Tag Archives: #sugar-free

Sugar-Free Made Simple: Spiced Pickled Peaches

I’ve said it before, but I love me some pickles.  Unfortunately, most store-bought pickles have some form of sugar in them.  So do most of my homemade pickle recipes.  (I see a whole lotta recipe revamping comin’ on.)

This spiced peach recipe, however, is not one that I’ve made before now.  I found it while searching for new ways to use my fresh chocolate mint.  If you haven’t tried chocolate mint yet, I highly recommend it.  I steep it in warmed coconut milk in the evening, and I also used it to make this gluten-free chocolate mint snack cake.

My inspiration recipe started with canned peaches in syrup.  Looking for a healthier alternative, I chose to use fresh peaches.  Remember – I’m kicking my sugar addiction here.  I also made some substitutions with the spices to use what I had in my pantry.  One of the things I love about pickling is that you can customize it to suit  your taste.  You also know exactly what is going into the food that you eat, when you use whole, fresh ingredients.

Aren’t they gorgeous?  I almost couldn’t wait the 24 hours in the fridge before trying my first bite.  Patience is not my virtue.  But then I decided that eating a too-sour, too-unpickled slice too soon would be a waste of peach.  It’s all about choices.

If you don’t have chocolate mint, you can substitute regular fresh mint.  You could also double, triple, or quadruple the recipe, if you have a bounty of peaches while they are in season.  I think these would also do well, if you wanted to preserve them for a longer period of time through a sterile canning process.  Me?  Remember, I’m not patient.  A quick, refrigerator pickle is more my style.  But let me know how they turn out, and I will envy your canning prowess.  And admire your patience.

Spiced Pickled Peaches
Adapted from Skirt in the Kitchen

3 sprigs fresh chocolate mint
1 cinnamon stick
1-inch fresh ginger, sliced
1 c. rice vinegar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. whole cloves
1/4 t. whole peppercorns
1/8 t. anise seed
1/2 t. sea salt

In the bottom of a pint jar, place the mint, cinnamon stick, and sliced ginger. Set aside.

Place enough water to cover the peaches when they are submerged in a medium saucepan.  Bring the water to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut a small “X” at the bottom of each peach.  Place a medium-side bowl of ice water near the stove top.  When water is boiling, submerge the peaches for 30-40 seconds.  Remove the peaches from the boiling water and place in the ice water bowl for approximately a minute.  Remove the peaches from the ice water and pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towels.  The skins should easily slip off, but use a paring knife for any spots that don’t easily peel.

Slice the peeled peaches in half and remove the pits.  Fill the prepared jar with the sliced peaches.  If they don’t all fit, set them aside.  You may be able to sneak more in once the liquid is poured over the peaches.

In a small saucepan, bring rice vinegar and the next 8 ingredients to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour the vinegar mixture over peaches in the prepared jar.  If you had any leftover peach slices, try to fit them in now.

Put the lid on the jar and allow the peaches to come to room temperature.  Place the cooled jar in the refrigerator and allow to “pickle” for at least 24 hours.  The peaches will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.


Sugar-Free Made Simple: Crock Pot Bolognese with a Grain-Free Pasta Alternative

Now that I don’t eat a single thing that has more ingredients on the label than I have fingers, I am amazed at how much sugar is in EVERYTHING.  Since I’m not eating sugar, this means that I’ve had to give up more than a few of my favorite convenience foods.  What do I miss the most?  Jarred mushroom marinara sauce.

Weird that I would pick pre-made spaghetti sauce?  Maybe.  But spaghetti with meat sauce was always one of my go-to weeknight comfort food meals.  As the pasta cooked, I would brown ground beef with onion, garlic, and spices and then pour on the sauce.  Dinner in less than 15 minutes.  Even after I stopped eating gluten-laden noodles, I would still top quinoa pasta or spaghetti squash with my meat sauce.

Why, oh why, does marinara sauce need to be loaded with sugar?  The answer: it doesn’t.  Convenience?  This sauce is great for busy weeknights, because I can throw the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and come home to perfectly simmered sauce in the evening.

And don’t let me forget about the pasta.  When I went grain-free, gone too was my quinoa spaghetti.  So you may be asking, “Why is there fettuccine on your plate, Karen?”  It’s actually Shirataki Fettuccine…completely grain-free.  I will admit that, at first, I was scared of these noodles in their water-filled plastic bag.  But now I’m wondering where these babies have been the last year of my life.  Simply drain, cut, season, and heat…done.  I leave mine a little on the long side, because I love that I can twirl pasta with a fork and spoon again.  To me, comfort food is just as much about the experience as it is the food itself.  And I love to play with my food.

I have also topped some coconut bread with this sauce, and my husband put it over salad yesterday.  I may or may not have just eaten this straight out of the bowl with a spoon.  It’s that good.

Crockpot Bolognese
Adapted from Hungry Girl: 300 Under 300

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
1 c. minced yellow onion
1 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1 28-oz. can organic crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz. can organic, fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can organic tomato paste
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1-2 clove garlic, minced
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, oregano
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, basil
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, rosemary
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
sea salt, to taste
coarsely ground pepper, to taste

Crumble the raw ground beef in the bottom of the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.  Top the meat with the vegetables: onion, bell pepper, carrot, and mushroom.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper.  Pour the tomato mixture over the meat and vegetables in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, stirring after at least one hour to further break up the ground beef.

Makes 8-10 servings

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Snack Cake (with a secret ingredient)

When my friends ask what I’ve been up to lately, my answer is “chopping vegetables”.  Seriously.

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted about a major lifestyle change that I was about to make.  Well, you guys, I have completely changed the way eat.  No, not just the way I eat.  I have completely changed the way I think about food.

Last year, I gave up all gluten and refined sugar after suffering from three major allergic reactions between February and June.  I mean the kind that get you a quick trip to the emergency room.  Diagnosed with systemic candidiasis — that basically means that my body had grown a whole lot more candida albicans than the average person — I started taking medication and gave up the breads, pastas, and sweet treats that I loved.  Turns out candida loves them more.

What I have learned over the last year is that I had been suffering symptoms from candidiasis well before February, but I always attributed my feeling bad to something else.  Within a month of not eating gluten and refined sugar, my weekly migraines stopped.  How do I know it wasn’t something else that changed?  Because I’m a cheater.  I would eat just one little brownie or a teensy slice of bread thinking “what could it hurt?”, and whammo, migraine headache.  No cheats; no headaches.

Yay!  Right?  Well, I never got completely well.  I was better, but I still had a ton of gastrointestinal issues.  And a battle with completely unexplained, stubborn weight gain around my belly.  And a bunch of other symptoms too boring to discuss in this forum.  Have you ever heard people say that they were sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Sounds like a corny bumper sticker, right?  Except that’s me.  I finally reached my breaking point three weeks ago, and I decided that it was time to make a change.

If you are familiar with addiction treatment terminology, then some of the words I’m using may resonate.  That’s because I am addicted to flour, sugar, and salt.  Why else did I repeatedly eat things that I knew would make me sick later?  In an effort to explain my behavior to friends, I actually caught myself likening it to drinking too much while knowing that there would be a hangover to follow.  Truth is most of us are addicted to flour, sugar, and salt.  Um, the food manufacturers are more than well aware of this.


I am not at a point where I am well enough to be the teacher about how we are hooked on food that hurts us.  If you want to know more, watch a documentary like Hungry for Change.  There are also tons of books, especially anything by Michael Pollan or Dr. Mark Hyman.  Or just look around at how — please excuse my frankness — fat we all are.  Even many thin people are fat when it comes to body composition.

Have I peaked your interest in my new journey?  Well, how about this: I lost 8 pounds in the last 10 days.  And I ate really awesome food 5-6 times a day.  Grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, avocados, every tree nut and just about every seed you can imagine, fresh herbs, and lovely, beautiful, in-season vegetables. 

Okay, now why in the heck am I showing you a recipe for cake after all of that?  Two reasons.  First, like any addict, I need to be able to manage my environment.  Having this cake, which has no flour, very little sugar, and tons of good-for-me ingredients helps ease my fears about NEVER BEING ABLE TO EAT SWEETS AGAIN.  My approach to wellness is more harm reduction than cold-turkey, for a lot of reasons that I hope to speak more eloquently about when I’m on the other side.  The second reason?  I baked this cake on Sunday.  Since then, I have only eaten a single 2-inch square of it.  Before I made the cake, I promised myself that if I started to obsess about the cake sitting on my kitchen counter, or if I felt out-of-control around it, then I would either throw it away or take it into work for my hungry friends.  But that hasn’t been an issue.  So the biggest reason to share about this cake is that I’m so proud of myself for conquering not only my cravings, but also my fear of them.

I got the idea for this recipe while searching for a way to use up the rest of my locally-grown fresh chocolate mint.  Delighted Momma’s Flourless Zucchini Brownies got me straight up off the couch and into the kitchen to try my own version.  I had to find out how a vegetable, almond butter, and a single egg could result in a baked good worth eating.

Were they?  You betcha!  Zucchini is my new favorite secret ingredient.  I think the texture is more cake than brownies, though, so I switched up the name.  Next time, I will experiment with adding either almond or coconut flour for a more brownie-like texture.  If it works, I will definitely share. 

I had the chocolate liquid stevia on hand, but you could use regular or vanilla liquid stevia if you prefer.  Or powdered stevia.  When my system is more calibrated, I may use raw honey.  The point is to make this work for you and your health.  I also used the small amount of gluten-free dark chocolate chips that I still had on hand after my pantry purge.  Next time, I will probably use cacao nibs as a sugar-free alternative.  Also, allow this cake to cool completely, because it makes a huge improvement in the texture and flavor to let this baby come to room temperature.

Chocolate Mint Snack Cake

2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped into large pieces
1 c. almond butter
1 egg
1 t. liquid chocolate stevia, or sweetener of choice
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
approximately 20 fresh chocolate mint leaves
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with coconut oil spray and set aside. 

In a food processor, chop the zucchini until finely minced.  Add the next eight ingredients and pulse until well combined.  Remove the bowl from the food processor and stir in dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs. 

Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Slice, serve, and enjoy.

Refined Sugar-Free Crockpot Cinnamon-Cardamom Almonds

On Friday, my husband asked “Have you posted any blogs lately?”

Then on Sunday, my mother asked “Are you still blogging?”

I have no explanation, other than that blogging started to feel like a chore.  So I took some more time off.  Heck, I even wrote some draft posts…but I didn’t post them.

Now, though, it’s time to get on with it.  Because as I hinted on Instagram last week, I am about to embark on a HUGE lifestyle change.  But more about that later.

When Krysta shared these crock pot cinnamon sugar almonds on a recent blog hop, I knew that I wanted to put my own spin on the recipe with some sugar substitutions.  I took the easy way out and substituted granulated xylitol for the sugar and palm sugar for the brown sugar.  They practically look like the originals.  Because I find these sweeteners to be even sweeter than traditional sugars (though they have fewer calories….bonus), I cut down on the proportions a bit.  I also added cardamom, because the hubby loves it.

Maybe it was the sugar substitution, but my almonds were a little sticky at the end of the cook time.  No problem.  I spread them on a silicone baking sheet and allowed them to cool slightly.  Then I sprinkled them with some of my reserved xylitol/palm sugar blend, turned them over, and sprinkled their backsides too.  After cooling completely, I had a jar full of goodness.

Refined Sugar-Free Crockpot Cinnamon-Cardamom Almonds
Adapted from KrystaSteen.com

1 egg white
2 t. vanilla
3 c. raw almonds
3/4 c. granulated xylitol
3/4 c. palm sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cardamom
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/8 – 1/4 c. water

Combine granulated xylitol, palm sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in small bowl.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and vanilla together until they are frothy.  Add the almonds to the egg mixture and toss until they are completely coated.  Add 1 cup of the xylitol/palm sugar mixture and stir gently to coat, reserving a 1/4 cup of the xylitol/palm sugar mixture for later.

Grease the crock pot with coconut oil or non-stick cooking spray.  Add the almond mixture and cover.  Cook on low for two hours, stirring every 20 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of water to almond mixture and stir until the almonds look like they are coated with syrup.  Cook for another hour, again stirring every 20 minutes.

Spread cooked almonds on a non-stick surface in a single layer; a silicone mat or waxed paper work well.  Allow the almonds to cool slightly, approximately 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with half of the reserved xylitol/palm sugar mixture.  Turn the almonds over and sprinkle with the remaining xylitol/sugar, allowing to cool first if they are still warm enough to “melt” the sugar mixture.

Store almonds in an airtight container for up to two weeks…if they last that long.

Linking to the awesome parties listed here.

Sweet & Savory Cornmeal Pancakes (Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Do you ever have cravings for a particular food that you haven’t eaten in years?  Just out of nowhere?  That’s me with these cornmeal pancakes.  So when I found this gluten-free recipe for sweet or savory cornmeal pancakes, I was a happy camper.

Except why, I thought, do I have to choose between sweet or savory?  Why not both?  And that, children, is how we got Sweet & Savory Cornmeal Pancakes.  You are welcome.

Sweet & Savory Cornmeal Pancakes

1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 t. salt
3/4 c. milk, or more as needed
1 c. dried cranberries
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 c. chopped chives
3 slices crispy bacon, crumbled
2 T. bacon drippings
1 large egg
1 T. walnut oil, or preferred oil

Combine the cornmeal, salt, and 1 1/2 cups boiling water in a bowl. Stir and let sit until the cornmeal absorbs the water and softens, approximately 5 minutes. In a small bowl, beat the egg and set side. Stir cranberries, orange peel, chives, bacon, and drippings into the cornmeal mixture. Add the egg and stir until combined. Slowly add milk, until the batter is the desired consistency — thin enough to spread on the pan, but not too thin.

Put a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of oil to the pan. Spoon out the batter, making any size pancakes you like. Cook until edges and underside are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side until golden.  Serve with maple syrup.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Rosemary, Date, Walnut, and Feta Shortbread Cookies: Gluten-Free and Refined Sugar-Free

I don’t always know what first sparks an idea for a new recipe, but often it is because I hate to waste anything.  Case in point, these cookies.  It all started with feta cheese.

Yes, that’s right.  Not wanting to throw away some feta cheese resulted in cookies.

I didn’t want my usual go-to’s for feta cheese: pasta, pizza, salads, etc.  In the mood for something different, I did a quick internet search and found these Cranberry, Walnut and Feta Shortbread Cookies from Kitchen Tested.  Perfect!  But I wanted to make the recipe gluten-free, so that I could eat them.  Duh!  As usual, I turned to Elana’s Pantry and found these Gluten-Free Pecan Shortbread Cookies.

After a quick look in my pantry to make sure that I had enough almond flour, I decided to use dates in place of cranberries and add some fresh rosemary.  I had some in the fridge that needed to be used up before it too went to waste.  Win, win!

I adore umami flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, so these cookies were perfect for me.  It would be super easy, though, to leave out the rosemary if you aren’t a fan.  Or to substitute a difference nut for the walnuts.  Heck, you could even use goat cheese or blue cheese crumbles in place of the feta.  Just let me know if how they turn out!

Rosemary, Date, Walnut, and Feta Shortbread Cookies

2 1/2 c. almond flour
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
5 T. raw honey
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 T. gluten-free vanilla extract
1/2 c. dates, chopped
1 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

In a medium bowl combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, and rosemary. In a large bowl, mix together honey, butter, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture and combine. Stir in dates, walnuts, and feta cheese until just combined.

Place dough in the center of a large piece of waxed paper and form into a log that is about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Place dough in freezer for about one hour, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Remove dough from freezer and unwrap. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the cookies are a light golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are a dark golden brown. Cool cookies on baking sheet for one minute, then move to a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Lemon Buttermilk Waldorf Salad with Blueberries

This weekend my husband and I celebrated the return of Fat Dan’s Deli in their new Indy location with an Italian beef and these slow-smoked wings.  To balance out all that smokey-meaty-goodness, I wanted a fresh, crisp salad.  Once again, I turned to my weekly Green Bean Delivery produce bin for inspiration.

I found apples and celery and immediately thought of a Waldorf salad.  No grapes though.  No worries, because I found this great Chopped Waldorf Salad recipe from Deliciously Organic that uses blueberries.  Yum.

I like my Waldorf Salad a little on the tart side, so a Lemon Buttermilk Dressing like the one from Foodess was perfect for what I had in mind. To keep the dressing light, I substituted Vegenaise and grapeseed oil.  I also used stevia in place of the sugar.

I didn’t have chives, but I did have green onions.  As I grabbed these from the refrigerator, I also impulsively picked up the mint.  With the apples, celery, lemon, and buttermilk, I thought the mint would add a clean, fresh bite to the salad.  Then when I pulled the sliced almonds from the pantry, the shredded coconut also caught my eye.  Why not, I thought?  I adore coconut.  Once I combined all the ingredients and plated the salad on the romaine lettuce, I finished it with some coarsely ground pink Himalayan salt.

I know, I know.  Blueberries with green onions?  And mint?  Yes, trust me.  It tasted like Spring in every bite.  But the coconut?  Meh.  You can skip it if you want.

Lemon Buttermilk Waldorf Salad with Blueberries
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
3-4 celery ribs, diced
1 cup blueberries
1/4 c. green onion, diced
1 T. fresh mint, minced
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
Lemon Buttermilk Dressing:
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 t. lemon zest, finely grated
1/3 c. grapeseed oil
2 T. vegenaise
1/4 c. buttermilk
sweetener of choice, to taste (I used about a half packet to stevia powder)
1/2 t. salt or to taste

Whisk together ingredients for Lemon Buttermilk Dressing and set aside.  Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the Lemon Buttermilk Dressing and stir to coat the salad mixture.  For best results, refrigerate the salad for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.  Serve over chopped romaine lettuce.

Makes 4-6 servings.