Tag Archives: almonds

Better-for-You Chocolate Holiday Treats

I love combining chocolate with dried fruit, or nuts, or both! My friends and family seem to like the idea, too.  They’re always so appreciative when I present them with these super simple, better-for-you treats, which make great holiday gifts.

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How to make healthier holiday treats

There’s no formal recipe for my healthier holiday treats. For each batch, melt 10 ounces of dark chocolate (I use dark chocolate chips)  in a double boiler. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Use a large glass bowl to make room for other ingredients.

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

When the chocolate has melted, add 2 cups whole or chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, or a combination directly to the double boiler, mix thoroughly, and drop by large tablespoons onto waxed paper.

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

Top with festive sprinkles, if desired!

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

My latest obsession is macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, and white chocolate. Yum!

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

I prepare several batches of treats with a variety of ingredients.

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

When I need to be mindful of nut allergy, I make the dried fruit treats first and package them up so that they don’t come into contact with nuts. These are a raisin and coconut combo:

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

Dip the apricots halfway in the melted chocolate.

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

Allow the treats to set for about 2 to 3 hours before packaging.

www.betteristhenewperfect.com

Would it be better to forgo the chocolate and eat plain nuts and dried fruit? Yes, that would be perfect, but not nearly as much fun.  I think my friends and family would be disappointed, and so would I!

Happy holidays!

 

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

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The last thing anyone needs is more sugar. This no-added sugar quick bread is perfect for gifting, bringing to a celebration, and for having on hand to make healthy meals and snacks. Dried fruit and bananas provide natural sweetness so there’s no need for other sweeteners.  Almonds and walnuts supply heart-healthy fat, and the recipe calls for oat flour instead of wheat flour to keep this dense, satisfying bread gluten-free and packed with whole grain goodness.

Looking for other ways to reduce sugar intake?

You can mix and match the types of nuts and dried fruits you use, and make 12 muffins out of the batter instead of a single loaf. Enjoy this better-for-you bread with peanut butter or cottage cheese, or pair with eggs or Greek yogurt.

Fruit & Nut Bread
Makes 12 servings.

2 medium ripe bananas, broken into large chunks
2 large eggs
1⁄4 cup canola oil
2 cups oat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup chopped almonds
3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
3⁄4 cup dried unsweetened apricots, chopped into small pieces
3⁄4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with cooking spray, and line with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until no longer chunky. Using a whisk, add the eggs and canola oil and combine well. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the almonds, walnuts, apricots, and raisins, and blend well.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 15-20 minutes out of the pan before cutting.

* To make oat flour, place 2 cups of gluten-free one-minute or old fashioned oats in a food processor and process on high speed until oats achieve a powder-like consistency, about 1 minute.

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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

Per serving (1 slice or 1/12 of the loaf):

Calories: 253
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 135 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 29 grams
Dietary fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Calcium: 64 milligrams
Iron: 2 milligrams

9 Easy to Make Better Than Store-bought Foods

There are a few everyday foods I don’t buy anymore because I’ve found easy recipes for tastier versions.  On the flip side, there are several so-called convenience foods I can’t do without. I asked a few of my foodie friends about the foods they absolutely must make from scratch (and for the recipes!), as well as their “processed food” picks that get healthy meals on the table fast. Here are my choices, and theirs.

Cranberry sauce is a must-have homemade food for me because it tastes so much better than canned. You can alter this simple recipe to your liking: Combine a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (less if you desire), 1 cup water, 1 cup orange juice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring every so often.  The mixture will thicken up as it cools.  Cool completely before serving.

Homemade cranberry sauce pairs well with poultry, but it also tastes great stirred into plain Greek yogurt or warm oatmeal, and in smoothies.

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Easy Cranberry-Orange Sauce

My favorite convenience food right now is Amy’s Lentil Soup (not a client, by the way). I eat it for a quick meatless lunch along with a piece of whole grain toast topped with cottage cheese. I know, I know. It’s easy to make a big batch of lentil soup from scratch, but I just never get around to doing it, and Amy’s does it so well!

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Nutritioulicious

Must-have homemade food: Peanut sauce

Why: “Most packaged peanut sauces are really high in sodium and sugar, so I’d rather make my own using natural, unsweetened peanut butter and adding my own amount of sweetener. I also add other flavor boosters like freshly grated ginger and sriracha, which packaged peanut sauces don’t have. Give it a whirl in the blender or food processor and it’s easy as can be!”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned beans

Why: “I love adding beans to salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and grain side dishes, but I would not use them as frequently as I do if I had to soak and cook them on my own. Time is of the essence when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in my house! A lot of people are hesitant to buy canned beans because of the sodium content, so I recommend buying the no-salt-added canned beans if you can find them and always drain and rinse the beans before adding to a dish.”

Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, JaniceCooks

Must-have homemade food: Sweet and Hearty Beef Stew

Why: “It tastes better than the canned kind, and it’s better for you. My beef stew has half the sodium, twice the protein, and four times the fiber and vitamin A as the canned variety. It takes just minutes to toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and a hearty, tasty dinner is ready to serve a few hours later.”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned pumpkin.

Why: “I tried cooking and mashing fresh pumpkin once and decided that it would be the last time. Canned pure pumpkin is so convenient and nutritious that I stock up every fall to be sure I can use it year round. I use it in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, even chili  and enchiladas! ”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Nutrition Starring You

Must-have homemade food: Vegan ice cream

Why: “I don’t like the taste of store-bought vegan ice cream. It’s always high in added sugar and not nearly as high in protein as my version.”

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Favorite convenience food: Bagged salad.

Why: “I couldn’t live without pre-washed greens, especially the cabbage blends because they are super filling and don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for several meals. (Close second: rotisserie chicken for fast, easy lunches and dinners.)”

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, Real Mom Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Salad dressing

Why: “Once I started making my own salad dressing, it was impossible to go back to the gloppy bottled kind–especially the ones with preservatives and artificial dyes.”

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(Need more salad dressing ideas? Here’s 50 of them.)

Favorite convenience food: Jarred pasta sauce

Why: “You can’t beat the convenience of it, and jarred sauce plus frozen ravioli is a last resort meal that saves us from ordering pizza or getting other take-out food. Pair that combination with prewashed greens and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!”

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, Amy Gorin Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites

Why: “Unlike a lot of store-bought versions of energy bites, balls, and bars, my recipe contains no added sugar. Plus, they’re delicious!”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruit

Why: “Unsweetened frozen fruit is great for when I don’t have fresh in the house. It’s also sometimes preferable. When I use it in smoothies, I don’t need to add ice. And when I heat it up and use it as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal or French toast, it creates a nice liquid that can replace other toppings like syrup or brown sugar.”

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Must-have homemade food: Jam

Why: “I love to make homemade jam not only because I can control the added sugar content, but also because I load it with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients, like omega-3 chia seeds, fiber-filled figs and other seasonal fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!”

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Favorite convenience food: Whole grain bread

Why: “I can’t live without whole grain bread! Sure, I can make my own, but there’s nothing like a nice, fresh loaf of 100% whole grain bread with seeds from the store that you can simply take out of the bag and place in the toaster for a quick avocado toast lunch!”

Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Must-have homemade food: Chocolate syrup

Why: “This beautifully glossy chocolate syrup is a tasty alternative to what you’ll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients.”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruits and vegetables (among so many others!).

Why: “A bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from stews to smoothies, and frozen spinach is great in smoothies along with frozen fruit. The nutrient values of frozen fruits and vegetables stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze.”

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN 

Must-have homemade food: Granola

Why: “Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar and fat. My version has sugar and fat, too, but the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind from nuts, and I add just enough pure maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. Allspice or Chinese five spice powder provides added sweetness without sugar. For variety, I add 1/4 cup dried wild blueberries or unsweetened coconut during the last few minutes of baking. Add whatever you like to make it your own recipe.”

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3 ½ cups old fashioned oats
2 cups finely chopped nuts of your choice (I love to mix pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, stirring well to combine.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the granola to the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown. Higher heat burns the nuts.

Favorite convenience food: Canned petite diced tomatoes.

Why: “These little gems are the perfect addition to so many recipes. They add color, flavor, texture, fiber, and other nutrients. I put them in egg dishes, soups, sauces, stews, guacamole, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce and anything with a red sauce. You can purchase them fire-roasted, with herbs and spices, and with no added salt.”

Better-for-You Chocolate Holiday Treats

I eat dark chocolate nearly every day, and especially during the holidays. Combining chocolate with fruit and nuts satisfies my cravings and improves nutrition. My friends and family seem to like the pairings, too.  They’re always so appreciative when I make these super simple, better-for-you treats as holiday gifts and for when I entertain.

fullsizeoutput_1e2c

How to make healthier holiday treats

There’s no formal recipe for my healthier holiday treats. For each batch, melt 10 ounces of dark chocolate (I use dark chocolate chips)  in a double boiler. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Use a large glass bowl to make room for the other ingredients.dsc_0460

When the chocolate has melted, add 2 cups whole or chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, or a combination directly to the double boiler, mix thoroughly, and drop by large tablespoons onto waxed paper.

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Top with festive sprinkles, if desired! fullsizeoutput_a79

My latest obsession is macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, and white chocolate. Yum!

fullsizeoutput_1e21

I prepare several batches of treats with a variety of ingredients.dsc_0050

When I need to be mindful of nut allergy, I make the dried fruit treats first and package them up so that they don’t come into contact with nuts. These are a raisin and coconut combo:

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For the apricots or other whole fruit, dip them into the chocolate half way.

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Allow the treats to set for about 2 to 3 hours before packaging.

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Would it be better to forgo the chocolate and eat plain nuts and dried fruit? Yes, that would be perfect, but not nearly as much fun.  And I think my friends and family would be disappointed!

Happy holidays!

 

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