Dec 222013
 

Around the holidays, everything is better covered in chocolate and peppermint. This is a fact. I was looking for a festive treat that wouldn’t take hours to make, and would feel decadent without putting me in a full blown sugar coma. So I came up with this Peppermint-Chocolate Popcorn (aka: christmas crack). IMG_7225 Nutritional Highlights: I popped my popcorn in a very small amount of oil in a pot, which is already WAY better than butter-loaded movie theater popcorn. Plus, it doesn’t have any of the weird chemicals in some of the bagged popcorns out there. Sure, I proceeded to drizzle it with white and dark chocolate and sprinkled it with crushed candy canes, but at least the base is natural, high fiber popcorn, right? One thing to keep in mind in general, is that fiber will slow your blood sugar spikes, so you won’t have quite a steep rise and crash as you would if fiber wasn’t in the picture. And we know that Santa needs to watch his blood sugar. IMG_7216
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Chocolate-Peppermint Popcorn (aka: Christmas Crack)
makes about 8-10 cups
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What’s in it:

1/2 cup popcorn kernals
2-3 tablespoons oil (coconut or vegetable oil work well)
sea salt to taste
1 6-oz bar of dark chocolate
1 6-oz bar of white chocolate
3 full sized candy canes, crushed (I put mine into a large plastic bag and used my rolling pin to let out some aggression)

How to make it:

1. Pop the popcorn: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add popcorn kernels and cover. Shake the pot occasionally so the kernels don’t burn. After a few minutes, the kernels will start a-poppin. Shake the pot often until the popping slows or stops.
2. Spread popped corn into an even layer on a large baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with plenty of sea salt.
3. In 2 small microwave safe containers, melt the white and dark chocolate separately, stirring every 30 seconds until it is melted.
4. Drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. You’ll want to work relatively quickly so the chocolate doesn’t fully harden before you sprinkle the candy canes.
5. Allow chocolate to harden at room temperature for at least a few hour or overnight (you can cover with tinfoil once it’s cool).
6. Break the popcorn into chunks and enjoy!

IMG_7227 Let me tell you, Santa will be extra generous this year if you leave some of this out by the chimney.

Nov 262013
 

48 hours until my favorite day of the year! Yep, no other holiday even begins to come close to Thanksgiving in my book. No gifts, no stress, just good time with friends and family and lots and lots of food. Some people get stressed thinking of ways to make Thanksgiving diet friendly, but one day of indulgence really won’t set you back that far, so I say just enjoy. But if you do want to keep it under control, here are a few tips and recipes.
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1. Focus on fruits and veggies. Luckily a lot of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes are focused on seasonal produce. Roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and a salad with pears, cranberries, and pecans are always part of our spread. Also try a fruit focused dessert like this gluten free pear crisp. Maybe you’ll eat less of the heavy pie if you have this too. Or maybe not.
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2. PORTIONS! I’m not the best representative for portion control to be honest, but none the less, I know it’s super important. Only take a few bites of the decadent stuff and load up on the veggies (see #1). My favorite trick…try making stuffing into individual muffin portions. Not only is the size limited, but you get a nice crispy crust on each stuffin muffin. Also, instead of adding pork sausage and butter to your stuffing, try chicken sausage, broth, and lots of celery and onion.
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Bonus, they actually look a lot more appealing than a big mushy bowl of stuffing anyway.
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3. Now, what NOT to do: make these sweet potatoes. My friends and I have started calling these “death potatoes” because they are probably slowly killing us but it’s a pretty good way to go. You take a great ingredient like sweet potatoes and then add gruyere, pancetta, and, wait for it, heavy cream. Very un-cook-tush. So let me repeat myself: Do not make these. (But here’s the recipe because they’re amazing).
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Also, definitely DON’T make these delicious pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting. But if you do, please bring me one since I’ve already eaten all the ones that my friend Susan brought over.
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I hope everyone has a happy and healthy (but not too healthy) Thanksgiving!

xoxo,
CookTush

Oct 302013
 

Happy Halloween! And I must say, I have a lot to be happy about this year:
1. This time last year was Hurricane Sandy and things got pretty dark (literally). And cold. This year it’s not!
2. My sister Jenna will be getting married in exactly 10 days!
3. On Halloween last year, my other sister Brea brought my nephew Owen into the world. Tomorrow he will be the coolest 1 year old ever!
4. And finally, these dark chocolate-peanut butter-banana-truffles that look like spiders. Nuff said.
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These truffles have a whopping 5 ingredients, were quick to make, and were SO tasty. Trying a “healthy” truffle recipe made me a little nervous, because usually when you’re eating truffles, healthy isn’t exactly the goal. But these were actually AMAZING. Not surprising, since the idea came from my friend Erica Sweet Tooth. I made mine into little spiders by adding pretzel legs and jelly bean eyes, but the possibilities are endless for these. Maybe orange white chocolate to make pumpkins? Or just make them without any Halloween costume and they’re still just awesome and healthy truffles. Highly recommended!!!
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Nutritional Highlights: The secret ingredient in these is high fiber cereal. Who woulda thought! I used natural peanut butter which is high in protein and healthy fat, and banana for natural sugars and vitamins. Dark chocolate has some antioxidant benefits, but mostly it’s just delicious and a little bit won’t hurt anyone. This is a perfectly portioned, sweet/salty dessert that is way better for you than any other Halloween candy out there.
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Healthy Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Truffles
adapted from Erica Sweet Tooth
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What’s in them:
1 cup fiber cereal, finely ground (I used Go Lean but Fiber One, Nature’s Path Flax Plus Flakes, or another favorite are fine)
3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 ripe banana
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons agave or honey (if you’re using unsweetened, natural peanut butter you may want to add a little but I left it out and they were still delicious)
6 oz dark chocolate
Decorations: for the spiders I used thin broken pretzels and halved jelly beans

How to make them:
In a food processor, grind the cereal into fine crumbs. Add the agave/honey, peanut butter, and banana and pulse for a few times until the dough comes together.
Roll the dough into balls and place them on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Transfer to the fridge for about an hour.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler (for me this was a glass bowl on top of a sauce pan with simmering water) and submerge each truffle in the chocolate, using a spoon to scoop out each truffle and tapping the spoon side of the dish to get off any excess chocolate. Transfer dipped truffles to a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and decorate by sticking in the pretzel legs and pressing on the jelly bean eyes.
Store in the fridge to allow chocolate to set completely and serve within a few days for best results. Enjoy and Boo!
And since I think you deserve another treat, here’s a shoutout to my nephew Owen who turns 1 tomorrow. Can’t believe how big this little pumpkin is now!!
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And since I think you deserve another treat, here’s a shoutout to my nephew Owen who turns 1 tomorrow. Can’t believe how big this little pumpkin is now!!
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Oct 012013
 

Summer seems to be taking one last stand in NYC this week, and with highs in the 80’s it’s going out with a bang. So I thought it was a great opportunity to get in one last cold sweet treat. But let’s be honest here…it doesn’t have to be warm for me to want a cold sweet treat (the fro yo place around the corner that knows me by name and topping preferences can verify this). But why spend $5 on frozen yogurt when you can make your own adorable, tasty, and natural pops.
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Money isn’t the only thing you’ll save on these. Instead of the processed who knows what that goes into your frozen yogurt, this has only a few (relatively) natural and (pretty) healthy components. I can count the ingredients in these babies (literal/figurative) on one hand- soy milk, nutella, bananas, dark chocolate. Hey, I even have a thumb to spare.
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Nutritional Highlights: These are gluten free and almostttt vegan (my chocolate-hazelnut spread has some skim milk in it, darn). The main component is banana, followed by soy milk (or milk of your choice), with just a hint of nutella and a thin chocolate layer. Plus, if you make these in small cups like I did they are a perfectly acceptable dessert portion (which I cannot say when I am left to my own devices at a do it yourself fro yo joint). As far as desserts go, these are a pretty good choice!
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Banana Nutella Popsicles
number varies based on the size of your cups/popsicle molds
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What’s in it:
3 ripe bananas (2 for the pops, 1 for the slices on top)
1/3 cup nutella or chocolate-hazelnut spread
2/3 cup vanilla soy milk
optional: 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

How to make it:
1. Arrange 6-8 plastic dixie cups on a plate or tray (make sure it’s one that will fit into your freezer). Slice one of the bananas into 1/2 inch slices and place one in the bottom of each cup. Put in the freezer while you make the pop mix.
2. In a blender, combine the remaining bananas, nutella and soy milk. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour mixture into the dixie cups and press a popsicle stick into each (it will stand upright if you push it partially into the banana at the bottom). Return to the freezer for about an hour so it begins to freeze.
4. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave. Spoon a thin layer of melted chocolate onto each popsicle. Return to the freezer until pops are completely frozen. Enjoy!
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Aug 252013
 

Happy Birthday to me! Yep, yesterday was the day that I officially became closer to 30 than I am to 20. Since 26 sounds like such an adult age to me, I thought what better way to celebrate than by making a delicious adult beverage?IMG_6651Like any good foodie’s birthday should be, mine was a weekend full of amazing food.  It began on Friday with a 20+ course meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (best meal of my life) where everything we ate came directly from the farm.  Then Saturday consisted of a blueberry mojito pregame followed by a great tapas dinner at ABC Cocina.  In case that wasn’t enough, Sunday included a brunch at Back Forty with all my girl friends, one of which being Erica of ericasweettooth.com.  Needless to say, she did not come empty handed, but brought a cake made of stacked peanut-butter-banana cookies with chocolate and toffee chips, caramel frosting, and caramelized banana topping.  Gotta say this might have been one of the best birthdays yet!  I am one lucky girl :)

ImageSo back to the mojitos.  They were AMAZING.  I’m not going to give nutritional highlights, because hey, we all know booze isn’t the best for you, but I will say that integrating fresh fruit into your cocktails (like blueberries and limes) and sticking with mostly soda water as the mixer does cut back on the sugar and calories significantly.  I definitely recommend trying these out for your labor day celebrations.

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Fresh Blueberry Mojitos
for 1 pitcher with about 6 servings
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What’s in it:

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 limes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups white rum (depending on how festive you’re feeling)
  • 3 to 4 cups soda water
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, plus a few extras to garnish each glass

How to make it:

  1. Start by making your blueberry simple syrup.  Do this earlier in the day so it has time to cool.  In a small saucepan, add sugar and water and bring to a simmer.  Stir until sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Transfer the syrup to a blender and add 1 cup of the fresh blueberries.  Pulse until blueberries are mostly blended but still a little chunky.  Transfer blueberry syrup to a jar or tupperware and refrigerate.
  3. When you’re ready to make the cocktails, juice 5 of the limes into the bottom of the pitcher.  Cut the 6th lime into wedges or rounds to garnish your glasses with.
  4. Add 1/2 cup mint leaves and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries and muddle using a pestle of another blunt object you can come up with.  This will release all that great mint flavor and crush the blueberries.
  5. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup of the blueberry simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it), the rum, and soda water.  Stir.
  6. In each glass, put a few ice cubes, mint leaves, and fresh blueberries in the bottom and a lime wedge on the rim.  Pour the mojito mixture into the glasses and enjoy!

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Apr 142013
 

I made an very important realization this week.  It is unlikely that I will make it through any day without eating chocolate.  It was hard for me to admit this, because in theory I think I should have all this will power  and be able to resist the cravings, but in fact I cannot.  So instead of letting the craving take on the form of a massive candy bar, I decided to make something that would satisfy without quite so much guilt afterward.  These are the perfect pre-workout/run snack and really do taste a lot like cookie dough!


These were super fast to make because they require zero cooking.  Plus, they only require 5 ingredients (7 if you add nuts and salt like I did- 2 crucial cookie ingredients in my mind) which is a nice change from all the foods we eat that have 20 un-pronounceable ingredients.  


Nutritional Highlights:  These have absolutely no added sugar, and get all their sweetness from the dark chocolate and the dates.  They also have tons of fiber from the oats and chia seeds (so they will keep you full) and walnuts for some healthy omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, they are gluten free and vegan, so they work for just about anyone! These are a great healthy snack or dessert.  


No-Bake Oatmeal Chia Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls (Vegan and Gluten-free)
the original recipe said is makes 15, but I ended up with 9 (oops, sorry I’m not sorry).

adapted from Tasty Yummies

Ingredients:
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 6 dates – soak if they are very dry)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups gluten-free rolled oats (you can use regular rolled oats if you aren’t gluten intolerant)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 – 2 tablespoons water (you could need more, you could need less, just go by how your dough feels)
1/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon of salt
Directions:
Add the medjool dates and vanilla to a food processor or high powered blender (like a Vitamix). Process until a thick paste forms, you may want to add some water here if it is too dry. You will also want to take a spatula and scrape down the edges. Add in 1 cup of the rolled oats and the chia seeds, process until the oats are no longer whole and it all comes together into a thick dough. Again, add water if it is super dry (just don’t add too much water). Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of oats, chopped walnuts, and the chocolate chips and pulse just a few times to bring it all together. Take a small amount of the dough into your hands to make sure it will roll and stay together. If the dough is crumbling a bit, add more water, if it is too goopy and wet, add more oats.
Taking 1 tablespoon of the dough at a time, roll the dough, in the palm of your hands, into about 15 balls. Set on a plate and place it into the fridge for about 15 minutes to all them to chill.  Then enjoy!

 

Mar 302013
 

Happy Eastover!  Last year my rice crispie egg post definitely favorited the Easter half of Eastover so I thought this year should pay tribute to the passover half.  I have to start off by making it clear that the future dietitian in me DOES NOT endorse this recipe.  But the inner fat kid in me?  She definitely endorses this recipe.  This Dark Chocolate-Toffee Matzo Bark is one of the most addictive things I’ve made in a while.

There are so many great things happening here. It’s crunchy, sweet, salty, and basically melts in your mouth.

A few of the toppings can give this a healthy disguise, but don’t be fooled…it is not.  The slivered almonds, dried, cranberries, pistachios, whole wheat matzo and dark chocolate- pretty healthy. The butter and brown sugar caramel hiding under the chocolate- NOT healthy.

Hope everyone has a happy healthy Passover or Easter.  Or if you’re me, BOTH!

Dark Chocolate-Toffee Matzah Bark with Pistachios, Almonds, and Cranberries

adapted from David Lebowitz

Ingredients:
  • – 6 to 8 sheets unsalted whole wheat matzohs
  • – 3/4 cup  unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • – 3/4 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • – big pinch of sea salt
  • – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • – 1 cup (160g) semisweet or dark chocolate chips (I used a mixture)
  • – 1/2 cup white chocolate chips for drizzle
  • – Optional Toppings:  1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios, 1/2 cup dried cranberries.  (other options: toasted coconut, walnuts, orange rind, or anything else you can think of!)
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17″, 28 x 42cm) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
3. In a 3-4 quart (3-4l) heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F (175C) degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325F (160C), then replace the pan.
5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
6. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.
Let cool completely, the break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.
Note: If making for passover, omit the vanilla extract or find a kosher brand.