Thursday, December 24, 2009

Conscience-Friendly Christmas Delights: Part II

Merry Christmas!!!!

My gift to you... is the recipe for those chocolate cookies pictured above! They are quick, so you can still make them now for your gathering tonight or tomorrow!

Carob Coconut Truffles:

1 cup virgin coconut oil
1 cup roasted carob powder
1/2 cup Medjool dates (I used dried apricots and prunes)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1 cup almond meal (almonds ground in a coffee grinder)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

Melt coconut oil. Combine with carob in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside. In a high speed blender, blend dried fruit and water until it becomes a smooth syrup. Add dried fruit syrup to carob mixture. Stir in vanilla and salt. Add almond meal and remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, make walnut-sized balls. Refridgerate for an hour before serving. (Or... if you can't wait... put them in the freezer. They don't freeze solid, so you can even keep them in the freezer to have them on hand).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Conscience-Friendly Christmas Delights: Part I

Christmas Eve is 10 days away! Now the crunch time is on... Christmas baking, Christmas shopping, Christmas programs, Christmas cards, Christmas letters... Christmas PARTIES. There are so many tempting cookies, candies, Christmas drinks, pastries...  And then there are those great Hallmark Christmas movies, where everyone seems to be making delicious sweets and goodies. Who can resist such a heavenly aroma? How can a person survive this time of year without the pounds of butter in those cookies adding pounds on the bathroom scale? After all, Christmas cookies and such are simply part of our Christmas tradition. I guess the January resolutions and weight-loss programs are also part of the tradition! (wink)

This time of the year, people gather for all kinds of parties and family get-togethers. There is generally so much food around, it's difficult to resist! And if you're the host, you'll have left-overs to tempt you for perhaps weeks ahead. We all know that the staples of Christmas baking (white flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, butter, peanut butter, vegetable oil, etc) are not good for us. Is there a way to have some special foods this time of year without sabotaging our health at the same time? Definitely. Here are some simple ideas:

Crudites! This is simply raw vegetables. Arrange sliced vegetables of a variety of colors on a beautiful platter. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, and Red Bell Pepper make for a festive Christmas display. A delicious dip is the following:

Creamy Basil Brazil Nut Dip:

2 cups Brazil nuts, soaked overnight
1/8 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water (or as needed to thin)

Add the brazil nuts (discard soaking water), lemon juice, garlic, basil, and salt to a high speed blender, adding water as needed, and blend until smooth. Adjust consistency as desired. (It will thicken once refrigerated). Serve with mixed raw vegetables.

Fresh and Dried Fruit & Nut Arrangement: This can be a beautiful tray. You may want to put the nuts and dried fruits or any especially juicing fresh fruits in smaller bowls on the tray to prevent anything from going soggy. Decorate with greenery, like fresh rosemary. Here are some ideas:

Dried fruits: cherries, white figs, medjool dates, mango, prunes

Fresh fruits: kiwi slices, apple slices (cut horizontally, so that you see the star in the middle) dipped in orange juice (to prevent browning), a small bowl of pomegranate seeds with a spoon, clementine oranges, pineapple chunks
Nuts: whole pecans walnuts, almonds, pistachios (not dyed), hazelnuts-- whatever you most enjoy.

Fruit Bowl: Pile it high with small apples, clementine oranges, baby bananas, and green pears. A centerpiece and healthy snacking all in one!

Pomegranate Punch: A beautiful ruby red festive Christmas beverage, garnished with orange and lemon sunbursts:

Pomegranate Punch
1 organic orange, unpeeled
1 organic lemon, unpeeled
1 bottle (2 liters) seltzer water, chilled
1 1/2 cups unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice
Sweetener (optional): raw honey or organic maple syrup to taste, some stevia, or a combination

Remove ends from orange and lemon and then cut four slices from each fruit. Combine seltzer, juice, and orange and lemon slices in a pretty pitcher or punch bowl.

What are those truffle-like cookies in the picture, you ask? Stay tuned... I'll tell you how to make them in an upcoming post!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

10 Easy Ways to Stay Thinner and Healthier Through the Christmas Season

Well, it's December, and we are only a couple of weeks away from Christmas!

What an exciting time of year! There's so much preparation that goes into these few weeks before Christmas, be it sending out Christmas cards, shopping for gifts, and oh, the food preparation! Cookies, fudge, candy, galore! It's kind of interesting how we spend lots of time shopping for special ingredients and making all kinds of delectable treats, and then eating with no thought to tomorrow or our long term health. Then, come January 1st, we make all kinds of new resolutions for solving the problem we created over Christmas: e.g. eating better, exercising more, etc. Is it possible to delight in some of the delicious food this season has to offer without having to make some major resolutions when we hit the new year?

I think so! Here are a few tips for participating in all the munching that goes on at Christmas parties and gatherings in the weeks ahead:

1. Drink... plenty of water! That will help to keep you from over-doing it when you get into the line for food.

2. Avoid/Limit... the SWEETS, especially made with white or brown sugar. Do what you can with less refined, more natural, sweeteners: dried fruits, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucanat/rapadura (unrefined cane sugar). However, even these ought to be used sparingly. It's better to stick to whole foods.

3. Indulge... in lots of negative calorie foods. These are foods that require more energy (calories) to digest than they contain in themselves.
  • Watch vegetable trays for: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, radishes
  • At a restaurant dinner, order a salad.
  • For breakfast, have a grapefruit or a fruit salad of apples, mangoes, oranges, and pineapple
  • Try frozen berries, especially in a green smoothie.
You'll notice all these things are high in fiber. So, whenever you can choose foods higher in fiber, you will help yourself to maintain (or help shrink) your waistline.

4. Enjoy... the natural whole food delights of the season: fresh pomegranates, oranges, apples, pears.

5. Be FESTIVE... with salads! Just another way to EAT those GREENS! Here's a recipe (more or less) for the festive salad pictured below, full of seasonal flavors:

Orange Spice Spinach Salad (all organic)
for One

Salad mix:
3 cups spinach
1 small apple, chopped
dried cherries and/or cranberries
unsulfured dried apricots, sliced

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste

Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine spinach and chopped apples, and toss with dressing. Arrange in bowl and top with dried fruit and nuts. *Tip: Another good addition would be clementine orange sections.

6. Create... eats and treats with coconut oil! Coconut oil helps to speed up the metabolism and aid in weight loss. You can learn all about the benefits of coconut oil at Some of the ways I enjoy using it are the following:
  • Fruit Smoothies with the addition of 1-2 Tbsp of melted coconut oil blended in.
  • Coconut oil instead of olive oil on a salad.
  • Steamed sweet potatoes with coconut oil (instead of butter) and sea salt, as a side dish.
  • Steamed broccoli or cauliflower... "        "as a side dish.
  • Organic poporn popped in coconut oil, with sea salt.
  • "Mounds" candy bars from the Nourishing Gourmet or Coconut Bark-Almond Joy at Real Food Living
A good resource for recipes is Eat Fat, Lose Fat: Lose Weight and Feel Great With the Delicious, Science-based Coconut Diet, by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.

7. Stop eating at 6:00... on most occasions.  This simple rule will help to keep you from packing on the pounds. To help conquer cravings... have some herbal tea. Licorice and Peppermint are especially nice this time of year. For something more substantial, try some rooibos tea, which is more full-bodied.

8. Spike your drink... (that is, your water) with apple cider vinegar. This can help curb cravings and also help to break down body fat. Add a couple teaspoons to your water bottle and sip throughout the day. It will help keep your blood sugar level.

9. Don't stress it... Stress messes with your hormones, which can contribute to weight gain. Remember what Christmas is really about

10. Play... that is, exercise! Go play in the snow! Make snow angels, meet friends for an afternoon of ice skating, go cross country skiing, build a snow man, go sledding, try snowshoeing, go for a hike in the woods! Join the kids for some old fashioned fun in the snow. Have FUN!!!