Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding

IMG_3075Did you know chocolate contains powerful heart healthy antioxidants; as well as selenium, calcium, and magnesium; and an array of B-vitamins? Studies show that eating small amounts of dark chocolate may reduce risk of stroke, heart disease, and high cholesterol due to cocoa’s high flavanoid content. And you probably don’t need a study to tell you about chocolate’s mood boosting properties, although it has been shown to improve anxiety and depression, helping you to feel more calm and content.

Here is a decadent recipe that is sure to satisfy your chocolate cravings. This dark chocolate pudding is paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, and free of refined sugars. It also contains chia seed, an amazing source of fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Serves 4

  • 1 cup Coconut Cream (coconut milk is also fine here)
  • 1 ripe Banana
  • 1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs raw Honey
  • 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup Chia Seeds

In a blender, combine all ingredients except the chia seeds and blend on medium speed until smooth. Pour into a medium sized container and mix in the chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Is it Safe to Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

salmon-dinnerDo you have questions about eating seafood while you’re pregnant? Have you been told to avoid sushi or to be careful about high mercury levels in fish? Moms want nothing more than to protect their kids and to give them a good start in life, and part of that is getting good nutrition during pregnancy. There are tons of lists out there about what to eat or not eat when you’re pregnant and a lot of the advice can be confusing. One of the more controversial items I’ve seen up for debate is fish; to eat or not to eat, and how much is safe to eat if you do eat it?

Seafood and Pregnancy Pros and Cons

So what’s the deal with seafood? On the positive side, seafood and fish are healthy sources of protein, zinc, and iron, along with omega-3 fatty acids that support a growing baby’s brain development. More problematic however is that many fish, especially the larger predatory species, can be full of mercury and other toxins. This is because these animals are higher up on the food chain and they absorb and then bioaccumulate toxins from their own food sources. Mercury is a health concern for humans and when ingested, mercury can cross through the placenta into a fetus’ circulation, causing organ and tissue damage. Mercury especially affects a growing baby’s brain and neurological development. The Environmental Protection Agency states that children exposed to mercury in utero may develop issues with cognition, attention, language, memory, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.

Safe Seafood Options and Portion Sizes

Despite the concerns, most researchers and doctors agree that fish should still be included in a pregnant woman’s diet due to the numerous health benefits this food group provides. Currently the FDA recommends women eat 8 to 12 oz of fish each week during pregnancy. This is equivalent to 2 or 3 portions per week. However, pregnant women (and everyone really!) should be careful to choose fish species that are lowest in mercury content. Good choices of fish that are low in mercury levels include: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Sardines, Anchovies, and Atlantic Mackerel. Fish that are high in mercury, such as Shark, Swordfish, Orange Roughy, and Marlin should be avoided. Albacore and other species of tuna are also relatively high in mercury and should be limited to no more than one serving per month. Raw fish and sushi are also not recommended in pregnancy due to risk for parasites and food-borne illnesses.

Safe Seafood Guide

If this sounds overwhelming to navigate and remember, there is thankfully a great online resource for moms-to-be. The Environmental Working Group offers a customized tool to help you find clean and nutrient-rich seafood sources. The guide lists seafood choices that are big on nutrition and low in heavy metals. This resource is amazing even if you’re not pregnant, since you can input your age, gender, and health information and it automatically gives you recommendations on what kinds of fish to eat, along with how many servings you should aim for each week.

So fear not! Armed with a little knowledge on what choices to make, fish and seafood are a great addition to a healthy diet and they can provide lots of nutrients to support a healthy growing baby.

Resources

Walnut Stuffed Figs

These are a beautiful treat for late summer parties.

IMG_0512

Serves 5.

Stuffed Figs

  • 10 fresh ripe Figs (I used Mission variety, but any kind will do)
  • 1/2 cup Walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground Cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground Nutmeg

Vanilla Cashew Creme

  • 1 1/2 cups raw Cashews
  • 6 pitted Dates
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the dates and the cashews for the vanilla cashew cream in a bowl. Add just enough water to cover the ingredients and let soak for 30 minutes. Slice the figs and arrange in a glass baking dish. Chop walnuts into small pieces and mix with salt and spices in a bowl. Make a depression in the figs with your finger or a spoon and then spoon spiced nut mixture into the fig halves. Bake figs for approximately 20 minutes or until they have slightly softened.

While the figs are baking, remove and strain the cashews and dates, making sure to reserve the soaking water. Place all ingredients for the vanilla cream in the food processor and blend, adding 1 Tbsp of the soaking water at a time until the mixture is the consistency of smooth frosting. Set aside.

Serve the figs warm and drizzled with Vanilla Cashew Cream.

Spiced Date Rolls

These delicious and healthy date rolls are perfect for sharing.

Makes about 1 dozen.

  • 1 cup Dates
  • 1 cup raw Almonds
  • zest of 1 Orange
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened Coconut
  • 1/2 inch fresh Ginger root, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs water

Place all ingredients except for water and coconut into a food processor. Blend while adding the water a small amount at a time until ingredients form a smooth paste. Place shredded coconut onto a plate. Scoop out a small amount of date paste and roll in your palm to form a 1 inch ball. Roll the ball in the coconut and set aside. Repeat until all the date paste has been used.IMG_0518

Chicken with Summer Tomatoes, Fennel, and Green Olives

A great way to celebrate summer produce!
Serves 4.
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fresh basil, julienned
  • 1/3 cup green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Sear chicken breasts for 5 minutes on each side and set aside. Add 1 Tbs of oil to skillet along with sliced fennel, onions, and salt. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until veggies are slightly browned and softened, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and wine along with partially cooked chicken breasts. Nestle chicken amongst the veggies and cover with a lid. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Add olives and basil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes more or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees.

Tomato-on-cuttingboard

Turkey Chili

A new take on an old favorite, this recipe gets its delicious, complex flavors from the combination of chili and cocoa powders.  It is full of fiber, lean protein, and veggies, for a great one pot dinner.

Serves 4-6

10 minutes prep time, 40 minutes cooking time

  • 3/4 lb ground Turkey
  • 1 Tbs Coconut Oil
  • One small Garnet Yam
  • Two stalks Celery
  • Two small or one medium Zucchini
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 small bunch Kale, cut into small ribbons
  • Six cloves Garlic, minced
  • 4 cups Tomatoes, diced
  • Two 14 oz cans Black Beans
  • 6 oz Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Broth or Water
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Cocoa powder

chiliHeat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Chop the onion, celery, zucchini, and yam into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside. Add turkey to pot and cook lightly until browned, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, cocoa powder, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the onion, celery, zucchini, and yam, and simmer for 10 minutes more. Then, add the garlic and kale and continue simmering for an additional 10 minutes.

Paleo Coconut Mango Sorbet

SONY DSCCraving something that’s sweet, creamy, AND healthy? My Coconut Mango Sorbet is a refreshing, tropical treat that’s also nutrient-dense and Paleo-friendly. This delicious sorbet is free of dairy and refined sugars and perfect for a hot summer day.

Makes 1 quart and requires an ice cream maker.

  • 2 cans Coconut Milk (full-fat, not light!)
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 cup Raw Honey
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 1/4 cup Mango, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, salt, honey, and lime juice. Stir in the mango chunks. From here, follow the directions on your ice cream maker. The sorbet will most likely need to sit in your freezer for a few hours to firm up before serving.

Note: If you’ve never cut a mango before, here is a great step-by-step video!

mango-sorbet-paleo

Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachios and Thyme

This recipe is simple and delicious, with a rich nutty flavor. I often serve it in place of rice or couscous when I make a tagine, curry, or stew. Serves 4-6.
  • One headof cauliflower, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil orothervegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried Thyme

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the chopped cauliflower on a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mixture and then spread it out into one even layer. Bake for about 40 minutes total, stirring once at 20 minutes and adding the pistachios and thyme after 35 minutes of cooking. Cauliflower should be tender and lightly browned. Serve warm.

IMG_0192

Food for Thought?

Ever want to know what happens when your body tries to digest different types of food? Media artist, Stefani Bardin and Dr. Braden Kuo, M.D. may have the answer for you. Dr. Kuo is Assistant Physician, Gastroenterology Unit and Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kuo and Ms. Bardin recently collaborated on a video where two patients swallow small cameras and then eat two different meals, one highly processed and one handmade. The results are quite interesting and may have you thinking about food in a new way.

Winter Squash and White Bean Soup

This is a hearty and healthy soup, perfect for cold winter nights. This recipe takes about 90 minutes to prepare, not including soaking times. The beans may be cooked up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Serves 6-8.
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup dried white/navy beans
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups kale, chopped fine
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp rubbed sage
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Soak beans 6-8 hours or overnight in a large bowl with enough water to cover by 3 inches. Drain soaked beans and add to a large pot of water. Boil for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but not soft. Drain beans. Carefully, slice butternut squash in half lengthwise with a large chef’s knife. Scoop out seeds. Remove the skin with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Chop the squash into ¾ inch cubes.  Heat oil over medium heat in a large dry stock pot. Add the butternut squash and onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer until onion becomes tender and translucent. Add the broth and bay leaves, cover, and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. After this, add the cooked beans. Continue to simmer 10 minutes longer until squash is tender. Add the chopped kale and seasonings and cook 5 minutes more. Serve warm.