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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Homemade Hummus

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Chickpeas are an incredible vegetarian source of protein and fibre.They have a low glycemic index which helps leave you satisfied.Garbanzo beans also contain vitamins and minerals which help boost your intake of manganese and folate. The mineral manganese helps support bone development and wound healing and also helps carry out chemical reactions important to your metabolism. They also help lower LDL cholesterol!

Hummus is a versatile dip that can accompany meat, veggies, crackers and sandwiches. Buying hummus from the grocery store is convenient and a healthy way to add nutrients to your dishes. However grocery store brands add more canola than olive oil (sometimes none) with a nice price tag. For about half the cost you can make your own hummus with extra virgin olive oil and have double the amount. Plus it is SO easy. All you need is a food processor or an amazing blender. This recipe is for basic hummus but the possibilities for flavours are endless! Add roasted red peppers,olives, chilli peppers or herbs. Bon appetit!
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Ingredients:

• 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas or one (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (for dried chickpeas only)
• 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and smashed
• 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (about one lemon)
• 1/4 cup roasted tahini
• 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
• 8-10 dashes hot sauce (I always use Frank’s Red Hot)
• Salt

Tip if using dried chickpeas:
Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with at least twice their volume of cold water, leaving them to soak overnight. The next day, drain them, and saute them in a medium saucepan with the baking soda (which many find reduces the gassy effects of fresh beans) for about three minutes. Add 3 1/4 cups water and bring it to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface. They’ll need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, sometimes even longer, depending on freshness, to become tender. When tender, one will break up easily between your thumb and forefinger.Drain the chickpeas (saving the chickpea broth for soups or to thin the hummus, if desired) and cool enough that you can pick one up without burning your fingers.

Directions:

1.In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water or reserved chickpea cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture.

2. Taste test! Add more salt, lemon juice, garlic or hot sauce to your taste!

3.To serve, drizzle with olive oil and lightly dust with paprika.