Gluten free healthy carrot cake muffins
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Who wants to have their cake and eat it too? Definitely me. I have a big sweet tooth and love love love cookies, brownies, cake, chocolate…basically any dessert. I will eat it. And that’s ok. I don’t say no to something if I really want it, except of course if it is something that I know will wreak havoc on my intestines. And even in that case I just find something comparable that I can eat and enjoy. So when I realized easter was coming up and I was craving carrot cake, I wanted to make my own version that was gluten free, not super sweet, and full of those carrot cake spices. So I made these healthy carrot cake muffins for myself, and I guess my husband too, but mostly myself.

 

Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a snack, these healthy carrot cake muffins are made with almond flour so they are also gluten free!

 

When I first made these healthy carrot cake muffins, I made a version that was a little higher in sugar (1/2 cup maple syrup instead of a 1/4 cup). It was good, but a little too sweet for a muffin, it reminded me more of a cupcake. And while I don’t really give my 15 month old daughter things with added sugar very often, I did put a few pieces of the muffin on her plate towards the end of dinner. I expected her to gobble it all down immediately but she didn’t. She had a few bites and then actually left some on her plate. While she did eat some of it, and enjoy it (she indicated this by making “mmmm” sounds), she listened to her body and stopped when she was full. I feel like that is a great lesson for us all!

 

Gluten free healthy carrot cake muffins

 

So how can you stop eating more than what you need? You are likely not a baby if you are reading this post (If you are, congratulations on reading so early!), so you might feel like you have lost some of your ability to self regulate. Most of us preserve this function until about 2 years old but after that, external instead of internal cues can be more influential if we are not careful. I’m sure many of you were told growing up that you needed to “clean your plate,” and that there were “starving children” somewhere, and you were being wasteful. It was a different time then, and we know so much more now how these practices undermine our ability to self regulate. One thing I like to do is to take smaller portion sizes. If I am hungry I allow myself to get more, but it gives me time to pause and ask myself “am I still hungry?” or “do I really want more?” instead of just mindlessly eating everything off my heaping plate.

 

Gluten free healthy carrot cake muffins

 

Anyways…lets get to those healthy carrot cake muffins. In order to turn a carrot cake with a limited amount of nutrients, into something healthier that is absolutely still delicious, I changed up a few ingredients and made it into muffins for easier portion control. Instead of all-purpose flour (very little nutrients) I went with an almond flour. Never tried baking with almond flour before? It’s amazing. It is basically ground up almonds so you are getting healthy fats, protein, fiber plus other vitamins and minerals. It is really light and fluffy and…I just love the almond flavor. Because the almond flour contains fat in it, I don’t usually see the need to add any extra oil. So instead, I used some applesauce to give it some natural sweetness so I can cut back on the maple syrup.

 

Oh and if you do want more of a cupcake then a muffin, just follow the recipe below but increase the maple syrup to 1/2 cup.

 

Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

Ingredients

2 Cups Almond Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Finely Shredded Carrots (about 3 carrots)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 muffin-muffin tin with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. In a separate medium size bowl lightly beat eggs, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients slowly into flour mixture until consistent throughout. Fold in carrots.  Fill muffin tin with batter evenly, about 1/2 to 3/4 way. Place in preheated oven and cook for 18-20 min or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Use a knife or fork to loosen edges of muffins and remove from tin. Serve or keep in an airtight container until ready to eat.
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Matcha Almond Cookies
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A few months ago I received an email asking me to enter a recipe contest utilizing matcha. I ended up making some super amazing matcha almond cookies, but before I get to that, I have a few things I would like to say about matcha. For those of you that don’t know what matcha is, it is basically ground up green tea leaves and looks like a green powder. Instead of steeping it in water like with traditional tea, it is mixed into the water and consumed. Because it is actually consumed, some people claim there are even more health benefits of matcha versus traditional green tea.  For those of you that do know about matcha, you have probably heard a lot of buzz about all the health benefits. It seems to be mostly touted as good for your brain and mood, but I have also seen fat burning and metabolism boosting claims.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Prior to this contest, I have never used matcha before and wanted to do some research to see if it lived up to all the hype. Of note…if you don’t know me very well I am a skeptic at heart and like to investigate things myself before I actually believe pretty much anything or trust things, people, etc. It does make me a very good dietitian but sometimes can be a drawback in the social scene or networking for my business. For example… “Why is this person talking to me? What do they want?” is a thought that often goes through my brain.

Anyways…when searching for actual research studies involving matcha, I really did not find that many, and quite a few of them that came up had nothing to do with matcha, but had an author with the last name of Matcha. Super helpful. What I did find however, was that some of the components of matcha have been researched, so a lot of the health claims don’t necessarily involve matcha itself, but those specific compounds in the matcha. While I prefer research with whole foods versus specific components or nutrients, (because we don’t eat nutrients, we eat food) there is really not much available. So let me tell you about some of the research involving a couple of the individual components that are in matcha, because honestly that is all I have.

Caffeine
Has been found to improve performance on certain cognitive tasks, especially ones that are of a longer duration
Increased self reporting of alertness

L-theanine
Improves self reports of relaxation

These two component appear to work synergistically. Adding the L-theanine to the caffeine helps prevent the jitteriness of caffeine due to its relaxation effect, so it is a different type of “high” versus what you would get from drinking coffee.

Additionally, we know the traditional way of consuming green tea is good for you. Research has shown it can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, improve heart health and may even help you to live longer, among a host of many other possible health benefits. Green tea is loaded with lots of powerful compounds and antioxidants, so that’s great too. We can guess that at least some of these benefits of consuming  traditional green tea will likely also be present when consuming matcha but we really can’t say for certain or to what extent. Also, more is not always better, even if it is more of a good thing, so just dumping a whole bunch of matcha in your smoothie probably isn’t the best idea.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Whether or not matcha is better than traditional green tea is a question that remains to be answered. If you enjoy matcha, go ahead and continue to enjoy it, and if you want to try it, go ahead. But don’t set your expectations too high and believe everything the package claims. So bottomline – adding matcha to recipes will add some caffeine, and a boost of antioxidants, but to say that its health benefits are greater than traditional green tea or to give specific health claims is unfounded at this point in time.

Despite the lack of research I did go ahead and try my hand at including matcha in a recipe with minimal expectations as how it would effect my health. Because maybe in a year or two we will have some more research and proven health benefits. (There were a few promising animal studies I stumbled upon…so maybe the people studies are coming soon?) So let me get to the matcha almond cookies….

I ended up taking one of my favorite almond cookie recipes (It is from David Lebovitz’s blog and you can find it here) and modifying it to include matcha and decrease the amount of sugar and calories to make it a little more nutritious (well as nutritious as a delicious cookies can be). And my matcha almond cookies were born! Adding the matcha definitely added a different layer of flavor and I loved it. It went really well with the almonds and the agave. I may continue to experiment with the matcha to add some flavor depth and additional antioxidants to recipes, but I don’t expect my life or health to change significantly because of it.

Matcha Almond Cookies

Matcha Almond Cookies

Ingredients
3 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
2/3 Cup Agave Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
3 Cups Almond Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Matcha (I used Kiss Me Organics because I received a free sample)

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Add egg whites and salt to a large mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat egg mixture on low until peaks form. Combine agave with beaten egg whites, then add almond extract and stir well. Add in flour, baking powder and matcha and mix until uniform. Scoop batter by heaping teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes or until browned on edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Makes approximately 40 cookies.
Matcha Almond Cookies
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Berry Yogurt Bark, Healthy frozen dessert, gluten free,
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I hate wasting food. And since Baby V has started eating solids I feel like I am wasting a lot of food. And yes, I can’t help it when she throws half her food on the floor but I try to minimize the food waste as much as possible. One thing that really bothers me is the fact that the grocery store by my house has only the giant containers of full fat plain greek yogurt, and after you open it, the yogurt needs to be used in 5 days. And I’m sorry but Baby V cannot eat ~32 ounces of yogurt in 5 days (I would actually be quite concerned if she could). My husband doesn’t eat yogurt, and I could probably eat the full fat yogurt, but I prefer to continue to eat my non-fat greek yogurt at lunch so I can limit my calories and save my saturated fat intake for fancy cheeses (it’s all about balance …right?).
So anyways…I decided to use some of the extra yogurt to make a little something I am going to call Berry Yogurt Bark. It turned out to be a yummy frozen treat that I can slowly indulge in, one piece at a time, or serve to guests when they come over. It is super easy, takes about 5 minutes and looks so pretty.

Berry Yogurt Bark, gluten free healthy frozen dessert

If you don’t like the fruit I use or are not a nut fan, you could use my recipe as a template and change out some of the ingredients to make it your own. Oh and one word of caution. If its a hot summer day, I wouldn’t take this recipe outside unless it is going to be eaten immediately. It can get rather messy if it is sitting out and becomes unfrozen…

Berry Yogurt Bark

Ingredients
1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1-2 Tablespoons Honey*
1/2 Heaping Cup of Sliced Strawberries and Blueberries
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sliced Almonds

Directions
Line a 9×23 in glass baking dish with parchment paper. Add yogurt to a small mixing bowl and stir in honey. Gently fold berries into yogurt mixture. Spread out over parchment lined baking dish with a spoon. Sprinkle with almonds. Cover and freeze for about 4 hours or until frozen solid. Break into pieces after frozen and serve immediately.

*I like it with 1 tablespoon of honey but my husband thinks it is not sweet enough and needs 2 tablespoons…so I am leaving the exact amount up to your taste preferences 🙂

Berry Yogurt Bark, gluten free healthy frozen dessert

 

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