We all delight in something a little sweet to eat especially during the holiday season. My friend JJ loves making chocolate chip cookies. My uncle is famous for his sweet potato pie. Everyone has their dessert of choice they make or crave. Me? I love anything with apples and cinnamon. Oh that delectable smell that hits me when they’re roasting in the oven always makes me weak in the knees. So when I got a recipe request from Heather at Halfsizeme.com for healthy a healthy Monkey Bread for xmas day, I knew my first experiment was definitely going to involve apples! Then I branched out and tried seven different recipes. Although they were all delicious I whittled down to my four favorite recipes: Apple Walnut, Hazelnut Chocolate, Strawberry Hazelnut with almonds, and Pumpkin.
For those of you who might not be familiar with Monkey Bread it’s traditionally a baked bread/cake that is made of individual knots of cinnamon rolls with a butter sugar glaze. The average recipe I found contained 2 cups of sugar, made with extra buttery grand biscuits, and 2-3 sticks of butter. That is what I’d call a sugary bomb of fat and salt. From the grand biscuits to the sticks and sticks of butter, a slice of the of average Monkey bread could really wreck havoc on your blood sugar and waist line, which makes it a great candidate for a healthy makeover.
First things first, in order to spruce up this recipe I knew I had to cut the fat and sugar content way down… which wasn’t very difficult to do. I got rid of the buttery biscuits by using a whole grain pizza dough. Yes, I said pizza dough. It’s the perfectly sticky substitute that can carry flavor but, doesn’t require the fat of biscuits, not to mention it’s easy to make or buy in the store. Then I got rid of 90% of the butter and sugar. I personally never use white sugar when cooking. I used date sugar (Now and Bob’s Red Mill both make easy to find versions), cut up some whole ground dates, sugar free apple sauce in place of butter and for sweetness, and added a little raw sugar cane. (You can also use molasses or honey).
I added some healthy fats with things like walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and a little unsweetened almond milk but, still used 1 tablespoon of butter. A misconception about fat in nuts may result in avoidance of such a snack, but in actuality, the fat content of nuts is not only healthy (mainly monosaturated fat), but contains most of the nutrients and further serves to satisfy hunger, reducing the urge to continue the search for more food or in this case over indulge on sweets. They are also packed with fiber which also helps prevent spikes in your blood sugar. If you are allergic to tree nuts you can use sesame seeds instead. They have a lovely “nutty” flavor but, rarely cause an allergic reaction. (find out more in the nutritional tidbits section)
In total it took me about 10-15 minutes of prep/rolling time. Then another 25-30 minutes in the oven and voila all done. These were so quick and easy to make. So much so, that I made a batch of apple walnut before I headed off for 8 hours of classes. I brought it along and let 15 of my colleagues try it. Everyone found it to be moist, perfectly sweet, and the best part was that no one ever suspected that it was the “healthy” version.
Eating well doesn’t have to mean cutting out all the things you love. A dessert can be filling, sweet, and delicious without undoing all your hard work at the gym or compromising your health. So here is my holiday gift to you and yours….
APPLE WALNUT MONKEY BREAD
( I made the pizza dough and hazelnut & chocolate spread at home. You can find the recipe for the spread on my website. BUT, I am also giving you the store bought options in this recipe)
1/2 Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough
1 Tbsp Quality Salted Butter (I use Kerry Gold)
1 Small Granny Smith Apple
1/3 C Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tbsp Justin’s Natural Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
3 Lg Dried Dates (pitted and coarsely chopped)
1/4 C Date Sugar
3 Tbsp Raw Sugar or Sugar Cane
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/4 C Walnut Halves (which I then cut myself into smaller pieces)
1/3 C Apple Sauce
1 9” spring form pan
1. Place cinnamon and date sugar into a bowl.
2. Roll the pizza dough into bite size little balls. Roll in the dry mixture and place in the small baking pan.
3. Continue to roll until you have one layer at the bottom of the pan. Then add small pieces of green apple and walnuts. (thin layer). Repeat step two and create a second layer of cinnamon/sugar covered balls. Add remaining apples and walnuts to the top layer.
4. In a small sauce pan add the raw sugar, apple sauce, almond milk, chocolate hazelnut spread, vanilla extract, chopped dates, and butter. Allow to melt together. Pour over the bread.
5. Place in a 350 degree oven until baked all the way through. Roughly
25-30 minutes. Allow to cool and Voila!
HAZELNUT & CHOCOLATE
1. I added 1/2 a packet of sugar free hot chocolate with cinnamon and date sugar to roll the pizza dough balls in before adding the sauce.
2. I made homemade cinnamon hazelnut and chocolate spread aka Nutella. I used this instead of apple sauce and just added more almond milk. I used 2 Tbsp in the sauce.
1. I added 1 Tbsp on the homemade Nutella in the sauce with 1/3 cup strawberry puree.
2. I added 1/2 a packet of sugar free hot chocolate with cinnamon and date sugar to roll the pizza dough balls in before adding the sauce.
3. I added frozen strawberry bits and 1/3 Cup of finely chopped almonds in a thin layer between the two pizza dough layers.
PUMPKIN MONKEY BREAD
1. I added organic pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spices, extra cinnamon, 1 Tbsp of Apple sauce, and 1/4 cup almond milk to make the sauce
2. I rolled the pizza dough in pumpkin pie spice, date sugar, and extra cinnamon.
Cinnamon: Manganese, Fiber, Calcium, and Cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde aka cinnamic aldehyde, has anti-clotting and has antiinflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation has been linked to diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer. Manganese helps keep your bones strong and healthy, helps body synthesize fatty acids, helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, promotes optimal function of the thyroid gland, helps maintain health of nerves, and protects cells against free radical damage. Other foods high in manganese are: spelt, brown rice, garbanzo beans, spinach, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, cloves, thyme, turmeric, oregano, greens (mustard, collard, turnip, swiss chard, kale) raspberries, garlic, eggplant, quinoa, etc)
Apples: One medium apple contains 13% of your daily vitamin C requirement and 15% of your dietary fiber and 60-80% of daily value of the trace mineral Boron. So at first look apples don’t seem to be a huge power house of nutrition. However, when you take into account the benefits of phytonutrients (quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid that work as antioxidant against free radicals that invade the body and contribute to chronic diseases), boron, and fiber in apples you might be blown away. Apples are also a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. One form of apple fiber that is particularly useful is pectin. It helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing the incident of arteriosclerosis and heart disease. It also helps to regulate the flow of water in between cells and keeping them rigid. The insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system.
Vitamin C: Most people think that C only helps when you are sick but it has many more uses in the body. Vitamin C helps to protect your cells from free radical damage that can cause disease, lowers your risk of cancer, regenerates your Vitamin E supply, also improves iron absorption and promotes lung health. Most of the vitamin C is in the apple skin, so best to eat it whole!
Boron is a trace element that affects a broad range of life processes involving macro minerals, energy substrates such as glucose and triglycerides, amino acids and proteins, free radicals, bone mineralization, prostate health, mental function, estrogen metabolism and numerous body systems. The combination of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, and boron, act synergistically to maintain good bone mineralization. Boron is also required to convert estrogen and vitamin D to their most active forms. Plus, Boron plays a role in cognitive function. It helps maintain/improve dexterity, hand-to-eye coordination, attention, perception, and short- and long-term memory. Boron is also particularly useful for people that suffer with arthritis. It has been shown in studies to decrease joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
Pumpkin: Fiber, Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin C, Iron and Calcium. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps reduce free radical damage, thus helping to prevent cell damage that may cause chronic diseases and contribute to aging. Vitamin A is in the form of beta-carotene which gives pumpkin its orange color. Health benefits of beta-carotene include improved eye health as well as proper formation and growth of mucus membranes, soft tissues and skin.
Hazelnut/Filberts: magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, fiber, copper, iron, manganese, calcium, selenium, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, potassium and Niacin. A misconception about fat in nuts may result in avoidance of such a snack, but in actuality, the fat content of nuts is not only healthy (mainly monosaturated fat), but contains most of the nutrients and further serves to satisfy hunger, reducing the urge to continue the search for more food. The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and folates. They are rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Iron helps prevent anemia. Magnesium and phosphorus are important components of bone metabolism.
Copper: The health benefits of copper are crucial for healthy existence, as this mineral enables normal metabolic process in association with amino acids and vitamins. Copper cannot be produced within the body and hence needs to be sourced from external food sources. Copper is the third most prevalent mineral in the body. he health benefits of copper include proper growth, utilization of iron, enzymatic reactions, connective tissues, hair, eyes, aging and energy production. Apart from these, heart rhythm, thyroid glands, arthritis, wound healing.
Sesame Seeds: Copper, Manganese, Amino Acid (Tryptophan), Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc, Vitamin B1, and Dietary Fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. Copper is known for its use in reducing pain and swelling, which is particularly helpful for Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Magnesium has been shown to beneficial in preventing airway spasms in asthma, Lowering Blood Pressure, helpful for people with migraines headaches, and menopausal insomnia.