Healthy Chocolate Mint Truffles

Sweeten your day with these healthy chocolate-peppermint truffles. Made with a combination of dates, oats, cocoa powder, and tahini, this simple, 6-ingredient recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free, and makes a delicious, edible gift, especially as old Saint Nick rolls in.

 Healthy chocolate-mint truffles: The perfect GF, DF edible gift for the holidays.

Healthy chocolate-mint truffles: The perfect GF, DF edible gift for the holidays.

‘Tis the season. Can you believe it? Where did 2018 go? As we approach Christmas I am feeling extra grateful for all the adventures that 2018 has afforded us. And there have been many this year.

My first international trip of the year was to London to visit my dear friend, Luce, and her husband, Gus, who were at the time expecting their first baby. We sipped tea and ate crustless sandwiches in Fortnum and Mason, and cozied up inside watching the snow fall. It was such a lovely and worthwhile trip, even if it was only five days.

In 2018, we also attended the weddings of some of our most treasured friends in NYC, Santa Cruz, and Hawaii. All were fantastic, unique celebrations, laced with personal touches and thoughtfulness...as well as champagne! Few things in life get me more excited than bubbles and good friends.

Then there were the work trips to LA, DC, Sacramento and Austin. I was fortunate to speak at three professional events on nutrition innovation and startups this year and loved every moment of it. I’m hoping to do more speaking in 2019.

To top it all off we enjoyed some pretty dreamy holidays this year too. We explored Jerusalem and Tel Aviv together with my Mum and Dad mid year. After that we flew to Istanbul and had a terrific time exploring mosques and markets in Europe’s most populous city. Now, I am in the middle of a seven week trip to Sydney, my longest stint at home in roughly 10 years.

This year hasn’t been without it’s bumps. There have been surgeries, job changes and some pretty significant stress along the way, but I have so much to be thankful for. And that is largely my focus this Christmas.

The other big piece, of course, is the celebration. I don’t have a large family, but Christmas in my house is a big affair. As the annual visit from Saint Nick approaches, I felt like making something Christmasy and minty without the sticky mess of a candy cane. This is recipe is the end result and has been my favorite snack of late.

Made with a combo of dates, tahini, cocoa powder, oats and peppermint extract, this festive, 6-ingredient recipe is gluten-free, dairy free, vegan and SO easy. These delicious, chocolatey bites are packed with fiber and healthy fats, and offer just the right amount of sweetness without going over the top.

Merry Christmas, friends! May it be your best yet.

 6-ingredient chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats and cocoa powder. GF, DF.

6-ingredient chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats and cocoa powder. GF, DF.

Healthy Chocolate Mint Truffles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Deglet Noor dates, pitted

  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats (more about the health benefits of oats here)

  • 6 tbsp tahini

  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Directions

  1. Add the dates, old-fashioned oats, tahini, cocoa powder and maple syrup to the food processor. Process on high until the ingredients form ‘chocolate dirt’.

  2. Line a baking tray or tupperware container with parchment paper. Take a small handful of ‘chocolate dirt’ and press together to form 1-inch balls. Place the truffles on the parchment paper and refrigerate until firm.

Makes approximately 30 truffles.

Find more delicious eats and treats here.

 
 Healthy chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats, and cocoa powder. The perfect healthy snack for a chocolate-lover or a delicious edible gift!

Healthy chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats, and cocoa powder. The perfect healthy snack for a chocolate-lover or a delicious edible gift!

Reduced-Sugar, Gluten-Free Banana & Zucchini Muffins

Craving banana bread? Enjoy a miniature version with this gluten-free banana muffin recipe! Sweetened with bananas, these quick and fluffy muffins contain less added sugar than the average baked good, but taste just as delicious. Pair with your morning coffee or eat them all alone as a snack. Either way, these muffins won’t last long!

 Gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins made with Greek yogurt.

Gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins made with Greek yogurt.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks over here. Two weekends ago I was in DC for the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition (aka FNCE) with 10K other dietitians. It was a wonderful, hectic trip filled with loads of catch-ups and learnings.

This year Sonja Goedkoop and I presented at FNCE for the first time on nutrition innovation. I was humbled by the response we received and encouraged by the interest in innovation! (More on FNCE coming soon to the blog).

After FNCE I had a day at home in SF before flying to the Big Island of Hawaii for the nuptials of two good friends. The Big Island is an interesting place, offering everything from lush rainforests to volcanoes, and beaches. During our five days on the island we hiked, swam, sunbaked, and celebrated.

Now that I’ve returned to terra firma, I’m back in the kitchen and loving it! This week I whipped up this batch of banana muffins and they disappeared almost as quickly as they were produced. Made with gluten-free flour, mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, and zucchini, these babies are fluffy, moist and, offer just the right amount of sweetness. They’re also ready in under 30. Happy baking!

 Reduced sugar, gluten-free banana-zucchini muffins. Great for breakfast or as a snack/dessert!

Reduced sugar, gluten-free banana-zucchini muffins. Great for breakfast or as a snack/dessert!

Reduced-Sugar, GF Banana & Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 extra ripe medium bananas

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup grated zucchini (1 medium zucchini)

  • ⅓ cup canola oil

  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

  • ⅓ cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉/180℃, and line a muffin tin with baking cups.

  2. Mash the bananas with a fork in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the eggs, grated zucchini, canola oil, Greek yogurt, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir until well-combined.

  4. Pour the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into the mixing bowl. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the ingredients form a smooth-ish batter.

  5. Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer the muffin batter into the muffin cups.

  6. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before removing them from the muffin tin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Find more delicious eats and treats here.

 
 
 Reduced-sugar, gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins.

Reduced-sugar, gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins.

Middle Eastern Chicken Meatballs with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

This recipe is inspired by my love of Lebanese food. Made with lean ground chicken, turmeric, cumin, and parsley, these easy baked meatballs are packed with Middle Eastern flavors, and (surprisingly) loaded with veggies. Whip them up as a high protein snack or serve them over salad--there are so many things you can do with this gluten-free, dairy-free recipe!

 Turmeric-infused chicken meatballs, made without eggs, dairy or gluten.

Turmeric-infused chicken meatballs, made without eggs, dairy or gluten.

I’ve always loved Middle Eastern food. I remember requesting Lebanese food for dinner as young as five years old. It was one of many cuisines on the dinner table growing up in Sydney.

Our local Lebanese restaurant was nothing fancy. It was a dimly lit place with long strings of beads hanging from the door frame. However, the dishes were fresh and fantastic. To this day, I still think about the kibbeh, and the soft rounds of Lebanese bread from that shop.

I am no Lebanese Grandma, but after testing many variations of this recipe, I can confidently say that these lean chicken meatballs are fresh, flavorful and delicious. Toss over greens, add them to a grain bowl, or eat them all by themselves-- these gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo and freezer-friendly bites are worth the effort! Bon appétit!


Middle Eastern Chicken Meatballs with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

IMG_2403.jpg

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • ½ lb white mushrooms

  • 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp turmeric

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 lb (455g) ground chicken

  • Cooking spray

Dressing:

  • 6 tbsp tahini

  • 8 tsp lemon juice

  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 3 tsp honey

  • ¼ tsp garlic powder


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425℉ (215℃).  

  2. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil, and spray with cooking spray.

  3. Finely chop the mushrooms (or pulse a couple of times in a blender/food processor).

  4. Finely chop the parsley.

  5. Add the parsley, mushrooms, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and ground chicken to a medium-large mixing bowl. Mix until well-combined.

  6. Roll the chicken mixture into 1-inch balls, and place on the greased sheet pan.

  7. Insert the sheet pan into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165℉ (74℃). While the meatballs are cooking, combine the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, water, and, honey in a small bowl. Whisk until well-combined.

Makes 24-26 1-inch meatballs.

Hungry for more? Find additional quick and healthy recipes here.

 
 
 Quick Middle Eastern chicken meatballs with lemon-tahini dressing. Delicious and nutritious!

Quick Middle Eastern chicken meatballs with lemon-tahini dressing. Delicious and nutritious!

Beet, Orange, and Feta Salad with Yogurt Mint Dressing

Bring your salad game to a new level with this sweet, salty, and crunchy salad combo! Made with beets, oranges, feta, and mint, this delicious dish offers a fresh take on a classic combination and adds a healthy dose of color to the table.

 Easy beet, orange and feta salad with light and creamy mint dressing.

Easy beet, orange and feta salad with light and creamy mint dressing.

It’s citrus season in America, once again. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched summer berries and stone fruit slowly disappear from the supermarket and citrus, apples and pears take their place. I always feel a little sad to see fresh bluebs leave the shelves, however, I’m excited to embrace Autumn produce.

There’s something wonderful and underappreciated about the versatility of citrus, especially oranges. They add a sweet and acidic pep to any salad, come in an array of colors, and are affordable and abundant. Oranges are also full of vitamin C and a decent source of fiber to help fight off cold-weather bugs, and keep your digestive system healthy. (Get the full rundown on cold-fighting foods here).

Last week I picked up navel and blood oranges from the supermarket and, threw together this delicious beet and orange salad. Fresh mint and juicy orange segments cut through the earthiness of the beets, and greens to create a balanced, flavorful mix. Feta brings saltiness, and almonds add crunch to round out this easy, healthy recipe. Enjoy!

 Healthy beet, orange and feta salad with yogurt mint dressing. Gluten-free and vegetarian.

Healthy beet, orange and feta salad with yogurt mint dressing. Gluten-free and vegetarian.

Beet, Orange, and Feta Salad with Yogurt Mint Dressing

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 3-4 cups baby greens

  • 2 tbsp red onion

  • 2 oranges

  • 1 cup cooked beets (I used these ones)

  • ¼ cup feta

  • 2 tbsp almonds

Dressing:

  • ⅔ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt

  • 4 tsp lemon juice

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tbsp fresh mint

  • 2 tsp honey

  • ¼ tsp salt


Directions:

  1. Arrange the baby greens on a platter or in a salad bowl.

  2. Thinly slice the red onion, and scatter over the greens.

  3. Peel the orange, removing all the white pith. Cut the orange into segments, and scatter over the greens and, red onion.

  4. Slice the beets into wedges roughly the same thickness as the orange segments. Add the beets to the salad.

  5. Crumble the feta over the salad.  

  6. Roughly chop the almonds, and add them to the rest of the salad ingredients.

  7. Finely chop the fresh mint.

  8. In a small bowl, whisk together the mint, lemon juice, olive oil, honey and, salt. Drizzle the dressing mixture over the salad (you might not need all of it). Enjoy!

Serves 4.

Find more delicious, healthy recipes here.

 
 Quick beet and orange salad. Add a protein to make it a full meal!

Quick beet and orange salad. Add a protein to make it a full meal!

 
 Beet, Orange, and Feta Salad with Yogurt Mint Dressing.

Beet, Orange, and Feta Salad with Yogurt Mint Dressing.

One-Pot Moroccan Tagine with Dried Apricots and Chickpeas

Bring the flavors of North Africa to your kitchen table with this one-pot chickpea and vegetable tagine recipe. Made with a potpourri of spices and veggies, this easy dish is packed with plant-based nutrition, and adds a pop of color to any meal. Plus, it’s ready in under 30 minutes, freezer-friendly, and makes the house smell incredible! Win, win, win.

 Vegan Moroccan tagine made with 6 veggies, dried apricots, and chickpeas. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based.

Vegan Moroccan tagine made with 6 veggies, dried apricots, and chickpeas. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based.

Truth be told, vegan meals are a bit of a hard sell in my household. One of us is 6ft 3in and active and those two things alone mean it’s a little trickier to fill up solely on plants.

Nevertheless, I still experiment with the occasional vegan dish. And this hearty vegan stew got the thumbs up from my meat-loving significant other, E.

Infused with cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric, this vegetable tagine recipe is a delightful balance of sweet, savory and aromatic flavors. Moreover, it’s loaded with satiety-boosting ingredients like chunky veggies and chickpeas, making it ideal for plant-based skeptics. Dish it up over a wholegrain or eat it all by itself. Either way, it’s a satifying gluten-free, dairy-free vegan meal. Happy noshing!

6-Vegetable Moroccan Tagine with Dried Apricots and Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ½ red onion

  • 1 sweet potato

  • 1 zucchini

  • 2 carrots

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • ⅓ cup dried apricots

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp turmeric

  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes

  • 15oz (425g) canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth

  • Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Crush the garlic and thinly slice the onion. Add the garlic, onion and olive oil to a soup pot (don’t turn the stove on yet).

  2. Chop the sweet potato and zucchini into one-inch cubes.

  3. Peel, and slice the carrots into 0.5cm/ 0.25inch pieces.

  4. Slice the red bell pepper into 1cm/0.5-inch-wide strips. Discard the seeds and white membranes.

  5. Chop the dried apricots into quarters.

  6. Place the soup pot on the stove and turn the stove on to medium heat. Cook the garlic and onions until the onions are soft and translucent.

  7. Add the carrot, sweet potato, and red pepper to the pot and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

  8. Toss the zucchini, salt, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric into the pot. Cook for another minute or so until the spices become fragrant.

  9. Add the dried apricots, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and vegetable broth to the other ingredients in the soup pot. Bring the stew to the boil, cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes (or until the sweet potato is cooked through).

  10. Remove the lid from the pot, and cook for another 5 minutes uncovered to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.

  11. Scoop the chickpea-vegetable mixture into serving bowls, and garnish with chopped cilantro. Bon appétit!

Serves 6.

 
 Moroccan vegetable chickpea stew with dried apricots.

Moroccan vegetable chickpea stew with dried apricots.

 
 Vegan Moroccan tagine made with 6 veggies, dried apricots, and chickpeas. GF, DF.

Vegan Moroccan tagine made with 6 veggies, dried apricots, and chickpeas. GF, DF.

Easy Spinach and Parmesan Quinoa Muffins

Take your savory muffin game to a new level with these easy, high protein quinoa muffins. Made with quinoa, eggs, spinach and parmesan cheese, these vegetarian-friendly muffins are packed with nutrition, and make a great snack or meatless protein alternative. Serve them hot or cold-- either way they’re delicious, healthy and gluten-free!

 Healthy spinach and parmesan quinoa muffins: Vegetarian, gluten-free and delicious.

Healthy spinach and parmesan quinoa muffins: Vegetarian, gluten-free and delicious.

Fun fact: I didn’t really eat eggs until I was in my mid 20s. There was something about the texture and smell that didn’t appeal to me. I was much more of a pancake-eater than an omelet-orderer at breakfast.

But over time something changed. I started eating scrambled egg whites with salt and pepper -- the easiest thing to stomach for a non-egg eater. Gradually, I liked them more and more. Then I conquered omelets, and whole scrambled eggs. These days egg whites are still my preferred taste-wise, but I will quite happily down a whole egg omelet on a Sunday morning.

Forming A New Habit Takes Time

My journey with eggs is not unlike other dietary changes. Whether you’re trying to eat more veggies, or cut back on sweets, it takes patience and practice to get used to new tastes and behaviors. And you might not enjoy it very much at first. Rest assured, it gets better (if it didn’t I wouldn’t be eating omelets on weekends).

Speaking of eggs, I have a great egg-containing recipe for you this week. These little quinoa and muffins have become a staple in our house. We eat them as a high protein snack or as a light lunch/dinner paired with a salad. They’re vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and can be prepped ahead of time...because weekdays are fairly busy around here.

Before I sign-off, there’s one more egg-y thing that’s worth a mention: the yolk. Egg yolks got a bad wrap in the 90s when low-fat was cool, and have been struggling to shake their not-so-healthy image ever since.

Are Egg Yolks Bad For You?

Good news, yolk lovers! Eating 6-12 eggs a week does not appear to impact cholesterol, LDL or triglycerides if you otherwise follow a reasonably heart healthy diet (lots of veggies, whole grains, plant-based fats, and lean protein/seafood) [1, 2].

Eggs are great source of high quality protein and the yolk offers several nutrients including:

  • Vitamin A and carotenoids: Support vision,  immunity and reproduction

  • Vitamin B12 and folate: Support cell division, DNA replication, neurological function, and more.

  • Phosphorus: Supports bone health, metabolism, and cell structure.

  • Selenium: Supports reproduction, immunity, thyroid hormone metabolism, and DNA synthesis

  • Choline: Support the brain and neurological system, fat metabolism, and cell integrity.

 Savory spinach and parmesan quinoa muffins, dotted with cherry tomatoes.

Savory spinach and parmesan quinoa muffins, dotted with cherry tomatoes.

Savory Spinach and Parmesan Quinoa Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baby spinach

  • 12 cherry tomatoes

  • 6 eggs

  • 3 cups cooked and cooled quinoa

  • ⅔ cup parmesan cheese, shredded (or crumbled feta)

  • 2 tsp dried basil

  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉/180℃.

  2. Shred the baby spinach, and halve the cherry tomatoes.

  3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and aerate.

  4. Add the cooked quinoa, parmesan/feta, baby spinach, dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and baking powder to the mixing bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are well-combined.

  5. Liberally grease a non-stick muffin tin with cooking spray and line each muffin cup with a thin strip of parchment to make removing the muffins easier (see picture above). Alternatively, you can line the muffin tin with silicone muffin cups like these ones to stop the quinoa muffins from sticking to the pan.

  6. Spoon the quinoa and egg mixture into the pre-greased muffin cups. Press two cherry tomato halves into the top of each muffin.

  7. Insert the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the egg is just cooked.

  8. Allow the quinoa muffins to cool. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin, and gently lift the muffins out of the tin using the parchment paper as handles. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 12 quinoa muffins.

Pro tip:

Baked eggs stick to everything! Be sure to spray your muffin tin liberally with cooking spray or line your tin with silicone muffin cups (like these ones) before you add the quinoa muffin mix to the tin to avoid extra scrubbing.

Hungry for more recipes? Find them here.

 
 These high protein, vegetarian quinoa muffins make a delicious snack or light meal.

These high protein, vegetarian quinoa muffins make a delicious snack or light meal.


References:

[1] Impact of Egg Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes and at Risk for Developing Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Randomized Nutritional Intervention Studies. Richard C, Cristall L, Fleming E, Lewis ED, Ricupero M, Jacobs RL, Field CJ. Can J Diabetes. 2017 Aug;41(4):453-463. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2016.12.002. Epub 2017 Mar 27. Review.

[2] Egg Consumption and Human Cardio-Metabolic Health in People with and without Diabetes. Nicholas R. Fuller, Amanda Sainsbury, Ian D. Caterson, Tania P. Markovic. Nutrients. 2015 Sep; 7(9): 7399–7420. Published online 2015 Sep 3. doi: 10.3390/nu7095344