Chocolate Pumpkin Apple Bread

57118397638__769F36A5-0CA8-4147-9768-CAB74697097EThis is truly a delicious bread that can be souped up to make a great dessert by the addition of whipped cream or if you are going lower fat, add a dollop of vanilla greek yogurt.  It’s simple, fairly low fat, and you can decide how much sugar to add depending on your taste and dietary concerns.  The walnuts and chocolate chips are optional and how many you put it is also fairly fluid.

You can also swap out your fruits depending on what you have available.  Canned pumpkin is hard to come by unless it’s Thanksgiving time, so you can use mashed banana as an alternate.


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil – melted
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (can be substituted for banana or just extra apple sauce)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (I used my home made chunky but any will work)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar (you can use more or less depending on your preference, can also substitute with honey or agave although it may change the flavor slightly)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips. 1/2 cup walnuts  (can do all nuts or all chips, add more or less or not at all)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla (this is also optional for flavor)

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix until well combined.  Put into a well greased loaf pan (preferably a large one – mine is 6″x 10″ and 3″ deep which is larger than the average pan).  Alternately you can use an 8×8 baking pan.  In this case your baking time will be shorter by about 10-15 minutes.

Bake at 350F for 50 minutes to 1 hour (mine took an hour in my large loaf pan).  In an 8×8 pan you might want to check it after 45 minutes with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean it’s done.  You can also lightly press on the top and if it’s done it should spring back.


In case you are interested here is the calorie breakdown for you:  If you make the bread as directed above with 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup choc chips and 1/2 cup walnuts, and you cut it into 12 equal pieces, each piece would be about 190 calories and that is a decent sized slice.  If you lower the sugar by half:  ie. add just 1/3 cup, and omit the choc chips and nuts it comes down to 121 calories a slice!  Add a dollop or real whipped cream brings your treat up by 50-100 calories depending on how much you add.


Group Exercise – a supportive community


In this article I’ll explore the benefits of group exercise as oppose to trying to do it by yourself. We will look at why it’s so important for those wanting to get fitter and healthier plug into a fitness community.  Not only that, but we will see how this type of exercise helps individuals reach and maintain their health and fitness goals successfully.

I have been teaching exercise in one form or another for over 20 years.  It has been my full time occupation now for 8 years, and one of my greatest delights while teaching and training is to see people connect with one another and form a supportive and motivating fitness community.

I remember from my days of attending exercise classes how much fun it is to work out with friends, and have friends support and encourage you in your fitness goals.  But beyond that there is an added element of motivation that comes with being part of a group.  

This can be true of health and fitness clubs to a degree, but there is always the added element of being surrounded by mirrors, and working out with others you don’t know, who seem to be so much fitter than you are.  In a traditional health club environment, this can be the opposite of motivating, and many people have left feeling discouraged and given up before they even start.

At our Community Center location we do not have mirrors, which for many is a HUGE positive.  It makes sense to me that watching yourself and others exercise can be discouraging for those with insecurities about their body image and their abilities in a group class.  As much as a mirror can help us with our form, it can also highlight comparisons between exercisers in such a way as to be discouraging.  As quoted in this study “ Women in a mirrored environment reported greater self-consciousness and more social comparisons”

It also seems that our fitness community has been truly blessed with some of the very nicest people!  I am always so excited to see new participants welcomed and befriended when they join a class.  Many come and meet people they haven’t seen in a long time but used to know, so old friendships are reignited.  There is a wonderfully supportive element in our classes, and it’s very exciting to see people feeling accepted and encouraged not only by me but by their fellow class participants.


To continue to encourage the enrichment and growth of our fitness community, every month or so we invite those currently attending our classes or coming to me for one-on-one training, to join us for a meal at a local restaurant.  This added social element is designed to enrich our relationships with one another, and promote the continuation of support in our quest to reach and maintain our health and fitness goals.  Of course if one is to be truly and wholly healthy, then there is a psychological aspect to be considered.  Feeling accepted, loved, encouraged and supported by other members of our community makes us overall happier and more positive people.  Ergo our psychological health is also nurtured in a social or exercising group environment.

Personal Training is another method that has been proven highly effective in achieving and maintaining health and fitness goals.  The accountability of having a weekly or twice weekly appointment with a trainer is key to ensuring you are sticking to an exercise program and working towards your goals. As quoted in this article  “Anyone who has worked with an exercise professional understands that a personal trainer offers much more than just exercise advice and company during a workout. An experienced, educated and encouraging trainer will offer lifestyle coaching, time management and support on staying motivated. A registered personal trainer will also be able to tailor each exercise session to your individual needs, fitness & exercise levels, and health and injury history. Your workouts will be safe and effective.”

As you start this new year, consider what you would like to accomplish in the area of health and fitness.  Nothing is more important!  Ask yourself the following questions  

  • Am I stressed?  If so how can I decrease my stress?
  • Do I get enough exercise daily?
  • Is my diet healthy?
  • Do I have happy healthy relationships?

In answering the above questions, think about baby steps towards a happier healthier you.  Consider becoming part of a community that will support and encourage you in your goals.  Take one tiny step today towards improving your health and ultimately your life.

For those interested, below are links to studies that show the benefits of a supportive group when starting an exercise and fitness routine.

 Benefits of group support for weight loss and fitness maintenance

Group motivation for fitness

Positive peer pressure






57076032050__3B5225C3-F7AC-4243-90FC-CF861DC40E15 Falafels are originally an Egyptian food.  There are a variety of options for spices and cooking and I will offer both here.  I have never really been a big fan of falafel, but my kids love them and aside from the deep fried variety, they are a great source of protein if you are vegetarian and also are filling without being high in calories.  Of course once you deep fry them they become less healthy and need to be eaten in moderation.  I got an air fryer for Christmas and find they cook well in the air fryer, but are not as moist as the deep fried variety, so need to be served with a dip.

The trick to making them is to not use canned chickpeas.  Buy dried chickpeas and soak them overnight for the best results.  Spices used should be to your taste, and I have put below an optional cardamom addition, but we did find this flavor a bit overpowering so beware.

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon corrianda
  • 1 teaspoon cumineaten with sauces of which there are a number that go very nicely
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves (optional)57076160319__BFF508EB-0662-4206-94A0-BE317A3FDAB1
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1-2 cloves garlic

Directions:  After soaking chickpeas overnight, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until mixture is finely ground but not paste like.   Chickpeas will still be in tiny pieces.  Make mixture into small balls and at this point they can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to cook them.

A fried falafel of about 3.5oz is about 330 calories.  A baked falafel has less than 100 calories but since it is quite dry does require the addition of sauces which will, of course, add calories.

Suggested accompaniments:  guacamole, Tahini sauce, hummus.  I had mine with cottage cheese which tasted good.  I read that hot sauce is a favorite for those who like a spicier falafel.

To cook them, either shallow fry, deep fry, bake or air fry.  I air fried my first batch at 375 for 20 minutes.