Deceptively Sinless Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Deceptively Sinless Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado PuddingI’ve always liked sweets, but pregnancy really amplifies this wicked taste of mine and I have been shamefully shoving junk food into my face like it’s the only thing that will keep me alive.

My lack of willpower and the attitude of “you deserve it, you’re pregnant!” have been a horrible combination. It has totally enabled me to satisfy this craving with whatever crap is handy (including but not limited to lots of chocolate bars) but I’ve started feeling guilty. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with indulging in moderation, but I guess I should probably be making sure I’m getting the right nutrients and all that blah blah blah.

My flawless logic also tells me that if I eat sweets that are more wholesome and nutritious, I can eat MORE of them.

I’m sticking to that theory, so don’t even try to talk me out of it. 

The easiest way to be healthier when in the clutches of a sugar jones is to stay away from packaged, processed sweets and eat things like fruit and yogurt, of course. When that doesn’t do the trick (i.e. most of the time, in my case), I can move on to sweets that are cut with nutritious ingredients, like a honey sweetened apple crisp, say, or chocolate quinoa brownies. Controlling these kinds of ingredients means making my own treats as much as I can, and now that I don’t feel like a hangover on a roadtrip in a stuffy car, I’m much more likely to do this.

However, I could have all the extra energy I’m capable of possessing and still not feel like putting in the effort to bake, so my credo (as always) is that simple is best. I want as few ingredients as possible with as few dishes as possible with as few steps as possible. That’s really not so much to ask, is it?

My ultimate go-to simple and healthy dessert, then, is chocolate avocado pudding.  It’s a bit of a no-brainer, really: avocados are really good for everyone, but as it turns out, they are extra good for us pregnant lassies. Avocados are high in potassium (which helps keep all that extra fluid in your swollen self at the right chemical balance), high in fibre (lowers blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of preeclampsia and also keeps you… you know, moving), and they are also a good source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. They are sometimes thought to be very fattening but the fat content we are looking at is unsaturated. The good kind. Unsaturated fat is crucial in brain and nervous system development, giving you another good reason to dig in while you’re growing a whole human (and also a good reason to feed avocados to your kids).

Chocolate, of course, has gotten a lot of positive attention in recent years as it is now thought to be a healthy choice when you are looking for something to file the edge off your sweet tooth. If you select a good quality dark chocolate (meaning at least 70% cocoa content, but the higher the better), you are enjoying a treat that is a source of antioxidant flavonoids which will not only help your body repair cell damage but can also help protect your cardiovascular system. It does have to be dark chocolate, though: milk chocolate and Dutch processed cocoa are both processed to remove some of the bitterness that raw cacao holds which strips them of much of their flavonoids. 

This being noted, I’m sure you’ve realized that this chocolate avocado pudding is on the dark side. If you’re not a huge dark chocolate fan, you can serve this dessert with whipped cream which cuts some of the bitterness. It may not keep the fat content down, but lemme tell ya, it definitely jacks up the delicious factor.

I have to give Tracy full credit for this chocolate avocado pudding recipe — she practically lived off the stuff when she was pregnant and introduced it to me then. I will give you two versions of this pudding: one uses mainly whole ingredients and is a little bit healthier than the second which uses chocolate chips. Both versions are smooth and silky beyond what you would have possibly imagined, and both are rich and chocolatey and decadent. The major difference between these two recipes is that the chocolate chip version sets into a ganache-like texture while the cocoa version stays a little softer and more like pudding. I usually make the chocolate chip version because it has less ingredients (see credo above) and because I like the firmer texture, but if you want to go guilt-free, you can make the cocoa version — which incidentally fits in with vegan and raw food diets, if that’s something you’re observing.

So now that I have you convinced that you should make it (and I do, don’t I??), here are the two recipes for…

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 ~Angelic Version~

 Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to large avocado, ripe
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey, agave syrup OR maple syrup (this depends entirely on your tastes. You can even go for raw sugar, if you want.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • optional: 1-2 Tbsp milk (coconut, almond, cow… whatever you have. This is only used as needed to thin the pudding should it be too thick to blend nicely)  

 Directions

  1. Peel avocado and remove pit. Place in food processor and blend until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides as needed. 
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely incorporated, again scraping sides as necessary. 
  3. Divide pudding into individual dishes and chill for at least an hour. 

 ~Slightly More Devilish Version~

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to large avocado, ripe
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk (or cream if you want to amp up the indulgence)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Combine chocolate chips and milk over medium heat and stir until chocolate begins to melt. Remove from heat and continue stir until smooth. Set aside. (Alternatively you can microwave the chocolate chips and milk together for 1 minute at a medium high power setting. I use 7 on my microwave if I’m using it for this purpose.)
  2. Peel avocado and remove pit. Place in food processor and blend until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides as needed. 
  3. Add vanilla, salt and chocolate mixture to food processor and blend until fully incorporated. 
  4. Divide pudding into individual dishes and chill for at least an hour.

When chilling is complete, you can serve either version with fresh fruit and whipped cream or you can top it with a sprinkling of your favorite kind of nuts. I like it best with bananas or strawberries and whipped cream. 

This is an enormous hit at our house –to the point that if Toby sees the food processor and an avocado on the counter at the same time, he does a little dance — and it’s also a great way to use up that avocado you forgot about in the fridge which needs to get eaten NOW. All things considered, this is definitely a dish you can eat time and again and enjoy without tarnishing your conscience at all.

Have you tried this before? What is your favorite wholesome (or, as I like to call them, sneaky) dessert? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and field any questions! 

– Joc

Quinoa Part II: Only the Good

Quinoa Part II: Only the Good

Three of My Favorite Quinoa Recipes

You know what’s really, really good for you? Quinoa. You know what I buy in bulk and add to just about everything? Quinoa!

I’m here to come to the defense of quinoa since poor Joc has had some bad luck with it. And that’s not to say that everything I’ve ever done with it has been great, because it hasn’t, but I have found a few recipes that I really like and I’d love to share them.

These three recipes are some that I make over and over and which have become “go-tos” in our house. The first of these recipes my husband frequently requests. This is a man they have nicknamed “Meat”, by the way. Just sayin’. The second one I love but Josh could take it or leave it. The third? We both love!

Before we get cooking with quinoa here are a few tips, tricks, and other uses for it:

  • Always rinse your quinoa under cool water before cooking.
  • Toss a small handful into soups and stews for added interest and a nutritional boost.
  • Toast quinoa in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes before cooking for extra flavor.
  • Grind toasted and cooled quinoa in a food processor or coffee grinder to make a gluten-free flour.
  • Use in place of oats with milk to make a delicious, protein-packed porridge for breakfast.
  • Top your salads with a 1/4 cup cooked quinoa and make them a little heartier.

Fun, right?

Now. On to the actual cooking.

  ___________________________________________

 Meat-Lover’s Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Adapted from Eating Well
Quinoa Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Quinoa (red or white)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups finely chopped cremini, portobello or white button mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted then finely chopped (See tip below)
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 8 small whole-wheat burger buns or buns of your choice

Preparation

  1. Combine water and rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  4. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and spices; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  5. Beat egg in a medium bowl. Add the quinoa, mushroom mixture, cheese, pecans, oats and soy sauce; stir to combine. Scoop scant 1/2-cup portions of the mixture onto the baking sheet and shape into 8 patties, about 3 inches wide, leaving about 1 inch of space between each patty. (The mixture will be crumbly; patting it into burgers on the baking sheet makes it easier to work with. The patties hold together very well once baked.)
  6. Bake the burgers until crispy, 28 to 30 minutes. Serve on buns with your favorite garnishes.

Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Individually wrap and freeze cooked burgers for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat in a skillet with a little oil.
  • For the best flavor, toast nuts before adding to recipes. Spread whole nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F, stirring once, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. For chopped nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

___________________________________________

 

Lasagna-Style Quinoa Casserole

Adapted from Eating Well
Quinoa Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water, salted
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup diced portobello mushrooms (or any kind of fresh mushrooms you have on hand)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, thyme or Italian seasoning
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups sliced zucchini (approximately one medium zucchini)
  • 2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preparation

  1. Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ casserole dish with olive oil.
  2. Combine water and rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan. (You can also add seasoning to the water or use chicken or vegetable broth instead for more flavor.) Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cook covered for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Evenly spread the quinoa in the prepared dish. You can also cook the quinoa before hand to cut down on prep time.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Wipe out the saucepan, then add oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until transparent and starting to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened and very little moisture is left in the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and tomato sauce. Stir until hot. Remove from heat.
  5. Combine cottage cheese and egg in a medium bowl; mix well. Stir in Parmesan, basil and oregano.
  6. Spread one-third of the sauce over the quinoa. Make a layer of all the zucchini, then all the cottage cheese mixture, then half the remaining sauce, then all the spinach. Finish with the remaining sauce and spread mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, bubbling and slightly browned around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

___________________________________________

 

Baked Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

Adapted from She Knows

Turkey Quinoa meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 handful baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (or less for a milder spice)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or oregano, thyme, basil… whatever you have)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs (You can use regular breadcrumbs as well)
  • 1 egg

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl add ground turkey, cooked quinoa, spinach, red onion, garlic, Sriracha, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs and egg. Stir until combined. You can also mix these with an electric mixer to speed things up.
  3. Roll into 1 to 1-1/2 inch balls and add to prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until firm and cooked throughout.
  5. Serve with tomato sauce over pasta or on sub buns with cheese as a meatball sandwich.

I hope these recipes inspire you to  step outside your comfort zone a bit and do some experimenting with this funny, versatile, little seed that is all the craze right now. There are so many possibilities.

Now go make some quinoa!

Did you enjoy these recipes? Were they a flop for your family or did they gobble them right up? Let us know!

-Tracy

Teething Cookies Recipe

Teething Cookies Recipe

How to make your own wholesome teething cookies

Teething Cookies photo teethingcookies_zps9863e577.jpg

Well there isn’t a whole lot to say about this recipe.

I was looking for something I could make for Charlotte to gnaw on that would keep her busy. They had to be tasty and healthy.

Of all the recipes I tried this teething cookie has the most structural integrity. Others I made were too soft, too crumbly or too gummy (not the safest attributes). I suggest keeping these in an air-tight bag or container because I’ve discovered they become a bit hockey puck-like after being exposed to the air for a while. You may also find yourself following your baby around with a broom if you are particularly uptight about the neatness of you home; there will be crumbs on your floor.

You can substitute a lot of the ingredients to suit your needs. For example you would probably be fine using quinoa flour instead of wheat if you’d like it to be gluten free. These cookies are vegan as is. For the rice cereal you can use store bought if that’s what you have but I make my own by grinding brown rice in a coffee grinder and it works wonderfully.

Now let’s get baking!  photo 20140422_163700_zpsfnuhohh_edit_1398247552220_zpswc0bybue.jpg

Banana Teething Cookies

Makes approximately one dozen medium cookies. ~8 months+

What you need:

  • 1/2 Cup Rice Cereal (or ground brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil, just melted or softened
  • 1 Small Mashed Banana or 1/2 Large Banana (Or other pureed fruit such as pumpkin) – about 1/2 Cup
  • 1-2 tsp Cinnamon (include nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves or pumpkin spice if you like)
  • 2-4 Tbsp Water (or juice)

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Mix everything a bowl starting with 2 Tbsp of water and adding a little more at a time until a dough is formed.
  4. Roll out onto lightly floured surface until about 1/4″ thick and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or even just the top of a drinking glass.
  5. Place on lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Cool completely then store in an airtight container.

Have fun with this recipe and experiment with different spices and fruits or vegetables to keep it exciting!

Safety Precautions: Teething cookies should get soggy and crumble a bit so your child can eat them however your child should be supervised while eating these and be in an upright position. She should be able to “chew” these with her gums and have tried all the ingredients before. You should also stick to a large round shape like a circle or heart as opposed to something like a star or gingerbread man that is more likely to break off into chunks.

Did your wee one enjoy these cookies? Do you have a recipe you and your baby love? Let us know!

-Tracy