Category Archives: Recipes

Jan’s Low Carb Pumpkin Muffins

Those wonderful looking muffins at the coffee shop pack a minimum of 60 grams of carbohydrates, and sometimes over 100! That makes them unsuitable for a diet with a goal of 30 – 40 grams of carbs per day. The alternatives we’ve tried all seem dry or just not very tasty.

But Jan has come up with an alternative muffin that comes in at less than 6 grams of carbohydrates per muffin. At 6 grams, the muffins can complement any meal, and serve as a good snack. As in all of these lower carbohydrate recipes, a balance between taste and carbohydrate levels has to be reached. I think Jan has nailed it on this recipe!

Because these contain a small amount of flour, sugar, brown sugar and commercially produced spices, they may not be appropriate for paleo dieters. They are also not gluten free. Substituting more almond meal for the white flour does work, and removes the gluten, but makes the muffins denser. We like them this way — low carb and tasty!

These have a firm texture like a bran muffin, but with a smoother, not-so-sweet pumpkin bread taste. They are especially good sliced down the middle, slathered with butter, and then heated for 15 seconds in the microwave. The coconut and brown sugar topping provides a satisfying crunch, complemented by the crunchy walnuts. Our tastes have changed, and we don’t like “too sweet” desserts any longer, but increasing the sweetener may be appropriate for some. This recipe makes 24 muffins.

INGREDIENTS:

Dry Ingredients
2 1/2 Cup Almond Meal Flour
1 Cup Flaxseed Meal
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1/4 Cup White Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
Wet Ingredients
9 Large AA Eggs
1 15 Oz Organic Canned Pumpkin
1 Tablespoon Dark Molasses
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
18 Drops EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose (equal to 5/8 Cup of Sugar)
1/3+ Cup Water
Topping Dry Ingredients (Optional)
3 Tablespoon Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

Procedure:

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

Grease cupcake pans with butter, coconut oil or (gasp) vegetable shortening, then flour them. See This Link for a tutorial on greasing a cupcake pan (“The Internet has everything, Wilma!”) You’ll need enough cupcake pans to make 24 muffins.

Combine dry ingredients (except for the optional topping and walnuts) in a mixing bowl and mix well. Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl and mix well, then mix in the dry ingredients, adding them slowly. You can adjust the water from 1/3 to 1/2 cup as needed while mixing; the mixture should be thick, about the consistency of cooked oatmeal. When fully mixed, fold in the chopped walnuts.

Fill the greased cupcake pans with the mixture, nearly to the top. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix well, then sprinkle on top of the mixture in the cupcake pans. This topping rests on top and forms a crunchy, crumble-like topping as it is baked, so don’t fold, spindle or mutilate it — just sprinkle it on top.

Place filled cupcake pans into the oven for 20 minutes. When done, a wooden toothpick inserted into a muffin will come out clean.

Net Carbs Information

Our carbohydrate analysis is calculated using the labels on the packaged ingredients (pumpkin, etc.) and Internet sources for things like the eggs. We have subtracted the fiber grams from the US labeled product to achieve the net, digestible carbohydrate count.

We did not calculate the grams of fiber, protein and fat in this recipe, as we rarely worry about those in our daily diet. Those of you who care, and use nutritional calculators at sites like FitDay, are welcome to chime in with your analysis in the comments.

Eliminating the topping brings the muffins down to 5 grams of carbs each. You may find other places to save, such as substituting more EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose for the sugar (saving another 24 grams of carbs), and bring these in at about 4 grams of carbs. But we would rather save that gram of carb elsewhere.

Net Carbs in Ingredients
Amount Measure Ingredient Net Grams of Carbs
2 1/2 Cup Almond Meal Flour 20
1 Cup Flaxseed Meal 0
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour 16
1/4 Cup White Flour 20
1 teaspoon Baking Soda 0
3 teaspoons Baking Powder 0
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice 0
1/8 Cup Sugar 24
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts 0
Wet Ingredients
9 Large AA Eggs 4
1 15 Oz Organic Canned Pumpkin 21
1 Tablespoon Dark Molasses 15
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract 0
18 Drops EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose 0
1/3 Cup Water 0
Topping Dry Ingredients (Optional)
3 Tablespoon Unsweetened Shredded Coconut 2
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar 12
Totals
Full Recipe 134 grams
Per Muffin 5.58 grams

Good Stuff Inside

We like coconut and almond flour, as well as flaxseed meal, but used alone, they can rarely replace white flour in a recipe. We find flaxseed muffins dry and tough. Combining the three “alternative flours” in the proportions above works well in this recipe. One note about coconut flour: it is very thirsty, so if you use more, expect to add more water.

We haven’t had good success baking with any of the alternative sweeteners except for EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose. The problem with granular Splenda, Stevia, Truvia and other sweeteners is that they turn bitter when baked at 350°F. Each drop of EZ-Sweetz equals a teaspoon of sugar in sweetness without any malitrol, dextrose or other “carrier” to turn bitter.

Let us know how you like these muffins, and if you come up with other modifications.

Key Lime Yogurt Pie – Low Carb?

For some reason, this recipe for Key Lime Yogurt Pie has been tweeted and retweeted frequently using both the #lowcarb and #paleo hash tag. But is it low carb or paleo?

The recipe doesn’t provide nutritional information. But we can see it isn’t in any sense “paleo”. The list of ingredients includes items that are certainly not in line with a traditional paleo diet, even if you do include dairy. Ingredients such as fat-free cream cheese, Smart Balance Buttery Spread and reduced fat whipped topping are in no way paleo. These are heavily processed “frankenfoods”. Let’s take a look at the chemical soup in the ingredients:

Fat free cream cheese
Market leader Philadelphia Fat Free Cream Cheese ingredients:
Protein Concentrated Skim Milk, Cultured Skim Milk, Skim Milk, contains Less than 2% of Sodium Tripolyphosphate (Ingredients Not in Regular Cream Cheese) Sugar (Ingredients Not in Regular Cream Cheese)Xanthan Gum, Pasteurized Milk and Cream (Trivial Source of Fat) Salt, Artificial Color (Ingredients Not in Regular Cream Cheese) Carrageenan, Potassium Sorbate (Ingredients Not in Regular Cream Cheese)Calcium Propionate (Ingredients Not in Regular Cream Cheese) as Preservatives, Cheese Culture, Sodium Phosphate (Ingredients in Regular Cream Cheese)Artificial Flavor (Ingredients in Regular Cream Cheese)Carob Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.

Smart Balance Buttery Spread
Ingredients:
Natural Oil Blend (Palm Fruit, Soybean, Canola Seed, and Olive Oils)Water, contains Less than 2% of Salt, Whey, Vegetable Monoglycerides and Sorbitan Ester of Fatty Acids (Emulsifiers)Soybean Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Lactic Acid (to Protect Freshness)Natural and Artificial Flavor, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin E (DL-a-Tocopheryl Acetate)Beta-Carotene Color.

Reduced Fat Whipped Topping
Cool Whip Lite, the market leader’s ingredients:
WATER, CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COCONUT AND PALM KERNEL OILS), LESS THAN TWO PERCENT OF SODIUM CASEINATE (FROM MILK), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, XANTHAN AND GUAR GUMS, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, SODIUM POLYPHOSPHATES, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR). CONTAINS: MILK.

Quite a list of ingredients there. I couldn’t find the ingredients for Yoplait’s Light Thick & Creamy Key Lime Pie Yogurt, but did find the nutritional information; judging from the carbs in the mix, I suspect we would see a similar chemical soup base if we had the label in front of us.

OK, so its not paleo, but at least it’s low carb, right?

It is not really low carb, but it is lower than the full-sugar alternative. In comparison to a regular slice of key lime pie that weighs in at 58 grams of carbohydrates, I calculate a slice of this pie at a little less than half the carb count at 23 grams (rounded down in the chart below). For someone following a low carb lifestyle, 23 grams of carbs in one food at the table is still probably too high.

The recipe doesn’t specify brand names for some of the ingredients, so I have used brands that are widely available and market leaders in their category. With that caveat, let’s look at the net grams of carbohydrate content in the carby ingredients:

Ingredient Grams in Pie   Grams per Serving
Fat Free Cream Cheese
6
1
Key Lime Pie Yogurt
60
10
Cool Whip Lite
37
6
Reduced Fat Vanilla Wafers
36
6
TOTALS:
139
23

Alert readers may note I didn’t not include the 5 grams of carbs from the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in the recipe, but this is close enough for our little review here. And, you can easily substitute liquid sucralose or Splenda for the sugar.

Can we improve on this recipe even more?

Replacing the “frankenfoods” listed above with real food alternatives like fresh whipped cream and regular cream cheese, we can trim the pie’s carbohydrate count down to 97 grams (17 grams per slice). And substituting out the Vanilla Wafers crust with our own Low Carb Pie Crust reduces the carb count by another 24 grams, to 73 grams of carbs for the entire pie. That’s about 12 grams per slice. That comes close to being low carb enough to earn the #lowcarb hash tag.

I may try this recipe with the almond meal Low Carb Pie Crust linked above, and low carb alternatives. If I do, I’ll publish the results here.

Review: Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil

Tropical Traditions is one of leading online sources for virgin coconut oil, used by many low carbers for replacing other plant based oils in cooking. Low carb and paleo blogs have touted the many benefits of virgin coconut oil, from cooking to targeted dietary fat increases.

Tropical Traditions provided a free sample of their flagship product, Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut OilTropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to LowCarbAge for review purposes. We were under no obligation to post a review, nor were we under any obligation to post a positive review in return for the free sample.

Background
Coconut oil is often used as a replacement for vegetable shortening in low carb recipes, and as a general cooking oil. I use it for stir fry, scrambled eggs, and, one of my favorites coconut oil chocolate bark. It is a bit like butter, in that it melts at about 76°F (25°C), but is solid at lower temperatures. When used in chocolates, the phrase “melts in your hand” has to be taken into consideration (I keep my coconut oil bark in the freezer).

Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat, driving the low fat devotees into spasms of shock and dismay. But the lipid profile of coconut oil provides a hint of why it is prized by those seeking to add high quality fats to their diets:

Fatty acid content of coconut oil
Type of fatty acid pct
Lauric saturated C12
  
47.5%
Myristic saturated C14
  
18.1%
Palmitic saturated C16
  
8.8%
Caprylic saturated C8
  
7.8%
Capric saturated C10
  
6.7%
Stearic saturated C18
  
2.6%
Caproic saturated C6
  
0.5%
Oleic monounsaturated C18
  
6.2%
Linoleic polyunsaturated C18
  
1.6%
Coconut oil contains approximately 92.1% saturated fatty acids, 6.2% monounsaturated fatty acids, 1.6% polyunsaturated fatty acids. The above numbers are averages based on samples taken. Numbers can vary slightly depending on age of the coconut, growing conditions, and variety.

red: Saturated; orange: Monounsaturated; blue: Polyunsaturated

From Wikipedia


Wikipedia lists the methods of production for coconut oil. Tropical Traditions uses the traditional “wet method”, shredding the coconut flesh, extracting the milk, and allowing the oil to separate out from the mixture after about 24 hours. This preserves the slight coconut smell and light flavor desired for Asian curry and stir fry recipes.

In contrast, I suspect my supermarket brand, LouAna Pure Coconut Oil, is produced Coconut Oilusing the RBD (“Refined, Bleached, Deodorized”) method, as it has no fragrance or taste. Tropical Traditions is proud of their processing methods, and show it in a YouTube video, and on their website.

Comparing the two products side by side, the Tropical Traditions certainly looks better (it is the white coconut oil in the glass jar at the bottom right in the image above; the LouAna brand is slightly yellow in color).

LouAna doesn’t share how it is produced. While virgin coconut oil is probably the healthiest alternative, the RBD method seems preferable to some of the other methods. Some coconut oils are hydrogenated to increase the melting point above 76°F, and this process creates trans fatty acids (“trans fat”). The nutrition label in the US shows the grams of trans fat per serving, and LouAna shows no trans fats (and neither does Tropical Traditions, of course!) My personal opinion is that you should avoid trans fats and all partially hydrogenated oils, so check those labels.

Recipes and other uses for coconut oil are plentiful on the web, but the owners of Tropical Traditions, the husband and wife team of Brian and Marianita Shilhavy, have a book with recipes, personal testimonies and more information on coconut oil. The recipes are general and not specifically low carb, but the other information is interesting (Marianita is a Certified Nutritionist/ Dietician in the Philippines). You can receive a free copy of their book with your first order by selecting “Referred by a Friend” and using Low Carb Age’s user ID “6703973”.

Conclusions
Tropical Traditions has produced a great coconut oil for stir frying, baking and, especially, recipes like Asian curry where the slight, delicate flavor of the natural coconut oil is desired. I liked it with my eggs, and I’m eager to try it on steamed vegetables. I found it interesting that the flavor distracted from my pure coconut oil bark recipe, which I like better using the RBD oil from LouAna. But I want to give the unique flavor and scent of Tropical Traditions another chance: I intend to experiment with low carb coconut candies, perhaps combining the chocolate bark recipe with unsweetened shredded coconut. The Tropical Traditions natural flavor might enhance the recipe that way (think: Almond Joy or Mounds candies).

Personal Pumpkin Pies, Oh My

Last year, I used Laura Dolson’s excellent pumpkin pie recipe to make 2 low carb pumpkin pies. But realizing that my extended family does not share my desire to keep carbs low, I decided to try for something else this year.

I wondered aloud to my wife if there were “mini pie pans” available to which she exclaimed: A Personal Pumpkin Pie!“Tarts!” I thought a “tart” was a women of questionable morals, but found out in foodland there are miniature pies already. Who knew?

She brought home two ceramic tart baking dishes, and I adapted my Nut Brown Crust and Dolson’s low carb pumpkin pie recipe as follows:

Nut Brown Crust

      1 cup almond meal
      1 1/2 Tablespoons soft butter
      1 teaspoon liquid sucralose (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dump the almond meal into a mixing bowl, put the soft butter in, a teaspoon of sweetener if desired, and dig in with your fingers, mixing it up. You end up with a mixture that is slightly doughy. Coat the tart pans with a light coat of butter and press the mixture into the pans forming the crust. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Now, for the filling. This is modified from Laura’s recipe to lower the carbs a bit, but I eliminate the ginger in her original recipe. And the recipe is cut in half to fill only two of these tart baking dishes.

Low Carb Pumpkin Pie

      7.5 ounces organic canned pumpkin (not “pumpkin pie mix”)
      1 egg
      1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
      1/2 teaspoon dark molasses
      1 teaspoon cinnamon
      1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
      1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
      1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Mix the ingredients and pour into the tart pans with the Nut Brown Crust. Put them both in the oven and turn down the temp to 375°F. After 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 300°. Bake until set in the middle, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes more. I was a bit impatient, and one looked like it had been an extra in a slasher movie.

Half of one of these 5″ diameter Personal Pumpkin Pies is a serving, and provides about 5g of Personal Pumpkin Pies!net effective carbs.

They are tasty, and just right for my holiday dessert! Jan tasted a sliver of the pie, so I have a little less than the full serving for my dessert tonight. I forgave her because she made me fresh whipped cream.

Man, I love this diet.

Jan’s Pumpkin Pecan Coconut Low Carb Cookies

These are a great, soft cookie with under 2 grams of carbs per 2″ cookie. The cookie is moist, chewy, and the sweetness can be controlled easily if you so desire. The flavors blend well, and neither the pumpkin, coconut, apple filling or pecans overpower the other flavors. The recipe makes about 24 cookies 1 1/2″ to 2″ in diameter. Jan created these cookies by experimentation, and they are fabulous!

Cookie Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Almond Meal
1/4 Cup Flax Seed Meal
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1/4 Cup Pecans, chopped
3 tsp Sweetner
1/2 Package Single Serving Apple Drink Mix (pictured)
1 Grade AA Large Egg
1/2 Cup unsweetened Pumpkin filling
1/4 Cup Butter
1 1/2 tsp Dark Molasses
1/4 Cup Shortening

Topping
1 tsp Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1/4 Package Single Serving Apple Drink Mix (Pictured)

Heat oven to 325°F. Mix topping ingredients together and set aside. In a 2 quart mixing bowl, mix dry cookie ingredients well. Add egg, pumpkin filling, butter (allow to soften to room temperature first) and shortening and mix well. Form 1″ balls with cookie mix, and press down onto greased cookie sheet, flattening them to form 1 1/2″ to 2″ diameter. Sprinkle topping over cookies and bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Store cookies in refrigerator.

Total effective carb count (ECC) is 36 grams per batch of cookies.

Low Carb Pie Crust

You can find several variations on the low carb pumpkin pie recipe, most often without a crust. One recipe uses crushed pecans, but they are expensive now. I found an old recipe for “Nut Brown Crust” in the American Home All Purpose Cookbook, published in 1966.

Nut Brown Crust

1 1/2 Cup finely ground almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts or pecans
3 Tbls Sugar (or sugar substitute, like Splenda)
2 Tbls soft butter

Blend finely ground nuts, butter and sweetener together with fingers. Press firmly into a lightly buttered 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 400°F for 6 – 8 minutes. Cool before filling.

Using almond meal (sometimes called almond “flour”), I found I could make a very good crust that acts a bit like a graham cracker crust. This crust works well with pumpkin pie filling.

The almond meal has a total of 30 grams of carbohydrates, with 18 of them fiber. The net carb count is therefore 12 grams for the entire pie. Many of the low carb pumpkin pie fillings come in at about 12 grams for the entire pie also. Slice that pie into 8 slices and each is only 3 grams of carbs.