Monday, March 26, 2012

(Sugar-Free, Low-Carb) Granola with Flax

Sugar-Free, Low-Carb Granola

As with so many of my low-carb creations, this new recipe was born one day when I was thinking wistfully about eating some of my yummy maple granola with flax. Or rather, thinking about how I couldn't eat it anymore, and yes, feeling a little sorry for myself.  Sniff. Sniff.  Isn't it interesting that inspiration is often born out of desperation?  I immediately thought about how I could make sugar-free, low-carb granola;  I would raise the amount of protein and lower the amount of carbohydrates by replacing a substantial percentage of the grains with nuts, seeds, and coconut.  (And coconut is good for the immune system, too!)  There was just one problem; what to use as a sweetener? 

I love using the sugar alcohols erythritol and xylitol; they are naturally low glycemic and low carbohydrate.  They even help prevent tooth decay.  There's just one major problem; their drive to re-cyrstalize is very hard to overcome. If you dissolve some in boiling water and let it sit, it will turn into rock candy in less than 24 hours. In my baked goods, I prevent this by using plenty of moist, fiber-filled fruits and vegetables (apple sauce, sweet potatoes, bananas) which bond with the sugar alcohols and keep them from linking back up again.  Unfortunately, I didn't see how that would work with granola.  And of course, stevia has that yucky licorice-y aftertaste - not what I wanted at all.

There is a third commonly used sugar alcohol which readily stays in a looser, liquid state; maltitol.  Maltitol has the consistency and appearance of light corn syrup, and has a very neutral flavor.  It is very commonly used in commercial sugar-free products, such as sugar-free chocolates and energy bars, presumably because of its resistance to re-crystalizing.  There is only one problem with maltitol - okay, two.  The first is that, far more than any of the other sugar substitutes, it causes intense flatulence.  I could deal with this by using it very sparingly, but.... the other problem is that it is not readily available to the general public, sold only to food manufacturers.  After googling extensively, I was able to find some retailed on the internet.

By using some stevia along with the malitol, I was able to use the malitol sparingly, helping each sweetener to overcome its issues.  And the results?  This granola was really, really, REALLY good.

*BUT.... UPDATE: JULY, 2014: Since writing this post, I have done further research on maltitol which makes me uncomfortable with using it or promoting it. Many sources now say that maltitol raises blood sugar, and actually has a much higher number of usable carbs in it than the label indicates. Given all this, I will no longer be buying, or using, products with maltitol.

Enter the new darling of the low-carb world: yacon syrup! Yacon is a South American tuber, much like jicama in flavor. When squeezed and cooked down, it creates a thick, dark, tangy syrup which is nutrient-rich, low glycemic, and very good for you. As usual, it's expensive. As usual, it's hard to get. And since Dr. Oz promoted it, a shortage hit. Sigh. Friends at Coracao Confections (organic, raw, low-glycemic, vegan, and fantastic!) referred me to Raw Food World for their syrup. These folks are lovely - great customer service, good products - and I've stocked up. Again, buy using stevia, you can stretch your yacon syrup in the recipe.
The best way to eat it, in my opinion, is with whole milk Greek yoghurt, which is creamy and delicious, and very low in carbs.  The Fage brand has the lowest carbohydrate content of all of the other brands whose labels I've examined, and is super thick, rich and mild-tasting - no sour yoghurt action at all. Trader Joe's also makes a very good whole milk Greek-style yoghurt - and at a great price!  I like to sweeten the yoghurt with some erythritol, and then add a little vanilla for flavor.  Let it sit for a moment to allow the erythritol crystals to dissolve into the yoghurt.  Then sprinkle on the granola....... mmmm.

Sugar-Free, Low Carb Granola with Flax

2 cups quinoa flakes
2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)

OR: 4 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes - the big pieces, not the shredded kind
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup toasted almonds, preferably slivered
1 cup walnuts, broken into smaller pieces
1 cup pecans, broken into smaller pieces
(or your choice of nuts)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 tsp powdered stevia extract

3 TB flax oil
3 TB coconut oil, or a neutral oil such as canola or sunflower
4 TB yacon syrup or 6 TB maltitol syrup

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.  Combine all of the grains and nuts in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the stevia powder over the top and toss and stir to combine well.

In an microwave proof cup (such as pyrex) measure all of the oils and the yacon syrup.  Heat them in the microwave until they are hot and have thinned out.

Pour the liquids all over the grain mixture, and stir well to coat all of the contents.  Pour the granola mixture into a roasting or baking pan large enough to hold it all.

When the oven is at temperature, place the pan onto a rack in the center of the oven.  Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. After the timer goes off, stir well to redistribute the contents.  Set the timer for 10-15 minutes, and stir again.  Be careful not to let the contents burn; your goal is golden toasting and drying of all the layers.  Set the timer for 5-10 minutes, and stir again.  If it is golden through and through, remove it from the oven and turn the oven off.  If it is not yet golden, return it to the oven for another 5 minutes or so.  At this point, you can turn the oven off and let the granola toast in the residual heat left in the oven.

Cool in the pan, and then store in an airtight container.  It will keep for several weeks, but is at its tastiest when it is fresh.

Pumpkin Bread (High protein, sugar-free, low-carb)

I grew a nice big crop of butternut squash last year. Unfortunately, the seedlings got such a late start that by the time the squashes were ripe, it was so late in the season that they didn't cure properly before I had to harvest them.  So there I was, mid-winter, looking at all of my beautiful squashes, which were growing a thatch of furry white mold on their crowns. Phooey.  I had to cut off the bad parts and rescue the good parts, but NOW.

Little known fact: most canned "pumpkin" in the store is actually butternut squash.  Another little known fact: there are special eating pumpkins, like Sugar Pie Pumpkin, and then there are jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  Eating pumpkins are sweet and tender. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are tough and fibrous, not intended for eating at all.

So, anyway.  I cleaned up the squashes, throwing the bad stuff into the compost heap and peeling and chopping the good parts.  I put the cubes of squash into a ceramic bowl, covered them in water, put a plate on top and cooked them in the microwave.  Then I mashed them up well. And now:  it's "Pumpkin" Bread time.

I decided to go for a little more decadence than I normally do in my quick breads; there's melted butter built-in to this luscious bread. Rich, dark, a little spicy with caramel notes; it is excellent for breakfast, or for an afternoon pick-me-up with tea or coffee.  It's wonderful on its own, but toasted, with a little whipped cream cheese smeared on top, or even a little more butter (!)  - heaven!  After I made the first loaf, here's what I wrote on the recipe draft: "Wow! Delicious."

A word about the optional coconut palm sugar; this super low glycemic sugar is the new darling of the low glycemic/diabetic crowd.  Even Dr. Oz did a segment on it on his show, recommending it as a way to lose weight by preventing sugar crashes. It has delectable caramel notes that echo the vanilla in the bread.  The bread is wonderful without it, but if you have a chance to add it, it brings a surprising amount to the party.

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup pureed pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup melted butter or oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/3 cup erythritol
2 TB xylitol
5 tiny scoops stevia extract powder
1 TB coconut palm sugar (optional, but delicious)

3 TB flax meal
3 TB soy protein
3 TB almond meal
3 TB unflavored, unsweetened whey powder
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Grease a loaf pan.

2.  In a large bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients from section I and mix well.

3. In a small to medium bowl, combine all of the sweeteners and whisk them to mix well.  Add them to the wet ingredients and stir to combine well.

4.  In a medium bowl (perhaps the one you just used to mix the sweeteners), combine all of the dry ingredients from section III and whisk well to combine.

5.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing just enough to combine well.

6.  Stir in the chopped walnuts.

7.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula.

8.  Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then tilt out of the pan onto a cooling rack to complete cooling.