Month: June 2015

Salad Dressing: Homemade in Two Minutes!

Although I can appreciate the nutritional value of leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and chopped carrots tossed in a nice colorful plate, for me, a good salad is all about the dressing! The creamier the better is my rule when it comes to salad dressing. The unfortunate fact is that too often it is the “not so healthy” addition to the salad. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Let’s first walk you through how to build salads at home so they are balanced meals that can nourish and satisfy. Choose a nice combination of leafy greens as your base. When possible, combine at least three different types of greens, such as arugula, spinach, Romaine lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, and mustard greens. And since we eat with our eyes, get colorful! Chopped carrots, red peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, radishes, corn, well… you get the point! The more colors, the better. You should have at least three differently- colored toppings.

Salad dressing Once AgainLastly, for a protein boost, choose garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, chopped chicken, tuna, chopped nuts, hemp hearts or cottage cheese. . Your goal to add a minimum of 20 grams of protein, so you may combine two or three protein sources. For example, 2 ounces of chopped chicken yields 10 grams of protein, ¾ of garbanzo beans adds up to about 11 grams, and ½ cup sunflower seeds equals to 12 grams of protein.  This is the beauty of customized salads, adding only the ingredients that you like, giving you the ability to eat a different salad each day by changing the ingredients.

Another fun addition to salads for a sweet twist is chopped fruit such as green apples, strawberries, oranges, blueberries as well as raisins or other dried fruits; you only need about 2 tablespoons per serving to elevate your salad to gourmet status.

Now back to the dressing. After combining the “best of the best” of natural and fresh ingredients, pouring a dressing from a bottle may not be your idea of a homemade finale for your salad. A creamy dressing adds a luxurious feel to salads but often brings dairy and other undesired excess to your healthy lunch. But is making salad dressing something you really have time for? Well, yes! It is much easier than you think, and creaminess can be achieved without dairy, too. The salad dressing recipe below is a variation of many others I’ve seen before. You can play with the ingredients and add other herbs and spices to personalize it. But the basic recipe only takes two minutes to make, and all you need is a spoon and bowl. You need no powerful blender or food processor, no soaking nuts over night or high speed mixer either! For a single serving start with 1 tablespoon of Once Again Creamy Cashew Butter, and add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix it well for about 30 seconds, then add ¼ tsp. salt and add water to thin it to your preference (no more than 2 tablespoons). It is simple, creamy, and healthy! You can make larger batches and save it in refrigerator, but it is only good for about 48 hours — and it does separate, so I recommend making just as much as you need at a time.Salad Dressing Once Again 2

Using Once Again nut butters as a basis to your salad dressings will allow you to achieve the creamy texture without the use of dairy, while also adding to the protein content of your salad. The same recipe above can be made with more Once Again nut butter and less vinegar to use as a veggie dip. I have also roasted garlic and added it to the mix for a deeply flavored dressing.

There are other salad dressing recipes out there using nut butter, and we would love to hear yours! Share them with us in the comments section below.

… Create your own salad today,

Carolina

Time Flies! Peanut Butter Chocolate Birthday Cake

The expression: “Time flies” is one we are all very familiar with, but it rings so very true when we look at sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and all the children in our lives. When you are a part of their lives from r birth or at very young age, it becomes painfully obvious how time goes by so quickly. In the blink of an eye, they go from playing with blocks to riding a bike! Blink again, and they are asking your opinions about colleges to which they should they should apply. The optimist in me looks at those moments of “awakening” as opportunities to remind myself to cherish every single moment in life!

Birthday CakeMy son recently turned five, which is why all these emotions are fresh in my mind. For his birthday, he asked me to combine two of his favorite ingredients to make him a birthday cake: Once Again Peanut Butter and chocolate! First I smiled and took pride in the fact that his taste buds are exactly like mine, and then I started to think about how to make a cake worthy of my son’s approval for his big day.

Birthday cakes are usually an indulgence, so this will not be one of my healthier recipes on the blog, but everything in moderation is key, and no worries, I still found room to add some nutrient- rich ingredients and extra fiber to the recipe. Most cakes call for all- purpose flour, but by   substituting half the amount of whole wheat flour for regular flour, you can increase the fiber without altering the final taste of the recipe. This birthday cake also uses Greek yogurt for moisture and Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter! There are no oils or butter added. Also, cocoa powder is very rich, and when mixed with boiling water, it makes a very thick chocolate pudding- like ingredient, adding flavor and texture. Beyond this, a   cake needs filling and topping to make it “Birthday Party” ready! The filling and topping are basically made with the same ingredients; the topping is made thinner so you can pour it on the cake, and the filling is thicker to hold the layers together. You may have to vary the proportions of the ingredients to achieve the right consistency for your own homemade taste. Start with the Once Again Peanut butter and add the other ingredients, a little at a time, until you achieve the perfect textures for your cake.

Although this cake recipe was created especially for my five-year- old’s birthday, it is perfect for a holiday party or celebration for any peanut butter lover out there!

Peanut Butter birthday CAke

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake 

½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup boiling water
1 ½ tsps. baking soda
½ cup Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter
2 ½ cups flour (half whole wheat flour)
1 ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
½ tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla extract

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Filling:

½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter
Topping:
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter
3-6 oz water or milk

Cake: Add cocoa powder to boiling water and mix well; set aside. Using an electric mixer, at low speed, blend Once Again Peanut Butter, Greek yogurt, eggs and sugar. Add the vanilla extract and cocoa powder to the mixture. Then in separate bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the flour to the wet mixture, and combine well. Pour into two 6- inch round pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Check using a toothpick to determine the appropriate cooking time. Let cool completely before adding filling and topping.

Filling: Start with Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter, and add powdered sugar slowly, mixing continuously until you achieve a desired texture. The result should be similar to thick frosting.

Topping: Start with Once Again Creamy Peanut Butter, add sugar, and mix well. Then slowly, and mixing continuously, add milk or water to achieve desired consistency.  The result should have a consistency similar to honey.

Springtime Treats: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Springtime Treats: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

After the long days of cold, hazy skies, windy afternoons, and freezing temperatures, springtime comes!! That first green leaf makes us all smile and look forward to warmer times in the sun. The transition from winter to spring also happens in the kitchen! You can put away your soup pots (not too far out of sight though, since we do enjoy soup all year round) and take out the sauté pans. We dust off our grills, and the kids start asking for popsicles. Here in Florida, spring comes quickly but only lasts about two weeks! We jump into the 80s and 90s fast, and it starts to feel like summer before spring sets in.

UntitledSpringtime vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, spinach green beans, peas, and so many others. Zucchini is more of a late- spring- into- summer vegetable.  Because of the warmer temperatures of Florida, we grow zucchini almost year round. Our backyard garden gives us a nice zucchini harvest around mid-March.

Recently I was given a “spiralizer,” a kitchen gadget with which you can create various widths and sizes of noodles using vegetables. It’s perfect for zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. It’s a lot of fun to use, and the kids love turning the crank and watching the noodles come out the other end., giving us all a different way to eat up all those spring and summer vegetables.

20150325_193627934_iOSAnother creative way to enjoy vegetables is to include them in baked goods. You can never waste the opportunity to add more variety to your baking! The addition of vegetables can provide extra vitamins and minerals to your recipes while substituting other less nutritious ingredients. You can add pureed, chopped, juiced or shredded vegetables to your creations. It is also a fantastic way to preserve your spring and summer crops: puree or juice them and then freeze small portions to use in baking throughout the year. When baking with vegetables, muffins are my first choice. They are a perfect take-along snack to make ahead of time. Use a mini-muffin pans for small portions that you can include in lunchboxes   or for a pre-workout snack. Since they are smaller than regular- sized muffins, they freeze more easily, and you can make big batches for future use. .

20150325_200044763_iOSThis recipe uses zucchini since we’ve harvested an abundant amount our vegetable garden already! But I bet you can make them with squash, pumpkin or carrots as well. These Chocolate Zucchini Muffins are gluten- free and use only honey as a sweetener. This recipe was made with Once Again Cashew Butter, but you can substitute any of your favorite Once Again nut butters. . I do think the cashew butter was a great choice to pair with the zucchini, however.  Not only did it add the much needed protein boost to these muffins, but also gave them a texture and flavor that was rich and savory at the same time. Once they are baked, you can still see the 20150325_195843702_iOSlittle pieces of zucchini, so it is no way to hide food, but that’s not the point at all! I strongly believe in encouraging kids (and adults!) to find different ways to enjoy vegetables that they don’t like cooked in more traditional ways. I am the first to confess that the only way I eat Brussel sprouts is when they are pureed and mixed into my artichoke dip. Everyone has taste unique buds, and it is okay to like different things.

… Enjoy your veggies in baked goods, too!

Carolina

20150325_225256010_iOSChocolate Zucchini Muffins

1 large zucchini (about 1 ½ cup grated)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup Once Again Cashew Butter
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup dark chocolate chips

20150325_212109069_iOSUsing a cheese grater, on the thinner side available, grate about 1 ½ cups of zucchini. It takes a large zucchini or two smaller ones for the amount needed in this recipe. Set aside the grated zucchini. In medium bowl, add honey, Once Again Cashew Butter, and mix well; then add egg, cacao powder, salt, and baking soda. Next, add the, and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips, and fill each muffin cup to about three quarter’s capacity. Bake in 375F oven for 10-18 minutes. The recipe makes about 24 mini muffins or 12 larger muffins. Store them in the refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen muffins can last up to two months. Just reheat muffins for 45 seconds before consuming.