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

donuthole17

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:

IMG_6255

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

 

 

Fudgy Ganache Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (low carb, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free)

flowercake1

Every year I seem to hold some kind of unspoken competition with myself to make the richest, most decadent birthday cake on earth. Each year has gotten successively richer, and more decadent, and this year has been the most ridiculous yet. I am actually concerned. I have no idea how to top this thing. Next year I might just chug a pint of heavy whipping cream and call it a day.

This is a tour de force. It’s like eating a brick of fudge. I could build a delicious house with this cake. A delicious NEIGHBORHOOD. There are THREE LAYERS EACH OF FUDGE CAKE AND DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE ALONE. NOT TO MENTION THE BUTTERCREAM?? JUST LOOK AT IT.

flowercake10

ARE YOU SEEING THIS.

This is the cake your mother warned you about.

Luckily, I am here to hold your hand through everything. I even tried to temper the intensity of this confection for more delicate sensibilities by arranging actual edible flowers on top. You are not obligated to do this, but just be warned that without them, you’ll be slammed in the face with the full magnitude of this chocolate monsterpiece. It takes no prisoners. 

This recipe was written for a three layer 6″ cake instead of the more traditional 9″ rounds because trust me, it’s enough. You are however totally free to make two slightly thicker 6″ rounds, or even one 9″ round. Whatever floats your boat!

You know what else oughta float your boat? The fact that this magnificent creation is low carb, gluten free, dairy free, and contains no added sugar. You could do worse.  

flowercake2

Fudgy Ganache Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (low carb, gluten free, no sugar added, dairy free)

Yields: Around 10-12 servings

Cake recipe adapted from Gourmet Girl Cooks

Ingredients: 

Cake
2/3 cup butter, coconut oil, or dairy-free spread, melted
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 1¼ cups powdered sweetener
¼ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp liquid stevia
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, or about 1/3 cup egg whites

Ganache
6 to 8 oz good quality sugar free chocolate
6 to 8 oz heavy whipping cream or unsweetened almond milk (8 oz. = 1 cup)
½ tsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
½ cup butter or dairy-free spread, softened
2 – 2 ½ cups powdered sweetener
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp almond milk or heavy whipping cream

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325° and grease two or three 6″ round (or one 9″) cake pans. Cut out a circle of parchment paper and place on bottom of each pan. I’m serious, don’t skip this.

To make cake, use a large bowl to combine melted butter (or coconut oil or dairy-free spread), cocoa powder, powdered sweetener and salt. Mix until well combined.

Stir in stevia and vanilla. Add egg whites one at a time, beating briskly after each addition until batter is glossy and smooth. Spread batter evenly in prepared pans using a spatula. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how thick each layer is) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out mostly clean. Let cool completely in pan before flipping out onto a cooling rack or cake stand.

To make buttercream frosting, beat softened butter or dairy-free spread and powdered sweetener until well combined and smooth.

Add vanilla extract and unsweetened almond milk or cream and beat until fully incorporated, adding more if needed for spreading consistency. Keep refrigerated until ready to pipe or spread onto cooled cake.

To make chocolate ganache, coarsely chop chocolate with a serrated knife, and then transfer to a heatproof bowl. You can now either bring the cream or almond milk to just a boil over medium-high heat (don’t let it boil over!), or heat it in the microwave. Pour over the chopped chocolate and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to allow it to melt the chocolate. Whisk together until smooth and shiny.

For an even lazier ganache, microwave the chopped chocolate and heavy cream or almond milk together, 30 seconds at a time. Let it sit for a minute, and then whisk away (I may have used this method).

NOW FOR MY FAVORITE PART. The layering. Place first cooled cake layer onto a cake plate and use the refrigerated buttercream to create a buttercream dam, piping around the edge. Pictured below:

See what I did there? The dam helps to keep the ganache from oozing out. This is my new favorite thing.

Continue this until the final layer, spreading top with remaining buttercream. Pour on the remaining ganache, which will be slightly thickened. If you’re extra fancy, add some ~*~organic edible flowers~*~ on top. Enjoy, and let every bite take you on a journey. 

Nutritional Info (Calculated for 12 servings, with dairy-free spread and unsweetened almond milk):

 flower cake nutrition

“Nutella” Cupcakes (Low carb, no sugar added, gluten free, dairy free)

nutellacupcakes7

Here is why America is the greatest country on Earth: Nutella.

I know. You’re thinking, “Nutella is an Italian product.” Ok, yes, smartypants, but this isn’t about origin. It’s about availability. And while European markets may be rife with Nutella delights, so are American ones. But it gets better: we also have peanut butter, speculoos spread, and even products SWIRLED WITH MORE THAN ONE. Europe, step YOUR GAME UP. (disclaimer: I still love Europe.)

We have all of these spreads available in spades. You know when even Jif is trying to get in on the chocolatey hazelnut action, it’s hit the mainstream.

And yet, in a sea of variety and choice, I was still left completely deprived in the Nutella department. True tragedy: the very first ingredient in Nutella is sugar. Great. Sure, there are loads of excellent recipes available to make your own, but sometimes you want to be able to just buy something instead of exhausting all that effort. HAZELNUTS DON’T BLANCH THEMSELVES, YOU KNOW.

So, essentially: water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. 

This is why I openly wept with joy when Go Lo Foods sent me a few samples of their Sugar Free Dark Hazelnut Spread With Cocoa. Sweetened with erythritol (my sweetener of choice!), it literally says “100% less sugar than Nutella” on the packaging. Yes. 

IMG_6051Read it and weep (with joy).

Straight off the spoon, this spread provides a mellow, dark chocolatey hazelnut flavor without the cloying sweetness of so many other spreads. With a bag of hazelnut flour, some sugar free dark hazelnut spread, and a dream, I knew what I had to do. I had to stop eating the samples long enough to make nutella cupcakes. 

I opted for a simple vanilla buttercream to let the hazelnutty chocolate goodness be the real star of the show. One bite of these brought me to my knees. I am actually still on my knees. It has been very uncomfortable to type this.

So come join me on the floor and whip up a batch of these today! Thanks, Go Lo Foods!

“Nutella” Cupcakes (Low carb, no added sugar, gluten free, dairy free)

Cupcake recipe adapted from Keto Adapted 

Yields: About 12 regular cupcakes, or 24 mini cupcakes

Ingredients: 

Cupcakes:
2 cups hazelnut or almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 egg whites, or about 1/3 cup egg whites
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup granulated sweetener
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp liquid stevia, optional

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
½ cup butter or dairy-free spread, softened
2 – 2 ½ cups powdered sweetener
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp almond milk or heavy whipping cream
¼ cup Go Lo Foods Sugar Free Dark Hazelnut Spread With Cocoa

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and line cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine the hazelnut or almond flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, combine almond milk, egg whites, sweetener, stevia, and vanilla extract.

Stir the wet ingredients into the hazelnut or almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter into the liners, about 2/3rds full.

For regular-sized cupcakes, bake 18-25 minutes (around 12-18 minutes for mini, but keep an eye on them), until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

nutellacupcakes11

To make buttercream frosting, beat softened butter or dairy-free spread and powdered sweetener until well combined and smooth.

Add vanilla extract and unsweetened almond milk or cream and beat until fully incorporated, adding more if needed for spreading consistency.

Spoon or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

For topping, spoon or pipe dark chocolate hazelnut spread on top of vanilla buttercream in swirls or melt slightly and drizzle over frosting. Enjoy!!

nutellacupcakes3

Nutritional Info (Calculated for 12 regular-sized cupcakes, with hazelnut flour and dairy-free spread):

nutella cupcake nutrition 

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions expressed are purely my own and not influenced in any way.

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

IMG_6096
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.

fishfry7

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:

Image-1

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)

shamrock10

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.

shamrock19

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.

shamrock11

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!

shamrock12

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.

 

 

Super Easy Chicken Ramen; Or, What’s A Shirataki? (Low carb, gluten free, dairy free, vegan adaptable)

ramen10

I understand you may be confused by the images you are seeing right now because they do not appear to feature a dessert. Honestly, even I’m confused. That is not a picture of dessert. That is definitely soup. Right? That isn’t a dessert. 

Well, I hope you’re sitting down: all of this was…INTENTIONAL. Yes, not unlike my Buffalo Salmon and Avocado Salad, occasionally I will find myself eating something other than cake. AND HERE LIES THE PROOF.

Part of the inspiration here is how fuh-reezing it’s been lately. To be fair I have been known to define anything under 50° as ‘freezing’, but still. It’s been the perfect kind of crisp, chilly winter air I love to romanticize while actually barricading myself indoors and turning my heated blanket setting up to ‘electrocute’.

Oh, and but of course: making some simmering, savory soup. Yeeesssss.

You really can’t go wrong with ramen. Cheap, easy, and delicious. And here, as is always the promise: healthy, too! Loaded with veggies, protein, and aaall that good stuff.

To make this a low carb dish, I’ve opted to use shirataki noodles over a more traditional noodle. What on earth is shirataki, you say? Why, I’m glad you asked!

Shirataki noodles (or yamflour noodles, konjac noodles, konnyaku noodles, etc) are a thin, transparent Japanese noodle made from the gelatinous fiber of the konjac yam. As an ingredient, they’re very low in carbohydrates and calories, and have little flavor of their own. They’re available in a bunch of different shapes, too – fettucini, angel hair, elbow, etc.

You can usually find them in the refrigerated section next to the tofu – they come packaged in liquid that smells a bit fishy upon opening. A quick rinse and any kind of heating (par-boiling, stir-frying, dry-roasting etc) should clear that up. Other than that, they’re ready right out of the bag! Some kinds of shirataki are made with tofu as well, which adds a minimal amount of calories and carbs, but some people prefer the texture. If you’re watching your carbs, keep an eye out for brands that sneak in various starches and flours.

So they’re a bit of an acquired taste, for sure. But are they healthy? WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR? I’ll let the clever minds behind the Keto Diet Blog summarize:

This study shows that the soluble fibre called glucomannan found in shirataki noodles may help you lose weight and improve health. Below are the main benefits of glucomannan:

  • Soluble fiber is very low in calories and lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that is consumed.
  • It has shown to promote satiety via several mechanisms. Including shirataki noodles will keep you fuller for longer!
  • It slows down digestion which again induces satiety.
  • It inhibits carbohydrate absorption and improves glycemic parameters (lowering blood glucose levels and inhibiting insulin spikes).
  • It reduces fat and protein absorption (only beneficial for excessive calorie consumption).

Sounds good to me. But if shirataki is too far out for you, you’re not out of healthy options! Try the ever-popular zucchini noodles (aka zoodles), kelp noodles, spaghetti squash, cabbage, or just some plain old gluten-free noodles (keeping in mind the carb count would change).

While I used some of my personal favorite veggies for this recipe, feel free to substitute or add in your own favorites! For our vegetarian/vegan friends, try switching in some tofu, seitan, portobello etc. instead of chicken. The possibilities are endless!

So the sooner we get this started, the better – my heated blanket’s power cord isn’t long enough to reach the kitchen.

Super Easy Chicken Ramen (Low carb, gluten free, dairy free, vegan adaptable)

Yields: around 4 servings

Ingredients: 

2-3 packages of shirataki noodles/tofu shirataki (I used plain shirataki)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced mushroom
2 cups baby bok choy, chopped (leaves separated from stalks)
1-2 tbsp minced garlic, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt or onion salt
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
4 cups chicken stock (I used a lower sodium chicken bone broth)
1-2 cups water
4-5 tbsp gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (I used a low sodium tamari)
12 oz. chicken, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup shredded or coined carrots
1/4 cup green onion, diced

Optional, for topping:
Nori (seaweed)
Boiled egg
Sriracha

Directions:

If using shirataki noodles, empty bags into a colander and drain all the liquid. Rinse well under water.

Drain noodles and transfer to a hot pan without any oil, grease, or liquid. Heat on medium-high for 5-10 minutes, or until noodles release steam and shrink slightly (but not too much!). Set aside.

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 bok choy stalks and sauté until they just begin to soften and release water. Add powdered ginger, black pepper, salt, and chili powder. Stir to combine.

ramen7

Add in chicken stock/bone broth, water, and tamari. Add in the rest of the bok choy leaves. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Add in shirataki noodles and cooked chicken. Simmer for 1-2 minutes more – shirataki noodles are great at absorbing flavors!

ramen5

Remove from heat and pour into bowls. Top with diced green onion, carrots, and anything else you’d like! Devour, and then crawl back under your comforter.

 

Nutritional Info (calculated without optional toppings):

ramen nutrition info

Happy Valentine’s Day! Homemade sugar free chocolate truffles? YES.

IMG_5332

Remember that one time when I, a bold and fearless trailblazer, decided that cinnamon was the new hotness for Valentine’s Day, and not chocolate?

Yes. Well. That lasted less than a week. WE’RE BACK TO CHOCOLATE.

This is because I am nothing if not a slave to suggestion. And the suggestion, from literally everywhere on this earth, was to buy some chocolate. I’m not kidding when I say I saw a car commercial heavily imply that my loved ones would abandon me if I did not purchase some chocolate (…well, and a car) for this hallowed holiday of Saint Valentine.

So there was that, but then also I would go out and buy chocolate even if someone explicitly instructed me not to. The lesson here being that I am completely lost on how I thought chocolate wasn’t going to factor heavily into my Valentine’s Day agenda.

vday16

There was one problem, though. Most commercial chocolates are loaded with about 17 different forms of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and fillers. Low carb they are not. Think you’re safe buying sugar free? Let’s take a look at a pretty standard label for sugar free chocolate:

simply lite whole label

Not so bad, you might say. Short list, mostly recognizable ingredients. WAIT A MINUTE –

simply lite close up

Charming. Maltitol: not even trying to be your friend. A lot of sugar alcohols (sorbitol, isomalt, etc.) can have this affect. Add that to some other fun facts (as summarized by About.com):

Although claims are often made that maltitol has little impact on blood sugar, this turns out not to be the case.

Maltitol is a carbohydrate. Although our bodies do not absorb all the calories in maltitol, this substance does provide us with 2 to 3 calories per gram, compared to the 4 calories per gram of sugar. Since maltitol is a carbohydrate, and since it provides calories, you would expect it to impact blood glucose.

In particular, maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52, which approaches that of table sugar at 60. The powdered form has a glycemic index of 36, which is still higher than most other sugar alcohols and all artificial sweeteners.

Estimates run from 75% to 90% of the sweetness of sugar.

So, if maltitol has ¾ of the sweetness of sugar, ¾ the calories of sugar, and ¾ the glycemic index of sugar, it isn’t a far leap to the conclusion that you need ¼ more maltitol to get the same effect of sugar.

Cool. So it’s basically expensive sugar that gives you indigestion. This is where we learn that “sugar free” ≠ “low carb”. So forgive me for being a little picky with my “sugar free” (please insert copious air quotations) options here.

I was stuck. What’s a dedicated chocoholic to do? Then suddenly, an epiphany: obviously, I needed to MAKE MY OWN TRUFFLES.

Ha! Ha ha!! Yes. HINT: Not obvious. This is actually the conclusion crazy people reach. I will be cleaning chocolate out from my fingernails for the next ten years.

But if nothing else, I am a woman of CONVICTION (read: stubborn). I could not give my loved ones chocolate-flavored corn syrup in a box, nor could I bring myself to purchase a fancily disguised laxative.

It took me about 100 years, but I finally settled on six different truffle varieties: marzipan hearts (recipe here at All Day I Dream About Food), fudgy ganache, fudgy ganache covered in MORE chocolate, peanut butter cups, cream filled, and white chocolate with strawberry buttercream. Go big or go home, I say.

vday28

There is no real recipe here, per se. More of an EXPERIENCE. But I can share some tips (if you really must insist on going through with any of this), and let me know if you’d like me to write up a specific recipe for anything, and I SHALL PROVIDE.

FIRST: 

Use a quality sugar free chocolate. Some of my personal favorite brands include Coco Polo and Innocent Chocolate. A truffle can only taste as good as the chocolate you put into it! Same for if you opt to go the cocoa powder route – get the good stuff. IF YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES.

IMG_5330Yes excellent this will do nicely 

SECOND:

Use a powdered sweetener for all your sweetening purposes. Chocolate is finicky. It doesn’t WANT to cooperate with you. If you need to sweeten, use a powdered sweetener to dissolve and blend better. This was especially helpful for making a sugar free white chocolate. My powdered sweetener of choice is Confectioners Swerve. You can also powder a granulated sweetener in a food processor.

Image-1

THIRD:

Use a double boiler to melt/temper chocolate on low heat. I’ve said it before, but chocolate is a jerk and wants to seize, clump or separate. For the best (and safest!) results, melt with a double boiler, and preferably not a microwave. I mean, you can make a microwave work, but it’s uneven, easier to burn, and harder to estimate doneness.

IMG_5258Dat ganache.

GODSPEED. And happy Valentine’s Day! ♥