Christmas Goodies Keto-Style

Christmas is all about the sugar and carbs for most of us.  But not all can have the sugars and no one needs as much as we all intake.  Last weekend, my sister, niece and I got together for our holiday baking.  This year, we all decided to make several new recipes that were ‘keto friendly’.  We are picky about our foods and we all have issues (you guys know some of mine).  Keto is a low sugar/low carb diet.  Just because you go without sugar though, doesn’t mean you have to go without the sweets.  

There are many sweeteners on the market and my sister has tried a lot of them.  I only have room to discuss one in this column though.  When choosing your own, check the labels carefully.  Not all are created equally and not all are as good as they claim to be.

Monk fruit is the main sweetener Tera loves and I must admit it is a favorite of mine after this weekend.  Monk fruit sweeteners come from a small round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. Monk fruit sweeteners are extracted by removing the seeds and skin, crushing the fruit and collecting the juice. This sweet but zero-calorie juice is often used in food and beverages to help reduce calories without sacrificing sweetness.  The juice can also be dried into a concentrated powder.  

Monk fruit contains natural sugars, mainly fructose and glucose.  However, unlike in most fruits, the natural sugars in monk fruit aren’t responsible for its sweetness. Instead, it gets its intense sweetness from unique antioxidants called mogrosides.  During processing, mogrosides are separated from the fresh-pressed juice. Therefore, monk fruit sweetener does not contain fructose or glucose. 

A specific type of mogroside called mogroside V is the main component of monk fruit sweetener.  It comprises more than 30% of the product and is responsible for its sweetness.  Studies show that the mogrosides have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  For these reasons, they may offer health benefits.  

Since monk fruit sweetener has zero calories or carbs, it will not raise blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is a good option for people with diabetes.  Studies in mice with diabetes suggest monk fruit extract may even reduce blood sugar levels. Mice given the extract experienced lower oxidative stress and blood sugar levels, as well as increased HDL (good) cholesterol. No human studies have been concluded though so it is unclear whether it has the same effects on humans.  

Mogroside extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as they inhibit certain harmful molecules and help prevent damage to your DNA.  Test-tube research suggests monk fruit extract inhibits cancer cell growth.  One study found the mogrosides suppressed leukemia cell growth. Another noted powerful inhibitory effects on skin tumors in mice according to Pub Med Central.  More studies are needed however.  

Monk fruit extract is now used as a standalone sweetener, an ingredient in food and drinks, a flavor enhancer, and a component of sweetener blends.  Because this extract may be 100–250 times sweeter than table sugar, many manufacturers mix monk fruit sweetener with other natural products, such as erythritol, to reduce the intensity of the sweetness.  

Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol.  It contains .024 calories per gram compared to sugar which is 4 calories per gram.  While most sugar alchols can cause digestive distress, erythritol, for the most part, does not.  It travels through the body differently and most is dispersed and excreted in the urine before it ever gets to your colon.  The little bit that does make it to your colon, is unaffected by the bacteria in your gut and is removed from your system.  It is considered a 0 carb food because the body doesn’t absorb it.  This makes Monk fruit perfect for those who have to watch their sugars and carbs as it won’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

This weekend look for a different type of sugar.  Make your grocery list.  Then meet me in the kitchen for some non-traditional Christmas goodies that just may end up family favorites!

Chocolate Mint Cream Cheese Buttons

4oz cream cheese, softened

4 ½ cups monk fruit powdered sweetener-I could not find this in Okmulgee.  I ordered mine from Amazon.  You can get Swerve powdered sweetener here in town though.  We did not like the taste of Swerve however.

½ tsp mint extract

Green gel food color to make desired color

1 cup heavy whipping cream

10oz no sugar added semi-sweet chocolate chips, you can get them on the same aisle as the regular chips

Combine cream cheese and one cup of powdered sweetener in a large bowl and use a stand mixer or hand mixer to combine.  Add extract and gel food color and mix until combined.  Gradually add rest of the powdered sugar and mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Use your hands to combine ingredients if your mixer is not up to the task.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Scoop out a teaspoon of dough and form into a ball using palm of your hands. Place it on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of dough.  Use end of a wooden spoon or a small measuring spoon to create indentions in each bowl. Dust measuring spoon with powdered sugar if it sticks at all.  Chill mints until firm, about 1 hour.  Place chocolate chips in heat-proof bowl or large measuring cup.  Bring heavy whipping cream just to a simmer and then pour over top of chocolate chips. Stir once or twice and then let sit for 2 minutes.  Continue stirring until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated.  Transfer ganache to a Ziploc bag and let it sit for 30 minutes or so until it has thickened up - think yogurt consistency. You can speed up this process by placing it in the refrigerator but keep an eye on it or it will get very firm.  Cut corner off bag and pipe ganache into center of each mint.  Chill for about an hour, or until ganache has set up.  Store in refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from momontimeout.com.

 

Gingerbread Fat Bombs

2 cups finely ground almond flour

2/3 cup granular sweetener

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp kosher salt

6 Tbsps. melted butter

1 tsp molasses

Add all dry ingredients to a medium sized bowl and mix to combine.  Stir in melted butter and molasses to form a thick dough.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out a portion of dough and roll it into a ball.  Place balls in an air tight container and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Keep in the refrigerator for snacking!

Recipe from jenniferbanz.com.

 

Snowball Cookies

2½ cups almond flour

¾ cups powdered sweetener, divided

¼ tsp sea salt

½ cup unsalted sweet cream butter, softened

2 tsps. pure vanilla extract

26 dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Add almond flour, ½ cup of powdered sweetener and sea salt to a large bowl and mix to combine. Add softened butter and vanilla and mix until a soft dough forms.  Using a tablespoon, scoop cookie dough and roll into balls. Place them on 2 baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart.  Bake for 10 minutes then let cool slightly before transferring to cooling rack. Dust with remaining ¼ cup of powdered sweetener (a small, fine-mesh sieve works well for this if you don’t have a sifter) and top each one with a cranberry.

Recipe adapted from theendlessmeal.com.

 

Salted Caramel Cups

4oz unsalted sweet cream butter

8oz heavy cream

½ cup + 2 Tbsps. powdered sweetener

1.5oz cream cheese

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp caramel extract

1 tsp fine sea salt

course sea salt for sprinkling on top

3.5 - 6oz 85% dark chocolate or sugar free chocolate

Combine butter, cream and sweetener in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until light brown and thickened stirring frequently. This takes 10-15 min.  Stir in extracts, cream cheese and salt. Stir until cream cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature and thicken further.  Melt chocolate in microwave, melting pot or double boiler. Put a little in the bottom of each mold and spread it up the sides. Put in the fridge to harden. Do one more layer of chocolate. Harden in fridge.   Fill chocolate cups 3/4 full with room temperature caramel. Put in fridge to chill caramel. After about 5 min it should be cool enough to put chocolate on top. You can cover caramel or just drizzle lines on. Sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt. Store in fridge.

 

Recipe adapted from joyfilledeats.com.