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Chocolate Cinnamon Date Balls

16 Mar

My mom asked for a healthy dessert for her birthday this year, and being short on time and looking for something she could also take home for snacks, this is what ended up happening. These no-bake cookie balls are delicious and totally customizable to your own taste!

Makes: 12 balls

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted almonds
  • 16 dates
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cocoa), chopped

Grind almonds in food processor until it is a coarse flour-like texture, not too fine. Place in a bowl and set aside. Place the dates in the food processor and blend until chopped well. Add cinnamon, flaxseed, cinnamon and ground almonds and blend until well combined. Mix in chopped chocolate chips by hand. Using a tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop the “dough” and form into a firm ball in your hand. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Stats (per ball): 75 calories, 3.5gm fat, 0gm cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 10gm carbs, 2gm fiber, 2gm protein

Nutrition bonus: Almonds contain heart healthy monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, an antioxidant (also look here for more information about how to get more antioxidants in your diet). Dates contain fiber, antioxidants, potassium [helpful for lowering blood pressure] and iron for energy boosting. Dark chocolate and cinnamon also contain antioxidants and cinnamon helps to stablize blood sugars as well [important for everyone, not only diabetics]. Flaxseed is a source of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and also adds fiber to your diet and contains lignans – more antioxidants!

Meatless Monday:: Polenta Lasagna

28 Feb

In honor of Meatless Monday, I’m sharing a DE-LISH vegetarian recipe I’ve tried from Oxygen magazine – Polenta Lasagna. I love Oxygen! It always has great “clean” recipes, and good workout tips and motivational articles also. Even better, they have registered dietitians on staff!

 This was actually my first time using polenta, which is cornmeal simmered in water. Polenta is a (gluten-free) whole grain and is a good source of  protein and many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A [good for your eyes and cells], potassium [helps to lower blood pressure] and calcium [necessary for bone health and used in muscle contractions]. It was traditionally eaten at breakfast, but is very versatile and often used instead of pasta!

My own photos didn’t turn out too well – we were starving and dug in before it had much time to sit and cool so it pretty much just fell apart on the plate! As messy as it  looked, it tasted wonderful – enjoy.

[Click on to enlarge if you can’t read the directions]

Oats in Pancake Form

22 Feb

Instead of eating my oats from the usual bowl, today I ate my oats in pancake form!

They may look very similar to my oatmeal almond butter pancakes… well they are. 🙂 These were nice though because they were softer, like real pancakes, whereas the oatmeal pancakes are more like a bake.

Yields: two medium sized pancakes
1/3 cup oat bran
1 tsp cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 T unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop Genisoy vanilla soy protein powder
1 T flaxseed meal
1 T chia seeds mixed in a little water first
1/2 banana
1 t honey or agave nectar

Mix the first 7 ingredients together well. Pour into hot skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Flip pancake after it begins to bubble and cook until browned. Top with sliced banana and honey!

These were absolutely delicious, but not quite as filling as I was hoping they would be, but it does take a lot to satiate me.

Nutrition Stats ::  425 calories, 18gm fat, 7gm poly, 6gm mono, 1gm saturated, 0gm trans fat, 587mg potassium, 50gm carbs, 16gm fiber, 27gm protein

What is your go-to breakfast to keep you satisfied?

Tofu Butternut Squash Tomato Sauce Over Spaghetti Squash

16 Feb

This dish was by far my favorite spaghetti squash pasta yet – and couldn’t have been easier!

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 uncooked butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/8-1/4 block extra firm lite tofu (lite can be found at larger health food stores)
  • 1 jar reduced sodium spaghetti sauce (we like Prego Heart Smart)
  • Onion powder, to taste
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste

One. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place cut side down in a 13 x 9 microwave safe dish. Add 1/4 cup water to dish. Microwave on high for 10-13 minutes or until tender. Can also bake in the oven.

 Two. While the squash is cooking, heat up a large nonstick skillet and spray with olive oil or canola oil cooking spray. Add mushrooms, onion, butternut squash and garlic; cook over medium heat until tender. Add sauce and seasonings; bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. 

 

Three. Use a fork and run it across the spaghetti squash to remove the strands. Serve sauce over squash. (Mine is also topped with pine nuts, which I didn’t particularly like – but I think my nuts may have been rancid).

Nutrition Notes :: Spaghetti squash is a great way to make a low calorie pasta dish that tastes delicious and provides additional vitamins (good source of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, manganese) that pasta does not. Onions contain quercetin, an antioxidant and tomatoes (in the sauce) are also contain antioxidants. Soy (tofu) helps to lower cholesterol. Garlic is wonderful for the heart: it has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, decreases plaque build up in arteries and may even lower blood pressure. And yes, jarred pasta sauce can be okay – I just make sure to choose a low sodium version (and if I have the time, puree extra peppers, tomatoes and onion in the sauce for my picky eater fiance). Also, my version is gluten-free – just make sure to check your sauce.

Last, but not least, this dish was great when paired with one of my favorite drinkable treats.

Healthy Super Bowl Snacks

8 Feb

Well to start off with an update on my “wedding makeover”…. weight is stable, last week I only lifted twice (goal 3-4x/week) and did one regular run and one day of intervals on the treadmill (goal 2-4 days of cardio/week). I also have made it to yoga for the past 3 weeks! I’ve been doing better about keeping track of my food, and do pretty well during the day, but afternoon/evening snacking is definitely my downfall. That’s what I’ll focus on this week. I’ve been eating 300-350 calorie snacks between meals to see if it helps my hunger attacks later in the day. I’ll also be taking my measurements again this week; sometime the scale doesn’t budge but the inches are melting away (even though that’s not likely the case this week).

We had some friends over for the Super Bowl last night, not that I actually watched more than a few minutes of the game! But we had (if I do say so myself) a pretty fabulous spread; everyone left feeling just a bit too full!

One piece of advice I always give around the holidays, make sure to eat a good, healthy breakfast and lunch before parties. Many people “save” their calories for the party by skipping meals before – I PROMISE you that this doesn’t work out in your favor.

I started out with my usual oat bran and had a yummy salad for lunch. To make sure it would fill me up, I loaded it up with:

  • 1/8 block extra-firm lite tofu
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow and red peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar, 1/2 T. tahini paste, 1/2 T. tamari sauce, 1/2 T. minced garlic

And here are is the Super Bowl Spread:
Hummus :: (minus the roasted red peppers)

(we were hungry while cooking and broke into it before I could snap a photo!)

Sweet Potato Chips ::

Preheat oven to 400*F.

Wash and slice up some sweet potatoes. The thinner you slice them the more like chips they will be, the thicker they are the more like potato skims (yum) they are.

Lightly spray each side with olive oil cooking spray (or brush with olive oil). Line baking sheet with “chips”. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until brown (or crispy if desired).

Snapped the photo a little late I guess 🙂

Get creative with the spices on these! My other favorite combo is a little salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme!

I also made regular potato skins (Russet potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic pepper)  and homemade corn and whole wheat tortilla chips. For the tortilla chips, cut the tortillas into eighths and prepare the same as the potato chips. I just added salt and pepper and they made for perfect, crunchy vehicles for my friend’s homemade queso dip and salsa!

We also grilled some turkey burgers topped with reduced fat Sargento provolone cheese and plenty of veggies.

And my favorite part of the day…. dessert!

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls ::

Makes 22 cookies

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 18 whole, pitted dates
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 T dark chocolate chips

In a food processor, blend cashews and almonds until nuts are pulverized. Remove nuts and blend dates, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Place nuts back into processor and blend together. It will looks like loose crumbs when it’s ready. Fold in chocolate chips. Using a heaping tablespoon to begin to form balls and shape in your hands. Refrigerate to help keep form. I’ve seen a lot of recipes for these no-bake balls lately, feel free to experiment with ingredients! I wanted to keep it simple this time, but I sure will be experimenting also!



Nutrition Stats (per ball) :: 100 calories, 10gm carbs, 7gm fat (almost all poly and monounsaturated), 3gm protein

Gluten-free Brownies ::

Makes 15 squares

  • 3 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 7 T. Smart Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 2 T. + 1 1/2 t. oat flour (add 2T additional for high altitude)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

 

Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray 8×11 baking pan with cooking spray. Melt choc chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat (or double boiler, if you have one). Once melted, add all the other ingredients and mix well. Pour into pan and cook for about 30 minutes, until springy in the center. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then cut into 15 squares.

Nutrition Stats :: 122 calories, 11gm fat, 3gm saturated, 3gm poly, 3gm mono, 50mg sodium, 28mg cholesterol, 49mg potassium, 6gm carbs, 2gm fiber, 3gm sugar, 3gm protein

Thought

“All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney

Question // What are your favorite, healthy treats for entertaining?

Super filling breakfast

1 Feb

The BEST way to start the day…

Kinda blurry, but it’s my all-time favorite AM oats:

  • 1/3 cup oat bran made with 1 cup water
  • 1T flaxseed meal
  • 2 egg whites (add in oats after 1 min of cooking with 2 min left)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1Tbsp almond butter
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries (no sugar added)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree

And my chai tea steeped in almond milk. Yep, the coffee maker has been sitting clean & pristine on the counter for one WHOLE WEEK.

I did REALLY miss coffee yesterday, I was especially tired after working 7 days in a row (yay for one day off today!). But I am also really enjoying the Vanilla Chai and steeping it in almond milk satisfies my creamy AM beverage craving. This breakfast, all for less than my allotted 400 calories, actually fills me up and tastes like dessert (I actually crave this meal more than sweets, which is saying A LOT). And a quick oats lesson – I chose oat bran vs Scottish oats (which have similar structure) because, gram for gram, it has the same amount of calories, a little more fat, more protein, more fiber and less carbs.

Breakfast Stats :: 390 calories, 15gm fat, 4gm poly, 6 gm mono, 1 gm satured, 269mg sodium, 528mg potassium, 45gm carbs, 14gm fiber, 13gm sugar, 20gm protein

Bonus :: 300% daily value vitamin A (thank you pumpkin!), 23% dv calcium, 24% dv iron
Time to make more almond butter!

Question :: What’s your favorite oats combo? Anyone as addicted as I am??

The Low-Down on Fats ://: “GORP”

25 Jan

Good fats, bad fats, skinny fats, fat fats . . . There is a lot of talk about fats these days. Let’s break it down. For most people, about 30% of your total calories for the day should be from fat, this is considered a low-fat diet. Of that, 20% should come from the heart healthy fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated Fats – – Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol

  • Sources :: Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts & seeds, peanut butter, sesame oil
  • Benefits ::
    • Reduces cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats
    • Sources of monounsaturated fats also usually good source of vitamin E (antioxidant)

Polyunsaturated Fats

Lowers LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids
    • Sources: Vegetable oils (safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed)
    • Abundant in American diet – used in processed foods, salad dressings
    • Pro-inflammatory
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    • Best sources: Salmon, trout, tuna, sardines
    • Plant sources: Flaxseed, wheat germ, canola oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
    • Anti-inflammatory
    • Benefits ::
      • Have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease
      • Lowers triglycerides at certain doses
      • May improve depression
      • May ease joint pain
      • Improves cognitive functioning

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3’s in the diet is 2 to 1 while the typical American diet is about a 15 to 1 ratio. Key message: decrease omega-6’s (found in many processed foods) and increase omega-3’s. In order to get the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids, you would need to eat 2-3 servings of the fish sources listed above.  If you’re taking a supplement, most people DO NOT need to supplement omega-6’s (or 9), just omega-3. The dose depends on what your goal is with supplementation, but quality is key with fish oil supplements – read the labels. If the label doesn’t show that EPA and DHA (two of the most beneficial types of omega-3’s) comprise most of the “fish oil” in the capsules, look for a different supplement.Hint: You’ll be paying a bit extra for EPA and DHA, but it’s worth it!If you need suggestions navigating supplementing fish oil, let me know!

Now for the bad:

Saturated Fats

Sources :: Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils [Look for a post coming up about one of the newest fads – coconut oil]

  • Increases risk of heart disease by increasing total and LDL cholesterol
  • Aim for no more than 15-22 grams per day (7-10% of total daily calories)

Trans-Fats

Chemical process which changes a fat from a liquid (unsaturated fat) to a solid (saturated fat) that increases the shelf-life of products.

Sources :: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine

  • Increases total and LDL cholesterol
  • Aim to consume no trans-fat!

GORP aka Trail Mix

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup unsalted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon dark chocolate chips

Nutrition Stats (Per serving): 209 calories; 15g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono, 5gm poly); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 4 mg sodium; 190 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins E and C, antioxidants

Homemade trail mix is an easy snack and it’s much better for you than store-bought. Store-bought trail mixes are always high in sodium and usually have M&M’s as opposed to dark chocolate. But because of the nuts in this recipe, it is a higher calorie snack, so watch your portions!