Keeping The Tradition Alive My mom was never big on baking, but cranberry bread has been a holiday staple for as long as I can remember. She’d even make mini loaves of it to give to my teachers way back in the day. While I […]
The Main Attraction: Vegan Feast Alternative Nothing truly replaces a traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But these days there are plenty of options that deliver all the fall feels for vegans and people trying to adopt a more plant-based. But for a lot of us […]
Sweet Potatoes for Breakfast
For those skeptics our there, just hear me out for a second. Sweet potato may not jump to mind as a traditional breakfast food option. But really, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Sweet potatoes basically taste like dessert, but they are quite versatile and pair with both sweet and savory.
When going paleo, low-carb, or gluten-free or giving up grains altogether, breakfast beyond smoothies can be tricky to navigate. Fortunately, sweet potato bread, muffins, pancakes, and even savory loaded sweet potatoes and patties are all a thing.
But what about a nice warm bowl of oatmeal? Can anything really stand in for that breakfast stand-by? Maybe not entirely. But we can get pretty close: enter sweet potato mash.
While sweet potatoes clearly are not a direct substitute taste-wise, they do provide a similar consistency and the same warming comfort a hot bowl of oatmeal serves up on a cold winter morning. And if you throw them in the food processor for just a few seconds with the skins on, you’ll wind up with a smooth yet slightly chunky consistency similar to oats with the bits of skins mixed in.
They’re sweet but not overly sweet, provide a solid dose of real food nutrition to start the day, and can take a variety of toppings and add-ins just as well as the best bowl of oatmeal. I like to top mine with blueberries, chopped pecans, a generous sprinkle of cinnamon, and a bit of unsweetened coconut. But really, as with oatmeal, the sky’s the limit.
Sweet potato mash also works perfectly as a side dish, with or without the toppings. And of course it can stand in for a healthy dessert alternative!
Sweet potato health benefits
But first, the benefits. Sweet potatoes are chock full of carotenoids, which are full of potent health benefits due to their rich phytochemical concentrations. My favorite: cancer risk reduction. Increased intake of carotenoids has been associated with reduced risk of multiple types of cancer. Interestingly, they might also help protect us from harmful UV sun rays. Research has found that supplementing sunblock with daily intake of carotenoids before (and during) sun exposure can help reduce the rate of sunburn and sun damage, likely because it slows the absorption of UV rays.
Sweet potatoes have also got you covered on the Vitamin A front: one cup provides over 200% of the recommended daily intake, as well as 50% of your Vitamin C and Manganese, making them an excellent immunity-boosting staple. They also provide a substantial amount of the B vitamins and biotin, plus copper, pantothenic acid, potassium, phosphorous, and fiber.
Not only are they high in antioxidants, but they are contain anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies show a reduction in inflammation in nerve and brain tissue following sweet potato consumption. The phytonutrients prevent demyelination caused by excess fibrinogen, which has implications for diseases like multiple sclerosis. The research so far backs it up – I won’t argue with that!
In spite of their relatively high GI rating, sweet potatoes have been show to actually improve blood sugar regulation, even in people with Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, another class of nutrients found in sweet potatoes called glycosides have been shown to contain antibacterial and anti fungal properties.
The Upshot: Nailing the Breakfast Game
While research into all of these potential health benefits is ongoing, the upshot is clear: eat your sweet potatoes!
In order to maximize the bioavailability of the nutrients (aka how efficiently your body absorbs the nutrients), adding a little fat to your meal is a good idea. Sweet potato and avocado is one of my favorite combos.
But you can easily add just a little olive oil to a dish, or to keep it sweet, I like to add coconut oil. For those who aren’t fans of the coconut flavor, unrefined coconut oil has no coconut flavor.
Sweet Potato Mash
A paleo, grain-free, gluten-free alternative to breakfast oats.
- 2-4 sweet potatoes depending on size
- 1 tbsp coconut oil refined or unrefined
- Toppings of choice. My favorites include: pecans, walnuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, cacao nibs, blueberries, dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, warming spices, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a touch of added sweetness if desired.
Pierce the sweet potatoes a few times with a nice and bake at 400F for 35-50 minutes (depending on size; they should be soft when fully cooked).
Place the sweet potatoes in a food processor, add the coconut oil, and blend until thoroughly mashed. Option: scoop the insides from the skin and mash with a fork.
Scoop into a bowl, add toppings as desired, and eat up!
Cleanse your system the fun way The words cleanse and detox often cause strong, guarded reactions. The idea of deprivation or consuming bizarre foods you can’t even pronounce is simply not appealing to most. But before you turn and run… truth bomb: you don’t have to […]
Cool for the Summer: Raw Vegan Creamy Celery Herb Soup Ohhhh yes, this raw vegan creamy celery herb soup recipe is a win! More raw soup. Souper delicious. Souper healthy. Creamy. Refreshing. Bursting with layers of flavor. So I went to the local farmer’s market […]
Juice up your life
Last year after I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, I immediately went into research mode and dove into everything I could find when it came to anti-cancer nutrition. Carrot juice came up time and again: there were numerous stories of miraculous recoveries from the simple consumption of carrot juice alone. Resource after resource touted the anti-cancer benefits of vast quantities of carrot juice.
Cinco de Mayo vibes So I’ve been on a total Mexican food kick lately, thanks in part to Cinco de Mayo as well as the shift in weather. Cinco de Mayo kind of signifies a shift in my dietary habits and cravings, and even though the warm weather […]
Eat like a rabbit My family celebrates Easter, and I celebrate any excuse to make treats. And of course I’m always on a mission to satisfy my sweet tooth in a healthier way, using real, whole foods ingredients and as little sugar (never refined of […]
My love affair with cupcakes
And in this sugar-free chocolate series, we get to my favorite-ever treat: cupcakes! My love affair with cupcakes goes way back. I remember baking them in grade school for my birthday, and I loved when anyone else brought them in; this was back in the day before rampant food allergies ruined the fun. I had a funny way of eating them too: bottom first. I was always one to save the best for last, the ‘best’ in this case being the frosting. I would leave just enough cake so the icing wasn’t a complete mess, then savor the frosting-dominant bites one tiny morsel at a time.
As an adult my sugar tooth remained strong, and I got really into baking – especially cupcakes. I improved my baking skills and experimented with creative flavor variations, and got a fancy frosting piping tool to make them pretty. Included in my repertoire beyond the best vanilla and chocolate cupcakes ever were coconut cream, rosewater pistachio, peppermint mocha, rum caramel, and my wine-cheese-and-chocolate cupcake, to name a few. Yup, I even successfully got the cheese flavor in, balanced just right with the wine and the chocolate. This was serious stuff for me – a creative outlet with delicious results.
In fact, just as I was putting the finishing touches on my cupcakes yesterday, Facebook reminded me that exactly 5 years ago it was officially ‘time to bake’ and take a break from grad school studies.
The sugar-free cupcake project
Here I am today, still baking cupcakes, but with a very different view on what quality ingredients look like. The picture above shows just how much sugar and processed crap I put into my baked goods. They tasted good, but there was nothing good about them. Because of this, I have not baked cupcakes in quite a while. I found other treats to satisfy my sweet tooth in a healthier way (read: dark chocolate).
My taste for sugar has definitely evolved as well. The overly processed stuff just doesn’t taste right. So anyway, I gave myself the challenge of coming up with a cleaned up version of my ultimate indulgence – cupcakes – and due to the sugar-free chocolate challenge at hand, I had to make a chocolate version.
Funny enough, as much as I love cupcakes and as much as I love chocolate, I’m super picky about my chocolate cupcakes (this goes for cake too) so generally did not choose chocolate if I had the choice. So for a chocolate cupcake recipe to get my taste buds’ seal of approval, it’s gotta be really good.
What makes a good cupcake
Because of this, I wasn’t all that confident that a sugar-free vegan cupcake would really work. Cupcakes are finicky in the first place, and eliminating a key ingredient like sugar without even using paleo replacements like honey or maple syrup was definitely going to be a challenge. But I was pretty impressed with these cupcakes – the texture is just right and they taste delicious.
A great cupcake should have a light, spongy quality with just a touch of sweetness to offset the icing. It shouldn’t be dry or crumbly and the balance of flavors must be just right – not overpowering, yet distinct and delectable. These cupcakes achieve that ideal texture – the liners peeled right off without stickiness, and my fork slid in and pulled off a bit without any crumbling – I was super impressed!
Cinnamon Mocha – My favorite flavor combo
And the flavor-blanance works. The cupcake is not dry and has a light mocha flavor, while the frosting is rich, dense and full of both chocolate and coffee, with cinnamon to draw out the intensity of each. Why add cinnamon? Because cinnamon in coffee is the best! For real, cinnamon has loads of health benefits and adds a natural sweetness to your coffee.
I also add cinnamon to most of my chocolate treats, whether it’s intended to be a dominant flavor or not. Why? Because the natural sweetness of cinnamon balances the bitterness and adds depth to the chocolate flavor. I happen to love cinnamon, but even just a dash adds a richness to the taste that takes the treat to the next level.
The key cleaned-up ingredients
So coming up with a quality cupcake for my ultimate sugar-free project was a somewhat daunting task. I started with blanched almond flour. Almond flour is, naturally, made from almonds, making it a gluten-free, high-protein, low-carb option for baking, which makes it sugar-free diet-approved. Blanched almond flour, which is made from ground almonds with the skin removed, creates a fluffier result than it’s sibling, almond meal. I love using almond meal in certain recipes, but blanched almond flour is hands down the better option for cupcakes.
I also managed to find a powdered stevia product that might actually be ok – I’m still in the process of researching and testing the best sugar-free baking substitutes, however Wholesome Powdered Organic Stevia seems to be a pretty decent option. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it’s better than most processed stevia products out there. The green leaf stevia powder is the best stevia out there in terms of health benefits, but I have not tried it in baking, and I’m pretty sure it won’t work.
Finally, the veganizers: coconut and arrowroot flour. Arrowroot is gluten-free and paleo-approved, and apparently when mixed with water and coconut oil, can be used as an egg replacer. Coconut milk, cream, and oil are all used in this recipe, though I feel that the mocha flavors dominate.
Cinnamon Mocha Cupcakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Recipe
What you need for the cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp ground coffee
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 2 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup Wholesome Organic stevia powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
What you need for the Cinnamon Mocha Frosting*:
- 1/2 cup Lily’s stevia sweetened baking chips
- 1 tsp coffee extract
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
*Depending on what ratio of frosting to cupcake you prefer, you may wish to double this recipe, as I did, of course.
How to make the Cinnamon Mocha Cupcakes:
- Preheat your oven to 350 and fill your cupcake pan with baking cups.
- In a small saucepan on medium heat, stir the coconut milk, ground coffee, and coconut cream until the coconut cream melts and and grounds have infused the mixture. Take off the heat and let cool.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine the water, arrowroot powder, and the 2 tbsp of melted coconut oil. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add the melted coconut oil, coffee mixture, arrowroot mixture, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. There shouldn’t be any lumps but do not over-stir the mixture.
- Spoon the batter into your baking cups until about 2/3 full.
- Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan about 10 minutes then remove the cupcakes from the pan and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
How to make the Cinnamon Mocha Frosting:
- While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, stirring as they begin to melt. Remove from heat as soon as the last bits are melting.
- Place the coconut cream in a large bowl and using a spatula, pour the melted chocolate over the cream. Make sure the chocolate is still very warm so it softens the cream. Using a hand or stand mixer, mix the chocolate and cream until blended.
- Add the coconut milk, coffee extract and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly combined. The texture should be creamy.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes. Makes 12-14.
The Brownie Project So I obviously needed to include brownies in my week of sugar-free chocolate treats. But the brownie project proved to be a bit stubborn. After a couple close-but-not-quite attempts, I decided to try a different tack and go with a raw bite rendition of the classic […]