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Pumpkin Carrot Energy Bites

Tis’ the season for pumpkin spice errythang! And I must admit, I’m totally here for it. I am an avid fall lover. Although I will miss summer dearly, my heart belongs to those crisp autumn days sipping a hot cider snuggling by a crackling fire while watching Michigan State football. When I lived in Houston, Texas for a while, I could not handle the lack of season change (or mild season change I should say). I full on boycotted it by wearing hoodies and fall attire despite the 90+ degree days. This eventually stopped because for starters, I was sweating my ass off and also the leaves on the trees weren’t changing so it all just felt off.

Needless to say, I didn’t last long in Texas. As much as I want to fight it, I’m a northern girl through and through. My biological clock just seems to need the season changes. Now that I’m back in Michigan, I take FULL advantage of fall and everything that comes with it. Y’all know what this means…PUMPKIN. Noshindietitian-21

Pumpkin is just a kick-ass vegetable. Well really it’s a fruit, but acts more like a vegetable. Not only does it make all your fall recipes taste wonderful, but it also has some serious health benefits. It’s a beta-carotene rock star, which equates to high vitamin A in the body. It also provides a couple really great antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. These special characteristics in addition to its vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and vitamin E content, help boost your immune system (which we could all use with flu season ahead), improve your eyesight, and help prevent risk of developing chronic diseases.

These pumpkin carrot balls are no exception. They are actually a vitamin A double whammy with the addition of the carrots. They are also vegan, dairy, and gluten-free. The ground flaxseed is the nutritional cherry on top by contributing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. Carrot balls.jpg

I personally love any type of energy bite (or ball). They are a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up, after dinner sweet treat, grab and go healthy snack, or just an anytime bite of deliciousness. These can also be frozen for later use. If you’re looking to boost the protein content, feel free to add your favorite protein powder, chia seeds, or more ground flaxseed. A vanilla protein powder would pair perfectly! I opted out this time around because my protein powder was vanilla coconut flavor and I wasn’t really feeling the coconut for this recipe. By all means, get creative and tailor to your flavor preferences! Enjoy! Carrot balls 2

Pumpkin Carrot Energy Bites

Course Snack
Author Liz Bissell

Ingredients

  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup 100% pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Gluten-free old-fashioned oats (can also use ¼ cup flour of choice and regular old-fashioned oats if you prefer)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Pour oats into a food processor or blender and pulse until a fine powder. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

  2. Add the carrots into the food processor and pulse until the carrots are finely minced. Add in the dates and half of the pumpkin puree. Blend into a paste.

  3. Add in the rest of the pumpkin puree, oat flour, maple syrup, flaxseed, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and cloves. Pulse until evenly combined.

  4. Place the chopped pecans into a medium bowl. Using a cookie scoop, form the dough into 1-2 inch balls and roll in the pecans to coat.

  5. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy as a snack or mini dessert!

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No Added Sugar Currant Jam

Sugar. The poor word gets such a bad rap. And often for good reason. It is in a lot of our foods…I mean A LOT. The food industry does not help us along the way either. At times, they make it very difficult for the average person to understand whether a food is high or low in added or natural sugar. They also tend to sneak it in wherever they can, especially condiments.

The easiest way to become more comfortable with understanding what is added and what is natural sugar is by looking at the ingredient list. The most common added sugars are high fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, honey, fruit juice concentrates, syrups, or molasses.

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Naturally occurring sugars generally come from lactose in dairy foods and fructose, which is naturally occurring in fruit. Foods high in added sugars often come from sweetened beverages, condiments, desserts, and baked goods. 

One of the main reasons you want to keep your added sugar intake in check is the amount of calories in 1 gram. With 1 gram of sugar containing 4 calories, the calories from high-sugar food items can add up quickly if you’re not careful. If you consume sugar in large quantities, the excess calories can result in weight gain. Excess weight in the form of overweight or obesity can lead to a multitude of chronic diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.

So what’s the limit for added sugar intake per day? The American Heart Association recommends ~6 teaspoons or less (25 grams) of added sugar daily for women and ~9 teaspoons for men (36 grams). If you’ve ever kept an eye on your sugar intake throughout the day, you know this target can be very difficult for some us, especially my fellow sweet tooth lovers. To put this into a little perspective, a standard 12-oz soda has around 39 grams of added sugar. This equates to around 9 teaspoons and close to 160 empty calories just from the sugar. See what I mean? This shit adds up!

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So what do we do with this information? Well I have some really great news for you. Fruit is a natural sugar and it is sweet! Getting creative with how you use certain fruits can lead to healthier choices and overall reducing your added sugar intake. Now keep in mind, fruit is still a sugar, a natural sugar, but nonetheless a sugar. However, the pros of eating fruit over other high sugar food items, such as cookies, cakes, or soda, greatly outweigh the cons of potentially eating too much fruit, which is highly unlikely in our westernized eating habits.

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This three-ingredient currant jam is so easy (hence only three ingredients!) and is naturally sweetened using dates. The red currants offer a fresh tartness that compliments the sweetness from the dates beautifully.

Another bonus, both dates and currants are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fiber, iron, and potassium. Dates also contain tannins, which have great antioxidant and anti-infective characteristics.

Enjoy this nutrient-dense jam without the guilt of any added sugar. Spread on whole grain toast with avocado chunks, goat cheese, chia seeds, and fresh thyme for a healthy snack or serve with pork loin for a hint of sweetness in an otherwise savory dish. -EAB

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No Added Sugar Currant Jam

Course Breakfast, Snack
Servings 1 small mason jar
Author Liz Bissell

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red currants
  • 5 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup water

Instructions

  1. Pit and chop the dates.

  2. Add the currants, dates, and water to a small saucepan. Bring to medium heat and simmer until the currants become gelatinase, about 3-5 minutes.

  3. Pour the date-currant mixture into a food processor and blend for about 1-2 minutes until smooth and evenly combined. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator until ready for use.