5 Surprising (and Delicious) Ways to Use Avocado

 

If you were stranded on a desert island, what one food would you absolutely have to have, no matter what?

There’s a lot to consider since we’re talking about survival here. I’ll assume there are coconuts on this island, and having seen Castaway about a hundred times (and being a massive Lost fan), I’ve learned basic coconut-opening skills with nothing but some rocks, arm power, and a bit of patience.

That leaves me with avocados. How can I live without them?

I’ve featured a number of recipes using avocado in the traditional ways: mashed into guacamole, sliced up in tacos, or chopped into a salad.

But have you tried avocado in a cake? Or pudding? Or in mac and cheese?

These fruit (yep, they’re fruit!) are super versatile, and can be used as a substitute for healthy saturated fats, like butter or oil, in many different recipes.

There are over 500 varieties of avocado from all over the world varying in size and color. My personal favorite is the Hass avocado. It’s dark green pebbly skin and creamy flesh stands out from the rest and on any given day, you’ll find at least one or two in my fruit bowl. Aside from its incredible flavor and versatility, avocados pack a mighty punch on the nutrition end. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Sodium and cholesterol-free, but densely packed with approximately 380 calories, 35g of fat, 16g of fiber and 5g of protein in an 8oz serving. Despite the high fat content, these fats are mostly monounsaturated (MUFAs) which are healthier and mainly found in avocados.
  • Speaking of fat: Perhaps the biggest health benefit of eating avocados is oleic acid, an omega-9 fat which helps decrease blood cholesterol by increasing the production of HDLs, or high-density lipoproteins.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: In a 1oz serving of hass avocado (about 1/5 wedge), there is 152mg of potassium (4%DV), 6.3mcg of Vitamin K (8%DV), and 27mcg of Folate (6%DV). Avocados are also rich in Vitamins B6, E,C, and Riboflavin each accounting for 4%DV.
  • Fiber: Avocados are high in fiber with approximately 40% of your DV in one serving. Fiber improves digestion and can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

If I could have an avocado a day, I would. In fact, I usually do!

Here are 5 surprising ways to use avocado that has nothing to do with tacos, salad, or sandwiches:

Avocado Coconut Popsicles from SkinnyTaste

photo courtesy of SkinnyTaste.com

The creaminess of avocado with the subtle sweetness of coconut, make this popsicle a yummy and refreshing treat this summer. With less than five ingredients in this recipe, this is easy enough to pull off any day of the week.

Avocado Buckwheat Pancakes from Kitchen Kemistry

Avocado pancakes
photo courtesy of KitchenKemistry.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no such thing as too many pancake recipes, in my opinion. This avocado buckwheat version powers up your breakfast with loads of fiber and is a great gluten-free substitute for traditional wheat pancakes.

Avocado Spaghetti from The Londoner

I know what you’re thinking. Spaghetti and…avocado? Surprising, I know. But when you consider the buttery texture and mild flavor of avocado, it makes sense. It’s like a different version of pesto. I’d consider going with a whole wheat pasta here to add some nuttiness and even more fiber.

Avocado Mac and Cheese from Two Peas and Their Pod

photo courtesy of TwoPeasandTheirPod.com

Mac and cheese usually gets a bad rap for being an unhealthy food, but there are easy ways to give this dish a healthy makeover. We’ve seen that avocado and pasta can go well together, so this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. I love the use of cilantro and lime here to give this mac and cheese some punch. This is a comfort food recipe that you can adapt to each season. Add some butternut squash in the winter months!

Fudgy Avocado Brownies from How Sweet Eats

Fudgy Avocado Brownies I howsweeteats.com
Photo courtesy of HowSweetEats.com

Chocolate and avocado may be the most surprising combination….but it works. Trust me. I’ve made chocolate avocado protein smoothies before and it’s delightful. Brownies are the ultimate splurge food, so it’s pretty great to find a recipe out there that won’t make me feel completely guilty. Time to treat yo’self with these brownies!

There are so many amazing avocado recipes out there. Open yourself up to trying one that’s a little out of the ordinary to spice up your weekly menu. It’s time to pick up some avocados!

What’s your favorite avocado recipe?

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or on FB and Twitter.

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“If I got sesame seed then it’d be butter, but if I got poppy-seed- ” she said.

“It would be cream cheese!” I finished.

“YES! That’s the best combo. No way would you mix the cream cheese with sesame. There’s something about the poppy-seed…,” she reminisced.

“I know what you mean,” I said wistfully.

We were on our way home from the gym, rehashing our favorite breakfasts before we broke up with our unhealthy ways. You really can’t get much more New York than cream cheese and bagels, but there’s something about it that made the pairing of tangy cream cheese and subtle nuttiness and crunch of poppy seeds all atop a chewy bagel, simply sublime.

I came home with a mission in mind. How can I enjoy these flavors again without picking up one of the monster bagels loaded up with globs of cream cheese that are sold in nearly every deli and food cart in this city?

The answer was simple: make it myself.

I’d like to impress you with my bagel-making skills, but that’s not going to happen. My apologies if you were expecting some dough-rolling wonders. Besides, my plan wasn’t to indulge in that particular treat. Rather, I wanted to recreate the flavor combination of tangy and nutty while also making something completely new and in season. Add it all up and I got this quick bread recipe. And really, what’s more summery and in season than lemon??

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Lemons offer dozens of health benefits including improved immunity, digestion, and detoxification. I add several slices of lemon to my water daily for these reasons. Poppy seeds are a good source of iron, calcium, fiber and phosphorus. Mixed together, both of these ingredients provide a solid foundation for this healthy quick bread. Whole wheat pastry flour, coconut sugar, coconut oil, and Greek yogurt are great alternatives to standard baking ingredients and they’re relatively affordable and easy to find.

*If you’re keen on making this gluten-free or grain free, then please consider how that will change the rest of the recipe and make adjustments as necessary.

WHOLE WHEAT LEMON POPPY SEED QUICK BREAD with GREEK YOGURT GLAZE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup organic coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsps poppy seeds, (plus extra for garnish)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted (plus extra to grease pan)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, 0% plain
  • Zest from 1 medium lemon, approx 1 tbsp
  • Juice from 1 lemon, approx 3 tbsps
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Glaze

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, 0% plain
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Special tools

  • 5″ x 9″ glass loaf pan
  • Grater or citrus zester

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside.

2. Zest and juice lemon and set each aside separately. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt together in one bowl. Lemon Zest Flour

3. In another bowl, mix the coconut sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix well for several minutes to remove all clumps. Add half of the dry ingredients and combine. Then add the yogurt and second half of the dry ingredients and mix well together with a spatula. Finally, add the lemon zest and poppy seeds and combine.

Coconut sugar greek yogurt poppy seed jar Zest and Seeds

4. Scoop the batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth out evenly with a spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Loaf before

5. As the bread is baking, make the glaze. Place the yogurt into a small bowl. Sift the sugar and add the zest and juice. Mix everything together well with a fork. Taste for flavor and add more lemon juice if necessary. Set aside.

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6. Once the bread is done baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan. Flip it over onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely for at least an hour. Once cool, spread the glaze over the top. Add zest and poppy seeds to garnish. Cut up a piece and enjoy!! 🙂

Loaf after

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How easy was that? 🙂

Meatless Mondays: Grain-Free Baked Falafel Patties, Roasted Garlic Hummus, and Tomato-Cucumber Salad

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It’s Lebanese mezze gone wild!

Okay, less wild and more, quietly appealing, especially to those not eating grains or have a gluten sensitivity. I’m an equal opportunist and I believe that everyone has the right to enjoy these delicious classics.

But really, I love Lebanese food. I mean, like, LOVE. There is this place I used to go to for lunch almost daily because they had the best falafel and hummus I’d ever tasted. Plus, it was cheap. When you work in New York near the financial district, finding inexpensive, healthy food is like hitting the jackpot. And I hit pay dirt when I landed on Baba ghanouge on Church Street last year.

Baba ghanouge, 165 Church Street, NYC
Baba ghanouge, 165 Church Street, NYC

Their food is the real deal. And even though they weren’t the most organized business, I patiently dealt with fumbled orders and some chaos each day because I just had to have one of their falafel on whole wheat or their Chicken Tawook pitas (like biting into yummy spicy heaven!) for lunch.

When I started cleaning up diet and experimenting with paleo and gluten-free, I said farewell to the nice guys at Baba ghanouge and their delicious food. Sadly, chickpeas aren’t paleo friendly and the fried falafel balls where definitely not allowed. 

As I spoke about in my last post, I left the world of paleo behind and I’ve been reintegrating some of these foods back into my diet. But I have yet to revisit my falafel paradise on Church Street. I just can’t do the fried thing.

So I had the genius idea one lazy day to just make my own falafel. And why not throw in some hummus too for good measure? This way I can still get those great flavors without sacrificing something I love so much.

Before I get started with the recipe, let me go back to my roots here and present my nutrition factoids:

CHICKPEAS OR GARBANZO BEANS

chick-peas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they’re also called, are loaded with health benefits ranging from digestive tract support to lowering risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s a staple ingredient in Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines and can be eaten either in either cold or hot dishes. I’ve seen a number of gluten or grain-free recipes utilizing chickpea flour as well.

1 cup of cooked chickpeas has approximately:

  • Fiber: 12.5g or 50% DV. The most significant aspect of the dietary fiber contained in chickpeas is that between 65-75% of that amount is insoluble fiber which helps improve intestinal health and efficient digestion of food.  High fiber intake also helps keep you feeling full longer which can help reduce caloric intake.
  • Protein: 14g or 29% DV. This is especially important to those following vegetarian or vegan diets and are looking for plant-based sources with higher protein levels. Since our bodies do not store this macronutrient, we have to take it in through our diet. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, and it’s an important component in the making of bones, muscles, skin, and blood. So you can see how vital it is to maintain a diet that meets your specific protein needs.
  • Antioxidants and Heart Health: The seed coat or skin along with the chickpea’s inner portion are full of antioxidents, vitamins, and phytonutrients that work to improve cardiovascular health. Chickpeas are an excellent source of the mineral manganese (84% of DV!) and the vitamin folate (70% of DV), each promoting cell energy and heart health by lowering the risk for artery damage near the heart.

With all of the health benefits of chickpeas, it comes as no surprise that the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets that has consensus among most health and nutrition experts, incorporate these legumes into their cuisine. If you’ve never tried chickpeas, then pick up a can or bag (preferably GMO-free!) on your next grocery trip and throw some cooked beans in your salad. Or, you can try one of my recipes! And speaking of….

Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is broken down into 3 parts:

  • Roasted Garlic Hummus
  • Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties
  • Tomato-Cucumber Salad

I made all three together in the style of a mezze, or a tapas-style appetizer , although note that this didn’t take me very long at all. I’d estimate about an hour at most, and that depends on if you decide to buy raw or canned chickpeas (some people swear by cooking your own from the bag), and if you decide to skin the beans. To save some time, you can make the hummus a day before and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the other parts.

Most of the recipes I found for either falafel and plain hummus were pretty much identical, with some additions here or there. You can be pretty creative with hummus since it’s essentially a dip. I’ve seen edamame and pea hummus, so go with what works for your palate. Garlic sings to mine so I opted to go for roasted garlic this time around.

INGREDIENTS:

Roasted Garlic Hummus 

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
  • 1 medium head of fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup Tahini paste
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (extra for dressing)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-3 tbsp warm water (for desired consistency)

Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 tbsp almond flour or almond meal
  • 3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper to taste

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

  • ½ cup quartered tomatoes, grape or cherry
  • ¼ cup persian cucumbers, diced
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One thing I loved about making this is that it’s almost all the same ingredients being used for each dish, but the end results are so different. The ingredient list is very un-fussy with the exception of tahini which might require a bit of a search, but even that can be found online or in most grocery stores. I’m opting for canned chickpeas because it’s just much simpler and takes less time. As I said earlier, many people swear there is a big difference in the hummus if you’re making the chickpeas from scratch. If you have the time and patient, then I say, go for it! My instructions below are for the canned version.

Try to find chickpeas that have this Non-GMO certified label here to ensure you're getting the best quality beans.
Try to find chickpeas that have this Non-GMO certified label here to ensure you’re getting the best quality beans.

Let’s begin with the hummus.

Part 1: Roasted Garlic Hummus (recipe adapted from Food.com and Inspiredtaste.net)

1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Cut the uppermost part of the garlic head, revealing the tops of each clove, but keeping the head intact. Pour a bit of olive oil over the top and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the bottom rung of the oven and roast for 50-60 minutes. Allow garlic to cool before handling. Remove each clove from the skins and set aside.

2. Rinse out the can of chickpeas in a colander and remove any excess salt. Here comes the slightly tedious part. Remove the skin from each bean. They should slide right off and the whole process lasts about 10-15 minutes. This makes for a smoother hummus, so it’s worth the extra effort.

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3. Add tahini and lemon juice to the food processor and mix for 1 minutes. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds. Then add the olive oil, roasted garlic, and seasonings to the tahini and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds more. *All of the continual processing serves to whip up the tahini and make a creamier hummus.

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4. Add half the chickpeas to tahini mixture and process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and add the second half of the chickpeas to the food processor. Process for another 1-2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl down, until you get a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

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5. The mixture will be very thick and dense at this point. Adding the warm water, tablespoon by tablespoon, will allow the hummus to loosen up and become even smoother. Keep processing and adding water until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

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6. Scoop out the hummus onto a serving plate and leave a well in the center. Pour high-quality extra virgin olive oil in the center and dash some paprika and chopped parsley on top. Serve.

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The hummus should keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Use this as an alternative to mayo or other high fat spreads and dips in your sandwiches, with vegetables, or with whole-wheat pita bread.

Part 2: Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties (recipe adapted from Chow Vegan)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray or brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

2. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. You won’t need to skin these beans as with the hummus! The skin has lots of nutrients and it won’t affect the consistency of the falafel. Add the beans to a mixing bowl. Smash the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle and set aside.

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3. Mash the chickpeas with a fork or masher until they’re completely smashed. Add the garlic and the rest of the falafel ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Carefully form about 2 tbsps of the mixture into balls and place on the greased baking pan. Lightly flatten each ball until they make patties. Makes 10-12 patties.

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4. Bake for 15  minutes on each side or until they’re browned. *Note that since we’re using almond meal and baking these falafel, the patties will crumble more easily. Handle with care as you’re flipping and you should be fine.

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5. Remove from the oven once fully baked and browned. Serve.

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These falafel were not greasy at all and they were the perfect size to add to a pita or just on their own as a side dish. Yum!

Part 3: Tomato-Cucumber Salad

There aren’t a whole lot of instructions here! Chop the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers, and onions and place together in a bowl. Mix well with the lemon juice, oil, and seasonings. Serve!

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Traditional Lebanese mezze has a different variation of this salad called tabbouleh, which has all of the ingredients above with the addition of mint and bulgar wheat. I wanted this to be a grain-free meal so I didn’t include the bulgar, but you can adapt this according to your tastes. I’ve seen tabbouleh recipes including quinoa in place of bulgar, so feel free to experiment!

Now it’s time to put your mezze together!

Grab a serving plate and place 2-3 falafel patties on a bed of spinach. Then add about 1/2 cup of hummus and tomato-cucumber salad on the sides and you’re done!

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This requires a bit of juggling, but really, it’s not that hard to throw this together on a weeknight, especially if you make the hummus ahead of time. I hope you give this a try for your Meatless Monday meal! Enjoy!

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