Healthier Cherry, Almond and Cashew Bark

Let’s talk about two dreaded words “eating healthy”.  If you’re like any normal person, you probably cringe at the word and it sorta terrifies you (at least, it did for me!).  I think society these days has made the concept of eating healthy so much more difficult and confusing with changes in dietary recommendations every couple years and new research on diabetes, heart disease and other chronic disease always coming out.  It’s hard to keep up with all of it!
A couple ways to make it easier to eat healthy is to remember these recommendations:

  • keep it simple – try to stay away from foods with a lot of ingredients and especially those that you don’t recognize.
  • keep it fresh – fresh foods, are always better than processed food! Fresh foods are lower in sodium, sugar, and free of preservatives.
  • homemade is best – when you eat out, or buy already packaged foods, you can’t control the ingredients that go in there.  By making things yourself at home, you can control the salt, sugar, and contact with other ingredients that aren’t good for you.

Now, I agree, homemade is not always the easiest, and sometimes you have to pick your battles. For me, if I’ve worked a 12 hour work day and the only thing I’m craving is Chinese takeout, I just go for it. But if I’m home on a Saturday and find free time on my hands, I love to meal prep and bulk make snacks.  Eating healthy is all about finding what works for you, whether it is home cooking everyday, or just starting a weekend meal prep that’ll last you a couple days. 


One of my favorite snacks to make is this dark chocolate, cherry, almond, and cashew bark.  It was born out of wanting a more even distribution of chocolate whenever I ate trail mix.  I hated having a handful of just dried fruit, or too many almond or just not enough chocolate.  This recipe is made with only 4 squares of chocolate (think like half a Hershey’s chocolate bar) and will last you the whole week! I grew up with people always telling me that chocolate was terrible for you and would give you acne and so on and so forth.  The truth is, it all depends on the type of chocolate! Dark chocolate is actually really good for you (in moderation, as everything is, haha), the key is just to choose a brand that is low in sugar. The cherries, or any dried fruit in general help give the bark some natural sweetness and are a good source of fiber; make sure to only buy dry fruit that hasn’t been sweetened (it will usually say if there’s been extra sugar added on the packing, so keep a look out for it!).  I know cherries and almonds are the classic combination, but I love the addition of cashews.  They’re heart healthy and help give a creaminess to the bark that makes it that much more delicious. I am addicted to the salty-sweet combination, so the final finishing touch to this bark is just a sprinkle of sea salt on top.  If you’re sensitive to salt, need to avoid it, or just don’t like salty snacks, leave it out!


This bark is perfect in every way.  It keeps well, it’s healthy for you with no refined sugars, and is pretty much as minimally processed as foods get.  It also takes only 20 minutes and is legitimately 3 steps. I’ve included photos to help guide you, I find that it’s always less daunting to try out a new recipe when you’ve got photos to compare your product to at every step!


First thing, gather up your nuts and dried fruit and roughly chop them.  I cut the cherries into quarters and the nuts in half.  You can go as large or as small as you want, but I find that these sized pieces are best to make sure you get at least a good amount of cherries, almonds and cashews in one bite.

 Then, melt your chocolate in the microwave and sprinkle your nuts on top.  It’s going to be a pretty densely packed bark, just because I’m trying to keep the chocolate at a minimum and make the majority of the bark nuts and dried fruit. Don’t forget that last sprinkle of sea salt!

Then, just pop in the fridge for 15 minutes.  When the chocolate has solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to devour. Seriously, it’s that simple!

HEALTHIER CHERRY, ALMOND, CASHEW BARK | Makes 3-4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup pitted dried cherries (no added sugar)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate (I look for the one with the lowest amount of sugar)
  • A pinch of sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Roughly chop up almond, cashews, and cherries. They should be chopped into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat dark chocolate in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time and taking out before all the chocolate is melted.  Let the residual heat of the already melted chocolate melt the remaining chocolate.  This will ensure a smooth and luscious chocolate texture.
  3. Pour melted chocolate on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.  Spread the chocolate out as thin as you can get it (I picked up the sheet pan and tilted it side to side to help the chocolate spread, it’s the easiest way!). It should be spread out very thin (almost paper-thin).
  4. Sprinkle chopped nuts and cherries over the melted dark chocolate and then press the nuts and fruit into the chocolate.  This will make sure everything stays inside the melted chocolate and doesn’t fall out when you try and eat it. It should be pretty densely packed! Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Pop into the fridge for 15-20 minutes until bark is solidified. 
  6. Once bark is solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to eat!
  7. Store bark in an airtight container in the fridge and it will pretty much keep indefinitely.

*Recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled to meet your needs.

Enjoy!

Healthy Zucchini Bread

 Zucchini is one of those funny vegetables that either tastes amazing or super gross.  Unfortunately for me, growing up, I only ever had my share of yucky tasting zucchini.  This pretty much meant that I would try and feed my mom’s zucchini to my baby sister, or hide it under the rest of my food.  I did this for years until I went over to a friends house and they served zucchini bread for dinner. AND BOOM, just like that, my life was completely changed.  What made zucchini watery and gross, made the moist-est and sweet bread, and hey, it was a serving of vegetable too, technically.  
I went home and gushed to my mom about this amazing bread that I had eaten at my friend’s house, and how it was made from zucchini.  My mom, of course, was not impressed and wanted to actually taste this thing I was talking about for herself.  So, I went online and clicked on the first recipe I found (I’m pretty sure it was Allrecipes) and made my family some zucchini bread.   Needless to say, they fell in love with zucchini bread, just like me, and since then, it’s been one of our favorite after school snacks and the perfect dessert to complement a meal.


The zucchini bread recipe that I found that first day, has been modified and tweaked for over so many years, that I’m not even sure it resembles the same recipe that we started out with. I find that zucchini bread tends to be very sweet, and in some cases, just wayyy too sweet for my diabetic family.  During the period in which I was trying to create a healthier zucchini bread, my dad became lactose intolerant, and I figured that I should probably make a dairy-free zucchini bread recipe.  Luckily, oil based breads are actually more moist than breads made with butter since the oil is liquid and has an easier time encasing the flour particles (this is what prevents gluten formation, and tough baked goods).  So, this zucchini bread recipe is not only dairy-free, it is also low sugar, uses more zucchini than what would normally be called for a higher dose of veggies, and is still pretty much the most delicious bread ever.


I would recommend definitely keeping this recipe as a bread and baking it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake tin or muffin tins.  What makes this recipe over-the-top amazing is the delicious, golden crust that forms on top of the zucchini bread.  This crust only forms if its been baked for awhile, which wouldn’t be the case for cake layers or muffins. One thing that I can’t stress more than enough is DO NOT drain the shredded zucchini!  The water in the zucchini is what creates a moist and fluffy bread.  I made zucchini bread with my friend once and we were both curious as to what would happen if we squeezed all the water out of the zucchini before we put it into the batter.  Oh man, we were eating rock hard zucchini bread for days after. Haha, so please, learn from my mistake!

The key to good zucchini bread is all in the eggs.  You want to make sure to beat as much air as you can into the eggs before combining it with the rest of the wet ingredients!

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy TIME: 20 min prep + 1 hour cook time


HEALTHY ZUCCHINI BREAD | Makes 1 loaf (8-10 slices, depending on how thin you slice them)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or any other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (do not drain!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 (F).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk until air bubbles appear on the surface and eggs are well beaten.
  4. Then, add in vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Mix well.
  5. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time.  This mixture should be thick and hard to mix.
  6. Finally, add in grated zucchini and mix well.  At this point, the mixture should be much easier to mix because of the moisture from the zucchini.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and then check to see if bread is done.  If not, keep adding an extra 5 minutes of baking time.  In my experience, depending on humidity and oven circulation, bread can take between 60 minutes and 75 minutes to bake.
  8. Cool bread before slicing.
  9. Zucchini bread will keep fresh for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Healthy Double Chocolate Banana Bread

 Double chocolate banana bread:
Yesterday was July 4th, and today I’m wishing that it was the weekend again. Not just because I spent the weekend soaking in the sun, baking up the storm, and eating as much food as humanly possible, but also because there is a lovely construction crew outside of my window.  They start promptly at 7am every day, and the construction workers are NEVER late. Seriously…like not even 7:02 am…please give me those extra 120 seconds of sleep. All that aside, I’ve seriously got some weekday blues.


I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling down, or when things suck, I can always find comfort in chocolate and some mindful meditation. But, I don’t always want to eat an entire bar (or two) of chocolate myself, and some times, I want to wallow in pity while still eating healthy.  This is the genius creation that I came up with, vegetarian, low in sugar, high in chocolate, and packed with lots of fruit – I give you double chocolate banana bread! It’s super chocolatey without being overwhelmingly sweet, and just a hint of banana comes through.  It’s basically the best way to show Monday (or any day) who’s the boss. You will be the envy of everyone at the office, eating your double chocolate banana bread, sipping your tea/coffee and basically kicking ass. You got this.


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD | Makes 8-10 servings
INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup ripe bananas mashed (~ 2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup neutral tasting vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s special dark)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F) and grease a 9x5x3 inch bread pan
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil and bananas. Whisk everything together until creamy.
  3. Add baking soda and salt to wet mixture and incorporate thoroughly.
  4. Add in cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and flour and mix in until there are no more streaks of flour in the mixture
  5. Pour mixture into bread pan and sprinkle top with more chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges of the bread pan so the loaf will come out clean when it’s cool.
  7. Bread will keep for 5 days in an air tight container or up to a week in the fridge.  Baked bread can also be sliced and frozen. Simply pull slices out a couple hours in advance and you’ll have a nice chocolatey treat waiting for you 🙂

Enjoy!