Healthy Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

Life has been very crazy busy lately.  For example, within one week (last week), I witnessed 3 beautiful weddings, new beginnings for 3 amazing couples, and experienced the passing of a loved one.  Such is the circle of life, and the joys and sorrows that is all part of living.  The only thing we can do is enjoy and appreciate every moment, including the ups and downs of life, and just go with the flow; and cherish memories.

Today I finally have a chance to really sit back, and reflect upon what happened the past week, also take comfort and joy in baking on this rainy day. 🙂

Fortunately my father still has an appetite and a sweet tooth, despite his disease.  I know he secretly craves his Tim Hortons’ muffins but he is no longer allowed to eat “outside” or processed food, so homemade food is the way to go.

Using only natural ingredients such as pumpkins, bananas and raisins, I dedicate this Fall-inspired gluten-free and dairy-free muffin recipe to him.  He really liked eating these muffins that I made especially for him!

I hope you enjoy making and eating these yummy, light and moist muffins with your loved ones! 🙂

 

PumpkinRaisinMuffins

 

Makes: 24

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it sugar-free, you can choose not to add in the maple syrup.  I added it, because my father does have a sweet tooth, and I think maple syrup is a healthy natural sweetener.  See: health and nutritional benefits of eating maple syrup: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan buttery spread, melted

4-5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 cup raisins

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  5. Slowly add raisins into batter.
  6. Fill each baking cup evenly with the batter.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Let the muffins cool completely, or eat one while still warm. 🙂

 

 

Avo-Banana-Chocolate Mousse

It’s back to school and it means packing energizing healthy snacks for the day! 🙂

I’m determined to continue to eat natural whole foods and stay away from processed food, so usually I will bring some fruits and/or veggies for snacks.  However, sometimes I do crave for something sweeter than a fruit but not as heavy as a muffin.  I used to bring a bowl of yogurt with fruits and raw cacao nibs as my morning snack back in the days when I was still eating dairy.  As I’m now dairy-free, I’m trying to find new healthy snacks to satisfy my sometimes sweet tooth.

I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered this awesome website http://thenourishedself.ca (The Nourished Self) that is totally right up my alley: nourishing and nurturing one’s health and well-being through natural whole foods and yoga.

Anyways, I learned from this site how to make a “sensible snack”.  A sensible snack needs to have all 3 macro nutrients: good fat, clean protein and unrefined carbohydrates.  According to The Nourished Self, having these macro nutrients in a snack will help to:

  • maintain balanced blood sugar levels
  • absorb vitamins and nutrients
  • satisfy hunger
  • maintain weight
  • maintain energy levels

(taken from http://thenourishedself.ca/index.php?page=sensible-snacks)

 

Here’s a delicious and sensible snack that I’ve been bringing to school on days I feel I need some natural sweetness and chocolate; it definitely satisfies my sweet tooth and energizes me until lunch time!

The recipe is inspired by The Nourished Self (original recipe is found here:  http://thenourishedself.ca/index.php?page=super-food-snacking-recipes) and I slightly adjusted it according to my own dietary needs and preference. 🙂

 

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Blending Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: about 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1/2 banana

4 tablespoons natural maple syrup

1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt (to taste)

a handful of (or 1-2 tablespoons) raw cacao nibs

Optional: use the remaining half of the banana (sliced) as topping, along with the raw cacao nibs

 

Instructions:

  1. Put avocado, banana, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt in a blender.
  2. Add water slowly, one tablespoon of water at a time to achieve creamy consistency.
  3. Sprinkle a handful of raw cacao nibs (along with sliced bananas if you like) at the top.
  4. Enjoy immediately! 🙂

 

Storage: can be refrigerated up to 2 hours, then must be consumed.

 

This healthy and yummy mousse can also be a delightful dessert!  I have divided 1 serving (bowl) of this mousse into my 3 tiny dessert cups. :)

This healthy and yummy mousse can also be a delightful dessert! I have divided 1 serving (bowl) of this mousse into my 3 tiny dessert cups. 🙂

 

Spicy & Sweet Purple Potato Fries

I have a confession to make, and I guess if you know me very well you know that, I’m obsessed with the colour PURPLE!!  As long as something is purple, I love it!  Therefore, it’s no surprise that even when it comes to food, I get excited about purple too. 😛  I’m totally in love with purple sweet potatoes!

Here are some healthy facts I found out about this beautiful and sweet vegetable that may entice you to love it as well! 🙂  They…

-are a good source of calcium, iron, manganese, copper, vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (this is the kind of carbohydrates that are recommended for us to include a lot of to be healthy and have sustained energy throughout the day)

-have anti-aging properties; makes skin glowing and radiant!

-have anti-cancer properties; the purple pigment (anthocyanin) is an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and actually the antioxidant level of a purple sweet potato is 150% more than blueberries!

-help protect against cardiovascular problems and inflammation-related health issues

-are diabetic friendly as they are low in sugar; help maintain and regulate stable blood sugar level

-are low in fat and sodium

 

Now that you know the nutritional benefits of eating purple sweet potatoes, why don’t you try making the following easy, quick and healthy recipe?

If you’re craving for something spicy and sweet at the same time, this recipe can satisfy both too. 🙂

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer!  They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer! They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 12-15 minutes

Total TIme: about 25 minutes

 

Special notes:

-Purple Sweet Potatoes- they have a natural sweetness already 🙂

-Nutritional Yeast- it is gluten-free and a great substitute for cheese (it tastes cheesy!); plus 3 tablespoons of it supply 9 grams of complete protein (has the 18 amino acids); because it is rich in B-complex vitamins, and along with the protein, it keeps the hair strong, shiny and healthy!

-Cinnamon- regulates blood sugar, improves colon health and protects against heart disease (see under “Resources” section for links if you want to know more health benefits)

-Sea Salt- helps with digestion, builds a strong immune system, prevents cardiovascular-related health problems, and helps maintain consistent sugar level (see below in “Resources” section to learn more)

-Olive Oil- builds a strong immune system, and fights against disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis etc.

 

Ingredients:

2 large purple sweet potatoes, peeled

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Slice sweet potatoes into thin pieces like french fries.

3. Mix nutritional yeast, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt in a big bowl.

4. Add the sweet potatoes and mix using a spoon or spatula, until all the pieces are well coated, and place them on baking tray.

5. Drizzle fries with olive oil on baking tray.

6. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked.

7. Enjoy! 😀

 

Resources on Purple Sweet Potatoes, Nutritional Yeast, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Olive Oil:

http://cancer.vg/en/ipomoea-batatas-purple-sweet-potato

http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/okinawan-sweet-potato-purple-powerhouse-nutrition

http://www.livestrong.com/article/286212-purple-sweet-potato-nutrition/

http://herbalacup.blogspot.ca/2013/05/purple-sweet-potato-eating-can-increase.html

The Beauty Detox Foods: Discover the Top 50 Beauty Foods that Will Transform Your Body and Reveal a More Beautiful You by Kimberly Snyder, pages 117-118 on Nutritional Yeast

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html?page=1

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68

http://www.seasalthealth.com/2012/04/11/health-benefits-of-sea-salt/

http://readynutrition.com/resources/10-health-benefits-of-sea-salt_15092011/

http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-benefits

http://www.naturalnews.com/041521_olive_oil_heart_health_skin_and_hair.html

Super Bite-Sized Peanut Butter Balls

Suddenly I’m thinking about those very yummy sugary peanut butter balls I used to make with my cousins when we were younger, and since I had time on my hands this week, I decided to try it with a healthy twist.

Here’s the easy no-bake recipe, that you can make in about 10 minutes.

 

Makes: 30

 

Special Notes:

-I call these balls “super” because many of the ingredients used are natural and considered “superfoods” (e.g. honey, goji berries, flaxseeds)

Flaxseeds- They are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids (good fats), lignans and fibre.  In fact, they have among the highest level of fibre in any food.  They help stabilize blood sugar, promoting cleansing.  Also, including them into your diet will help in having radiant and youthful skin.  However, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid consuming them.

Goji Berries- They are high in fibre, Vitamins A and C, and has 15 times the amount of iron in spinach.  They apparently have the highest concentration of protein than any other fruits.  Also, they have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  They can help boost the immune system as well.  However, they do not interact well with diabetes and blood pressure drugs.

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut- It is high in fibre and minerals, and has natural fruit sugar which can add natural sweetness to food.

Storage- Keep up to 3 days in airtight glass container in the fridge, and best consumed within 3 days.

Sweetness- You can control the degree of sweetness by reducing the amount of manuka honey and chocolate chips to your preference.

 

Ingredients:

PB_Ingredients

1 1/2 cups organic creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup manuka honey

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup rolled oats (wheat-free & dairy-free)

1/2 cup organic ground flaxseeds

1/2 cup organic goji berries

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

PB_mix

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
  2. Use a tablespoon to scoop out mixture and roll into small balls.
  3. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 1-3 hours, or you can eat immediately if you prefer them to be room temperature.
  4. Enjoy treats! 🙂

 

Having 3 of these high-protein & fibre-packed filling peanut butter balls as my afternoon snack are good enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and chocolate craving!  Plus, I don't feel guilty indulging, since I know they are made of mostly wholesome natural ingredients. :)

Having 3 of these high-protein & fibre-packed filling peanut butter balls as my afternoon snack are good enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and chocolate craving! Plus, I don’t feel guilty indulging, since I know they are made of mostly wholesome natural ingredients. 🙂

 

Resources I used for following ingredients & if you want to learn more:

 

Superfoods: http://foodmatters.tv/superfoods

 

Flaxseeds:    http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/alternative/flax-seed.htm

                         The Beauty Detox Foods: Discover the Top 50 Beauty Foods that Will Transform Your Body and Reveal a More Beautiful You by Kimberly Snyder, page 103

 

Goji Berries: http://www.webmd.com/balance/goji-berries-health-benefits-and-side-effects

http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/the-health-benefits-of-goji-berries/

 

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut: http://www.livestrong.com/article/487458-does-unsweetened-shredded-coconut-have-any-good-health-benefits/

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-eating-shredded-coconut-4027.html

Healthy Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf

This Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf uses only bananas and dates as natural sweeteners.

This Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf uses only bananas and dates as natural sweeteners.

At the request of the guests of the weekend potluck party I attended, I created this loaf for dessert since I had extremely ripe bananas and I’ve been dying to use the medjool dates I bought a few weeks ago, to create a healthy, naturally sweet (minus artificial sugar) and moist Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf.  Actually, this loaf is inspired by fellow blogger Rhiarn’s recipe (see: http://rhicreations.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/banana-date-walnut-loaf/). I’ve been wanting to try her recipe since she shared it in June, and I finally had time to give it a go! (with some minor substitutions due to lack of some required ingredients)  Thanks so much for the inspiration, Rhiarn! 🙂

 

Makes: 8 slices

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: about 40 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-This is not a gluten-free recipe, since my guests are not gluten-free sensitive.  To make it gluten-free, you can replace it with any type of gluten-free flour.

-The riper the bananas, the sweeter they are.

-The medjool dates have a rich, almost honey or caramel-like taste, so they’re perfect as a natural sweetener.

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ripe and mashed bananas

8 medjool non-pitted chopped dates (you have to take the pit out and chop dates into little pieces; I really like this brand: Natural Delights http://www.naturaldelights.com/about-perfect/; dates are a source of fibre and these ones are 100% fat free!)

1 egg white

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup white flour

1/4 cup rolled oats

1 heaped tablespoon cacao powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

4-6 whole walnuts, semi-crushed

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix bananas, dates, egg white and almond milk into a blender/food processor. (wet ingredients)
  3. Combine wholewheat flour, white flour, rolled oats, cacao powder, baking powder and chia seeds in a large bowl. (dry ingredients)
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  5. Line small-medium loaf tin with baking/parchment paper.
  6. Add mixture and sprinkle with semi-crushed walnuts on top.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm.
  8. Enjoy! 🙂

A Sweet Green Smoothie Combo!

Spring Mix + Banana + Papaya + Chia seeds = Sweetly Yummy

Spring Mix + Banana + Papaya + Chia seeds = Sweetly Yummy


As mentioned earlier in a post, I have now decided to challenge myself to drink one green smoothie a day!  I have started this for about a week now, and usually drink one for breakfast, but sometimes it’s for snack.  It is very fun to experiment with different combinations of dark leafy greens, vegetables and fruits, and I’m loving most of the green smoothies I made so far!!

Here’s one green smoothie combo that I would love to share with you since it’s simply and naturally so sweet and good! 🙂

 

Makes: 1 smoothie

Preparation Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 cups  spring mix

1 chopped banana

1 cup chopped papaya

2 tablespoons chia seeds (makes the smoothie filling as it has protein, and provides 4.4 g of protein)

1 cup unsweetened cold almond milk (if you prefer a sweeter taste, go with original)

1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs

6-8 blueberries

 

Instructions:

1. Put all ingredients (except the cacao nibs and blueberries) into the blender and mix.

2. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and blueberries on top, and enjoy!

 

I hope you will enjoy drinking it as much as I do! 🙂

 

Love, Violet

Chocolate Crunchy Squares/Bars

Here are my rice krispie square and granola bar inspired "Chocolate Crunchy Squares or Bars".  They are sweet,  chewy, gooey and of course crunchy! :)

Here are my rice krispie square and granola bar inspired “Chocolate Crunchy Squares or Bars”. They are sweet, chewy, gooey and of course crunchy!

Two nights ago I was suddenly craving for rice krispie square, a fond memory of a yummy treat from my childhood, and at the same time, I wanted granola bar as a snack for my day trip the next day.  It is quite strange yet I guess it’s a natural response, as I slowly move towards healthy eating, I no longer feel the compulsion to buy a snack outside (e.g. from vending machine, fast food etc.) to satiate my hunger.  I rather bring my own healthy snack to munch on or wait till I go home to make something nutritious.  As a result, I decided to combine my desires for both a rice krispie square and a granola bar into creating the following healthy snack recipe.

I hope you enjoy making and sharing my Chocolate Crunchy Squares or Bars with your family and friends, as much as I did! 🙂

 

Makes: 24 squares or 12 bars

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-You can substitute any cereal into the recipe and it doesn’t have to be gluten-free.  I made it gluten-free to suit my dietary needs.

-If you have a sweet tooth, this recipe is most definitely for you!  The squares/bars are extremely sweet.  If you don’t want them that sweet, you can decrease the amount of honey into 2/3 cup, and the chocolate chips into 1/4 cup.

-Please store no more than 2 days at room temperature in airtight container, covered with parchment paper.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup manuka honey

2 cups gluten-free cereal (I like Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla Cereal; it has corn, rice, flax, quinoa, buckwheat & amaranth)

1 cup rolled oats (wheat-free & dairy-free)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

  1. Warm up honey on medium heat until it simmers in a saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Immediately add cereal and rolled oats in the saucepan, and stir evenly.
  4. Quickly add sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and mix well.
  5. Reheat mixture in saucepan on medium heat, and quickly stir in the chocolate chips until well coated.  The chocolate chips should melt within seconds.
  6. Remove from heat and press mixture evenly into a baking tray (lined with parchment paper).
  7. Cool mixture completely before cutting into either squares or bars.
  8.  Enjoy! 🙂