• Sally Miller, B. S., N. E.

What fuels your body through the holidays and beyond?

Keto cookies: left to right, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Peanut Butter Thumbprint, Keto Black Bean Brownies, Salted Halva Fudge

'Tis the season - let the baking begin!

Baking in the Western diet today is centered on many forms of the very same thing: sugar.

From the refined carbohydrates of junk foods to breads, pastas, fruit and juices, sugar makes up most of what we eat in the Western world, especially at the holidays.

Watching my intake of sugar has been part of a lifestyle change I made over 30 years ago. Through the years, I have learned how to use natural, unprocessed choices to satisfy my sweet tooth. Eventually any craving I had for something sweet was satisfied by fresh fruit or a version of dessert that included a natural substitute, as well as fat and fiber. I have been fortunate to remain in good health since.

The recipes with today's article are plant-based, grain-free, high-fat and low-carb. These sweets can provide you with your needed treat without spiking your blood sugar.

Your body needs sugar to fuel your brain and metabolism. But is the burning of glucose the best form of energy for your brain; metabolism and body?

"Most people struggling with health problems like fatigue, hormone imbalances, immune dysfunctions, and brain and metabolic issues are in sugar-burning mode: going from one sugary or grain-based meal to the next, becoming hungry and angry if they don't get their fix. Even healthy, clean eaters can be stuck on this blood sugar roller coaster," says Dr. William Cole in his book, "Keto-tarian."

"On the other hand, a healthy ketogenic diet - where fat, not sugar, is your primary source of energy - has been shown to do some remarkable things for our brain health. Healthy fats are a slow sustainable form of energy, unlike the sugary roller coaster many find themselves on. Making our brain and body work properly requires a lot of energy. From a biological and evolutionary perspective, the most sustainable form of energy for optimal brain health is good fats."

In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein way of eating that shifts your body from burning glucose (sugar) for energy to a state of ketosis, in which your body preferentially uses ketone bodies and fat as a fuel source.

Your live creates ketone bodies from fat when your body needs more to make energy but no glucose is present. This process most commonly occurs during periods of carbohydrate restriction, intermittent fasting and exercise.

Keto helps with the glucose-insulin relationship. Once an individual is in ketosis and no longer relying upon glucose, the pancreas can relax its insulin production, lowering insulin levels and allowing the body to regain its insulin sensitivity and blood sugar balance. This process offers healing as it will lead to improved balance in the body.

The fats that are the healthiest for you come from avocado, coconut, olives, nuts, seeds and their oils. Make your choices based on these fats and not animal fats.

The recommended sweeteners for this diet are stevia, monk fruit and erythritol - including lakanto, swerve and sukrin. The last three are erythritol blends. If you are using these sweeteners in a traditional recipe, use between one-third to one-half the amount of sweetener called for in the nonketo recipe. These are very sweet.

Xylitol-based sweeteners are also low carb, but they tend to be a little harsher on people's digestive systems. Additionally, exlitol is highly toxic to pets, so be sure to keep it away from your animal friends.

I sense a chemical aftertaste in all of the above low-carb sweeteners. My choice is to sweeten with powdered coconut sugar at one-quarter the measurement or a little coconut nectar. I need much less sweetness, so this works for me.

January 1, 2020, will mark one year of my experiment with the online plant-based ketogenic lifestyle. Following the program lead by Chef Elaina Love and Katelyn Louise has been fun and rewarding. The program consists of four 30-day sessions per year. One session with each season. During the off months, your diet includes a greater variety of healthy carbohydrates.

I have had some great results. I have lost weight, felt satiated for longer periods or time, reduced inflammation and have more energy. I chose to try this way of plant-based eating after many years eating plant-based, high-carbohydrate, semi-raw foods. I had gained some unwanted pounds and decided that my metabolism needed to be re-programmed. It works for me with some alterations.

In a standard Western diet, most of the carbohydrates come from processed grains or starches and refined sugars. In a plant-based ketogenic way of eating, the majority of carbohydrates come from nuts, seeds, greens, non-starchy vegetables and some berries.

There are some individuals who may not respond favorably to making this kind of change, so it is important to work with a nutrition professional and gain a full understanding of the changes your body can experience. Please keep in mind that every body is different, and although the method may work for some, each individual's path to healing will differ.

No matter what eating style you choose, make sure to practice it with care.

I have expanded my knowledge beyond the online program to include two books that also have great recipes and additional information about the diet: "Vegan Keto" by Liz MacDowell and "Keto-tarian" by Cole. You have the choice of adding in fish and eggs with Cole's book.

Registration for the 30 day plant-based ketogenic program starting in January 2020 has begun. Contact me at eatsofeden@suddenlink.net to register.


Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Each of the following recipes will give you options for no-carb keto sweeteners or optional coconut sugar/coconut nectar. If not using keto sweeteners, you can start with more coconut sugar while you are adjusting your taste buds and cut back as your tastes change.

Recipe from "A Year of Easy Keto Desserts" by Elizabeth Jane. Yields 16 cookies.


2 cups unsweetend peanut butter or almond butter

2 flax eggs or 2 eggs

2 Tablespoons liquid coconut nectar or 2 teaspoons liquid stevia

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon gluten-free and aluminum-free baking powder


1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup dark unsweetened chocolate chips

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

ADD peanut butter and eggs to a mixing bowl and stir. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

DROP by 1-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

USING your thumb, press into center of each cookie.

BAKE for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

WHILE the cookies are baking, add the coconut oil and dark chocolate chips to a stock pot over low to medium heat and stir until melted.

ONCE the cookies are done, cool and then scoop about 1 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture into the center of each cookie.

ALLOW the chocolate center to harden and enjoy.

NOTES: You can also use sugar-free jam in the center of these cookies if you aren't a fan of chocolate. Add the jam before the cookies go into the oven.

Salted Halva Fudge

Recipe by Elaina Love. Yields 15 squares.

1 cup tahini

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/8 teaspoons stevia or 1/4 cup coconut sugar (ground)

1/4 cup coconut flour

1-2 Tablespoon Mesquite powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Optional: sprinkle salt crystals on top or chopped nuts or seeds to batter

ADD all ingredients except coconut flour in a medium saucepan over low heat. Mix with a spatula until smooth.

REMOVE from heat and mix in coconut flour.

POUR mixture onto an 8-inch square pan. Let set for 1-2 hours in freezer.

CUT into 15 squares. Store in freezer. Remove 30 minutes before serving. Alternatively, use chocolate molds and pour into 20 molds.

Keto Black Bean Brownies

Recipe from "Vegan Keto" by Liz MacDowell, Yields 9 brownies. For an icing, use the filling recipe from Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies, plus 1 teaspoon agar agar powder when heating to thicken. Cool and spread on brownies.

1 15-ounce can unsalted black soybeans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup tahini, room temperature

1/4 heaping cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup coconut-sugar or 1/4 cup erythritol-based sweetener

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees and line an 8=inch square baking pan with parchment. Leave at least 2 inches of extra parchment on two opposite sides to help with removal later.

PUT all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 90 seconds.

THE batter will be too thick to but will spread easily. Scoop batter into lined pan and spread out in an even layer.

BAKE for 40 minutes, until top if firm to touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

REMOVE from oven and let cool in pan for about 5 minutes before removing. Grasp the overhanging parchment and gently lift brownies out of pan. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

STORE in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Recipe by Elaina Love. Yields 20 cookies. Note: Mesquite powder IS NOT Mesquite seasoning. Mesquite powder is made from leguminous seed pods of the drought-tolerant mesquite plant, also known as algarrobo. It can be used as a flour or a sweetener, and it has a sort of caramely, nutty flavor. You can order it online.

Wet ingredients:

1 1/2 cup almond butter

8 Tablespoons filtered water plus 4 tablespoons chia or flax seeds, ground

2 Tablespoons coconut oil, liquefied

24 drops butterscotch, caramel or vanilla flavor (optional)

Dry ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup raw cacao powder

1/2 cup coconut sugar or 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia

2 tablespoons mesquite powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Optional: 1/2 cup cacao nibs or 1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips or your favorite 90% cacao bar chopped into bits.

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

SIFT dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, minus the optional chocolate chips in a food processor or by hand. Once well-combined, add chocolate chips and pulse.

USING a 2-tablespoon-sized scoop, scoop out cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the cookies softly (not flat). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden-brown on top. Cool and store in a glass container in the refrigerator.

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