The Can-Do Candida Diet: March 2013
Can-Do Candida © Isabelle Burden 2013 All rights reserved

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Forward: Tart and Tasty Lemon Bars

With all the snow that’s been hitting the east coast lately, some may be doubting if Spring will actually arrive.   

To that I say: take this light and fruity recipe as a sign that warmer weather is on the way!

Whether you’re looking for something to wake your taste buds from hibernation, or a quick and easy recipe that will delight guests at your Easter festivities, these lemon bars will work magic.  A light and creamy consistency, balanced by a sweet but tart zing of lemon taste, is the ultimate combination for springtime freshness. 

My citrus treats will satisfy your dessert desires without weighing on your appetite or your conscience!  Delicate yet flavorful, they are perfect for the Candida Diet host. 

This recipe is easily doubled or even tripled, and when baked on a large baking sheet, can be divided into a multitude of small, petits fours that make a tidy bite and a pretty party centerpiece to boot!

The secret to the Candida Can-Do magic is the lemon.  Lemon is an extremely low-sugar fruit that won’t cost you all your sugar servings for the day, but will deliver a pop of intense fruity lightness – you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything!

Trust me, one you start eating these babies it is hard to stop. 

First things first: prepare the crust. 

These proportions make a ¼ inch crust in a 10-inch baking pan.  Feel free to alter the amounts, keeping proportions consistent, in order to make more bars, or thicker crust. 
You will need:

1 ½ cups almond flour
¼ tsp salt
1 packet truvia (or equivalent stevia sweetener)
4 tbsp salted butter
¼ tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, mix your almond flour, salt, and stevia crystals (I used truvia).  You may use as fine a grind of almond flour as you like, smaller particles will give a more cohesive crust with less chew. 

Cut your four tablespoons of butter into small cubes and melt them in the microwave.  Then add the melted butter and the vanilla directly to the flour mixture.  Stir to combine.

Your crust should be a slightly crumbly, greasy dough. 
Spoon everything out of the bowl and directly onto the baking pan.  Make sure your baking pan has raised sides that will allow for the lemon curd to be poured on top later.  Spread the crust dough out across the bottom of the baking pan using your fingers to press it down, taking care to get it into each corner, but not up the sides. 

It is crucial that you keep the dough as evenly distributed across the pan as possible.  If this means it is thinner than desired, simply shorten your baking time.  An even crust is a good crust, and it is better to have a thinner crust than to have an unevenly cooked mess. 

Put this in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes.  Make sure you rotate the pan at the half way mark (6 minutes) to ensure even baking.  Remove your crust from the oven when it stars to get golden brown at the edges. 

Allow your crust to remain in the pan and cool in the open air.  Do not turn off your oven, because your lemon custard will be ready in a few minutes, and the whole thing will go right back in. 

For the fruity filling you will require:

4 eggs
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated lemon zest (approx. one whole lemon)
3 tbsp coconut flour
1 ½ tsp liquid stevia
¼ tsp coconut milk (optional)

Crack your eggs into a large bowl and beat them with a whisk until they are uniform in color and consistency.  Next, whisk in your lemon juice slowly.  After the juice is incorporated, continue to whisk as you add your zest, liquid stevia, and coconut milk.

The coconut milk is such a minute amount in this recipe that it is optional.  I happened to have it on hand, and added it in order to prevent the coconut flour from absorbing too much of the liquid in the custard.  Coconut flour is highly absorbent, but will be slower to absorb fatty liquids than watery ones.  This is why, to counter excessive dryness when baking with coconut flour, you add more fats, not more liquids, to avoid making a dense, springy batter.  

Once all your wet ingredients are combined, add your 3 tablespoons of coconut flour.  Whisk in the flour completely, then quickly pour your custard into your waiting pan, covering your pre-baked crust. 

Put the whole thing in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, taking care to rotate it at the half time point to ensure even cooking.  The custard will bake from the edges inward, so because your pan or custard may be of a different depth than mine, keep an eye on it as it bakes.  Reach in occasionally and gently jiggle the pan.  When there is no movement from the center of the custard, it is cooked. 
When fully baked, remove your pan from the oven. 

Do not carve into your bars until they have at least cooled to room temperature, though for best results, I would recommend chilling the entire pan.  This will allow the butter in your crust to cool, and your custard to set, resulting in a more cohesive and less crumbly crust, as well as a prettier line when you slice them to serve. 

Some of my friends have described these lemon bars as “lemon cheesecake bites”.  It is not that they have a cheese flavor, but they do have a creaminess from the coconut flour that makes them appear slightly opaque, and gives them a less gelatinous texture than your typical white sugar lemon bar. 

Make no mistake, however, these lemon bars have the real deal tart factor that true lemon fans will be looking for.  The fresh juice comes through loud and clear, and the zest brings in that fresh pucker that satisfies. 

If you’d like to change these bars into tartlets, simply pre-bake the crust in the bottoms of a cupcake pan, and fill each one individually.  There is plenty of room for creativity here! 

Serve these to your guests and I guarantee most of them won’t even know they’re dining on a diet for the evening. 

It’s the perfect Can-Do camouflage for the Candida socialite!  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pasta La Vista, Baby: Faux-fettuccine is a Candida Can-Do

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta: you might think you have to kiss this dinner goodbye on the Candida Diet, but here’s a tip – you don’t! 

Craving rustic Italian foods, but find that all the comfort food staples are no-nos?
My asparagus pesto pasta dish is made with mung bean noodles.  Mung bean noodles are made only out of ground mung bean flour, which means as a starch they are perfectly permissible.  And since they’re full of protein they make a great meal that has a more complete nutritional makeup than wheat pasta or even rice noodles. 

This lean, bean, protein machine is a Candida Can-do!

The traditional herbaceous flavors of the pesto work with the asparagus, an earthy vegetable.  The noodles themselves have an al dente mouth feel that holds up well to the mixing of flavors in this simple but satisfying pasta.  

Many gluten free recipes use rice noodles, but while it may work for a celiac diet, rice starch will still feed candida in the system, and should not be eaten on a Candida Diet. 

The mung bean noodles I used in my tender asparagus pesto pasta are not the thin, cellophane noodles common in Asian cuisine, but a specific product called “mung bean fettuccine”.  Made by a company called Explore Asian, I purchase these noodles from my local health and whole food store, but you can also find them for sale online.   

When cooked, this faux-fettuccine keeps a texture and shape similar to conventional pasta.  It’s such a great substitute that after a few bites you will forget there’s any difference at all! 

Remember that since this is not a baking recipe, there is no need for exact measurements.  Think of this as a guideline to flavor, and feel free to be a little creative with it!  Once you discover these noodles for yourself, I guarantee you will have a whole slue of ideas that spring to mind.  After all, you can finally have pasta again – celebrate it! 

Make sure to salt your water first, then bring it to a boil and drop your noodles in. This pasta boils up in a quick 10-15 minutes, about the same timeline as wheat pasta.  After about ten minutes, taste test the noodle to make sure it’s cooked to a consistency you like.  They can stay a little underdone, since they will cook further when they go back on the stove a little later.     

Once your pasta is done, drain the excess water over the sink using a colander.  Set your pasta aside for now. 

Wash a small bunch of fresh asparagus; the bundle should be about six inches in circumference, assuming you’re working with a slender-stalked variety.  Cut off the last inch of each asparagus, as this part can be tough to chew.  Then cut each asparagus into thirds, chopping on a horizontal.  Each piece should be about 1-2 inches long. 

Next, chop one small white onion, and mince three cloves of garlic. 

Place a skillet on medium heat.  Coat the pan with olive oil, then throw in your onions and garlic.  Add salt and pepper, and let the onions and garlic cook down until the garlic is lightly browned and the onions are starting to appear translucent. 

Once you’ve reached this point, add in your chopped asparagus.  Deglaze the pan with three-quarters of a cup of organic chicken stock.  Then add your strained mung bean fettuccine noodles into this skillet full of veggies and stock.

Crumble in about a tablespoon of goat cheese.  This will make the sauce thick and creamy, but won’t add enough dairy to aggravate candida. 

Candida Alert:  At this juncture, I also added about a teaspoon of grated parmesan in addition to the plain goat cheese.  A little parmesan will go a long way to making this sauce feel richer than it is, and will add a nice Italian inspired sharp cheese taste, but be advised that it is not a candida diet approved cheese.

Let this simmer away until the stock has cooked down to resemble a thicker, more sauce-like consistency, and the noodles and vegetables move around the skillet as one incorporated entity.  If you’re not afraid of fats, you can add a tablespoon of butter (I sure did). 

Lastly, a minute or so before you take this pasta off the fire, add your pesto.  I used my mother’s homemade basil pesto, but you can use whichever brand you prefer if you don’t feel like making your own. 

Add pesto to taste, depending on how much you want to come through.  Basil pesto is a scrumptious flavor, but it can easily become a dominant one as well.  Start with a teaspoon and stir it to mix it evenly throughout your pasta, adding more until you achieve the balance you want.

Take off the heat and serve with a side salad or a few sliced tomatoes for a pop of color and fresh sweetness. 

Candida Alert:  Tomatoes are fruits, so they will count for your Candida Diet one-serving-per-day rule.  They have plenty of fruit sugar in them – that’s why they taste so good! 

This dish is seasonal and elegant, and the recipe can be easily modified to produce a large quantity or a single serving.  

It makes a beautiful presentation for a Candida Diet dinner party, so invite some friends over.  This is one Candida Can-Do that is easy to serve to dieters and non-dieters alike!    

Buon Apetito!

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Flavor Fiesta: Mexican Inspired “Rice” and Beans

¡Bienvenidos a la Cantina Candida!
Can-do has gone south of the border in this Mexican inspired dinner dish. 

With flavors this rich and exotic, you’ll feel like you’re cheating on your diet, but get this – there’s no catch.  No repercussions, just guilt-free satisfaction. 
This recipe is a cinch to whip up, and a quick cooker to boot. 

Start with a can of organic pre-cooked Black Beans.  I always check the ingredients of the can before purchasing to make sure there are as few ingredients as possible (beans, water), and no added starches or preservatives.  If there are a few additives it’s not the end of the world, I just tend to be a purist when it comes to ingredients in my food. 

Start by chopping one yellow onion.  Sauté the onion in a medium-sized pot with four minced garlic cloves and olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook down until the onions are translucent.  Once your onions and garlic are browned and soft, pour in one cup of organic chicken broth.  The broth will pick up all of the flavors of the onion and garlic that have infused into the olive oil and incorporate it into your beans.

Strain your beans of the extra liquid they have been canned with.  Next, add your beans to your broth and give them a stir.  Add approximately a quarter to a half a teaspoon of ground cumin – this spice will give your black beans a traditional Mexican flavor.  Aside from lending a fragrant spice flavor to classic Mexican and Indian dishes, cumin helps to regulate blood sugar, and is also a good digestive aid.

A handful of finely chopped cilantro will also add a very traditional Mexican flavor to your beans, as well as providing a pop of herbaceous freshness to an otherwise heavy recipe. 
If you like heat, you can add your preferred hot sauce, chili pepper, etc.  I have a delicate stomach for spicy dishes, so I keep it mild.      

Let your pot simmer on medium heat until some of the broth has evaporated.  While it simmers, the beans will begin to leech their starch into the broth.  This will cause the contents of the pot to thicken into that velvety sauce that soaks so nicely into rice.  Stir occasionally, taking care not to burn the bottom.  When the beans are at a thick but fluid consistency, turn off the heat and prepare to serve. 

I like to serve this as Candida “Rice and Beans”.  I replace the white or yellow rice that would typically accompany a side of black beans with rainbow quinoa. 

Quinoa is a grain that is great for the Candida Diet.  It is high in protein and contains no sugars, so it won’t feed your candida colonies.  Since quinoa is native to South America, the flavor profile fits right in to a Latin American or Mexican inspired black bean dish. 

I prefer rainbow quinoa, as it is a mix of three different varieties: red, white, and black.  White quinoa has the mildest flavor and softest texture of the three types, so by mixing it with the nuttier, more robust red and black kernels you get a neutral but distinct taste, with a little bit of texture that gives each bite a satisfying chew.    

Cooking quinoa is very simple.  Boil two cups of salted water and add a cup of rinsed quinoa.  Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot.  Let this cook until the water evaporates (about twenty minutes), stirring occasionally.  

I like to plate these beans with some sliced avocado.  The avocado is technically a fruit, and it adds a little bit of sweetness and healthy fats that really round out the garlic flavor of the beans.  Avocados also have high percentages of key vitamins and minerals. 

Spoon a dollop of non-fat, unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt on top as a candida can-do substitute for sour cream y ya está – your Mexican fiesta is ready to begin. 

¡Buen Provecho!      

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Whoopie Pies: The Can-do Snack Cake Substitute

I wanted to create a Candida Can-do version of one of my favorite summer treats from childhood: the Whoopie pie. 

These little dessert cakes have a sweet, nostalgic taste, and are definitely a cause for celebration. 

Whoopie pies come in all combinations of cakes and fillings, but the classic combo is a sweet and buttery vanilla frosting, sandwiched between two moist chocolate cakes. 

This is my no-grain, no-sugar update on a piece of Americana.  Though several northeast states claim to be the birthplace of the Whoopie Pie, my memory stems from tucking into these soft, cakey treats during my misty summers in Downeast Maine.

It is difficult enough to develop a spin-off that lives up to your expectations of the recipe, let alone to try and remake a dessert you associate with so many fond memories.  Baking a Whoopie pie that was diet friendly but didn’t disappoint was going to be a challenge. 

Luckily, I do not shy away from a challenge, and when the baking was done these bite-size, Can-do Whoopies had me jumping for joy. 

The almond flour in these cakes makes them denser than the traditional Whoopie pie, and the subtle nuttiness gives them an earthier flavor than the factory-made counterparts I grew up with.  To make the cake more delicate, I cut the nut flour with a cup of coconut flour.  This composition keeps them moist and super satisfying. 

The secret to making these pies taste deceptively decadent is to boost the chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder with two well-chosen ingredients: salt and coffee. 

If you don’t already know this trick, you should.  In baking, a pinch of salt and a bit of instant coffee or espresso will add depth to chocolate flavor without stealing the show.  Be aware that coffee has a strong flavor of its own, so if you don’t want to go Mocha use a light touch. 

The key to the cream filling is full-fat coconut milk, which has a velvety consistency.  By blending this with butter and a little vanilla stevia you get a Candida Can-do substitute for all the Ho-Ho, Yodel, and Oreo fillings that haunt your sugar-free dreams.  This frosting is light and luxurious, and above all, natural!  It is sweet with a subtle coconut taste that takes it from simply saccharine to sophisticated.    

Enough talk; let’s get down to the business of baking these tantalizing treats.

For the cake you will need the following:

2 cups almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp instant coffee
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
¼ cup melted butter
2 tsp liquid stevia
4 tsp vanilla extract

And for the frosting:

½ stick salted butter
1 can (13 oz) unsweetened coconut milk (full fat content only)
¼ tsp vanilla liquid stevia

In a large bowl, add together your flours, cocoa powder, salt, coffee (I used Starbucks’ Via because it has a fine grind and a bold flavor), and baking powder.  Stir until your dry ingredients are evenly mixed. 
In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, almond milk, and stevia.  Then pour in your melted butter in a slow but steady stream, taking care to keep whisking as you do so in order to integrate it evenly without cooking the eggs. 

Add your wet ingredients to your dry and stir to combine.  You should have a thick and sticky mix, more akin to cookie dough than to cake batter.  If your dough appears too dry and crumbly, you can add a little more almond milk. 
Be careful your dough doesn’t get too wet or you won’t be able to shape it.      

Since these little dough balls won’t change much in the oven, make sure that when you place them on your parchment-lined baking sheet, the shape is more or less how you want it to turn out.  Molding them roughly with your fingers will do just fine.  I used a teaspoon to scoop a uniform amount of dough each time, then shaped the dough on the parchment paper into a small mound about half an inch high and one inch across. 

Space these cakes at least half an inch apart. 

Once your baking sheet is filled, place your cakes into a 350 degree oven.  Bake them for four minutes, then rotate your baking sheet and bake for another four minutes.  This will ensure even cooking. 

After the second four minutes, remove them from the oven.  Let them cool for five minutes before you touch them, otherwise when you attempt to transfer them they will crumble.  After they have cooled, move your baked cakes off of the sheet and prepare your next batch. 

Once you have baked all your cakes, set them on a platter or cooling rack and place them in the fridge to chill.  The colder they are, the more successful you will be when you apply the cream filling (warm cakes will melt your frosting). 

While your cakes are chilling, you can start on your frosting. 

In a medium sized bowl, cream a ½ stick of salted, room temperature butter, and a ¼ tsp of vanilla liquid stevia.  If you can’t find vanilla liquid stevia, you can use a ¼ tsp of vanilla extract and a ¼ tsp of liquid stevia for the same effect. 

Once the butter, vanilla, and stevia are integrated, open a can of unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk. 

The coconut milk should have separated in the can into two components: one liquid, and one denser and buttery.  Skim the thickened coconut milk off the top, leaving the liquid in the can (you can freeze this for another recipe). 
Add this viscous coconut milk into your softened butter and mix vigorously until they are creamed together. 

It may be difficult to integrate your coconut milk and butter, so I would recommend using a rubber spatula in order to optimize your mixing (or an electric beater if you have one).  Once your frosting resembles a smooth, slightly loose icing, cover it and place it in the fridge to solidify. 

After about thirty minutes, both your cakes and frosting should be cooled and ready to be assembled into Whoopie pies. 

Scoop a dollop of frosting onto the center of one of your cakes.  With gentle and even pressure, press another cake on top.  The pressure should spread the cream filling evenly to the edges. 

Once all of your cakes have been sandwiched with cream, place all of your finished Whoopie pies back in the fridge.  This will allow the cake and filling to set.    

I would recommend enjoying your Whoopie pies cold or at room temperature.  If the pies get too warm, you may find inconveniences like slipping cakes or dripping frosting. 

That being said, don’t worry if they’re a little less than picture perfect; they are delicious no matter what.

These bite-sized Whoopie pies are a total throwback to the afterschool snack cakes of your past.

It was love at first bite.  As I munched my way through the batch I could smell the foggy sea air; I could feel the warmth of the hearth fire; and I could hear clearly the slogan on those bygone Whoopie Pie wrappers ringing in my ears:

“Whoopie, it’s a Whoopie!”