PALEO CHOCOLATE ALMOND TRUFFLES

Just a few more days until Christmas is here! I celebrated Christmas with family members two weeks ago and have another family Christmas celebration this weekend. I really do enjoy preparing favorite old family Christmas recipes this time of year as well as trying new recipes. Some family members as well as friends follow a Paleo food plan so I decided to experiment in my kitchen recently and prepare a Chocolate Avocado Truffle recipe that I found on Dr. Mercola’s website. In order to make the recipe go farther, I added an extra half of  an avocado and swapped out the vanilla extract that his recipe called for and decided to use almond extract since I like the flavor of the almond extract with chocolate. In order to thicken up this recipe, I added some ground flaxseed, crushed walnuts and chia seeds. Everyone needs some dark chocolate  to keep them going this time of year. This recipe calls for  raw cacao powder. This was not available at my local grocery store. It can be purchased or ordered at most food coops. I was running behind on my Christmas food preparation so I decided to opt to use the next best thing, the Hershey’s dark cacao powder. Raw cacao powder is made by cold pressing unroasted cocoa beans which keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa but removes the fat.  The dark chocolate 100% dark cocao  powder may be beneficial in lowering LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, increase blood flow to the arteries, help reduce blood pressure and improve cognitive function if consumed on a consistent basis according to some research studies. The avocado in the recipe is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat as well as a good source of folate, vitamins B6, E and C, potassium and fiber. Coconut oil which this recipe contains as well, may also play a role in improving cognitive function according to some new research on this fat.

Paleo Chocolate Almond Truffles

 

PALEO CHOCOLATE ALMOND TRUFFLES
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 2½ medium ripe avocados
  • 1 cup Hersheys 100% cacao special dark dry cocoa, (unsweetened powder) or 1 cup raw (dry)organic cacao powder
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 TB melted coconut oil
  • 3 TB regular or organic honey
  • 2 drops liquid stevia or 2 packets dry stevia
  • 2 TB chia seeds
  • 2 Tb ground flaxseed
  • ⅓ cup crushed walnuts (pecans or almonds may be substituted)
Instructions
  1. Peel and scoop avocado out of its shell and place in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the avocado until it is smooth in consistency. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan over low heat on your stove or microwave. Add the melted coconut oil, almond extract,honey and stevia to the avocado mixture. Next, add the cocoa powder gradually ¼ cup at a time to the mixture and stir or beat in well with a hand mixer on low speed. Add the chia seeds and ground flaxseed to this mixture and stir in until well combined. Add the crushed walnuts to the mixture and mix thoroughly. Place the mixture into the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove from freezer and using a small cookie dough scoop, scoop the mixture out and roll into balls. if desired dust with powdered sugar. Refrigerate or freeze until serving time. If you freeze them, take the truffles out of the freezer, 10 minutes prior to serving time.
Notes
One serving ( one truffle) counts as 1 carbohydrate choice on a diabetes carbohydrate counting meal plan. If you would like to lower the carbohydrate content further in this recipe, experiment with reducing the amount of honey in the recipe and adding some additional stevia.

This food blog is not intended to provide medical advice to people. Please contact your own health care professional for personal medical and nutritional advice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 truffle Calories: 162 Fat: 12 grams Saturated fat: 4 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 14 grams Sodium: 75 mg Fiber: 4 grams Protein: 3 grams Cholesterol: 0 mg

 

We really enjoy taking some evening car cruises to view  all of the beautiful Christmas lights displayed on houses, churches and in parks this time of year. We took a trip to the Kiwanis Holiday Lights display in Mankato, Minnesota a few weeks ago. I am including some pictures of this fun and fabulous lights display. You can drive through the park or park your car and walk through the display on lighted trails at the park. Santa also visits the park. Hot chocolate as well as horse drawn sleigh rides are offered too.

Kiwanis Holiday Light display, Mankato, Mn.

Well aside from all the health benefits, my family and friends found this chocolate truffle to be delicious. Joining together with family and friends around  the Christmas tree enjoying favorite traditional family holiday foods and and trying new foods as well is what this season is all about. This is the time of year that the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated as well. Our church and many others offer Christmas services where we sing along to favorite Christmas carols. There always seems to be hot apple cider and holiday goodies after the services. Enjoy your family traditions this time of year, eat your favorite foods in moderation, bring along a healthy dish to pass such as a fresh fruit basket or veggie platter. Plan to go for a walk in the mall or around your neighborhood as a family to stay healthy this time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Remember Jesus is the reason for the season! Below are some favorite family photos of our Christmas celebration.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

It is beginning to look like fall here in Minnesota. The leaves on the trees are turning beautiful shades of bright yellow, red and orange. The farmers markets are selling all varieties of squash including zucchini as well as apples and baked goods. I purchased a zucchini there recently and baked a batch of moist and delicious Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies. They are easy to pack into a lunchbox or enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I lightened up the recipe by substituting unsweetened applesauce in place of vegetable oil. This decreases the calories in the entire recipe by 960 or 60 calories per serving. The recipe yields 16 brownies. I also added 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed to the recipe to increase the fiber content and add extra texture to the recipe. You may substitute margarine or coconut oil if desired in place of butter in this recipe to reduce the cholesterol and saturated fat content of the recipe. Recent research on coconut oil has shown that it offers many promising health benefits, including improvement in cognitive functioning according to some newer studies.

I usually do not frost these brownies since they taste very good without the frosting. I was baking some cupcakes for my niece’s wedding shower and had some frosting left over so I decided to use it up by frosting these brownies. It does add some extra flavor and helps satisfy that chocolate urge that I sometimes crave.

The picture below was taken a week ago in Lansing, Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River in a park perched above this small river town. We went camping for the weekend in the area and explored the quaint river towns and gorgeous scenery in northeast Iowa and ventured across the river into Wisconsin as well. It was a fun weekend! Of course I packed up a batch of some freshly baked double chocolate zucchini brownies to take along on our weekend adventure!

 

 

I used Hersheys 100% cacao dark cocoa in this recipe to improve the health benefits of using dry cocoa. The cacao dark chocolate cocoa powder is higher in antioxidant flavonoid content. Flavonoids are part of a powerful group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Flavonoids battle disease producing free radicals in our body. Dry cocoa is very healthy, extremely low in fat content as well as a low calorie food. It can be used in baking cakes and brownies or add 2 tsp to your favorite smoothie for a chocolate flavor. It is very good when added to banana and peanut butter  smoothies. Dry cacao powder also has heart health benefits as well and may help to lower the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup Hershey's dry100% cacoa dark cocoa baking cocoa
  • 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini, gently pressed to remove excess liquid
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ ground flaxseed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., or 330 degrees if using a glass pan. Lightly spray a 9 x 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, honey, applesauce, sugar and almond extract until smooth in consistency. Combine dry ingredients, including ground flaxseed in a separate bowl and gently stir together until combined. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until well combined.Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds if desired to the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan Bake for 35-40 minutes until done or until a toothpick inserted in the brownies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the brownies cool off before cutting.
  2. Dark Chocolate Frosting: ¼ cup ( ½ stick) butter, ⅓ cup Hershey's dark cacao dry cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup 1% milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. Melt butter in a small glass bowl the microwave. Stir in cocoa.Alternately add the powdered sugar and the milk, beating to a spreading consistency.Stir in vanilla. Makes one cup of frosting.
  4. Spread cooled brownies with the frosting.
Notes
if you do not frost the brownies, the nutritional value per brownie is as follows: 179 calories, 6 grams total fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 1 gram unsaturated fat, 0 grams trans fats, 27 mg cholesterol, 127 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber and 4 grams protein.

The information presented in this food blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Contact your personal health care professional for medical and nutritional advice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/16 of recipe Calories: 221 Fat: 7 grams Saturated fat: 4 grams Unsaturated fat: 1 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 37 Sodium: 135 mg Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 4 grams Cholesterol: 29 mg

 

The picture below shows one of the many historic buildings in Lansing, Iowa.

Overlooking the Mississippi River in Ferryville, Wisconsin
The Clear Stream in Lansing, Iowa. Great trout fishing stream.
Exploring the campground.
Relaxing around the camp fire at the campground near Lansing, Iowa.

 

BLUEBERRY WALNUT ZUCCHINI BREAD

The leaves on the trees are slowly beginning to turn shades of bright red and gold and the weather has cooled off to highs of the sixties and seventies during the day with chilly evenings as well. We have not had a frost overnight yet. My garden is still producing tomatoes and peppers and a rare strawberry or two. This is a beautiful time of year and the perfect temperature for baking bread. No need to turn on the air conditioner when I’m baking, just open a window or two to cool off my kitchen. I didn’t plant zucchini this year as I have done in the past. I usually produce a bumper crop of these and have to leave extra zucchini on unsuspecting neighbor’s steps to use them all up. I purchased a large zucchini recently at our local farmers market for only seventy five cents and wanted to bake some zucchini bread. I had seen a zucchini cake recipe online and decided to change a few ingredients as well as add some walnuts to the recipe and bake it as a quick bread. In order to reduce the fat and calorie content of the recipe, I swapped out 50% of the vegetable oil or butter for unsweetened applesauce. I decided to use butter in place of vegetable oil to give my recipe a richer, buttery flavor. If you need to limit the cholesterol and saturated fat content of your diet, you could use a vegetable oil in place of the butter. My husband and I are blessed to have normal levels of cholesterol. We do control our cholesterol intake by using very lean cuts of meat as well as using fish and chicken breast in addition to consuming a healthy diet. We occasionally splurge on a little butter though! I reduced by flour by 1/4 cup and substituted ground flaxseed for this to add a unique taste and some extra nutritional benefit. Next, I substituted half of the sugar called for in the recipe for honey. To use honey in place of one cup of sugar in your recipe, use 2 tablespoons less honey, add 1/4 tsp additional baking soda and reduce the liquid in your recipe by three tablespoons.

In addition to the delicious taste, this bread is chock full of healthy ingredients including blueberries, walnuts and zucchini. Walnuts are a member of the tree nuts family and are a rich source of Vitamin E, magnesium, copper and biotin. Walnuts offer heart healthy cardiovascular benefits by helping lower the risk of chronic oxidative stress and reducing inflammation in the body if consumed on a consistent basis. Scientific studies done on walnuts indicate that these benefits may also help reduce incidence of other diseases such as  breast and prostrate cancer as well. Study participants consumed three ounces of walnuts per day. Walnuts may also offer benefits for prevention of obesity and weight loss in general. This may be surprising to some people since they think of high fat and high calories foods such as nuts as a contributor to obesity. Walnuts contain heart healthy polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts consumed in limited quantities of a one ounce serving per day as a snack or when combined with other foods can be very satisfying and filling and may benefit in controlling appetite thus assisting with weight loss.

BLUEBERRY WALNUT ZUCCHINI BREAD
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18 slices
 
Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries or drained canned unsweetened blueberries
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9 x 5 inch glass bread pans with non-stick spray or light grease with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Combine the eggs, butter or vegetable oil and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat well. Add honey to this mixture and beat until well combined. Next add the sugar and mix this into the ingredients. combine the flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder and baking soda into a separate bowl and stir together with a fork until well combined. slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir together mixing just long enough until well combined. Combine blueberries with one tsp of flour in a small bowl stirring gently until coated well.
  2. Fold in zucchini first, next the nuts and lastly the blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pans. You can use a 8 x 8 inch cake pan in place of one of the bread pans if desired. Bake for approximately 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Cool bread on a rack.
Notes
the cholesterol and saturated fat content would be less if you substitute a vegetable oil such as canola, olive or corn oil as an example. If desired, you may use coconut oil. The cholesterol content of the recipe will be lower and the saturated fat content will be very similar to the amount in the recipe using butter. Persons on gluten free diets may substitute a gluten free flour or flours in place of the all purpose flour. Investigate how these flours may be substituted in place of all purpose flour and in what quantities before preparing this recipe.
This blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Please contact your personal health care professional to provide you with nutritional and medical advice.
It is best to bake the bread in a glass pan since the acidic nature of the blueberries may corrode the metal in a metal bread or cake pan. If you do have to use a metal pan, remove bread from pans immediately after cooling off your bread to help prevent this.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/9 of loaf bread pan Calories: 226 Fat: 6 grams Saturated fat: 2 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 29 grams Sodium: 275 mg Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 4 grams Cholesterol: 38 mg

 

Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable and can be used in breads, stir fries and soups and is delicious when prepared on the grill. It is very low in calorie content and is a moderate source of vitamin C, potassium and folate.

Blueberries are a good source of fiber, very low in calories and an excellent source of disease fighting antioxidants. They provide vitamin C, Vitamin K and the mineral manganese. Blueberries offer many health benefits which I won’t go into detail in this post. For more information about their health benefits, read my August 2016 post which includes the recipe for Blueberry Summer Salad.

 

Enjoy these beautiful fall days and take a little extra time to sample recipes incorporating fall produce from your local farmers market or your own garden.

SUMMER BLUEBERRY CHICKEN SALAD

Alas, summer is quickly passing us by and fall is approaching. It’s no secret that summer is my favorite season, fall comes in with a close second due to all of the beautiful colors of the leaves during Autumn. Spring ranks right behind as third since it’s a time of new beginnings and is so green and lush.  No surprise, but winter trails behind in fourth place because of the cold howling wind and lack of bright colors. I don’t participate in skiing, ice fishing or snow mobiling much and I would just as soon sit inside by a warm fire near the fireplace sipping on hot chocolate than to be outside that time of year. The end of summer isn’t all bad since this is the time of year that us Minnesotans harvest our gardens. I have a bumper crop of tomatoes and green peppers this year. My kale crop was lush and green as well but my squash, spinach and lettuce crop didn’t fare so well. Some nasty critters attacked my squash plants. I planted my spinach and lettuce from seeds instead of from plants this year and they refused to grow in my garden. We enjoyed only one squash this year, gave up on the greens that didn’t come up and planted flowers over them. Low and behold, lettuce was coming up in my flower garden recently. It was only two months late and I had enough to prepare one salad.

I really enjoy creating new recipes, cooking as well as blogging. I took a break from blogging over the summer months since I have not posted a food blog since last April. I promise to be more faithful and post a new food blog at least once a month. I was pleasantly surprised to read some encouraging, positive comments  from my blog audience and this has motivated me to continue writing and creating healthy. easy to prepare recipes. I love to include nutritious, tasty food in my diet but I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen either!

SUMMER BLUEBERRY CHICKEN SALAD
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sliced grilled skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup sliced green, red or yellow peppers
  • 8 sliced small roma or cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • Honey Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 4 oz each honey, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and water
  • ¼ tsp each sea salt, cracked pepper and Italian Seasoning
Instructions
  1. Place salad greens, sliced tomatoes, peppers, blue berries and chicken breast in a large salad bowl and toss gently. Add salad dressing to salad mixture and toss lightly again. Top salad with sliced almonds and serve. To serve individually: Add 1 cup salad green to a salad plate or individual salad bowl. Top salad with sliced tomatoes, peppers, almonds, berries and chicken breast. Drizzle dressing on each salad and serve.
  2. Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Cover and shake well. Refrigerate until serving time. Top salad with this dressing.
Notes
The nutritional information has been calculated for the addition of 2 tablespoons of dressing per serving of salad.

Information presented in this food blog is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please contact your personal health care professional for medical advice.

Plan to serve this salad as a first course for your summer menus or double the recipe to serve as a summer meal.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¼ recipe Calories: 220 Fat: 10 grams Saturated fat: 1 gram Unsaturated fat: 9 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 26 grams Sodium: 126 mg Fiber: 4 grams Protein: 9 grams Cholesterol: 18 mg

 

I love to make a meal out of salads this time of year so I used my garden produce that I had on hand as well as some leftover grilled chicken breast and my favorite fruit blueberries to create this salad. Since I love the taste and health benefits of honey, I experimented in my kitchen and came up with a  Honey Vinaigrette Dressing to serve with my salad. It is very easy to prepare and doesn’t contain all of the preservatives, sugar and sodium that bottled commercial dressings contain. It is also very economical since you can purchase healthy bottled dressings but you will end up paying a premium for the additional health benefits.

Blueberries are a nutritional superstar and one of the best food sources of disease fighting antioxidants. They are also a good source of heart healthy resveratrol,  Vitamin K, Vitamin C and dietary fiber. Blueberries have a host of health benefits in which some scientific studies have concluded that they boost focus and memory, support good digestion, promote heart health and slow the aging process.

Tomatoes are so plentiful this time of year that I not only use them in salads and BLT’s but also use the extra to make salsa, spaghetti sauce and freeze them so I can enjoy them in chilli and casseroles in the cold winter months which lie ahead. Tomatoes are very filling, naturally low in calories and an excellent source of Vitamin C and potassium. Cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce are an excellent source of lycopene. Lycopene has been found to be beneficial in the  prevention prostrate cancer. Below are some pictures that I snapped from my garden recently.

Green peppers are an excellent source of immune system boosting vitamin C, fiber and are also very low in calorie content. Due to my bumper crop of peppers, I am  planning to prepare some stuffed green peppers for dinner tonight and I also add them to salads, scrambled eggs, meatloaf, chilli and tacos. They freeze very well also so you can enjoy them all year long.

Enjoy these last few days of summer and plan on taking some leaf watching trips as autumn approaches. The garden spot below is a beautiful area for my husband and I to enjoy our morning coffee. Bon Appetit!

 

 

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA BREAD

Bananas are a favorite fruit around my house and I frequently use extra bananas to make banana bread.  We live in a small town in the midwest and banana bread is probably one of the most popular quick breads in the region and has been for many generations in my family. My husband and I also love the combination of bananas and peanut butter so I decided that I wanted to try a new version of this recipe. While shopping at Sam’s Club recently, I purchased a powdered peanut butter called PB Fit and decided to incorporate this into my banana bread recipe. The PB Fit  contains 50 calories per 2 TB serving compared to 200 calories per 2 TB serving of regular peanut butter. The PB Fit powder is also gluten free, non-GMO, vegan and kosher. It can be used in smoothies or added when baking. I enjoy the challenge of modifying my recipes to improve the nutritional value and must admit this is sometimes a trial and error process until I come up with a recipe that not only tastes good but is good for the body as well! Peanut butter powder incorporates more protein into this recipe, as does the addition of greek yogurt in place of part of the fat called for in the original recipe. To boost up the fiber content of banana breads or similar types of quick breads, you can also swap out a portion of of the all purpose (white) flour and substitute whole wheat flour and old fashioned oatmeal. The original recipe called for 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour so I used  1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of old fashioned oatmeal. If you prefer a gluten free bread, substitute your favorite version of 2 1/2 cups of gluten free flour and use the certified gluten free oatmeal in this recipe. If you really like the combination of peanut butter, banana and chocolate, add 2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips to this recipe for that extra special dark chocolate taste to satisfy those chocolate cravings! Banana bread is delicious when served for breakfast, snacks or in a brown bag lunch.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA BREAD
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 slices
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1 TB canola, sunflower or coconut oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 bananas
  • ½ cup 1% milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup old fashioned oatmeal
  • ½ cup PB Fit brand peanut butter powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Instructions
  1. Add bananas to a large mixing bowl and beat well with an electric mixer. Next add the oil, honey yogurt, eggs and 1% milk to the beaten bananas and again mix well until thoroughly combined. Add the powdered peanut butter and beat well. Combine the remainder of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir together well. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and again mix together until well combined. Place the bread mixture into an oiled bread pan and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 55 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let the bread cool and remove from bread pan.
Notes
This food blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Consult your personal health care provider for medical advice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/16 of bread Calories: 144 Fat: 3 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 24 grams Sodium: 279 mg Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 5 grams Cholesterol: 24 mg

 

My Vintage Kitchen Prayer

Plan to serve this bread with some fresh fruit and a cup of coffee for a quick and easy breakfast on the go.

 

I also like to add bananas to smoothies, fruit salads, peanut butter sandwiches or just enjoy a banana as a quick and healthy snack. One banana provides 25% of an adults daily value (DV) of vitamin B6, 16% of the DV for manganese,  12% each of the DV for potassium and dietary fiber as well as 10% each of the DV for copper and biotin.

Have a very blessed day! Thought for the day from Gloria Gaither: We may run, walk, stumble, drive or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way. Inspirational verse for the day: Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart!