Stocking Your Low Carb Pantry – and Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries

Homemade Dried CranberriesIf there is one thing I’ve learned over two and half years of being low carb, it’s that you need to be prepared.  You are far more likely to slip and get off track if you don’t have a good array of tasty low carb foods around to keep you satisfied.  Let’s face it, we live in a gluten and sugar-filled world, and it’s hard to resist temptation when it’s in your face all the time.  So making sure to have your pantry well-stocked with low carb goodies is absolutely crucial.  And if you are a baker such as myself, entering the world of low carb and gluten-free baking is daunting, to say the least.  And the ingredients aren’t cheap, either!  How do you know what ingredients will work best?  What are the basics you should spend your money on?

I’ve done enough experimenting with a huge array of low carb and gluten-free ingredients and I want you to benefit from my experience.  I write this from the perspective of the low carb newbie.  If you are just starting out, this is my list of the most crucial items I think you should have on hand.   Even if you never bought anything more than what’s in this list, you will find yourself able to create wonderful  muffins, quick breads, cakes and even cookies and all the more likely to stay the low carb course.

I’ve also included my new and improved recipe for sugar-free dried cranberries.  The holiday baking season is quickly approaching and these sweet little guys will be very useful!

Almond Crusted Butter Cake

One of my favourite almond flour cakes

Almond Flour – If I were to pick one low-carb “flour” for you to use exclusively, it would be almond flour.  And if you want really great, fine-crumbed cakes that rival their wheat-flour counterparts, you want the really finely-ground, blanched almond flour.  Almond meal and other nut meals are very useful and make great muffins and scones but they often aren’t that finely ground and the end result will inevitably be more coarse.  I know almond flour can be pricey, but depending on what you are trying to make, it’s worth it.  I recommend either Honeyville or Oh Nuts.  And all nut flours and nut meals make great breading for chicken and fish too.

Multiple Sweeteners – There are a lot of low-carb sweeteners on the market and the number seems to be increasing.  I definitely have my favourites, but I keep others on hand because they all behave a little differently and have different uses.  In the beginning, I used some sucralose but I quickly decided that don’t like it, so I no longer used it at all.  But I always have on hand some erythritol (Swerve Sweetener brand), liquid stevia, and xylitol.  I typically stick with Swerve and stevia, but it really depends on what I am planning to make, and I like experimenting.  And different people react to the various sweeteners differently, so it is worth trying out a few kinds before you find your favourites.

Powdered erythritol makes a great glaze.

Protein Powder – One of the many magical properties of gluten is that it helps baked goods rise and hold their shape.  Since gluten is a protein, subbing in another protein in its absence can help.  I like to use unflavoured whey protein or vanilla whey protein, but there is also hemp protein powder and soy protein powder.  Flavoured protein powders can be a bit overpowering and have a lot of sweetness, usually from artificial sources, so I try to stick with unflavoured when I can.  I like Jarrow Unflavoured Whey Protein because it’s gluten free and has no sweeteners.

Flax Seed Meal – I am continually astonished by the amazing uses of flax seed meal.  Particularly golden flax, as the lighter colour tends to blend in to baked goods.  My favourite pancakes are made with golden flax seed meal and I swear that they are virtually indistinguishable in taste and appearance from conventional pancakes.  I use flax seed to increase the nutritional quotient in many baked goods, but it also helps to bind them.  In vegan recipes, flax seed meal and water are used as replacements for eggs, so it’s no wonder it helps hold baked goods together.  It makes great granola and crackers too.  Useful stuff!

My favourite pancakes, made with Golden Flax!

Eggs – Most low carb baked goods call for twice as many eggs as their conventional counterparts.  I usually buy 2 to 3 dozen a week.  Plus eggs make a wonderful quick dinner, when you are pressed for time and can’t think of anything else.  Just don’t actually put them IN the pantry…they really need to be refrigerated!

Coconut Oil – I love butter, but coconut oil is incredibly useful in low carb baking.  It lends a tenderness to baked goods that is unrivaled.  I tend to use it interchangeably with butter but if I want a really tender texture, coconut oil is the way to go.  It can really make a difference in the texture of low carb cookies. Plus I really love the slight coconutty flavour it gives the results – it’s only there if you know it’s there, unless you play it up with other coconut flavours.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and Unsweetened Chocolate – I will be forever thankful that chocolate in its unprocessed state is actually low carb.  And surprisingly full of fiber!  So do yourself a favour and load up on the unsweetened versions of chocolate.  You can add the sweetness in yourself, without all the sugars and other fillers of commercial chocolate.  It’s good for you, it really is!  Working with unsweetened chocolate is definitely a little trickier and it can seize up more easily, but after a little while you get to know how it will behave.

Mmmm, chocolate!

Xanthan or Guar Gum – A bag of either of these gums can seem shockingly expensive, but as you only use 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon in most recipes, it lasts a long time.  The bag of Bob’s Red Mill Xanthan Gum I bought 2 years ago is still on the go and I bake a LOT!  One of the biggest challenges when baking low carb and gluten free is how to get your cakes and muffins to hold together without gluten.  Gums like these are one of the easiest ways to overcome that obstacle.  I also find them useful as thickeners in puddings and ice creams, and when my oils seem to be separating out of the mixture, a touch of xanthan gum helps bring it all back together.

Unsweetened Almond Milk – I didn’t even realize such a thing as almond milk even existed until I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but I’ve found that it’s a great thing to have around.  The unsweetened kinds come in plain or vanilla, and have about a quarter of the carbs of regular milk.  It helps keep the carbs down in a recipe, while adding in liquid for cakes and muffins just as well as regular milk would do.  I also use it in things like hot chocolate, and I’ve even made eggnog with it.  My kids will happily eat it on their cereal too.

Xanthan gum helps thicken low carb puddings.

Once you get a little more comfortable with low carb baking, you can start trying out other ingredients like coconut flour, peanut flour, etc, that take a little more know-how to work with.  But these would be my choices for anyone venturing into low carb cooking and baking for the first time.  And remember, the internet is your friend.  Buying things in bulk online can help you save money on many of these ingredients.

Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries – And now to the recipe.  Unsweetened Dried Cranberries are incredibly hard to find, even on the internet and so, like many low-carbers, I’ve taken to making my own.  However, I haven’t really liked the results much, until now.  I was using a recipe I found on About.com, and I ended up with tough little dried cranberries that were okay to put in recipes, but weren’t very appetizing on their own.  They were more like cranberry “flakes” than the still somewhat juicy commercially dried cranberries I was used to.  They also took a lot of work and had to dry in the oven for 5 or 6 hours. I kept wondering if there was anything I could do to improve upon them or if I was forever doomed to tough, over-dried cranberry flakes for good.

Then it struck me that the thing missing from most recipes for homemade dried cranberries was oil.  Look at any package of commercial dried cranberries and you will see the ingredients:  cranberries, sugar and oil.  I also realized that the recipe I had followed heretofore was making things too complicated by overcooking the berries before putting them in the oven, which meant that they popped AND all of the juiciness came out.  You only need to cook them a little, to the point where they pop open, without boiling them.  Once they are popped, drain them, toss them with your preferred sweetener and some oil, and spread them on a pan.  And I found that baking them at 200F meant I could still get nicely dried berries in a shorter amount of time.  I believe it only took 3 hours, tops, to get this last batch dried.

I do still store them in the fridge after they are dried.  Sugar helps preserve regular dried cranberries, but low carb sweeteners don’t have that quality as much and I don’t quite trust that they won’t go moldy if left out.  But when kept in the fridge, they stay good for months.

Homemade Dried Cranberry Recip

Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries

Yield: about 1 cup

Serving Size: 2 tbsp

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz package cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • Sweetener of choice equal to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In medium saucepan, combine berries and water over medium heat. Cook until all cranberries have popped, but do not let come to a boil.
  3. Drain berries in a colander and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with sweetener and oil.
  4. Spread on prepared baking pan and separate each individual berry as best you can.
  5. Place baking sheet in oven and let dry, 3 hours or longer.
  6. Remove, let cool and transfer to an airtight container. Store in refrigerator.

Notes

Makes 8 servings. Each serving has 5.1 g of carbs and 2.2 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 2.9 g.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2012/11/stocking-your-low-carb-pantry.html

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this post! I’m gearing up to go gluten-free for a month to see if it’ll help with some issues I’ve having. At the same time, my husband will be doing the law-carb thing. Can’t wait to see what happens! And those cranberries look great. The unsweetened ones don’t exist over here in Germany. :(

  2. I have never understood why dried cranberries are only available with a bazillion grams of sugar, love this!!

  3. An awesome resource! We only buy the unsweetened dried cranberries at Whole Foods. Great to have this recipe too

  4. Thanks for the recipe…can’t wait to try it!

  5. I don’t even eat low carb and I love this post–these are great resources for eating healthier, period. Because even for a carb lover like me, I do make a conscious effort to eat less of them. I totally want to make my own dried cranberries now too!

  6. What a great staple to make at home!

  7. Carolyn – you never cease to amaze me – what a great detective you would make. Great resource for low-carb baking this holiday season!

  8. Genius!! Does this mean I can eat the entire batch? :-P

  9. Genius, again, Carolyn!

  10. A while back I grabbed some dried cranberries in the bulk section of my grocery store. I made these awesome almond flour cookies and used cranberries in place of chocolate chips. They were deliciously but very sweet. Then I realized the cranberries were sweetened. I have been looking for unsweetened dried cranberries ever since and it feels impossible. Now I know how to make some:)

  11. Thanks so much for this recipe Carolyn! I’ve been eyeing your cranberry/orange ricotta muffins in the low carb w/ friends cookbook and couldn’t find any unsweetened cranberries! This will be perfect! I have a quick question about that recipe which calls for soy flour…I really want to make the muffins but I’m trying to stay away from soy and was wondering what you would recommend subing for it? More almond flour or would coconut flour work?

    • I no longer use soy flour either. Just replace it with almond flour, I think it will work just fine. Maybe add a bit of protein powder to help them rise.

      • You can also sub whey protein powder for soy flour. Per the Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook by Mary and Michale Eades and Urula Solom, you can sub 1/3 cup whey protein for every 1/4 cup soy protein. Whey is a little higher in carbs, but not significant for the levels used in most recipes.

  12. Thank you so much! A new reader and a newbie to the world of low carb. We share a similar story…gestational diabetes with baby number three and now prediabetic despite losing 30 lbs post baby and regular exercise. Feeling a bit overwhelmed so its comforting to know I’m not alone in this. Great post!

  13. Carolyn, what sweetner did you use for the cranberries? I would think it would need to be liquid?

    • No, I used granulated Swerve. I tossed it with the berries and oil, and baked them at 200F and they’re wonderful! I just wanted to leave it open to whatever people’s preferences were.

  14. Carolyn — I too am a 2-1/2 year low-carber and am just now venturing into baking. I made muffins last weekend and am HOOKED — I am planning another recipe for Saturday morning and it will be my first try at coconut flour. Thank you for all your great recipes — they have given me the courage to return to something I LOVE — baking :)

    Blessings!
    Gail

    • Thanks, Gail! Keep at it, it’s worth it. Remember with coconut flour, it soaks up a lot of liquid and you need at least 2x the eggs to make it rise properly.

  15. Great resource for new low carbers :-)

  16. Great post! Could I know where to find the recipes for the foods in the pictures (particularly your favorite almond cake?) Thanks! :)

  17. If you use erythritol, will it recrystallize? I’ve been baking LC for 8 years and still can’t always figure out why certain things cause erythritol to recrystallize. My mom just made a pumpkin pie with erythritol and was disappointed it got “crunchy” once stored in the fridge. Does xanthan gum help with that in something custardy like pumpkin pie?

  18. I just wanted to tell you, I love love your website. I did buy that cookbook. I have to admit I have a hard time using it, because just like you I have all the above ingidients. Some of your co-writers using all these other ingridients that i can not use ( or don’t want to use). But with your recipes i know most of the time , I have everything I need. Thank you again , Keep all those yummy food coming.

  19. Just found your site the other day (and have been drooling ever since!). We made the brie burgers night before last, and wow. You’re good. :)

    A question for you… I’ve never used stevia extract. At netrition, I see a bunch of different types, and also liquid stevia glycerite… can you recommend which one I should get? Thanks!

  20. Hi, i just tried to make the dried cranberries, and stupid me read the 200F to be 200C!! so after about 1 hour in the oven i finally realised that these are gonna burn big time! However, before throwing them out i tried a few, and lo and behold, they were really nice and crispy. They are now one of my snacks for this week and make a wonderful sub for popcorn :)

  21. Carolyn, I’ve made 2 batches of these now and I LOVE them! I love their sour tartness. My favorite way to enjoy them is to eat a handful with some almonds and dark chocolate…it’s like eating my very own “healthy” Fruit & Nut bar. Delicious! Question…do you bake them until they are completely dried out or are they supposed to be more like plump raisens? I’ve been baking mine until they are all dried out, kind of chewy, some a little crispy…the are still good, but wondering if it’s necessary…

    • I like a little plumpness left in mine, personally. That’s why I store them in the fridge. Do what works for you!

  22. The amount of sugar on dried cranberries has always been a mystery to me. I’m not a low carber, but I don’t like to eat sugar for no reason. I’ve never considered drying my own, I’ll give this a try!

  23. Allen Bennett says:

    When I took the cranberries out of the saucepan, they were all jelled. I have no idea what I did wrong, or maybe that’s how they’re supposed to be. I used 1 cup of water and a 12-oz. package of cranberries. Then I baked them at 200 for three hours. They came out all jelled together, and somewhat softer on the bottom than on top.

    • I think maybe they got overcooked in the first part of the process. If you let it come to a boil, they pop right open and let all the juicy insides out. You just barely want them to pop. But even if they do get too jelled like that, you can simply separate them before baking. I think I noted that in my instructions.

  24. I’ve said it before and I’m gonna say it again : you’re a genius!
    I never understood why the store bought dried fruit comes with lots of grams of sugar per serving but now I can make my own without feeling guilty

  25. This is going to be very helpful :)

    • Hi Carolyn! I just love these cranberries! I’m about to make my 3rd batch to use in your cranberry ginger cookies and some other recipes. I am dying to make your orange cranberry, ricotta muffins from the Low Carb w/ friends cookbook, but want to sub the soy flour with something else. I know I could use more Almond flour, but do you think vanilla protein powder would work as well? And if so, would you use the same amount? Also, I can’t find anything about these muffins anywhere on your blog, so do you still reccommend? I don’t like to make anything with all these expensive ingredients unless they will be amazing (and I’m looking for something special to serve Christmas morning).

  26. Hi Carolyn! I just love these cranberries! I’m about to make my 3rd batch to use in your cranberry ginger cookies and some other recipes. I am dying to make your orange cranberry, ricotta muffins from the Low Carb w/ friends cookbook, but want to sub the soy flour with something else. I know I could use more Almond flour, but do you think vanilla protein powder would work as well? And if so, would you use the same amount? Also, I can’t find anything about these muffins anywhere on your blog, so do you still reccommend? I don’t like to make anything with all these expensive ingredients unless they will be amazing (and I’m looking for something special to serve Christmas morning).

    • I don’t use soy flour any more at all. BAck then, I was still experimenting. I think, though, that replacing it with vanilla whey would give you far too much vanilla flavour and overpower the other flavours. I think you would want at least another cup of almond flour, plus maybe 2 tbsp whey protein, vanilla or otherwise. And yes, the flavour of these muffins is very good and will be just as good this way! Maybe even better (I like almond flour far more than soy!).

      • Hi Carolyn! I just wanted to let you know that I finally made the orange/cranberry/ricotta muffins this past weekend and they were TO DIE FOR! I sub’d the soy flour with 1 cup of almond flour and 2 TBS of vanilla whey protein powder per your suggestion and it worked great. The only adjustment I had to do was I added a little bit of water to the batter because it seemed a little too thick and I chopped the fresh cranberries. Anywho- I just wanted to let you know how they turned out. They were so good you might want to consider adding this recipe to your blog at some point. Note to readers- if interested, this recipe is in the first version of the Low Carb with Friends cookbook. They were so good, I’m going to make another batch in the next couple of days!

        PS- I also made the cranberry/ginger cookies at Christmas and they turned out well as well

  27. Hi Carolyn,
    Have you tried experimenting with psyllium powder yet? I’ve been making the sub sandwich bread (in the form of buns) from the Maria’s Delicious and Nutritious website and I am amazed by the texture. Very nice gluten substitute! It does give the baked goods an odd color though (slightly purple), but darn, I’m taking sandwiches for lunch and they’re low carb! Just wondering if you’re creative/genius baking mind has worked with this product yet.

  28. Catherine H. says:

    I made these to put in the cranberry ginger butter cookies. I wanted to note my minor mistake so that others would be able to avoid it: try to use cranberries that have not been frozen, and are preferably very fresh and firm. I used defrosted cranberries that got a little mushy when thawed. I also may have boiled them a *leetle* too long, so when they popped they also leaked too much of their juice. When I mixed them with the erythritol and dried them, I ended up with many good, chewy dried cranberries, but also crispy, flaky sheets of cranberry-infused erythritol that were a little gross and kind of a waste. So do make sure to boil your cranberries as little as possible!

    • Good tips. I love that you came back to comment on everything, the feedback is really great!

      • Catherine H. says:

        You’re welcome! I love it when other people share their experience, because there’s nothing more discouraging than using all these expensive ingredients to make a mess. I always check the comments first myself in case anyone’s made it first and has something to share. Also, I’m so impressed by the work and genius you put into this blog that it’s a privilege to contribute my mite.

  29. Hi! thanks so much for this list, it’s very helpful. I was wondering though- can splenda be used as an equivalent for swerve and it really just depends on preference? or is there some difference between the two that’s important? it’s just that splenda is much more accessible. thank you!

    • I think it’s going to depend a lot on the recipe. If the recipe requires a bulk sweetener for texture and consistency, then subbing Splenda isn’t going to work because Splenda has no bulk.

  30. Would adding a little honey in the boiling process suffice, without adding a sugar alternative, afterwards? If so, how much? I don’t like adding any ‘alternative sugars’ except a little honey, occasionally, as our family eats Paleo, and have done so for nearly 2 years. Also, have I understood correctly that adding oil is to stop them drying out too much?

    • Sure, you can try the honey. I would probably toss them with a few tbsp of honey before baking, actually. And yes, if you don’t put oil on them, they become like crunchy little chips.

  31. I just put a pan of these (sweetener free) in the oven. Hope they turn out because I have a kickin’ sausage-pecan collard roll recipe to use them in for Thanksgiving.

  32. I was thinking that I read somewhere that you cut up the cranberries instead of boiling them. Did I dream that?

    • Nope, not a dream. I said it on Facebook, I think. It works just as well! Just chop them all in half. It’s time consuming.

  33. hello carolyn…….just read your list for the pantry and was amazed that in the past 3 months i have managed to get most of the items…….powdered sugar substitute is a real problem tho but not giving up……..also liquid stevia can not be found here in ontario canada so i have just put in a little extra granulated stevia in your receipes and it has worked ok as everything tasted great…….
    question neutral oil???? is virgin olive oil a neutral oil……if not i will go out and purchased a bottle of grapeseed oil…….thanking you in advance for your reply

    • Neutral oil means not very strong smelling or tasting. “Light” olive oil or grapeseed is fine, but EVOO would have too much olive flavour.

  34. Hi Carolyn, I find myself very lucky to have found your blog! I’ve been reading your recipes all day, along with continuing to educate myself on low sugar,low carb cooking and eating. I’m anxiously awaiting for an order of Swerve which leads me to my questions regarding sweeteners. Can Truvia baking blend be used in place of all sweeteners in your recipes? I can’t wait to try all your recipes,I never realized low carb baking could be so delectable! Also,I’ve heard so many comments on the cooling effect of xylitol and I think I finally figured out what everyone means,I haven’t baked with it but I do put it in my coffee and it does have a strange after taste which I think is the so called cooling effect?? I don’t use artificial sweeteners because of health and taste so I’m looking forward to swerve being a great substitute! Thank you for your time,research,input etc. I’m sure you’ve improved the lives of many and I’m looking forward to returning to baking once again with your inspiration!! Thank you :)

    • Sorry, this comment somehow escaped me until just now. I think you can use Truvia in most places where I use granulated Swerve, but you need the powdered for some recipes and I don’t think Truvia sells a powdered version. Also in recipes where you need to caramelize the swerve, I don’t think Truvia works as well in that regard.

  35. May I ask why you decided you didn’t like Sucralose? I only have liquid Sucralose and I am wondering if I can make a 1 for 1 substitution. Hard to tell without having liquid stevia to compare it to…

    • I don’t like the aftertaste and I don’t like how it’s made. I think sweeteners are a very personal choice. When I use stevia, about 1/4 tsp equals 1/4 cup sugar. So find out how much sucralose equals to 1/4 cup sugar and work from that.

  36. What a great idea! I took look for dried fruit, like cherries, and can never seem to find them without sugar or too expensive to purchase. I think I might try to ‘create’ some dried cherries.
    Thank you so much!

    • Thank you for this post! I’ve been gathering some of the commonly-used ingredients from your recipes and this was a very helpful round-up. :) I’m nervously awaiting my Swerve order and hoping it agrees with my husband’s very particular tastebuds.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] to the recipe which uses both my homemade sugar-free dried cranberries AND my homemade low carb sweetened condensed milk.  I told you both of those little recipes would [...]

  2. [...] Gift Ideas  8 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Fitness Routine Stop Judging, Be Kind, Love Yourself Sugar-free Dried Cranberries Why Women Don’t Talk Themselves Up & How To Do It Effectively  Homemade Curry Powder My [...]

  3. [...] And the Christmas Cookie baking continues, this time with Low Carb Butter Cookies, chock full of sugar-free dried cranberries and sugar-free crystallized [...]

  4. [...] and as long as you have my low carb sweetened condensed milk (recipe below), some nuts and some of my sugar-free dried cranberries on hand, you can make this recipe in a matter of minutes.  I included some raisins as well, to get [...]

  5. […] the right consistency. For the rest of the filling, I swapped out the majority of the raisins with sugar-free dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I did keep one small apple in there, although a reader suggested that chayote […]

Speak Your Mind

*