Do people generally have opinions on leap years? Like/don’t like? Does it matter?
I never did, till earlier this year when I realized being a salaried employee during a leap year kind of sucks. Now before you get all “at least you have a job” let me say, of course I’m thankful I have a job and I’ve enjoyed many benefits of being a salaried employee. But it dawned on me that hourly employees have the advantage when it comes to leap years, because us salaried folks will work an extra 8 hours this year without ever getting paid for it. A perfect solution, in my humble opinion, would be to give all the salaried people an extra vacation day to use this year. Too bad I don’t get to make those decisions.
But you know what the wonderful thing about leap years is, the one that cancels out all that bad stuff I’ve been irrationally dwelling on? The fact that it gives us a 5th day this month to celebrate Love Your Heart!
To recap, we’ve celebrated four very important meal times:
- February 1st: Breakfast at Cara’s Cravings
- February 8th: Lunch at Prevention RD
- February 15th: Snacks at Super Healthy Kids
- February 22rd: Dinner at Healthy Food for Living
But naturally we’ve saved the best for last! Whoever said breakfast is the most important meal of the day obviously never had dessert.
Oh, Dessert. I always have room for you. I could eat you every day (oh wait, I do) and I will never call you cruel names like “too rich” or “too sweet.”
And if leap year means I get to have one extra dessert this year, then I’m deciding I very much like leap years.
Even though we’re eating dessert this week, don’t think we forgot about that whole heart-healthy thing! These Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes are just about everything I’d want in a sticky-sweet and decadent jam-filled fudge cupcake with silky ganache frosting, with the added bonus of heart-healthy ingredients:
Like all legumes, black beans pack a hefty serving of soluble fiber- the best kind for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Bean cakes typically require a lot of eggs, but I reduced the number by replacing some with “flax eggs.” 1 tablespoon flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water makes a great egg substitute in many baking recipes. (I don’t know if you can omit all the eggs and make the recipe vegan – I tried this for one test run of this recipe and it didn’t turn out so well. But if you know more about vegan baking than I do, feel free to experiment!) Flax seeds are one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an type of omega-3 essential fatty acid known to reduce clotting and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Consuming plenty of ALA increases heart health.
Natural almond butter (I made mine myself by processing freshly roasted almonds!) is high in fat but remember, it’s the good kind. Almonds contain plenty of monounsaturated fat, just like the kind found in olive oil which we know is so good for the heart. Many studies show that a diet containing heart-healthy nuts is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.
Chia seeds are a powerful little food! Like flax seeds, the oil contained in chia seeds is follow of essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Chia seeds also contain many protective antioxidants.
These colorful berries are rich in powerful powerful antioxidants which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase good cholesterol. They are also a great source of fiber.
And our old friends tofu and chocolate.
While not necessarily a heart-healthy ingredient, I’d also like to point out the use of xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol which can be extracted from various plants. Granulated xylitol has just about the same level of sweetness as cane sugar, with 40% less calories. Xylitol is often used in diabetic-friendly foods because it does not affect insulin levels, and it’s even good for your teeth! I found that xylitol worked well in this baking application in terms of texture and structure, and did not produce any strange aftertastes whatsoever. The only other things you need to be aware of are that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so you if you have a pooch you’ll want to keep yuor xylitol far away. And, for some people it can produce a bit of intestinal discomfort, so if you know you’re sensitive to sugar alcohols, you might want to avoid it. (There’s a good and bad side to just about every sweetener I know, unfortunately.) I’ve been seeing xylitol show up on lot of other healthy-living blogs lately, so it’s certainly gaining in popularity and reputation.
Anyway. Back to these cupcakes. I am so excited to share them with you for our last round of Love Your Heart, as they are ultimate proof that a dessert can be both inanely indulgent and nutritionally powerful at the same time. And, by the way, they are gluten-free and dairy-free too, as an added bonus if it matters to you!
But they’re not alone! My girls have brought their game again this week, and have each come up with some amazing sweet, heart-healthy treats.
Nicole baked a sophisticated Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Olive Oil Polenta Cake.
Lauren is treating us to Dark Chocolate Chunk Frozen Yogurt.
And Amy and Natalie have whipped up this adorable Fruit Tart.
This week it is extra important that you visit them all because our giveaway is super huge and you can leave comments on each and every blog to up your entries!
We are giving away a big prize pack of heart-healthy whole grains and other goodies from Bob’s Red Mill. I happen to love their products, and I know you will too. In case you don’t get everything your heart desire’s, there’s a $25 gift card included too, bringing the total prize value up to $100. I told you it was huge!
Here’s how to enter (leave a separate comment for each of the following possible entries):
- Mandatory entry: Follow Bob’s Red Mill on Twitter
- Subscribe to Cara’s Cravings
- Share these cupcakes on Pinterest
- Mention this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, with a link back to this page
And then, go visit Nicole, Lauren, and Amy and Natalie for more chances to win!
Giveaway Rules: No purchase necessary. The contest will close on Sunday, March 4th at 11:59pm EST, at which point a winner will be chosen via random number generator. Winner must supply a valid email address in the commenting form. Winner will be contacted and have 4 days to respond, at which point s/he forfeits the prize and another winner will be chosen. Winner will provide name, email address, shipping address and phone number and give me permission to supply this information to the sponsor of the giveaway item.
Raspberry Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes
A heart-healthy yet indulgent dessert! Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes filled with Raspberry Chia Jam and smothered in silky Ganache.
3 tablespoons coconut oil
9 tablespoons (45gm) cocoa powder
3/4 cup (150gm) xylitol
6 oz firm silken tofu
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons arrowroot starch
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup water
4oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
2 packets of stevia
3 tablespoons flax seed meal
3/4 cup warm water
1 3/4 cups cooked black beans
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons almond butter
1/2 cup xylitol
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
Make the Frosting:
In a small saucepan, combine coconut oil, cocoa powder, adn xylitol. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until xylitol has dissolved and the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place the tofu in a food processor or blender and add the chocolate mixture. Process until smooth, then blend in vanilla extract. Finally, blend in arrowroot starch until no lumps remain. Pour the frosting into a bowl, and refrigerate, covered, for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Make the Chia Jam Filling:
In a small bowl, stir together the chia seeds and water. Let stand for 10 minutes. The mixture will form a gel. Transfer to a small food processor or blender and add the raspberries and stevia, and pulse to combine. Pour back into the bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour before assembling the cupcakes.
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Pour the warm water over the flax seed meal in small bowl and stir to combine. Let stand 10 minutes.
In a food processor, combine the black beans, flax seed mixture, eggs, vanilla, apple sauce, and almond butter. Process for several minutes, until completely smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add xylitol and stevia and process again. Sprinkle in cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder, and pulse until combined.
Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3-3/4 to the top.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.
Assemble the cupcakes:
Using a paring knife, carefully cut a cone shape out of the top of each cupcake. Place about 1 teaspoon of chia jam into the empty hole, and then gently replace the top. Repeat with remaining cupcakes (you will only need about 1/3 of the jam.)
Remove the frosting from the refrigerate and transfer to a bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a hand-held electric mixer or the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, whip the frosting for about one minute to lighten it. Frost the cupcakes as desired.
Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator, covered.
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat 7.9 g
Saturated Fat 3.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 30.8 mg
Sodium 110.7 mg
Potassium 46.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 35.1 g
Dietary Fiber 4.9 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 6.9 g
Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com