Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ginger Spiked Chocolate Bark

The holidays are here! Many of us spend the week before Christmas in the kitchen creating deliciously unhealthy candies and holiday treats loaded with refined white sugar and butter. This year I decided to skip out on some of the traditional goodies and focus on “healthier” alternatives. As promised, here is another great gift-giving idea for this holiday season – dark chocolate bark with nuts, dried fruit, and infused with spicy ginger. This tasty treat is delicious! In fact, it was such a hit at my house that we made it twice!

Wrap this delicious chocolate in parchment paper and twine or reuse a tin and fill it with this homemade bark. This recipe makes a great gift for your child’s teacher, a secret Santa, a host/hostess gift, etc. Don’t feel guilty giving the gift of chocolate bark this Christmas!

1 lb. organic 70% dark cacao (chocolate) chips
2 cups of chopped nuts (I used cashews and almonds)
1 cup of dried apricots chopped (dried cranberries would also work)
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger root
Sea salt 

Using a double boiler, or microwave, melt the cacao chips. While the chips are melting add the fresh grated ginger. Be sure to stir the chocolate often to prevent burning.

Once the chocolate has melted completely transfer it to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a rubber scrapper to evenly distribute the melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts, dried fruit, and sprinkle with course sea salt. Place the pan in the refrigerator (or outside if you live somewhere cold J) to cool.

When the bark has cooled completely, break it into small pieces and transfer it to a tin or sealable container. Give this delicious bark as a gift or treat yourself. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vanilla Coconut Almond Granola

A few weeks ago I passed along a great DIY Shake ‘n Sniff idea from YogaBabes. I also encouraged you to get “crafty & creative” this holiday season. It is only acceptable that one follows his/her own advice, right? I am proud to say that I have actually had a wonderful time creating homemade gifts this year and plan to share a few of these ideas with you over the next week and a half.

Today’s idea encompasses a few of my favorite things: coconut, vanilla, almonds, oats and cute jars J Vanilla Coconut Almond Granola is one of my favorite things! Granola is delicious with almond milk (or your favorite milk choice or alternative), sprinkled over yogurt or an acai bowl. It also makes a delicious oatmeal-topping, can be used as a crumble for apple crisp, and of course is a wonderful treat all by itself.

Granola is extremely quick and easy to make and is so much better than any option available at your local market. Why? Because you know where it came from, what ingredients are used, and well of course because it’s homemade! You will not find butter or sugar in this recipe, so that in and of itself is AWESOME! Package your finished product in a cute vintage jar; add a ribbon and a gift tag. Voila! A wonderful, edible gift!

4 cups of organic old-fashioned oats (not quick oats or instant)
2 cups unsweetened shaved coconut (or shredded)
2 cups of sliced almonds (of your favorite nut)
2 cups of unsalted sunflower seeds (pumpkin would also work)
½ cup of raw organic honey (add more or less based on your liking)
4-5 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 vanilla bean

Preheat over to 350°F. Add the coconut oil to a small pan and slowly melt over low heat. Slice the vanilla bean, from end to end, and place the bean and the seeds in the pan with the coconut oil. Add the honey and slowly heat the three ingredients over low heat until no separation occurs and vanilla has infused the liquid (approximately three minutes).

Place the oats, coconut, nuts, and seeds into a large bowl and mix to combine. Pour the liquid mixture over the oats and stir until everything looks “wet.” 

Left: before wet mixture; Right: after wet mixture

Spray olive oil on two large jellyroll pans and spoon the raw granola mixture evenly across the pan. Put both pans into the oven; bake granola for five to eight minutes, and then stir. Continue to bake and stir until the granola turns a nice shade of golden. Remove from the oven and let the granola cool on the pan.

Top: before baking; Bottom: after baking

When the granola has cooled completely, transfer to sealable jars or containers, add your finishing decorative touches, and gift away!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stuffed Squash Bowls

I LOVE squash and I love the variety! These little guys come in many different colors, shapes, flavors, and textures. Squash can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It can be prepared sweet or savory, roasted, baked, steamed, mashed, or boiled. The best part though, (drumroll please); it serves as its own little bowl! For this particular recipe I chose acorn squash, because of its size and nutty flavor, and then I stuffed it with a delicious quinoa stuffing.

This is not the first time I have posted a recipe that uses winter squash and it probably won’t be the last. For this reason, I will keep the nutritional benefits of acorn squash to a minimum and direct you to “this” post for more detail. Overall, winter squash promotes optimal health. Due to its tremendous health benefits, we realize that this is not just another starchy vegetable. Winter squash contains anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidants, and may even have the potential to regulate blood sugar.

Not only is winter squash a versatile veggie, and packed full of beneficial nutrients, but it can also keep for an incredible length of time – if stored properly. If you keep winter squash out of direct sunlight, and stored in a room or pantry that stays between 50-60°F, this vegetable can last up to six months. What this means to you? Get to your local farmers market, co-op, or whole-foods market and stock up!

1 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
1 cup of quinoa, I chose to mix red and white but any color will work
1 bunch of kale, thick stem removed and julienned
1 can of black-eyed peas
2 ½ cups of vegetable stock/broth
2 tablespoons of EVOO
½ cup of dried cranberries
½ cup of chopped walnuts *optional
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the squash halves on a pan, drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast the squash in the oven for approximately 35-40 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.

While the squash is roasting, bring two cups of vegetable stock to a boil. Add the (rinsed) quinoa to the pot and bring back to a boil. Cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes (or until no liquid remains).

Pour the remaining ½ cup of vegetable stock to a deep skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the kale, black-eyed peas, and a sprinkle of sea salt; continue to simmer until the kale is wilted and all the liquid has evaporated.

Combine the quinoa, kale mixture, dried cranberries, and walnuts in a large bowl and mix evenly. Scoop the “stuffing” into the squash halves and serve!

Peace, love, and veggies!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guilt Free - Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving has already come and gone and that today marks December 1. Wow! Where does the time go? As I child, I remember hearing the adults in my life say that time moves at a more rapid pace the older you get. By-golly I think they were right! Okay, well that’s enough, we don’t have time to waste…there is decorating to be done and holiday baking to be started! You heard me – baking! Of course you can expect that this recipe will be sugar, dairy, and gluten free! But I promise, it will still be delicious!

Now there may be a few ingredients that you don’t have at home, but they are ingredients that belong in every kitchen, and ingredients that you will find over and over again in my recipes (i.e. raw cacao). Raw cacao is a SUPERFOOD and contains more antioxidants than blueberries, red wine, and green tea. In fact, raw cacao contains four times the antioxidant flavonoids found in green tea!

Many of us feel that indulging on chocolate is a “guilty pleasure.” I am going to rock your world today when I tell you to eat up! The reason chocolate gets a bad reputation is due to the large amount of processed ingredients that are added, like white sugar. If you consume chocolate in its original natural state, your body will actually be nourished with an abundance of nutrients.

Unprocessed chocolate contains antioxidants, which are great for promoting cardiovascular health and protecting our skin and body from free radicals found in the environment. This superfood also contains minerals such as magnesium and sulfur. Magnesium builds strong bones, balances brain chemistry, and regulates blood pressure and heart rate. This is also a mineral deficiency in 80% of Americans. Sulfur is a great beauty mineral and helps to build strong nails and hair and detoxifies the liver – no wonder we eat dark chocolate with red wine. Saving the best for last, chocolate is an aphrodisiac and the love drug! Chocolate increases neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin and phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine is released in the body when we’re “in love” and serotonin acts as a natural anti-depressant and gives us a sense of wholeness. Whoah! If this doesn’t give us reason to eat chocolate, I don’t know what will J

Happy shopping and happy baking!

1 jar (16 oz.) of organic, natural peanut butter (Jiff and Skippy do not count J)
¼ cup of raw cacao powder
½ cup of coconut milk (put the can in the refrigerator a couple hours prior to baking and use the thick cream layer that forms at the top)
½ cup of organic maple syrup
2 tablespoons of coconut oil (do not melt)
1 teaspoon of organic pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of sea salt

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients. The mixture should be slightly oily and somewhat sticky. Spoon the fudge into an 8x8 pan and place in the freezer. Indulge after 30 minutes of waiting patiently. *This fudge must be kept in the freezer or the refrigerator to maintain it’s chewy, delicious texture!

**This recipe could also be made using any of your favorite nut butters: almond, cashew, macadamia, etc. Also, feel free to add orange zest, maybe ginger, cacao nibs, or nuts for added flavor and texture. Let me know what you think!