinking of making them again for three days straight. I don’t need inspiration for that one. Maybe I need the Truck of Distraction™.

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar)

Recipe adapted from Shugary Sweets

Yields: Around 24 – 30 bars

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 1/2 cups pecans
2 tbsp granulated sweetener, OR 1 tbsp granulated sweetener plus 1 tbsp sugar free brown sugar substitute
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Filling:
2 8 oz packages cream cheese (I used neufchâtel), softened
3/4 cup granulated sweetener, OR 2/3 cup granulated sweetener plus 2 tbsp sugar free brown sugar substitute
2 egg whites, or around 1/4 cup egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 butterscotch or molasses extract, optional
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Topping:
1/4 cup granulated sweetener
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

To make crust, place pecans, spices, and sweetener into a food processor or high-speed blender and process until pecans form a crumbly mixture that begins to ball and stick together (make sure to stop before you’ve made pecan butter!).

snickerdoodlecheesecake8Ugh I love pecans so much.

Press crust into the greased 9×13 baking pan and par-bake for about 8-10 minutes.

For the filling, beat cream cheese with sweetener, egg whites, vanilla, butterscotch or molasses extracts (if using), and cinnamon using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer. Beat for a few minutes until fluffy and smooth. Pour over pecan crust and smooth with a spatula.

 

In a small bowl, combine sweetener and cinnamon for topping. Sprinkle generously over the cheesecake layer.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until topping has browned and filling jiggles only slightly. Once cooled, refrigerate until completely set and cut into squares. Keep any (unlikely) leftovers in the fridge.

IMG_5647ALL HAIL THE TRUCK OF INSPIRATION™

Nutritional Info (Calculated for 26 servings):

snickerdoodle cheesecake nutrition

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna (low carb, gluten free, vegetarian)

Is there anything more delightful than an eggplant? THAT WAS A TRICK QUESTION. Because the answer is yesroasted eggplant, which is in fact marginally more delightful than just regular eggplant.

For those who require examples of the aforementioned delight: baba ganoush, ratatouille, stir fry, moussaka – the (delightful) possibilities are simply endless for this glossy, purple fruit! It also boasts an impressive array of many vitamins and minerals, such as excellent amounts of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, and magnesium. It even contains phytonutrients with high antioxidant compounds.

But let’s not kid ourselves. What’s the first thing you think of when you think of eggplant dishes? That’s right. This fine aubergine is usually just relegated to second fiddle in an eggplant parmesan – breaded, fried, and reduced to mush under a mountain of sauce and cheese.

Now, I won’t even lie. I am entirely ok with the mountain of sauce and cheese. So let’s work on everything else.

AS PROMISED: mountains of sauce and cheese.

Baked, grilled, roasted – nothing brings out the ~*~rich complexity~*~ in an eggplant’s flavor than some lovin’ in the oven (…or grill). Plus, with its dense, robust texture, it makes an excellent substitute for meat in vegetarian or vegan cuisine.

So let’s keep it classic. We want sauce, we want cheese, and we want eggplant playing a better role than ‘breadcrumb vehicle’. Here’s an idea: ROASTED EGGPLANT LASAGNA (this is where you get excited because I said just the title of the movie post). Now it’s low carb, gluten free, and still accessible to our vegetarian friends!!

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Roasted Eggplant Lasagna (low carb, gluten free, vegetarian)

Yields: Around 8 servings

Ingredients:

3-4 medium to large eggplants
Olive oil spray AND/OR about 3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, seasonings of choice (I used Penzeys Italian Herb Mix, which includes oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and rosemary)
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used a ‘no salt added’ variety)
1 16 oz. jar no sugar added tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 to 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (I used part-skim mozzarella)
Chopped parsley, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400º, and line a large baking sheet (or sheets) with aluminum foil. Spray or drizzle with olive oil.

Slice eggplant and lay on baking sheet(s) in a single layer. Lightly salt and season, and spray, brush, or drizzle with olive oil again.

Place in oven and roast for 30 – 45 minutes, flipping each slice over about halfway through. (NOTE: if some slices are thinner than others, they may brown and crisp up – these make AWESOME eggplant chips and are excellent for snacking on. NO MISTAKES HERE.)

While eggplant roasts, pour the diced tomatoes into a colander placed in the sink, and allow to drain.

Spread about 1/4 cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a large casserole dish. Layer with roasted eggplant, and then top with the drained diced tomatoes. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and then continue layering with eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheeses until eggplant runs out. Make sure you finish with a glorious layer of mozzarella and parmesan!

Bake about 30-40 minutes, or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Top with fresh chopped parsley, and serve hot.

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Nutritional Info (as calculated with olive oil spray):

roasted eggplant nutrition

 

Classic Hamantaschen (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar, dairy free)

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With all the accidental Lenten festivities going on last week, it only seemed right to include some other theological treats in the fun. And with Purim right around the corner, what better than a makeover of the classic hamantaschen cookie?

Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a huge jerk that planned to murder all of them because he didn’t like one guy in particular. Hamantaschen are a traditional filled pastry folded into a triangle, generally thought to be referencing Haman’s three-pointed hat. Eating the hat of your enemies: APPROVED.

Now I have seen recipes for hamantaschen that put this one to shame – red velvet, brownie-filled, funfetti-cheesecake hamantaschen – but what’s the hurry? Build up to those, I say. Let’s start with the classics.

Well, classically, hamantaschen are filled with a variety of sweet fillings, like poppy seed (the oldest and most traditional variety), apricot, raspberry, raisins, fruit preserves, cherry, fig, chocolate, or even caramel or cheese.

Being a cheap lady of distinguished taste and discretion, I opted for apricot and raspberry as my fillings of choice, also because I already had a jar of each. (But THAT was because those two are the best fillings for anything, so really it all comes full circle.)

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I acknowledge that for someone who hates making cookies as much as I do, I am doing an EXCELLENT job at finding recipes to make them at every opportunity. That being said, these are pretty painless in terms of effort, even though they look so fancy. I promise! I’ve included pictures on how to fold them and everything!

With some simple substitutions for flour and sweetener, it was almost TOO easy to create an authentic hamantaschen minus all the wheaty-ness, sugary-ness, and gluten…ness. Plus, this is a cultural learning experience! This way, we all win.

Come, let us nosh.

Classic Hamantaschen (low carb, gluten free, no added sugar, dairy free)

Recipe adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

Yields: About 15 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup sweetener
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white, or about 2-3 tbsp egg white
2 1/2 tbsp butter or dairy-free spread, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp stevia extract
1/4 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar raspberry preserves
1/4 cup sugar-free or reduced sugar apricot preserves

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine almond flour, sweetener, and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg white, vanilla and stevia extracts, and melted butter or dairy-free spread, and stir until dough comes together.

Always make a tiny version of the thing you are making when the opportunity presents itself.

Roll out dough onto a large piece of parchment paper. Using another large piece of parchment on top, roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out rounds using (no smaller than) a 3 inch round cookie cutter.

Using a spatula or knife, very gently loosen rounds from parchment and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Re-roll dough and cut out more rounds as necessary, until dough runs out. Spoon about 3/4 tsp of either raspberry or apricot preserves into the center of each circle.

Fold the dough in from three sides and firmly pinch the corners. The dough will be delicate, so don’t worry if you find yourself patching up little tears and cracks along the way.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Remove and let cool completely before attempting to transfer to any other plate/dish. Nosh away!

Nutritional Info (Calculated with dairy-free spread and sugar-free preserves):

hamantaschen nutrition

Healthier Fish Fry (low carb, gluten free)

fishfry8WE HAVE ALREADY CONFIRMED that I am a complete slave to suggestion.

That being said, I have obviously passed way too many signs advertising all the delicious ‘FISH FRY DAY’ events around town.

I mean, earlier this week was macaroni and cheese, for god’s sake. If eating traditional Lenten fare was a requirement for observing it, I would be the greatest Catholic on earth. (As opposed to “not Catholic at all”, which is my regular status.) I BLAME THE FISH FRY SIGNS.

Then again, if there’s anyone who can deny the siren call of a crispy, crunchy, flaky fried filet o’ fish, please never introduce me. Because there is obviously something very wrong going on there.

BUT, as you might imagine, the usual panko-breading or beer-battering would not integrate especially well into a low-carb, grain-free, or gluten-free diet. So what now? No fish fries? WOULD I DO THAT TO YOU? You want a fish fry, you got a fish fry. No one gets denied anything ’round these parts. In fact, BONUS: let’s even make it pretty good for you

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Sizzling sounds left to your imagination.

It goes without saying that eating fish is a highly recommended source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and numerous vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. There’s a reason cod liver oil is a thing, and it’s not just to punish feisty young whipper-snappers.

But while we’re talking about ultra-nutritious additions to your diet, let’s talk about flaxseed. While the seeds from most plants provide a wealth of health benefits, flaxseed is uniquely fantastic:

Well. And here we just wanted some fried fish. Side of antioxidant compounds included.

I opted to use golden flaxseed meal over brown purely because it was prettier. Brown and golden flaxseeds boast almost identical nutritional benefits, so feel free to use whatever’s most accessible to you.

After that it was a simple matter of adding in some savory grated parmesan cheese and a dash of colorful choice spices. Now we’ve got ourselves a ‘healthified’ fish fry! Hallelujah.

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Healthier Fish Fry (low carb, gluten free)

Yields: Around 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound skinless cod, cut into preferred size strips
2 large egg whites or about 1/4 cup egg whites 
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
Oil for frying (olive oil, avocado oil, etc)

Directions:

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In a shallow, wide bowl combine flaxseed meal, grated parmesan, and spices. Place egg whites in a separate bowl.

Heat oil (around 1/8 inch) in heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip prepared cod strips into egg whites, and then dredge in flaxseed mixture, turning to coat pieces completely.

Fry fish in oil for about 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until fish flakes easily and has browned slightly on both sides. Remove fish from hot pan and serve immediately.

Nutritional Info:

fish fry nutrition

 

Healthy Shamrock Shake! (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, vegan)

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I have always been under the impression that there is not a single drop of Irish blood in my entire body.

But living in a country containing such rich and diverse multicultural histories, I needed to know for sure. So I decided to do some research. Where to start? I considered investigating the brittle, dog-eared pages of our aged photo albums; breaking into the library by moonlight and stealing the newspaper microforms of days past-

But that seemed like a lot of work so I just decided to ask my parents. Anyway I was right and I am not even a little bit Irish.

But!! If you thought that was going to stop me from presenting you with a traditionally green-tinted recipe celebrating our dearest Saint Patrick, THINK AGAIN.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday all around the world, and as you might imagine, each country has its own meaningful traditions and customs to celebrate. Religious ceremonies, parades, and music festivals, just to name a few.

In America, we have McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Limited time only!!

Yes, nothing fills me with a second-hand Irish glow of pride like driving past a McDonald’s at the end of February and seeing the familiar letters proclaiming: IT’S BACK. They don’t even need to say it. We know.

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So I took a look at the ingredients in a Shamrock Shake. I regretted it immediately. And then, as my train of thought usually goes: I CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS.

To be fair, the bar was set kinda low. There are approximately 700 ingredients in a Shamrock Shake. Cutting down on that isn’t hard when you can’t walk into a grocery store and pick up a fresh tub of Polysorbate 80.

But it wasn’t enough that my version be without all the junk. No, it had to also include HEALTHY STUFF. Oh yes. Time to feel extra self-righteous.

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First things first: it needed to be green. This was the perfect opportunity to include my favorite ~*~SECRET INGREDIENT~*~ which I have openly displayed in my header photo. You got it: avocado!!

shamrock1SO BEAUTIFUL I COULD WEEP.

Naturally green? Check.
Smooth, creamy texture without a dominating flavor? Check.
LOADED with several B vitamins and vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium? Check.
PACKED with fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats? CHECKI could go on. 

The rest was easy. Almond milk (for our vegan friends!), sweetener, and some natural flavor extracts, and it’s like it was meant to be. Six ingredients, guys. That’s including ICE CUBES. And just for kicks, I’ve included McDonald’s nutritional info for a small Shamrock Shake in comparison with a serving of mine below. Check it out, and gasp dramatically for hours!

So get in touch with your (BASICALLY) Irish side and celebrate St. Paddy’s Day all year round with this recipe!

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Healthy Shamrock Shake! (low carb, sugar free, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe adapted from Holistically Engineered

Yields: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup powdered sweetener (I used Confectioners Swerve)
1 tsp mint or peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup ice cubes

Optional, for topping:
Homemade whipped cream (heavy whipping cream, awwww yess) or whipped coconut cream for dairy free/vegan

Instructions:

Place all ingredients except toppings into a blender and blend on high power until smooth. Divide between four fancy glasses (or honestly, don’t even share). If using, top with whipped cream or coconut cream.

Nutritional Info:

My version (if you CAN’T TELL) is on the left (calculated without optional toppings). McDonald’s nutritional info (…on the right) for a small, 12 oz. shake found here on their website.