lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

lemon squaresI think one of the hardest things to do when you change the way you eat is to stop indulging in your memory of the foods you used to enjoy. It’s hard to convince the brain that the sugar/dairy/meat-laden dish once inhaled without second thought will now cause your body to launch a revolt.

I have a few food memories that are hard to short circuit. One of them is of the lemon squares my husband whipped up one dreary afternoon – made with extra lemon juice. I almost swoon at the memory.

100_1796Tempting as it is to consider making a conventional batch of lemon squares to satisfy my lemon cravings, the sugar content alone scratches it off the list. You can read a little about my decision to cut back on sugar here.

Thankfully, the plant-based, low sugar lemon curd recipe I posted earlier this month is an excellent substitute for the traditional lemon square filling. It’s complemented by a gluten free, coconut crust, inspired by this recipe. And the icing sugar? It’s actually a dusting of coconut flour.

lemon square collageWhat is your favorite lemon dish? What foods do you have a hard time resisting based on the memory alone?

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon squares recipe

lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-17 minutes

Serves: 16 squares

Ingredients

    for the Crust & Topping

    • 1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • 1 c. almond flour
    • ½ tsp. baking soda
    • 1 scoop 100% pure stevia
    • ¼ c. melted coconut oil
    • 1 tsp. coconut nectar or agave
    • ½ tsp. vanilla
    • Coconut flour (for dusting)

    for the Filling

    • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Zest from one organic lemon (optional)
    • ½ c. white grape juice
    • 3 T coconut nectar or agave
    • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
    • 5 T organic cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 1 T vegan butter
    • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
    • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

    Instructions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

    Using your hands, mix all ingredients for the macaroon crust together in a bowl.

    Pour crust into a greased 8”x8” glass baking dish and press crust firmly to compact it together.

    Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool.

    While crust is baking, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt in a sauce pan. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

    Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

    Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

    Cool slightly, then pour over crust.

    Recipe Notes

    The more you press the crust, the better it will hold together after baking.

    Use a pizza cutter to give a nice clean cut to the squares.

    I love this recipe for the lemon curd because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

    *It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

    Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

    Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn.

    I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

    I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

    Refrigerate to set, then use a sieve to dust with coconut flour.

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    lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

    lemon curdtextScones are one of the desserts my mum makes if company is coming for lunch or in the afternoon and usually she serves them with jam. But on occasion she would treat us to lemon curd to accompany the scones. Perhaps it is because we had it so rarely that I enjoy it so thoroughly.

    Given the use of eggs and lots of sugar, lemon curd was something I didn’t think I would be eating again after switching to a plant-based diet several years ago and drastically cutting back on my sugar intake (including unrefined sugars) last year.
    100_2352Lemon curd is something I associate with my mum and with England and with special occasions…which makes this a good follow up to Mother’s Day and this post.

    But when my mom made a lemon meringue pie using a plant-based lemon filling, it got me thinking that perhaps it was possible to recreate a plant-based lemon curd. After doing some research and experimenting, I finally arrived at this recipe.

    I was able to reduce the sugar by using white grape juice and adding less than 1/4 cup of liquid sweetener. I usually use coconut nectar since it carries a low glycemic rating, which means the body absorbs it more slowly than other forms of sugar. You can find it for a good price here at Vitacost (I recommend stocking up to save on shipping). The organic cornstarch (find it here at Abe’s Market) and coconut cream help thicken it.

    lemon curdprocess
    left: curd before adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter right: after adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter

    CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon curd recipe

    lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

    Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

    Cook Time: 5-7 minutes

    Makes: about 2.5 cups

    Ingredients

    • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Zest from one organic lemon* (optional)
    • ½ c. white grape juice
    • 3 T coconut nectar** or agave
    • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
    • 5 T organic cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 1 T vegan butter
    • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
    • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

    Instructions

    In a sauce pan, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

    Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

    Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

    Cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

    Recipe Notes

    I love this recipe because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

    *It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

    **I like using coconut nectar because of its low glycemic rating. I buy mine through Vitacost – clicking this link gives me credit to their Refer-a-Friend program.

    Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

    Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn. You can get it through Abe’s Market, but natural foods stores also may carry it.

    I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

    I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

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