Category Archives: Dessertalicious

Pilgrim Pie: When cranberries get nutty

Here’s an idea. Since this Thanksgiving is going to be necessarily smaller, probably weird and definitely unique, maybe we take a different approach. Maybe we bag the turkey and the hassle of all those sides, cut to the chase and make it all about pie.

I know…ain’t gonna happen. Once everybody gets themselves swabbed for COVID before showing up, they’re going to deserve a proper feast for the effort.

But for some of us, it’s still all about pie. For a new take on it this year, I highly suggest Pilgrim Pie, AKA the cranberry curd tart that has been all over the Internet. It’s kind of like a lemon meringue pie but with cranberries and without the meringue. With the toasted nut crust it definitely becomes it’s own thing.

This version is a hybrid of the one that appeared recently in the New York Times and the one in the Hannaford flyer. It is the best of both recipes. As a bonus, I sifted through the hundreds of comments on the NY Times one (you’re welcome, and…damn those readers have a lot to say!) and assimilated the complaints and suggestions into hacks and options. Because it took me three pies to get a decent photo, I got a lot of practice with all my tweaks.

Bottom line: Make this pie! I know you need pumpkin and apple and pecan and maybe mincemeat for that one person who insists it is edible.  I feel your pain. But I urge you to dig deep. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re all hanging on by a thread. One thing you CAN handle is another pie.

Some notes: The nut crust is what really does it for me. I have tried it as written, with hazelnuts, and also with almonds and a mix of almonds and walnuts. Love the nut you’re with. For a healthier version the pecan coconut crust from knockout vegan pumpkin pie would also be divine, especially if you doubled it and made it super thick like this one.

The filling is strained through a sieve, and you will need a rubber spatula for this. Some rogue commenters didn’t bother straining the filling and said it was just fine that way, so if you’re the rustic type go for it. If you’re going for perfection, do scrape the sides of the pan periodically with that rubber spatula as it cooks, to keep the filling silky smooth .

That’s all. Happy Baking!  

Size matters? Not so much. With pie it’s all good!

Pilgrim Pie

Ingredients

For the nut crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw hazelnuts or sliced almonds.
  • 1 cup flour (rice flour to go GF, sprouted wheat flour to be fancy)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

For the cranberry curd:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (~3 cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 chunks

Method

  1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. If using hazelnuts, roast them on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool. For sliced almonds, 10 minutes of toasting ought to do it.
  2. In a food processor, grind nuts. Add the flour and salt and pulse together. Add the cut up butter and pulse until it hangs together when you squeeze a bit of it.
  3. Press dough evenly into the bottom and around sides of a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie dish; Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.
  5. While the crust bakes and cools, make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Puree the cranberries in a food processor until smooth (careful here—they’re hot), wipe out the pan, then strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula. Discard solids (or sneak them on toast to bide your time). You can also use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then strain it into another saucepan.
  6. Combine eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then pour eggs into the saucepan and whisk together.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and reaches 170 degrees (8-12 minutes if you, like me, can’t find that dang thermometer)
  8. Remove from heat, whisk in butter one chunk at a time until fully incorporated, then whisk in lemon juice.
  9.  If using immediately, let cool to room temperature-ish. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to 1 day ahead.)
  10. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  11. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Variations:

Healthy it up a bit with the pecan coconut crust from this Vegan pumpkin pie.

Sub in orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Go nutty and switch out the nuts with whatever turns your crank

That’s about all I’m going to mess with here. It’s darned near perfect.

Squash Season with a side of Pumpkin Muffins

Those cute Halloween pumpkins?  Going, going…gone! It’s time to put them to work. It seems we skipped right over apple season. I know that we didn’t really skip over it. Pies and crisps were made, cider was chugged. But apples did not get their due on Bring It this year. Let’s just blame COVID and move on.

Move right along to squash.  The phrase “too many squash” is never uttered in my kitchen (by me at least). Butternut and denser, drier kabocha squash fill the void left by watermelon at summer’s end, finding their way into my cart every time I go to the grocery store.  This year, I hit the jackpot when a friend shared her bounty of homegrown butternut squash and sugar pumpkins (thank you Carole!), so we’re having a full-on Squashtacular.

To celebrate, I’m sharing a round up of my favorite winter squash recipes, with a bonus new pumpkin muffin recipe at the end. They are my faves by far after way too much experimenting. For me, pumpkin baked goods can be a tough sell, as they usually involve way too much sugar, oil and spice to overcompensate for being vegetable based. They’re like the macho player of baked goods.

BUT, put squash in the savory role, and it becomes something else entirely, something comfortable with itself that doesn’t have to try too hard. It adds body and nutrition and enough sweetness to become its own special treat without dressing itself up like dessert.

My go-to squash recipes start with the ever-satisfying Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, featuring the brilliant threesome of red curry paste, coconut milk and candied ginger. For an even simpler, an very similar version try almost instant Halloween Soup.

Almost instant squash soup, with pro toppings for extra credit.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong when you invite caramelized onions into the mix with some butternut squash on toast. Work through your kale supply with the easily made ahead Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry salad.

If you’re willing to get a little weird on pizza (or pasta) night, try Butternut Squash Sauce, or an easy, outstanding creamy pumpkin pasta  (a little crumbled bacon on top shuts the doubters right up).

And finally, my baked goods comment notwithstanding, I’ve fallen back in love with Knockout Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It’s all about the crust, which I made with hazelnuts instead of pecans this time. Soooo good. 

If you still have some pumpkins hanging around, fergawdssakes get them into the oven! …and save a bit to try these healthyish whole grain muffins that are proud to be themselves—just sweet enough, moist but not greasy, and only mess up one bowl in your kitchen. Happy November…the countdown is on!

Proud Pumpkin Muffins

Based on these from Cookie and Kate

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • ⅓ extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil 
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey (as if…maple all the way baby!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature (or 6 Tbsp aquafaba)
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or winter squash) purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (plant, animal, whatev)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease or line all 12 cups of your muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs or aquafaba, and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now. (a heaping half cup chopped walnuts is outstanding)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.
  6. These muffins taste even better after they have rested for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).

 

Lemonpalooza Part Deux and Lemon Almond Pudding Cake

Well hello spring! It finally warmed up enough to unclench the earth, and to make the outside inviting. On cue, enter the black flies. Thank you, New England! Back in the kitchen, the work of feeding the tribe something more than frozen pizza continues. As I was about to embark on finding something to make with the glorious box of lemons from last week, I got a King Arthur email full of pictures and recipes featuring their five favorite citrus recipes. We’re on the same page!

Here’s where we’ve been with my lemons. They’ve gone in tea, of course, and they’ve been thinly sliced to go atop slow baked salmon. They’ve gone in to this spring vegetable Israeli couscous  (hello asparagus and peas!), preserved lemons and for no reason other than flaunting my bounty, I made these candied lemon slices. (I have no idea what to do with them, but they’re hanging in my fridge, looking pretty and ready to roll.)

Come here, my pretty

Rocky Mountain correspondent Tania sent me this recipe for Lemon Tiramisu which looks amazing, but also has too many steps for this particular phase of quarantine. How has going nowhere become so time consuming?

For today’s recipe, I looked for something even easier than Lemon Beach Pie (don’t get me started on this beauty!), something easy and delish. This came from the quarantine recipe club—not the recipe chain letter you may fear, but a weekly newsletter with all kinds of recipes contributed from all kinds of people like us, who are wrassling up vittles for a houseful, with an ever changing list of available ingredients.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Now, THAT’S dessert, or maybe dinner.

Lemon Almond Pudding Cake

Ever so slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter  melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup milk the original recipe calls for skim, I used whole with good results
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • powdered sugar and sliced almonds for topping. Fresh berries wouldn’t hurt either!

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray liberally. Or brush it with melted butter!
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and melted butter. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice, almond extract and lemon zest until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  4. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Slowly fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture, gently, until combined. Pour the batter into the pie plate.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and a handful of sliced almonds and serve.

Get more lemon inspiration at Lemonpalooza Part 1

 

Holiday Do’s and Dont’s

It’s go time…the last week of shopping and baking and pretending to work before we get completely sucked in to the holiday vortex. In reality, we’re already there, which makes this week of quasi denial even tougher. But you’re here, you’re reading, and you’re definitely thinking of what to make for the neighbors, the party hosts, the UPS guy and your family…in that order.

So, no new recipes this time (because, who really needs another cookie recipe right now?), but I listed a few faves at the end. Others are embedded in these tips and cautions. Good luck my friends, and when you feel like you’re about to snap, just smile and wave.

DO make a whopping batch of Champion Chip Cookies so you’re ready to make someone’s day. DON’T think you’re so smart that you can make them by heart and end up using double the flour.

DO, figure out a few things you enjoy making (crackle, crackers, spiced nuts) and make a whole lot of them. DON’T go long on an untested recipe and end up with a whole lot of mediocre or inedible treats.

DO watch this clinic on deseeding a pomegranate. It will open your world to mass pomegranate consumption. DON’T position your 2 cups of pomegranate arils precariously in the fridge in a poorly sealed container.

Per above, DO keep a lot of seltzer on hand for stains. DO wear the same color you are drinking. DON’T forget the power of aprons.

If you’ve got people with special diets coming, DO make Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie. DON’T go rogue and substitute the pecan coconut crust with a gluten free pretzel crust. Gah!

DO make Guinness Fondue for a cozy evening gathering. Don’t try to pass off this puree of roasted rutabagas and potatoes spiked with nutritional yeast as “fondue”, even in air quotes. That said, DO make up a batch of the above “faux fondue” (air quotes be damned), or of Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, and offer it as a healthy option alongside the real stuff, but DON’T oversell it. Just have it available and you may be surprised how many people appreciate (and dare I say like) it.

Do plan ahead, read through your recipes and check all your ingredients before you dive in. DON’T, realize too late you are missing a key ingredient, or make your treat arsenal when you are hungry. It is astounding how adversely this affects your yield.

DO have a refreshing or comforting drink and get into the spirit by turning on fun music or entertaining podcasts. DON’T Listen to Impeachment hearings. It will not make you jolly.

DO read this cocktail shaking guide, and consider a monster cocktail shaker as a hostess gift. DON’T shake fizzy drinks in a cocktail shaker. Just don’t.

DO divvy it up, vs taking it all on yourself. DON’T be a holiday martyr. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

DO get into the spirit by dressing up in something super fancy or super cheesy. DON’T let your fraternity brother pick your outfit.

The downside of using a personal shopper.

Here are some of my favorite holiday gifting recipes. I promise–they taste best when made with love and a smile.

Healthy and Healthyish

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups
Reeses Redemption Cups
Endurance Crackers
Lifechanging crackers
Paleo Crackers
Gingerbread Granola
Seed Bark Granola
NUTS! Like rosemary maple walnuts, honey thyme walnuts, sesame almonds
Triple Crunch Sesame Peanut Snack Bars

Not so healthyish

Crackle
Crackle 2.0
Cheddar Crisps
Champion Chip Cookies
Morning Paper Oatmeal Cookies
Cholliesauce

 

 

Trickless Treats: Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Halloween used to be so easy. You scurried around all night, gorged on candy, felt not a twinge of guilt and moved on. Now, it’s more complicated. Candy is not so dandy the morning after. But still, we all want to walk on the wild side on Halloween. Enter healthy treats, for which we turn to our crafty Vegan friends.

Vegan cuisine is rife with creativity. That said, I have no patience for food creations that are called something they’re not. Cashews with nutritional yeast, while it can be tasty, is not queso.  And as my husband sternly pointed out, chickpeas mashed with tahini is NOT tuna salad (though I do love this one).

Along those lines, when it comes to healthy treats, don’t tell me that date paste rolled in peanuts is just like a Pay Day because it’s not. It’s just not. And tofu blended with chocolate chips taste just like, drumroll please…tofu blended with chocolate chips.

But then sometimes you find legit healthy alternatives for your treat fix. For Exhibit A I call up cocoa nutty balls; And Exhibit B: Heart of Darkness cups made here with pumpkin seed butter (because who doesn’t have some of that laying around) which gets extra Halloween points for ghoulish green insides.

This chocolate mousse/pudding is another win. It was borne of too many ripe avocados, an upcoming trip and that Yankee streak that hates to waste even one bit of a perfectly good fresh produce.

The sheer ease and speed of making it (hello food processor) would be enough to make this a win, but it’s also delish and not one bit bad for you. After all, healthy fats are a thing and maple syrup, in responsible amounts, is like mainlining nature.

If you do want to witness dates and peanuts trying their hardest to be a PayDay, check this out from Minimalist Baker:  

Go ahead—have a treat, or two, and feel damn good about it. Happy Halloween!

Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Total Time: 5 minutes (you’ve got that don’t you?)

Makes 4 servings

From Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • flesh of 2 ripe avocados (240g)
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3-4 tbsp milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Pour in four little bowls or one big one, and refrigerate it if you want it thicken up. Dress up if you must and feel 100 percent totally good about yourself.

 

Nina’s Margarita Pie

It’s 5 pm somewhere. Wait a sec…it’s 5 pm here! That means it’s a perfect time to eat your margarita. It is Sunday after all, and time to reel it in from the weekend.

Today is my mother’s birthday, and she would have turned 85. In her honor, I am posting one of the recipes that makes me think of her. Nina was not a cook by any stretch, but she had some go-tos. This was one of them, for some obvious reasons, of equal import. First, it is easy. Second, it involves margaritas. Third, it is delicious.

This is similar to luscious Lemon Beach Pie, a cold, lemony affair with a saltine crust. On a really hot day, however, this is even better because it involves zero cooking. For those of you techies who own a working microwave, you can melt the butter in that and have no relationship whatsoever with the stove.

There are many versions of this, all good I am sure, including some imposters with a hybrid graham cracker/pretzel crust. They are probably delicious as well, but when it comes to Margarita Pie I’m a purist. It has to be all pretzel. The recipe gives you the option to use Cool Whip or whipped cream. No judgment, but know that it will then be sweeter and, well, Cool Whippy. If that’s your thing, enjoy the convenience.

See notes below for bringing it, and don’t be afraid to say you’ll bring dessert to the next weekend away, IF you have enough time at your destination for it to freeze. When you’re enjoying your pie, give a little smile for Nina and it’ll taste even better.

*Special thanks to my fabulous niece Maddie for these pics of actually beautiful pies. That is something I have yet to master (see below, but points for creative styling).

Quite possibly the perfect Sunday supper?

Nina’s Margarita Pie

READY IN: 15mins, plus freezing time.

SERVES: 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 2 -3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 1/4 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 13 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon tequila
  • 1 Tablespoon triple sec
  • 4 drops green food coloring, green (optional. I say bag it)
  • 1 cup whipped cream (or more. I say more). Cool Whip is also, well, cool, especially if on-site prep space is a challenge.
  • Topping
  • additional whipped cream

Method

Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9 inch pie pan.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, lime juice, alcohol and food coloring, if using.
Fold in whipped cream.
Pour into pie crust and freeze for 4 hours.

Bringing it:

Traveling any distance with this is tough in the heat, but low impact assembly on site is easy as long as you can melt butter, whip cream, and get some freezer space on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients—limes, cream, stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that has been in your cupboard since the moon landing (don’t tell!). Make the pie right away so it has time to freeze and then get yourself a real margarita to celebrate.

The “I want to go to your parties” shot.

Stupid Easy Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

Ok, so here’s a little summer quiz: What did we learn last week, other than the fact that 3-day work weeks rock? Well, careful readers, we learned that this year’s strawberry season was late to arrive but is awesome. We are, in mid-July, only halfway through the heart of strawberry season, which means we will have zero downtime before it’s blueberry season. And all this is overlapping with the greater “ice cream season” (a subset of maple creemee season, which  some people believe should last all year.)

Let me connect the dots here. It’s time to bust out the ice cream maker in your basement. This recipe came to me via Sister B, who lives amidst California’s produce  bonanza. It is, as promised, ridiculously easy, and kind of healthy, or at least not that unhealthy thanks to the buttermilk. It is for sure best with organic strawberries, buttermilk and cream, but also awesome with items from the standard fare at the air-conditioned Nirvana of your grocery store. No need to pre-make and pre-chill the mix, and, if you are feeling very Laura Ingalls, it can be made without an ice cream maker.

It’s summer—no need to prolong this. There are places to go, things to eat. Have a great weekend!

Stupid Easy Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

This recipe is adapted from How To Eat A Peach, by Diana Henry. Our friends like Diana, in Mother England, know a thing or two about strawberries and cream.

Ingredients

  • 18 oz strawberries
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, or 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes

Method

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Put them into a bowl with half the sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod (scrape out the seeds using the tip of a knife. or…dump in the vanilla.
  2. Leave this to sit for about 30 minutes. The strawberries will become soft and exude some juice.
  3. Transfer the fruit with all the juice and the rest of the sugar to a food processor and whizz (God I love the Brits) to a purée.
  4. Push the purée through a nylon sieve (or whatever you’ve got) to get rid of the seeds. Mix with the buttermilk, sour cream and salt.
  5. Churn in an ice cream machine, or transfer to a shallow container and put in the freezer.
  6. If you’re using the manual method, take the ice cream out and churn it – either using electric beaters or by putting the mixture in a food processor – 3 times during the freezing process. Do this first after about 1 hour, when the mixture is setting round the edges, then at 2-hour intervals. (Extra points for wearing a gingham dress during this escapade). Cover with a lid, or with cling film or greaseproof paper, between each churning, and when you store it. Freeze for around 8 hours or until completely firm.
  7. Take the ice cream out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you want to serve it, to allow it to soften slightly.

Strawberries, blueberries, ice cream. What is wrong with this picture? Nothing!

 

If you need something else cold, refreshing and summery to bring to the party might I suggest:

watermelon gazpacho

watermelon sangria

Frose or Frosecco

Lemon Beach Pie

 

No Guilt Nutella: Chocolate for Breakfast Goes Legit

You say Nutella, I say…ain’t happening for breakfast in this house.

I grew up in a pre Nutella-For-Breakfast world. We had plenty of heinously unhealthy food, like pop tarts and cocoa puffs. But putting frosting on toast and calling it breakfast wasn’t a thing. Even if it happened (looking at you, chocolate Easter bunnies), it wasn’t sanctioned, let alone encouraged.

My kids grew up in a post NFB world, thanks to brilliant marketing from the Italians, who needed a real game-changer to dress up their melba toast and give their people a reason to get up for breakfast. Still, I did not serve Nutella to my kids. That may help explain why they so easily, dare I say eagerly, transitioned to sleepovers, camp and really any opportunity to leave home. There’s no need to get into my reasoning unless you really want a buzz-kill. I think we can all agree that commercial Nutella is not a solid foundation for the most important meal of the day.

But WHAT IF Nutella was made with no added sweeteners, fat or scary ingredients? What if it was made with the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients—dates, nuts and cocoa—and nothing much else? Now that would be something I could get behind. And don’tcha know, I have. It’s not just for breakfast of course—it’s for any time you damn well please.

No Guilt Nutella soars past the teenage boy test, the teenage girl test, the man test and the “gimme that spoon I just need a chocolate fix ” test. If you are a Nutella connoisseur you will not be fooled by this, but the concept of a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful without a shred of guilt or secrecy may win you over nonetheless. Vegans, Paleos and Gluten-free peeps? Yeah, this is your jive too.

As with last week’s treats, your food processor earns its keep making these. It’s pretty foolproof though, as long as you make an honest attempt to skin the hazelnuts* and then process those babies until they really turn to butter. Be patient. It will happen.

No Guilt Nutella

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (or a mix of hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 1 packed cup medjool dates, pitted (or more, see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp flavorless oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Roast hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Transfer onto a kitchen towel and roll with your hands to remove skins. (no need to remove skins on almonds, if using)
  2. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor for 8 to 10 minutes until a butter forms. Take the time to do it right! You’ll know when you’ve crossed from ground nuts to butter.
  3. Remove hazelnut butter, and scrape out food processor as best you can. Add dates and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add hazelnuts to date paste and pulse a few times.
  5. Add cocoa, vanilla, oil, and salt and blend. 
  6. With food processor running, slowly pour in almond milk. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few times to blend into creamy goodness.
  7.  

Notes

*To completely remove hazelnut skins (for the smoothest possible spread), boil nuts in a pot of water with few tablespoons of baking soda for 4 minutes. Immediately strain and place nuts in ice water for a minute or so, until the skins peel off easily. You still need to roast the nuts to loosen up all the oils and bring out the flavor. Google will not corroborate this, but I find this process takes a little mojo out of the nuts. I prefer the less perfect/more flavorful roasting and rolling technique. You will stain the dishtowel, but such are the sacrifices we make. See here for a THOROUGH demo.

If your dates are hard, or you are using Deglet dates, soak them in warm water for an hour or two before pureeing.

…and furthermore, depending on the sweetness of your dates and the strength of your cocoa, you may need to add more dates at the end to find your sweet spot. 

I swear the notes are done.

Store leftovers in the fridge, and put your guilt in the rear view mirror!

Breakfast in America, reimagined.

The real thing, at the breakfast table, on the dreaded melba toast, in its homeland.

Cocoa Nutty Balls

This is the first of two posts featuring the holy trinity of healthy treat ingredients: dates, nuts and cocoa. Why so holy? If you can get your Vegan, Paleo and Gluten-free friends at the same table, eating the same thing and loving it, there’s some divine intervention going on.

I’m posting them separately so they each get full credit, and you can find them more easily when needed. Both recipes are quick, easy and 100 percent free of added sweeteners, dairy, or grains. This first one is slightly more labor intensive because, well, balls require some care. (sorry, couldn’t resist). Neither recipe requires one bit of cooking, but they both will give your food processor an honest workout.

First up, are these cocoa nutty balls. (If you do the highly recommended pro move and roll them in toasted coconut when you’re done you can call them coconutty balls. See how that works? ) These are well known and loved in the paleo world and for good reason. They get sweetness and smoothness from dates, heft and texture from walnuts and chocolatey goodness from cocoa. The pinch of salt gives them some sass and the optional coating lets you add your own customized cha-cha.

But wait there’s more! These can hang out in the freezer until you need them. They transport well for hiking, picnics, lunchboxes, road trips or any eating on the fly. I offered these to a bunch of burly ski racers between their runs and they inhaled them. Either the lodge had run out of cheeseburgers or they actually liked them. I hope you’ll like them too!

Cocoa Nutty Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts (or a mix of walnuts and almonds or skinned hazelnuts*)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates (Medjool if you can. Deglet if you must)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (Optional for pro version) Toasted unsweetened coconut—or whatever added crunch you like—for coating.

Method

Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.

Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (If it really won’t stick together in a ball, add another date or two)

Slacker version: Using a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small (8″x 8″) pan and smoosh it flat, sprinkle optional topping/coating evenly on top and press it into the surface. (A layer of parchment paper makes this easy.) Let cool in the fridge and cut into whatever sized bites or bars you want. 

Semi Pro Version: Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls (I aim for walnut sized), rolling in your palms. They’ll come together and feel a little greasy, making them perfect for the…

Pro Version: Toast raw coconut flakes or shreds in a 350ish degree oven a few minutes (until just golden) and let them cool. If flakes, whirl them in the food processor until finely ground, but not yet buttery. Add a pinch of salt is that’s your jive (it’s mine).** Remove the blade from the bowl and drop in three or four balls at a time, rolling them around to coat.

You can store bars or balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a looooong time.

*Skinning hazelnuts will be fully discussed in the next post. If you just can’t wait for this fascinating discussion (I know, you’re only human) check out this treatise on the topic.

**store leftover toasted coconut in a jar to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc.

Just us fruits and nuts here, keeping our cool

 

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups

Come to the dark side, for the good of your heart and soul.

I hit the food stash jackpot, when Sister A rolled into town with a carry-on full of Trader Joes nuts. I already had a decent stash of raw walnuts and almonds, but she brought in the exotics: pecans, pistachios, pepitas, cashews, macadamias. My pre-holiday ship had come in!

This happy event coincided with the other fortunate circumstance of having a lot of really good dark chocolate on hand. It’s not a huge leap to imagine what happened next. Yes my friends, I had a Reese’s ah-ha moment. Maybe I could make a slightly more mainstream yet totally healthy version of Reese’s Redemption Cups.

The revelation here is homemade nut butter, ever-so-gently spiced up, but not sweetened…and dark chocolate…and a pixie dust sprinkling of flaky salt, but only if you dare. Dark chocolate is just plain better for you than a whole lot of un-fun things, and when the health police serve up an opening like this you run through it!

The below list of directions is daunting, but basically you are doing this: Making nut butter by roasting raw nuts and whirring them in a food processor with cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Then you are melting chocolate, pouring a bit in the bottom of lined mini muffin cups, adding a blob of nut butter then spooning more chocolate on top of the whole shebang. With that vision, read on bravely, and know that you will end up with something delicious no matter what it looks like.

Don’t over think this one. Just make up a bunch when you’re feeling it, and enjoy them as needed. You will not regret having this stash on hand.

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups

Adapted from betterwithcake

Makes 14-16 mini cups of joy

First, you’ve got to make your nut butter. See below. From there it’s just a matter of melting chocolate. Again, whatever darned chocolate you feel like. The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage the cocoa, so the slower it will melt and the more temperamental it will be to work with. If you’re going way dark, add some coconut oil. You can also use vegetable oil, but it will thin the chocolate more and you will have fallen off the superfood wagon. Don’t worry. You won’t be lonely there.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or so of homemade, chocolate hazelnut almond butter (or store bought chocolate hazelnut butter if you must. The texture will be gooier)
  • 1 bag (10-12 oz) good quality dark-as-you-dare chocolate chips, Vegan if needed.
  • 2-3 tsp coconut oil (optional, but it makes your life easier)
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Optional toppings of choice: toasted shredded coconut, finely chopped toasted nuts, dried fruit, crushed peppermints, leftover candy corn, etc, etc, etc. 

Method:

Line a mini muffin tin with 16 paper or silicone liners.

Melt chocolate, with coconut if you are using, by your preferred method. I do mine in a small, retro double boiler over simmering water. If you are among the tens of millions of people with a working microwave, you can try that method.

Use a teaspoon to drizzle some melted chocolate into each the muffin liner. Don’t use all your chocolate; save at least 1/3 of it to spread on top once your chocolate cups are filled. Adjust the number of cups you make accordingly.

(At this point, if you are making big cups (not mini), or if you going for perfection, put them into the freezer for a few minutes to set up. If using mini ones, you’re good to keep going.)

Drop a very scant (ideally a slightly flattened oval) teaspoonful of your nut butter into each cup (if you went pro and froze the first layer then go ahead and press down on the nut butter to level it).

Once all your cups are filled with the nut butter, use your designated chocolate spoon to cover the filling with the rest of the melted chocolate. Give the cups a sprinkle of salt and/or your garnish of choice and place them into the fridge to set, or the freezer to store longer term. They will keep in the fridge for several weeks and in the freezer for 3-6 months. Riiiiiiight.

Chocolate Hazelnut Almond Butter

The not very perfect but oh so delicious cross-section

~Vegan, Dairy Free, Paleo Friendly, Shazaam!

The beauty of this nut butter is that it’s easy, and the spices add cha-cha without any sweeteners. I go with cocoa and cinnamon but you can do a chai spiced one with cardamom, or a chile spiced one. Get creative and dream big here people. Once you’ve got the nut butter made you are totally set up for success.
Makes approx 2 cups of pretty darned healthy chocolate-hazelnut almond butter. This is way more than you need for a bag of melted chocolate chips, so you’ll be enjoying this on apples and toast, in smoothies and sandwiches, etc.

Ingredients –

  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of raw skinless hazelnuts* (or use all almonds or sub hazelnuts with raw cashews or macadamias)
  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla bean extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of cocoa (or cacao if you’re fancy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt flakes

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350

Line a large baking sheet with baking/parchment paper (or a non stick silpat mat) and pour your raw nuts on, making sure they are spread evenly and not crowded.

Roast your nuts for 10 mins, until lightly roasted and slightly golden.

If you are unable to get skinless hazelnuts you’ve got an extra step here. roast them on a separate tray and once they are roasted, place on a clean dry hand towel and fold it in half. Rub it gently between your hands and the skins should come loose. Once the hazelnuts have shed their skins, discard the skins and proceed with the recipe as normal.

Pour your roasted almonds and hazelnuts into the bowl of your food processor or blender and process until smooth and creamy (or your desired consistency). It takes a minute or two to transform from ground nuts to creamy butter. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally as you go.

Once you’ve gotten the desired consistency, add the salt, cocoa (or cacao, whatev) and vanilla then process until combined.

Taste and adjust flavors accordingly – this is where you make you’re personal statement, adding extra salt or vanilla or maple syrup or whatever floats your boat. You can also lube it with a bit of coconut oil if you like.

Scrape that deliciousness into an air-tight jar and keep it in the
fridge for several weeks.

Bringing it:

My suggestion here is to keep a stash of this nut butter at the ready, and then, whenever you have a window of time and some extra chocolate lying around, make up some of these. With a stash of them in the freezer you are never without a healthy dessert, a peace offering, a hostess gift or just a little love bomb of chocolate.