Healthy Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

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One of the most common consumer misconceptions is that the deliciously sweet chocolate hazelnut spread known as Nutella is healthy. My guy’s mom once told me how confused she was by their commercial, “how can chocolate spread on toast be a nutritional breakfast?” she asked. Well I had to deliver the bad news that in fact, Nutella is not a truly healthy option for breakfast. It does contain hazelnuts which have good-for-you flavonoids, healthy fats and vitamins to help support brain function, heart health and lower cholesterol. BUT, it also contains palm oil, and heaping amounts of sugar. A two tablespoon serving has 21 grams of sugar. That will not give your child sustainable energy throughout their day. They will most likely get an immediate sugar high followed by a very abrupt crash which will leave them in a dozed state during first period. Meghan Telpner gives an amazing break down on why you should probably ban the stuff for good here.

Good thing I have come up with an alternative! Well it isn’t just me… Most healthy food bloggers have come up with their own version of the spread using unrefined sweeteners and dairy free options. I took a look at a few and decided I would start with roasted hazelnuts and slowly add ingredients as I went. It took a while until I found the right consistency and flavour. What I realized actually was that this spread can work in a variety of ways to meet your needs. Don’t want it dairy free? Use organic milk. Want it sweeter? Add more dates, maple syrup or stevia. Want it chocolatier? (is this a word?…it should be) then add more cacao or even melted 70% chocolate! The possibilities are endless, but I have provided you with the spread that works best with my taste buds! The most essential part of this recipe is roasting your hazelnuts. Without roasting, the hazelnuts wont be noticed as much in the spread, plus you need to get rid of those annoying skins.

I have been spreading this on pears, my healthy bread and eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon! I am more excited though for next weeks post where I spread this tasty treat on a Passover friendly dessert. It is EPIC! Until then, get your spread ready!
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Ingredients:

• 2 cups hazelnuts
• 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (alcohol free is best!)
• 1/2 cup cacao powder
• 4-5 medjool dates pitted
• 1/2 cup almond milk (or more if needed)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Roast hazelnuts for 20-30 minutes or until oils are released and skins begin to loosen.
2. Place toasted hazelnuts on a large dish towel (preferably one that isn’t too soft) and fold the cloth over. Roll the hazelnuts back and forth within the cloth. (you’re kinda exfoliating the hazelnuts) The skins will fall off. If the cloth doesn’t remove the skin then you can do them individually by rubbing them between your thumb and index finger.
3. Place the hazelnuts in a food processor or vitamix and pulse until the hazelnuts turn into nut butter. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Feel free to add more dates, maple syrup etc until you get the consistency and sweetness that you desire.
4. Place in an airtight jar, and store in your fridge!

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Stone Fruit and Strawberry Vanilla Chia Jam

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Jam is one of my favourite toppings to spread on toast, scoop on oatmeal, or mix into coconut yogurt. You can swirl it into homemade breads, cakes and muffins for a really intense fruit flavour that is so comforting and most importantly, delicious. Jams always remind me of the inside of a pie and often, they have just as much sugar as one. I am sure that many of you may think that jam might be a great way to get a serving of fruit and vitamins, but sorry folks… I’m here to break the bad news. Although jam is made primarily of fruit it is also made primarily of sugar. LOTS of sugar. And for those of thinking that you have made an even better choice by buying sugar-free jam or reduced sugar jam you are simply getting a chemical replacement with aspartame, sucralose etc… Not so yummy and not so healthy. Have no fear, I have two amazing and super simple jam combinations to satisfy any enthusiast of this delicious spread.

Homemade jam is a super simple way to use fresh fruit that is over ripe or about ready to get thrown in the trash. It also requires very little effort, time and materials and you are left with something truly special. Place it in a beautiful jar and you have a thoughtful home-made gift that is really impressive. I have provided you with some of my favourite fruit combinations but feel free to mix and match your own. It is great to use fruit that is in season to ensure that you have the best flavour and sweetness without having to add too many ingredients.

I have used two different natural sweeteners for each kind of jam. For the Stone Fruit Variety I used a few drops of liquid stevia. The fruit was very ripe and in season which made it perfectly sweet on its own. For my taste, it needed only a small amount of added sweetness. For the strawberry jam, I added brown rice syrup to sweeten. This was my first time using brown rice syrup. On its own, I was not too excited about the flavour, but mixed into the jam it gave a really light sweetness that I loved! If you don’t have these sweeteners around, feel free to use maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Remember that fresh jams will last about one week, in an airtight container that is stored in a fridge! Bon appetit!
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Stone Fruit Jam Ingredients:

• 7 apricots (chopped)
• 5 plums (chopped)
• 3 peaches (chopped)
• 4-5 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice)
• 1/4 cup chia seeds

Strawberry Vanilla Ingredients:

• 3 cups strawberries (chopped)
• 2 tbsp brown rice syrup (or sweetener of choice)
• 1/4 cup chia seeds
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or scraped vanilla bean pod

Directions

1. Chop fruit and place in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. * you may remove the skin of the stone fruit if you like a smoother jam, I like to leave mine on!

2. Allow fruit to heat up for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. The fruit should begin to burst.

3. Add sweetener and chia seeds and allow to thicken for at least 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Cook for a longer period of time for a thicker, more syrupy jam.

4. Pour into jar or desired container and allow to cool. Seal and keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.
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Maple Cinnamon Roasted Almond Butter

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I can eat nut butters with a spoon, fork, hand, cracker… just about anything. Seriously, if you guys want your kids to eat more vegetables, its amazing what a little almond, sunflower seed or peanut butter can do to a boring carrot or celery stick. Add some dates, raisins or honey and you have a dessert that includes vegetables! Happy parents! Happy kids! Wahoo!

Some of you might be wondering why I talk about kids often. No, I don’t have children… but I do work in an elementary school. I have become a little mesmerized by what parents are sending in their kids lunch boxes. Not to say feeding a child is easy. A black seed, a creamy texture, a boring color are just a few complaints I hear from kids about why they “can’t” eat their lunch that day. After a long day at work, packing your child’s lunch is the last thing any parent feels like doing. Plus, you get questions, requests and complaints that could make your head spin. Thus comes in the packaged cookies, gummies and a few carrot sticks for good measure.

Don’t get me wrong. A kid deserves to be a kid. No child should live their life without ever trying a Kit Kat. When it comes to school however, kids need fuel. Theres no way around it… food fuels the brain. We wonder why kids these days have trouble concentrating. I suggest before we start prescribing medications we take a look at what kids are eating everyday. Lucky Charms for breakfast (has whole grains… must be healthy right? Mac and cheese for lunch followed by pizza for dinner. Brain food is lacking. Parents have to consider the sugar crashes, dairy pains and lack of protein lows. I have been doing lots of my own research on this topic everyday with the children in my classes and in observing and speaking with parents. I hope to find ways to make feeding and educating children more accessible and simple. Future project in the works! I am so passionate about this and I want to help parents and teachers any way I can!

So back to the nut butter…this maple cinnamon roasted almond butter is unreal. While those nuts were grinding in the food processor, I thought that this was maybe a little too much work when I can buy perfectly made almond butter in a jar. But I have to say, this combination of cinnamon and maple syrup was truly addictive. I had some on gluten free crackers and then eventually just took the spoon straight to the jar. With just a little bit of patience, you will save a couple bucks (nut butter can be really expensive).Furthermore, flavoured nut butters have lots of added oils and refined sugars. I will be working on some more flavour combinations in the future, but for now this is perfect to top on my porridge, toast, chia pudding, banana etc… Bon Appetit!
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Ingredients:

• 2 cups almonds
• 3 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• pinch of sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven at 350. Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and dry roast in the oven on 350 for 10-15 minutes.
2. Place almonds in food processor and process for 10 minutes.
3. Add maple syrup, cinnamon and salt and process for another 5-10 minutes until the oils are released and the butter is creamy.
4. Store in an air tight container or jar.

Chef Tips

-Although it may seem that the thick paste will never ever turn into creamy butter… it will. You just need patience! You will see a little smoke coming from the processor… keep a close eye.

-I roasted my almonds prior to making the butter, but it isn’t necessary! It does give a nice toasty flavour though. I highly recommend.

-Adjust syrup/cinnamon to your taste. Add a bit at a time until it suits your taste buds. You are the chef!

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