Gingerbread Cookies

How adorable are these cute little gingerbread men and women? I couldn’t resist…as with every year I have to make my special gingerbread people.  It’s a fun, festive ritual that I take part in and enjoy every second of the process from grading cutting shapes with my cookie cutters to decorating the clothes and features on the gingerbread people.  Here is a wonderfully delicious gingerbread recipe that will surely compliment your gingerbread house this season.

I was so excited to make these gingerbread guys and gals because I used two of my new Open Sky products, my Winco Aluminum Rolling Pin, which was fabulous and created an even and smooth surface for my cookie cutters and my Copper Bowl, which was perfect for mixing my ingredients to create the gingerbread dough.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 stick butter, unsalted and softened
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar or stevia
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat several baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, flax seeds, wheat germ and salt; mix well. Beat butter, honey, oil and sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer until it forms a creamy texture.
  • Add egg, molasses and balsamic vinegar; beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • On a floured surface, roll each portion separately to create a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut cookies using cookie festive cutters. Combine scraps and roll dough again to make additional cookies.
  • Place cookies on baking sheets.
  • Bake the cookies, about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Decorate with icing and personalize each gingerbread man and woman.

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Sweet Potato Muffins

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These muffins surely are scrumptious!  I’m sure many of you pair sweet potatoes with Thanksgiving, however, my tasty ‘Sweet Potato Muffins’ are the perfect snack all year round.  Sweet potatoes can be found in your local markets year-round, however, they are in season in November and December.  They are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, a good source of vitamin B6, copper, dietary fiber, iron and potassium.  Due to their excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food.  Both vitamin C and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals.  Since these nutrients are also anti-inflammatory, they can aid in reducing inflammation.

Enjoy these muffins with your breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack or as a treat for dessert.  I enjoy these muffins toasted with a nice spread of almond butter.  My clients and I love eating these muffins crumbled into morning oatmeal or lunchtime salads for an extra flavor boost!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp. stevia
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of chili powder
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut sweet potatoes into chunks and steam for 25 minutes or until soft
  • Transfer to a blender and puree.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Mix well.
  • Add sweet potatoes, agave nectar and stevia.  Continue to mix well.
  • Add water as needed to combine ingredients.
  • Fold in dark chocolate chips.
  • Pour into muffin tins and bake for 25-35 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

No-Bake Almond Oaty Bars

These bars are quick and easy to make…they are a perfect mid-day snack dipped into Greek yogurt or an after dinner dessert paired with organic soy ice cream.

I love experimenting in my kitchen-I devised this recipe one afternoon when searching through my cabinets for a snack.  When I finally realized I had all of the ingredients needed to make a bar- I simply played around and came up with a masterpiece.  No baking required is a plus, especially in the warm weather…simply pop these bars into the fridge and they’ll be ready in no time.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 4 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1/2 cup Dried Cherries
  • A dash of Cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1/4 cup Slivered Almonds
  • 2 Tbsp. Cashew Butter (or any nut butter of choice)
  • Zest of 1 Orange

Directions

  • Combine all above ingredients and mix well until it forms a sticky, firm consistency
  • Mold mixture in a square 9 x9 pan
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours
  • Cut into bar- like shapes and enjoy!

To store these bars, simply wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.  These will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week.  For longer storage, you can freeze these bars for up to 3 months.

I love making my own bars–it’s so much fun to experiment in the kitchen with healthy ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruits, sweeteners (such as stevia, agave and honey) and a whole grain base (oats, bran, cereal, rice, bulgar, quinoa, etc.)  My list could go on forever–it’s easy to create your very own custom bar…just take a look at what you have in your cabinets and fridge and experiment with new ingredients each time!

What are your favorite ingredients to incorporate into your homeade snack bars?

Tips for Including Flax Seed into your Day

Flax seeds contain fiber, lignans and essential fatty acids that can improve your health as well as prevent diseases such as certain cancers.  You can buy the flax seeds whole and grind in a coffee grinder everyday.  Read on for simple ways to add these nutritious seeds to your foods such as soups, baked good and salads.

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Flax seed is full of Omega 3’s, fiber, and antioxidants.  You can easily purchase various mill and grind sizes of flax seed depending on what type of food you wish to incorporate it with, be it for baked goods, snacks, cereal, etc.  For instance, you may want a powder consistency for a beverage or a larger grind size for visual appeal to bring out the whole-grain ‘look’ on a salad, corn chips, crackers or in baked goods.

Here are a few of my tips for using flax seed in your favorite dishes:

  • Bake into your favorite scones, muffins, cookies, breads, and other baked goods
  • Mix with fresh fruit into your yogurt
  • Add to your home-made trail mix, trail bars or popcorn
  • Mix  into your favorite burger or meatless patty recipe
  • Add to your wraps, sandwiches and salads by combining with mayonnaise or mustard
  • Stir into your warm or cold breakfast cereal
  • Sprinkle into your pancake and waffle mix
  • Combine with breadcrumbs when coating the eggplant or chicken (in your Parmesan meals)

Surprisingly, flax seed can be used in place of eggs in pancakes, waffles, cookies, scones, and muffins.   You can simply substitute 1 tbsp. ground flax seed for 1 large egg in addition to 3 tbsp. of water in any recipe.  Please note that the texture of your baked goods will be slightly altered and will appear and taste more “gummy” than if you had used the egg.

Do you use flax seeds?  If so, share with us tips on how you incorporate them into your diet.

What’s for Breakfast?

Breakfast Doesn’t Always Have to be “The Traditional Meal”

  –Branch out and incorporate last nights left-overs into your morning dish!

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Many of my clients come to me complaining of “No energy” or exhaustion and they cannot figure out why.  The first thing I ask is, “What do you usually eat for breakfast?” Unfortunately, this question is usually followed by a simple, “Umm, breakfast? I don’t have time for breakfast…I grab a coffee on my way to work and maybe a bagel if I have time.

Well, first off this is a huge problem.  Not only do many Americans wake up without eating breakfast, they wouldn’t have the first idea as to where to start in preparing this easy meal.  What many people do not know is that breakfast is the easiest meal to prepare…you don’t have to make yourself a huge omelet with fresh herbs and veggies, toast, and freshly sliced fruit…(Who really has time for that when you are running out the door for work?) There are numerous foods that can be quickly prepared and keep you satisfied until your mid morning snack or lunch time.  Who said breakfast has to consist of breakfast foods?  For instance, use left over items such as beans and grains from dinner the night before.  Easy to prepare items such as oatmeal, wheat berries, pilaf, brown rice, grits, cream of wheat, risotto, barley, polenta, Chinese rice porridge (Congee), the opportunities are endless.  You can top these simple dishes with a sweet or savory mixture.  For instance, some may prefer beans (chickpeas are my favorite), cheese, nuts, coconut, all natural peanut butter,  fresh fruit, cinnamon, canned pumpkin, sweet potato, dried fruits, all natural honey and seeds.  These dishes can simply be prepared overnight and placed in your refrigerator until the morning where you can add a touch of your choice of water, raw milk, soy milk, hemp milk, silken tofu or rice milk.  These will ensure a perfect consistency.  You can also use your slow-cooker to prepare these grains in large quantities and store in your fridge for every morning of the week ahead.

Take advantage of these unique breakfast ideas…branch out and don’t be scared to try sweet on Monday and savory on Tuesday…let yourself get creative and most importantly have fun.  Try to plan the week’s dinners on Sunday night and make sure to cook a large batch of your grains at night so you can be sure to have left-overs for your morning breakfast.  You can even combine left over grains in the morning with some freshly made rolled oats to get a unique consistency in your dish.  Moreover, these breakfast grains are incredibly easy to transport  to work in a Tupperware with all of your fixings added on top…when you get to work mix in your favorite nuts  and fruit for an added sweet burst of flavor and crunch!

As noted in my previous post on Whole Grains (see Whole Grain post), benefits of whole grains include reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, better weight maintenance, reduced risk of asthma, healthier carotid arteries, healthier blood pressure levels, lower risk of colorectal cancer, reduction of inflammatory disease risk, and less gum disease and tooth loss.  Whew…if that list doesn’t make you want to include whole grains into your first meal of the day, then I don’t know what will….Give it a try…be adventurous!!!

Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Mix and Match the following toppings with the following grains.

Grains

  • Steel Cut Oats
  • Porridge
  • Brown Rice
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Wheat Berries
  • Amaranth
  • Hulled Barley
  • Cornmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum (Also known as Milo)
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat: Spelt, Emmer, Farro, Einkorn, Kamut, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheat berries
  • Wild Rice

Toppings of Choice

  • All Natural Peanut Butter or Nut Butter of choice (Almond, Cashew, etc.)
  • Egg Whites
  • Raw Nuts
  • Coconut
  • Miso
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Bee Pollen
  • Lemon/Lime Zest or Fresh Juice
  • Wheat Germ
  • Granola
  • Beans: Chickpeas
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Oat Bran
  • Ground Flax Seed
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables: (Cooked or Left-overs from Stir-Fry)  tomatoes, spinach, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Raw Honey
  • Canned Pumpkin or Sweet Potato or Squash
  • Cinnamon/Nutmeg/Coriander
  • Dried Fruits
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Raw Milk, Almond Milk, Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Silken Tofu, Oat Milk, or Hemp Milk
  • Greek Yogurt

Here are a few recipes to use to get you started…

Overnight Oats

1 1/2 cups whole grain (use a mixture from the below list or one). Use gluten-free if necessary.

1 tsp. salt (if desired)

4 cups water

Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn crock pot on HIGH.When crock pot is hot, pour grain, salt, and water inside.Cover immediately and reduce heat to low.  Cook overnight.

Note 1: If making your meal in the morning, you can simply use a rice cooker, or  your stove top sauce pan.

Oven Surprise

2 1/3 cups cooked rice

Add in any of the above toppings of your choice and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.   This is delicious with granola and fresh cut fruit.

Any takers? Share your thoughts and the concoctions that you have created for your morning breaking of the fast from the night before…believe me, your left overs will never have tasted better!  Enjoy!