Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Carrot Cake Bites

These Carrot Cake Bites, featured in my guest post today over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, taste like carrot cake in a snackable ball with none of the refined sugar, flour, gluten, or dairy found in most carrot cake recipes.

I love keeping a batch of these at the ready in my refrigerator during the warmer months because they have such a refreshing flavor. In addition to making a great snack or simple dessert to enjoy yourself or with your family, these are also a tasty treat to pull out when friends or neighbors stop by for an afternoon chit-chat. This seems to happen more often in the spring and summer, so it’s great to have some simple little recipes like this one tucked away in your repitoire for unexpected guests.

Be sure to visit Simply Sugar and Gluten Free today and check out my guest post on the importance of fruits and vegetables in the gluten-free diet. Big thanks to Amy for inviting me to post on her blog!


Carrot Cake Bites – Makes 12-15 balls

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about ¾ cup)

½ cup raw walnuts

¼ cup raw cashews

¾ cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 5-6 large dates)

1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon

Zest of one orange, optional

Sesame seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process carrots until finely ground. Remove and set aside.

Process the walnuts and cashews in the food processor (no need to clean it out) until finely ground. Add the dates and process until finely chopped and incorporated into the nuts. Add the reserved carrots, ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest (if using) and process until dough forms.

Shape the mixture into 12-15 small balls. Roll in sesame seeds or shredded coconut to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to five days.



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I know that nuts really aren’t a seasonal food, but I still tend to associate different types with different seasons. Pecans and hazelnuts work their way into my holiday recipes at Thanksgiving and Christmas, while pine nuts tend to show up in the warmer months as I whip up batches of pesto and pasta salad with summer’s bounty. Walnuts and almonds are my go-to snacking nuts any time of the year. And pistachios? Well, to me, those just sing spring.

Usually I enjoy pistachios more in savory dishes than sweet. Their buttery texture and snappy crunch offer a lovely addition to salads of many kinds or platters of roasted vegetables dressed simply in lemon juice and olive oil. One of the pricier nuts on the market, I reserve pistachios for spare but savored use in only a handful of recipes. And yet, for the past few weeks on my trips to the grocery store I’ve eyed the pistachios every time, dreaming up some fancy way I could use them. Nothing came to me. Then, at least.

Last week when I was on my way to check out my groceries, I paused in the Whole Foods bakery section to peer into the glass case and feast my eyes upon all of the beautiful spring desserts. Three-layer carrot cakes, lemon curd tartlets, tiramisu, chocolate cupcakes, lattice-topped pies. And on the top shelf, tucked away in a corner as if they were too shy to take center stage, a cluster of tiny two-bite cakes almost too cute to imagine eating. Almost

If I could have, I would have bought a few of those little cakes on the spot and eaten them right then and there in front of the bakery case. But, cute as they were, the wheat flour and refined sugar in them simply wouldn’t do. While I’ll occasionally—rarely is a better word—make a treat or two with granulated white sugar, I avoid gluten completely. My body gets very upset if I don’t! But with the two-bite cake theme whirling in my head, I left the grocery store that day with the goal in mind to come up with a gluten-free, white sugar-free alternative that was tasty and, if I was lucky, just as cute as those little cakes in the case.

The two-bite cakes I came up with not only turned out adorable; they also gave me the prime opportunity to use luxurious pistachios in a new and different way. As you may already know if you’ve been around this blog for a while, I don’t like my “sweets” to be super sweet. In this recipe the actual cake batter is sweetened only subtly with a bit of honey. The real burst of sweetness comes from the chocolate. If you prefer a sweeter sweet, feel free to try bumping up the honey to your liking.

I can’t think of a better way to welcome the spring season than by popping down a few of these tasty morsels and heading outside for some sunshine. If you’re looking for more gluten-free, guilt-free treats to try this spring, check out “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free” hosted by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Celebrate the season with delicious, guiltless pleasures!


Two-Bite Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cakes – Makes 16 mini cakes 

1/2 cup raw shelled pistchios, chopped

1 cup blanched almond flour

1/4 cup millet flour  

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease 16 cups of a mini-muffin tin with coconut oil and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind 1/4 cup pistachios to a fine powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add almond flour, millet flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.

Separately whisk together coconut oil, honey and eggs in a small bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Fold in remaining 1/4 cup chopped pistachios and chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into the greased muffin tin. Bake cakes for 15-18 minutes until deeply golden brown. Cool completely before removing from pan. (For easy removal, run a sharp knife around the edges of each cake and gently lift out of pan.)

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.



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It seems to me that coconut has been popping up all over the place these days in recipes for everything from cookies and cakes to curries and casseroles. I think it might be one of those “vogue” ingredients that’s becoming stylish, kind of like sriracha hot sauce among gourmet cooks or green smoothies among healthy foodies. There’s even a whole blog devoted to all things coconut (which has some delicious looking recipes, by the way). 

So it’s about time I jump on the coconut bandwagon, I guess. But here’s the deal, and I’ll speak plainly: I just don’t like it. A splash of coconut milk here or there I can handle, but the shredded stuff? Eeeek. The thought of it alone makes me wrinkle my nose.

This is the stand-point I was coming from a few days ago when I stopped by the store to pick up a few ingredients for a new fig cookie bar I wanted to try. They were out of almost everything I needed from the bulk bins…black mission figs, dates, blanched almonds. Nada. What they did have was a full bin of prunes and raw walnuts along with plenty of my white, flaky nemesis—unsweetened shredded coconut.

I eyed the coconut with resistance, but in the end swallowed my fears and bought a small bag. I’ve given other ingredients a shot in the past—take black beans, for instance—and have turned out to love them. Maybe the case would be similar with coconut.

At home I whirled together the nuts and dried fruit along with some spices and orange zest to form the dough of what would become coconut-encrusted, bite-sized cookies. They’re a no-bake treat, which means I could sample one just minutes after they were formed (although I’d recommend chilling them first like the recipe says, since they hold up better that way). The verdict? A perfect blend of sweetness and spice with just a hint of coconut crunch, these cookies are tasty little morsels. Definately not over-coconut-y, which to me is a good thing.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be a coconut “nut,” I certainly think I can stomach a little here or there like in this recipe. Who knows? The more I incorporate coconut into my cooking the more I may grow to like it. I’m not sold on coconut quite yet, but this little lesson in experimentation definately reminded me that giving an ingredient a second (or third or fourth) chance sometimes isn’t so bad after all.


Zesty Coconut Cookies – Makes 1 dozen bite-sized cookies

3/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup pitted prunes

2 tsp. orange zest

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 – 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, for coating

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process walnuts until finely ground. Add prunes and process until finely chopped and incorporated into the walnuts, about 20-30 seconds. Add the orange zest, cinnamon and ginger. Process until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a parchment-lined work surface. Divide dough in half. Divide each half in half so that you have quartered the mixture. Out of each quarter form three small bite-sized balls. Flatten the balls into round cookie shapes. Place unsweetened coconut in a bowl and turn the cookies in the coconut to coat evenly.

Chill the cookies until firm, about 15-20 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the refrigerator. After this intial “firming” time, the cookies can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


This post is linked up to Fight Back Fridays.

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A few years before I entered high school, I developed in avid interest in chocolatiering. After months of reading about chocolate and experimenting with dozens of recipes, I eventually started cranking out some pretty tasty candies. In my early teens, I actually catered 500 chocolates for the grand opening ceremony of a high-end European design center. The following summer I prepared close to 200 custom-packaged party favors for my cousin’s wedding. After those big confidence boosters, I went on to sell chocolates to a group of loyal customers every Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day for several years.

With time and the inevitable progressions of getting older, I turned my attention to other pursuits and gradually drifted away from chocolatiering. But those years—years of painting chocolate into candy molds and whipping up peanut butter creme filling and packaging dozens of chocolates every day at my dining room table—those were formative, influential years for me. It was during that time that I began to delve deep into just one teensy fraction of the vast culinary world and discover that food and cooking were integral parts of who would I someday become.

Of course, my life looks a lot different now than it did then, but once in while I slip down memory lane and allow myself to recall the days when all I did was melt chocolate, test recipes, and package candies from morning till night. A few days ago I found myself in the kitchen testing a candy recipe of different kind—a truffle made with dates and nuts—when a montage of memories—sweet, chocolatey ones—rolled over me like a salty wave…

I saw myself tempering a bowl of chocolate at the kitchen counter and carefully spooning it like liquid mahogany into candy molds. I saw myself jot down a list of ingredients I needed to pick up for tomorrow’s batch. I watched my nimble fingers work lengths of satin ribbon into perfect bows atop box after box.

…And the thought occured to me then: it’s what you’ve done in the past that shapes who you’ll be in the future. It’s who you were then that makes you who you are now

Just think. Someday, a few years from now perhaps, I’ll look back on my life—maybe even this very post—and realize just how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve learned. The passage of time will be evident, but the future will radiate with a glowing hope of what’s to come.

And I like to think that when I look back on it, the thread of my life will be knotted with recipes here and there—recipes like the one I’m posting today—that remind of who I was then, who I am now, who I’ll be tomorrow. Because that’s really what it’s all about. Finding joy in the journey. And someday glancing over your shoulder to see where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’re capable of as you step forward.   


Orange Sesame “Truffles” – Makes 12-15

3/4 cup raw walnuts

4-5 large dates, pitted and roughly chopped

Scant 1/4 cup raisins

2 tbs. good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. grated orange zest

Raw sesame seeds, for rolling

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind walnuts to a powder. Add dates and raisins. Process until well combined and very finely chopped, about 20 seconds. Add the cocoa powder and orange zest. Process until incorporated and mixture is an even deep brown color.

Shape mixture into bite-sized balls about 3/4-1 inch in diameter. Roll in sesame seeds to coat.

Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, or up to 1 week.


This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.


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If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know a few things about me by now. You know that I love to cook, that’s an obvious one. You know that I not only love to cook, but that I love to cook for others and share my love through food. You know that I embrace healthy eating and feature recipes chock full of all the healthy stuff like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.

You know that I have a sweet tooth and that I often satisfy it with handfuls of dates and figs or any creation that I can make with them. You know that I spend the occasional sleepless night thinking up new recipes and dreaming of old favorites. You know that when it comes to comfort foods, nothing warms me up quite like a steaming bowl of stew.

But here’s something you might not know about me: no food or ingredient or recipe—not even the finest, tastiest bowl of steaming stew—quite satisfies my soul like a good book.

I’ll admit it. The past few days I’ve done nothing but rush through my morning routine, hurry through lunch, hastily work through the afternoon, and then throw together a quick dinner all for one purpose: to get to the evening. Because it is in the evening, after the kitchen is cleaned up and the lights are dimmed and the dishwasher is humming it’s gentle lullaby, that I can curl up on the sofa with my favorite blanket and a pile of books. The long day is over. The night has come. And I can indulge in my deepest craving: my craving for words.

I drove to the library last week planning to pick-up a hold that was ready. Nearly an hour later, I returned home with a stack of novels taller than a two-year-old (I might be exaggerating just a smidge) and an eagerness to delve into each one. Some have been disappointing, others just average. I haven’t come across one yet in the pile that’s really blown me away. But with every page I turn, every chapter I finish, I’m holding out hope that sooner or later that glittering gem of a book will emerge from the stack and prove to me that the long wait was worth it.

So what does all this chatter on books have to do with a cookie recipe? Here’s the thing: when it’s single digits outside and you’re nestled up in cozy comfort by the fire in the middle of chapter twelve, you just start craving cookies. It’s almost a guarantee. Especially after dinner when that pesky sweet tooth comes calling.

That’s why I fiddled around in the kitchen this afternoon trying to nail down a tasty molasses cookie recipe. So that tonight, when I find myself winding down for the evening with a book or two in hand, I can tiptoe into the kitchen and grab a little treat to nibble on right when I need it most.

These cookies are small and barely sweet, which is just the way I like them. But if you prefer a sweeter cookie, feel free to try bumping up the honey or adding extra dates. I love the flavors of ginger and cinnamon together, although adding some other spices like nutmeg or cloves might be a tasty twist on these cookies as well.

Molasses cookies remind me a bit of the holidays, but I’m beginning to believe that the spicy flavor of these can easily satisfy a sweet tooth all winter long—not just at Christmas. I plan to enjoy these cookies throughout the upcoming weekend as I read my way through the late afternoon and evening hours. Bite by bite, chapter by chapter, page by page.


Nutty Molasses CookiesMakes 1 dozen

1 1/2 cups almond meal/flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

Pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 tbs. molasses

2 tbs. honey

2 dates, pitted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, combine coconut oil, molasses, honey, and dates. Process until dates are pasted and mixture is thick and syrupy. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir at first with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Then knead the mixture with your hands to form a thick and cohesive dough.

Divide dough in half. Divide each half in half, so that you end up with four dough mounds of equal size. Out of each quarter of dough form three equal sized balls. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten each ball to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until just beginning to firm up. Cool completely before serving.


This post is linked up to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

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I feel like such a hypocrite.

Yesterday, the day that I talked all about the common sweet tooth and how to kick it, I myself got a hankering for something sweet that just wouldn’t go away. It hit me after lunch. I tried the water-drinking technique that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Warning: that trick doesn’t work every time! I mentioned that it works 90% of the time for me…well, today must have fallen in the other 10% because it certainly did nothing to scatter my craving for sweets.

The more I tried not to think about a shard of chocolate or a crumb of a cookie, the worse it got. At about 2 o’clock, I’d had it. I marched up the stairs and pulled out my food processor, determined to make myself a healthy, gluten-free, sugar-free candy bar. Inspired by the Lara Bar concept, I set to work with a few dates and some cashews hoping to eek out a treat that would satisfy my sweet tooth guiltlessly. To my surprise, the result did just that.

After testing one of the candy bars (and enjoying every succulent bite), I was amazed at how similar it tasted to the Cashew Cookie flavored Lara Bar. I’m not a numbers girl, but curiosity sent me to my calculator to do a little price comparison between a homemade “Lara Bar” and a store-bought one. Here’s what I found: at my local grocery store, one bar costs $1.75. One homemade bar comes in at approximately $0.75.  Now how’s that for a deal?! 

You’ll find the recipe for Cashew Candy Bars below. The recipe yields 2 bars, but I will be doubling or tripling this the next time I make them because I want lots on hand! I imagine they would keep for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator, but I doubt they will ever last that long in my house.

I’m sure there are a gazillion variations that a creative cook could make of these, and I’ll definitely be trying out some of them soon. If you happen to whip up a tasty twist on this recipe, be sure to share it here in a comment!


Cashew Candy Bars – Makes 2

3 tbs. raw cashews (about 1 1/2 oz.)

2 dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 2 oz.)

Place cashews in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process until finely ground like a powder. Add dates and process until very finely “pasted” and incorporated into the cashews—about 25-35 seconds.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Shape each into a long, rectangular bar and chill in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes until firm. Wrap each bar tightly in plastic wrap or store bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.



Heads Up: on Tuesday, January 19, I will be starting a five-week series of posts called “5 Pantry Essentials.” Every Tuesday for five weeks, I will post a different ingredient that’s an essential staple to stock in your pantry. Posts will cover nutritional highlights, what makes the ingredient so essential, and suggestions for using it. Of course, I will feature a recipe showcasing the ingredient as well.

So stay tuned. You won’t want to miss this exciting series filled with great nutrition info, cooking tips, and tasty recipes!

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Cocoa Jingle Balls

There’s a story in my family that goes something like this…

It was early on Easter morning. My sister and I eagerly darted through the house peeking behind chairs and beneath beds in search of candy-laden baskets that the Easter Bunny had filled and hidden for us the night before. A shout came from my sister in the other room as she exclaimed, “I found mine!” She emerged carrying a basket mounded high with delicious candies and treats in a hundred shades of pastel purple, yellow, and blue. My mouth watered longingly, urging me to continue the hunt for my own basket.

With my sister trailing behind me oohing and ahhing over her basket, I pranced around the living room in my raggedy Snow White pajamas (they were my favorite) with my eyes peeled. Alas, there it was: a basket filled to overflowing with mouthwatering, teeth-rotting goodies tucked behind the corner of our out-of-tune piano. My little sugar-loving heart sang within me.

That Easter Sunday was a particularly lovely spring day that beckoned my parents to spend the afternoon outside setting up lawn furniture and garden ornaments for the summer season ahead. My sister joined in on the work eagerly and passed the hours helping them with projects in the backyard. As for me? I slipped away quietly, retrieved my Easter goodies from inside the house, and planted myself on the front porch with a basket-ful of chocolates and peanut butter cups. And no one to watch me devour it all.

The story goes that I sat there unfolding each wrapper with my chubby little fingers and eating each and every piece of candy in that basket. By late afternoon when my parents realized I was missing and came looking for me, I was sitting on the porch steps in a pile of wrappers next to an empty Easter basket with chocolate staining my lips and cheeks.

It’s a true story. Honest.

I’ll admit that my sweet-tooth certainly did not subside over the next few years of my childhood. Not just at Easter but at every holiday I remember looking forward to the array of delicious desserts that would always crowd the kitchen counter,  just begging me to eat them. At Easter it was candy from the Easter Bunny. At the Fourth of July it was blueberry pie and root beer floats. At Thanksgiving, my mom’s blue-ribbon-winning caramel apple pie and vanilla ice cream. And at Christmas…well, need I say more about Christmas? Heck, we’re in the middle of the season right now. We all know what delicacies go along with this holiday. (In case you’ve forgotten: pecan pie, glazed nuts, pumpkin cake, fruitcake, chocolate truffles, chocolate-dipped pretzels, chocolate-covered-nuts, chocolate-covered-anything for that matter.)

Over the years, me and sugar became well acquainted friends. It wasn’t like I was a sugar-holic or anything. At the same time that I ate donuts and pie, I also piled my plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. (Because carrots and celery cancel out donuts and pie, right?) But several years ago when I was battling awful seasonal allergies, I went to a holistic nutritionist for help. And you know what she found out? I’m allergic to sugar. All those runny noses and watery, swollen eyes could clear right up if I cut the sugar from my diet, she told me.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for a good 6 or 7 years now. Gradually cutting back on the sweets and terminating the friendship with my old pal, sugar. My seasonal allergies haven’t totally disappeared, but they are now much more mild and tolerable. In light of giving up the sugar, I’ve developed new friendships along the way with fresh fruit, dates, dried figs, smoothies (mmm!), and a variety of other naturally sweet treats. Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. (Sorry, I know that took a while.)

You may recall that I posted a recipe for Date-Nut Balls a few weeks ago. Well today I’m offering another date-ball recipe, this time featuring cocoa powder. These things are a great alternative to traditional sugar-laden candies that are so hard to avoid during this festive season. Make a plate of these puppies and watch them disappear at your next holiday gathering. Yep, they’re that good.

If you love chocolate, you’ll love these. Trust me. I’m a used-to-be sugar lover, remember? Though they may be sugar free and white flour free and artificial-ingredient free and, well, free of anything bad for you, they certainly are not free of chocolatey deliciousness. Take one bite. You’ll see what I mean.


Cocoa Jingle Balls

3/4 cup raw walnuts

5 large dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup raisins

2 tbs. unsweetened, good quality cocoa powder

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind walnuts until they are a grainy powder. Add dates and raisins. Process 20-25 seconds, or until combined and very finely chopped. Add cocoa powder and process until incorporated and the mixture holds together when you pinch it with your fingers.

Shape the date-nut mixture into bite-sized balls, placing in candy cups if desired. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

(This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Check it out for more great recipes!)

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