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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
February is the time of year that we celebrate romance and love with Valentine’s Day as well as encourage people to engage in heart healthy lifestyle habits during American Heart Association month. The combination of sweet and juicy cherries along with chia seeds in this frozen smoothie serves as a nutritious yet delicious Valentine’s Day treat or even a quick breakfast on the go.
½ cup 1% milk or non-dairy milk such as almond, soy or cashew milk
2 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp pure almond extract
2 tsp stevia
1 cup vanilla bean or cherry flavor frozen yogurt or non-dairy frozen dessert (example So Delicious or Tofutti brands)
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and well combined. Serve immediately.
Substitute the non-dairy milk and non-dairy frozen dessert if desired to prepare a non-dairy or Paleo friendly smoothie.
If desired, you may substitute 1 cup Greek non-fat yogurt in place of the frozen yogurt. Nutrition Information per serving: 152 calories, 3 grams fat, 1 gram Sat. fat, 2 grams Unsat. fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 15 grams protein,0 grams trans fats
Nutrition information in this food blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Consult your personal health care provider for medical advice.
Cherries are nutritional superstars which provide powerful antioxidants that fight disease causing free radicals in our body and they also have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Research done at the University of Michigan suggests that tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefit and can reduce the risk of stroke. They are sweet and tart in taste and an excellent source of fiber as well as a good source of potassium and Vitamin C in the diet. One cup contains only 87 calories. Cherries are delicious to snack on and you can add them to salads, muffins, quick breads, smoothies or to a bowl of hot or cold cereal in the morning.
Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, yogurt or hot cereals and taste great in puddings. They naturally gel or thicken liquid foods. Chia seeds have been a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries and recently gained popularity as a nutritional staple in the United States in the last ten years. Chia seeds come from salvia, a plant with sky blue flowers that is native to Mexico. They are a rich source of polyunsaturated fats and are one of the highest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. The heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds are thought to play a role in reducing inflammation in the body, enhancing cognitive function and reducing cholesterol according to various research studies on this subject. The combination of the protein, high fiber content and gelling action of chia seeds when combined with liquids contribute to their high satiety, which is the feeling of being full and satisfied. This can potentially reduce food cravings between meals and fill you up more at meal time. Since they are also a great source of fiber, they are very helpful in preventing constipation as well if consumed as part of a high fiber diet on a regular basis.
Be sure to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the love of your life and be good to your heart in honor of the American Heart Association’s heart health month!
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.
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.
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
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.
Spread cooled brownies with the frosting.
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.
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.
2 cups fresh blueberries or drained canned unsweetened blueberries
¾ cup chopped walnuts
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.
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.
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.
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.
Love is in the air and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. If you searching for the perfect dessert to finish off a romantic home cooked Valentine Day dinner, look no farther! The parfait also makes the perfect dessert for two to enjoy with a cup of coffee after you have arrived home from your your dinner date at the restaurant. It is so easy to prepare and healthfully lightened up as well. It features all of the great lover’s favorite foods: chocolate, cherries and cream cheese!
I decided to slim down my parfait recipe by using the Fit and Active 1/3 less fat brand of Neufchatel Cream Cheese, non-fat Greek yogurt, the no sugar added version of cherry pie filling as well as Stevia to replace the sugar in the original recipe. Let me tell you this makes a big difference in savings in calorie, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate and total sugar content per serving without sacrificing a rich taste. If you wish to reduce the calorie, fat and cholesterol content further, you could substitute the 50% reduced fat version of cream cheese. I have not used this in my recipe yet however so I can’t guarantee you that it will have the same consistency. I would not recommend using the fat free cream cheese since I don’t think the parfait would have a creamy cheesecake consistency. My husband and I sampled this parfait for our dessert today and loved the different flavor combinations of the chocolate, cherries and the slightly almond taste of the cream cheese. If you really love chocolate, top your parfait with a dark chocolate Hershey’s chocolate kiss.
8 ounces ⅓ less fat brand of Neufchatel cream cheese
20 oz can of No Sugar Added Great Value (or other brand) Cherry Pie Filling (sweetened with Splenda or Stevia
Nabisco Oreo Pie Crust (one half of crust)
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
½ tsp almond extract
12 packets Stevia (sugar substitute)
Remove pie crust from the pie tin container and place in a bowl. Crumble up to a fine consistency. Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat well with an electric mixer. Add Stevia and mix in well. Add Greek yogurt and almond extract to the cream cheese mixture and beat until well combined. Add approximately 2 TB or the crushed Oreo pie crust mixture to the bottom of your parfait glass. Add the next layer by spooning in 2-3 TB of the cream cheese mixture. Top this with
TB of the cherry pie filling, repeat layers, ending with the Oreo pie crust mixture. Top with a dark chocolate Hershey's chocolate kiss if desired.Refrigerate until serving time.
Information in this food blog is not intended to provide medical advice of any kind. Please consult your personal physician or other personal health care provider for medical advice.
If you use fresh unsweetened pitted cooked cherries or a can of drained unsweetened cherries, sweeten with 12 packets Stevia or ½ cup sugar. Stir in the Stevia or sugar before adding to the recipe.
By making these healthier substitutions in my recipe, I realized that I was saving 206 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 17 mg of cholesterol, 34 grams of carbohydrate and 27 grams (7 teaspoons) of sugar per serving! Wow, that is worth it. I would have to walk 35 minutes to burn off those extra 206 calories.
I remember that my mother used these fostoria dessert dishes on special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays when I was growing up. They were displayed in her built in China cabinet in our dining room.