low carb

Soft Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies

I've been loving having this moist, healthy chocolate chip blondie around when less healthy options are staring me in the face.

There are a couple things I love about this recipe:

1. The list of ingredients.  Chickpeas, peanut butter, a few healthy sweeteners, no flour, and your choice of chocolate chips.  That's it.

2. These blondies can be made up in one bowl (the food processor bowl) and thrown in the oven in literally minutes.

3. They are low carb, vegan, dairy-free + sugar-free (based on your choice of chips), and an awesome alternative to sugary blondies.  

4. They are soft, moist and gooey in the center!  

5.  These are awesome treats to make for your kids if you're trying to wean them from sugary treats, for after a workout, or bagged up for your purse to enjoy at a social outing when you want to control what you're eating.  (Check out the nutritional facts in the recipe below!)

(Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen's blondies.)

Soft Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies

I'd love to hear what you think of this recipe.  I served these squares of blondies to the kids along side some whole milk plain yogurt for breakfast.

 

Don't be afraid to EAT the way you WANT to eat--it just means being prepared with healthy alternatives in your home and for when you're out and about and sugary-cravings or less nutritious options tempt you.   

Be HEALTHY for you.  Help your kids be healthy.  And LIVE BOLDLY.

 

Nicole Shiffler

 

 

 

open-faced turkey, avocado + cream cheese sliders

They may not look intimidating, but these little sliders have outstanding flavor.  If you're bored with lunch these open-faced turkey, avocado, + cream cheese slider sandwiches will add some excitement back to your noonday... And for your kids + hubby.

As the base of the slider sandwich, I made a coconut flour/flaxmeal loaf of bread (from [amazon_link id="1607745518" target="_blank" ]Paleo Cooking from Elena's Pantry[/amazon_link]) and let the loaf rest for almost an hour--really a must with making coconut flour or almond flour breads.  You can double or triple most grain-free bread recipes and keep them in the freezer for when you need it.  (I doubled this recipe and used the remaining batter for muffins to go with dinner this week.)

Check out how simple these sliders are to make...

Slice the bread into even slices.  Using a wooden bread slicer makes perfectly even slices.

Now just assemble:

  1. Spread softened cream cheese
  2. Layersliced turkey
  3. Next sliced avocado + salt
  4. Top with fresh grated dubliner cheese (or any other hard cheese you have on hand)

Because most grain-free loaves are smaller, they lend to better one-handed-pick up.  I like to stack the toppings high and make my kids and myself more open faced sandwiches then traditional sandwiches with a top and a bottom when using a coconut flour bread because the bread is more dense.

Oh yes, and they are perfectly customizable.  Rowan asks for everything "plain" so got plain bread and Saturday's leftover sausage, Ainsleigh had cream cheese and pepperoni, and so on.

Perfect healthy & filling lunch for the kids:

  • 2-3 open-faced turkey, avocado, + cream cheese slider sandwiches*
  • sliced apple + a heaping scoop of your favorite nut butter

*If packing these slider sandwiches for outings or lunchboxes, simply wrap each assembled slider in plastic wrap or place them in a glass tupperware container with a toothpick through the middle to keep toppings together.

Happy, healthy eating!

 

beach cookies

As tradition, we made a special beach cookie before we left for our trip to the Outer Banks.  It's something that both the girls and I look forward to because 1) we love coming up with some creative, unique cookie each year and 2) we seldom make decorated sugar cookies around here and the process is really quite fun.

The Cookie:

The first task: how to make a healthier sugar cookie.   I chose to use the very versatile sugar cookie recipe from the cookbook [amazon_link id="1936608367" target="_blank" ]Against All Grain[/amazon_link].  It creates a wonderfully flavorful sugar cookie that can definitely stand alone and stand up to a traditional flour sugar cookie.

Because of the almond flour called for in the recipe, these are nice and substantial cookie.  These protein-packed cookies are filling enough after one, maybe two, which I love.  And they are nicely sweetened with honey which adds to the layers of flavors.  Excellent base cookies for any special occasion. (I'm thinking of possibly making these in place of Rowan's second birthday cake since he doesn't care for cake or cupcakes... maybe he'll eat a cookie??)

The Icing:

The icing was experimental and, as experiments can go, I won't do it again the next time.  Being low on a variety of my sweeteners (ZSweet, coconut sugar, etc.) I tried making royal icing using Splenda.  It definitely allowed us to flood the cookies and acted like a decorating royal icing but it left an aftertaste.

The Decorating:

This year we knew exactly what our beach cookie would be after a few weeks of researching: this playful beach-themed cookie.  Johanna had requested and watched this video enough to have the whole process memorized when it came time to make them. And how proud I was of the girls for each of the cookies they decorated!  I especially loved their hearts drawn in the sand with a tooth pick.  I helped here and there but they truly owned these cookies.

And as tradition, we packed up our beach cookies and drove them the whole day to the beach and brought them out to share with the kids' cousins our first full day at the beach.

And there you have it: this year's beach cookie.  And now we can move very happily into fall...

Wanna see our favorite beach cookies?

seashells cookies

lighthouse cookies

Have a great weekend friends.

 

5-minute peach frozen yogurt

I know.

Still talking about peaches. 

We are kinda overflowing with them.  We are past the point of having any fresh peaches out on the counter.  Thankfully, frozen sliced peaches are a beauty to a number of recipes.  One being 5 minute peach frozen yogurt.  It literally takes 5 minutes to make which is my kind of healthy, natural snack/dessert to make.  And is absolutely beautiful with specks of red from the skin and its bright orange flesh.

It's simple: frozen peaches, plain greek yogurt, a splash of lemon juice, and drizzle of honey.

And blend.  It's that simple but truly a sweet (end of) summer treat.

I double the recipe so we can enjoy the flavors of summer well into the fall.  It serves up as a fancy dessert in glass punch cups or perfectly refreshing for an afternoon snack flopped on the couch with the kids and spoons in hand.

5 minute peach frozen yogurt

{Yep--that's the packed indoor freezer: peach popsicles, two tubs of frozen yogurt, an (upcoming recipe of) frozen peach bars, and lots of shredded frozen zucchini and zucchini soup.  Revealing your freezer is like revealing your kitchen miscellaneous drawer: it's a little uncomfortable.}

Make now or pin for later.  

Today's the anticipated packing day for our beach trip.  Tomorrow is the anticipated baking day. These are the fun days.

Have a peachy Thursday!  

 

lunch ideas

So I'm starting a little series called rethink lunchthat I hope will inspire the healthy and excited eater in you.  It's a series for you and your family.  I'm happy to share some of our favorite lunches with you based on things we have on hand that can be simple and incredibly tasty for the whole family.  And filling for even the most active, growing children to the most active, hungry adult.

On that note, many of these lunch ideas can be made or adapted for packing up for school lunches, field trips, or lunch at work.  I'm also excited to help you break the difficult cycle of serving up the same ol' lunches for new tasty, colorful, nutritious meals that satisfy (foods that will keep kids fully, longer) and keep the whole family happy.

Eating should be a thrilling adventure!

Come check out today's lunch...

Today's lunch eats more like a dinner.  There are a few more steps then our typical lunches but those steps literally take a few minutes to put together.  You can pull individual parts out of this complete lunch for ease or make up the whole lunch menu. This is a great filling meal that means the whole family will be satisfied until dinner.  That's worth the extra steps!

Quickly tossed garden cherry tomatoes, feta, sweet onion, drizzled olive oil + dried basil: This is a simple side salad for any meal that is so refreshing.  Your little tomato eaters may love the combination as well (especially if you exclude the onion).

(Pack it: Make a big batch of cherry tomato + feta salad at the beginning of the week to take with you in a small container + fork throughout the week.)

BLT or ham + cheese club toast: Slice grain-free (or gluten-free) bread thin, line a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and broil for a minute or so.  Top each toast with mayo, ham, havarti cheese, tomato, + bacon.  Stick back in the oven to toast up the cheese and bacon.

For the BLT version, slip a few pieces of crispy romaine lettuce under the warm tomato once broiled.  Salt the tomatoes and serve warm.

(Pack it: Simply make the BLT or ham + cheese club without broiling it and it's an open faced sandwich.)

Fresh blueberries + fresh whipped cream:Pour some heavy cream in an electric mixer for a few minutes, add a pinch of sweetener + vanilla extract.  Add berries to individual cream servings.  Acts as a dessert at the end of the meal.

(Pack it: Store a big scoop of whipped cream topped with berries in a sealed container in a chilled lunch sack.

Awesome post lunch treat when you're not home.)

Serve up lunch with any other leftovers for more vegetable options for the non-tomato eaters in the fam.  We reached for parmesan broccoli, carrots + dip.

Needless to say, there was something for everyone.  And super delicious!

What struggles do you have with making/putting together lunch for you or your family?  I'd love to hear your feedback.

Happy lunching!

 

zucchini hummus

This recipe has pretty much changed my mind that hummus can only be made and delicious with chickpeas.   Since I consciously limit my carbohydrates for my overall health it was a thrilling miracle to find a non-bean hummus recipe.  And this is the one and only recipe you'll ever need...

This is I Breathe...I'm Hungry's recipe that I slightly adapted.  I was fascinated by the idea and am so glad I tried it.  I love that it 1) uses up our big zucchinis and 2) is an incredible spread/dip for just 2 net carbs per 2 TBSP.  Super healthy too.

You've got to try it.

zucchini hummus 

4 cups chopped zucchini

3/4 cups tahini paste

1/4 cup lemon juice concentrate

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp minced garlic

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 TBSP ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Dip with veggies, chips, pork rinds, or use as a spread.

And if you still need ideas to use up for extra zucchinis, our number one favorite still remains to be these chocolate zucchini spice cupcakes...er...muffins when uniced.

 

my sugar addiction + chocolate chunk slab cookies

It's safe to say that I've struggled with an addiction to sugar for much of my life.  Overeating it, sneaking it, thinking about it, eating half of a batch of something I've baked because I just can't get enough.  

I know I'm not the only one that has been a slave to sugar.   Many women I know in particular, have those intense cravings, bake/buy to follow through with those intense cravings, and suffer from the life-long cycle of indulging, feeling guilt, warding off sweets, indulging, guilt, and trying to get some control.  I know that cycle very well.

I remember that cycle for the majority of last summer of heavy "feel good" baking: mermaid cupcakes, fairy log cake, bridal shower sugar cookies, Choose the Right cupcakes, Caroline's baptism cake, seashell cookies, etc.  My heart honestly aches when I think about all of the sugar I consumed trying this, nibbling on that, eating four of these late at night, and, mostly, the mental anguish of feeling like I had no control over myself.  (Not to mention the roller coaster of fat gain.)

After last summer, I decided enough was enough.  I took a break for decorating and baking the traditional way and have since done my own homework and experimenting with other sweeteners and learned to enjoy the occasional sweet treat without encouraging the addiction.

There is so much I could write on this topic but for now, I just want to tell those of you that suffer the way I have for years that there is a way out of the web.  I would have honestly never believed that statement if I hadn't tried it for myself.  And it doesn't mean never having a special piece of wedding cake at a wedding or other social eating.

In general I'll enjoy a few treats during the week that I've made with my family.  I enjoy it's sweetness (usually sweetened with a natural, sugar free sweetener) and am actually moderate.  Surprisingly moderate.  Since I don't make gluten-filled fluffy cupcakes anymore I can't eat 5 of them.  Nut flours and other fat/protein rich ingredients I use in many of my recipes leave me feeling totally satisfied with one or two.  No kidding. 

And since I no longer am addicted to sugar, I prepare myself mentally for the special occasions that I choose to eat a white sugary/traditional flour treat--always outside my home.  I know that once the sugar (and addicting grain) is running through my veins again I will think about and want sugar for a few days later.  Sugar is such a powerful substance that this happens every time.  So I've treated this summer quite the opposite to last summer: I simply map out the next few months of trips, activities, and possible social events that I might be tempted, socially pressured, or simply interested in eating a traditional  sweet.  I've learned to decide well in advance if I will or won't, make a note of it, and move on in my current non-addictive world of eating.

This process actually works so well.  I eat happily all week, bake things here and there for our family with our particular ingredient constraints (low sugar), and still might have a traditional white sugar/flour sweet every blue moon at a special occasion  if I really want it.  If not, no pressure, I know I can return home after the social event and have some [amazon_link id="B000EUF9CK" target="_blank" ]dark chocolate squares[/amazon_link] and a handful of salted peanuts or make a chocolatey-peanut butter protein shake.

I'm actually quite satisfied for the first time in my life.

The biggest change for me has been accepting that although I live in a world of abundance of white sugar, candy, cakes, donuts, soda, and cinnamon rolls considered "normal" to be had throughout the week--at every social event, gathering, church function, party, and so on-- no matter how you look at it they add up to loads of sweets every single week that keep the addiction alive and well.  That's not for me.  It's not for my family.  Eating that way always leads to never being satisfied, excess fat, headaches, lack of self control, and loss of real focus of proper nutrition.  I've been there.  

The recipe below is one recipe our family enjoys together.  It's easy to make and I love that it isn't addicting but rather, very satisfying.  It is hearty from the almond flour and slightly sweet.  I also love that is is quite cake-like.  Enjoying sweet things don't need to throw us off the health wagon.  They don't need to spike our insulin then drop off as soon after we've eaten, making us want more and begin the vicious cycle.  Treats can actually sustain our good health.

Here's our family's chocolate chunk slab cookies....

 chocolate chunk slab cookies 

This recipe makes a cake-like cookie square, perfect for dunking in milk or almond milk.  

Makes 25 square cookies

2 ½ cups almond flour (I use [amazon_link id="B0055IRNAC" target="_blank" ]Anthony's Almond Flour[/amazon_link]) ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon baking soda ⅓ cup butter, melted 2 eggs 3-4 tablespoons natural sugar-free sweetener (I use [amazon_link id="B001EO6FPU" target="_blank" ]ZSweet[/amazon_link]) or your choice of sweetener 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup- 1 cup bittersweet, dark, or semi-sweet chips or chunks (I use these [amazon_link id="B004N5FR1U" target="_blank" ]bittersweet 70% chocolate chunks[/amazon_link])

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine almond flour, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a standing mixer, mix butter, eggs, sweetener, and vanilla.   Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well.   Stir in chocolate chunks.

Place cookie dough on parchment paper or baking mat lined cookie sheet. Form dough square or close to it.  Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Let the slab cookie cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Using a pizza slicer works wonders.

*I tend to make our baked goods less sweet.  Feel free to use more or less chocolate chunks since they are the primary sweetener, dark or sweeter chunks as well.

Nutritional Info:

Per cookie: 113 calories

                        2.8 net carbs

                        3.4 grams protein

Have you ever struggled with a sugar addiction?

Part two:

My Sugar Addiction + Enjoying Cake Decorating/Baking Again

 

crunchy cheese taco shells

Tacos, in some form, are served regularly for dinner in our house.  It may be taco salad (which is awesome for entertaining a big crowd like last night), tacos with homemade grain-free tortillas, or taco/burrito bowls with slow cooked pork.

I do like changing things up from time to time and discovering these crunchy cheese taco shells may have been the most exciting addition to our taco night yet.

Why I love these crunchy cheese taco shells:

  • They are made with one ingredient
  • I always have the one ingredient on hand-- cheese!
  • They are zero carbs and added protein for me and my family per shell
  • They are simple to make
  • The flavor is absolutely amazing compared to a traditional taco shell

I love that they are crispy--just like a grain taco shell-- but with the added depth in flavor from the cheese.  Amazing flavor!

See how easy they are to make...

crunchy cheese taco shells

Ingredients:

shredded cheddar cheese (or your choice of hard cheese)

Preheat a small nonstick pan over medium heat.  Drop a handful of shredded cheese into the pan to thinly cover the bottom.  You shouldn't be able to see much of the bottom of the pan.  As the cheese melts, it will help fill in some of the space between the cheese.  Let the cheese melt entirely for a few minutes.

You will know it is time to flip the cheese when it begins to be slightly crispy and easier to flip with your spatula.  Carefully use your rubber spatula to turn the cheese over.  Cook on the this side for a few more minutes.

Carefully remove the cheese from the pan by sliding it onto a sil pat or similar non-stick silicone baking mat.  Working speedily, hold the silicone mat in your hand with the mat folded over.  I like to hold the mat's crease firmly in one hand.  This is what forms the cheese crisp into a shell.

Once the cheese crisp is formed into a shell for a minute in the mat with you holding it steadily, place it on a plate to finish cooling.  Continue making cheese crisps in the pan until you've made enough shells.

We like cheddar taco shells but really, you can make them with any cheese you have on hand.  If you buy the precut round provolone cheese slices they cook up just as easily and form even prettier round shells.  (Provolone shells, as seen below, fry up a bit darker.)

Once your cheese taco shells are ready you're all set to serve up a spectacular taco night!

I love finding really tasty alternatives to foods we used to eat.  In this situation, the tacos taste so much better than a traditional taco shell.  Seriously, you've got to try it for yourself.These cheese shells would also work awesome with:

  • scrambled eggs, avocado, and sour cream for breakfast
  • homemade chicken salad with nuts on top
  • leftovers of any kind reheated with a dollop of sour cream on top
  • shaved deli ham, pickle, and mustard
  • shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and olives drizzled with your favorite salad dressing

Have fun with these!

 

4 ingredient cheese sandwich buns

These cheese sandwich buns have been a revolution for our family.

These buns are light, airy, and hold up like a traditional bun for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   Although Bobby and I don't need/miss carriers like bread and buns in our daily eating, these are fun to bake up for a change.  And boy, do the kids love them as well.

These cheese sandwich buns are great for:

  • breakfast sandwiches
  • buttered toast topped with your favorite spread
  • sandwiches for lunch
  • buns for burgers
  • bread for mini grilled cheese
  • grilled as a panini

The idea behind these cheese buns are a familiar bun concept in the low carb world.  You may see them labeled "cloud bread" or "oopsie bread" online but the recipe comes down to the same thing.  Equal part eggs to soft cheese.

They are less than 1 carb per bun which is pretty incredible when you compare it to a traditional hamburger bun with a whopping 21 net carbs per two-piece bun.

4 Ingredient Cheese Sandwich Buns

Makes 10 buns

Ingredients:

3 eggs, separated

3 TBSP of cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

a pinch of salt

pinch of stevia, natural sugar-free sweetener (optional)

Optional toppings:

fresh chives

sesame seeds

poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced onion for the "everything" bun

cinnamon + granulated sweetener

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk the yolks, cheese, and sweetener in a mixer until light yellow in color.  In another clean mixer bowl, whisk the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high to form stiff peaks, around 5 minutes based on your mixer.  (If you're using the bowl the yolks were in, make sure the bowl is completely washed out because the whites won't whisk just right if there are traces of yolk in the bowl.)  You should be able to turn the bowl with the egg whites upside down with the egg whites not moving a smidgen.

Carefully fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites trying not to break down the egg whites.

Scoop out 1/4 cup of the egg/cheese mixture onto parchment paper or buttered baking sheets.  This is simple to create a nice round mound.  (Or, you can use these perfect [amazon_link id="B003YKGRBY" target="_blank" ]muffin top pans[/amazon_link] that we bought specifically for this bread.  Just butter or spray each individual pan, scoop 1/4 cup of mixture, and you'll have even sandwich buns.)

Bake for 20-30 minutes based on your oven.  They should be lightly golden brown on the top.   Let buns cool before enjoying.

I like to make a ton of these buns and use some for lunch that day and store the rest in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  They last up to a week in the fridge.

I think these are best eaten on the same day.  But for the buns that are saved in the fridge, I like to pop them in the toaster throughout the week before using them.  It firms them up a bit more.

{Another great way to eat these cheese buns is toasted, opened faced, and loaded with leftovers or any other favorite combination.

Above is fried eggs, leftover curried beef, and sour cream. Yum.}

Today I promised Johanna peanut butter and raspberry jelly sandwiches.  I think I'll try adding a little dusting of cinnamon to the tops of the cheese buns before baking them today for her lunch request.  I'll take a peanut butter, cream cheese, and shaved dark chocolate grilled sandwich for dessert tonight.  Sounds pretty amazing right about now...

I'd love to hear if you try making it!

 

simple cheese crisps

{Low carb/paleo kids is an on-going series of grain-free, low sugar/carbohydrate snacks.}

 It feels so good coming out of an extended weekend of manual (yard) labor, staying out a bit later at night, waking up later, and the many excuses to see extended family over the course of a few days.  In the meantime, our family's focus has shifted from partially indoors and partially outdoors to concentrated time and work outdoors.  The sprinkler, garden hoe, and sidewalk chalk are now permanent fixtures in the yard.

It is pretty safe to say that our yard is the last to be mowed, weeded, and maintained in our neighborhood.  There's really no argument there.  It always takes one good, long weekend in spring to direct our attention to the needs outside and then to get excited about playing catch up.  This morning all of my energy will be on the vegetable garden and herb pots.  Yesterday was great practice preparing me for long periods of time bent over in the heat working.  At least I know Johanna will be by my side until it is complete.  (Do you sense some lack of motivation so far??)

On to cheese crisps.

Cheese is a regular snack/lunchtime side for my kids.  It is packed with protein and fat, leaves them satisfied, and can be melted, shredded, cubed, and sliced a million ways with a million varieties to keep life for my children (and me) exciting.

These cheese crisps came about as a fun alternative to crackers and all things crunchy (that don't have a mile long ingredient statement).  They bake up so easily and are just, well, baked cheese.  You'll be blown away by how crispy they are!  I like to use hard cheese with a cheddar.  The hard cheese is what makes the crisp super crispy and adding the cheddar simply stretches out the recipe a bit so I don't just have to exclusively use the more expensive hard cheese.

And the flavor of the crisps are so intense and unbelievable that they are awesome on their own or served with dips.  Kids will love the crunch!

cheese crisps

extra crispy cheese crisps:

1/2 cup of your favorite hard cheese, shredded (asiago, *parmesan, dubliner, romano)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

paprika

Italian cheese crisps:

1 cup shredded mozzarella

Italian seasoning blend or oregano + basil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare two baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine shredded cheese(s).  Season with a few shakes of suggested herbs/spices.  Mix well to coat all of the shredded cheese.

With your fingers, simply grab a portion of seasoned cheese and place it in heap on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes switching pans halfway through.  Let cheese crisps cool on the parchment paper before removing from the baking sheet.  (The crisps "crisp up" in the cooling process on the counter.)

Best eaten the same day for optimal crispness.  

*You can also make parmesan cheese crisps.  Just bake the shredded parmesan as above for very flavorful super crunchy crisps.

Our family's favorite ways to eat cheese crisps:

  • Italian cheese crisps are awesome to dip in warm marinara sauce.  It's the funnest unconventional pizza snack ever--kids love it!
  • Extra crispy cheese crisps are excellent dipped into ranch dressing.  They crisp and crunch like the lightest, most delicate cracker.
  • Cheese crisps can be topped with guacamole, chicken/tuna salad, salsa, or your child's favorite dip.
  • Serve cheese crisps with warm soup or as alternatives to croutons for salads.

Try adding:

  • crumbled bacon
  • chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • chopped chives

Try them out--I bet your kiddos will love the change up in their afternoon snack.  My crisps always disappear once they hit the plate.  (Not to mention one of the few ways Rowan will eat--devour--cheese.)

Looking for other low carb/paleo snacks for kids?  Check out these:

low carb/paleo kids: crispy pepperoni chips!

low carb/paleo kids: creating a (lunch) tapas party

low carb/paleo kids: 3-seed coconut berry energy bites (nut free, grain free, dairy free)

low carb/paleo kids: pb & banana sandwiches

low carb/paleo kids: strawberry banana yogurt & chocolate yogurt

low carb/paleo kids: creating a yogurt bar and more

low carb/paleo kids: vegetable dip & sticks in a cup

low carb/paleo kids