Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce with my turkey, but traditional cranberry sauce is off the charts! Even a small portion of only 1/4 cup is loaded with 22 grams of added sugar and a total of 27 grams of carbs. Add that to the other carbohydrates in a Thanksgiving meal and cranberry sauce, even a spoonful, is off limits for me. Instead of dwelling on the things I can't have because of my diabetes, on this Thanksgiving Day I smile and am thankful I live in an age when there are so many wonderful alternatives that make it easy to manage this complicated disease.

It's simple to make homemade cranberry sauce and it tastes so much better than canned. I tweaked the traditional recipe just a bit to create this delicious variation that calls for a combination of erythritol sweetener, stevia and applesauce to replace the sugar called for in the recipe found on the back of a bag of fresh cranberries, plus it cooks up quick on the stovetop. The hint of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla balances out the tartness. The pectin in the applesauce helps to thicken the sauce perfectly. This cranberry sauce is so delicious, I top it with whipped cream and have it for dessert, use it as a fruit spread on my gluten free waffles or stir it into yogurt. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce
(Makes eight ¼-cup servings)

One 12 ounce bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup LaKanto Monkfruit sweetener (or other erythritol sweetener)
a pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (no sugar added)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (I used Sweet Leaf brand)

1. Rinse and pick over the cranberries and place them in a large saucepan. Add the LaKanto Monkfruit sweetener, salt, water, applesauce, cinnamon and cloves. Stir to combine.

2. Boil gently for 5-8 minutes (skins will split), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and stevia powder to taste. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to cool until it reaches room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until time to serve.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Nutritional Information per ¼ cup serving: 28 calories, 7 g carbohydrate, (2.3 g dietary fiber, 3.2 g sugars, 8 g sugar alcohols), 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 7.8 mg calcium, 50 mg potassium, 0.2 g protein.  Net carbs per serving: 4.7 grams

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009, revised 2016

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baked & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Winter squash abound at the grocery and farmer's market these days. They are delicious roasted in the oven and make an excellent side or main dish. They are considered a starchy vegetable but are much more glycemic-friendly than potatoes or rice, plus they are rich in beta-carotene, high in fiber and are a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamins C & B and magnesium.

Acorn squash is typically green in color, but other colorful varieties are now available and worth sampling. Some others to look for are carnival, delicata (or sweet potato squash) and golden acorn. In this recipe, I used carnival squash which is a small, multi-colored member of the acorn family. The flesh is golden and mildly sweet when roasted. Because of it's colorful exterior and heart shape, it makes a spectacular presentation on the plate. The combination of smoky sausage, seasoned spinach and creamy fresh mozzarella is a wonderful and satisfying meal on a cold night. So, celebrate the late autumn harvest and eat a squash!

Baked & Stuffed Carnival Squash
(Makes 2 servings)

1 small carnival or acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sausage patty, cooked and chopped (meat or vegetarian)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 ounce fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Cut squash in half. Scoop out and discard seeds. Drizzle olive oil onto baking sheet and place squash, cut side down, onto baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, place chopped spinach in small sauce pan and add about ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Drain any remaining water and season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and stir to combine.

3. When tender, remove squash from oven and turn over. Season each half with a little salt & pepper. Add cubed mozzarella to spinach mixture and stir. Divide spinach mixture equally and fill each squash cavity to overflowing. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon Parmesan over each portion and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving: 207 calories, 28.2 g carbohydrate, 4.7 g total fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 8.6 g fiber, 12.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Pie in a Cup

Thanksgiving! My favorite meal of the year. I read somewhere that when you're a PWD (person with diabetes), you never get a holiday and that's true. Just because it's Thanksgiving doesn't mean your blood sugar gets to take a holiday and go off the charts. You need to plan ahead, make choices or substitutions and measure portions just like every other day of the year. I know for me, giving up my favorite holiday foods, especially dessert, would leave me feeling unsatisfied and left out of the festivities. The experts will tell you "don't make it about the food" but, let's be honest here, Thanksgiving is very much about the food! Are those experts giving up their slice of pumpkin pie? (I doubt it.) Well, neither am I!

This excellent recipe has been perfected after many trials. I tried making a low carb crust with almond flour in various combinations with white or wheat flour, but they all turned out to be duds. Either they were too soggy, too tough, too high in carbs, or were too far from the REAL pumpkin pie taste that they failed the test. I almost gave up on the idea of crust altogether and thought I'd have to settle on pumpkin custard (which is good but doesn't have that same pie taste without the crust), then a light bulb went on over my head! The crust doesn't have to be on the bottom, I can have a little bit of real crust on the top while keeping the carbs down with other minor adjustments to the filling recipe -- I can have it all and so can you! Have a happy and sweet Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie in a Cup
(Makes 6 or 8* servings)

3 eggs
One 15 oz. canned pumpkin (2 cups)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup LaKanto Monkfruit Sweetener (or other erythritol sweetener)
1 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups almond milk or coconut milk (no sugar added, not vanilla flavor)
¼ purchased gluten-free pie crust
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
Whipped topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large mixing bowl or 5 cup measure, beat eggs and add canned pumpkin. Whisk in brown sugar, sweeteners, spices (2½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted), salt and almond milk; set aside.

2. Place six* (7-ounce size) custard cups into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Measure 2/3 cup of pumpkin mixture into each cup. Pour very hot water into pan until it reaches about half way up the side of the custard cups and carefully transfer to oven. (Tip: To avoid spilling water, place pan on oven rack before pouring in hot water.)

3. Bake for 60-70 minutes until set and a knife comes out clean when inserted in center of custard. Remove from oven and transfer custard cups to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. While custard is cooling, preheat oven to 375-degrees. Using only ¼ of the gluten free pie crust, cut out 18 small leaf shapes with tiny cookie or pie crust cutters. Place on a cookie sheet that has been covered with a piece of parchment paper (or lightly grease with butter). Combine the egg with water and beat with a fork. Brush egg wash on pie crust cutouts and bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Remove to wire rack to cool. Store in a sealed plastic bag until serving time. To serve, place three cutouts on each pumpkin custard as garnish.

Nutritional Information per serving with 3 crust cutouts (topping not included in calculations): 140 calories, 19.4 g carbohydrate, 5.1 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber, 4.3 g protein.

*NOTE: If you desire smaller portions with fewer carbs, use small custard cups and fill each with ½ cup pumpkin mixture. Cooking time will be reduced to 45-55 minutes. This measurement will yield eight servings with the following nutritional information per serving: 105 calories, 14.5 g carbohydrate, 3.8 g total fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 1.9 g fiber, 3.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare with traditional Pumpkin Pie? It is much lower in calories, fat and carbohydrates, plus, with this recipe, you actually get more pumpkin filling than you would if you had a slice of pie! For comparision, the nutritional information for 1/8th of a 9" traditional pumpkin pie is 375 calories, 52.5 g carbohydrate, 16.2 g total fat, 7.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carb-Friendly Vegetable Lo Mein

I love eating at a Chinese restaurant and one of my favorite dishes is Vegetable Lo Mein, which is chinese noodles with the most heavenly sauce. One might think because it's a vegetarian dish with the word "vegetable" in the name that it would be a good choice. Sadly, it is high calorie, carb dense and contains a lot more noodles than vegetables. So, what's a diabetic to do? Give it up completely? Not when you can make it at home with this quick and easy recipe that tastes every bit as good! The trick is to swap out the high carb noodles for a lesser amount of a high quality, low-carb pasta and fill in with a mountain of delicious, stir fried vegetables. You can make your own sauce or use a teriyaki bottled sauce. My favorite is Stonewall Kitchen's Garlic Teriyaki Sauce which contains about the same nutritional totals as my homemade version and, when I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table, that's what I use.

The best thing about this recipe is the amount of food per serving! This is not a skimpy portion size; you'll get a plateful of incredible, tender-crisp vegetables with a satisfying amount of pasta glazed with a delectable sauce. Feel free to add whatever vegetables your family likes best. It is out-of-this-world delicious! So, if you miss having your favorite Chinese noodle dishes, give this one a try and I think it will become one of your best loved recipes, too.

Carb-Friendly Vegetable Lo Mein
(Makes 2 servings)

1½ cups cooked reduced-carb pasta (I suggest Dreamfield's or Carba-Nada)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups broccoli florets
2 carrots, sliced thin and cut into 2” pieces
1 small zucchini, sliced thin and cut into 2” pieces
½ small onion, cut into 1” chunks
4 stalks bok choy (white part) or 2 celery stalks, cut on the bias into ½” pieces

Sauce ingredients: (or use ¼ cup bottled teriyaki sauce*)
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1½ tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin) or sherry
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon cornstarch

1. Prepare low carb pasta according to the package directions. If not using a bottled teriyaki sauce, mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium-high in a large non-stick skillet. Add carrots and celery and saute for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add remaining vegetables and continue to stir fry until tender crisp. Add sauce to pan and stir constantly until mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat. Drain cooked pasta and add to vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving (½ of recipe): 234.5 calories, 39.1 g carbohydrate, 4.8 g total fat, 0.62 g saturated fat, 4.8 g fiber, 10.6 g protein

*I recommend Stonewall Kitchen Garlic Teriyaki Sauce. It has exceptional flavor and about the same nutritional information per ¼ cup as the recipe provided.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare with traditional Vegetable Lo Mein? This recipe is about half the calories and significantly lower in carbohydrates and fat. For comparison, the nutritional information for the same amount of traditional lo mein is 411 calories, 64 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 4 g fiber and 5 g protein.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breakfast Smoothies

Occasionally I'm asked to suggest breakfast recipes. This is difficult for me to do because I don't eat breakfast in the traditional sense. Instead, I start every day with a high-fiber, protein smoothie that often incorporates fruit or chocolate (cocoa powder) that satisfies and keeps me going for hours! About a year and a half ago, I gave up cereal, toast, oatmeal, bagels, muffins or anything else many people turn to for breakfast because these items just don't contain the same nutritional density that my smoothie does and all are downright "carb-age" and would do my body more harm than good. I give my morning smoothies a lot of credit for my initial weight loss and I continue to drink them to maintain my weight. I want to be clear: I don't have a smoothie with breakfast, the smoothie IS my breakfast. But it doesn't need to be used only as a replacement for the morning meal, it can be used anytime of the day as a meal replacement.

Most of the products I use in my smoothies are easily found in your grocery store, such as frozen fruit, fresh fruit, cocoa powder, creamy nut butters and almond milk. There are other ingredients that may need to be ordered on the Internet. For example, to boost the fiber content, I add PaleoFiber powder which contains 10 grams of fiber per tablespoon! (If you don't have a fiber powder, substitute Ground Flaxseed Meal or chia seeds which are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.) Also, for flavoring, I often add Sweet Leaf flavored stevia drops. My favorites are Vanilla Creme, English Toffee, Lemon Drop and Dark Chocolate. For my protein powder, I have used almost exclusively collagen hydrolysate and highly recommend it for this purpose. It is pure, unflavored protein that contains all of the essential amino acids without other additives or fillers. It dissolves in cold, warm or hot liquids. If you're in the weight loss phase and wish to purchase another type of protein powder, I suggest purchasing a low-carb one made especially for weight loss which will help you accomplish this goal.

Green Smoothies are the craze these days. My mother has one every morning and she swears by them. If you're lucky enough to own a Vitamix high-power blender or another brand with a 2-hp motor or higher, try one soon. A regular blender will work, but you may have to blend for a longer amount of time. Green Smoothies are a mixture of fresh or frozen fruit, leafy greens (such as spinach, kale and collards) and water that has been liquefied into a smooth, vitamin-packed drink. The fruit adds sweetness and disguises the taste of the greens. It's a great way to get two or more servings of vegetables in one sitting. Here's a link to a video that will show you how easy it is to make one: Green Smoothie Video. If you want to learn more, search for other excellent demonstrations and testimonials about green smoothies.

Finally, before I post a couple of my own recipes for smoothies, I would like to recommend a few low-carb smoothie recipe books that I use for flavor ideas:

2. Low-Carb Smoothies by Dana Carpender. (This one is out of print, but very good if you can find it.)

My Breakfast Smoothie Recipes

Strawberry Banana Smoothie (Makes 1 serving, pictured above)

In a blender, blend on high until well mixed together:

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup unsweetened plain yogurt (or unsweetened plain kefir)
2 packets stevia (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
1/4 small banana
1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon PaleoFiber powder (or substitute chia seed or ground flaxseed meal)
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate (or Vanilla protein powder of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutritional Information per serving: 276 calories, 44.7 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g total fat, 14.3 g fiber, 16.7 g protein.

Snickers Smoothie (Makes 1 serving)

In a blender, blend on high until well mixed together:

1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup unsweetened plain yogurt (or unsweetened plain kefir)
2 packets stevia (I use Sweet Leaf brand)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
5 drops English Toffee stevia
1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter or almond butter (no sugar added)
1 tablespoon PaleoFiber powder (or substitute chia seed or ground flaxseed meal)
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate (or Vanilla protein powder of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutritional Information per serving: 309 calories, 35.2 g carbohydrate, 11.2 g total fat, 14.8 g fiber, 18.4 g protein.

Original recipes by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009