Growing up in the Midwest, I always used to love the little mint fudge squares from Marshall Fields. Any time of year, they were great, but especially around the holidays. Do you know the fudge I’m taking about? This Dark Chocolate Mint Fudge is like that – only healthier.
I made these with my daughter, who fancies herself more of a baker and less of a dish washer or “cleaner upper.” Regardless who did the work after this dessert was complete, these Dark Chocolate Mint Fudge turned out exactly as I wanted them to.
They taste great, but they also don’t require refrigeration (like some of my bar recipes do) and they’re easy to cut – like fudge should be.
A lot of fudge recipes call for semi sweet or sometimes milk chocolate chips. I always use dark chocolate – usually capping off around 85% cocoa – and used dark for this recipe, too.
A lot of people prefer milk chocolate because of the texture, as it tends to be smoother. But also because it contains more sugar.
From a nutrition perspective, the benefits of dark chocolate far outweigh milk chocolate. A few of these benefits include:
Cacao beans (which are actually seeds) contain about twice as much antioxidant activity as blueberries.
Let’s be honest, we don’t need to add sugar to have a good time, do we?
The longer you go without sugar, the more sensitive your tastebuds become to them. If you can wean yourself off of sugar-laden milk chocolate for heart-healthy dark chocolate, you’ll eventually get the full flavor of the chocolate along with the sweetness without the sugar overkill.
Not to be vague, but do you really know what you’re getting in milk chocolate. You know you’re getting more sugar, that’s for sure. But your’e also getting a good amount of milk solids, cream and other ingredients.
These are the ingredients in a Hershey chocolate bar: Milk chocolate (sugar, milk, chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, PGPR, emulsifier, vanillin, artificial flavor).
The artificial flavor labeling is less-than-transparent, which always concerns me, and the PGPR* is there primarily to make the chocolate smoother. PGPR stands for polyglycerol polyricinoleate. In all fairness, it’s not harmful, but now we know how Hershey gets their chocolate to be smoother!
Fudge usually contains condensed milk. To keep this recipe dairy free, I added condensed coconut milk. In addition to the condensed coconut milk, this recipe also contains dark chocolate chips, a little bit of coconut oil and of course peppermint extract.
If you’re not a fan of peppermint extract, then you can just omit it. It won’t affect the consistency, but will make the flavor come through as 100% dark chocolate fudge.
I double boil my chocolate. I stay away from microwaving it because I’ve had a bad experience a couple times with the chocolate overheating and things not turning out right.
I’ve included a simple way to double boil in the notes. I high recommend using this method to melt chocolate.
Yields 42 squares
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 4 hours or overnight
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Roasted sweet potatoes are delicious on their own without any help at all. But when you add a little real maple syrup and sea salt, they’re amazing.
I’ve been working on a bunch of recipes for the holidays and wanted to come up with something as an alternative to sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie. More importantly, I wanted to make a healthier side dish that had less white sugar. Both casserole and pie tend to be quite high in the white stuff.
I also wanted to make something that was fairly easy. As much as I like to cook and bake, I also like to spend a little time with my family. These roasted sweet potatoes take about 40 minutes to make, including only 10 minutes of prep time. Not bad.
Roasting sweet potatoes is a natural way to bring out the sweetness. Boiling sweet potatoes, the first step in making sweet potato casserole, really mutes the flavor of the potato, increasing the need for more added sugar and fat.
I really like making sweet potato fries – yet another version of roasted sweet potatoes – but putting out a dish of sweet potato fries on a holiday table doesn’t exactly scream “festive,” does it.
I’ve also made roasted sweet potatoes with parsnips. If you haven’t tried this, you should. Parsnips are a close cousins to carrots, just white with a bit of a woodier flavor. They go well with sweet potatoes, so keep that in mind if you’re ever looking for a little vegetable variety.
You can get a really nice caramelization on the roasted sweet potatoes without adding any maple syrup or sea salt at all. The sea salt does help to pull the moisture from the sweet potatoes, but it’s not an absolute requirement. A good olive oil and sweet potatoes is really all you need to get them roasted nicely. Just an option if you’re not looking to add any sweetness to this side dish.
These roasted sweet potatoes come with a pretty big nutritious bang for your buck. Here are a few reasons you should keep sweet potatoes in a bowl on your counter at all times.
Regardless of how you prepare them, sweet potatoes are a great addition to any diet – and certainly make for a great side dish on any table.
Yields: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
(See notes for scaling this recipe below)
Let me know what you think of this recipe. I’d love to read your comments below.
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The post Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Maple + Sea Salt appeared first on Traci D Mitchell.
Hot or cold, chopped in a salad or served as a side, roasted Brussels sprouts are probably one of the best “food favors” you can do for your body and taste buds. I made this recipe as basic as possible, but wanted it give an extra boost of nutrition by adding toasted pine nuts.
All in all, this recipe takes about 45 minutes to make, and that includes trimming off the brown parts the Brussels sprouts. Whether you’re making this for a holiday dinner, or just want to have on hand as a healthy side, I promise this roasted Brussels sprouts dish will hit the spot.
When I’ve roasted Brussels sprouts in the past, I’ve always soaked them, thinking it would prevent them from burning or drying out in the oven too much. I took a chance and went soak-free on these babies. They actually turned out great, and for whatever reason, took about five minutes less to roast.
Do you like Brussels sprouts or do you make yourself eat them?
Even when I was a little kid, I used to love Brussels sprouts. The way they were made wasn’t anything special. My grandmother used to simply boil those frozen bags of Brussels sprouts, toss them in some butter and serve them as a side. Maybe it was a kid thing, but I much prefer the tasted of roasted Brussels sprouts to the boiled variety.
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but Brussels sprouts are on of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.
The other star of the show is the pine nut. Not actually a nut, pine nuts are seeds that come from the pine cone of several varieties of pine trees. Pine nuts are often used to make a good pesto sauce, but I wanted to toast these to bring out the flavor and crunch.
Pine nuts are on the expensive side and usually aren’t noshed on like almonds or cashews. No one ever thinks, I think I’ll grab a handful of pine nuts to snack on. Excess pine nuts are always best stored and sealed in a cool, dark space…like a cabinet. Keep them out of direct sunlight as the precious oil in pine nuts can degrade.
Yields: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 – 35 Minutes
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When the holidays roll around, I’m usually a pumpkin pie kinda gal. I don’t really love fruity pies at all so if you ever see an apple pie, blueberry pie or [fill in the name of your favorite fruit] pie, it’s because I love someone a lot. Enter these Pecan Pie Muffins. They hit all the marks:
I was ready to call it quits when it came to developing a recipe for this muffin. I make these pecan pie muffins with pecans (obviously) and real maple syrup. Neither are cheap.
Attempt 1: The first attempt at making these muffins involved coconut flour. I love baking with coconut flour, but depending on what you’re doing with it, it can be extremely dry. Despite the texture of the first attempt at these muffins being spot on, it was just too dry. Ciao, coconut flour!
Attempt 2: A different muffin altogether. But astonishingly, they raised very nicely, then fell like a bad soufflé. It’s not exactly a mystery why this happened. Instead of placing the pecans in the center of the muffin (like I did with the final recipe), I thought it would be prettier and tastier to place them on top. Sigh! They tasted great, but looked terrible. The weight of the pecans coated in maple collapsed the roof on my muffins in no time. I could have probably remade these without putting the pecans on top, but I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what did it.
Attempt 3: It worked. Void of all coconut flour, but using much more almond flour, this muffin did the trick. I placed the pecans inside after creating a bit of a batter-based floor for them to rest on. Constructing the muffins was a little more than your garden-variety pour-and-bake type, but it’s well worth it. I’ll explain a little more in a moment.
As you can see, the pecans still managed to rise a little, bursting through the top of the muffin. I’m glad I stuck with it, despite the fact that I have a couple dozen very funky muffins sitting in my kitchen right now.
These Pecan Pie Muffins are grain free and dairy free. If you don’t have coconut oil or coconut milk in your kitchen, you can probably swap with butter (which is a common interchangeable ingredient) and whole milk. I say probably because I haven’t tested this recipe. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.
The type of coconut milk I use is canned, so you’re going to find it in aisle with the baked goods or in the aisle with the Asian foods. The store I shop at has canned coconut milk in both of those sections. It won’t be near the gigantic wall of cartons of alternative milk.
Yields: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18 – 20 minutes
I’d love to know what you think of these muffins. Please leave a comment below!
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There are two types of people in the world: those who like cranberry sauce and those who don’t. I will go one step further and say that there is actually a third type of person: those who love cranberry sauce.
Is it really a sauce? Or is it a relish? What do you call it?
All I know is I used to love the Jell-o-like slices of round cranberry slabs that came out of an Ocean Spray can when I was a kid. A true delicacy of the 80s Thanksgiving table.
It turns out that the kid-tested cranberry sauce of the 80s, and probably today, is a little different than my recipe.
A quick Google of what’s in canned cranberry sauce reveals the following ingredients:
We’re basically looking at cranberries, refined super sweet sugar, water and more refined sugar.
Come on! For a couple of bucks, we can do way better than that. If, after you make this recipe and you don’t think it’s better than canned cranberry sauce, you always have canned cranberry sauce to fall back on. But I really don’t think you’ll want to.
This cranberry sauce recipe has exactly four ingredients. Four! It takes no more than 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook. All-in-all, it’s very simple, but quite healthy. Here are the ingredients:
I don’t use conventional cranberries as this crop is greatly affected by pesticides that are probably carcinogens and hormone disrupters. This is one fruit I don’t compromise on.
Because you can use either fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe, I find that frozen varieties are always available and usually less expensive than their fresh counterpart.
Of course, if you’re buying cranberries around the holidays, you’ll probably find them everywhere and for a good price. Just make sure you’re buying organic.
Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants. Because they’re so healthy, they also come fully loaded with a lot of great benefits, including:
Fresh lemon is always a good idea, whether you’re eating, drinking or smelling it. Lemons are always found in the world of aromatherapy as they’re shown to improve our mood and simply make your day brighter.
On the nutrition side, lemon packs quite a punch, too.
Benefits of lemon include:
Almost all recipe for cranberry sauce use some sort of white sugar. I really love the flavor of maple syrup and given all of it’s benefits, I wanted to incorporate it. The flavor of maple doesn’t pick up as much as the sweetness (balanced with tart) of the cranberries, so even if you’re not a fan of maple syrup, you’ll enjoy this recipe.
A few of the benefits of maple syrup include:
Maple syrup is still really sweet! This recipe calls for about half as much sweetness as most of the others I took a look at. Still, it’s important to know I’m not trying to sugar coat (ha!) the sweetness is maple syrup to try to make it out to be some magic eat-as-much-as-you-want sweetener. You still have to be responsible…but it’s better than regular sugar.
The benefits of water include…ahhh…you’re smart and amazing. You know all the benefits of water, right?
Drink lots of water!
Yields: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
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The post Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe | Easy, Healthy & Delicious appeared first on Traci D Mitchell.
Warm diner rolls go well with just about anything – soup, salads, chili and of course, a big holiday meal! Since we all avoid gluten in our family, but only one of us avoids dairy, it can be tough to find one dinner roll that pleases everyone.
These grain free rolls are dairy free without the strain of having to sacrifice any flavor. Naturally, this recipe is a win-win for my family.
Before I was gluten free, the baked good of choice when it came to family meal, was brown bread. My mother-in-law, who spent her life in Ireland, gave me the recipe. Probably not as good as the original she used to make, I really loved this heavy, glutenous bread.
Some things change in foods, depending where they’re produced. There is a significant difference in the quality of foods from the US versus some of the food in Ireland. While I love so many of the foods here, some food from Ireland, and all of Europe for that matter, is simply a higher quality. Food is more processed in the US and the use of genetically modified organisms is much more prevalent.
Regardless, of the differences in the quality of food, when my husband moved to the US, he began reacting terribly to some foods he never had a problem with in Ireland. Subsequently, he became sensitive to gluten.
Goodbye brown bread, at least stateside. Hello, grain free dinner rolls.
These grain free dinner rolls are easy. No yeast. No rising time. Not a lot of ingredients. As a busy mom, I love this!
Because the roll mixture contains coconut flour, it becomes dry quickly. You’ll notice this as soon as you add the liquids, That said, it doesn’t affect the moisture of the roll itself.
Another ingredient I love to bake with is tapioca flour. If you’ve never baked with tapioca flour before, it’s a great starch to have in your pantry. It’s not a grain, potato or legume, rather a refined version of the cassava root.
Tapioca flour is extremely fine and light. It disperses easily, so keep that in mind when your adding this flour to a mixing bowl. There is a strong probability that a little bit will end up skirting around the surface on which you’re baking.
You can also use smaller amounts of tapioca flour as a thickener for things like soups and gravies.
Yields 12 small rolls, or 6 large rolls.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes
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Weekends are a great time to decompress (especially long holiday weekends), but don’t let them throw you off track. The summer is going to be filled with great weekends, including picnics, parties, etc. So many of you have worked so hard to make a permanent change in your life to either lose weight or keep it off. Let’s keep it truly permanent. Here are a few tips to live by:
1) ALWAYS fill your plate with something plant-based first. This could be a salad, veggies or veggie-based app. Going to a picnic or party and want to bring something healthy? Try this delicious Southwestern Veggie Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing. It’s a hit and really easy.
2) If you feel very hungry, your body is trying to tell you that you need to level off your blood sugar levels and get some sustenance. It’s not telling you that you need a brownie, cookie or milk shake. Yield to rule #1. You won’t regret it. As soon as hunger subsides, you can make better decisions about what to eat to fill you up.
3) If you’re going to have a drink, make sure you follow it with a big glass of water. You’ll maintain proper digestion through hydration and your beautiful skin will keep glowing the way it should.
What’s more, your liver will always breakdown alcohol first (yep, alcohol trumps food for digestion). If you’re eating and drinking together, that 150 calorie glass of wine will take at least an hour to burn off (probably longer) while you’re sitting at dinner. That means the dinner your eating will get put on the shelf, in terms of metabolism, getting burned off much later and possibly stored as fat.
Had too much? Then eat these 5 foods that help to detoxify your liver.
4) Don’t eat too late. Summer nights are much brighter than the dark early evenings of winter. We stay out later! If you do have a late-night dinner planned, curb the amount of food you’re eating. Food naturally increases the release of insulin in your body. Insulin fights with human growth hormone (HGH) for pole position, but insulin always wins. Translation: you won’t sleep as well, you’ll age faster and you’ll store more fat. Blech!
5) When you wake up the next morning, start the day off with a big glass of warm or room temp lemon water to kickstart digestion, helping to rid your body of toxins. Simple enough.
Why not cold water? Cold water isn’t bad, but it has a constricting effect on our digestive tract. When you need to get things moving out of your body, the last thing you need to do is drink something that will hold them in.
Enjoy your weekend and stay healthy!
Commercial food coloring, including most Easter egg dyes are a haven for less-than-healthy chemicals and additives. Most people don’t realize that synthetic food coloring is made from petroleum. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the same petroleum that’s used to fuel our cars and make plastic cups.
It’s suspected that food dyes and lakes are linked to numerous conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, asthma, allergies and cancer. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives used all around the world, except right here in the United States. In fact, many of the same products that you buy at the store containing artificial food coloring in the United States (such as candy) contain natural food coloring in other countries. Same products, but safer ingredients abroad.
Chances are you eat foods containing artificial colorings a lot more often than you think. In the United States, everything from Pop-tarts to maraschino cherries, breakfast cereals to licorice, and man-n-cheese to ice cream contains artificial food coloring. Your best bet is to read labels and select foods that don’t contain these food colorings. If you’re baking with a recipe that requires food coloring, there are plenty of very easy, all natural alternatives that might be in your kitchen right now!
I wanted to teach my kids little more about natural foods and how to make something look (and taste) beautiful without having to add chemicals. I thought I’d start with Easter eggs as the holiday is right around the corner for my family.
I’ve used many of these ingredients to color cakes and frostings in the past. They’ve all worked out great. To color my eggs, I used the following foods to yield beautiful pastel colors:
Beets make a beautiful pink color.
Onion skins make golden brown.
Frozen blueberries make lavender.
Chlorophyll makes green.
Turmeric makes yellow.
After letting the eggs sit in each of these mixtures for about 10 minutes (directions below), this was the result.
Creating the mixtures was really very simple. You’ll notice that I didn’t add any vinegar, a common ingredient to any type of egg dying. I’d love to say that I just wanted an light pastel color and decided to go without, but truth be told, I just forgot to add it.
Vinegar (any type, but preferably white) is a wonderful acid medium that allows the color to saturate even more. Had I used it, my eggs would likely be much brighter and less pastel. Any acid will do, not just vinegar. In fact, cream of tartar or lemon juice work pretty well, too!
Here is what I did for each of the colors:
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Strain berries and discard. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: It’s important to allow all liquid to cool to room temperature to avoid cooking the eggs any further.
3 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: I did not strain this mixture as there wasn’t much to strain. Some sediment remained at the bottom but didn’t affect the color.
4 tablespoons liquid chlorophyll
2 cups water
Combine ingredients together. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: What do you mean you don’t have liquid chlorophyll at home? You should! It’s really, really good for you. I drink two tablespoons in water everyday. It’s an amazing detoxifier and helps with digestion, too. Chlorophyll is the best green egg dye in town, too!
1 large beet, coarsely chopped, skin left on
3 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain beets and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.*
The outer peel of 3 large, or 4 medium Vidalia onions
3 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain onion skins and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.* NOTE: You can use red or a lighter yellow onion. The eggs will color, but result in a different hue.
Keep in mind that the beets and onion both require extra boiling time to render the greatest color, thus extra liquid, too.
I hope you enjoy coloring your eggs this year. If you’re not into coloring eggs, consider adding one of these colors to a food, such as a frosting or to a home-baked good, like cookies. They’re a lot healthier than store-bought varieties.
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I picked up a couple bags of cranberries last week to make scones. After one batch of failed scones, I used the second bag to make a cranberry relish instead. I’ll take a second stab at the scones sometime soon, but the relish was so good I wanted to tell you about it in time for the holidays.
If you’re not a big cranberry person, or just don’t get around to eating them that often, here are a few reasons you might want to consider eating this fruit:
This recipe has very little added honey, so the tartness of the cranberries really comes out. Agave nectar can also be substituted if you don’t have honey on hand, or if you would like to make the recipe vegan.
Wash and rinse your cranberries well. Cranberries have a high water content, so you don’t need to add much before reducing the fruit down to the relish.
After the berries come start coming to a boil, they’ll get soft very quickly and begin to pop. Continue stirring vigorously and pressing on the berries gently to break them down somewhat.
After the berries mixture reduces down somewhat, add the honey and continue stirring. This is what the mixture will look like after a few minutes of stirring. After it reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat and add lemon zest.
2 c. fresh cranberries (preferably organic)
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1. Add cranberries and water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring vigorously.
2. Add honey and continue to stir, gently pressing on the berries.
3. After mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat.
4. Add lemon zest, cool and enjoy.
My daughter ate this cranberry relish by the spoonful on its own. The next morning I added it to plain yogurt to give it a sweet and tangy kick. It never made it to a turkey, but I’m sure it will later this month.