Nutty Cocoa Bites

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These 4 ingredient treats make a great on-the-go snack for quick energy.

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Nutty Cocoa Bites  (yields 8)

Ingredients:

  • 12 unpitted medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • dash of sea salt (optional)

Directions: 

1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and pulse until a uniform mixture is formed.

2. Form 1 inch balls and place on wax paper. Let set for 1 hour. Store in refrigerator.


Nutrition:  Calories: 91  Fat: 5 grams  Protein: 2 grams   Fiber: 2 grams  Carbohydrates: 12 grams


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Nutrient Highlight:

The cashews make these bites an excellent source of copper, contributing to 30% of your daily target. Copper, which a trace mineral, is not a well known or talked about nutrient. However, this mineral has numerous important functions in the body including working with iron to help the body form red blood cells and helping to keep our blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy. Copper is also used in the body to produce enzymes needed to facilitate the production of energy and produce important neurotransmitters.  Copper and zinc work together in the body in an intricate balance. Too much zinc can cause low copper and too little zinc can cause excess copper.  Not to worry though, if you’re eating a variety of whole real foods, you should be getting enough of both of these minerals. In addition to nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, oysters and mushrooms are other excellent sources of copper. The best sources of zinc include seafood, beef, poultry, spinach, mushrooms, nuts and seeds.

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Grain Free Banana Pecan Bread

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This past weekend I was looking for something to make and glanced over at the ripening bananas. BINGO. Banana Bread! I have always loved banana bread growing up, even the instant kind that came in a box which didn’t even require the use of bananas. (A big red flag for fake food!). Of course I know better now than to eat those “instant quick breads”  which are made up of refined flour and sugars, artificial flavors, emulsifiers and preservatives. However, I still wanted to create a bread that used minimal ingredients and was easy to make!  After quickly glancing through various recipes for some inspiration, I was able to create this easy gluten-free, grain-free, real food delicious banana bread! I used coconut flour which is naturally gluten-free and a great alternative to wheat and other refined grain flours.

Enjoy!

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Paleo Banana Pecan Bread 

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe medium bananas (sliced in pieces) 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond butter 
  • 4 tablespoons grass-fed butter, melted (may substitute coconut oil) 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans 
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • pinch of sea salt
Directions 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine bananas, eggs, almond butter, and grass-fed butter in a blender or food processor. 
  3. Pour blended ingredients into a large mixing bowl. 
  4. Add in coconut flour, pecans, cinnamon, baking powder, vanilla and sea salt. Mix well. 
  5. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. (I used small amount of butter to grease). 
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (inserted into the center).
  7. Remove from oven and let cool. Flip bread onto serving tray. 
  8. Slice bread and enjoy!

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Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Sweet potatoes offer a BUNDLE of nutrition. For starters, they consist of important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. They are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. In addition, sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and Vitamin B6. Instead of limiting this nutritious root vegetable to your Thanksgiving tradition, include the naturally sweet vegetable year round. Pair these oven baked fries with fresh salad greens and grilled fish for a delicious balanced dinner!


Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (I don’t typically measure, just drizzle!)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (dash)
  • 1/8 tsp paprika (dash)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Wash,dry and peel potatoes.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut potatoes lengthwise in half, then again in half.
  4. Now cut halves into smaller strips.
  5. Toss potato strips in olive oil or use a brush to apply olive oil evenly.
  6. In a small bowl, combine spices.
  7. Add spices to potato slices, coating evening.
  8. Line potatoes up in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove and turn fries once.
  10. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until fries reach desired level of crispiness.

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Shopping tip: Some grocery stores sell pre-cut sweet potatoes! Martindale’s Natural Market, a grocery store that promotes natural and organic foods, sells a small case of organic pre-cut sweet potatoes ready to just season and toss in the oven!


Homemade Granola Bars

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Ever bother looking at the ingredient list on the back of a box of store bought granola bars? How many of the ingredients are actually real food..? Most likely not very many. I’m willing to bet refined sugar is one of the FIRST ingredients followed by a lengthy list of additives like soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, BHTcaramel coloring and other artificial colors.That’s why when you can, it’s best not to always depend too heavily on processed snack foods no matter how “healthy” they market themselves as. Food companies use deceptive advertising to help sell their product. After all, the food industry is a billion dollar business. But trust me when I say they definitely do not have our health and best interest in mind!

Let’s take fiber and protein for example. Everyone knows that dietary fiber and protein are important components of our diets. Fiber and protein rich foods can aid in weight loss by increasing satiety and helping to control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. However, the fiber and protein found in most protein bars and granola bars likely originate in a lab and not from nature. These bars also come with a dose of refined sugar which can create opposite effects.

I encourage getting naturally occurring fiber from plant based foods like whole fruitsvegetables, oats, nuts and seeds as opposed to the synthetic or “functional” fiber added to most processed foods. Our bodies know what to do with real food. Artificial ingredients are foreign to our bodies and many of these ingredients are banned for use in other countries, deemed too harmful! (Yikes). I will get off my soap box now but just remember that people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries. Processed foods were only recently invented and I’m compelled as a dietitian to recommend food that supports optimal health 😉

If you have a little extra time, these homemade no bake granola bars can replace those store bought bars. They contain only whole food ingredients, packed full of plant based protein and fiber. Each bar contains approximately 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. They’re fairly simple to make and create a tasty addition to your lunchbox for a quick snack during the day!


Homemade Granola Bars (8 bars)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup raw almonds

1/3 cup of gluten free oats

1/2 cup of organic raisins (no sugar added)

1/2 cup almond butter

2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed

1/2 cup of organic honey

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan or sea salt

Directions:

1. Chop nuts into small pieces.

2. Combine all dry ingredients together in bowl.

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3. In a separate bowl, combine honey and almond butter. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds, stirring half way through.

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4. Combine honey mixture with dry ingredients and combine until all ingredients are wet.

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5. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and form mixture into a rectangle on the baking sheet. Use hands to press mixture flat. Should be approximately  1/4 inch in thickness.

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6. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to harden.

7. Using a knife or pizza slicer, cut into 8 even bars.

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8. Enjoy!

Note: You can also try lightly toasting the nuts and oats first on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 6-10 minutes. Bars are best if kept in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Gluten Free Birthday Treat

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Yesterday was my birthday and growing up as tradition goes, I always had cake and ice cream or yummy cupcakes for celebrating with family and friends. Now as a dietitian, most conventional sweets are a thing of the past for me. While I believe they can be enjoyed in moderation for many people, I personally am not a fan of the refined sugars, trans fats and artificial food dyes that come with most bakery goods and store bought cake mixes.

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For special occasions however, I still like to enjoy a treat just like everyone else. I’m only human 🙂 So for my birthday this year, I sought out a gluten-free cupcake to keep the tradition alive. The first bakery I tried only sold gluten-free cupcakes on Sundays..bummer. A second bakery attempt…closed. Luckily for me, I soon discovered a local bakery called Sweet Freedom Bakery that is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and allergy-friendly! Not only is this bakery 100% gluten free, but they also use only natural sweeteners and unrefined sugars completely avoiding the toxic chemical sweeteners and other highly processed sugars and preservatives. This was FABULOUS. I made a stop on my way home from work to finally get my birthday cupcake! Of course it was delicious. I highly recommend this bakery to anyone in the Philadelphia area seeking a healthier or food allergy/intolerance friendly treat!

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