Guilt-Free Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. I absolutely love chocolate. And I absolutely love cake. I’m also a health-food nut so when the craving strikes, this is my go-to recipe for a guilt-free treat.
This recipe has:
- No Gluten
- No Dairy
- No Refined Sugar
The key ingredients in this cake? Beets and almond flour. You’ve read that correctly, there are beets in this cake. Actually, just one beet.
You’ll love their inherent sweetness in this recipe as well as the slew of health benefits they provide. Did you know beets contain betaine? Unique to the beet root vegetable, betaine helps to protect the cells of the body from environmental stress and provides anti-inflammatory properties. Beets also help to lower blood pressure and clean both the blood and liver.
For chocolate I use raw cacao powder. Cacao is much healthier than cocoa, despite having similar names and being similar in appearance. Cocoa is a refined product, processed at high heat and stripped of most nutrients. It may also contain additives such as sugar and artificial flavours. Cacao on the other hand is raw and unprocessed. It’s a great source of antioxidants, which means it protects your cells and aides in anti-aging. It’s also a source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, essential fatty acids and fiber.
The rest of the sweetness comes from either maple syrup or honey, whichever one you have on hand. Personally I prefer maple syrup but that just might be the Canadian in me.Just look at that ‘beet-full’ chocolatey goodness (note I dressed this one with blackberries, just for fun). Let’s get to it. Here are the ingredients used in this CAKE:
- 1 large beet*
- 2 cups almond flour
- 3/4 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup raw cacao (I like the Organic Traditions brand)
- 1/2 cup organic maple syrup or raw honey
- 3 eggs, beaten in a separate bowl
- 3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
*You can use a raw beet but I’ve had better results when it’s cooked. I wrap the beet in baking paper and stick it in the middle of my crockpot. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Allow it to cool down. Once cooked it’s extremely easy to peel. Just run it under some lukewarm water and use your thumbs to gently rub the skin off. Here is my beet-in-crockpot, with a cat for scale.
If your coconut oil and honey are hard, place them together or separately into a double boiler to soften before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and coat the inside of your baking form with coconut oil. I use a basting brush to accomplish this. Cut your peeled beetroot into manageable chucks and place into your blender/food processor. Blend until it reaches a dip-like consistency. Add the beet mix together with the almond flour, cacao, coconut oil, maple syrup/honey and baking powder into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl beat the three eggs for 3-5 minutes. You want them to reach a foamy consistency before adding the eggs to the other ingredients. Add the beaten eggs to the large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and stir until completely combined. Pour the mixture into the baking form coated with coconut oil and cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let the cake cool down before removing it from the form.
At this point you’re probably wondering about the icing on top of the cake. Icing can’t be healthy, can it? Well, I’m here to tell you that yes it can. I’ve made several variations and here I will share a few of my favourites. Key ingredient? Avocados. If your jaw popped open upon reading that, you’re not alone. But I’m here to tell you that you can use avocados to make a sweet and extremely healthy cake topping.
- One avocado
- 2 tbs cacao powder
- 1/4 cup organic maple syrup or raw honey
Blend ingredients together and slather on top of the cake, after it’s cooled down and you removed it from the form. This chocolate icing on top of chocolate cake really hits the spot when you’re in full-craving mode.
- One avocado
- 1 cup loosely packed full berries (measure before blending)
- 1/4 cup organic maple syrup or raw honey
Blend the ingredients together and top the cake off with the mixture as you would with the chocolate icing. We have now made this with raspberries and cherries, and both times it turned out amazing. The cherries were a little more difficult, as each one had to be split open and the pit removed, but since my hubby loves cherries I made the extra effort. You can use just about any berry you can think of, so if for example your family really loves strawberries, use strawberries instead!
There you have it guys. Healthy, guilt-free chocolate cake. As always, enjoy and Bon Appetit! Pictured below is the cake with raspberry icing, the rest of the pictures I used feature the chocolate icing. We forgot to take pictures when I made the cherry version. You can fold slices of lemon or orange for a quick and simple decorating trick. It only takes a few minutes and looks super fancy.
Four Ingredient Raw Lingonberry-Blueberry Jam
The Healthiest Tart Treat You Will Ever Need
Growing up near the Russian-Finnish border, Lingonberries were a regular part of everybody’s diet. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of my family and I going berry picking. Of course, I ate more berries than I helped pick but I digress.
Almost everyone in the Western world is familiar with mighty blueberries, which are an excellent source of Vitamins C and K1 as well as Manganese. They are also a good source of fiber, anti-oxidants and copper, and vitamins E and B6 are present to a lesser extent. Studies have shown that blueberries have heart-protective properties, lower blood pressure, reduce the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (hence the term anti-oxidant), boost brain health by helping to delay age-related decline and may also lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This tiny berry packs a huge punch.
Polyphenols are the specific compounds that provide anti-oxidant activity. Resveratrol is one such polyphenol found in blueberries and it has shown very promising cancer-fighting and anti-tumor activity.
Lingonberries are less known in the West, as they are mostly indigenous to the Northern European countries where they grow in almost every forest’s swampy areas. They are small, juicy, tart, red berries that are distantly related to cranberries. What’s amazing is that lingonberries have an even higher content of resveratrol than blueberries, at a level that is comparable to red grapes. They also have anti-inflammatory activity, protect the circulatory system from blood clots and help prevent UTIs.
I’m sure you can imagine my joy when I found lingonberries at a European delicatessen right here in Toronto, and bought a whole bag of the frozen goodies with the intention of making jam – a treat I’ve missed dearly since moving to Canada.
This is a raw jam, meaning none of the ingredients used have undergone exposure to high temperatures. Such exposure can damage the chemical composition of foods as well as alter their enzyme activity. While I do not recommend an all-raw diet from a Chinese Medicine perspective, supplementing your existing diet with raw food can drastically improve your health.
Both blueberries and lingonberries have immunomodulating properties, which basically just means they help to boost and strengthen your immune system. Both these berries are a great addition to your family’s diet as we head into the cold and flu season. You can add it to your herbal teas for a kick of sweet tartness and immune system support.
The sweetness of this jam comes from honey and ‘solidified’ with chia seeds. Both honey and chia seeds have numerous health benefits and are amazing superfoods in their own right. Honey is often referred to as “liquid gold” and is often used to treat upper respiratory tract infections due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compounds. Honey also contains heart-protective and cancer-fighting properties as it too contains high levels of antioxidants. Chia seeds, while super tiny, are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They are high in protein, Omega-3 and fiber. They also contain good amounts of Zinc, Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and potassium.
Really, I could go on and on about all the health benefits of the four ingredients I used to make this jam, but then we would all be here for a very long time. One thing I will say regarding food quality – try to purchase all ingredients organic with as little pesticides and herbicides as possible. Honey in particular should be as close to raw as you can find. Personally I get my honey from my parents, who purchase it from a bee farm (thanks mom and dad!), where it’s sold for about $150 per bucket. That’s right, we buy honey in buckets.
Let’s get to it then. Ingredients and proportions:
- 5 cups lingonberries
- 3 cups blueberries
- 1 cup honey
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
Instructions: place all ingredients into a blender and blend. That is all. You are done. Place into refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight before consuming, to allow the chia seeds to ‘set’ the jam.
This made me 1.5 jars of jam. If this is too much for you, feel free to decrease the amount of ingredients used in proportion to each other. If it’s too tart, add extra honey. There is literally no jam police that will come and get you if you add your own spin to this recipe. The most important thing? Enjoy it!
Bon Appetit, with Love, Anastassia.
Vegan Crock Pot Butternut Squash Soup
Just in time for American Thanksgiving, here is the cleanest and easiest butternut squash soup you can make!
I made this recipe for Canadian Thanksgiving and it was a big hit, plus we had a bunch leftover which provided fulfilling and nutritious lunches for the next few days.
- 1 ripe butternut squash
- 1 large apple
- 2 medium sized carrots
- 1 onion
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch of cayenne
- pinch of cinnamon
- 2 cups (filtered) water OR veggie stock if you have some
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- wash, clean, cut the fruit/veggies and throw them all together into the crock pot
- add spices and pour the 2 cups of water or veggie stock over the whole thing, capturing some of the spices from atop the veggies and into the liquid
- put the crock pot on, either LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours
- when it’s done cooking, check veggies to make sure they’re soft and add the coconut milk (only add the coconut milk when everything is cooked, before you blend the soup)
With all the ingredients now cooked and together, it’s time to get blending. Either transfer everything into a blender and blend until smooth OR even better – if you have an immersion stick blender you can do the blending right in the crockpot, saving you time and dirty dishes that you’ll have to clean later.
Before serving, sprinkle with a little bit of coconut milk and stir lightly to create a beautiful gold and white pattern on the soup. You can also sprinkle a touch of cayenne or paprika for a healthy kick of spice. For a non-vegan option, this soup also pairs extremely well with feta and goat cheese, so if you eat dairy you can add small chunks of either cheese to the top of your dish.
- Butternut Squash: contains very high levels of Vitamin A which is essential for healthy eyes and vision, maintenance of all mucous membranes in the body, and even has anti-cancer properties.
- Apple: benefits cardiovascular system, blood sugar regulation and contain high levels of antioxidants. Lowers cholesterol and provides anti-inflammatory protection for the entire circulatory system.
- Carrot: good source of Biotin, Vitamin K, dietary fiber, Potassium, Vitamin B6 and C. Benefits gut function due to the high fiber content and collagen formation due to Vitamin C content.
- Onion: benefits cardiovascular system, has anti-microbial properties and helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Cayenne: benefits cardiovascular system, stimulates and aides digestion, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Cinnamon: benefits immune system, dilates blood vessels and increases circulation, enhances glucose metabolism (helps to lower blood sugar).
- Coconut milk: contains medium-chain fatty acids which help to lower fat mass (read – Fats that help you lose fat!).
Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine volume 1 by Dr Anthony Godfrey and Dr Paul Saunders.
Medical Nutrition from Marz, 2nd edition by Dr Russell B Marz.
Quinoa and Rice Oven-Baked Crackers
Have you ever been in this situation? You’re in the grocery store, buying your nutritional supplies for the week and you’re looking over the cracker selection. Crackers are great. Fantastic snack, versatile, and that crunch! Yum. So what’s in most of our store bought crackers? Corn, soy, and canola are usually high on the list of ingredients, all of which are almost always genetically modified, grown with heavy use of pesticides and insecticides. Processed flours devoid of most nutrients and sugar additives which decrease our immune functions and increase systemic inflammation are usually up there too. At this moment food corporations are not required to label genetically modified ingredients so half the time what’s really in the product is not written on the package. Not to mention the sheer list of ingredients! Does it really take 20-30 different things in order to make a simple cracker? There just has to be something easier and better.
So what are we to do? Naturopathic Yogi and I set to work scouring far and wide for ideas, and finally putting together a healthy cracker that you can bake in your oven! They’re gluten-free to boot too.
Quinoa Rice Crackers were born! Check out these wholesome ingredients:
*Note on quinoa and rice – measure 1 cup uncooked, then cook using your usual method. Use all the cooked rice and quinoa for the recipe. Once the dough is made you can separate a portion and either refrigerate some (will keep for a few days) or freeze it (will keep for up to 6 months).
1 cup quinoa
1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup flaxseeds – soak for 20 minutes
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp hot sauce – I used Sriracha
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
1 tsp salt – Himalayan if you can swing it
2 tbsp soy sauce – light sodium or gluten-free version available
1 organic onion bouillon cube OR 1/8 cup shredded onion
These delightful healthful treats are just that simple to make.
Pre-soak the flax seeds for at least 20 minutes and drain them. Then combine them with the sesame seeds.
Cook the rice with the turmeric powder to give it that beautiful yellow colour, not to mention all the added health benefits. If you are using an onion organic bouillon cube combine it with the quinoa to cook.
Now ready? Set? Get blending!
Combine all the ingredients together in your blender. If you don’t have a large blender mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl first, then blend smaller amounts of dough together at a time.
Once all the dough is blended together, taste-test it and adjust the seasoning to your and your family’s personal preference. The dough will at this point be very sticky, take your time removing it from the blender.
Grab an empty wine bottle for a roller and apply oil to it, this will decrease how much your dough and roller stick together. Apply oil to the cookie pan or your baking form of choice before spreading out the dough to avoid sticking on that end too.
When spreading the dough remember, the thinner the better. Once spread, score it with a plastic or wooden spatula in the shape you desire your crackers to be and garnish with nuts/seeds of your choice. I went with another sprinkle of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. The scoring will make it easier to break your crackers apart after you’ve baked them.
Bake your crackers at 350F for 20-30 minutes until the edges begin to curl in.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool. Then separate along the scored lines and voila! Your very own home-made, healthy crackers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Eat them on their own, with a nut butter of your choice, dip into a healthy spread of garnish with fresh avocado.