Recipe: (un)Candied Walnuts + Impress Guests with this Quick Holiday App

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Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like visits from family and friends, all kinds of comfort food, and the smell of something cinnamon wafting from the oven.

This recipe just happens to combine all of that; plus, I was curious to see if I could mimic my favorite candied nuts without the use of added sugar.

While these walnuts don’t have quite the same candy-like taste, they do have all of the flavor, making them perfect for snacking by the handful or adding to dishes where you don’t want to get smacked in the face with sweetness.

And the ingredients are easy enough to have on hand; so whenever you’ve got guests at your door, you’ll know bellies will be happy and folks will be filled with holiday cheer.

Havarti-Date Bread Bites with (un)Candied Walnuts

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c walnuts
  • 1/2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 package pre-sliced Havarti cheese
  • Extra 1/4 c date paste for spreading on bread

Directions for the (un)Candied Walnuts: 

  1. To make candied walnuts, preheat oven to 350ºF and mix nuts, 1/2 c of the date paste, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and hot water in a bowl until nuts are evenly coated.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts on it in a single layer. Bake about 10-15 minutes, watching very carefully, and remove as soon as the nuts look dry – they will burn if left in too long!

Directions for the Havarti-Date Bread Bites: 

  1. While nuts are cooling, cut baguette on an angle into inch-thick slices and arrange on another baking sheet.
  2. Spread a thin layer of date paste on bread slices and cover with a piece of Havarti cheese.
  3. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove, top with a candied walnut and serve immediately.
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Recipe: “Angeled” Eggs

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What’s not to love about eggs?!

They’re cheap, easy to make and super versatile — not to mention full of protein, fats and 12+ vitamins and minerals — which is why they’re a staple in our house, particularly these past few months during ’round-the-clock eating and bun-in-the-oven baking.

Ben’s favorite way to consume them is something he calls the “poor man’s deviled egg,” a recipe he created in college. Ready for it? You grab a hard-boiled egg, and squirt yellow mustard on it in between bites, usually while standing over the kitchen sink.

While I can’t knock his, uh, creativity…stomach space is at a premium these days, so I need something that packs a bit more of a punch in the nutrient density department.

Enter “Angeled” Eggs. By replacing the usual mayo with a healthy zing of hummus, you’ll not only save a few calories but also add extra protein, iron and fiber into one incredible little snack.

“Angeled” Eggs

(adapted from PopSugar’s recipe here)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 16-ounce container hummus
  • Smoked paprika

Directions: 

  1. Remove shells from hard-boiled eggs while rinsing under cool water to help separate.
  2. Cut eggs in half lengthwise, carefully scoop out yolks and place them in a bowl.
  3. Mash yolks with a fork. Add hummus, and mix together until creamy.
  4. Spoon the egg mixture into the egg-white halves. Top with a pinch of smoked paprika, and serve immediately.
Got any quick, easy & healthy egg recipes to share? I’m always on the lookout!

Make a heart-healthy dinner for two this Valentine’s Day

Source: Micko Photo

Source: Micko Photo

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so this Valentine’s Day, tempt him with a meal that will not only win over his ticker, but also keep it in tip-top shape for the long haul.

Pair this simple three-course themed menu with a selection of resveratrol-rich red wine, which is a natural antioxidant known to protect against heart disease, and you’ve got a red-hot dinner for two that’s cause for celebration!

Appetizer: Easy Caprese Salad

Heart-healthy hint: The olive oil in this appetizer helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, while the tomatoes are packed with lycopene, another heart-friendly antioxidant.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 package fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 10 to 20 leaves fresh basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. On a large plate, layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each.
  2. Drizzle with equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Entrée: Simple Grilled Salmon

Heart-healthy hint: Salmon provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart by reducing both inflammation and the risk of blood clots.

Source: Simple Recipes

Source: Simple Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Season salmon fillets with garlic powder and salt. Grate fresh ginger.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, ginger and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  4. Preheat grill for medium heat, and lightly oil grill grate and place salmon on the preheated grill, discarding the marinade.
  5. Cook salmon for about six to eight minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

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Side: Berry Delicious Spinach Salad

Heart-healthy hint: Leafy greens offer a one-two punch of vitamin E, iron and folate, which helps keep homocycteine levels down, while the berries provide lots of good antioxidants.

Source: Betty Crocker

Source: Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

  • 2 packed cups torn fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1oz gorgonzola cheese

Salad Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries, onion and almonds.
  2. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well; pour over salad and toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately.

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Dessert: Heart-Shaped Chocolate Valentine Cake

(Adapted from Jean Carper, USA Weekend magazine)

Heart-healthy hint: As the grand finale, this cake features a hidden ingredient: Chickpeas. Odd, yes, but delicious nonetheless, and using legumes instead of flour adds fiber and protein and reduces unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.

Source: CS Monitor

Source: CS Monitor

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups (or 19oz can) cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 4 eggs or 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, melt chocolate in microwave (two minutes on medium power).
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine beans and eggs. Add sugar, baking powder and chocolate; process until smooth.
  3. Pour batter into non-stick nine-inch heart-shaped cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Microwave jam in a small bowl until melted (about 45 seconds), and then stir in juice and berries to make the sauce.
  5. When cake is cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut cake into 10 wedges and drizzle with sauce before serving.

Lighter Super Bowl fare that’ll still satisfy big appetites

Source: Blisstree.com

Source: Blisstree.com

Sure the game’s great, but the other main attraction for many of us this Super Bowl Sunday will be the food (with the commercials coming in a close second, of course).

So bring on the wings, chips, dips and desserts – but hold the traditional recipes, which are riddled with calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Instead, try these modified versions, and score some points with party goers when you serve up a tasty spread that’s as healthy as it is hearty.

Baked Chicken Tenders

Cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts in to one inch strips. Soak strips in buttermilk, and then dredge them in a mixture that’s two parts Parmesan cheese to one part bread crumbs, pressing firmly to adhere. Lay the strips on a lightly-greased baking sheet, and bake at 475 degrees for 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Dip in assorted condiments, such as Frank’s Hot Sauce, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, ketchup or non-fat ranch dressing.

Quick-n-Easy Chili

Finely chop one yellow onion and cook in a frying pan with one tablespoon olive oil until translucent. Add one pound ground beef or turkey and cook until browned. Drain fat, and then add to a crock pot with one can each of kidney beans, black beans, corn, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix in one teaspoon each of chili powder and ground cumin, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of cinnamon (yes, cinnamon – trust me!) to taste. Cook until bubbly, and then serve topped with low-fat shredded cheese.

Sinless Spinach Dip

Finely dice two green onions plus a can of water chestnuts, and mix with one package frozen, chopped spinach that has been thawed. Add one package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix, plus two cups of fat-free yogurt and one cup of ricotta cheese. Garnish with wheat pitas or toasted wheat bread.

Mindful Munchies

Air-popped popcorn makes a great snack that can be eaten by the handful with relatively little damage to the diet. Flavor with bold spices (equal parts chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt with do the trick) for a treat with some heat, or give it that sweet-and-salty kettle corn kick by misting popcorn with cooking spray and sprinkling sparingly with equal parts salt and sugar.

Dessert Do’s

Last but not least, even if you’ve mastered the main menu, everyone will be looking for something sweet as the grand finale while watching the game. Fresh fruit is always a healthy option, with a light drizzle of Hershey’s syrup for the sweet tooths of the bunch. Or try a healthier version of the traditional cakes, chocolate chip cookies and brownies by using more nutritious wheat flour, swapping in yogurt or applesauce for oil, opting for antioxidant-rich dark chocolate over milk chocolate, or even adding nuts and dried fruits to pack a more nutrient-dense punch.

What are your favorite Super Bowl Sunday treats and traditions? 

Lighter football fare: Betty’s Baked Buffalo Wings

Photo credit: Saveur.com

Photo credit: Saveur.com

Even the most committed diet and exercise devotees need to let loose once in a while.

I’m a firm believer in playing couch potato during football games; it’s perfect opportunity to make the most of your rest and recovery day.

But there is a difference between watching the linemen…and eating like onewhich is why these wings are a perfect addition to your next game-day gathering.

Not only does the recipe come from my mom, a born-and-bred Buffalonian, but it’s a healthier take on the authentic recipe (i.e. crispy, delicious and not at all fried).

Betty’s Baked Buffalo Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chicken wings
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • Celery, cleaned and cut into sticks
  • Your favorite low-fat blue cheese dressing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove chicken wings from package; cut off wing tips and separate drumette and double-bone pieces at the joint.
  3. Bake wings on a foil-lined cookie sheet until skin is crispy on the outside and meat is no longer pink in the center, about 45 minutes (turn the wings over halfway so they cook evenly).
  4. Mix butter, vinegar and Frank’s Hot Sauce in a large bowl, adding wings and tossing gently until completely coated.
  5. Place wings on a second foil-lined cookie sheet, and bake again at 275 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until nice and crisp.
  6. Serve with celery sticks and low-fat blue cheese dressing dip while cheering on your team!

Memorial Day munchies? Get your guac on!

Photo credit: hannah honey & jam, flickr

Photo credit: hannah honey & jam, flickr

This week kicks off the unofficial start to those lazy, hazy days of summer.

So what better way to ring in the season than with a hearty helping of this cool, creamy guacamole recipe at your Memorial Day get-together?

Not only is this an elegant appetizer that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes, but it’s also super healthy!

Just half an avocado contains seven grams of fiber, plus a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats (MUFA) that help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and maintain the HDL (good) ones.

Scoop it up with veggies, use instead of mayo on sandwiches or (my personal preference) pair with baked chips and frosty margaritas for a heart-healthy happy hour.

guacamole

Cool & Creamy Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • Haas avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 tbsp of your favorite salsa
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, mix avocados and lime juice. Add salt, and mash with a large fork
  2. Gently fold in onion, jalapeno, tomatoes, salsa, cilantro and garlic until well blended
  3. Let sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop before serving