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Go for the Gusto, Not the Sugar and Fat: The Most Delicious Heart-Healthy Valentine's Treats

By being creative and adding a few superfood swaps and interchanging a couple ingredients, we can deliver all the sweetness and lasting memoires from your grandmothers' kitchen while keeping you ticker strong and your waistline lean.
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Who said nutritious can't be delicious? In honor of Heart Health Month we are re-making some of your childhood favorites: brownies, blondies and linzer cookies. By being creative and adding a few superfood swaps and interchanging a couple ingredients, we can deliver all the sweetness and lasting memoires from your grandmothers' kitchen while keeping you ticker strong and your waistline lean.

Growing up with a 450-pound ad man dad -- responsible for iconic slogans such as "Coke is It," "Leggo My Eggo," and "Once You Pop You Cannot Stop" -- and who always declared he needed sweet treats to keep him inspired, I had to learn how to be a kitchen magician -- baking up healthy treats that would help my dad stay on his newest fad plan.

While most of the diets had a lot of no's -- no carbs, no Sugar, no fat, no flavor -- I had to work with the lists of allowed ingredients. This was as much about my dad's weight as it was about holding on to his job as a creative director. The real Don Draper needed to live up to the Madison Avenue appearance while working on high-profile accounts like Kentucky Friend Chicken, Nestle and Budweiser Beer.

With a subway pass in hand, I took my 10-year-old self all over Manhattan discovering natural food restaurants and health food stores for inspiration. Who knew you could make your own flour by blending oats, puréeing beans or simply using peanut butter as a binder?

One bite of my home-baked desserts was all it took for my dad to exclaim "All the Gusto" without all the sugar" -- a parody on his award-winning slogan for Shlitz Beer. "You only go around once in life: Go for all the gusto you can."

Many years and many batches of healthy baked goods later, my dad is 210 pounds and healthy. And I am a holistic nutritionist, cooking teacher and author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, With Recipes.

One Smart Cookie

Protein Packed Linzer Tart--Can Be Gluten Free and Vegan
Yield: 12 cookies

This is a healthier version of my grandmother hamantaschen -- a cookie filled with sweet jelly surround by a buttery crust. My recipe is made with almond and oat flour, coconut oil and a some flax seeds, making it not only delicious but nutritious --packed with protein, heart healthy fats and fiber. This is a win-win as both a dessert or on-the-go breakfast or snack.

Ingredients:
- 8 tablespoons coconut oil or (put a tablespoon aside for greasing the baking sheet if you are not using parchment paper)
- 1 egg, beaten or to make it vegan (flax eggs- one tablespoon of flaxseeds whipped with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let sit in fridge for ten minutes before using)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons nondairy milk
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup almond flour (plus additional, as needed, for thickening)--if you have a nut sensitivity you can use oat flour
- 1¼ cups oat flour (you can make your own oat flour by blending oats in a blender)--if you are gluten-free use gluten-free oats
- Pinch of sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup strawberry jam or preserves (½ teaspoon of white chia seeds can be mixed into the jam for an extra shot of omega 3s and fiber)
- Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- ½ teaspoon of flax seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, egg, vanilla, milk, and maple syrup and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Then combine the ingredients from both bowls and mix together with your hands until they form a sticky dough. If the dough feels a touch dry, you can add a splash of water to thin it. And if it feels a bit wet, you can add a touch more oat flour. Roll the dough into balls with your hands; I like mine to be 1½ to 2 inches across. You can also shape into triangles or hearts for Valentines day Place them on a parchment paper-covered or lightly greased cookie sheet, flatten them slightly with your palm, and push a thumbprint into each ball. Add a dollop of jam or preserves into the thumbprint. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if desired) before eating.

Flourless Brownie Squares --Gluten- and dairy-free

Makes 12 brownies

Even die-hard Duncan Hines fans will go crazy when they taste these brownies. I have swapped garbanzo beans for flour, creating a moist, scrumptious, protein-rich, decadent treat. When the garbanzo beans and chocolate are combined together, no one will ever guess the mystery ingredient. To make them even more festive, serve them with fresh berries. They are also gluten- and dairy-free.

Ingredients:
- 1-1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
- 4 eggs
- ¾ or cup maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- (Optional) fresh berries for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips. In high-speed blender (such as a VitaMix) or food processor, combine beans and egg. Add maple syrup, baking powder, vanilla, and melted chocolate. Process until smooth. Pour batter into greased baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out dry. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan

Dawn Lerman is a nutritionist, speaker and the author of "My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, With Recipes." Follow her on Twitter @DawnLerman