Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

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Who doesn’t love carrot cake?! But let’s be honest… The average carrot cake recipe is loaded with sugar. In fact, most carrot cake recipes contain more sugar than nearly any other type of cake, including my personal favorites–red velvet and tres leches!

One day, I will manage to construct a carrot cake that tastes delicious, has great texture and isn’t loaded with sugar (and maybe uses whipped coconut cream for the frosting instead of cream cheese and sugar!). When that day comes, I will be sure to take lots of photos of the creation (i.e., notable accomplishment), and share the recipe. But until that day comes, these little bites will do a nice job of reminding you of carrot cake, and hopefully satisfy any cravings. They taste remarkably like  carrot cake and what’s more, these little bites contain only good stuff that fuels your body.

My kids love these bites, and they make a perfect afternoon snack for hungry tummies.

This recipe is slightly modified from from the wonderful One Sweet Mess. I tweaked a few measurements to my liking, and omitted the pineapple since the food sensitivity test I took last year informed me I don’t tolerate pineapple well.



2/3 cup grated carrot

1/3 cup oats

1/3 cup  coconut flakes

2 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Pinch sea salt

1 tsp raw honey

4 Medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup fine coconut flakes

Note: I didn’t make the bites photographed here using raisins, but they work well, too, and can be substituted for the dates (1/2 cup).


carrot shred



In a food processor, pulse together the carrot, oats, flaxseed and spices. Add in the remaining ingredients (except for the 3/4 cup coconut flakes) and pulse until thoroughly combined.

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Using your fingers or a teaspoon, scoop out enough of the mixture to roll into an approximately 1-inch diameter ball. Roll the ball in the coconut flakes until coated. Finish the remaining mixture using the same process. Store the balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serve cold. (I’m adding this comment post-publishing… These need to be served cold–straight from the frig. They are not nearly as good if they’re at room temperature, or worse–warm.) Keeps for 3-4 days in the frig.




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I apologize that I haven’t posted anything in nearly two weeks… Sometimes life just gets in the way, as I’m sure you’ve experienced. I also go through periods of what I think of as “food homeostasis”–where I’m not trying many new dishes or experimenting with recipes, and I want, and hence cook, the same 5-7 dishes for a week or two. This typically occurs when I’m trying to stick to a restrictive diet (e.g., no gluten, Paleo, no sugar) or when I have loads of work to do and want the comfort and consistency of my standby meals.

But all that aside, over the past few weeks, cravings for butterscotch and caramel flavors keep sneaking into my head. Of course, there’s nothing healthy about butter and brown sugar, so I’ve been pushing the cravings down as best I can. But at some point, I determined that the cravings were a good excuse to make a healthier-than-normal version of British flapjacks.

During the years I spent living in London, flapjacks were one of my on-the-go treats. I suppose the high content of oats made me feel as though I wasn’t being too naughty, but really, it was just the terribly naughty butter and brown sugar combination that lured me.

So here is a somewhat healthier version of the traditional flapjack. It still relies on butter and brown sugar to make the butterscotch flavor, but this recipe doesn’t use a ton of sugar, and it contains nuts and ground flaxseed to boost it’s nutritional content.



1 stick (1/2 cup) butter*

1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)

1/4 cup coconut nectar

2 cups quick cooking gluten-free oats

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cardamon

1/3 cup ground flaxseed

*I haven’t yet tried making these with coconut oil, but plan to shortly. I don’t think a straight substitution would work; it would probably require slightly less than 1/2 cup.



Heat the oven to 350F.

Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter on medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in the brown sugar, coconut nectar, salt and vanilla. Stir until everything has melted and blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

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Spoon out into the baking dish, and spread evenly. Pat down with the back of a large, fairly flat spoon. (I use one of my large serving spoons.) Place in the oven and bake for 23-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting in quarters, then cut each quarter diagonally for the traditional triangle-shaped flapjack.



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orange above2orange sideWith fruit trees blossoming everywhere, I set my mind on the idea of a simple orange almond cake that holds the promise of summer and tastes as delicious as it smells.

It’s been easier said than done. I have been playing around with it the past few weeks, but my first attempts just didn’t turn out as I envisioned.

Making an orange-flavored cake is ridiculously easy. For the most part, you just add lots of orange zest and use orange juice in place of whatever liquid your recipe calls for. However, making a orange flavored cake using almond flour turned out to be a tad tricky.

If you Google “orange almond cake,” the majority of recipes instruct you to use two whole oranges, boiled then pureed, and a ton of sugar to offset the bitterness of all that pith you now have from using two unpeeled oranges. Seeing as I’m fairly averse to sugar, I set out to create a recipe that still uses a whole orange, and almond flour as its base, without requiring 1+ cups of sugar.

Try this cake. It received rave reviews from friends at our dinner party last weekend, and it’s so simple to make a child can do it–or at least help you make it!

If you’re celebrating Easter this Sunday, this cake would work for brunch, tea or dessert.

I use a little sorghum flour in my recipe, but you can easily make this cake Paleo by using all almond flour or a little coconut flour in place of the sorghum. Serve slices of cake with vanilla ice cream or a fat dollop of plain Greek yogurt. My preference is the later, because Greek-style yogurt is so wonderfully thick, rich and creamy that it balances nicely with the dense, moist orangeness of the cake.


orange slice


2 organic oranges, washed and dried

2 cups almond flour (I like Honeyville)

1/2 cup rice or sorghum flour

1 (generous) tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut, olive or macadamia nut oil*

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp cane sugar

*Olive oil makes this cake feel like more of a tea cake, while macadamia nut and coconut oil sweeten it slightly.



Place one orange in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Allow to cool. Remove the orange, slice and remove any seeds and puree the orange, skin and all. Set aside and reserve the cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-inch springform cake pan or regular 9-inch cake pan if you don’t have a spring-form. I also like to cut out a disk of parchment paper to lay on the bottom, but it’s not essential. It just makes it easier to remove your slices when you’re ready to serve.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they’re pale yellow. (I use a large metal whisk for this part.) Whisk in the honey, oil, vanilla and orange puree. Remove the zest from the non-cooked orange and whisk into the egg mixture. Juice the now “zestless” orange. You should get about 1/3-1/2 cup juice depending on the size and ripeness of your orange. Set the juice aside.

Work in progress with orange zest getting everywhere.

Work in progress with orange zest getting everywhere.

Cake batter in pan ready for the oven.

Cake batter in pan ready for the oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Note: Since this cake is gluten-free, you theoretically shouldn’t have to worry about over-mixing, but since I think over-mixing is the number 1 killer of any cake, please mix until just combined. Pour out into the prepared pan, place in the center of your oven and cook for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.

While the cake is cooking, put the 2 tbsp of sugar and orange juice, along with a 1/4-1/2 cup of the liquid the orange was cooked in, in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by at about half. Remove from heat and let it cool until the cake is finished baking. It should become thick and syrupy as it cools.

When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top middle section, and carefully spoon the thickened orange juice mixture over the top. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for two hours.

Cake fresh from the oven unglazed.

Cake fresh from the oven unglazed.

Cake glazed and ready to cool for a few hours.

Cake glazed and ready to cool for a few hours.

Serve at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt.




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Continuing the green theme–since Saint Patrick’s Day may have come and gone, but Spring still charges on in all its budding glory. Here’s a super simple, instant and guilt-free ice”cream.” It’s just a variation of one of my previous posts where I used frozen bananas and berries as the base.

If you’re an ice cream lover, like me, and if you also happen to be lactose intolerant (like me!) or vegan, I think you’ll appreciate the immediate gratification of throwing in a handful of ingredients, flipping the “on” switch and a minute later getting to enjoy a cold, creamy, nutritious “dessert”!



1/2 cup coconut milk (regular NOT lite!)

3/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios

1/3 cup unsalted raw cashews

1-2 tbsp raw honey

1/4 tsp almond extract

5-6 ice cubes

*Note: The measurements aren’t exact because coconut milks vary widely in thickness and richness. My favorite is Native Forest. It’s organic and comes in BPA-free cans.


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Put everything into a high-powered blender, such as a VitaMix, and blend until creamy. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding more cashews. Note: You may need to use the plunger if some of the ingredients stick to the sides.

If you want a thicker, richer version, you can freeze the contents of a can of coconut milk in an ice cube tray and use about half the cubes in place of the liquid coconut milk and regular ice cubes.

Serve immediately.




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These chocolatey, oaty bars make a great afternoon treat. They’re packed full of fiber (from the oats), protein and heart-healthy fats (from the nuts and nut butter) and antioxidants from the dark chocolate.

Yes, you must think about them in advance since they require several hours to set, but they’re a cinch to make and don’t require baking. They’re sweeter made with dates, but raisins make the preparation that much easier. Try it both ways!



1 cup almond butter

1/4-1/3 cup honey (depending on how dark your chocolate is)

1 stick unsalted butter, melted, or 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

6 oz bittersweet chocolate (use at least 65% dark cocoa), roughly chopped

3/4 raisins (or pitted, chopped dates, since I know many people hate raisins)

1/4 tsp coarse-ground salt


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Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper leaving a little overhang (enough to grab onto).

Melt the almond butter, honey and butter (or coconut oil) in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently.

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Remove from heat and add in the chocolate pieces, stirring until the chocolate has melted completely. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well until everything is evenly incorporated.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly using the back of a large spoon.

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Refrigerate until the bars harden, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. Gently tug and lift the edges of the parchment paper to remove the block of chilled “dough” from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.



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The winter months find me seeking comfort and warmth in every kind of root vegetable. That might sound silly coming from someone who lives in California, where even in the northern half of the state, the temperatures rarely get below 45 degrees even at the coldest part of the night. But I feel cold more often, and I feel as though nature intended us to spend more time indoors, playing games or doing puzzles in front of a roaring fire and eating plenty of soups and roasted things.

My pantry is currently stocked with three kinds of squash, onions, carrots, shallots and lots of sweet potatoes. I think of every excuse to incorporate some deep yellow or orange-colored vegetable into our meals–roast meats and vegetables one night, carrot soup the next, baked sweet potato fries often, etc.

But I can only bake and consume so many pumpkin pies before I begin to feel glutinous. Which is why I was thrilled to see a recipe last month for squash dessert bars.  Naturally sweet and slightly nutty, these bars immediately became our favorites. (Actually, there’s another bar recipe I promise to post soon that we also love, that doesn’t even require cooking.) I hope you like these as much as we do!

Squash walnut crumble bars (recipe adapted from Love & Lemons)



For the crust:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour, regular or gluten-free* (see my mix below)

1¼ cups walnuts, chopped fairly fine

1/4 cup brown sugar

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/4 teaspoon salt

*I use 1/2 cup GF flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour,1/4 cup almond flour/meal with great results.

For the squash layer:

1 cup cooked squash puree or mash from buttercup or butternut squash, or sweet potato (avoid canned)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt



Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Note: This step can be done in advance. Cut a buttercup or butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds and anything stringy. Place the squash cut side down on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Using a toothpick, skewer or fork, poke a few holes in the top of the squash halves and roast until you can easily slide a knife or fork in and out, about 45 minutes. Let the squash cool then scoop out the flesh into a bowl, and mash the cooked squash with a fork until the consistency is fairly smooth. Set aside.

squash cutsquash mash

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.


Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper with the paper going up the sides of the dish. Using a pastry cutter and bowl or a food processor on pulse, mix together the flour, walnuts, brown sugar, butter and salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (with some pea-sized). You can add a few drops of water if the mixture seems too dry.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture for the topping.

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Dump the rest of the crumble mixture into the baking dish. Using a large, fairly flat spoon or the palm of your hand, firmly and evenly press the crumble mixture into the dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

While the crust is cooling, mash together 1 cup of the squash puree with the butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Stir until smooth. (Adjust spices to your taste.).


Evenly spread the squash puree over the crust. Evenly sprinkle the remainder of the crumble mixture over the squash layer. Bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until the crust turns lightly golden.

squash spreadsquash crumble top

Chill bars in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set before slicing. To slice, carefully lift two opposite sides of the parchment paper out of the pan. Use a sharp knife to slice bars into nine squares or 2×3-inch rectangles. The bars will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.



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Do you remember eating finger Jello during your childhood? I loved the stuff, and despite the fact that my mother normally fed us healthy food, she seemed to think the benefits of Jello outweighed all the white refined sugar and food coloring it contained. We would regularly make finger Jello as a snack or treat, and on special occasions, particularly holidays, she would make a pretty layered dish with green Jello. This dish was eaten with relish by even the most sophisticated foodies in our lives during that time. One layer contained sliced pears in the green translucence, the other had cream cheese blended in, which made a dreamy pale green color. And my mother always added a few drops of peppermint extract, so the whole dish had a wonderfully light, minty taste.

Several decades passed by in which flavored, colored Jello did not make an appearance. But I did think fondly of it from time to time. Then I started making my own coconut milk yogurt, and found that natural, unflavored, unsweetened gelatin thickened my yogurt nicely. Seeing that creamy, slightly gelled thick yogurt got me thinking more and more about the beloved finger Jello of my childhood. On a side note, I have also been making bone broth regularly–not stock from leftover bones that you use as a soup base, but specifically broth from gelatinous bones that I order and buy from the local farmers market. It is quite gelatinous once it’s cooled, and I swear it has greatly improved my overall digestion and well being. (I will speak about all the virtues of bone broth in another posting.)

gello containersSometimes, I forget to place my order for gelatinous bones, and the farmer sells out before I arrive at the market. This made me wonder if I could find an off-the-shelf product. Luckily, I quickly discovered a great product, Great Lakes Gelatin, derived from pastured animals. It comes in two forms, regular unflavored gelatin and “Collagen Hydrolysate.” Gelatin is an excellent source of protein, boasting 6 grams per tablespoon with zero carbohydrates. The hydrolyzed version is intended to help regulate your body’s metabolism by giving you pure protein that is easily absorbed by the body. (It can be used as a weight loss aid.)  It’s the same collagen found naturally in the bones, skin and cartilage of animals, and is thought to lubricate joints and help build connective tissue. By age 25, our bodies begin losing the ability to repair supporting connective tissue (and we begin to see those annoying wrinkles forming). Natural gelatin is also chock full of amino acids like lysine, glycine and proline which the body needs to regulate cell function.

Growing up, my fingernails were as tough as, well, nails–the carpentry kind. I could pick things off, pull things apart, scrape things up and generally do anything with my fingernails without a chip or split. However, in recent years, I noticed my fingernails becoming more brittle. If I accidentally jammed one into the car door, the door won. If I picked a sticker off my kids’ dresser using my nails, one or two might chip a little, and my nails generally seemed thinner.

I report with glee that I’ve been using the natural gelatins for a couple of months now, and my nails are, once again, nearly indestructible! Of course, I’m also waiting to see if some of my wrinkles fade away, but that might be wishful thinking. I also expect my hair will grow thicker, although I might not notice it for some time.

I use the natural gelatin in the red container for making yogurt and finger “gello” or gelatin dessert, and I use the hydrolyzed version in my smoothies (it dissolves easily in cold water). I love that I can make something for me and my family that is fun to eat, feels like a dessert but yet contains no sugar except what’s naturally in fruits and their juices. And the possibilities are endless… I recently made coconut finger gello using my favorite coconut milk. It’s delicious with fresh berries on top.

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Ingredients for basic “gello”

1/4 cup cold water

2 rounded tbsp natural gelatin*

1/4 cup hot water (near boiling)

1 1/2 cups fruit juice

1 cup berries or chopped fruit, such as pear

*Use more if you want your “gello” really firm and easily held in the hand



Arrange the cut fruit or berries on the bottom of an 8×8-inch pyrex or ceramic square pan.

In a medium bowl, pour in the cold water. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over the water and allow to “bloom” for about 10 minutes. Whisk in the hot water until all the gelatin is dissolved. Whisk in the juice. Pour the mixture over the fruit, cover the pan with plastic film wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until fully set. Cut into squares when ready to serve.



Coconut finger “gello” – Skip the fruit and juice and whisk in one can of coconut milk along with 1-2 tbsp maple syrup.

Pureed fruit “gello” – Puree fruit in a high-powered blender until smooth and use approximately 3 cups in place of the juice and chopped fruit. I used ripe persimmons (peeled and cored) from our tree!



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