Thursday, 30 March 2017

Decadent Walnut Chocolate Spiced Cookies




Sweet potatoes provide the perfect base for these grain-free cookies.

I have a couple issues when it comes to Passover baking;
1. The amount of sugar in every recipe
2. The amount of potato starch in every recipe
I try cutting down the amount of sugar the recipes call for, but always, after eating too many of these cookies (and I always eat too many, cuz they're just not filling), I feel nauseous and sick to my stomach. Plus potato starch is so expensive that I feel bad using too much of it in recipes!

So I set out to make a cookie recipe that doesn't use potato starch and significantly lessens the sugar, using... sweet potatoes as the base


They give the cookies a fudgy, brownie-like texture that works so well with crushed nuts (bought those whole and crushed 'em myself for really cheap! [side point, did you know you can open nuts using pliers if you don't have a nut cracker?!])


Let's talk spices now: Spices are pretty magical with the multitude of health benefits they provide. Cayenne, with it's active ingredient capsaicin, can boost metabolism, help reduce hunger, may lower blood pressure and aid in digestion, relieve pain, improve psoriasis and reduce cancer risk! (Read more about all that here). Cinnamon also has multiple roles in the body, preventing blood clotting during normal blood flow, acting as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the risk of heart disease, helping with insulin release and sensitivity. Cinnamon is also an antioxidant that may be protective against cancer and neurodegenerative disease (check this out for more details). Plus they add so much flavour to foods. Chocolate and cinnamon is a long time combination for wonderful reasons, and chili powder is another combo with chocolate that just works so well. 

I happened to refrigerate these, as I left the house right after combining the ingredients, but honestly I've never done that when following recipes, so I won't judge you if you decide to skip that step.

What's your favorite spice combination? Comment below :)



Walnut Chocolate Spiced Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 small)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Microwave sweet potato for about 4 minutes (depending on size), until soft
  2. Peel potatoes and mash
  3. Preheat oven to 300℉
  4. Combine all ingredients
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour
  6. Wet hands and form medium sized cookies
  7. Bake for , remove from oven to cool.
Yield: 15 medium cookies.





Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Cranberry Muffins



Muffins. I like them as a breakfast with Greek yogurt or peanut butter, an afternoon snack, or even dessert.

But even though they come off as seeming really healthy, muffins are often loaded with fat and sugar, and just aren't as wholesome as you might expect.
Because I love muffins so much, I wanted to create some that I could feel good about eating and serving my family. With this recipe I've swapped in whole wheat flour and cut down on both sugar and fat, while still keeping these-ems moist and fluffy.



The whole cranberries add an awesome tartness and (literal) pop of flavour when they explode in your mouth; do NOT omit them!

Cranberries are high in vitamin C and fibre, plus many antioxidants that may prevent recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), stomach ulcers and improves dental health by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, stomach lining or teeth respectively. Cranberries reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with anti-inflammatory mechanisms, inhibiting platelet buildup, preventing LDL oxidation and reducing blood pressure.


...But okay, fine. If you don't have cranberries you can also use blueberries or other favorite fruits.

What is your favorite way to eat muffins?

Wholesome Cranberry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup sugar-free soy milk
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. oil
2 eggs
2 cups whole unsweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 400℉. Combine all dry ingredients. Make a well and add in combined wet ingredients. Mix batter, being careful not to overmix. Fold in cranberries. Pour evenly into muffin tins. Yield should be 12-15 medium sized muffins. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Healthy Potato Salad



You may have looked at the title of this recipe and thought, "how can POTATOES be healthy?!" For some reason these poor spuds have gotten a really negative reputation. I was at a party a while ago that served roasted potato wedges and all the people near me were bemoaning how much they love potatoes, but how much weight they've gained from eating them! Now there's definitely a case to be said for HOW you prepare those potatoes (deep fried French fries or chips are not healthy), and how MUCH you eat of said potatoes (a quarter of your plate, along with veggies and a protein is perfect), but they do not need to be seen as a guilty indulgence.

According to the world's healthiest foods, 1 cup of potatoes is low in calories and high fibre, plus high in vitamin B6 (important for carbohydrate metabolism, red blood cell formation, and producing neurotransmitters including serotonin and melatonin), potassium (more than double what's in a banana!), vitamin C, copper, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid, plus antioxidants.

So basically, the humble potato is not evil incarnate, and should definitely be a part of (notice I said a part of and not all of) your diet. And this recipe is a great way to re-introduce them in a fat free way :)

Potato salad is one of those staple foods that come to every picnic, cook-out and family occasion. My family used to have it every week at our Shabbos lunch. But when there is more mayo than potatoes or veggies, it kinda loses its "salad" status to me. Plus there's the whole food safety issue of mayonnaise sitting out in the heat that sent me looking for a mayonnaise-free potato salad. You could technically swap oil for the mayo, but this recipe I developed is free of that too.

The vegetables not only add colour for visual appeal, they also add a crunch that really complements the slightly mushy texture of the potatoes. And with the mustard adding creaminess; you hardly miss the mayo!






I've added in veggies for crunch and colour. What are you favorite add-ins to potato salad?

Mayo-free Potato Salad:

Ingredients:

10 small potatoes scrubbed clean
1/2 - 1 stick celery
3 baby dill pickles
1 medium carrot cut in half circles
1/2 cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes for 5-10 minutes depending on size. When cool, cut into quarters. Combine and toss with sliced celery, pickles and carrots. Mix ingredients for dressing and pour over veggies. There will be excess dressing, but it will be absorbed by the potatoes, so allow it to sit for a while before serving. (It's even better overnight!)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Adult picky eaters: how to increase variety in your diet



Picture the scene: A family celebration when the food comes out: Aunty A won’t eat soup; Cousin B won’t touch fish, or anything that came near it. Sister C won’t eat any vegetables besides carrots and celery, but is okay picking out the other veggies, while Nephew D will eat anything as long as there are mushrooms with it. And this is before any diets, allergies or restrictions come into play!

Picky eating is a childhood rite of passage that they eventually grow out of. But what of those who don’t?? Welcome to the adult world of picky eating.

Being a picky eater is not necessarily a problem. There’s no law that says you need to like every food that exists. If picky eating causes you anxiety or prevents you from socializing, it may be more of a concern (see this article about avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder [ARFID]). Otherwise it can be a health concern if you’re not meeting your nutritional needs; a difficulty finding what to eat; or an inconvenience living with a limited diet. Or it can be no problem for you! (But for those around you…)

Ellyn Satter states that while some aspects of picky eating are socially acceptable, such as choosing which foods you want (even if only one or two items), leaving unwanted food on your plate, and taking more of one food even if there’s uneaten food on your plate, it is not socially acceptable to draw attention to your food refusal or request food that is not being served.

So what do you do if you WANT to start eating a more varied diet?

I’ve had plenty of adult clients telling me they don’t like vegetables, but know they should be eating them. A friend told me her doctor advised her to eat more fruit, but she “doesn’t like apples”. Usually when I hear such statements I investigate. No vegetables? Are there any you like? Don’t like apples, what about berries? Or melons? There’s such a huge variety of foods that after a bit of probing they can come up with 5-6 vegetables they do like, and plenty of fruit they love eating! And just recognizing that is such an important move away from labeling yourself as a “non-veggie eater” that can move you towards a more varied diet.  True, a diet with many fruits and vegetables will likely be more colourful and nutrient dense than one with only 2 or 3 choices, but progress over perfection- allow yourself a judgement free, unpressured environment to congratulate yourself on your veggie success, and when ready, slowly introduce new foods and/or methods of preparation.

I recently tried a new salad dressing recipe. I knew it would be risky as my family enjoys their salad relatively plain, but I like to push their boundaries and experiment a bit (must be the dietitian in me!). Mom walked in the house and immediately smelled it, and exclaimed that I had ruined the salad, and wasted the blueberries I’d used as salad toppers. When I brought it to the table and served myself, she looked at it askance, and didn’t touch it. As the meal progressed without any comment or pressure for anyone to eat the salad, Mom put a small bit on her plate and tried it. Took a bit more a little later… By the end of the meal she told me “that salad was actually very good”!

As Ellyn Satter advises, provide yourself repeated, unpressured opportunities to introduce new foods. Don’t force yourself to try a new food, allow yourself the freedom to try it and the freedom to not finish it. By regularly exposing yourself to a new food, you just may trick yourself into liking it!

Sometimes, not liking a food is simply a matter of HOW the food is prepared. Nazima Qureshi RD MPH of Nutrition by Nazima admits in an Instagram post that she never liked green beans (though she would eat them if served, she wouldn’t make them herself). After some thought, she realized that the method of preparation she had been raised with left the green beans mushy and an almost grey colour- not appetizing! Determined to start a relationship with green beans, she bought fresh beans and sautéed them with only a few ingredients, and promptly loved them! Changing the method of preparation can significantly alter the appearance and taste of a food, making it a lot more palatable and enjoyable. 

If you are a picky eater, and want to try introducing more vegetables (or other foods) into your daily repertoire, here’s the step by step:

1.       Take inventory of the vegetables you DO like eating and eat them more often!

2.       Chose a new veggie, and prepare it along with a favourite food

3.       Don’t force yourself to eat the new food, and don’t feel bad if you weren’t able to enjoy it

4.       Keep introducing and re-introducing new veggies – it will likely take many times of tasting until you’re used to a flavour, but don’t give up! Having a larger food base to choose from gives you more flexibility around meal time and can also lead to a healthier you!

Do you have a food you think you should be eating more of? How do you introduce yourself to new foods? Comment below :)