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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

As part of our current “diet,” we’ve begun to really indulge in our morning meals.  Our omelettes overflow and we’re blending an embarrassing amount into our smoothies.  Thankfully, what’s kept us from feeling like we’re sliding into gluttony is remembering that our breakfast still has fewer calories than lunch or dinner–which maybe should change.  If there’s any meal of the day to indulge, it’s breakfast.

Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast regularly has been linked to increased longevity, higher metabolism, longer attention span, and sustained energy. It’s also a great opportunity to add some much-needed fiber, fat, and fruit to a body starved of nutrients after an 8-hr hiatus.

That said, it’s amazing what the packaged-food industry has done to this most essential meal! Rather than promoting good health through eating real foods, the food industry has taken over breakfast with its promise of rainbow-colored treats and cocoa crispies. Even the standard run-of-the-mill store-bought granola will contain a deceptively high amount of fat and sugar under the guise of healthful eating. Most granola recipes will contain half a stick of butter or a cup of maple syrup, and scaling back will lead to pitiful flakes of lightly toasted oats, barely resembling the substantial clusters found in store-bought varieties.

Enter the avocado. Hailing from Miami, Greg’s mom was in town last week with a hostess gift of two of the most ginormous avocados we’ve ever seen. Seriously, if you’re born and raised on Haas avocados, these South Florida beauties will knock your socks off. The two that we received were at least as big as pineapples, covered in a bright green skin, and sometimes called alligator pears. (I thought they were bowling-ball sized, but Greg insisted they weighed less than 8 lb. each).

Now a quick plug on avocados — they are high in monosaturated fat, which can improve heart health and keep cholesterol low. They are also bursting with vitamins C, E, K, folate, and fiber. Avocados, along with extra virgin olive oil and some nuts, are often considered to be among the best fats that a body can take in, in moderation of course.

Avocados work surprisingly well in granola because of their fatty content (remember, good fats) and their smooth, spreadable texture. Unlike the aforementioned granola recipes I’ve tried, which rely on bad fats and bad sugars to achieve desirable clusters, avocados are an incredibly healthy substitute. And because we typically eat granola with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, there was no need for an additional sweetener. The vanilla, cinnamon, and toasted coconut gave it enough aroma and flavor that no sugar was needed. This recipe is by far the tastiest and most guilt-free granola recipe I’ve ever made! (And would you believe I dreamed it up in my sleep?)

Coconut Avocado Granola

1/2 Florida avocado (or 1 Haas avocado)
1 T natural peanut butter
2 c rolled oats
1/2 c coconut flakes, unsweetened
1/4 almonds, slivered
1 t cinnamon, cardamom, or other spice of your choice
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Blend avocado, peanut butter, vanilla, and cinnamon until well-combined and smooth. There should be no clumps. Stir in rolled oats, coconut flakes, and slivered almonds.

Spread evenly on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally for even toasting. Let cool before storing. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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After baking these incredible carrot shortbread cookies over the weekend, we are a bit hooked on carrots in dessert. Partly due to our healthy diet kick, and partly due to a family-sized bag of Costco carrots in our fridge, we decided to try our hand at another carrot dessert.

Very rarely do we bake something that is a complete personal invention. Tonight, however, after scouring the Internet for a simple healthy recipe for carrot cake, we decided to resort to our own devices. The recipes we found online all required ingredients we don’t usually keep in stock — wheat germ, flax seed, etc. — or just seemed to involve too many steps for a weekday treat.

The result of our creative genius was blog-worthy. This carrot cake is light and fluffy, almost like a souffle, due to the separating of eggs in the first step. It is naturally sweetened with banana, and only had an additional 2 tablespoons of sugar. The next time I do this, I might play around with excluding the sugar altogether and adding the other half of the banana. I may also try adding a tablespoon or two of coconut oil or cocoa powder for a completely different twist. We used almonds in this recipe, but hazelnuts or walnuts would be delicious as well, especially if toasted for a few minutes prior to grinding.

Simple, Healthy Carrot Cake

3 eggs, separated
3/4 c nuts, ground finely
8 carrots, peeled, grated
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1 T vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Gently butter a 8″x8″ square cake pan.

Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine carrots and bananas and stir until well-mixed. Add egg yolks, vanilla, ground nuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar, mixing after each addition. Combine until well-mixed.

Fold egg whites gently into carrot batter, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes, watching carefully.

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