A long time ago when I found myself reaching for more sweet treats than my body needed, I instated the house rule: if you want a cookie, then make a cookie. Why? Well for starters if I'm really craving a cookie, then I would be happy to put the work into making one fresh from scratch instead of lazily darting to the nearest store for an unsatisfying quick fix. Secondly, so many store bought cookies are laced with processed ingredients and words I cannot pronounce, so if I am going to have a dessert snack, I am going to have one that will not harm my body but rather provide some nourishment.
This said, at any given time there is at least one type of cookie dough in my freezer! ;)
Except for last week... All week long, I wanted a chocolate chip cookie but with the usual hectic lifestyle we all lead, I had no time to bake until the weekend. So sadly no cookies for me!! :*(
By the time the weekend came, my craving was still in full force but changed slightly as I was reminded of how hard I tried last year to make a really flavorful pumpkin cookie. Many trials and tasty cookies later, I still wasn't completely satisfied. And then winter was over...
But here we are again, embracing crisp weather and decorating the house with mini pumpkins and gourds! As expected, I had some sweet potato puree, whole wheat flour, coconut oil and dark chocolate chips in the house, so away I went creating my wholesome treat. The sweet potato not only provides the main flavor, but is also loaded with vitamin C to help fend off the fall cold, B-vitamins for basically everything, potassium for my muscles and fiber to keep my heart healthy, my gut moving and my hunger tamed. The whole wheat flour also adds some fiber and protein to the cookies but most importantly doesn't spike and drop my blood sugar levels as quickly as a baked good made up of refined white flour. Essentially, even after eating my sweet treats, my mood will remain much stabler! The coconut oil, while still a saturated fat, unlike butter is known to raise HDL 'good' cholesterol and is a great substitute for anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance. And lastly, the dark chocolate chips provide antioxidants and a richer chocolate taste with less added sugar than milk chocolate.
These cookies are my best turn out ever! The sweet potato flavor is alive and kicking and the texture is soft and moist (almost fudgy but not fudgy). If you like crispier cookies, I recommend flattening the dough a bit before baking and leaving them in the oven for a couple of extra minutes. Also, while I usually avoid refined sugar, I did use brown sugar with a mix of maple syrup and vanilla for the sweetener, but I think if you tried you could cut the sugar down. I'm okay with the amount because I rarely consume refined sugar and believe that moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan optional)
(recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addition)
Yields: 20 cookies
Combine the coconut oil and sugar until smooth. Stir in the puree, maple syrup and vanilla. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
Pour the liquids into the dry goods and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop the cookie dough by 1 Tablespoon portions on a Silpat (or parchment paper or greased cookie sheet). Bake @ 350*F for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway for an even bake, until the tops of the cookies start to crack.
Cool and gobble up!
Goes great with coffee... ;)
with Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
You will quickly learn that I care a tremendous amount about breakfast, am a self-proclaimed breakfast-pusher and still believe it IS the most important meal of the day despite arguments and studies against the age-old saying.
This is why: breakfast jumpstarts my day and ultimately motivates me to end the day as well as it starts.
Eating breakfast is a daily reminder that I begin the day on the right foot, nourishing not just my body but also my mind. The positive start to the day gives me more energy physically and mentally, allowing me to concentrate better knowing that I am prepared to work or study without dealing with mood swings or cravings from lightheadedness due to low blood sugar levels. Choosing to have a healthful breakfast not only gets your engine going, but also prompts good decision making from the moment you get up. You are more likely to avoid the worse for you foods and prevent overeating at lunch or dinner.
Even if there are clashing studies on breakfast's physiological benefits, there are plenty of studies showing that skipping breakfast is associated with eating more throughout the day, greater BMI (body mass index), weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes (1,2,3,4). Those risk factors include a large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol levels (high-density lipoproteins aka ‘good cholesterol’), high triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure (5). Earlier this year a prospective study from Sweden also reported that adolescents who skip breakfast or have "poor breakfast habits" are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome later in life. Eek! Too young!!
If your main excuse to skip breakfast is that you don’t have enough time in the morning to prepare, then try making it the night before (ex. overnight oats or yogurt parfait) or making something that is easy to eat during your commute (ex. veggie omelet wrap, homemade smoothie or nut butter on toast). Remember, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge or even comprised of traditional breakfast foods, but it does need to be a nutritious combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, and limited in sugar and saturated fats.
Check out one of my favorite balanced breakfasts that you only need to make once but can eat for a week (i.e. meal prep) when you know your schedule is going to be extra busy. My Hearty Apple Almond Crisp is loaded with fiber (whole grains, fruit), protein and omega-3 fatty acids, all necessary nutrients to keep my brain focused, my hunger managed, my mood stabilized, my digestive system running and my heart healthy.
And the recipe is easy peasy: place the fruit mixture in the pan, top with the oats mixture and bake in the oven until the crisp turns golden brown and the fruit liquids start to boil through the top. This recipe includes apples (yes, I am still using my Annual Farm Crawl apples - 13 pounds is a lot!), plums and blueberries, but feel free to get creative and switch up the combinations to your fruit preferences.
Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
Yields: 8 servings (7" x 11" glass baking pan)
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Combine the topping dry ingredients in a bowl. FYI - the flaxseeds have a strong nutty flavor to them so if you don't want that to stand out, cut the amount in half.
In a separate bowl, chop up the apples and plums into 1"-2" pieces and combine with the blueberries. Add all of the spices, orange juice and maple syrup from the first list of ingredients and stir until all of the fruit is coated. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a baking pan (make sure to grease it - I misted it with olive oil).
Add the almond milk, maple syrup and olive oil to the dry mix. Spread the oats mixture evenly on top of the fruit base.
Bake the crisp for ~45 minutes until the topping turns golden brown and the liquid starts to bubble through.
Eat alone or top with some nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!! :D
It's pretty obvious how excited I get for the Annual Farm Crawl, and I get equally excited for the aftermath too. I spend weeks using my farm fresh apples in a variety of recipes, some new some old. One sweet treat I always make is applesauce in the slow cooker. It's easy, delicious and quite nutritious for a snack or a side.
The slow cooker is a staple in my kitchen simply because of its simplicity. For most of us our days are extremely busy running around from one place to the next. A slow cooker allows you to minimally prep for a meal and leave it to cook while you're taking care of business, only to return for ready to be deliciousness. I literally took ten minutes, threw all of the ingredients in the pot, pressed the on button, went to bed, and woke up to chunky applesauce. Okay, so maybe I didn't sleep enough this night but rising to smell of sweet apples, cinnamon and ginger drifting through the house made getting up earlier much easier. ;)
I'll write my 'recipe' below, but the truth is I just sort of winged it this year. First, I chopped up my apples (mixed variety from Riamede Farms) into big chunks. And yes, I left the skin on. You'll quickly learn, I don't peel much of anything. Why? Not only do fruit and vegetable peels contain fiber, which is lacking in most Americans' diets (and needed for more reasons than you want to read right now), but also a large percentage of a food's vitamins and minerals lie right under the skin. So when you peel a fruit or vegetable, you're discarding all of these other beneficial nutrients too. For an apple, that means you could be getting at least 1/3 less of vitamins A and C than you thought!
The next step was to add the seasonings. This part is up for interpretation because we all have different taste preferences. I like my applesauce with a little kick, so if you don't particularly like spicy applesauce, I recommend lessening the measurements of the cloves and ginger.
I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, set the pot to cook and ta-da!!
Despite the picture making the apples look like chili, I guarantee the applesauce looks prettier in person and also smells heavenly! :D
Since I knew my applesauce would eventually be part of an apple cake recipe, I used an immersion blender to get a smoother texture. You can use a blender or any other item to puree the apples, but if you use the immersion blender, go slowly because it may splash! And can be hot!
Now you're ready to have your homemade applesauce! See?! An incredibly nutritious and delicious sweet treat with minimal effort. My favorite eats include topping with some nonfat plain greek yogurt or spreading on some toast. Enjoy! :)
Seasonal Spicy Slow Cooker Applesauce
Yields ~4 cups
Chop the apples (with the peel!) into large chunks and place them into the pot. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the seasonings and water, and stir until the apples are evenly coated. Cover the pot with the lid.
Cook the apples on low heat for 4-6 hours. I leave this decision up to you and your preferences. The applesauce will be a bit thicker if you cook it longer.
Let the applesauce partially cool and puree until desired consistency. Serve immediately or store in containers in the fridge for later.
and Apple Quinoa Porridge
The one thing that makes the end of summer acceptable for me is the Annual Farm Crawl my friends and I do each fall. This tradition warms my heart because not only do I get to escape the city for a day and play in nature but one of my best friends (who's also my go to eating buddy) flies in from Los Angeles and we girls spend the whole day catching up. Plus, I know I'll be spending a lot of time in my favorite room, the kitchen, baking amazing apple treats and cooking delectable dinners while fueling my body in the most healthful, nourishing way. I mean, just look at the loot I brought home!!
We always get our apples from Riamede Farms in Chester, New Jersey. Last year with the excessive rain the selections were limited but this year, there was an abundance of variety: Macoun, Cortland, Liberty, Jonagold, Gala, Macintosh, and Golden Delicious Smoothie. Oh they were so crispy and juicy! I tried to be conservative but somehow walked away with 13 pounds of apples!! :/
On the way out of the orchards I usually pick up some teeny pumpkins and gourds. However, for the first time, we went to the tomato patch and plucked fresh red and orange cherry tomatoes. Seriously nature's candy!!
In addition to Riamede Farms, we like to stop at a new (to us) farm too. This year, we drove up to Miller's Hill Farm in Mendham, New Jersey (just a bit away from Riamede). We were blown away! There was a rainbow display of tomatoes and bell peppers, and loads of fresh squash, eggplant, sweet corn, onions, garlic and hot peppers. My selection to your right:
We actually went to Miller's Hill Farm before Riamede Farms, but many of us had regrets about the farm fresh items we didn't get, so we returned when we finished apple picking. My regret?? The fresh eggs. I met the chickens and am always amazed by the beautiful variety in size and color of the eggs.
Now that I'm done bragging over my farm fresh luscious loot, I'll share the first of my many apple creations: Apple Quinoa Porridge for breakfast today. Full of protein, fiber, healthy fats and the freshest of fruit, I feel grateful for good friends, hard working farmers and the marvels of nature, and am also properly fueled to get this day started. Hope you all have a great one too! :)
Apple Quinoa Porridge
Yields: 2 servings
In a pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until quinoa is fully cooked. Add almond milk, apple and cinnamon and cook on low heat until apple starts to get slightly soft.
Pull porridge from stove and pour into bowls. Top with blueberries, almonds and cacao nibs, and drizzle with maple syrup. And yes, of course you can choose any toppings you like! Enjoy!
The story goes like this: earlier this year I started a website called Nutrish and Delish and had all these grand plans of blogging along with my then new found passion for Instagram-ing all the nutritious and delicious things in my life. It worked really well for a few months. Then reality struck where friend, family and work obligations always came first and blog posts got shelved. So with full intentions of resuming my original plans, this spring I shut the website down to make sure I didn't lead anyone on and to regroup my ideas.
I took time to embrace everything that was going on in my life: passed my recertification exam as a NASM personal trainer, celebrated a couple of my best friends' weddings, visited family overseas I hadn't seen in two years, created my first ever pieces of silversmithing jewelry and changed positions at work to a dream one that I thought I'd have to wait four more years to get! Most importantly, I focused on me for the first time ever. All of these great happenings reignited my motivation to get the website going again, but I knew there had to be some changes:
The reason I want to go live now even though the website is not done (*fair warning*) is because there are many things I want to share and conversations I want to have right now. If I continue to postpone the debut, I can't move forward, and that's what life is all about: living in the moment. I haven't finished importing recipes and posts from the old site but don't worry, they will make it over one day (hopefully soon!).
For the time being, if you want a little more background, you can see my original blog introduction below...