Simple Sides: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Simple Sides: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Carbs seem to have a bad reputation lately, but there IS such a thing as a good carb: a sweet potato is one of them! The orange-colored flesh of sweet potatoes is packed with health-promoting beta-carotene, which is converted in our bodies to Vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function and even improves the look of skin (hello glowing, gorgeous face!). The phytonutrients in sweet potatoes also help protect the body against damaging free radicals with their antioxidants and combat excess inflammation. What’s even more amazing is that, unlike the traditional white variety, sweet potatoes can help CONTROL and REGULATE blood sugar levels which = fewer cravings and higher energy levels. Talk about a healthy carb! Don’t forget about those purple sweet potatoes either: the anthocyanins and other phytonutrients in this variety have additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.

Because one of the key nutrients in sweet potatoes, Vitamin A, is fat-soluble it is best to incorporate a healthy fat into your cooking method to maximize its absorption. One of my favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes is to slice and then bake them with a healthy dose of coconut oil and cinnamon. The coconut oil serves as the healthy fat, is packed with antioxidants, and is a rich source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides, which are easily-absorbed fats that may improve digestion, energy, brain function, mood and body fat). The cinnamon not only adds GREAT flavor but does double duty with its essential oils providing anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It also helps to control blood sugar by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties and therefore preventing a sharp spike in blood sugar.

I love to bake these fries and eat them alone as a snack or side dish, or top them with a little bit of yogurt and Supernola (see my shop page to purchase!) for a healthy breakfast that keeps me going all morning. Check out the recipe below!

Coconut, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into French fry, wedge, or round shape
  • 1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Melt coconut oil over low heat in small saucepan.
  • In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, melted oil, salt and cinnamon.
  • Evenly spread the potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes tossing or flipping occasionally.
  • Remove from the oven and serve.

ENJOY!!!!

Simple Sides: Steamed Broccoli

Simple Sides: Steamed Broccoli

Ok, so we all know broccoli is good for us and we should just eat it right? Not so fast: did you know the healthiest version of broccoli only takes FOUR minutes to cook? You get the most bang for your broccoli buck by quickly steaming this vegetable for 4 minutes or less. Not only does this lead to a great, bright green color and perfectly firm texture, studies show that this method allows it to retain the MOST nutrients (especially vitamin C and sulforaphane). This, in turn, translates to better health benefits, including both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The compound sulforaphane in broccoli helps to combat excess inflammation, which can be a contributing factor to some types of cancers and even lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Additionally, this veggie is packed with vitamins A (carotenoids), C, E, K, and folate (and other B vitamins), as well as key minerals: chromium, manganese, selenium, and zinc, AND many phytonutrients. Together these compounds act as an antioxidant powerhouse to help squash free radicals that can cause damage to our cells and wreak havoc on our health. Broccoli also aids in the natural detoxification process that occurs in our body when exposed to toxins.  It supports improved digestion with its high fiber content and prevents bacterial overgrowth in the stomach.

Remember:  be careful not to overcook, because this can destroy nutrients and significantly reduce health benefits!

Shopping/Storing tips:  Select the broccoli with the deepest color green florets.  Studies show this contains the highest level of carotenoids.  Store unwashed (water can lead to spoiling), uncut (cutting can lead to nutrient loss) in an airtight plastic bag/container in fridge, and it can keep for up to 10 days.  Cooked broccoli can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.  Blanched then frozen broccoli is good for up to a year.

Recommended intake:  3.4-1.5 cups cruciferous (included cauliflower too!) vegetables daily

Below is my favorite way to cook broccoli, which keeps its nutrients intact, while delivering amazing flavor.

Four-Minute Garlic Steamed Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped into bite size florets
  • 5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional) 

Directions

  1. Place steamer basket in a medium sized pot and add water, filling just until the water hits the bottom of the basket.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Add broccoli to the pot, and steam covered for four minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a skillet over medium heat, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  5. Toss the steamed broccoli in the sautéed garlic and oil in a SEPARATE bowl (NOT on stove, since this will continue to cook the broccoli).
  6. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if using, and serve along with your favorite protein and healthy carb for a simple, balanced meal!
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Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate Fondue

Does anybody else feel like this coooold March on the East Coast keeps dragging?  Well, it is still National Nutrition Month, so we might as well keep working on our summer bodies while we wait for the weather to warm up. Speaking of warm, I have another healthy, guilt-free substitute to feed cravings for CHOCOLATE.  This time, it’s a recipe for dessert!

Whether you are craving a bit of a treat after a savory meal OR you are entertaining for a dinner party, this dish will be a hit……hot chocolate fondue!   That melty, sweet, rich, and even a bit savory sensation will have you licking your bowls and fingers.  Not only is it guilt-free, it has many health benefits too!  (See below.)

I started with Barely Bread’s 100% Grain-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bagel.  I simply sliced, lightly toasted, and diced the bread.  (I used some berries for dipping as well to add flavor, antioxidants, and color.) Then I heated up the chocolate mixture over the stove.  And, that’s it-almost too easy:  A satisfying chocolate, health-conscious desert that is higher in protein, good fat and fiber than most traditional dishes, and has many more nutrition benefits than the original version.

Here some the health benefits of this recipe’s ingredients:

Barely Bread: Not only is it gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and have an amazing flavor, the higher protein and good fat content help you feel fuller longer than regular white bread.  It is also lighter and easier to digest than many traditional loaves or bagels.

Dark Chocolate:  Dark chocolate is a good source of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and also contains potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.  It contains a variety of strong antioxidants.  It may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.  It also can decrease bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol and decrease overall cardiovascular disease risk.  Studies also show that it can improve blood flow to and hydration of the skin and protect against sun damage.  By increasing blood flow to the brain, it may improve cognitive function.  And let’s not forget how GREAT chocolate tastes!

Coconut Sugar: This sweetener is made by boiling and dehydrating the sap from the flowers of coconut trees.  It is all natural (with nothing artificial added), is NOT chemically altered, and earth friendly.  Coconut trees require small amounts of fuel and water and can produce this sugar for over 20 years (while sugar cane production requires a lot of fuel).  Although it does contain the same number of calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar, it has more nutrition benefits.  First, it is not as refined and altered as white sugar.  Second (unlike white sugar), it has small amounts of vitamin C, inositol (B vitamin), calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, as well as phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Coconut sugar also has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, meaning it will cause less spikes in blood sugar.  It contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber beneficial to gut health.  It also has a lower fructose content than other sweeteners, such as agave and high fructose corn syrup.  (Fructose is the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit.  However, since it can turn to fat quickly, overconsumption in other foods is not recommended.) 

Coconut sugar also has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, meaning it will cause less spikes in blood sugar.  It contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber beneficial to gut health.  It also has a lower fructose content than other sweeteners, such as agave and high fructose corn syrup.  (Fructose is the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit.  However, since it can turn to fat quickly, overconsumption in other foods is not recommended.) 

Coconut Oil:  This healthy fat improves digestion and metabolism.  The type of fat it contains is called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).  Studies have shown these MCTs can burn calories quicker than other sources of fat, thus ultimately leading to weight loss over the long term.  They also keep you fuller longer and can reduce appetite and calorie intake, as well as decrease abdominal fat.  Coconut oil is also has antibacterial properties, is high in antioxidants, and Vitamin E, and is great for skin and hair. 

Chocolate Fondue
Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces (1 bar) of dark chocolate (I have used Eating Evolved, Hu Kitchen, and Juice Press. All are more than 70% cacao and sweetened with coconut sugar.)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt (if desired OR you can use already salted chocolate)

Directions:

  1. Place coconut oil in a saucepan on VERY low heat and allow it to melt.
  2. Break apart chocolate bar and begin to stir continuously.
  3. Add vanilla and salt (if desired).
  4. Remove from heat immediately after all is melted and transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl.
  5. Using toothpicks (or traditional fondue sticks, or just a fork), dip Barely Bread chunks and fruit in chocolate as desired!****This warm chocolate would also taste great drizzled over pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, a smoothie, nut butter and toast, or anywhere else you would like to use chocolate.  ENJOY!!

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