Dark Chocolate Peppermint Macaroons

Will and I just got back from a lovely wedding weekend in Memphis for our friends Alex and Johnathan.  Our flight back to Chicago this morning was early so we had most of the day off today to catch up on grocery shopping, weekend food prep, and of course an annual tradition – watching Elf! I was in the mood to do a little bit of baking so I whipped up a batch of these macaroons. Macaroons are so easy to make and are absolutely delicious. I put a different spin on these by adding some peppermint extract and drizzling in dark chocolate. Macaroons are a great little treat for those working to stay healthy over the holidays. They are a lot lower in calories than other cookies, plus you have the added benefit of some fiber from the flaked coconut. Macaroons are also a great DIY gift for family and friends – even those with food allergies since they are gluten-free!

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Peppermint Macaroons 3

Peppermint Macaroons

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Macaroons 

(Makes 12-15; Gluten-Free, Low Fat)

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 1-2 ounces melted dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place egg whites in bowl and whip until they form soft peaks.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except for chocolate to the whipped eggs. Stir gently until well mixed.
  4. Drop coconut mixture by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges. Set on the counter to cool.
  5. Melt chocolate over the stove. Drizzle onto macaroons. Let cool and serve!
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Tomato Leek Soup

Hope you are enjoying lots of treats and not too many tricks. 😉 A lot of people at work really get into dressing up, so I joined in this year for the first time in a long time. Of course I promoted healthy foods by dressing up as a bunch of grapes. It was actually a lot of fun.  I just can’t believe that October is already over. The holiday season is approaching just so quickly – eek! Today, I thought I would share with you this delicious soup Will made up the other night. It’s a perfect way to warm up on the approaching cold winter nights! Feel free to replace the butter with oil if you’d like to make it vegan – both ways are delicious!

Tomato Leek Soup

Tomato Leek Soup (vegetarian; gluten-free)

(Makes 4 Servings)

Ingredients:

  • 8 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 pint vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Toss in leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and tomatoes. Continue to cook and stir for another 10 minutes until leeks begin to soften.
  2. Stir in broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables softened, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in spices and cook another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and pour soup into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth (or puree only half of it to leave a few bits of chopped veggies like we did).
  5. Serve with cheese!

Vegan Coconut Cream Cups

Happy Monday! Hope you had a lovely fall weekend. To start your week off on a sweet note, I thought I would share this simple vegan coconut cream cup recipe with you. The inspiration for these came for those ultra sweet, gooey mallo cups that I used to love when I was younger. Have you ever tried one before? They are like Reese’s cups but stuffed with marshmallow cream and coconut instead of peanut butter. So delicious! Of course, now that I’m a dietitian, I can’t have any sweet treat without thinking about how I can create a healthier version at home. Although these are still technically a dessert, they are still better than the packaged version with a lot less sugar, loads of ultra dark chocolate, and a bit of healthy fat from the creamy coconut filling. These make for an easy to prepare, fun dessert that is perfect for guests with diet restrictions since they are vegan, gluten free, and paleo-friendly. (You’d never guess it by the way they taste!) If you aren’t a big fan of dark chocolate, feel free to substitute milk chocolate instead.

coconut cups

Vegan Coconut Cream Cups

(Makes 8)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut cream, chilled
  • 2 bars of chocolate (3.5 oz each – I used Trader Joe’s 85% Cacao Chocolate Lover Bars)

Directions:

  1. Mix maple syrup, shredded coconut, and coconut cream together in a small bowl. Place in the fridge to firm while preparing the chocolate.
  2. Create a double boiler by filling a small saucepan halfway with water. Fit a glass mixing bowl over top and bring water to boil. Melt chocolate bars in bowl.
  3. Place 8 cupcake papers in muffin tin. Pour 1/2 of the melted chocolate in the muffin cups. (Should be just enough to cover the bottom.) Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes until hardened.
  4. Take out of the freezer and place 2 tablespoons of the coconut cream in the chocolate cups. Place back in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the freezer and cover with the rest of the melted chocolate. Place in the freezer to chill until firm. Peel away from the paper cupcake liners and enjoy!

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Roasted Pears with Cinnamon and Almond Butter

I can’t believe we are already halfway through the week! After such a lovely long weekend catching up with my Memphis friends who came to town to run the Chicago Marathon, it was tough to head back to work. Do you know what can make the work week better though? These simple, oven roasted pears with cinnamon and almond butter! We have been picking up pints of pears at the market over the last couple of weeks that have been so juicy and sweet; just can’t get enough of them. I knew they would be delicious in a dessert dish without the need for added sugar. So, I baked up a few for a healthy, vegan, gluten-free, paleo-friendly dessert that is super simple to make.

Roasted Pears

Roasted Pears with Cinnamon and Almond Butter

(Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 pears, cored and sliced in half
  • 4 tablespoons almond butter
  • Additional cinnamon for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish, combine coconut oil, water, cinnamon, and vanilla. Spread over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Set pears cut-side down in the baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until softened.
  4. Pull dish out of the oven and turn the pears cut-side up. Place 1 tablespoon of almond butter in the hollow of each pear. Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve warm! Sprinkle with additional cinnamon for serving.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential foods of fall. Just take a peek at Pinterest and you’ll see that the pumpkin craze has just about taken over! In the past, I have purchased canned pumpkin for adding to baked goods, oatmeal, etc. However, this weekend, I wanted to try making my own. Little did I know it would be so easy!

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To make your pumpkin puree at home, all you need to do is buy a pie pumpkin at the store or farmers market. That’s right – make sure it is marked as a pie pumpkin and not just a regular jack-o-lantern one as those are just terrible for cooking. To make my pumpkin puree, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, cut my pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed it cut side down on a cookie sheet. I baked it for about 30 minutes or until it started to brown. After removing from the oven, I let it cool a bit and then scooped out flesh from the insides. I put the pumpkin flesh into bowl of the food processor, added 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, and pureed it until smooth. So simple! I then used that to make this delicious smoothie for breakfast the following day.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

(Serves 1)

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut cream (or sub almond/soy milk)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • 2 dates, soaked overnight to soften
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Serve chilled. I enjoyed mine with a cup of coffee and a handful of roasted almonds. 🙂

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Vegan Lentil Stew with Roasted Squash and Kale

Whenever fall starts to settle in, I get the strongest craving for soup! Last week, I was feeling tired of packing salads for lunch, so I whipped up this stew. I incorporated some of the squash I roasted over the weekend and tossed in a few leaves of kale for color. Red lentils serve as a perfect, creamy base since they love to soak up any liquid you use when cooking them. The more liquid you add, the soupier they become. When serving this stew, I tossed some fontina cheese on top, however, if you want to keep it vegan, just leave it off. It made very tasty leftovers for lunch!

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Lentil Stew-resize

Lentil Stew w/Roasted Squash and Kale (Vegan, Gluten Free)

(Serves ~4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup cubed, roasted squash (I used butternut and delicata – just chop into bite size pieces, toss in salt/olive oil, and bake until browned)
  • 3-4 large kale leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine lentils, water, and broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and partially cover with lid.
  2. Simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed, ~20 minutes.
  3. Toss in kale, garlic, salt, and garam marsala. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Toss in roasted squash and cook 1-2 minutes, continuing to stir.
  5. Serve!

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What is your favorite fall soup?

Easy Zucchini Pasta Noodles

Happy Monday! I don’t know about you, but I am seriously loving the start of summer! We had a beautiful weekend here in Chicago, so we tried to make the most of it by spending lots of time on our bikes. The warmer temperatures of summer mean that we have been able to find more summer squash and zucchini at the farmers’ market. Since these veggies often grow in abundance, there are a ton of great recipes for preparing them! They can be roasted, sauteed, grilled, broiled, steamed, and more. Recently, I came across a recipe online for these zucchini noodles and I knew I had to try them out. However, I had to pick up one of these julienne peelers at the store before I could get started. Once you have one of those, you can convert your zucchini into noodles in no time!

These are great for any of your paleo or gluten free friends as well since they have no wheat in them, unlike traditional pasta.
zucchininoodles Easy Zucchini Noodles
(Makes 1-2 servings)
(Recipe based on Nom Nom Paleo)

  • 1-2 large zucchinis
  • Salt

1. Rinse zucchini well and chop the ends off. Take your julienne peeler and run it across the zucchini lengthwise to make long noodle-like strips. Continue to do this until you reach the inner seedy part of the zucchini which you can just toss.
2. Place zucchini shreds in a colander and salt generously. (You want to draw out some of the excess water in the zucchini.) Let sit for 5-10 minutes and rinse.
3. In a large saucepan or stockpot, set up a steamer basket and some water. Toss zucchini strips into steamer, cover, and turn up heat to medium high. Once water starts to boil, set a timer for 5 minutes.
4. After 5 minutes, check the zucchini; it should be crisp-tender, which is what you want. Be careful not to overcook! (No one likes mushy noodles…) Toss zucchini in a colander or strainer and let any additional water drain off. Serve!
We served ours with some semi-homemade tomato sauce (see below) and homemade mozzarella cheese. Feel free to add whatever toppings you would like!

Semi-Homemade Tomato Sauce
(Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1- 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1- 14 oz. can fire roasted stewed tomatoes (we bought ours from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 oz. ground seitan
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (adjust to your liking)

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until soft and browned.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve on spaghetti!