Follow by Email

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Almond Shortbread Cookies - Low Carb/Gluten Free


One of the great things about being on a low carb diet is being able to eat foods high in fat while still maintaing your blood sugar, weight and healthy cholesterol levels.  Since I don't eat meat, I get my fats from two main sources; nuts and oils, which are plant based, and whole fat dairy products.  I use butter, heavy cream and full fat cheese in my everyday meals, but I try not to go overboard. Too much of a good thing, and all that. I'm not convinced that it's healthy to eat unlimited amounts of fat but I suspect that how much you can consume without ill effects varies from person to person. If you're prone to high cholesterol  or if you stop losing weight before you reach your goal, you may need to limit the amount  of fat you consume.

Nevertheless, I feel it's important to include low carb/high fat treats into your everyday diet.  I believe it is possible to find a balance between complete austerity and overindulgence, but cravings can get in the way.  I'm only 4 days into my gluten free diet, but the first thing I noticed was a significant decrease in appetite.  When I first stopped taking Metformin, my appetite increased alarmingly and I stopped losing weight because I could not seem to control myself. I experienced wicked cravings for anything sweet, even desserts sweetened with low carb natural sweeteners, and for things like pecans and roasted almonds. Portion control flew out the window and I found myself binge eating. There was nothing wrong with the quality of the food - the quantity was the problem. Now that my appetite seems to be under control (and I sincerely hope it will stay that way) I can incorporate low carb desserts without worrying about eating the whole batch of whatever treats I make in one sitting. So far, my cholesterol levels have been within the normal range, but I do use flaxseed oil everyday and that may have something to do with those results.

There are loads of low carb dessert and snack recipes and a lot of prepared products, many of them available online. Many of them contain artificial ingredients and because they need to be shipped, end up being very expensive. I prefer being able to make my own treats; I like being able to control what goes into them and it ends up being cheaper even if you use high quality ingredients. If you don't like to bake or if you're new to baking, some of the recipes can be a challenge. But I think made from scratch is better, both in taste and in quality.

It's worth mentioning here that if you are brave enough to start cooking and baking, you will have to accept the fact that you will make mistakes. You will burn things, drop them on the floor, not cook them thoroughly. You may even set your kitchen on fire (although I would not recommend this) and it's probably a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand.  You'll make a mess and you will feel, at times,   like giving up. But it will get easier - especially if you accept that failure is part of the process. Don't let it get you down - it happens to everyone.

If you are going to enjoy low carb treats, it's important to eat them slowly and savor every bite instead of cramming them into your mouth like there's no tomorrow.  Portion control is half the battle - we tend to eat too much, which can cause digestive distress, in addition to adding too many calories, carbs and fats. This is why I have broken down the amount of each dessert recipe  - the less you have in the house, the easier it will be to avoid cravings. This recipe for almond shortbread is the best cookie recipe I've found thus far.





Almond Shortbread Cookies (Low Carb/Gluten Free)


These are wonderful - not too sweet, lightly crisp and have a rich lemon, buttery taste. They are highly addictive, so if you tend towards a lack of control when it comes to your appetite, you might want to leave these under lock and key. Seriously.


Ingredients:


1 C finely ground blanched almond meal/flour
1/4 C erythritol, powdered (you can use a "Magic Bullet" if you have one or you can get a cheap coffe grinder and use it for just for this purpose)
1/4 tsp pure stevia extract
1/4 C (half a stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure lemon extract

If you're not crazy about lemon, just add a 1/2 tsp of vanilla instead. You can also use almond extract if you prefer.





I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Zero.  You can make sugar alcohols like erythritol out of corn or soy (which may or may not be genetically modified). Organic Zero is made from organic sugar and the company, Wholesome Organic, is fair trade certified. The company website:http://www.wholesomesweeteners.com/ can tell you more about that.








Preparation:


* Heat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Mix dry ingredient together in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

*Using an electric mixer, beat softened butter for about one minute (I use the Braun handheld mixer with the whisk attachment).  Add the vanilla and lemon extracts and beat until blended. Add dry ingredients a little at a time and mix together to form into dough-like consistency ( you may want to do this with a wooden spoon, whatever works best for you).


*Divide dough into 12 equal portions and roll each into balls. Arrange evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven.





Using a fork (you may want to run it under water - the dough will be sticky),  press down on the cookies lightly.





Return to oven and bake for  another 18 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet.




Makes 12 cookies and each has 96.2 cal, 1.04 effective carbs, 8.2 g fat, 1 g fiber and 2 g protein.