*Psst! Who’s to say the gifts cannot be for YOU!
Low Carb Holiday Gift Guide: Baking Basics
Low carb baking is part art, part science, and part plain-old fashioned learning curve. You’re working with different ingredients that behave quite differently than traditional flour and sugar concoctions. I suggest beginning with established recipes that have received positive feedback and comments, gradually branching out from there as you learn the ropes.Almond flour is the basis of a lot of low carb baking. It can be pricey! However, if you buy in bulk and store it in the freezer, it lasts eons. Honeyville is the brand you’ll see most often in low carb recipes because of its consistency, although I’ve also had good luck with JK Gourmet Almond Flour. I suggest looking for finely ground and blanched almond flour, as opposed to Almond Meal (rougher ground with the almond skins). The finely ground will produce lighter textured baked goods. Nut allergy or just want more options? Coconut flour is a good, workable alternative. Do be sure you use coconut flour specific recipes though, as the baking properties are much different for coconut flour vs. traditional or almond flour. You cannot straight up substitue one for the other. You’ll need lots of liquid, too! Coconut flour is super absorbent. Some recipes combine almond flour and coconut flour to get that magic mix of properties! Xantham Gum is one of those “a little goes a very long way” ingredients that you can keep for a long period of time in your freezer. It helps thicken and bind your baked goods in absence of traditional ingredients. While it’s one of those “weird ingredients” people give the side eye when starting low carb, it’s actually in a lot of foods they’ve probably been buying for years. They just don’t notice because before low carb, they don’t tend to read ingredients lists so much. Baking Mats are a must-have for anything more than occasional low carb baking. Low carb baked goods can stick something fierce otherwise! If you don’t do much baking, you can get by with parchment paper.
Low Carb Holiday Gift Guide: Sweeteners
Low Carb Sweeteners are a tricky and oft-debated topic in and of themselves. General rule of thumb: be careful of most sugar alcohols (except for Erythritol), as they vary quite a bit in how they impact individuals. Some do seem to raise blood sugar in some people, and some cause gastrointestinal distress if you have too much. Eyew!
Many recipes will blend sweeteners. This is not a plot to get you to buy more ingredients! It’s because each sweetener has its own oddities and often combining them gives a synergistic effect that is superior to a single sweetener used alone. These are in no way a complete representation of sweeteners available, but are the most commonly used.Swerve Sweetener is the go-to choice for many low carb cooks. It’s made from natural ingredients, primarily Erythritol, a plant-based sugar alcohol which doesn’t impact blood sugar levels for most people. I prefer the confectioners blend because it dissolves the easiest, but it’s the same thing as granular, just ground more finely. If you’re going for Sucralose–commonly known by the brand name Splenda–you’ll do better with the liquid version, which is truly zero carb. The bagged version has the bulking agent maltodextrose, which adds 24 carbs per cup. Packets are somewhere in between. You can count about a 1/2 carb per packet. This is an artificial sweetener so if that matters to you, pass it by. Some folks favor Stevia, as it’s another natural albeit quite processed sweetener. But do be aware that in larger amounts, Stevia can be rather bitter and brands vary quite a bit. I like Sweet Leaf Liquid Stevia, and NuNaturals concentrated stevia powder myself.
Note: Xylitol does have a good taste and tends to be kind to blood sugar, but you have to build tolerance (or you’ll end up in the loo!) and it’s highly toxic to pets, so I don’t generally suggest it.
Low Carb Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Essentials
I am a well-known gadget freak, but I’ll spare you the weirder of my gadgetry lusts. Instead, let’s stick to the mainstream kitchen essentials here.Spiralizers are AWESOME and zoodles–zucchinni “pasta”–are just the beginning of what you can do with them. If you’re on a tight budget or have very little space, something like the Veggetti may suit you. If you want the Cadillac of Spiralizers, check out the Paderno. There are a million and one uses for a basic Immersion Stick blender. I plan to try getting to them all! These are really, really handy. You can get a basic model, or one with a bowl attachment that serves as a mini food-processor. Speaking of which, it helps to have a food processor. Maybe “essential” is too strong a word for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, although it’s the word I plan on using when I’ve got the budget to spare…I covet the Raspberry Ice color myself, as it matches my hair. For years, I thought Salad Spinners were just silly, until I got one! Great for drying lettuce of course, but also getting moisture out of cooked veggies like cauliflower that’s destined to become caulimash…
Low Carb Holiday Gift Guide: Lifestyle
Some things just make this journey easier. Here are a few…As a low carber, your water bottle will become your best friend, so it makes sense to choose quality here. I love my Hydro water bottle–keeps it cold overnight and takes a huge amount of abuse with nary a scratch. But it matters less what you choose than that you choose something you like and will use. Food Scales help a lot; if you’re just starting especially, tracking is absolutely your best friend–okay, well that spot is already taken by your water bottle, and in all honesty tracking is more like the relative you may not like all that much, but know staying connected is the right thing to do. Having a scale also helps a lot if you make recipes from our UK low carbing friends, as the measurements are often given by weight across the pond. Fitness trackers can help motivate you to move. I have this cute little Striiv Smart Pedometer with games and trophies and pretend pigs to race, but for many people, something more mainstream like the Fitbit or a Jawbone would be a more practical choice. If they don’t have low carb food where you’re going, or if you don’t have time to cook every night, plan ahead with meal containers! A planning low carber is a successful low carber.
Low Carb Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks
Because what is a low carb holiday gift guide without cookbooks?! We share a ton of recipes on the Low Carb Zen Facebook page, but sometimes it’s nice to have some paper in front of you.
And I saved the best for last.
Taking Out The Carbage by D.J. Foodie is so much more than “just a cookbook.” It’s an inspirational story (to the tune of 150 pounds), a how-to guide, a meal planner, a low-carb shopping list, a carb counter, an education in sweeteners, a cooking primer from a trained chef and more–plus clocking in at a massive 574 pages, this one counts as exercise equipment, too! If you buy ONE and only one low carb book, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Full disclosure: D.J. is a friend. So I could be a little biased (totally not!), but I feel very good adding my stamp of approval to this behemoth tome of low carb wisdom. Get it!
I love shopping at Amazon–as if you couldn’t tell–but if you cannot find the low carb specialty products you need there or locally at the price you want, Netrition is another helpful source with a large selection.
What do you think about the items included? Did I leave anything important out?