Posts Tagged ‘easy desserts’

Here in northern California, we’ve been experiencing the full wrath of Mother Nature, who is clearly fed up with the overall lack of respect and abuse humankind has given her. In addition to devastating fires and intense heat, we’ve had seriously bad air quality since mid-August. Well, we did have a few days reprieve last week, where we all went outside, rubbing our eyes unaccustomed to bright sunlight, looking like people emerging from underground bunkers after a blitzkrieg.

Unfortunately, the reprieve was short-lived, another fire sprang up, and we find ourselves advised to stay indoors once more. It’s also very warm, again, so I’ve been hesitant to use the oven. It’s not like I can just open the windows to cool down the house at night—due to the bad air quality, and since hot temperatures are historically unusual for my area, almost no one has AC in their homes.

I try to cook dinner in a skillet whenever possible, and we’ve been consuming a lot more salads. Good news is, I have several new favorite salad recipes to share! However, those salad recipes will need to wait because right now, I want to share a delicious recipe for peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy treats! My kids–like so many others, love traditional rice crispy treats, but I can’t stomach all the sugar found in regular recipes nor do I like the fact that there is nothing remotely beneficial in them.

I’ve been tinkering around with making a peanut butter chocolate version, but was struggling to get the flavor profile right along with the right “glue” to hold the rice cereal together. One version used honey, which overpowers in flavor. One version had the chocolate blended in with the peanut butter, which helped to hold the rice cereal together, but I prefer it when the chocolate gets to hold its own, so if you’re a peanut butter and chocolate lover like me, you get two distinct flavors. I also wanted a recipe where you make your own chocolate layer from scratch instead of just melting down a bunch of chocolate chips. For one, you can better regulate how much sugar is in the chocolate.

These bars are super easy to make, super yummy, and they don’t require you to turn on your oven!


3/4 cup creamy organic peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided

2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided

1/4 tsp sea salt, divided

4 cups organic brown rice crisp cereal

1/2 cup raw cocoa

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil


Line a 9-inch x 11-inch baking pan with parchment paper, folding the paper in the corners and making sure the paper comes up the sides.

In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut nectar, maple syrup, 1 tsp of the vanilla, and 1/8 tsp sea salt. Fold in the cereal and stir until thoroughly combined. Scoop the mixture into the pan and press it down firmly and evenly. If you don’t press enough, the the bottom of the bars may crumble when you’re eating them. Place the pan in the fridge.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, whisk the raw cocoa powder, coconut milk, and coconut oil until everything is smooth and glassy. Add a little more coconut milk if the mixture looks too thick to spread over the cereal mixture. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp salt.

Spoon the chocolate over the cereal mixture and spread evenly with a rubber/silicone spatula. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is hardened. Cut into squares–I usually cut mine into 9-12 squares. You can store these cookies for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.



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Do you ever get a sudden inexplicable craving for a particular dish or flavor? When I get stressed, I start craving pickles (the really crunchy dill kind) and salami–basically anything really strong in flavor. Often sauerkraut or kimchi will do in a bind. I also regularly crave almond flavor, and I’m not talking about the flavor you get from a handful of almonds. I’m talking about that super strong flavor you get from almond extract.

My mom used to make these delectable almond butter cookies using white flour, loads of butter and sugar and almond extract. They were flaky, sweet and super almondy, and while I haven’t attempted to recreate them gluten-free, I’m often nostalgic for that flavor.

I recently discovered some pears in my fruit bowl that had become very ripe, and since they were too ripe to slice into a salad, I thought why not bake them into an almond cake? Who doesn’t love the combination of pears and almonds? The added spices make this version more flavorful and a little more “sophisticated” in case you’re serving it to guests (or leaving it on a friend’s doorstep during the COVID-19 restrictions).

Like most of my recipes, this one is super easy to make. After all, who needs more challenge and stress in their lives right now? You can make this using any variety of pear, but I prefer to use Bartlett or Packam.



1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like this brand)

1 cup almond flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, softened or 1/2 cup mild-tasting olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

3 Tbsp nut milk

2 ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored, and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices



Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a standard 8-inch cake pan or springform pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a larger bowl, beat the butter (if using) with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until its a smooth, even consistency. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well. Add in the extracts and nut milk, and blend. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and fold in just until blended. Fold in the pear slices. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth the top using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.

Place in the center of the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake has turned golden brown.

Allow the cake to cool completely and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.



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Call me weird, but I have always preferred blondies over brownies. Don’t get me wrong… I love chocolate, but I like it in small doses, like one or two squares of a high-quality, dark chocolate bar. But something about blondies makes my mouth literally water, and traditional blondies share a lot in common (i.e., butter and sugar) with my favorite sweet flavor–butterscotch.

The blondies of my childhood were essentially white flour, butter and brown sugar (think obesity, type II diabetes, high triglycerides, etc.). So how can I indulge in eating my beloved blondies without putting on 10 pounds, causing my insulin levels to go haywire or just feeling badly for overindulging?

Enter almond-butter blondies. I make mine with very little sugar–which offsets a lot of guilt, and with almond butter and almond flour, so I feel I’m getting something good (i.e., a hefty serving of protein) out of my indulgence. In fact, I generally feel so justified in eating these, that I almost never stop at just one!

These are gluten-free, get a nice “crust” to them, yet retain plenty of gooey, chewy goodness on the inside. My kids are always trying to get me to add in extra chocolate chips or chunks, but it’s actually the non-chocolate part I’m really after. I hope you will give them a try, and tweak the recipe as you wish to fit your sweet and texture preferences.



1/2 cup almond butter

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup coconut sugar (to make Paleo) or 1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 scant cup almond flour

2 Tbsp tapioca starch

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 generous tsp sea salt

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, chunks or chopped pecans or walnuts



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper (so there’s no pan to clean up!).

In a small bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips, chunks or nuts) and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the almond butter and sugar until well blended and no lumps are left. Whisk in the vanilla and coconut oil, followed by the egg. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until blended, then fold in the chocolate chips, chunks or nuts.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and carefully smooth the surface using the spatula. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are just slightly brown. (It’s better to underbake slightly instead of overbake so the cookies retain some gooey/chewy quality!)

Allow to cool completely before cutting into 9 or 16 squares depending on whether you want to feel guilty for having more than one at a time.




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Why not publish a post of a dessert fit for Valentine’s Day, the day after Valentine’s Day? That’s exactly how my life has been going as of late. I’ve been so swamped at work, and with raising the children, that I haven’t found time to post. But the great news is, I’m posting this dessert which is absolutely delicious, nearly guilt-free, and super easy to make. You don’t even need to turn on the oven. You just need a few ingredients, a refrigerator and a little time to allow everything to work its magic. And although I think raspberries and chocolate are perfect partners, you could easily use other fruit as a substitute.

If you use raspberry preserves made without refined sugar, this recipe would also qualify as Paleo. However, I like to use Bonne Mamam Raspberry Preserve because the raspberry flavor is really intense and I like a bit more sweetness.

(Recipe modified from Bakerita’s Paleo Vegan Raspberry Chocolate No-bake tart.)


Crust Ingredients

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup pecans, very finely chopped (I use the mini-processor)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt



3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk

5-6 oz  bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Green & Black’s Organic 70% bar)

¼ cup raspberry spread (use 100% pure fruit if you have it, otherwise use a low-sugar raspberry preserve

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

2 cups fresh raspberries



Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with coconut oil. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the crust and stir together until fully incorporated. Press evenly into the prepared tart pan and set aside.

Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk until it’s just about to boil. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate and let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in raspberry preserves, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. (The filling mixture should be “runny” enough that it evenly fills the tart shell.)

Place tart in the refrigerator to set for 1 hour.

Garnish the top with raspberries, and return to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until completely set.

Slice and serve.

Store leftovers–if there are any(!), in an airtight container in the refrigerator.





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I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been cooking and eating plenty. Aside from a two-week holiday to six East Coast cities and towns, I have spent countless hours in biblical history. What’s that, you say? Well, in reality, it’s likely just the result of the drought we’re experiencing throughout California, but we’ve been plagued with everything from mites on the chickens to fleas on the cats to ants invading our kitchen. And I’m not alone in this plague of pestilence. Even the restaurants in our local towns have been battling the ant problem. Ask for a cup of tea, and you’re likely to get it with a pinch of tiny ants. Every possible little pest is hungry and thirsty and running amuck since temperatures continue to run higher than normal and their normal food supplies are scarce–or so I’ve been told. Now I could launch into a larger discussion about global warming, but let’s save that for another time and get back to food.

The most amazing plums keep piling up on the produce stands in my area. They’re rich in color, incredibly juicy and sweet as can be. I don’t know many recipes that use plums, but plum crisp would beat them all anyway. I find that cooking plums with a little lemon zest and sugar really concentrates their flavor. I’ve made this crisp using plums and apples, but plums alone offers the most intense flavor.



7-8 plums and/or pluots, pitted and quartered

zest from a lemon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp cornstarch (optional)

1 tbsp coconut or cane sugar

3/4 cup porridge oats

1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 cup almond flour/meal

1/2 coconut or cane sugar

1 pinch of sea salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces



Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the plum segments, lemon zest, and vanilla. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar and the cornstarch if using, and toss to coat evenly. Evenly divide and scoop the fruit mixture into four ramekins.

plums rawplumscps

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together with a fork. Break down any lumps in the almond flour and stir until everything is thoroughly combined. Using a pastry cutter or two knives and two good hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon out evenly over the fruit in the four ramekins.

plums filled

Place the ramekins in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the crumb topping turns golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes (or tongues will get burned!).

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or coconut milk ice cream.



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chia abovechia side


I know some of you who know me personally are thinking I’m posting this tongue in cheek. I admit, I balked at the very idea of chia seed pudding for years. It sounded far too “crunchy” to me, as in too healthy, like some low-sugar, vegan dessert that either tastes like nothing and/or gets caught in your throat in much the same way a handful of straw would.

But chia seeds offer a lot… They’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids–are even a better source than flax seeds, and unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds can be digested by your stomach while they’re still in the seed form. They’re also a good source of calcium, phosphorus and manganese as well as dietary fiber. And because the seeds form a gel-like substance when soaked in liquid, they’re thought to slow down the process by which the digestive enzymes in your stomach break down and convert the carbohydrates into sugar, which is why some people consider chia seeds beneficial for weight loss.

Given how nutritious chia seeds are, and because Costco now sells a big bag at a great price, I started throwing a heaping spoonful in my morning smoothies. I noticed right away how they made my smoothies richer and creamier, so I finally thought, why not give the pudding a try?

To make a long story short, I’m officially addicted to chia pudding now! I actually have to pace myself to prevent eating a big bowl of it every time I open the refrigerator. It’s lightly sweet, incredibly creamy and offers a wonderful mouthful of tiny but powerful little crunches with every bite–not unlike tobiko, the tiny fish eggs that often adorn rolls of sushi. I’ve always appreciated the tiny but satisfying crunch of each little fish egg. In fact, I joke that tobiko is the gift that keeps on giving, because even hours after eating sushi, you can be suddenly, but pleasantly surprised by a tiny and unexpected little crunch in your mouth. But I digress…

Chia pudding is a cinch to make and provides a perfect, light, but rich-tasting treat to enjoy any time. I’ve been eating it for breakfast with fresh raspberries and a spoonful or two of pomegranate seeds (for extra crunch, of course!).



1/2 cup black chia seeds

1/2 cup coconut water

1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk

1-2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt


chia mix


Stir all the ingredients together in a glass bowl until thoroughly blended. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours but preferably 4-8 hours.

Serve in small bowls layered with fresh fruit. Serves 4-6 depending on how much fruit you’re using. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.



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grapes abovegrapes close

If you happened to see my last post, you know that my family and I just recently returned from a week-long holiday in France–Provence to be precise. With its hilltop villages crowned with medieval castles, lush vineyards and silvery-leafed olive orchards, the imagery seduced us all over again, and once again, made a lasting impression (the first lasted 13 years). So I think it’s only natural that I’ve been trying to capture and bottle the experience and sensations by cooking as if I’m still in Provence–even though I’m back home in Northern California. Most of the Provence-inspired dishes have been a huge success, but I’m still fine-tuning.

Wanting desperately to replicate our recent experience, my husband and I dragged our jet-lagged children to three different kitchen and cookware shops in search of the small, enameled cast-iron tureens in which our fish was cooked and served to us in Provence. We nearly jumped for joy when we found the perfect-sized tureens at Williams-Sonoma. They’re made by Le Creuset, which is very pricey, but we were in luck since the small tureens we found were 60% off. The night we brought them home, I prepared a simple yellow rockfish in a Provencal sauce (tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, saffron, etc.). It was delicious, and the sauce was equally good to what we experienced in Provence. However, in France, they used red mullet, which if you’re not familiar with it, is a small pinkish-red fish with tender, sweet flesh. Sadly, it’s not available where we live, and the rockfish was a less than ideal substitution. I plan to make the same dish in the next week or two using monkfish. It’s so delicious, I will take the time to note my ingredients and measurements so I can share the recipe.

Of course, driving through the famous wine region of Chateauneuf-du-Pape made me want to find a way to pay homage to the humble grape. I’m always surprised how many varieties of grape you can find at even the most basic, mainstream grocery stores–at least here in the Bay Area. But I tend only to buy grapes as a snack food for the children or to serve on a fruit platter for a brunch gathering. However, years ago I bought the cookbook, “Patricia Wells At Home In Provence.” I’ve cooked a few dishes from it, and they’ve all been excellent and relatively simple. I cracked it open upon returning from France and found the perfect recipe using grapes. I’ve modified it just slightly here.



2 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup evaporated cane juice

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or omit the butter and use 1/2 cup olive oil)

1/3 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup spelt flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp almond extract (or grated zest of 1 orange)

10 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) small, purple grapes*

Confectioners sugar for garnish (optional)

*If you live in Provence, you have access to many different varieties of grapes for wine making, which you could use for this cake. However, in most other places, you’ll be limited to a few varieties suitable for cake making. I used Thomcord seedless–smaller and sweeter than plain red grapes, and they worked beautifully.



Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow in color, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, vanilla extract and almond extract, if using, and mix until blended.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Add the lemon and orange (if using) zest, and toss to coat. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir 1 cup of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top using a spatula or back of a spoon.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes before sprinkling the remaining grapes over the top of the cake. Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes or until the cake feels firm when pressed with a fingertip.

grape baking

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the sides before releasing the removing the side of the springform pan. Serve at room temperature with a sprinkle of confectioners sugar.

Vive le Provence!

grapes sidegrapes


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clafoutis aboveclafoutis slice closeThis dish is so easy to make, a child could do it!

Clafouti is a classic French dish, and is similar to the Dutch baby pancake. It’s essentially a very simple, eggy batter poured over fresh fruit. I’ve used strawberries here, but raspberries and cherries work equally well.

The best part about this dessert is that it’s really not strictly a dessert. It doesn’t have any more sugar than you’d consume if you made pancakes served with maple syrup or jam. And although I usually serve this as a simple dessert, I recently made it for breakfast to the utter delight of my children. I also like that it’s light enough to serve as dessert in the summer, but warm and custardy enough to serve during the winter.



1/2 tbsp butter or coconut oil

8 oz strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

2 tsp cornstarch

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup whole-grain barley or spelt flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp sea salt

Powdered sugar for dusting, optional



Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 2-quart baking dish (or 8×8-inch pyrex dish) with the butter.

Toss the strawberry halves with the cornstarch until thoroughly coated, then spread the berries evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. Set aside.


calfoutis berriesPut the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla and salt in a blender and blend on high for 15-30 seconds. Pour the batter of the strawberries.


clafoutis pourPut the dish in the oven and bake until it’s puffed and golden brown and feels set in the center, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve warm. (Note: The clafoutis looks its most impressive and puffy right when you remove it from the oven, so if you’re serving it to guests, by all means, get it on the table. But if you actually slice it up and put it on people’s plates before you’ve allowed it to cool slightly,  you’ll risk tongues getting burned on the piping hot pieces of fruit.)




clafoutis above2clafoutis slice

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4th of july pie4th of july pie closeHere in California, we’re at the peak of berry season, and there are deals to be found on berries each week at the grocer’s.

When the prices are really good, I stockpile them and the kids eat huge bowls of berries morning, noon and evening. As a general rule, I don’t believe in eating unlimited amounts of fruit because of the high sugar content, but berries are the exception offering the greatest nutritional punch for the least amount of sugar.

To be very honest, I planned to post this recipe the morning of July 4–Independence Day for Americans (in case you’re not from the U.S. or UK), but one of our cats became very ill and required immediate attention. Cabana (our “old kitty”) has had ailing health for a while, but my husband found her as a kitten on the streets of New York City 17 years ago, and that toughness has kept her going far longer than we expected. Despite having to rush her off to the vet in a nearby town, I still managed to take the kids to the parade and whip up this tart for dinner guests. I just couldn’t manage to post it.

It’s been dubbed the “4th of July tart,” since I make it nearly every July 4, but I also make it throughout the summer, whenever I want something fast, pretty to look at or easy to make in advance. It’s very similar to my luscious strawberry tart, but even easier. Like the strawberry tart, it’s low in sugar–even lower in sugar if you don’t add on the glaze, which I didn’t here. The berries are so sweet right now, they really hold their own, and a glaze would only distract.



1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour (I like the texture of the Honeyville brand)

4 tbsp cane sugar, divided (or regular granulated)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled

2-3 tbsp ice cold water

1 container mascarpone cheese (approximately 8 oz)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh strawberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/3 cup fresh raspberries

Powdered sugar for dusting, optional



Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk flours, salt and 2 tbsp sugar. Combine until there are no lumps from the almond flour. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the dough in in pea-size lumps. Sprinkle in a little of the ice water, and cut in with the pastry cutter. Continue until the dough is still very crumbly but looks like it could hold together. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with fluted edge and removable bottom. Using your fingers, press the dough into the bottom and sides of pan to form your tart crust. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, vanilla, lemon juice and remaining 2 tbsp sugar. Blend thoroughly. Using a rubber spatula, carefully spread the cream mixture on the bottom and just slightly up the sides of the cooled crust. Arrange your berries (you may not need/use all the quantities I listed above) as you wish, and voila, your tart is ready. You can dust it with a little powdered sugar if you like or drizzle a basic glaze over it. (Please see my glaze recipe here.)

Serves 8-10. Takes less than 30 minutes to make.

Cheers to independence wherever you might reside!


Non 4th of July version with berries sprinkled around, glazed and dusted.

Non 4th of July version with berries sprinkled around, glazed and dusted.




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