Healthy Easter Treats

Growing up I remember Easter with chocolate bunnies, malted eggs, jellybeans and a variety of other marshmallow and chocolate treats. This was all on top of the traditional Easter Egg. Below I have listed some healthy alternative Easter treats.

Healthy Marshmallow Recipe (or Homemade Peeps)

peeps

These fluffy honey-sweetened homemade marshmallows will deliver all the flavor but none of the health-compromising refined sugar. Plus, these can be made in a coconut or chocolate version (see below) based on the recipes plans or preferences. This simple recipe will make you wonder why you ever bought marshmallows at the store. But remember, sugar that comes from whole foods like honey or fruit is still sugar, so remember to eat these as a treat, not a regular snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. grass-fed gelatin (or agar agar for a vegan option)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Then cover with parchment paper (with enough to hang over the sides of the pan one way), then grease the parchment paper.
2. Put ¼ cup of water in a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a mixer with attached whisk) , and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Set aside to soften.
3. In a small pot, place the honey, salt, and the other ¼ cup of water. Heat on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, bring the mixture to 240 degrees. (You can also test it by dribbling a little of the liquid into a bowl of ice cold water. It should be in the candy stage of forming little soft balls when cooled in the water and taken out. It takes about 7-8 minutes to reach this temperature. ). Remove from the heat immediately when reaching temp.
4. Using a hand mixer on low, very carefully mix in the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture by pouring the hot syrup in a drizzle down the side of the bowl. Once it’s all combined, add the vanilla and increase speed to high. Beat for 12- 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and fluffy (it will look like marshmallow fluff). *Scrap into the prepared pan and leave, uncovered, for 4-12 hours to dry. Cut into squares, serve as is or for an extra treat cut with bunny cookie cutter to create little bunny ‘peeps’.

*If making Peeps you will want to divide the mixture into parts (as many as you need) an add food coloring to make the various color peeps before leaving to let dry. Then proceed to cutting with cookie cutter. You will need to coat the cutter lightly with cooking oil to keep marshmallow from sticking.

Homemade Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs

reeces

Total Time: 10m
Yield: 6-9 eggs

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter OR allergy-friendly alternative at room temperature (homemade recipe here)
  • dash salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 more tbsp of the sugar

Coating

  • 3/4 cup (3.6 ounces) sugar free chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Mix the first three ingredients together in a bowl into crumbly dough. Also, I put the dough into a plastic bag to shape into a ball with less mess.) Add the extra 2 tbsp. sugar if it’s too gooey, and add a little more pb if it’s too dry. (Different brands of peanut butter will yield different results.) Taste the dough and add a little more salt if desired. Form dough into egg shaped ovals** (like Reeces eggs). Freeze the dough for an hour or until firm.
  2. Meanwhile, melting the chocolate chips and coconut oil for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir until smooth.
  3. Next dip frozen peanut butter eggs into melted chocolate. Set on tray with wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate is set.

**Note Alternatively, you can use candy egg molds. Instead of shaping peanut butter pour mixture into egg molds and freeze for about 1 hour. Remove from mold Next melt chocolate chips and coconut oil and then dip peanut better eggs. Set on wax paper and refrigerate until set.

Filled Plastic Eggs

easter-egg-pla

Growing up our family always had the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. What made it an extra special treat was my mom used to hide a few plastic eggs filled with special treats. She would put a variety of Easter surprises in them. You can fill ‘em up with dried fruits or peeled snacks and/or nuts or even little toys!

Healthy Easter Egg Popsicle

Saw this on a Pinterest post and thought it’s the perfect Easter morning brekkie!

Easy Homemade Peanut Butter

Homemade-Peanut-Butter
This homemade peanut butter is smooth, creamy, and made in just 5 minutes! Store the jar in the refrigerator to ensure the texture stays as thick as possible. The peanut butter should last for up to 2-3 months if stored in the refrigerator.
Yields: 1 cup + 2 tablespoons
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (299g) peanuts, dry roasted unsalted
  • ¼ – ½ tsp salt (season to taste)
Add the peanuts to a blender, and turn on the blender to its low speed. After the peanuts are completely broken down and begin to turn creamy (about 2-3 minutes), turn the blender to its medium speed. Continue blending until the peanut butter is completely smooth.(see notes for chunky)  Add the salt, ¼ teaspoon at a time, and blend for 20-30 seconds, tasting after each addition (season to taste). Transfer the peanut butter to a jar, and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight to achieve the traditional thick peanut butter texture.
Notes:  You can also opt to use roasted and salted peanuts if you prefer. Adjust the amount of salt accordingly to suit your tastes.
This recipes is: gluten-free, vegan, clean eating, low carb, sugar-free.
You can also make this peanut butter chunky by blending until completely mixed but chunks of peanuts still remain.
peanutbutter

How To Make Sure Your Energy Bar Is ACTUALLY Healthy

energy-bar

If you’re looking for an energy bar that truly provides energy instead of zapping it, you better plan on spending some time looking at the food labels on these products. Although granola and energy bars are often relied upon as a snack of choice, some bars are surrounded by health halos even when they’re actually full of unhealthy ingredients.

Not all bars are alike. The key is trying to choose a bar that adds value to your diet and contributes a balance of protein, fiber, whole grains, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The right snacks keep blood-sugar levels and moods stable, and may help you stay alert and focused. In fact, some snacks can even help you lose or maintain weight if they satisfy your mind and mouth and they keep you from otherwise eating high-calorie foods that are devoid of value.

Here’s how to navigate the bar aisle to make a choice that best suits your needs:

1. Look for a bar that contains about 5 grams of protein.

There’s no need to go for bars that contain an overwhelming amount of protein. Excess protein doesn’t go directly to your muscles! Unless you’ve suffered an illness, where you had significant protein (muscle) loss or if you have increased needs for protein, much of the excess protein that is eaten is stored as body fat. Protein taken in greater quantities than needed, over extended periods of time, might result in bone thinning or perhaps impair kidney function.

Be sure to check to see that you’re getting protein from real, whole-food sources, like nuts, as opposed to highly processed ingredients mostly from isolates. A bar that contains around 5 grams of protein should do the trick, especially in the company of other nutrients below.

2. Make sure the main source of sugar comes from fruit.

Avoid sugar sources like added sugars, sweeteners, or sugar alcohols. Check to see how sugar is spelled — sometimes it’s not S-U-G-A-R! Sugar can appear as dextrose, maltose, organic can juice, rice syrup, and so on. Look for sugar in the form of real fruit, not pseudo-fruit-like substances.

3. Choose a bar that has healthy carbohydrates.

Look for whole grains on your ingredient list like oats, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa. Fiber provided by these grains will help move you — look for around 5 grams of fiber.

4. Don’t be fat phobic.

Helpful fats derived from nuts can be deliciously satisfying, and certain fats (like almonds and walnuts) have even been shown to help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood-sugar levels. Your best bet is when the source of fat is derived from nuts.

5. Be mindful of calories.

You want to keep your snack bar between 150 and 200 calories, especially if you’re trying to watch your weight.

6. Aim for transparency.

Pick a product that actually looks like the ingredients contained within. Instead of looking like a piece of pressed wood, your bar should proudly display the nuts, grains, and fruit that appear on its ingredient list.

Raise the bar by choosing one that your body will be happy to reach for when you need it.

Here are some healthy bar recipes  if you’re up for cooking your own:

5-Ingredient-Granola-Bars-MinimalistBaker.com_

No Bake Granola Bars:

Healthy, no bake granola bars with just 5 ingredients and a sweet, crunchy texture. Peanut butter and honey complement each other perfectly in this ideal portable breakfast or snack.

1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool)*
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave for vegan option)
1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter (even better make your own!)
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)
optional: chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, vanilla, etc.(I add walnuts &/or pecans and dried cranberries)

5-Ingredient-Granola-Bars1

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a “dough” like consistency.
**Optional:Toast your oats in a 350 degree oven for 15-ish minutes or until slightly golden brown. Otherwise, leave them raw (I just prefer mine toasted)
Place oats, almonds and dates in a bowl – set aside.
Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8×8 dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden.
Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days or refrigerate.

PEANUT BUTTER & HONEY CHEWY GRANOLA BARS

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter* (unsalted)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

*Peanuts are one of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides, so make sure to buy organic whenever possible.

peanut-butter-granola

Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the honey to a boil. Set a timer, and allow the honey to continue boiling for 1 minute. In the meantime, place the oats in a large bowl and set aside. Remove from the pan of honey from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and salt. Immediately pour the warm mixture over the oats, and use a spatula to stir well, coating the oats evenly. As the mixture cools, it will become sticky and difficult to mix, so be sure to move quickly!

Transfer the mixture to the lined loaf pan, and press HARD to pack it into the pan. Pressing firmly will ensure that the bars stick together well later. Place the pan in the fridge or freezer to cool, then use a large knife to cut the bars. I like to store these bars in the freezer for best shelf life (up to 6 months) then pull them out as needed– they thaw in about an hour, which makes them perfect for a mid-morning snack. If you’d prefer to store these bars at room temperature, they should last for up to a week.

10 Superfoods Healthier Than Kale

In the food world, the biggest celebrity of all might be kale—the Shakira of salads, the Lady Gaga of leafy greens. It’s universally recognized that kale anything—kale chips, kale pesto, kale face cream—instantly implants a health halo not seen since the days of C. Everett Koop. Even 7-Eleven is making over its image by offering kale smoothies to help with your weight loss efforts. And yes, kale has plenty of benefits—including high levels of folate and more calcium, gram for gram, than a cup of milk.

But kale’s actually not the healthiest green on the block. In fact, in a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control that ranked 47 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables,” kale only placed 15th (with 49.07 points out of 100 for nutrient density)! Here’s a roundup of the 10 leafy green cousins that researchers say pack a greater nutritional wallop. Read em, eat em, and reap the benefits.

10 – Collard Greens

Nutrition Score: 62.49

A staple vegetable of Southern U.S. cuisine, collard greens also boast incredible cholesterol-lowering benefits — especially when steamed. A recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the effectiveness of the prescription drug Cholestyramine to steamed collards. Incredibly, the collards improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13 percent more than the drug! Of course, that won’t do you any good if you insist on serving them with ham hocks….

9 – Romaine Lettuce

Nutrition Score: 63.48

Even more so than its cousin kale, the humble Romaine lettuce packs high levels of folic acid, a water-soluble form of Vitamin B that’s proven to boost male fertility. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found supplemental folic acid to significantly increase sperm counts. Get the man in your life to start craving Caesar salads, and you may soon have a baby Julius on board. (Ladies, this green packs health benefits for you, too! Folate also plays a role in battling depression, so change out your kale for Romaine.

8 – Parsley

Nutrition Score: 65.59

Yes, that leafy garnish that sits on the side of your plate—the one they throw away after you eat the rest of your meal—is a quiet super food, so packed with nutrients that even that one sprig can go a long way toward meeting your daily requirement for vitamin K. Moreover, research suggests the summer-y aroma and flavor of chopped parsley may help control your appetite. A study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a dish that smelled strongly of spice than a mildly scented version of the same food. Adding herbs, like parsley, creates the sensory illusion that you’re indulging in something rich—without adding any fat or calories to your plate.

7 – Leaf Lettuce

Nutrition Score: 70.73

The nutritional Clark Kent of the salad bar, this common and unsuspecting leafy green is ready to take its place among the super foods. Two generous cups of lettuce provides 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement for strong, healthy bones. A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who eat a serving of lettuce every day cut the risk of hip fracture by 30 percent than when compared with eating just one serving a week.

6 – Chicory

Nutrition Score: 73.36

Chicory is a family of bitter greens, but its most well-known member is radicchio, the small red or purple leaf that comes in a head about the size of a softball. It’s one of the best dietary sources of polyphenols—powerful micronutrients that serve a role in preventing disease. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consume 650 mg a day of polyphenols have a 30 percent chance at living longer than those who consume less than that. A cup of chicory leaves clocks in at about 235 mg (double that of spinach!), so consider adding a little leafy red into your leafy greens.

5 – Spinach

Nutrition Score: 86.43

Spinach is to kale what Michael Jordan is to LeBron James—the once unrivaled king now overshadowed by the hot new thing. But like MJ, spinach has a few more championship rings than its more current rival—primarily its position as a top source of biceps-building iron. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 180 gram serving of boiled spinach provides 6.43 mg of the muscle mineral—that’s more than a 6 oz hamburger patty! Recent research also suggest compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. A recently published long-term study at Lund University in Sweden found that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast could significantly reduce cravings and promote weight loss. On average, the women who took the spinach extract lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group over the course of three months.

4 – Beet Greens

Nutrition Score: 87.08

Yes, the stuff they cut off and throw in the garbage before charging you an arm and a leg for “beet salad.” A scant cup of the bitter green serves up nearly 5 grams of fiber—that’s more than you’ll find in a bowl of Quaker oats! Researchers at the University of Leeds found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed. Try them in stir frys and eat to your heart’s content!

3 – Chard

Nutrition Score: 89.27

Chard. Sounds like “burnt.” It’s not as fun a name to drop as, say, “broccolini,” but it might be your best defense against diabetes. Recent research has shown that these powerhouse leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins–anti-inflammatory compounds that could offer protection from type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of East Anglia analyzed questionnaires and blood samples of about 2,000 people and found that those with the highest dietary intakes of anthocyanins had lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.

2 – Chinese Cabbage

Nutrition Score: 91.99

Taking the silver medal in the power food Olympics is Chinese cabbage, also called Napa or celery cabbage. Rich sources of highly-available calcium and iron, cruciferous vegetables like the cabbage have the powerful ability to “turn off” inflammation markers thought to promote heart disease. In a study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (about 1.5 cups per day) had 13 percent less inflammation than those who ate the least.

1 – Watercress

Nutrition Score: 100

The top dog, the unrivaled champion, the chairman of the cutting board, watercress may also be the closest thing yet to a true anti-aging food. Gram for gram this mild-tasting and flowery-looking green contains four times more beta carotene than an apple, and a whopping 238 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K per 100 grams—two compounds that keep skin dewy and youthful. The beauty food is also the richest dietary source of PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate), which research suggests can fight cancer. Results from an eight-week trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest daily supplementation of 85 grams of raw watercress (that’s about two cups) could reduce DMA damage linked to cancer by 17 percent. Exposure to heat may inactivate PEITC, so it’s best to enjoy watercress raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches.

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No Ice Cream Maker? No Problem!

5 At-Home Ice Cream Tricks

strawberry-icecream

We’re officially in the thick of winter, and just about everyone could use a little sunshine in his or her bones. According to the groundhog, we still have three weeks of cold weather left, but it’s time to take matters into our own hands. Enter ice cream.

You’d think the bone-chilling temperatures would be reason enough to put down the ice cream spoon, but members of Ice Cream Addicts Anonymous know this isn’t the case. Berries might go out of season but ice cream never does, so we’re bringing you five ways to make the frozen treat from the comfort of your own (warm) home — ice cream maker not required.

There are a number of ways you can enjoy your favorite dessert even if you don’t own an expensive ice cream maker and don’t want to make a run to the market. As it turns out, a lot of the time, you can make your homemade ice cream even healthier than the store-bought kind. Nothing beats the creamy goodness that is a summertime chocolate or vanilla soft-serve cone, but these alternatives certainly can help you get by until summer, when you can really go after the good stuff, or just simply perfect your own recipe.

We can all scream for ice cream in these five simple ways:

2. Frozen cube method

Up next is another technique that homemade ice cream aficionados might know of: the great ice cube method. This technique requires more steps than the banana soft serve and is less waistline friendly, but it yields a decadent flavor and texture that is closer in comparison to the commercially made thing, and that in itself is an accomplishment.

Once again, you’ll need a food processor for this recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eatsbut more people have access to this handy kitchen appliance than the expensive ice cream maker. You’ll also need some ice cube trays. Here are your steps to success for vanilla at-home ice cream via the frozen cube method:

Ingredients:

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Directions: In large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt until pale yellow and mixture falls off of whisk in thick ribbons, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Stirring constantly, heat evaporated milk in medium saucepan on stovetop until it comes to a simmer. Slowly add hot milk to egg mixture, whisking constantly, until fully incorporated. Transfer mixture back to saucepan and heat, whisking constantly, to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (it should become thick and custard-like). Do not overheat, or eggs will scramble. Chill mixture completely.

Whip 1 cup heavy cream with whisk or in stand mixer until doubled in volume. Add whipped cream to egg mixture and fold with whisk just until no lumps remain. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze for 4 hours or until solid.

Combine frozen cubes of mixture (use a spoon or a dull knife to remove them) and remaining heavy cream in food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides and breaking up lumps as necessary during the process. Transfer mixture to quart container and freeze for at least 4 more hours before serving.

Source: iStock

3. Whipping cream method

Next up is another way to make your ice cream and eat it, too: the whipping cream method. Kevin and Amanda from KevinAndAmanda.com deserve credit for this foolproof ice cream method starring whipping cream and condensed milk, and we promise that it will not disappoint. This technique doesn’t require a food processor but rather a stand mixer or a strong arm.

You start off by whipping two cups of heavy cream until peaks form and then adding your toppings and fix-ins to a can of sweetened condensed milk. Next, you fold in the whipped cream mixture and then freeze before enjoying. Like the ice cube trays, this method is certainly more indulgent than the banana soft serve technique, but we think you’ll make an exception for the ice cream.

Here’s an example of how Kevin and Amanda mixed their cream and condensed milk to create cinnamon bun ice cream:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks in large bowl. Whisk sweetened condensed milk, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl. Mix well. Fold in whipped cream.

Pour into a 2-quart container and cover. Freeze 6 hours or until firm. Store in freezer.

4. Ziploc bag method

Coming in at No. 4 is one technique that only requires you know how to shake. One fun indoor activity that parents can do with their kids to pass the long winter days is make ice cream in a bag — a Ziploc bag, that is. Though many people have their own technique, this method all comes down to your ability to shake up your ingredients once they’re zipped up safe in a bag. In a matter of 15 minutes, you can make your ice cream and eat it, which is more than some of the other recipes can guarantee.

Here is TableSpoon’s take on the technique:

Ingredients:

  • 2 small Ziploc bags
  • 1 large Ziploc bag
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups crushed or cubed ice
  • 6 tablespoons salt

Directions: Take a small sealable (Ziploc-type) bag and add 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar. For added flavor, use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Seal it up, getting rid of as much air as you can. Now double bag it inside a similar-size bag.

Throw 4 cups of crushed or cubed ice with 6 tablespoons of salt in a large freezer bag. You can use any kind of salt, as you won’t actually be eating it. Put in your little double bag, and seal the large bag around it, getting rid of as much air as possible.

Now, get shaking. Wrap the bag in a tea towel or use gloves and shake the bag for at least five minutes before checking on its progress. You’ll start to notice the mixture getting thicker by simply feeling through the bag. In eight minutes max, you should have your ready-to-eat ice cream, although it will take longer if you are mixing a large batch.

When you remove the smaller bag, wipe it down carefully to get rid of all the salt on the outside.

5. Almond milk ice cream

To round out the list, we come full circle and conclude with another healthy ice cream recipe, similar to the banana soft serve. These recipes have two things in common: they’re healthier than they taste and they’re both dairy free. Don’t believe it? Try it.

This recipe for voluminous homemade ice cream from Chocolate Covered Katie has a very light texture but yields a lot of ice cream for a dessert that really comes to around 40 calories. If you choose to use coconut milk or dairy milk, you will have a creamier taste, and the calorie count will also rise. The beauty is that it is all up to you. As long as you have some milk, a dash of vanilla extra and sweetener, and some shallow containers, you’re good to go. Use your food processor to see this little miracle happen right before your eyes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • sweetener (such as 1-2 stevia packets or 1-2 tablespoons sugar -I actually used maple syrup when making this recipe.. yum!)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • optional add-ins

Directions: Mix the ingredients together in 1 or 2 shallow plastic containers. Freeze. Once frozen, pop the blocks out of the container and allow mixture to slightly thaw. Blend in your food processor until you have the desired consistency.

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