If you know me personally, it’s no secret that I LOVE chocolate. Thankfully, dark chocolate is a treat that I can feel good about eating because it contains healthy antioxidants. If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, eating dark chocolate (in moderation of course!) might actually help lower your blood cholesterol levels. When purchasing chocolate, try to look for organic chocolate that has a minimum of 70 percent cocoa content.
Another way to use chocolate is to add cocoa powder (also known as cacao powder) to sweet or savory recipes. Good quality cacao powder can be found in larger grocery or natural food stores. I found mine next to the protein powders in Whole Foods.
This recipe incorporates cocoa powder, cherries and dates to form a yummy raw bar that is reminiscent of Larabars. I added the quick cooking oats because I like the texture that they give to the bar. This is a great mid-morning or late afternoon snack that can help curb that sweet tooth and give you the healthy protein and fats that your body needs.
These will keep well in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze them and just defrost in the fridge overnight (or even eat frozen like I have done before!)
Makes 8 Bars
1 C Medjool Dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 C Dried unsweetened bing cherries
1/3 C Quick cooking oats
1/2 C Raw almonds
1 TBS Coconut oil, melted
1 TBS Cocoa powder
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
Place dates and cherries into a food processor and blend until they are finely chopped (the mixture will come together to form a ball). Remove to a bowl.
Place oats and almonds into the processor (no need to clean it out first!) and process until finely chopped. Add the cherry and date mixture back in. Add the coconut oil, cocoa powder and cinnamon and process until combined.
Line a brownie pan with wax or parchment paper and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom. Chill for 20 minutes and then cut into 8 bars.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a huge fan of Indian food. Biriyani is no exception. In an effort to make one of my favorite grain dishes healthier, I decided to experiment with replacing the white rice with quinoa. This is a great dish that can be eaten as a complete meal, or served as a side. The date sauce is a great addition to the dish because it adds a sweet, but not overpowering flavor with a touch of mint. If you don’t like mint, you can simply leave it out.
Quinoa is often served warm, but I prefer it cold or room temp. This is a great dish to bring to a pot-luck dinner and tastes just as good the next day.
If you aren’t very familiar with quinoa, it is a grain-like seed that has a slightly nutty flavor and is a great alternative to white rice or couscous. It’s a complete protein and is high in magnesium and iron as well as being a good source of fiber. In addition, quinoa is a gluten-free food, making it a great option for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Tip: Quinoa can sometimes taste bitter when cooked. Soak the seeds in cold water for 15 minutes before cooking and you can help minimize the bitterness.
Quinoa Biriyani with a Date Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish
3/4 C Quinoa, (see tip above)
1/2 C Vegetable Broth
1/2 C Water
1/2 C Carrots, shredded
1/3 C Raisins
2 tsp Curry paste mixed with 1 tsp water
1/4 C Unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 Peas (cooked and cooled)
1/3 C Cashews (I like to toast mine for a few minutes in a dry pan)
2 TBS Cilantro, chopped
2 T scallions, sliced into 1/8″ rings (green part only)
2 Pitted dates
1/4 C Plain lowfat Greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite)
1 tsp lemon
4 mint leaves, finely chopped
Add Quinoa, vegetable stock and water to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the quinoa boils, turn the stove down and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cooked ( you can tell that quinoa is done when you see a small white “ring” around the outside the seeds). While the quinoa is cooking, add the carrots through the scallions into a large bowl and stir to combine.
Next, prepare the sauce by adding the dates, yogurt, lemon and mint leaves into a food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. It won’t be completely smooth, but shouldn’t have large chunks of dates.
When the quinoa is done cooking, add it to another bowl and allow to cool completely before adding to the carrot, raisin, pea mixture.
To serve, add roughly a TBS of the sauce on top of the biriyani.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to eat bland, uninspired food. This recipe was something I came up with as a mid-morning snack. These Apple Date Bites have a natural sweetness from the dates and apples and it’s almost like having a “treat” (as my daughter would say). I buy all my dried nuts and fruits in bulk from www.nuts.com. They have a great selection and super fast shipping. Most importantly, I love that I can get dried fruits that aren’t full of added sugars and oils (unlike the selection at most grocery stores). This recipe is very easy to play with and you can easily substitute other fruits for the apple like dried cherries or apricots. Have fun and experiment!
Makes approximately 14 balls / seven servings
1 C pitted dates
1 C apple rings, unsweetened
1/2 C roasted unsalted cashews
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch cardamon (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (you can sub a good quality pure vanilla extract)
1/4 C shredded coconut, unsweetened
Combine everything but the coconut in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. You don’t want a smooth paste but rather a chunky consistency. Roll into 14 individual 1″ balls and then roll in coconut. Store in freezer for up to 2 weeks.