Flourless Brownies with Cocoa Icing

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Forget running out for bread and milk.  If you are going to be snowed in for a day or two, make sure you have the essentials like cocoa powder and coconut oil around.  Stay home, keep yourself warm and cozy and make these thick, fudgy, chocolatey-rich brownie squares.  Be sure to make the thin maple-sweetened chocolatey top layer– I found this to be the secret between a so-so brownie and a delectable brownie.  And life is far too short for so-so brownies.

These delicious brownies are free of many things I know you are trying to avoid:  No refined sugars, no refined grains (actually, no grains at all), no highly processed vegetable oils and almost equally as important…. no fuss.  These are super easy to make.

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Make Yourself Earn That TV Show

Are you stuck in a middle-of-winter slump?  Enough is enough.  Forget about all your excuses for not exercising.  It is time to get your booty in gear… read on!

I have noticed a common theme among my nutrition clients the past few weeks.  The holiday season is over.  What I’m hearing is that  you are feeling bad that you got off-track by eating too much, didn’t have time for your daily walks and possibly put on a few pounds.  You are trying to get back to establishing healthy habits– but it is hard.  The cookies and parties are gone which makes things a little easier, however what really tends to be a struggle in winter is physical activity.

January is a tough month for many people, myself included.  I’ll tie February in there too.  The weather being the key reason…  It’s dark.  It’s cold.  Some days it has been brutally frigid.  Nobody wants to go outside when it’s like this and the couch and TV are so much more inviting.  With TV usually comes snacking.  Now what you’ve got is the dreadful combination of taking in extra unnecessary calories paired with expending very little energy.  We all know what this means– usually weight gain and feeling generally crappy about yourself.  It’s the winter blahs and the best way to beat it is to boost your activity!

Now I am generally not a big fan of television.  But I will confess that I have found myself watching it far more often lately with these dark, cold evenings.   Just the right amount of the right shows and it can be good for relaxing and unwinding.   And  when you learn something or laugh, even better.  Watch too much and the wrong things, which by the way, is what is mostly on, and you wind up feeling like a fat slug.  But you know what makes some good TV okay and what will make you feel like less of a slug?  Answer= Accomplishing some sort of physical activity before you sink down on that couch.

What I am proposing is something that works for me– Make yourself EARN that TV time tonight.   You’ve got lots of options.  Here we go:    Bundle up and briskly walk around your neighborhood for a half hour after dinner.  Drive out to the gym to swim, use weights, whatever it is you like to do if you’re a gym-lover.  Go to a rock climbing gym.  Take a yoga class or do a yoga video at home.  Play indoor tennis or racquetball.  Go roller skating. (FYI– I did this for the first time in a very long time the other night and it was insanely fun.)  Use your body to do something physical for at least 30 minutes.  Or 20.  Or 15.  Or even 10.  The point is to take action.  You can work on building up the time later.  The toughest part is  getting started; adding minutes is a piece of cake.  Just do something.  Your reward is relaxing in front of your cozy TV for your favorite show or a movie.  You earned it!  You’re guilt-free and won’t feel like a slug.  :)

Not only will you feel great for accomplishing something healthy, you are less likely to ruin that feeling by delving into ice cream or ripping open a bag of potato chips.  Tip:  Don’t keep that stuff in the house!  Instead,  fix yourself a mug of hot herbal tea or if it’s been a few hours since dinner and you truly are hungry, choose something to eat that will actually contribute to good health and not take it away.  Hint:  Fresh fruit or a handful of raw nuts is always good.  Sometimes I have a hard-boiled egg with dijon mustard.  An apple with almond butter is another favorite.  Be mindful of your TV snacking.  Remember, you are going to sleep soon and you only need something small to take the edge off any uncomfortable feelings of hunger so you can fall asleep.

The reality is, this weather isn’t exactly beckoning most of us to go out– so you’ve got to make it a priority.  You have to make it a conscious decision.  Even I struggle with this.  What helps is reminding myself that once I am out there moving, I know I will quickly warm up and I will feel GOOD.  And I always feel even better when I am done.  You know you get that feeling too– you just need to remind yourself of it and get out there and do it.

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“If you went running when you first started thinking about it, you’d be back by now.” -Nike

 

 

Ahh, so true, so true.  Starting today, get out and earn your television watching tonight.

 

 

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Maple Hill Creamery 100% Grass-Fed Yogurt

Are you looking for a healthy, delicious yogurt?  Have you been eating yogurt with the fat removed and sugar or artificial sweeteners added?  Ackk!  These are the types of yogurt I ate for years in the pre-vegan days 0f my early and mid twenties.  I wasn’t choosing yogurt based on taste or health benefits– noooo, I went for the lowest calorie and for what I thought was the best way to eat (fat-free!).

After not eating ANY dairy products for over 14 years (…and no my bones have not disintegrated thank you :) ) I have recently begun to incorporate small amounts of butter, cheese and yogurt into my diet.  Like everything else I eat, I truly believe that quality counts and so I look for whole-food dairy from grass-fed cows.  This means none of that overly processed fat-free, low-fat, sugar-filled, or artificially sweetened yogurt.  Yes, the source of your dairy really does matter.  Go for the REAL stuff!

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Weight Loss: It’s Not About a “Diet”

Weight loss.  It’s the number one response I hear when I ask “What are you hoping to get out of our visits together?”   It’s a fine goal, however if you associate losing weight with going on a diet, it’s not going to happen.  You’re not alone if you are frustrated with a weight issue and not a clue as to what to do about it.  And if you’re looking for another “diet” you’ve come to the wrong place.  If you’re ready to do it right, then read on!

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5 Quick Meal Ideas: Think Vegetables + Protein

The reason I am writing this post is because I repeatedly hear from patients that they don’t know what to eat for dinner.   I’d suggest starting out by incorporating one or two ideas that sound good to you.  Over time build on those.  It’s not complicated!  You’ll eventually see that it doesn’t take nearly as much time and effort as you thought to eat healthy.

I’ve blogged about meal ideas in the past as a non-meat eater.  Previous pics of my food often included beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa and plenty of veggies.  This past year I made some pretty huge changes to my diet.  While I have kept the fruit and veggie intake up there I have replaced a lot of the legumes and grains with animal products.  This works for me but if you feel better with less meat and more grains/legumes then do it. There is no right or wrong diet:  It’s all about paying attention and eating in accordance to YOUR needs.

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Mint-Chocolate Truffles

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This recipe for chocolate truffles may be recycled from 3 years ago (with a peppermint twist this time), but you’ll thank me for reminding you that it is that time of year to make them again.  The combination of chocolate and mint is a sweet match for chilly winter days.  Not that it feels like winter with temps in the 40s and 50s and rain instead of snow.  I am NOT complaining, but a little sun would be nice.

These Mint-Chocolate Truffles are a perfect finger food for serving at your holiday get together or to keep in the fridge for a bite-sized snack.  Don’t care for mint?  Just use vanilla extract as in the original recipe.  Don’t care for chocolate?  Are you feeling OK?!  :)

I know back then I said you need a Vitamix or high-speed blender but I recently realized that I lied.  They came out just fine using my Cuisine Art food processor and it’s much easier to deal with and clean.  Just make sure your dates are fairly soft and not rock hard or it might not work.  Soften them first in hot water if necessary.

The Best Christmas Truffles

  • 1/2 cup coconut butter (soften first either in microwave or place jar in hot water)
  • 1 cup dates- medjool are my fav (remove pits)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract (depending on how minty you like them)
  • dash of sea salt as desired, or omit

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth.  Scoop the mixture into a bowl and place in the fridge for about an hour until it starts to firm up.  (It will be too soft to form balls with right away).  If you leave the dough to chill for too long it will be harder to work with (but it will soften a little if you leave it at room temp). Roll into balls in your palms and roll in cocoa powder (optional).  Store in fridge or freezer.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  Have fun, be merry, eat well and please don’t overly stress out about any special foods that you really want to enjoy.  I’ve noticed that people get far too hung up on what they eat at special occasions….instead of focusing on their day-to-day habits. Like the saying goes, “It’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Years that matters so much as what you eat between New Years and Christmas!”

 

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Paleo Desserts

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Flourless Mocha Bacon Brownies!

(recipe from Practical Paleo cookbook and posted here)

 

 

 

In the past couple of years my opinion of the Paleo diet has cycled from:  annoyance/seriously these people are going to give themselves heart disease, to curiosity, to educating myself on its philosophy, to let’s give it a 30 day trial and see what happens, to finally ending back in reality but with some new favorite dessert recipes.

Paleo desserts.  Those words together are kind of humorous, a bit of an oxymoron.  Did the cavemen really have almond flour?  Paleo dessert recipes have become another internet craze, however most Paleo enthusiasts would agree that they are meant to play a small role in a healthy diet rather than be a daily event.  The overall premise of Paleo is real foods– otherwise known as foods found in nature that our ancestors relied on:  pasture-raised or wild animals, generous amounts of produce and avoiding modern-day processed junk as well as dairy, vegetable oils, legumes and grains.  Many variations exist such as low-carb Paleo or the inclusion of certain dairy products.  The shunning of legumes and whole grains is a controversial can of worms that I won’t open up right now.  All I have to say about that is some things work for some people– but we are all different.

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My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’ve made these cookies so many times that I have the recipe memorized.  Not that it was any incredible feat; it’s only got a few ingredients.  Simple is good! I’d post the recipe if it were mine but I can’t take credit.  Please follow this link to the Detoxinista’s Paleo/Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, as it is her creation.  I will tell you that all you’ll need are: almond flour, maple syrup, coconut oil (or coconut butter), chocolate chips, vanilla and salt.  I usually sub coconut butter for the oil and add a bit more maple syrup (an extra tablespoon equaling 1/4 cup total).  Sometimes I add almond extract along with the vanilla.

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You don’t need any other reason aside from their deliciousness to eat these little cookies but I will point out that they are made with awesome, real-food ingredients to support a healthy body.

Almond flour is exactly what it sounds like, almonds ground  into a flour.  It has the same nutrients found in whole almonds which are most famous for their vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, calcium and iron.

Coconut is incredibly healthy too.  I know it’s hard to let go of outdated beliefs about saturated fats being “bad” but research now points to this NOT being true.  Unfortunately it is going to take some time for this information to become mainstream.

Researchers at URI have studied pure maple syrup and say: “It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”

As always, stick with real-food ingredients and you won’t go wrong.  Stay away from refined sugar, refined flours and highly processed oils which are devoid of nutritional value.  Keep healthy foods in your house and you will eat healthy foods.  Stock up on processed junk foods and you’ll eat processed junk foods.  It’s that simple!
I’ve got my Aunt Cathy hooked on making these.  Anybody else give them a try?

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Feel Good About Your Body: Practice Gratitude, Not Judgment

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Thanksgiving is one week away.  No matter who you are, you have special things in your life to be thankful for.  Is your body one of them?

You’re not alone if you don’t feel great about your body.   There seems to be a natural human tendency to be critical of the way we look and get hung up on perceived flaws.  It doesn’t feel very good, does it?  The way I see it, life is short and feeling bad about yourself isn’t a productive or pleasant way to spend precious time.

Changing negative thoughts takes practice, just like changing any other unwanted habit.    If you’ve lived for years repeating to yourself how fat your thighs are, it’s going to take work to alter that automatic pattern of thinking.  But you can do it.   Your body is where you live.  Treat it with kindness.

Speak to it and care for it with love and gratitude and your world will change.

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One and a Half Minute Single Serving Chocolate Mug Cake

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This is cake in a hurry!!  And all for YOU!

Yes, you DO deserve cake.  If you’ve been thinking you can’t have cake because it’s “bad” then you need to keep on reading this post and realize that those thoughts need to be changed pronto because they are not true.

Quick, perfectly portioned, made with real, whole-food ingredients…. this is the chocolate cake to make when you want cake NOW but don’t want to bake a big one and refuse to settle for store-bought cake made from, let’s just call them un-ideal ingredients.  Mug cakes have been around for years but they are new to me.  If you’ve never heard of them you will be as thrilled as I was to give them a try.

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