Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chocolate Pudding with...Avocado?

Lately, we've been making a lot of chocolate pudding at the Center for Health and Well-being.  Why?  It's not only because we love chocolate.  (We do!)  It's also because it's heart-healthy.

Heart-healthy chocolate pudding?  Yes indeed...with our secret ingredient!  But more on that in just a moment.

Chocolate pudding is a beloved food.  Yet during a recent grocery store trip, I perused the ingredient list on a container of chocolate pudding.  The first three ingredients were what I expected:  milk, water, and sugar.  Not the ideal snack, but at least the ingredents are ones I can pronounce.

But then the list got ugly.  Modified corn starch (who knows what "modified" means?).  Vegetable oil (who wants to eat that in pudding?), including hydrogenated oils, which are notorious for their heart-harming trans-fats.  Sodium stearoyl lactylate (a completely unknown ingredient to me).  Artificial flavors.  Color added.

Not exactly the snack I want to be feeding my kids on a regular basis.  And certainly not heart-healthy with the trans fats.

So I set out to find a simple yet delicious chocolate pudding recipe that is heart-healthy.  What I discovered is that a secret ingredient can make chocolate pudding creamy and contribute lots of heart-healthy fats.

That secret ingredient:  avocados.
Avocados are a great source of fiber, potassium, lutein, and vitamins C, K, folate, and B6.

To make the pudding, mash 2 avocados in a bowl.  Stir in 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/4 C milk, 1T instant espresso powder, 1tsp vanilla extract, and 2-4T honey (depending on your sweetness preference).  Mix until the pudding is smooth and well-combined.  (Sometimes it helps to blend with an immersion blender.)  Transfer to individual serving bowls.  Garnish with shredded coconut or fleur de sel, if desired.
This pudding would also be really delicious with bananas instead of (or alongside) the avocados.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quick & Easy Grain Salad

It seems like everyone has been asking for our Quick & Easy Grain Salad recipe.  When we say we don't have a recipe, we mean that we just throw ingredients into a bowl until it tastes good!  However, we know that it's hard to remember everything that we teach, so we offer you this:  our Quick & Easy Grain Salad recipe.  It's not like a standard recipe, but it gives guidelines to making your salad taste delicious.
Try it and let us know how it comes out!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Easy Summer Meal: Notes From Our August 19th Class

Our class on August 19th was all about cooking techniques.  The wonderful thing about cooking techniques is that you don't need a recipe, or even precise ingredients, in order to whip up a meal.

The first technique we learned was how to make a vinaigrette.  This is a very diverse sauce in the kitchen.  Not only can you use it to dress your salads, but you can also add it to pasta dishes, as a sauce over meat, or even as a marinade!

To make a vinaigrette, you will need three components:  oil, vinegar, and an emulsifier.  The "proper" ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1; however, if you are like me and enjoy a very strong, vinegar bite, you might prefer 2:1 or 1:1.  The emulsifier is used in small amounts, and it holds the oil and vinegar together.  Seasonings and other additions can be added as needed.

To make the vinaigrette, put the emulsifer, seasonings, enhancers and vinegar into a large bowl.  While whisking constantly in one direction, slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl.  Start with a slow stream of oil (the proper technique is to have your oil stream as thin as a thread of silk); gradually increase the size of the stream.  You can also do this in a blender or food processor (a much quicker process). 
The second technique we learned was how to roast vegetables.  This is very simple and hands-off!  Simply slice, dice, or otherwise cut up the veggies in whatever fashion you deem yummy.  Toss onto a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other seasonings (I like Herbes de Provence or thyme and rosemary!), and stick in the oven.  The oven can range anywhere between 350* and 450*; I always crank up the oven when I'm in a hurry to eat!  Cook until the vegetables are the tenderness you desire.  Some things, such as onions and peppers, will roast quickly.  Others, like carrots, will take a bit of time.  Remember, the smaller you cut them, the quicker they will cook!

The third technique we learned was how to grill veggies.  Onions are simple:  just cut into rounds and put on the grill until slightly charred.  Peppers take a bit more work, but the grill really intensifies their flavor!  Stick whole peppers on the grill, and cook until the skin has blackened all the way around.  Remove from the grill and let it cool until you can touch it.  Remove the charred skin, the stem, and the seeds and inner membranes.  Slice or dice.
We combined our grilled and roasted veggies with couscous.  To learn all about couscous, click here.  To complete the meal, we rinsed off canned beans (black beans and Great Northern beans are delicious!) to add into the salad for protein.  Cheese cubes are also a nice source of protein for the salad.  Dress with the vinaigrette, and you have a complete, easy meal!
For those of you who are interested, here is my whole-wheat pita recipe!  I modified it just slightly from an Anne Burrell recipe.

Whole Wheat Pitas

1 1/4C warm water (about 100*F)
1tsp sugar
1pkg active yeast
1C all-purpose flour
2C whole-wheat flour
2tsp cumin
1/2tsp cayenne
1/4C olive oil
  1. In a bowl, combine the water, sugar, and yeast.  Let it activate, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine the flours, cumin, and cayenne.  Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil.  Mix together, using a dough hook, until the dough comes together, about 6-7 minutes.  (The dough will be firm.)
  3. Lightly oil a bowl, put in the dough, and then cover with plastic wrap.  Let it set in a warm place while the dough rises, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500*F.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out into rounds, about 1/4" thick.  Place on an oiled baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.
  6. Bake the pitas for 3-4 minutes on one side.  Flip them over, then finish baking them, about 1-2 minutes.