A Gluten Free Holiday I: Healthier Over the Holidays with Low Carb, Date-Free Squares
Let’s get ready for the holidays! This is Week One of A Gluten Free Holiday–2011 Edition, so get those ovens fired up, pull out the fancy china, polish the silverware*, and start planning those place settings! The event is the brainchild of our lovely hostess, Amy over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and continues on Thursdays from now through December. Today, Amy is kicking off the festivities on her blog. Our topic is ”Healthier Over the Holidays” and she’s offering Seven Tips for Healthier Holiday Baking. Hop on over and see what she’s got to share, check out the linked recipes, link up your own, and enter to win a copy of Amy’s wildly popular cookbook, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free!
Being on the anti-candida diet since March 2009, I’ve been hyper aware of everything I eat and how it affects my health in a direct fashion since then. You’d think that, given my current diet (you can read about how I eat here), there would be precious little more I could do to healthify my eating habits throughout the holiday period.
Except if you did think that way, you’d be mistaken.
As someone who’s struggled with ups and downs of the scales throughout my life, I felt a certain alarm when I gained five pounds a year after losing 45 of them on the ACD. Since then, the scale has fluctuated up and down some more, coming to rest at a place that, I must admit, doesn’t feel comfortable to me. And while I’m still not counting calories, points, or carb grams, I have come to accept the fact that, despite my über healthy menus and six-days-a-week visits to the gym, it is still possible to gain weight. Reasons may include eating too much of a good thing (even a sugar-free good thing); hormonal changes that have occurred along with menopause (Mother Nature, isn’t it about time you stopped playing these nasty tricks?); or, simply, too much stress (can you say “computer virus”?).
[I love a healthy, high-protein, high-fiber, lower glycemic dessert, don't you?]
So what am I doing to stay healthy over the holidays, you ask? Well, I’ve decided that the best way to avoid those typical weight fluctuations is to focus on lower-carb and lower-glycemic foods this season. Simply, what this means (for me, anyway) is fewer flour-based recipes, and more bean and legume-based ones–especially in my desserts.
Today’s recipe is a great dessert that employs legumes in place of fruit. These babies may think that they’re date squares, but they’re not! As you may already know, the ACD does not permit dates as one of the “approved” foods; they are considered too sweet. (A friend and I engaged in an energetic debate on this very issue recently: dates, which are real, whole foods with fiber, vitamins, minerals and even a modicum of protein, are forbidden; while agave nectar and coconut sugar, both sweeteners and partial foods, are permitted. Go figure).
Much in the way that Chinese Red Bean Cookies use cooked adzuki beans in their filling, regular ole black beans here stand in for dates (combined with a few other flavors, of course). The result is a sweet, slightly lemony filling nestled between layers of crumble topping. You’ll think you’re eating dessert when really, you’re savoring a protein-packed, grain- and fruit-free, lower-glycemic, high fiber, treat. How’s that for a healthier twist on a treat this holiday season?
The HH loved these bars and couldn’t guess what the filling was made of. When I offered to let him in on the secret, he replied, “No, don’t tell me. Just let me enjoy them as they are.” Sounds like a very healthy attitude to me.
Fruity Crumble Bars (Faux Date Squares)
Suitable for ACD Stage 3 and beyond
So reminiscent of date squares, you won’t believe it. With beans in the filling and sunflower seeds in the topping, these bars are not only delicious, but provide a good hit of protein in each sweet square as well.
For the Filling:
2 cups well cooked, rinsed and drained black beans (one 19 oz or 540 ml can)
2 large ripe pears, washed and cored (you can leave the skin on)
2 Tbsp (15 ml) carob powder or flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut sugar
pinch fine sea salt
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
30-40 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
For the Topping:
1/3 cup (45 g) lightly toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar
1/3 cup (45 g) millet flour
1-1/2 cups (150 g) whole old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cinnamon
pinch fine sea salt
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
1/4 cup (60 ml) avocado or nut oil (I used macadamia) or unrefined coconut oil, preferably organic, melted
up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, if needed
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line an 8-1/2 inch (21.5 cm) square pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray and set aside.
Make the filling: Combine the beans, pears, carob, coconut sugar, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice in a food processor and process until very smooth and no pieces of bean are visible. Transfer the mixture to a medium pot and heat over medium-low heat until it begins to heave and sputter (it will be trying to boil, but will be too thick to do so). If you have a splatter screen, now is a good time to place it over the pot. If not, keep the cover on but leave an edge uncovered to allow steam to escape. Reduce heat so that the mixture is still cooking but not quite as actively.
Stir the mixture very frequently (about once every minute or so) as it continues to heave and give off steam, scraping the bottom of the pot with a silicone spatula as you stir (it will scorch very easily–keep stirring!). After about 20 minutes, the mixture will begin to darken and thicken up considerably. It should be thicker than applesauce, almost as thick as, say, a smooth almond butter (this could take up to 30 minutes). Remove from heat, add the vanilla, stevia and flax, and set aside while you make the topping.
Make the topping: In a food processor, process the sunflower seeds, sugar, millet flour, 1 cup (100 g) of the oats, cinnamon and salt until it resembles cornmeal. Add the stevia and oil and pulse until the topping comes together in clumps. It should be slightly moist and stick together when pinched between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry, add a Tbsp (15 ml) or so of water at a time until it comes together in moist clumps. Add the final 1/2 cup (50 g) oats and stir them in to the mixture, but don’t process again.
Press about half the topping into the prepared pan (you can measure, or just estimate). Spread the filling evenly over it, then sprinkle with the rest of the topping. Press gently into the filling. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
Don’t forget to check out Amy’s post today and enter the giveaway!
* I know, seriously, who ever polishes silverware any more? But it sounds good, right?
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