Easy Healthy Chocolate Fondue

healthy chocolate fondue

Chocolate Fondue is one of those easy fun desserts or treats that everyone can get into. Dipping fresh fruit in chocolate (or other yummy things like rice krispie bits, cake, pretzels, marshmallows) is delightful and delicious.

A lot of people find though that chocolate fondue can be a little messy and a little bit too much of a sugar rush – with the chocolate burning if your fondue pot is not just right, or it getting too thick to dip in. Not to mention all the sugary treats you are dipping into an already sugar filled chocolate.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – you can create a healthy chocolate fondue with the yummy treats for dipping (also healthy) and no burning or thickening of your chocolate. And it’s super easy! even the kids can do it.

healthy chocolate fondueYears ago I learned how to make raw organic chocolate, made from cacao butter and cacao powder, then naturally sweetened with your sweetener of choice. It is quick easy and very good for you. Cacao is an ingredient that is considered a superfood, as it is very high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron and zinc, vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9. And it is super high in antioxidants, healthy fat, fiber and protein. Plus when you use a natural sweetener you are now adding in the benefits of that natural sweetener as well (like honey, pure maple syrup, stevia).

You might think well I can just use cocao it’s the same – the fact is it’s not. Though both cocao and cacao come from the same bean they are processed very differently which is why one product (cocao) is stripped of most of it’s vitamins and minerals, while the other (cacao) preserves them.

When you’re making raw organic chocolate, you use a double bowl where you place boiling water in the bottom bowl and place another smaller bowl (that sits on the rim without falling into the bottom one) on top. You simply make your chocolate in the top bowl, using the heat from the water underneath to do your melting and create your chocolate. It’s like a double boiler method without using the stove and creating the risk of burning it!

Once you’ve made your chocolate, you simply keep it in the liquid form for your fondue (as opposed to putting it into molds or a pan to set), by leaving the top bowl on top of the hot water. Place it in the middle of your table or serving area and voila! you are ready to dip and indulge. You do have to be conscious of the lower bowl being hot though and advise those who are sharing the fondue to not touch the bottom bowl (especially important with kids). The chocolate will stay liquid as long as the water is hot and will not burn. As the water starts to cool, the chocolate will set, but all you have to do is add fresh boiling water to your bottom bowl and the chocolate will melt and return to liquid quite quickly. One thing to note is you do need to be careful that you do not get any water into your top bowl with the chocolate as this will ruin your chocolate, so just be aware of that when you’re moving things around.

Otherwise, grab your fork and favorite dipping items and enjoy!

Healthy Chocolate Fondue (this will make enough for 4-6 people and ready in 10 minutes!)

3/4 – 1 cup Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

2-6 tbsp. Cacao powder

1 Vanilla Bean

2 tsp. to start Natural Sweetener of choice (honey, pure maple syrup, etc.)

  1. In a medium metal bowl add boiling water about halfway up the bowl. *a metal bowl is best as it retains the heat well but can get hot to the touch Place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top.
  2. Put desired amount of cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt.
  3. While cacao butter is melting slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside seeds with a spoon. Put seeds into melted cacao, it is ok if cacao butter is not completely melted yet. Stir.
  4. Sift cacao powder into a separate bowl. Once cacao butter is completely melted add 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder. Taste for desired level of chocolatey-ness. If you’d like it richer add more cacao powder.
  5. Once satisfied with amount of cacao powder add natural sweetener of choice. Start with 3 teaspoons and mix. Taste, if desired level of sweetness has not been reached, add 1-2 more tablespoons and taste again. Once level of desired sweetness has been reached you have your base chocolate.
  6. Leave in liquid form and bowls on top of each other and serve. Use pot holder or oven mitt to transfer bowls if moving to another spot.

*Be very careful not to get any water into your chocolate as it will not work if you do. If your second bowl sits nicely on top, this should not be an issue as you do not need to lift the second bowl off the one with the water in it until you are done making your chocolate. 

Items for dipping:

Basically you can dip whatever you want into your chocolate (some people love chocolate dipped bacon 🙂 Fruit is the most popular and the quickest to prepare as it is most likely on hand – but if you’re feeling adventurous or just want to change it up a bit try out these other options – which can be healthy and sugar free too! below

Fresh fruit of choice – banana, apple, orange, strawberries, pineapple, cantalope, etc.

Pretzelshealthy chocolate fondue

Healthy sugar free marshmallows (yes these can be healthy to! make your own here)

Sugar free cake bits

Sugar free rice krispie square pieces

Nuts

Make sure you have forks or other utensils to facilitate dipping without items being lost in the chocolate. Fondue forks work great but are not required as regular forks work just as well.

This is super super easy to do with kids and is always a hit. I did it with my Mini Chefs class, 3-5 year olds and they loved it! There were many chocolate faces that day and I did not send them home to parents on a sugar high.

I’ve also succesfully done this with adults many a time and I usually have someone licking the bowl at the end 🙂 The nice thing is you can make as much as you want and if you run out you just make more!

Ok I’m off to make my own chocolate fondue now… all this talk about it is making me crave some…

What are your favorite things to dip in chocolate fondue?

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites – Dairy & Gluten Free

pizza mini bitesDefinitely my favorite mini bite recipe so far are these Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites. At first when I looked at the recipe I thought having quinoa in it was weird and probably not very tasty, but it turned out to be delicious!

The quinoa gives it a nice texture and does not make you feel that heaviness in your belly that pastry does. And it doesn’t take away or overtake the other flavors in the bite, it enhances and allows them to stand out.

pizza mini bitesQuinoa, considered a plant food, is also super good for you. It is one of the most protein rich foods we can eat, as well as high in fiber, iron, magnesium and many other vitamins and minerals. It is also gluten free which is great for those who are looking for or in need of that option; and even contains antioxidants. On it’s own, quinoa is quite plain but is a fantastic healthy addition in salads, baked goods, warm breakfast cereals and more!

These pizza mini bites really do taste like pizza and with the quinoa in them they are super healthy. I was amazed at how good they were and how much they actually tasted like pizza. And like pizza you can add in your favorite pizza ingredients. I used small pieces of pepperoni but you could easily substitute ham, add peppers, chopped up mushrooms, etc.

They are also fantastic for kids – they can easily help make them and they are a nice healthy option to put in their lunches or even for a snack. Yes you have to put in 3 or 4 but that’s ok this recipe makes a lot! They are even a great appetizer or snack for your next gathering or party.

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites

2 cups cooked quinoa*

2 large eggspizza mini bites

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup Daiya shredded mozzarella

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup chopped pepperoni sticks (3-4 sticks)

1/2 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried crushed oregano

pizza or tomato sauce for dipping

Mix together all ingredients, except pizza sauce, in a medium mixing bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture into a well greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup to the top. Press down gently to compact.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Gently remove bites from muffin tin and serve immediately.

These are also very good cold. So if you’re putting them into kids lunches or your own, there’s no need to heat them if not able to do so.

Makes approximately 40 bitespizza mini bites

*How to Cook Quinoa

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a colander (make sure the holes are small enough that the quinoa does not go through). Once rinsed place in a small pot with water.

Uncovered bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Let quinoa cool slightly then fluff with a fork and either serve or use in desired recipe.

What are some of your favorite quinoa recipes? Share in the comments below

Miss last week’s mini bite recipe? Check out Dairy Free Macaroni Mini Bites

Mini Bites that Delight – Macaroni Bites

mini bitesI love mini bites! You know those cute little bite size foods that you pop into your mouth in one bite and are often bursting with flavor? How do they get all those ingredients into that tiny little compact dish anyway?

I had often wondered why people would want to take the time to make these itsy bitsy bites, other than the fact that they are cute and look pretty (and may possibly even impress your guests when you’re hosting a party). Making them looked like a lot of work and that I thought I would need to eat at least 5 or 6 to feel full.

Then I discovered how fun they were and came to the understanding that they are meant to be served as appetizers, which you are not supposed to fill up on anyway, and not full meals. They are also great for kids, especially ones who have smaller appetites as they can have one or two and feel full without having any waste – instead of having a bigger portion and not eating it all. It is also a great way to introduce new foods to kids as you are giving it to them in a fun way and again with the smaller portion size, if they do not like it the waste is minimized.

mini bitesAnd there are so many different mini bite recipes to try you’ll never run out of ideas. You can come up with almost any combination and likely be successful. So I’ve been on the lookout this month for mini bite recipes to try. Looking for combinations that I knew would work and then considering how I might create one on my own.

This week I started with macaroni bites, which are one of the more popular and common mini bite recipes out there, and usually a hit with kids. I loved this recipe as it has a super cheesy sauce and is simple to make. Also easy to make dairy free, these delicious bites will have you easily gobbling two or three!

Macaroni Mini BitesDairy Free (can be made gluten free if you use brown rice or other gluten free pasta)

1 c. elbow macaroni

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)

mini bites2 c. Daiya cheddar shreds

1/4 c. vegan cream cheese

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg beaten

Optional additions: bacon, cayenne, paprika

Grease well your mini muffin tin (like really well. This is the one downside of mini bites is those muffin tins, they stick and are hard to clean. Greasing it well does help but sometimes you have to scoop around them very carefully to get them out. If you can find mini cupcake liners you could use those and it would make getting them out and clean up a little easier. This may not work though if you want a certain look without the papers on them).

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside. In a medium size pan whisk the vegan spread and flour together until melted and smooth.

Slowly add non dairy milk and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese, vegan cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

mini bitesIn a large mixing bowl carefully stir pasta, cheese sauce and well beaten egg until pasta is evenly coated and mixed in.

Using a teaspoon, spoon mac and cheese into prepared mini muffin tin, topping each with a small bit of cheese.

Bake bites at 400F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from tin.

The first time I made these I made the original plain recipe but I felt that they were missing something. So I would highly recommend adding in real bacon bits, or a dash of cayenne or paprika to add a little zest.

These are also a fun and easy recipe to make with kids. They can easily help with mixing it all together and scooping the pasta into the muffin tins. Kids love to help and research shows that if they help make it they are more apt to eat it!

Don’t miss next week’s recipe Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites.

What is your favorite mini bite recipe? Share in the comments below.

Kids Healthy Cooking – Plain Pancakes

plain pancake recipeIn the spirit of celebrating Pancake Tuesday recently in February, I decided to make pancakes in my Mini Chefs class at Trico Center. Pancake Tuesday is a holiday I love, also called Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, it is the day before the beginning of Lent, and in the times of no refrigerator, it was a time to eat up all the foods that were considered fatty, would go bad and that people would ‘give up’ during the Lenten season.

Besides what child does not love pancakes? I do not know many, so I knew that they would be a hit with all my kids, even some of my more particular eaters. I decided to go with a basic plain pancake recipe, as I feel this should be a staple in every home, plus it is easy to ‘dress up’ in a variety of different ways. Of course, there is the traditional maple syrup and butter, but you can also have fruit toppings, ice cream and whip cream to name a few options.

plain pancake recipePlain pancakes are also really easy to make with kids, as there is a lot of measuring, scooping and mixing involved. It actually takes longer to cook the pancakes than it does to make the batter! I had each of the kids take a turn measuring an ingredient and dumping it into the bowl. Then a few of them had a turn mixing it up, which honestly this job is easily done by one person, but I find the kids really love to mix stuff. I could easily occupy them all day with mixing (parents something to think about lol).

plain pancake recipeThe kids were also very interested in watching the pancakes cook. I had them all stand at a safe distance from the pan and they watched as I poured the batter in and then waited for them to cook. For those that were interested, I pointed out the bubbles that were forming on top and that when they had lots of bubbles it meant it was time to flip them over. One little girl thought this was fascinating.

Once we had all the pancakes cooked we sat down to enjoy them! I had cut up fruit in advance, bananas, apples and strawberries and told them were we going to make faces on our pancakes with our fruit. Chloe who had done this before at our house, demonstrated what to do and then picked up her pancake and started eating. I was surprised to see all the other kids follow suit, with not a single one asking where the maple syrup was – which I actually did have to go with our pancakes that day. But since they did not ask for it, I just tucked it away and let them enjoy the pancakes and fruit faces they made. It was pretty easy and it was super fun.

Plain Pancakes

2 c. whole wheat flourplain pancake recipe

6 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 ¼ c.  non-dairy milk of choice – almond milk, coconut milk, etc.

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl. Pour ¼ c. batter on hot griddle. When bubbles form on top, flip pancakes over. Cook for another 3 minutes. Top with favorite fruit or enjoy with pure maple syrup.plain pancake recipe

 

Coming up next in Kids Healthy Cooking Mini Pizzas!

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to Make Tacos

how to make tacos with kidsTacos are one of those great foods that are an quick easy dinner solution that you can easily incorporate many food groups (including vegetables) and taste delicious. They are also a fabulous way to get the kids involved in helping make dinner as there is lots of scooping and use of their hands. You may think it will create a big mess, but here are some easy ways how to make tacos with the kids and be successful!

How to Make Tacos with Kids

1. Prep in advance – Chop, grate, cut the ingredients you are using in advance and put them into separate bowls that the kids can easily scoop or grab things out of. Place a spoon with each item so they don’t mix them.

2. Provide a variety of ingredients – in Mini Chefs we used just lettuce and tomato and cheese, but you could include avocado, cucumber, spinach…basically any vegetable. Providing variety will not only makes the kids curious but it will also encourage them to try a little, especially when they are making their own.

3. Use some kind of dip or spread – sour cream, Veganaise or mayonaise, guacamole, salsa all add a little flavor and variety to their taco. It also makes it less dry and provides nice texture and easier on the palate.

4. Demo what it looks like – make one and show them what you would typically put in it, everything from sour cream to tomatoes and cheese. Let them know that if they choose not to put an ingredient in that’s ok. The example will not only show them what can go in it but might encourage them to put some of those ingredients in themselves.

5. Let them make their own – give them the tortilla or taco shell and show them all the options, then let them decide which ingredients they want to put in and how much. (Remind them that they need to close up the tortilla so not to put too much in). When they make their own they are more likely to eat it.

how to make tacos with kidsWhen I did this with my Mini Chefs class I had everything ready in advance and this made it very smooth when making them. The only thing we prepped together was to cook the ground chicken, which I did and they watched. They all really like watching what is happening as their curiosity makes them interested and that is the best way to get them engaged.

Many of them tried different ingredients, creating their own with various amounts of the things they liked. We used soft tortillas, which I find easier with kids because you can roll them up and have less stuff falling out! but you can use hard taco shells if you prefer. I did have to remind them that though they could put in what they liked, not to put too much in as we needed to roll it up and have it all fit.

Rolling them up was the fun part. I showed them how to do it and then helped each child coaching them through rolling it up themselves, which each of them did quite successfully. Once we had it rolled up then we chowed down and enjoyed our tasty creations.

I even had the next week a Mom share with me that her son had made tacos for supper one night after this particular class, which I was so pleased to hear. She said he insisted on clearing up which he never does and he is now also eating lettuce, which he never ate lettuce. Wrapping it up and presenting it in a different way is one of the many reasons why this has occurred. Plus he (and the other children) were allowed choice in what they could put in and weren’t told that they had to use this ingredient or that one.

I feel that this class has been our most successful class so far and that learning how to make tacos has taken the children’s learning in the kitchen to the next level. It really is a simple nutrition packed meal which can easily be modified if you want it dairy free, vegetarian or packed with protein (add kidney beans or chick peas). There are a large variety of different taco recipes and combinations to try, but I would recommend starting with a basic recipe to get the kids into it, and then expand upon it from there.

Tacos

Ingredients:

1 pkg. ground chicken (or any choice of ground meat)how to make tacos

1 tbsp. taco seasoning (recipe below)

tomatoes, chopped

lettuce, chopped

Daiya cheddar cheese, shredded (or regular cheddar if desired)

Vegan sour cream – I love Earth Island (or regular sour cream)

tortillas

Brown ground chicken in frying pan. Add 1 tbsp. of taco spice and mix.  Lay out one tortilla flat on counter or plate, spread a spoonful of sour cream on tortilla, add spoonful of chicken, tomato, lettuce and cheese. Fold tortilla over once, tuck in ends by folding over on each side, then roll the rest of the tortilla to end.

Taco Seasoning

(this is an easy seasoning that can be made at home with spices you likely already have in your cupboard. Pre-make it and skip the processed package stuff from the store)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili powderhow to make tacos

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Do you have a favorite taco recipe that your kids love? Share it below

Coming up next…some chocolate delights, macaroons and chocolate pudding!

Don’t miss our other kids healthy cooking recipes such as yogurt parfaits, tuna melts and kids smoothies

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to get your Kids Eating Vegetables

get kids eating vegetablesIt is amazing how many kids do not like vegetables. Or if they do, they like only one, like carrots, or cucumbers, but otherwise that’s it. I know many parents experience this struggle of expanding their children’s vegetable palate. That’s why getting creative to get kids eating vegetables is key.

In our Mini Chefs class last week we created vegetable flowers. This is a great way to get kids eating vegetables – it is fun, offers them diverse food colors and creates a pattern, which are all proven ways to get them eating. The ‘flower’ was a combination of celery, radish, carrot, cucumber, spinach, and grape tomato (lots of colors).

veggie flowerWhen we were creating our vegetable flowers, many of the kids told me right away which vegetables they did not like. Though I acknowledged it, I encouraged them to make the flower anyway and then they could eat the parts they did like and leave the rest (not forcing the kids to eat what they don’t like, but acknowledging and encouraging is another way to get kids eating vegetables, and a variety). I praised and encouraged them as they were creating, telling them how much I liked the ‘grass’ they had made or the ‘petals’ on the flower. When we were done, all the ‘flowers’ were unique. Similar to the example but with their own creative flare!

Then of course we ate them and some of the kids not only ate the parts they liked but branched out and tried something new. I had to laugh when I watched two girls each try a spinach leaf and heard them exclaim “oh this is so yummy!”

This is why cooking with your kids is such a great benefit! It gets them involved, creative and gives them opportunities to try something new. Making food fun, will encourage them to try it out and maybe, hopefully expand their palates. It also is an opportunity to teach them about nutrition and why we need balance in what we eat.

IMG_6922Also that day we made Tuna Melts, which is one of my favorites! It is a simple quick recipe and great to do with kids. All you need is bread, tuna, Veganaise (or your favorite mayonaise) and cheddar cheese. This recipe is a great one for kids to practice stirring and spreading (the tuna). Parents of course should do the opening of the can, cutting and using the oven as these tasks need to be closely supervised with small children.

Again we had a few kids who said they didn’t like tuna, but I encouraged them to at least try it. For some kids, it could simply be the Veganaise (mayo) that they don’t actually like. I remember when I was little I did not care for mayonaise at all. It wasn’t until I was much older that I actually liked it. If you think this may be the case, you can either change your mayo choice (not all mayos are created equal) or you could leave it out and not mix it in your tuna – though this would leave the tuna a little dry the melted cheese on top could help with this. Experiment, let your child taste the items separately to determine what part they don’t care for and then adjust from there.

Cooking with kids is always an adventure and getting kids to eat vegetables just makes it that much more interesting! But recognizing and praising them for what they do and trying new things definitely puts them on a path to enjoying their food and exploring new recipes!

Tuna Meltstuna melt with Daiya cheddar

Ingredients:

Slices of bread

1 can of tuna

Veganaise (or choose your favorite mayonaise)

Slices of Daiya cheddar (or regular cheddar)

Mix tuna with Veganaise. Start with one to two spoonfuls of Veganaise and mix. Add more if needed to taste, you do not want the tuna to be dry, but you don’t want it sopping wet. Spread tuna on slice of bread. Place cheddar slices on top of tuna.

Place on a cookie sheet in oven on broil. When cheese has melted it is ready to eat! this only takes one or two minutes so make sure you keep an eye on it. Take out of oven and let cool slightly, then eat and enjoy!

Vegetable Flower

Ingredients:IMG_6930

Cucumber slices

Celery

1 grape or cherry tomato

1 radish

2 spinach leaves

8 baby carrots

Wash all vegetables. Slice cucumbers, radish and 2 pieces of celery (one big and one small) to make stems of flowers. On a plate place 2 pieces of celery. At the top of the big piece arrange cucumber slices into a flower shape. At the top of the small piece of celery arrange the radish to make petals of flower. Place grape or cherry tomato in middle of the cucumbers to form center of big flower. Place two pieces of spinach on either side of big piece of celery to make leaves. Line the bottom of flowers with baby carrots to create ground/ grass. Take a picture of your creation! Enjoy plain or with your favorite dip.IMG_6925

Missed last week’s kids healthy eating recipe? Click for Yogurt Parfaits and more great tips on cooking with kids

Looking for more creative fun ideas to get kids eating vegetables? Check out these great ideas 

Next week Kids Smoothies – 3 delicious recipes, one with chocolate! how can you go wrong?