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

 

 

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

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.

 

 

Cinnamon Crunch Tea Cookies (Low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, there’s nothing more touching than the moment your special someone turns to you and says those three little words: “Eat this cookie.”

Because anyone that really loved you would definitely want you to eat these. That’s how you know the love is real.

And that’s what so great about Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter who your special someone is – fancy paramours, family, friends, your reflection in the mirror – we’re all allowed to embrace the gigantic amount of chocolate on sale for no reason in the middle of February. Plus: excuses to incorporate pink into food! I for one am SOLD.

Cinnamon (not chocolate for once) felt right for Valentine’s Day. Actually, cinnamon feels right for most holidays. And days. And mostly I just like putting cinnamon in everything.

Also in unrelated news, I recently had a coupon for $2 off clotted cream. And get this – my fridge appeared to have an empty space just about clotted cream jar size!! Complete coincidence.

Cinnamon (of the popular ‘Cassia’ variety) actually has a fairly long history of health benefits, too! To name a few:

Add that to a festive soiree of low carb nut flour, healthy fats, free from gluten, dairy (well, minus the clotted cream) and OF COURSE no added sugar, and we’ve got ourselves a winner!

HENCE: cinnamon crunch tea cookies. Crunchy on the outside, all sweet ‘n’ spicy – but soft and light on the inside. It practically melts in your mouth.  They taste fabulous as is, but then I went and glazed ’em. Honestly, because I wanted – no, NEEDED – pink somewhere. Add a spot of tea, a dab of jam, and a dollop of clotted cream (please do this if dairy doesn’t kill you), and you just guaranteed those three little words will lead to something even better. You know what I mean. Actually eating these cookies.

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Cinnamon Crunch Tea Cookies (Low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)

Recipe adapted from Mom’s Own Words and recommended by my friend Lindsay, who is a genius and a true visionary.

Yields: around 12-18 cookies (depending on how small or large you make them)

Ingredients: 

Cookies:
4 large egg whites, beaten until just frothy
2 cups almond flour or any nut flour (I used Honeyville walnut flour)
2/3 cup granulated sweetener (I used Swerve)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling/Topping:
2 tbsp granulated sweetener
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (more or less depending on how ~spicy~ you like it!)
1 1/2 tsp sugar free brown sugar substitute, optional (I used this)

Glaze:
1 tbsp hot water or milk of choice, more or less depending on the consistency you want
1/4 tsp vanilla, or other extracts
1 /2 cup powdered sweetener
1-1 1/2 tbsp softened cream cheese, optional (I used this dairy free spread just for kicks)
Red food coloring, optional (IS IT REALLY OPTIONAL??)

(NOT) optional, for topping:
Clotted cream
Reduced sugar/sugar free jam or jelly of choice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, and mix well to create a batter.

In a small bowl, whisk together filling ingredients. Sprinkle just under half of filling into batter and mix in, but do not fully incorporate, so that it remains streaky.

Use a tablespoon to drop 12-18 evenly spaced cookies on the lined pan. Sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until cookies begin to lightly brown and slightly bounce back at the touch.

For the glaze, whisk cream cheese (if using) and milk or water together until smooth. Beat in powdered sweetener and vanilla extract until combined. Add one or two drops of red food coloring for perfect pinkery! Pipe or spread over cooled cookies. Delicious served warm or cooled!

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Nutritional Info (As 15 servings, calculated with almond flour and glaze, and without toppings):

tea cookie nutrition

Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding (Low carb, sugar free, gluten free, paleo, vegan)

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Do you see what has been artfully spread on a charming tablecloth in the picture above. 

THAT’S RIGHT.

CHIA SEEDS.

Sara always keeps her promises. (note: Sara is me.)

(addendum to note: this is still not actually the chia seed recipe my sister requested I’M SORRY I’M GONNA GET IT RIGHT EVENTUALLY)

Let me teach you the way of the chia seed. 

These are indeed the very same chia of the ch-ch-ch-chia pet fame. And they’re just fantastic. They’re these tiny (and tiny is a theme here) little powerhouses of nutrition and versatility, and I haven’t even come close to unlocking their full potential yet as an ingredient. In fact: preliminary research hasn’t not shown that eating chia seeds on a regular basis makes you better than everyone else.* 

On their own, chia seeds taste pretty neutral, so they can work in both savory and sweet applications. Throw ’em on a salad, in a smoothie, your cereal, yogurt, even as an egg substitute for vegan-types!

Or you could make pudding with them.

It's a TABLEAU.

It’s a TABLEAU.

Among many other delightful qualities, chia seeds are loaded with fiber. And it’s thanks to this fiber that helps chia seeds absorb any liquid you mix it with and form a pudding-like gel. I learned this from the google and also real-life application, so I’m qualified to speak on this.

This pudding is yet another incredibly low maintenance recipe for all of those out there like myself who enjoy throwing things into a bowl and then walking away. This also isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, so that can also be adjusted according to preference. PLUS the options for different flavor combinations is endless! Throw in some chocolate, nut butters, pumpkin, coconut, whatever. Go wild. I won’t hold you back.

Because I am apparently only capable of making recipes containing cinnamon, vanilla, and almond in some capacity, I went ahead and made some vanilla cinnamon chia seed pudding with almond milk.

Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding

Original recipe from an edible mosaic

Yields: four 1/2 cup servings

Ingredients: 

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
6 tbsp chia seeds
1-2 packets stevia/choice of sweetener to taste (I use SweetLeaf Stevia)
4-8 drops liquid vanilla stevia, or to taste (…also SweetLeaf no they aren’t paying me BUT THEY SHOULD)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
teeny pinch of salt

Directions:

The lineup.

The lineup.

Add all ingredients into a bowl, and stir to combine.

Action shot!!!!!

Action shot!!!!!

I know. It’s going to seem like the cinnamon will never want to mix in. But you just have to believe. 

~*~BELIEVE~*~

~*~JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF~*~

Good enough. Then, let the chia seeds work their mysterious and exotic magic and refrigerate until pudding thickens, at least 2 hours or overnight. Feel free to pop in and stir occasionally.

Then, place into fancy dishes (not optional) and be sure to sprinkle various ingredients all over your table so everyone knows that you are better than them for eating chia seeds.*

"I ate this, and I'm better than you" -you

“Statistics don’t not show that I am better than you for eating this ” -you

And enjoy!
*Source: Authority for the Creation of Deceptively Phrased Facts About Chia Seeds

Nutritional Info:

Calculated with stevia. Dat FIBER.
ChiaSeedPudding NutritionLabel