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watermelon gazpacho

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in appetizer, featured, soups, vegetables | 0 comments

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Have you noticed how heavy a watermelon is?  Watermelons are filled with water making them the heaviest melon out there.  92% of a watermelon is water, so it’s not surprising that they are extremely good for hydrating.  This Texas heat and humidity in August is brutal, and for a girl like me who likes to stay active despite the extreme temperature, watermelon is a favorite.

Gatorade and other sports drinks are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and other fake stuff, so I’d much rather snack on hydrating foods and find natural ways to replenish fluid loss.  One of my rules of thumb is to always stay ahead of the game when it comes to hydration.  I’ve found that once I’m dehydrated, I’m done for – my energy is zapped.  There’s just no catching up when it’s 102 degrees and humid.  I have a 3-day tennis tournament this weekend, and even though it’s only Tuesday, I’m already working on building my hydration by drinking A LOT and preparing meals like this watermelon gazpacho.

 

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Before I get into all the reasons you should add watermelon to your summer diet, I want to stop and brag on my daughter for a second.  I am a happy mama because of so many of the choices she is making lately.  Even though Rob and I are what many would call healthnut-exercise junkies, we do not push it on our kids.  Neither of us were into food or fitness from birth, in fact we grew up to be sugar-loving non-gym goers.  It wasn’t until we hit 30 and got a taste of just how good our bodies feel when we eat right and exercise that we became so passionate about it.  We have definitely educated our kids about proper nutrition, and they see the way we choose to eat and take care of our bodies, but we don’t require them or force them to eat like we do.  (Of course, we would love it if they did!  But forcing them can backfire.) However, because we are the ones who buy the food, we don’t keep junk or sodas in the house, so that does cut down on the trash our kids consume.  Many people ask me “Do you let your kids drink soda?”  My answer is “Yes.”  When they are somewhere that a soda is offered, yes, they are allowed to drink it.  Do I cringe inside every time, yes, I do, but again, the decision to care about what they put into their bodies has to be theirs, we believe.  We can only lead by example and show them just how rewarding it is to fuel your body properly.

With all that said, back to Kayley.  This summer, she came home from camp, and after thinking about it and mulling it over with a good friend who happens to be a non-soda drinker, she decided she was done with sodas.  She has not had even ONE soda all summer.  And that’s not all.  She has decided she cares about what she puts in her body and has drastically cut back any junk and has joined Rob and I at the gym.  She has clearly made the connection that when she eats junk, she feels like junk and plays her sport like junk.  Kayley, from birth, has been kind of like Rob and I were from birth, which is a sugar-holic.  So, Rob and I are extremely happy for her that at the age of 13, she is making healthy choices for her body.  And feeling good is influencing other areas of her life too.  I about fell over after walking into her clean room and spotted her neatly made bed on a Sunday afternoon.  Just had to take a break from watermelon to share.

 

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Back to watermelons.  Watermelons are not only hydrating, they are also energizing.  The 92% water along with the high fiber, high electrolyte, and high natural sugar content serves as an excellent natural invigorator.  Watermelons provide 20% of your vitamin C for the day plus plenty of vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium.  And, that bright red color gives away the high amount of the powerful antioxidant lycopene found in this refreshing fruit.

I am instantly a fan of any recipe I can make in a blender, as like everyone else, I’m busy!  I don’t typically have time for meals that require a long preparation when it comes to everyday lunches and dinners.  I also don’t care to be in my kitchen cleaning a million dirty pots and pans, so a one pot or one blender recipe is my cup of tea.  This watermelon gazpacho is a sweet twist on the traditional gazpacho, making it one that is also kid approved.

 

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To start, I cut up about 8 cups of watermelon and added it to my large Vitamix blender.  I then cut up several other phytonutrient packed veggies – tomato, purple onion, cucumber, red bell pepper, garlic, red chile pepper, and basil leaves – and added those to the Vitamix as well.  Finally, I added a little red wine vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt for added flavor before blending.  I saved about half a cup of cut up veggies to float on top as a garnish.

 

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watermelon gazpacho
Author: 
Recipe type: appetizer, soup, vegetable
Serves: 4-6
 

Ingredients
  • 8 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • ½ purple onion
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 red chile pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • large handful basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions
  1. Cut watermelon, cucumber, tomato, red bell pepper, onion, and chile pepper into chunks.
  2. Reserve about ½ cup of the cut up veggies for a garnish, and add the rest to a large blender.
  3. Peel 2 cloves of garlic, and add to the blender.
  4. Add basil leaves, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt to the blender.
  5. Puree into a soup.
  6. Pour into soup bowls, and garnish with cut up veggies.
  7. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.

 

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strawberry chia seed jam

Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in condiment, featured | 5 comments

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“…Tea, a drink with jam and bread…”  One of the most common questions people ask me is “Don’t you miss bread?” or “How do you live without it?”.  When I first cut gluten out of my diet, I did miss it!  A lot!  I would say for the first 9 months, I would stick to a gluten free diet for a few days, maybe a week at a time, but then I would inevitably fall off the wagon.  I repeated this cycle countless times my first year of being “gluten free”, and it was only because I knew the stuff wasn’t good for my body that I finally had the will power to permanently ditch it.  My determination to finally feel good so I could get the most out of my life (because really, you can only do that if you feel good!) kept me climbing back on that gluten free wagon.  I would say at about the 9-month mark, I turned a corner.  I craved it less, I became more dedicated, and I stopped my gluten free yo-yo diet.

So back to the question “Do you miss bread?”.  At first, yes, (hence the cycle I just mentioned) so much so that for the next couple of years, I became obsessed with creating foods that resembled my gluten filled favorites.  This helped me transition I believe.  But…those breads and baked goods I was cooking up were filled with sugar and gluten free grains, which also have a high glycemic index and can be quite processed.

It wasn’t until I started caring more about the quality of food I was putting in my body and what that food could do for me that I really began to feel awesome.  I focused on all of those whole foods that I could eat in their natural package – fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and high quality eggs, lean meats, and fish.  Think this way of eating sounds restricting?  Heck no!!  A whole new world opened up to me and I finally started feeling REALLY good.

Considering that I don’t really eat eat bread (outside of those yummy paleo treats like banana nut muffins), you might find it strange that I would make jam because after all, isn’t jam made for spreading on bread?  While it’s true that I don’t have my jam with bread, I can still find many ways to enjoy it.  Think of jam as another condiment to make all of those whole foods taste good.  Just a few things to spread this jam on:

  • A slice of banana with nut butter
  • A stick of celery with nut butter
  • A slice of turkey, and then roll it up
  • Stir into plain Greek yogurt
  • Add to smoothies
  • Blend with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a sweet salad dressing
  • Spread on a piece of chicken or fish and bake

How do you enjoy homemade jam?  Please share!

 

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This recipe is seriously the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted.  Almost no prep time, no cook or bake time, and made with only 3 healthy whole food ingredients.  It’s berry season, and large cartons of organic berries are on sale at the grocery.  I chose strawberries because they are my kids’ favorite berry but a pound of any berry would work in this recipe.  After washing and trimming the tops off of the strawberries, I added them to the Vitamix.

 

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Next, to thicken the jam, I added a couple tablespoons of chia seeds to the Vitamix.  I love these little energy packed guys and find myself throwing them into something new every day.  Chia seeds provide so much soluble fiber – good for your cholesterol levels, your heart, your digestion, and your gut environment – so go ahead and sprinkle them on anything you can think of!

 

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I drizzled a couple tablespoons of honey (although you could substitute a dropper of liquid stevia to avoid the natural sugar) to sweeten the jam.  Depending on the level of your sweet tooth, you may want to add more or less honey.  The last step is to blend the three ingredients for at least 30 seconds.  I stored it in the fridge overnight to let those chia seeds plump up so the concoction thickens like jam.  And that’s it folks – healthy homemade jam doesn’t get much easier than that!

 

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strawberry chia seed jam
Author: 
Recipe type: condiment
 

Ingredients
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Instructions
  1. Wash and trim the tops off the strawberries.
  2. Combine strawberries, chia seeds, and honey in the blender, and blend for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Pour into a glass container, and store in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

 

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paleo lemon squash bread

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in breads, breakfast, featured, snacks | 4 comments

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Remember when I said I haven’t met a squash I didn’t like.  Well, this became a joke between two very good friends and me.  We came up with all kinds of creative ways to use squash in cooking – even the less popular or unrecognizable varieties.

Our favorite use for squash was to bake it into squash bread.  I would make loaves of it for each of them, and this recipe is my paleo version of our favorite.

Obviously food is my passion, primarily because of what it can do for my body – the power it has to communicate, influence gene expression, and ultimately heal.  But another reason I love food is that so much of life revolves around it.  Memories are created and traditions are carried on that include special dishes and foods.  Squash bread is part of a memory I have that makes me laugh and brings me back to when I got to spend a lot of time with two people who are very important to me.

 

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To make my squash bread paleo, I used a combination of almond flour and sweet potato flour.  I mixed the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients and then added shredded squash, chopped walnuts, and lemon zest and stirred to coat.

I chose yellow summer squash to use in this recipe because it is so plentiful this time of year.  Yellow summer squash is not only easy to grow (why you see a plethora of local yellow squash in the grocery, along the side of the road, at farmers markets…), but it is also quite good for your body.  It’s yellow color is the first clue that it contains a healthy dose of beta carotene and lutein – two antioxidants especially good at protecting your vision and fighting free radicals.  Plus, it provides a heaping dose of vitamin C, folate, and manganese.  Manganese is a trace mineral that helps your body metabolize fats, carbs, and sugar and also has been shown to benefit your bones and joints and reduce PMS symptoms like irritability and mood swings.

 

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Next, I beat the wet ingredients together and then added them to the dry ingredients, mixing until well blended.

I poured the batter into a loaf pan and baked the bread for about an hour or until the top looked nice and golden brown.  The edges are good and crispy but the inside of the bread is incredibly moist.  I hope you like this summer squash bread!

 

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paleo lemon squash bread
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast, bread, snack
Serves: 10
 

Ingredients
  • 1⅓ cups almond flour
  • ⅔ cups sweet potato flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 yellow squash, grated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup almond or coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add squash, lemon zest, and walnuts and stir to coat.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together until well blended.
  6. Pour in a greased loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown.
  7. Cool slightly before slicing.

 

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spinach and summer squash frittata

Posted by on Jul 17, 2013 in breakfast, featured | 0 comments

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I recently purchased a Groupon for a local box of produce to be delivered to my house.  What I liked best about this company other than the fact that I didn’t have to drive to retrieve my bin of veggies was that they included a page of recipes using ALL of the produce included in that week’s box.

I decided to try out these recipes since I now had all of the ingredients.  My favorite was this frittata, probably because it included squash.  I don’t think I’ve tried a variety of squash I didn’t like, and this time of year, yellow summer squash is everywhere.  I saw stand after stand of squash by the side of the road on a recent trip to Tulsa with my daughter, the grocery store has stacks of local yellow squash, and the farmers market has boxes of them too.  Having many ways to use this abundant veggie is a good thing.

 

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To start, I thinly sliced the summer squash.

 

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Next, I chopped the onion and minced the garlic and combined them with the squash in a large skillet.  I drizzled a little olive oil in the pan, and cooked the veggies for about 3 minutes.

 

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One goal of mine is to eat something green with every meal.  Spinach is probably the easiest green to throw into almost any recipe.  For this frittata, I coarsely chopped a heaping handful of spinach.  After the other veggies had been cooking for 3 minutes, I added the spinach, stirred, reduced the heat, covered, and let it cook for another 10 minutes.

 

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I removed the cooked veggies from the heat and drained them on a paper towel to remove the juice.

 

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Time to add the eggs.  Eggs are a super healthy food and another one that is easy to add to almost anything.  I remember the day when I counted my calories religiously to try to control my weight, and I would separate the egg yolks from the whites and toss the yolks.  What a terrible idea that was!  First of all, an entire egg has between 70 and 90 calories, depending on the size, so two eggs is under 200 calories.  Plus, valuable nutrients are packaged in that yellow yolk – lots of choline (related to the B vitamins and important for brain health, cell membrane structure, protecting the liver from fat accumulation, and in making the neurotransmitter acetylcholine), folate, vitamins A and E, selenium, iodine, biotin (a B vitamin that is good for your hair, nails and metabolism – think energy!), and healthy fats – so choosing to omit the yolks to save calories and decrease fat intake doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I’m sure there were a lot of other empty calories sabotaging my diet more than the few that are in the incredibly healthy egg yolks.  By the way, I no longer have the need to count my calories.  Since I’ve been eating a diet of real food – nutrient dense whole foods – my body has settled in to a healthy weight without me having to play that game.

 

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For the egg mixture, I beat 5 eggs in a medium bowl and added Parmesan cheese, chopped basil, salt, and pepper.  I don’t eat much dairy, but I will include hard cheeses in my diet occasionally.  If you are avoiding dairy completely, try substituting chopped pine nuts and increase the salt to ½ teaspoon.

 

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Next I added the cooked veggies to the egg mixture and prepared the skillet by misting it with olive oil and placing it over medium heat.  When the skillet was hot, I poured in the veggie-egg mixture and let it cook for about 6 minutes or until the edges began to turn brown.  I placed the skillet in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 more minutes or until the eggs were set.

 

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This frittata served my family of four easily.  In fact, I think we ate every bite!

 

spinach and summer squash frittata
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast, eggs
Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 heaping handful of spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 small purple onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (or chopped pine nuts if avoiding dairy)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (increase to ½ teaspoon if using pine nuts)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil and add sliced squash, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Add chopped spinach, stir to combine, cover, and let cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and then add basil, cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until well blended. Add cooked veggies to the egg mixture.
  6. Spray the other teaspoon of olive oil in the skillet and warm it over medium heat. Once it’s hot, pour in the veggie-egg mixture and let it cook for 6-7 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
  7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes.
  8. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

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jicama hummus

Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 in appetizer, condiment, featured, snacks, vegetables | 2 comments

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Let me tell you about jicama.  Like cauliflower, jicama is wonderful to use in recipes because it’s so versatile.  First of all, what exactly is jicama??  Jicama is a sweet, root vegetable or tuber, sometimes called the “Mexican potato” and looks similar to a turnip or radish.  It is technically a legume but because it is not the seed but the root, it does not have the anti-nutrients or carbohydrates of beans.  Its crisp white flesh can be eaten raw and is often added to salads, slaws, and garnishes, as it lends a refreshing taste and crunchy texture.  Kind of reminds me of a water chestnut.  Besides being so versatile in recipes, I love that jicama is mainly fiber, so it’s very low in calories (40 calories for a cup!), and because it is a veggie, you know it is packed with good nutrients too – especially vitamin C.

 

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I don’t really eat many beans or legumes.  Peanut butter is my one weakness, I will admit. I find beans difficult to digest and not a good protein source for my body.  Plus, being little seeds, they contain anti-nutrients that wreak havoc on my gut.  If you do choose to eat beans, soaking them overnight and slow cooking them throughout the day will help get rid of those anti-nutrients as well as make them easier to digest.

Besides peanut butter, I must also admit that chickpeas in the form of hummus have been know to be a weakness of mine – such a creamy and tasty snack – and you know how I feel about creamy foods.  They’re my favorites.  I’ve tried to substitute other fibrous foods for chickpeas in making homemade hummus like sweet potatoes and beets, but I think this jicama hummus will be my new go-to recipe.  It most closely resembles the real deal.

 

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I started by washing and peeling the jicama.  It was so slippery that I found it difficult, and the end result wasn’t all that pretty.  But, the peel is gone and that is what I wanted.

 

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Next, I chopped the jicama into chunks and placed it in my food processor.  I processed until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides several times.

 

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I added the juice of a lemon and an avocado, peel removed and cut into chunks.  The avocado brings the creaminess lacking in the jicama by itself, and the lemon cuts the sweet taste of the jicama while also helping the avocado stay a pretty green.

 

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I processed until smooth and wow – what a brilliant green color resulted!

 

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Next, I added garlic.  I am a garlic girl, so I added a bunch of it.  Garlic may make your mouth taste bad afterwards, but the good it does for your body is worth it.  The sulfur compounds in garlic are needed for the liver detoxification process, and the sulfer compound allicin, which is responsible for the strong smell and flavor of garlic, is one of the most potent antioxidants.  Plus, garlic is a known antibiotic and cancer fighter, especially when eaten raw.

 

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I added a few tablespoons tahini to achieve the robust flavor of traditional hummus, and processed until smooth and creamy.  Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds.

 

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Lastly, while the hummus was processing, I drizzled in the olive oil and gradually added the sea salt and cumin.  A little drizzle of olive oil for garnish and a sprinkle of paprika, and voila!  I dipped cucumber slices in the jicama hummus, but any chopped veggie or gluten free chip would be delicious.  I also plan to use this hummus as a spread and condiment with our dinner.

 

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jicama hummus
Author: 
Recipe type: appetizer, snack, vegetable
Serves: 6-8
 

Ingredients
  • 1 jicama
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • paprika and olive oil for garnish

Instructions
  1. Wash and peel jicama, and cut into chunks.
  2. Place jicama chunks in a food processor, and process until smooth.
  3. Add juice from the lemon and the avocado, and process until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add minced garlic and tahini, and process until smooth.
  5. While processing, drizzle in olive oil, and sprinkle in sea salt and cumin.
  6. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika before serving.

 

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chocolate mint fudge

Posted by on May 25, 2013 in desserts, featured | 1 comment

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I can always tell if I’m going to like a restaurant by the after dinner mints waiting at the door.  A few local favorites here in Frisco have large bowls of Andes chocolate mints, and those are my favorites.  No need for dessert after the meal because my mind is on the creamy little treat I’m no doubt going to grab on my way out.  And of course I never take just one.

 

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In my opinion, mint gives peanut butter a run for its money when considering which I like better to pair with chocolate.  And one clear advantage of mint – this time of year, my yard springs to life with the stuff.  Plus, mint has a few health benefits in its back pocket too.  It is a leafy green after all.  Mint has long been known to be soothing to the digestive tract and beneficial to those with irritable bowl.  Plus, mint has a cooling effect that is useful for skin maladies like burns, rashes, and irritations.  Breathing in mint opens the airways of those with asthma, allergies, or a cold, and chewing mint freshens your breath with its anti-bacterial quality.  Mint contains some nutrients too:  folate, vitamin A and C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.  So with an abundance of this little gem sprouting in my backyard, I’m looking for ways to use it besides making mojitos.

 

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For this Friday’s treat, I decided to make paleo and vegan chocolate mint fudge.  If you’ve ever made traditional fudge, you know what a headache it is to pull off – watching the thermometer closely to achieve that perfect soft ball state.  Plus you know the amount of butter and sugar and marshmallow crème involved.  This fudge is just as delicious (seriously!) without any cooking or processed sugary ingredients.  It takes minutes to make and melts in your mouth just like the real thing.

 

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To make chocolate mint fudge, I started with raw cashew butter.  I chose this raw cashew butter by Artisana, and added one cup to my food processor.

 

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Next, I melted (over a double boiler or in the microwave) ¼ cup of cocoa butter (raw coconut oil also works just as well), which is the fat portion of the cocoa bean, so it’s both a vegan and paleo butter, and I added it to the food processor.  I like using cocoa butter because it helps out with the chocolate flavor plus gives this recipe the melt in your mouth quality of the fudge I grew up loving.

Cocoa butter is handy to have in your pantry for any candy making, and it is also good for your skin so is ideal for making your own skin care products.  Although the type of fat in cocoa butter is in large part a saturated fat, surprisingly, small amounts of this type of saturated fat have been shown to protect your heart in a 2006 American Heart Association Study.

 

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I added 1/3 cup raw cacao powder and ¼ cup maple syrup to the food processor.   I always buy pure maple syrup, as the alternatives are highly processed and include other unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.  When purchasing pure maple syrup, notice you have the choice of two grades:  A and B.  Ever wonder what the difference is and if it even matters?  Grade A is lighter in color and sweeter in taste with a more subtle maple flavor, while Grade B is darker, less sweet, with a more robust maple flavor.  Both are a good source of manganese and zinc, but Grade B, with its darker color, contains more.  I always choose Grade B.

 

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Lastly, I flavored the fudge by adding vanilla extract, mint extract, a handful of mint leaves, and a little bit of sea salt before processing the ingredients to form a smooth ball of chocolate fudge.  I pressed the ball of fudge into an 8×8 ceramic pan and put it in the refrigerator to harden.  The result is a rich and creamy treat that is so good it replaces the traditional fudge recipe in our house.  I cut the pan of fudge into small squares, and I store it in the fridge.

 

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chocolate mint fudge
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 10
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw cashew butter
  • ¼ cup melted cocoa butter or coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • handful of mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until a ball of fudge forms.
  2. Press into an 8×8 ceramic or glass pan.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  4. Cut into small squares, and store in the refrigerator.

 

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