Month: December 2013

Homemade Chocolate Spread

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chocolate spread

I don’t often use sweet spreads. Nutella happens to be on the top of my favorite spreads.  I never cared for store bought chocolate spreads. Overall, I found them to be too sugary for my liking. Nutella was my go-to chocolate spread since the sweetness was not as overpowering. Sweet or savory, spreads are very addictive. Put a bowl of crackers and a spread in front of me and they both will be devoured within minutes. That is partially the reason I keep both items and condiments away from each other and out of my reach.  I have managed to keep down my compulsive eating to a tad and I want to stay on that track. I know that I am not doing myself any favors or justice by sharing a chocolate spread recipe. The lack of sugar, minuscule  amount of oil, and natural ingredients is what sets this chocolate spread apart from most chocolate spreads. This chocolate spread takes minutes to make and can be used as a chocolate frosting or icing. Adjust the measurements in the following ingredients depending on the consistency you like. You can even add a nut spread to the ingredients if you like.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 tablespoons of coconut oil or trans-fat free margarine
  2. 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1/4 cup of agave syrup or date honey
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions

Melt the coconut oil or margarine, either in the microwave  or in a warm oven. Add agave syrup and vanilla extract and stir. Add cocoa powder.  Add a bit of water if spread is too thick.

Yields about 1 cup

 

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Healthiest Red Velvet Cake

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red velvet cake

As a Southern favorite, red velvet cake has made it’s way up North. In fact, I embraced this cake with open arms when I was first introduced to it. I was always eager to learn how to make red velvet cake. The deep red hue and velvety texture of this cake appealed to me the most.  As a loving and caring dutiful big sister, I decided to bake my kid brother a red velvet cake. I used a red velvet cake mix as I was a novice back then. Even with a red velvet cake mix, the results were disastrous. His reaction was heartbreaking. I wanted to enhance my brother’s birthday with a 3 layer red velvet cake. Not giving the cake enough time to cool, I slapped some icing on.  The cake imploded resulting a hot mess. Needless to say, it was poorly thought out. I have learned my lesson. Luckily,  my mother had a spare bakery-bought birthday cake reserved for baking disasters such as the one I endured. That experience didn’t cripple my efforts for trying again. I ordered a red velvet cake for my wedding as I coordinated in on Valentines Day. To my slight disappointment, the baker was not able to accommodate my request so I ended up with chocolate mousse cake instead.  My brother and sister surprised me with a 4 layer red velvet cake in efforts to appease my disappointment. Their gesture was highly appreciated.  I have been exploring healthy ways to recreate this cake and settled for one that was effective. Sugar-free and vegan, the secret ingredients in the cake consist of beets (you can use beet juice), and avocado among flour and cocoa powder. This healthy version tastes like any other red velvet cake.  I am partial to cream cheese frosting on red velvet cake but you can use any frosting you wish. Or you can omit frosting altogether which I sometimes do mainly out of sheer laziness. I decided to make an exception for this occasion.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour (you can use gluten-free flour with 1/2 teaspoons of  xanthan gum)
  2. 3/4 cup of whole wheat or spelt flour
  3. 1/4 of unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
  4. 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  7. 1 cup of milk of your choice
  8. 1/2 cup of agave nectar
  9. 1/2 cup of honey or date syrup
  10. 1 ripe avocado or banana mashed or pureed
  11. 1/3 cup of pureed beets or 1/2 of beet juice
  12. 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  13. Red food coloring (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting, you will need:

  1. 12 oz container of low-fat cream cheese or tofutti cream cheese
  2. 3/4 cup of powdered sugar (or a sugar-free version)
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  4. Sprinkles for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients in a large shallow bowl. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with dry ingredients  and mix well.  Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading to the edges. Gently rap the pans against the counter once or twice to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the layers onto the rack, remove the pans and let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes more.

For the cream cheese frosting, Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Place one cake layer top-side down on a serving plate; cover with half the frosting, spreading just to the edges. Set the second layer on top, top-side down. Spread the remaining frosting on the top only. Garnish with sprinkles as desired.

Yields 10-12 servings

 

Almond Oat Protein Bars

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Almond Bars

When I was going through m diet phase, I would snack on Slim Fast protein bars in attempt to lose some weight.  The gummy texture and lack of flavor quickly turned me off to protein bars. Instead, I would rely on salads, water, and strenuous workouts for weight loss.  While protein bars can be a convenient way to fuel up before or after a workout, some varieties contain a long list of artificial ingredients and added sugars, which can do more harm than good. I wanted vegan protein bars that were not only flavorful but wouldn’t  need to be refrigerated nor stick horribly to my teeth. Made of almond butter, slivered almonds, and raw oats, these low carb protein bars are not only filling but make a decent snack in a pinch.  Almond oat protein bars are one of those recipes I like to make in bulk and then place in the fridge or freezer for a fast snack for the  family. If you don’t like almond butter or almonds, this recipe would work well with hazelnuts, hazelnut spread or peanut butter.  Even though I didn’t, you can throw in some chocolate chips or raisins to enhance the flavors of these protein bars.  Try these energy bars and once you find a mix of ingredients you like, you can make a bunch of batches, freeze them, then grab them and go when you are on the run. This almond oat protein bar recipe is a lot healthier for you and for your wallet in the long run.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of rolled oats
  2. 1/4 cup of almond butter
  3. 1/3 cup of vanilla whey protein powder
  4. 1/2 cup of slivered almonds
  5. 2 tablespoons of  grounded flaxseeds
  6. 2 teaspoons of honey or agave nectar
  7. 1/4 cup of coconut or vegetable oil
  8. 1/4-1/2 cup of water

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well till combined. Transfer mixture to an 8 inch square pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for an hour. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting them up into squares.

Yields 5-10 bars

Grean Bean Snow Pea Edamame Tomato Salad

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I had a similar salad at a luncheon a while ago. I am not a particular fan of legume salads but this one earned a thumbs up for me. The combination of tomatoes, green beans, snow peas, and endgame is what made this light and healthy salad appealing to me. It was a change of pace from my usual garden salad. Plus I am gradually welcoming legumes into my diet. The salad that I originally ordered contained almonds but I left them out for hubby’s sake. Although this is a summer salad, I feel that this easy salad recipe is appropriate all year long. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser regardless the time of year you serve it. Summer is a long wait and my patience is limited when it comes to trying something different. This salad is the centerpiece of a party that’s all about sunny Mediterranean style, from the wine to the plates to the tea towels. You can mix up a simple vinaigrette made with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and shallots. Pour it over crisp blanched green beans and sweet halved cherry tomatoes, stir in some parsley, and serve with grilled rib steaks or a whole grilled bass.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1/2 lb of green beans ends trimmed
  2. 1/2 lbs of snow peas
  3. 1/2 lbs of edamame
  4. 1 lbs of grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes halved
  5. 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
  6. 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic
  7. 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
  8. 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh parsley
  9. 4-6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  10. 1/2 cup of olive oil
  11. 2 teaspoons of lemon zest
  12. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to the prepared ice water bath. When the beans are chilled, drain again and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Toss in a salad bowl with tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Repeat the same steps with the edamame and snow peas.  For the vinaigrette, place the  the shallot, garlic,  lemon zest, and measured salt and pepper in a medium, nonreactive bowl and add the lemon juice. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk until evenly combined. Pour in the dressing, and toss to coat thoroughly. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Note: This salad can be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Toss briefly to recombine the flavors just prior to serving.

Yields 6 servings

Tangy Turnip Soup

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Turnips are often overlooked and underrated. I’ve seen people turn pale from merely hearing the word “turnip” uttered. Although my aversion for turnips are not as strong as it is for many I know, I am not so hasty to dive into them. The idea of making turnip soup sounded intriguing enough for me to want to make it myself. Although turnips are not a favorite among many people I know (including myself), I thought a turnip soup recipe may be worth a whirl. I was bracing myself for a string of biting negative critiques.  To my utter shock, hubby and co. had 3 bowls of this spicy turnip soup.  Big turnips have the tendency to be a bit bitter whereas baby turnips will have a sweeter flavor . If you are not a fan of this tangy root vegetable soup, this tangy version may catch you by surprise and even perhaps change your perspective on turnips. If you want to vary the proportions of vegetables you can; it works well whether you emphasize the turnips, as I do here, the carrots and kohlrabi. In this easy soup recipe, the humble turnip is transformed into a rich turnip soup made naturally creamy. If you are still concerned that you may not like this soup, tarragon makes a lovely sweet garnish. Chives would also work.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 medium turnips or 8 baby turnips peeled and sliced
  2. 1 large kohlrabi peeled and cut into chunks
  3. 2-3 large carrots peeled and chopped
  4. 1 onion chopped
  5. 1 clove of garlic peeled and crushed
  6. 1 sweet chili pepper chopped
  7. 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  8. 4 cups of vegetable broth
  9. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Place ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil at medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Puree using a hand blender or in batches with a blender.  Serve hot.

Yields 6 servings

Strawberry Orange Spelt Muffins

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Strawberries are at their peak this season and I couldn’t resist the temptation of buying a couple of cartons of them. There is never a concern of produce rotting in my household, especially fresh strawberries. They are consumed within a day or two. The rest gets frozen for later use. There is one thing that is absolute; nothing ever goes to waste therefore there is no such thing as having too many strawberries in my house if you are a strawberry lover like me. Even though, I normally enjoy eating fresh strawberries as they are, sometimes I’ll make drinks, pies, or snacks when I have ample amount of them. I had an itch for strawberry muffins all week long. I encountered several recipes but I decided to create my own vegan version using spelt flour. You can use all-purpose flour and even gluten-free flour if you find the texture of these muffins to be too heavy for you from the spelt flour. Orange is a great combination with strawberries.  I used both zest and juice. I also used a less conventional twist by trying the basil variation. I heard that the hint of basil complements the fruity berries wonderfully so I had to try it for myself. This strawberry orange spelt low-fat muffin recipe works well with raspberries, rhubarb, or cherries as well. These wheat-free muffins are perfect for a dreary clammy winter morning. Moist vegan, sugar-free and flavorful, they taste the best on the day they are baked.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 cups of spelt flour
  2. 3 tablespoons of crushed almonds or walnuts
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  4. 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  6. Juice from 1 large orange plus 1 tablespoon of zest
  7. 1 1/2 cup of chopped fresh or frozen strawberries divided
  8. 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil (optional)
  9. 3/4 cup of milk of your choice
  10. 1/4 cup of canola oil
  11. 1/2 cup of honey
  12. 1/2 cup of agave nectar or sugar cane syrup
  13. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. Puree 1 cup of strawberries in a blender till smooth. Mix strawberry puree in a bowl with the rest of the wet ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with the almond or walnut topping, gently pressing into the batter. Bake the muffins until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 5 minutes more before serving.

Yields 1 dozen muffins

 

 

Papaya Grapefruit Carrot Juice

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papaya grapefruit drink

I have been searching papayas for quite some time. I was elated when I found some at my local supermarket. I bought a couple but didn’t think  how I would go about using them.  Drinks are always an available option. I don’t drink that many fruit juice primarily due to the fact that they are laden with sugar and artificial flavourings. This particular fruit juice, however is sugar-free and natural. Oddly enough, I noticed that my skin was clearing dramatically. I heard that certain natural sugar-free drinks are good for your skin so I wasn’t too surprised when my face was looking more radiant and clean.

 

Known as “The Fruit of Angels”, papaya  is a delicious fruit rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals that provide incredibly high nutritional benefits. This papaya grapefruit carrot juice is a cinch to make. Made of papaya, grapefruit, and shredded carrots, all you need to do is blend the ingredients together then strain the pulp.  Some people may not like the bitter aftertaste from grapefruit and if you are one of those people, you can use oranges instead. A glass of this drink  is a great way to get essential vitamins and minerals. It contains and digestive enzyme called papain, which is useful in curing injuries and allergies. In addition, it also contains vitamins A, B, C and K and beta-carotene. For an adult version, you can add a bit of vodka or champagne to this drink. Note to self for next time 😉

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 papaya peeled and cubed
  2. 1 grapefruit peel, skin, and seeded
  3. 2 large carrots peeled and grated

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Fill it with water. Blend till smooth. Strain pulp with a sieve. Transfer to a pitcher and serve chilled.

Yields 2-4 servings