Browsing Category: desserts

Strawberry Pretzel Salad – sugar free, gluten free, without CoolWhip!

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Ever since I saw the recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad at MyBakingAddiction, I’ve wanted to create a sugar-free, lower-carb version. It took a couple tries to get the proportions right, but here it is!

Why is it called Strawberry Pretzel Salad instead of Strawberry Pretzel Dessert, or Strawberry Pretzel Pie? It seems that back in the days when Jello was a new-fangled thing, anything that combined jello with fruit was labeled “salad.” And this is an old-timey recipe. The fact that it’s survived tells you it’s good! (Unlike one of my mom’s favorite jello salads, which featured grated carrots in orange jello, topped with cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese. Bleck!)

To imitate the crunchy, salty crust without using actual pretzels, I went with a combination of chopped nuts. Specifically, pecans and salted pepitas. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds that have been dehulled and roasted. All of the pepitas and some of the pecans get a coarse chop, while the rest of the pecans get finely ground. The large nut pieces provide the kind of crunch you’d get from the larger chunks of pretzel, while the finely ground pecans serve as the butter that helps everything stick together. The pepitas have a more delicate crunch, while the pecans provide a sort of buttery flavor like the crust of pretzels. You could make this with just pecans, but if you want that salty kick, you’d need to add extra salt to the recipe.

You can use either 4-oz. Mazon jars — or any other 4-oz. dish — or 7-oz. ramekins; your serving number will vary accordingly. The neat thing about using Mason jars is that if a guest is too full for dessert, you can pop a lid on their jar and send it home with them! Lidding all the jars would also be handy if you’re transporting your dessert somewhere and need to stack them. Perfect for a picnic or potluck!

Update: Thanks to questions by readers, I’ve now included the nutrition count at the end of this post. This dessert is certainly not NO-carb, and it does have far more carbs than protein, but it’s still a lower carb recipe than the traditional strawberry pretzel salad. And sugar-free and grain-free!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad/Dessert

Fills 21 4-oz Mason jars, or 10-12 ramekins.

2/3 c. salted pepitas, chopped coarsely
2/3 c. pecan pieces, chopped coarsely
1 c. pecan pieces, ground fine
1/4 t. kosher salt
30 pkts. Splenda (or 1.25 c. granular Splenda) (OR LESS)
2  8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 c. whipping cream
1  0.6-oz. package sugar-free strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1  16-oz. package frozen sliced strawberries – no sugar added

Chop the pepitas and the smaller portion of pecans until they are mostly pea-sized and smaller. Grind the larger portion of pecans until they are beginning to stick together. (For method, see my recipe for lime cheesecake shooters.)
The pepitas, before and after:
And the pecans, finely ground and coarsely chopped:
Combine the nuts and salt, and stir until well mixed.
Place 2 T. into each 4 oz. mason jar (or 1/4 c. into each 7 oz. ramekin). Tamp down lightly using a clean bottle or jar that’s smaller than the opening of your serving dishes.
In a medium bowl, beat the Splenda, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth.
Whip the cream till soft peaks form. Using the lowest setting on your mixer, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, just until even in color. (Overbeating will turn the cream to butter.)
Spoon this filling into a gallon-sized baggie and snip off the tip of the bag. You may want to do this in two batches to make it easier to handle.
A side note… The first time I made these, I thought I’d skip the hassle of using a baggie and just carefully spoon the filling into the jars. Here’s the result: on the left is the jar I spooned filling into; on the right is the jar where I piped the filling in. Much neater!
Evenly divide the filling between each jar. Place the jars into the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Placing all the jars in a large cake pan will make transporting them to and from the fridge easier.
After the cream filling is chilled, make the jello. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for three or four minutes. This will allow the gelatin to firm up a bit.
Evenly spoon the gelatin between each the jars. A small gravy ladle works well for this.
Also, having the jars in a cake pan while you fill them will save your counter tops from jello stains if, like me, you spill a little.
 
 
Place jars back into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled.
Here’s the nutrition count, based on 21 servings, erythritol for the sweetener, (via myfitnesspal.com):
Amount Per Serving; % Daily Value *
Calories 205
Total Fat 19g 29%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 29mg 10%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Potassium 124mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Sugars 3g
Protein 5g 11%
Vitamin A 8%
Vitamin C 31%
Calcium 5%
Iron 8%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet,

 

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available
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Individual lemon icebox pies

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When I was a kid, dessert was not a forbidden thing. We almost always had some ice cream in the freezer, and/or a frozen chocolate cream pie or lemon icebox pie. I loved the lemon pie, and would sneak small slivers off of it every now and then. I suspect that the reason I never got caught was that I wasn’t the only one in the house doing it, and s0 my mom probably assumed my dad was the culprit!

These mini-pies are quick and easy to whip up at home, and they have that same sweet-and-tangy appeal as the freezer pie in my memory! But these are sugar-free, gluten-free, corn syrup-free, and you control whether there’s food coloring, and what kind of sweetener goes in!

Recipe for:Individual lemon icebox pies

makes 6-8, depending on serving sizes

1/2 c. pecan pieces
8 oz. cream cheese
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (or 1/2 or 3/4, depending on how sour you like things)
4 pkts. Splenda (or sweetener of your choice, equiv. to 8 teasp. sugar)
1/2 t. vanilla
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1/4 c. cream
whipped cream:
1/2 c. cream
1 pkt. Splenda
1/2 t. vanilla

See my recipe for No-bake lime cheesecake shooters for the crust-making and assembly method, using 4-oz. Mason jars as the serving dishes.

Once the jars are filled and topped with whipped cream, attach the lids and place in the freezer for at least three hours. I haven’t tested them for longevity, but I’m pretty sure you could keep them frozen for up to several days at least with no problem.

Remove from the freezer 45 minutes before serving time and let thaw at room temp. Remove lids, garnish if you like, and serve!

Also, this recipe is fantastic turned into cheesecake-stuffed strawberries! No freezing, for that option.

Here’s the nutrition info, via myfitnesspal.com; this is for a single serving (of eight servings), with the crust, but with NO whipped cream.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving   Servings 8
Calories 163
Total Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Sodium 87 mg
Potassium 95 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 3 g

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Recipe roundup: Mother’s Day menu ideas

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Here’s a little gift for you: instead of wandering all over the internet for the perfect Mother’s Day menu ideas, here are four different options for you, each with its own theme. Almost all of these recipes can be made ahead, so you can enjoy the day without last-minute panic. And all (except the shortbread) are low carb. You get enough guilt from Mom; you don’t need any from your food! 😉

Note: Most of these entrees are Paleo, or nearly so. None of the desserts are, but most can get closer with small tweaks.

Light lunch, light flavors

Want to treat mom to just a little something, perhaps before you head out to tour a local garden — or mall? Serve this easy, make-ahead orange-cranberry chicken salad on lettuce leaves or in soft pita pockets…

…with this elegant, lightly-sweet and super tender almond poppyseed shortbread.

Neither of these dishes will weigh you down, but they will both delight Mom with their flavors!

Classic ladies’ lunch, done low carb (or paleo)

What could be more classic than quiche? If Mom is doing South Beach or some other low-carb diet, you’ll be happy to know that a crustless spinach quiche (here’s a Paleo version) can be just as delicious as one with the traditional but high-carb pastry crust. I added a little Canadian bacon to the original recipe.

Mother's Day menu ideas: quiche and fresh berries

Serve a fruit salad on the side. Here, I’ve just drizzled fresh strawberries and blueberries with some sweetened cream. (To make it Paleo, use coconut milk and skip the Splenda.) One cup of heavy cream or half-and-half (or coconut milk), one packet of Splenda, 1/2 t. of vanilla extract. That will be enough for about six servings, and possibly some leftovers. So simple, but elegant and delish!

Oh, and about the quiche… be sure not to overcook it. You want it only just done, or maybe slightly underdone, in the center when you take it out. It will continue to cook a bit as it cools, and you want a creamy, custardy texture, not one like over-done scrambled eggs. A thin knife inserted in the center should come out looking pretty clean.

Finish things off with a vintage-y lemon icebox pie, updated by serving it in a cute little Mason jar! Just use my no-bake lime cheesecake recipe, use lemon instead of lime, freeze them a day or so ahead, and set them out on the counter 45 minutes before serving time.

(Note: I hope to update and Paleo-ize this recipe soon, but for now, you would need to sub out the dairy and Splenda, or skip dessert. Or just go with a little splurge!)

Mother’s Day with a Mexican twist

For something different, serve up my easy but elegant ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema (which is Paleo if you omit the yogurt from the crema)…

a make-ahead Tex Mex salad

and no-bake lime cheesecake mini-desserts. Add a wee bit of triple-sec (if you’re not philosophically opposed), and call it margarita pie.

Elegant and — dare I say? — impressive

If your mom is the fine china and real silverware type — or you just want to treat her so — here’s a sure-fire trio. For the main dish, quick pork tenderloin with seasoned rub.

For a side dish, green beans with pine nuts — which, trust me, is so much more than the sum of its parts, and as delicious as it is simple.

If you’re not low-carbing it, some good bread would round things out nicely, then finish with a flourish by serving individual mini tiramisu cups.

And if mama ain’t happy after one of these, well then, mama ain’t gonna ever be happy at all!

Recipe review: Chocolate cupcakes in a jar

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A couple weeks ago, I happily volunteered to help fill the sweets table at the bridal shower of a family friend. When I asked the bride-to-be about her favorite cakes or pies, she said “Banana creme pie. Or anything chocolate!”

I really worked on the banana creme idea for a while, but because of a busy schedule that weekend, I needed to make the desserts a day in advance, and depend on someone else to deliver them. I was afraid the bananas would be brown and nasty in that time, so I went for something chocolate.

I decided to try this recipe for Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Cake from SimplyRecipes. It’s an old recipe, and because it’s made without eggs, butter or milk, it has been popular in times and places where dairy is hard to get. For that reason, it’s sometimes called “War Cake” or “Depression Cake.” It would also be a great cake for someone who’s allergic to eggs or milk.

It uses vinegar to help give it the rise (along with with baking soda), but don’t let that scare you! You won’t taste it at all. 

Since I was making this for a shower and wanted something that would look cute on the table, I decided to bake them in 4 oz. Mason jars. Another advantage of cake in jars over cupcakes, is that little kids can eat them with a spoon, making much less mess than unpeeling a cupcake liner and stuffing into little mouths with little hands!

I followed all the directions on the SimplyRecipes version. (Except subbing cider vinegar for white vinegar. Not a significant different in taste or acidity between the two.)

Then I filled up some jars, sitting on a cookie sheet. This is the first batch that I made, using a scant 1/3 c. batter for each jar:

Those came out pretty tall, so for the second batch, I used a scant 1/4 c. of batter. Here’s the difference between how the two batches came out:

So if you want tall cakes that pop out the top of the jar, go with the larger amount. If you want them shorter, use the smaller amount — perhaps even less, if you want to frost them and then put the lids on for transport.
Elise at SimplyRecipes says to cook them for 18 to 20 minutes. I tested them using the toothpick test. (Insert a clean, dry toothpick in the center and pull it back out. If it’s clean or just has one or two dry crumbs, the cake is done. If there’s batter on the toothpick, put it back in for a few minutes.) I checked them first at 15 minutes, and added 5 minutes to the first batch; just 3 or 4 for the second. 
Elise also said the cake is so moist it doesn’t really need frosting. She includes a recipe for a chocolate icing, but I decided to just melt some white chocolate chips and pipe decorations on top. I melted Ghirardelli white chips over simmering water in a double boiler, taking it off the heat when it was mostly melted but still with a few lumps. Then I stirred till the lumps were gone, and stirred a few minutes more, till I thought it was cool enough to not melt a baggie. Poured the chocolate into a sandwich baggie, snipped off just a tiny corner, and went to town: I piped a heart on most of them, and “L” and “M” on a few random ones, for the bride’s and groom’s initials.
I tasted them after they were cooled: I thought they were okay, but I wouldn’t call them super moist. (Maybe hers came out better than mine. Quite possible!) I was thinking/hoping that after sitting closed up for a day, they might get moister. After tasting them the next day, however, I wish I would’ve done some icing or frosting before applying the initials. But they were cute, anyway!
If you’re looking to do something similar for a baby shower, here’s a simple decoration from Martha Stewart:
The “pacifier” on top is just two mint Lifesavers candies and one jellybean, held together with a bit of royal icing. I think these would be cute with pink and/or blue jellies for the passy, on top of chocolate icing!

One-ingredient, gluten free pie crust

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Disclaimer: If you’re already familiar with my no-bake lime cheesecake shooters, you’ll recognize that this post is a bit of a rehash, but I think this crust is such a problem-solver it deserves a post of its own. This crazy-simple gluten-free pie crust is made of: pecans! That’s it! No butter needed. So it’s completely gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, pretty low carb, and you can be assured there’s no weird man-made chemicals in it. (Pecan nutrition facts here.)In the photo below, you can see two different blender blades that came with my bullet-style blender (currently my favorite kitchen gadget). The four-bladed piece (top center in the photo) chops things up from coarse to fairly fine, depending on how long you run it. The shorter, two-bladed one (on the left) minces things down to a fine powder or — in the case of nuts — butter.

gluten-free pie crust - secret ingredient!
In the pic below you can see the difference. The left-hand image shows the pecans after running them with the four-blade piece for a few seconds. This would work just fine for crust if this is all you have. But if you have the second kind of blade, you can grind the pecan pieces until they’re so fine they begin to stick together, like in the image on the right, below. This gives you something with the look and consistency of a crust made of graham crackers and butter. Neat, huh?!
 
 

Then you just place a small amount of ground nuts in the bottom of your serving vessel, and tamp it down with the top of a bottle (securely capped and very clean, of course). I use these little shot glasses (actually votive holders form Hobby Lobby), and 1 tablespoon of pecan crumbs works perfectly. 


And you’re done! With the crust, that is. Fill it with your favorite no-bake pie filling, chill, and you’ve got a healthy, easy — not to mention adorable — dessert.

Here are various dishes you could serve such in:

Cheap-o “shot glasses” (votive holders) from Hobby Lobby; you could also find these at Walmart, etc. I’m sure.

4 oz. Mason jars. If you keep the filling short enough, you can cap these for easy, spill-proof portability.

Weck jars. Available in sizes from 3 to 6 oz.
Pricey but adorable individual pie pans. 8 oz; also available in olive.
(Disclosure: Some of these links go to my Amazon store.)

Sugar-free chocolate bark + your favorite toppings!

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Sugar-free chocolate bark recipe, with coconut and almonds

Here’s a really simple recipe that looks and tastes completely decadent, but it’s low carb/South Beach diet friendly, because it’s sugar free! You can top this sugar-free chocolate bark with whatever toppings float your boat; I first tried it with a mix of chopped almonds and unsweetened coconut on one end (shown above), and salty pepitas (roasted hull-less pumpkin seeds) on the other.

I served this for dessert last night — just the hubs and me. Here’s what it looked like when we started…

Here’s what it looked like when we were done:

And no, he is not putting that back in the pan!

Clearly, the almond/coconut end was the favorite! The slight sweetness of both coconut and almond goes nicely with the semi-sweet, almost bitter flavor of this chocolate. I think the pepitas would taste great with a sweeter, perhaps milkier chocolate. I’ll try that another day.

But today, there’s a new batch in the fridge that’s all almond/coconut!

Recipe: Sugar-free chocolate bark

Note: If you’re not avoiding sugar, substitute up to 1/4 c. of sugar for the Splenda.

6 T. butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate (one square of baking chocolate)
1/4 c. + 2 T. cocoa (unsweetened)
6 pkts. Splenda
1/2 t. vanilla
toppings of your choice, probably around 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Prepare a 10×15 pan by lining it with parchment. Trim the parchment if necessary so that it extends over the long sides of the pan, but does not come up the short sides of the pan at all. (My photos above show how not to do that!) Clip the parchment to the sides, if you like, with some clothespins or other large clips. Set aside.

Melt the butter and the baking chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted. Add in the cocoa and Splenda, and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth. Add in the vanilla, stir until combined, then pour it into the prepared pan. Spread the chocolate out to a fairly even smoothness. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Sprinkle your toppings of choice over the chocolate, then chill for a couple hours at least. Keep it refrigerated when not serving (or snitching) it, because it softens quickly.

If you’re looking for a recipe with a different sweetener, here are some other options:

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Individual peanut butter pie

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(Note: this is a re-post, but I have added photos of the process and shot much better pics of the finished product. Amazing how much my photography has improved in a few months!)

This peanut butter pie is simple, decadent, and sugar-free! Okay, if you add some chocolate on top — and you really should — there’s a marginal bit of sugar. But for an occasional or special treat, this is a really satisfying way to get a very small amount of the sweet stuff. Sweet, and creamy, and rich — oh my!

If you want the crunchiness of a pie crust to contrast with the smooth fluffiness of the peanut butter, add a layer of chopped peanuts or cashews, either in the bottom of the dish or between the PB and the whipped cream.
You are going to top it with whipped cream, aren’t you?
My favorite way to serve it is in little mason jars, but you could also use dipping bowls, ramekins, or fancy-schmancy little individual footed trifle dishes.

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

1.5 cups heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla
your sweetener of choice, equiv. to 1/4 cup sugar
optional toppings: chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate, peanuts or cashews; sweetened whipped cream
In a medium mixing bowl, whip heavy cream until fluffy peaks form.
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In a second bowl, beat cream cheese until soft and creamy. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and sweetener and continue beating for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy and airy.

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Drop three large spoonfuls of the PB mixture into the whipped cream; whip this till mostly incorporated.

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Add the rest of the PB mixture in the same way…

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whipping just until it’s all a consistent color.

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Taste. Taste again. Okay, now stop. No, stop!

No, seriously: taste it, and if you won’t be topping it with sweetened whipped cream and/or sweet chocolate, add more sugar/sweetener if it’s not sweet enough for you. (Now that I’m adjusted to living without sugar, I’m more sensitized to the taste, so I tend to under-sweeten things.)

Dollop the pie filling into individual small bowls, ramekins or mason jars. Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate till ready to serve. (Optional method: put some chopped chocolate and/or chopped nuts in the bottom of the jars before filling.)

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Chop the chocolate.

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You may set out toppings and let your guests top as they like, or prep it all and serve.Taste. Swoon. Repeat.

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Here’s nutritional info, based on 8 servings, no toppings, and using Splenda for the sweetener. (Via myfitnesspal.com)

Nutrition Facts, Per Serving
Calories 388
Total Fat 41 g
Saturated Fat 26 g
Monounsaturated Fat 11 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 123 g
Sodium 256 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 3 g

 

 

More sugar-free treats in my cookbook – now just $3.99…

sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Lime cheesecake stuffed strawberries

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Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, and now that strawberries are starting to be in season, it’s time!

They’re easy, they’re delicious little bites, and yes, they are low carb! Yes, there are some carbs in strawberries, but berries are pretty low on the glycemic index, as far as fruit goes, and one serving has 149% of your daily dose of vitamin C! The “crust” is also low carb and gluten free: it’s nothing more than ground pecans.

To start, make a batch of my no-bake lemon or lime cheesecake, and the pecan crust. Recipe here. Since these won’t have sweetened whipped cream on top, you might want to make the filling a little sweeter than you would for the shooters. Add maybe one or two extra packets of sweetener. (To make this paleo, use honey or maple syrup for the sweetener.) Put the filling in the fridge to chill while you go to work on the strawberries.

I used a paring knife, but if you have a strawberry huller, you could use that. (I used to have one, but got rid of it the day I discovered that it was just the right size to firmly lodge itself crossways in my garbage disposal. And I mean firmly.)

First I just cut out the leaves and upper core as I normally would to prep them for shortcake. Then I go back in with the paring knife and cut out most of the white-ish core, working out a little larger hole in the top. Then I use an ice tea spoon (because it’s narrower) and just stuff some of the filling in the cavity, then heap it up on top a smidge and smooth it out a little. Don’t worry about making the perfect swirl; the crust will cover it up.

Then just dip them in the pecan crumbs, and you’re done! You can cover and refrigerate them if you like. The filling will start to melt and drip the warmer it gets, so if you’re serving them later, do chill them right up until serving time.
Ah, spring!