HEALTHY HOLIDAY GIFT CHOCOLATES: 3 EASY INGREDIENTS

I’m squeezing in one more blog article before the holiday season, in case you are like me, and love to give food as HOLIDAY GIFTS. Chocolate is always a holiday favourite, and it’s possible for it to be healthy too! So here is a recipe that is easy to make, that you can package up to give away, or that you can finish off a special meal with. You can feel great about gifting this healthy version!

 I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

This recipe uses 3 ingredients: raw cacao paste, raw cocoa butter, and yacon syrup. Cacao paste is the least processed form of the cocoa bean next to the bean itself (which you can purchase as whole beans or cacao nibs). It is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, and is a good source of polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity (1). Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Yacon syrup is made from yacon root, which is a root vegetable grown in South America. The syrup’s sweetness is derived from fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut. We can’t digest these carbohydrates, so they stay in our gut and are used by our bacteria instead. Since we can’t digest FOS, there are no sugars that enter the blood stream, making this a possible option for people with diabetes (2). FOS would not be suitable for someone with IBS or SIBO as it can aggravate symptoms in individuals with these conditions. Caution should be used for anyone with digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping or abdominal pain. I’m including a variation for those who don’t tolerate FOS.

REASONS TO GIFT CHOCOLATE

If the taste of chocolate isn’t enough to tempt you, there are also numerous health benefits that can result from consuming chocolate, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, support for the immune system, cancer protection, and as already mentioned, there are antioxidant benefits (3).

Yacon chocolates.jpg

RECIPE

140g raw cacao paste
140g raw cocoa butter
1/2-2/3 cup yacon syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

DIRECTIONS

Place cacao paste and cocoa butter over a double boiler, and melt.  Once melted, remove the top section and mix in the syrup.  Spoon the liquid mixture into candy molds, and place into the refrigerator or freezer until hard.  It only takes about 10 minutes in the freezer.  Once it has solidified, remove pieces from the molds, and put them into a container, or gift bag.

Candy molds can be found at Amazon or various stores such as Michael’s. The variety of shapes you can find is amazing! You can customize your chocolate shapes to fit the person you are gifting to. This recipe should fill 4 trays.

VARIATION

You can replace the syrup with honey. This version is just as tasty, but the honey doesn’t emulsify into the mixture as well as yacon syrup, so you’ll need to keep stirring the mixture as it goes into the molds, and the chocolates need to be kept refrigerated. I make this a lot, and love it, but for gift giving it’s nice not to have to refrigerate the chocolates.

Add the 3 ingredients to your shopping list, and put “chocolate making” on your list of things to do! If you don’t have candy molds, the easiest thing to do is order them online, or make a chocolate bark instead by adding your favourite nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and pouring the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat.

What’s your favourite way to use chocolate?

Happy, Healthy Eating and Gifting!
Best Wishes for the Holidays!
Tracey

TURN YOUR FAVOURITE TEA INTO A FAT BOMB

Heard of intermittent fasting?  It’s one of the latest dietary trends that has some good research to support it. There are some great benefits to intermittent fasting including balancing of blood sugars (1), decrease cardiovascular risk (2), and improved brain health (3)… and it can be an easier way to reap these benefits, than a more restricted diet such as ketogenic diet or calorie counting.  Turning your favorite teas into a Fat Bomb, can be a great way to support intermittent fasting.

The goal with intermittent fasting is to extend your nightly fast.  As you sleep your body uses up glucose stores in your body, and by the time you wake up your body is starting to metabolize fat stores.  Your body will use the fat on your body, and convert it to ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for your cells.  The goal is to keep using energy from your own fat cells, which is one of the reasons this approach is so great for weight loss.  By waking up, and continuing to fast (not eat), you encourage the continual burning of stored fat into ketones as a source of energy for your body.  As it happens, your brain cells really like ketones too, so even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting will do a great job of fueling your brain, and it’s a great way to support neurological health.

 Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

One of the favorite drinks amongst intermittent fasters is Bulletproof coffee.  This drink was popularized by Dave Asprey, who has created the Bulletproof brand.  Many people refer to the blend of ingredients in this coffee as Bulletproof coffee, even if they aren’t using the Bulletproof brand.  The formula is pretty simple.  Good quality brewed coffee + MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil + grass-fed butter.  You put your hot coffee into a blender with the oil and butter, and blend on high speed to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy beverage.  This beverage is consumed in the morning as breakfast. The MCT oil rapidly converts to ketones in the liver, which supports the body’s continuation of using ketones to fuel your cells.  Typically people will try to fast for 14-16 hours (or longer), and not eat a meal until mid-morning, noon, or even later.  Bulletproof coffee can help sustain your energy until your first meal of the day. Typically intermittent fasting is done in conjunction with a low carb diet such as a Paleo or gut-healthy diet that removes grains and legumes.

But what if you are on a dietary protocol that doesn’t recommend coffee, such as an AIP diet, GAPS diet or other protocol focusing on gut health.  While coffee is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, it can be problematic for many people.  For a detailed look at the complexity of coffee’s affects on the body read Sarah Ballantyne’s recent blog article Coffee and Autoimmune Disease.  If you don’t know how coffee is impacting your health condition, it is always a good idea to remove it for a period of time.

The good news is that tea can be the perfect replacement, or if you are like me and dislike coffee, then tea can provide a morning beverage to support your intermittent fasting.

Tips Before Starting

You’ll need to make a strong tea. I recommend using 3 times the amount of tea you usually use, otherwise the flavour of the tea will get lost when you add your choice of fat.

If you are new to this type of drink, then make sure you start with a small amount of the fats, and slowly work your way up. If you get diarrhea, or start to experience stomach upset, then you have more fat than your system can handle. Use the amount that works for you. You may find that later you are able to tolerate greater amounts of fat, but you need to listen to what your body can handle now. Remember: start small and slowly build up (trust me on this!)

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, you may be able to use grass-fed ghee instead of butter, but you know your body best. If you know you react, then don’t use dairy fat.

Initially you may only be able to extend your fasting period for an hour or two, but as you slowly increase your fat intake, and your body gets used to using ketones as a fuel source, you’ll be able to go for longer periods of time without a solid meal.

You cannot add any kind of sugar, including honey to your drink. If you do, then your body will preferentially start using the glucose, and it won’t continue using ketones. If you need a bit of sweetness for your Tea Fat Bomb then try mixing in a bit of monk fruit.

3 Ways to Create Tasty Tea Fat Bombs

1.    Follow the same formula as a Bulletproof coffee.  Start by adding 1 teaspoon each of MCT oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee to your strong tea and remember to blend at high speed to emulsify those fats into a creamy drink. You can gradually build up the amount of oil and butter to 1 tablespoon each, but doing so too quickly can cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up the amount (I can’t emphasis this point enough!)

2.    Blend full-fat coconut milk or coconut oil into your tea.  Coconut milk and coconut oil are rich sources of MCTs.  Try a spoonful of coconut oil blended into your favorite tea, or try blending in some full-fat coconut milk.  If you like the milk, look for a brand that is carrageenan free (I like Natural Value, which is available at health food stores.)  As with the previous formula, slowly build up the fat content to avoid diarrhea. 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk is roughly the equivalent of 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil. Start small! You can also add the grass-fed butter or ghee to this if you want.

3.    If you tolerate dairy, and know you don’t have a food sensitivity toward it (word of caution – many people have a hidden sensitivity), then you can add heavy cream or whipping cream.  The nice thing about this option is that it doesn’t require blending, but the fats in dairy also won’t convert to ketones as easily as MCT oil, so you may not get the rapid energy that you need to support your fasting.

Best Teas

Black teas are good choices if you have troubles stopping caffeine consumption.  Since black teas are traditionally consumed with milk or cream, this can be a comforting, familiar beverage.  Try an Earl Gray, English Breakfast, or other traditional flavour. There is evidence that caffeine supports the production of ketones (4), so you might find black tea works well for you with intermittent fasting.

Chai teas are also excellent choices, and there are a wide variety of these teas.  Some include black tea, but there are herbal varieties as well for those trying to avoid caffeine.

Rooibos teas can also be great options depending on the flavours.  Try a plain rooibos, or something like a vanilla or Earl Grey rooibos.

If you love herbal teas, there are some great possibilities.  One of my favorite tea shops in Calgary is The Naked Leaf.  I love the Herbal Chai, and am excited to try creating a Fat Bomb with their new Powerhouse Tea, which has some medicinal mushrooms.

Have you tried turning your favourite hot drink into a Fat Bomb? Try this with your favourite tea, and let me know how it works out for you.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

 

AMAZING, SIMPLE PANNA COTTA YOU'LL LOVE.

Sorry I'm a bit later than usual in writing my blog!

As happens in life sometimes,  I've had a really busy couple of months.  Between teaching days and evenings, and giving workshops and presentations on the weekends, there was just no time left to write.  The little time I had left was spent with my family.

When things get that busy, having simple recipes is really important.  My kids like sweet treats (who doesn't!), so Panna Cotta fit my criteria for REALLY SIMPLE.  Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian custard-like dessert made from cream.  It is easy to make a gut-healthy version, and takes about 15 minutes of preparation time.  I hadn't made Panna Cotta until recently, but because it was so simple, I was still able to experiment with different flavours despite my busy schedule.  I could make a batch before heading out to work, and it would set in the fridge and be ready for my family that evening.  Since they were in charge of their own dinner preparation for many of these days, being able to prepare something special for them made me feel I was still nourishing them.

Usually Panna Cotta is a simple vanilla flavour, and gets topped with berries or fruit sauce.  It's a beautiful dessert, and looks lovely for special occasions, but I came up with some flavourful variations.  This delicious treat contains gelatin to support your gut lining, and healthy fats too!  

CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA

Chocolate is always a big hit in our household, so it goes without saying that I had to try a chocolate version.  Chocolate is rich in polyphenols and minerals!

panna cotta1.JPG

Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
1/3 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
1 1/2 teaspoons grass-fed gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (sifted so there aren't any lumps)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk 1/2 the can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  Remove from heat and add the honey, cacao and remaining coconut milk.
3.  Pour into 4 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

To make this recipe AIP compliant, swap the cacao with carob powder.
 

MANGO PANNA COTTA

Panna cotta mango.JPG

I love the mango for it's sweetness and beautiful colour, but mangos are also high in fibre and rich in anti-oxidants.

Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
3 cups cubed mango (or 400g) fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw the mango first)
1/4 cup raw honey
1 Tablespoon gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk the full can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  While the coconut milk is warming, puree the mango in a blender until smooth and creamy.
3.  Remove the milk from heat and add the honey, and mango puree.
4.  Pour into 6 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

 Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

MAKE UP YOUR OWN PANNA COTTA

The varieties of Panna Cotta you can make are endless, so be creative.  It's hard to make a mistake with something so simple.

Besides being quick and simple, this is a great recipe to impress friends with, or to add to a summer barbeque or potluck.

Do you have a favourite simple dessert?  Add your favourite flavour by commenting.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

 

CARDAMON MILK RECIPE

Need some warming up?  We've had a couple of really cold spells here in Calgary recently.  Having some warm drink recipes is a great way to help you get through cold, wintery days.

This recipe is a new favourite.  I love cardamom in baking, so wanted to create a warm, spiced drink that incorporated this sweet spice.  

Cardamom Milk.JPG

CARDAMOM MILK

1 cup almond milk or coconut milk
2 medjool dates
¼ inch piece of ginger root
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
Optional:  ½ tablespoon collagen powder

Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  While it warms up put remaining ingredients in a high-speed blender.  Add warm milk and blend until the dates are emulsified into the drink.

The dates in this drink add sweetness without causing a spike in blood sugars.  Sometimes I double this and have it as my breakfast.
What is your favourite gut-healthy, warm drink?  

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

SECRET INGREDIENT! LOOK CLOSELY!

Have a look at these amazing Paleo, gut-healthy tacos!  What do you see?
a dollop of cultured cream
mango salsa
fried onions and peppers
guacamole
shredded beef tongue
lettuce

Did you read those ingredient right?  Yes, it's really TONGUE!

If you are a client of mine, or have seen some of my past blog articles, you'll know just how healthy organ meats and offal are.  I regularly eat liver and other offal, and sneak it into my kids' diet in meat loaf and other ground meat dishes.  Despite my passion for liver and other organ meat,  it took me a while to actually venture into buying beef tongue.  I ate it as a kid, and have memories of enjoying it with mustard.  When I queried my mom, she said it was smoked tongue that we used to eat.  I have never seen smoked tongue at the health food stores (you won't find tongue at your local grocer), but had noticed that beef tongue had been in the freezer of the health food store I shop at.

I finally mustered up the courage to buy one and bring it home.  It sat in the freezer for a few weeks before I finally decided on a way to prepare it.

Since I love slow cooking with my crock-pot, I decided to thaw the tongue and give the crock-pot a try. I seasoned it with Himalayan salt, threw it in the pot with a bit of water, and let it cook on low heat for about 8 hours.  Once it was done I placed in on a cutting board and quartered it.  Quartering it allowed me to easily pull the skin off - trust me, the skin doesn't look appetizing.  Then I used two forks and pulled the meat apart (imagine pulled pork).  I seasoned it with Homemade Taco Seasoning.  That's all.  Add the remaining taco toppings to your favourite soft taco (lettuce, coconut wrap, sheet of nori seaweed...) and you have delicious TONGUE TACOS!  

Have you tried tongue?  What's your favourite way to eat liver or other offal?  If you have any other tongue recipes you like, please share.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey