Exercise may be all well and good, but it’s only part of the healthy living and weight loss equation. The other, more important part is diet. As my trainer always insists as I drill through my crunches, ‘abs are made in the kitchen.’ This week, we‘ve got three sumptuous (and simple) dips and sauces as healthy alternatives that you can pair with whole veggies (peppers, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, celery) or fruits (apples, strawberries, or berries), to keep you going between meals. First up, we have a rich vegan nutella that can be used on a slice of whole grain toast or scooped by the teaspoonful into your smoothie (without all the additives present in its commercial counterpart). Next, we take a protein-packed Mediterranean staple – hummus – and infuse some Caribbean flavor into it. Lastly, we show you how to make a creamy spinach dip that we ate by the spoonful (This was before this whole weight loss journey began, we swear).
These three sauces can be made ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator and used during the week. If you are on meal plan or carefully watching the morsels you consume, make sure to check the calorie counter placed at the bottom of each recipe.
DECADENT VEGAN NUTELLA
You will need:
- 3 cups (415 g) raw or roasted unsalted hazelnuts
- 2/3 cup (96 g / 3.4 ounces) dairy free dark chocolate, chopped (see notes for cacao version)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
And here’s how you do it:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add hazelnuts to a baking sheet in a single layer. If raw, roast for a total of 12-15 minutes. If already roasted, roast for 8-10 minutes just to warm the natural oils and loosen the skins. This will make it easier to blend into butter.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Then transfer to a large kitchen towel and use your hands to roll the nuts around and remove most of the skins (see photo). You want to get as much as possible off because it yields a creamier Nutella. But it doesn’t have to be perfect!
Leaving excess skin behind, add hazelnuts to a food processor or high speed blender. In the meantime, heat the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments. Add to the blender. Blend on low until a butter or smooth puree is formed – about 10-12 minutes total – scraping down sides as needed.
Once the hazelnut butter is creamy and smooth, add the melted chocolate, sea salt and vanilla. Blend/puree again until well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt or vanilla if desired. If your Nutella isn’t sweet enough, add 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave. NOTE: Just know the more liquid sweetener you add the firmer/stiffer the Nutella will get, so add sparingly.
Transfer to a clean jar and store at room temperature for everyday use for 2-3 weeks or more, and enjoy!
TRINI–FIED ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS
You will need:
- 1 can chickpeas
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 garlic cloves
- Cayenne pepper
- 1 large Red pepper
- ½ cup almonds
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
And here’s how you make it:
Roast red pepper on grill/stove top or preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If roasting in the oven, place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting. If roasting on the stove, char each side of the pepper on an open flame until completely black. Transfer into a bowl, and cover. This traps in the steam and makes it easier to separated the charred skin from the pepper. Remove the stem from each pepper and cut them in quarters.
Add in lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and a pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper. Blend everything together until smooth and creamy.
Top with parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and some paprika, and voilà! Serve with cut vegetables for an easy snack.
ROASTED HOT PEPPER AND SPINACH DIP
You will need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 habanero peppers
- 6 tablespoons vegan butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups cashew nuts (soaked overnight)
- 2 cups almond milk (warm)
- 2 cups veggie broth (warm)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup spinach leaves
And here’s how to make it:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wrap the garlic in foil with a little bit of oil. Toss one habanero pepper and onion with the remaining oil. Place all three items on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until very soft.
NOTE: DO NOT roast the habanero pepper on the stove. We tried it, and let’s just say things got very spicy!
Meanwhile, melt the vegan butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour to form a thick paste. Cook for a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm almond milk and veggie broth. If they are cold, it will be more difficult to achieve a smooth texture. Whisk/simmer until smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes.
Add the creamy mixture to a blender or food processor with the roasted vegetables from step one. Add the spinach, garlic, onion, and half of the roasted habanero. Pulse until mostly smooth. Taste and adjust with additional salt, pepper, or other seasoning.
Serve with crudités, over wholewheat pasta, on toast, or just by the spoonful (just kidding!)
What are some of your favourites sauces to make that are equally healthy and delicious? Share in the comment box below.