I forgot how much I love a NO BAKE recipe! No heating up the kitchen and practically instant gratification! The only problem with these chocolate-peanut butter-oat bars is that they are so tasty and satisfying, I kind of can’t resist them. So after I made this batch, I gave them all to my sister-in-law and she and her family flipped for them!!Continue reading
Halloween is next week and it is a big day for treats! I’ll admit, the last few years I haven’t posted any sweets before Halloween because I figured there’s plenty of candy to go around. Who needs another food from the sugar category? Upon rethinking, I’ve decided there is room for higher quality treats, especially when the options might otherwise be supermarket cupcakes with artificially-colored frosting, marshmallow ghosts or candy corn brownies. Yikes! I can’t handle it and neither can my blood sugar, mood and skin.
It’s really hard to avoid sugar on Halloween, but keep in mind this is when a lot of people fall into the downward spiral of eating dessert too often. First comes Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then pre-Christmas parties, etc. Just putting it out there to be a little mindful when your kids’ trick or treat baskets tempt you.
My kids and my husband are bonkers for these pumpkin chocolate chips bars. Or maybe they’re like pumpkin chocolate chip blondies, because they’re kind of dense. They’re definitely not the same texture of a muffin, which is spongy and light. These are super moist, flavorful, just sweet enough with the perfect amount of chocolate chips. But if you don’t like chocolate (and we’re friends?), use currants or chopped pecans instead. In my opinion (and that’s all you get around here,) the key to pumpkin desserts is the combination of spices. And for me, the spices in this recipe are perfect with both the pumpkin and the chocolate chips, too– predominantly cinnamon with nutmeg and a touch of cloves for spiciness. I taught these in my cooking classes 2 years ago and they were a huge hit!
I make these with either whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour. Both are delicious. And I always make the cake with coconut sugar, which is minimally processed and unrefined. But if you can’t find it, the recipe works with white sugar, too. The photo above shows one cake made with coconut sugar (left) and one made with cane sugar (right.) I can’t tell the difference in taste, honestly.
You can make your own pumpkin puree very easily. Click here for the how-to. And whereas making your own from scratch is always best, sometimes we just don’t have the time. There are a few good brands of organic pumpkin in BPA-free packages. I do prefer tetrapaks over cans, though. I buy Farmers Market brand organic pumpkin in tetrapaks from Whole Foods or amazon.
You’re either going to love me or hate me for this post. Why? Because this grain-free chocolate cake which just so happens to have zucchini in it is AMAZING. You will love how rich and chocolaty it is, how moist and tender. You will be utterly amazed that this cake has no flour of any kind and that there is zucchini in it. Zucchini! It is sweetened with maple syrup and that’s all. After your first bite, you might exclaim, “Three cheers for Pamela!”
Orrrrrrr, you will find this cake, which is more like a cross between a brownie and cake, completely irresistible and TOO amazing. You will walk by it on the countertop and find the uncontrollable need to even out all the edges until you are left with a mere crumb. But you’ll convince yourself it’s healthful! It contains almond butter and zucchini. Zucchini! And you will not be able to stop eating it. The next time you make it you will freeze most of it so that you are not tempted by its chocolaty goodness and inhale three-fourths of it before the kids get home. But you cannot stop dreaming about this cake so you find out it even taste good FROZEN because there is no waiting when it comes to this cake. And after you eat all of the frozen cake, you might exclaim, “I curse the day I met Pamela! Darn this chocolate amazingness!”
And that’s what I’m talking about.
Even Mr. Picky himself went crazy for this cake. I actually came clean and told him there was zucchini in here and he didn’t care!! If you are nut-free, don’t sweat. Substitute sunflower butter in an equal amount and it will work perfectly. Sunflower butter does have a slightly nuttier flavor, almost like peanut butter. But I when I made the cake with sunflower butter for some nut-free people, they couldn’t detect it. Make it. Devour it. Love it. Share it. Tell me all about it.
Grain-free Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe and VIDEO
Serves: makes 1 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch cake
coconut oil or butter for greasing pan
1 cup creamy, unsweetened, unsalted almond butter, raw or roasted, or sunflower butter for a nut-free cake
⅓ cup pure Grade A maple syrup or raw honey
¼ cup raw cacao or cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of shredded zucchini, about 2 small
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch pan. If you want to remove the cake from the pan in one piece, line it with unbleached parchment paper as well.
In a large bowl combine the almond butter, maple syrup, cacao powder, salt, coffee powder, egg, vanilla, and baking soda until smooth.
Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan and bake until just set and a toothpick comes out clean or with dry crumbs. Do not overbake. A 9 x 9 pan will take 35-45 minutes. An 8 x 8 pan will take 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Notes: You can also add ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter.
We have survived the first week and a half of school and an early Jewish holiday! I started this year right by having my girls order their own school supplies and Mr. Picky helped me out by writing out a list of lunch box-approved foods. Not sure we’ve expanded the repertoire since last year, but at least I don’t have to think too hard. I am also so glad I was inspired to bake and freeze a few treats before school started this year. Those are coming in very handy for lunchbox and after-school snacks. Plus it has been so hot here, I can’t imagine turning on my oven to bake banana bread right now!
These Almond Butter-Millet Blondies are a new favorite around here. Don’t automatically say “my kids would never eat those!” Guess what? Your kids were probably at my house in the last 6 months and did eat these. Did I say, “Jimmy, would you like an almond butter-millet blondie?” What am I, a rookie? Of course, not. I ask the kids, “would you like a chocolate chip blondie?!” Only people that do not like chocolate ever say no.
Blondies are similar to a non-chocolate brownie. They are less spongy and a little denser than cake. I love them right out of the fridge so you can really sink your teeth into them. Because blondies don’t have the same lift and airiness of a cake, I tried these with two gluten-free flours, millet and quinoa. Even if you’re not gluten-intolerant, it’s a great idea to not overdo wheat and other gluten-containing grains. Gluten is not only hard to digest, but acid-forming and pro-inflammatory.
The quinoa blondies were not a hit because they totally tasted like quinoa. I love quinoa, but not as much in dessert form. Millet is much blander and really has no flavor to fight with chocolate. My kids and I had no idea the millet blondies weren’t made with wheat flour. I also tried the recipe separately with peanut butter and almond butter and not only were they both delicious, the blondies kind of tasted the same, as in both tasted a bit like peanut butter. Even though I give my kids peanut butter now and then, it’s actually not a fantastic choice. The fats in peanut butter are very pro-inflammatory and if you don’t buy organic, you are also consuming a lot of pesticides and fungicides since peanuts are very heavily sprayed. Even organic peanuts have a tendency to develop a mold called aflotoxin. In moderation, fine, but almond butter is far and away a better, more healthful choice. Did you know almonds are the only alkalizing nut? And if you have a solid food processor, you can make your own almond butter!
These blondies are awesome the next day, which is so nice if you have to bring a dessert to a potluck. If you have leftovers more than a couple days, it’s best to keep them in the fridge. And if you have no self control like me, you may want to just keep out what you need for the day and freeze the rest. Happy baking!
¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance, softened + additional for greasing pan
¾ cup creamy or crunchy almond butter or other natural nut butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup millet flour*
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper so that the bars are easy to take out.
Beat butter and almond butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, coconut sugar and vanilla until smooth.
In a small bowl, whisk together the millet flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for at least 45 minutes before cutting into 16 squares. Leftovers can stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. These also freeze beautifully.
*Look for millet flour in the baking section or near gluten-free flours. Or, to make your own, grind whole grains of millet into a powder in a clean coffee grinder.
One of my students asked me the other day if I had a good chocolate chip cookie recipe and I instinctively said, “Sure, just check my website.” To which she replied, “I did. But all you have on there is your Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.” And then it hit me. I have neither taught in a class nor posted my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Gasp! Coincidentally, Mr. Picky had been asking if we could make homemade ice cream sandwiches, so I got to work lickety split!
In my defense, there are good reasons I haven’t posted my chocolate chip cookie recipe. First of all, I do use refined white sugar because it just makes the best cookie. But it isn’t exactly clean and healthful and I want this site to be your destination for high quality recipes. However, even with the white and brown sugars, I use whole grain flours and everything is organic so these will be waaaaaaay better for you than bakery cookies or packaged (really now?) ones. It’s all about balance and moderation!
The other issue is that I keep changing my recipe when I learn something new to make them even better than the last time. And this has happened often. Many of you are so in the know about food trends that you might think my ah-ha chocolate chip moments are sooooo 2005, but I never said I was an early adopter. Let me first make it clear what kind of chocolate chip cookie I love, because that’s what you’re getting here — my favorite. If you love the thin and crispy kind, hmmmm, today’s not your day. Cakey? Yeah, not me. Milk chocolate? Don’t waste my time! Friends, I like a cookie with some heft and substance, something that you can sink your teeth into. But I also don’t want a greasy cookie which makes me feel like I’m sucking on butter. Slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with chunks of semisweet or dark chocolate is the way I roll. Sometimes I’m feeling fancy and I’ll add a pinch of flaky sea salt on on the tops and that is just heaven.
Something I learned to achieve my perfect cookie is to use cold butter instead of room temperature, which is a trick I learned from Mrs. Fields (not that I met her, but that’s how she makes her cookies.) The combination of cold butter and a low oven temperature help to keep the cookie from spreading out too thin and too fast. I also started adding a little oat flour after I saw this Neiman Marcus cookie recipe which I found out later was not the official recipe but the oat flour stayed in mine. The oat flour makes the cookie a little nuttier and dense. Ina Garten taught me (via television, of course) that a chocolate bar cut into pieces is much more satisfying than chocolate chips, although I do use those often. And every fancy restaurant in the last several years has added a pinch of flaky sea salt to the tops of their cookies — a smart and delicious move.
It may have taken me a while to bring it to you, but I’m sure with certain special occasions coming up, like Father’s Day or end-of-the-year parties, it’s never too late to try a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. Of course, if you have the latest and greatest twist on chocolate chip cookies, I’m always open to improvement!
Serves: makes 48 2¾-inch cookies (cut the recipe in half to make 24 or refrigerate the dough for up to a week)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance, cut into ½-inch pieces
¾ cup cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar or Muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour (you can take a cup of rolled oats and process them in the food processor to make your own oat flour)
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
18 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate bars, chopped coarsely or use chocolate chips
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
flaky sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or silicone mats.
Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of stand mixer and blend on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
Add the baking soda, eggs and vanilla to the mixing bowl and mix until combined.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the butter mixture and blend on low speed until just combined.
Stir in the chocolate and nuts.
Scoop the dough with a 1 ¾ -inch ice cream scooper onto the prepared baking sheets or use a tablespoon. Space them evenly apart. I was able to get 12 on each sheet.
Bake 18-20 minutes or until just set. The cookies will be slightly soft in the center. If you like them crispier, bake them for up to 23 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheets 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Raw cookie dough can be frozen, but it’s a great idea to scoop the dough into balls first and freeze those so you can just pull out as many as you want to bake instead of having to defrost the whole batch of dough. I have even baked cookies in the toaster oven!
I quietly went dairy-free recently which made me a little bummed out because I love yogurt and feta and Pecorino Romano cheese. My acupuncturist was begging me for years to break up with dairy once and for all so that I might be able to stop complaining about this and that. Sure enough, without getting too personal, going dairy-free (even sheep and goat) has been a positive move for me and I am pretty motivated to keep it that way.
I still give Mr. Picky raw milk and the girls eat their yogurt and cheese all the same. But when I make something for all of us to share, I’ve been using lots and lots of almond milk, like in porridges and smoothies. I haven’t gotten around to making almond milk yogurt yet, but I’d love to try. In the meantime, I just made this crazy delicious mint chip smoothie that will keep my dairy cravings at bay forever! Mint chip was always my favorite ice cream flavor and I love fresh mint in salads so how could I go wrong in a smoothie? I took my Leprauchan Smoothie from last year with a few tweaks and a couple drops of peppermint extract, presto! It’s so darn good, it tastes like a dessert even though it’s totally healthful enough to eat for breakfast. Except for the chocolate chips. Who cares! It has 4 cups of spinach which you can’t even taste and a couple of dates for sweetness. Not bad at all. In fact, so stinkin’ good!
My kids were even freaking out. This is one of those things you’ll make for St. Patrick’s Day because it’s green and you won’t stop making it. The only thing I don’t love about it is that it’s cold. And cold first thing in the morning when the weather is still a bit chilly is a bummer for your digestive system which has to work extra hard to bring up the temperature of your stomach to where it likes to be. I try not to give the kids cold smoothies first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and definitely not in the winter. Serving this with warm oatmeal or porridge is a better idea, or after a workout, or when the weather warms up a bit.
But I’d rather see you drink a cold smoothie in the middle of winter than anything with gross green food coloring. I just cringe when I see cupcakes with artificially-dyed frosting or green bagels. If you need some convincing, please read this article from Healthy Child Healthy World about why you need to go dye-free. In the meantime, go get yourself a giant bag of naturally green, chlorophyll-rich, nutrient dense SPINACH and enjoy some delicious St. Patty’s Day pancakes with a mint chip smoothie to wash it all down! 🙂
½ ripe avocado, pitted and peeled (optional, but good if you are trying to eat more high quality fats)
1 frozen ripe banana, cut into chunks (this should be peeled before it’s frozen--click here for tips on freezing fruit)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups ice
2 Tablespoons chocolate chips or raw cacao nibs
To garnish (optional): 2 mint sprigs and some shaved chocolate (I used a vegetable peeled on a dark chocolate bar.)
If you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vita-Mix, place all the ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate chips into the blender and process until smooth.
If you do not have a high-powered blender, the dates may not get blended completely and may leave tiny little bits of date in the smoothie. If that bothers you, blend the almond milk and dates together and then strain the mixture. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender (EXCEPT the chocolate chips) with the strained almond milk and blend until smooth. Or just use honey or maple syrup to sweeten instead of dates.
Add the chocolate chips and pulse just a couple of times to break them up a bit. Divide between 2 glasses and garnish with a mint sprig and chocolate shavings, if desired.
*If you want to use a sweetened vanilla almond milk or other sweetened vanilla milk, you can omit the dates and vanilla extract and sweeten to taste.
Having teenagers is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s kind of cool that my girls are old enough to have adult conversations and share clothes with me. On the other hand, it bums me out that they prefer to be with their friends over their parents. I don’t take it personally, of course. But if all goes according to plan, Daughter #1 will be going to college in two years and her younger sister two years after that which means I don’t have a lot of time left with them in the house. This is one reason I encourage them to invite their friends to hang out at our house or spend the night as much as possible. Not only does it make the house more lively, but I know what they’re up to and sometimes I’ll even overhear some good gossip. Just recently did I figure out how to make my home the place to be. It’s called FOOD.
Teenagers are always hungry. No, I take that back. They’re always “STAR-ving.” They don’t even know what the word means. My daughters complain that they’re starving if they haven’t eaten in two hours. My point is that if you want to have the house that the kids want to hang out in, other than breaking the law and supplying alcohol (not recommended), you need to have some good eats. I don’t think my house is considered to have the “best” food by any means. There are no Cheetos, no soda and no microwave popcorn. But I do always have tons of fresh fruit, leftovers from dinner, the makings of a quesadilla and lots of homemade cookie dough in the freezer, especially in the fall when the kids are back in school.
These Trail Mix cookies are a new favorite around here. They’re like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies PLUS. There are so many goodies in the cookies, it feels like you’re eating a handful of trail mix held together with some oatmeal cookie batter. In fact, you could use trail mix in this recipe, hence the name. I’m not sure I’ve made this recipe the same way twice since I’ll often use it as an excuse to clean out the bottom of my nut and dried fruit jars. Before you get excited about a cookie that sounds like it might be healthful, it’s still a cookie, just maybe a higher quality one. If you want a cookie that you can eat for breakfast, make these. This recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, flakes of unsweetened coconut, and chocolate chips. My kids love pecans, so I generally use them here, but if I have a handful of walnuts or macadamia nuts, those can go in too. Same idea with dried fruit — use whatever you’ve got. The key with these cookies though, is to make sure you don’t decide to just eliminate an entire ingredient without coming up with a substitution. All the “stuff” helps give your cookies structure and without it, your cookies will go a tad flat. If you can’t eat nuts, I have used sunflower seeds with success, or you can just add 1/2 cup extra of chocolate chips, dried fruit and coconut to make up for the 1 1/2 cups of nuts. What I did struggle with was the sugar in the cookies. The quantity is quite a bit less than you would find in a comparable cookie, but I didn’t have as much success substituting coconut sugar or maple syrup for the white and brown sugars. At the end of the day, it’s still a cookie which we should enjoy in moderation.
If you like to be prepared for weekday school lunches or unexpected playdates, it’s always nice to have some cookie dough on hand. You can make this batter and keep it refrigerated for a week, baking off as many cookies as you like at any given time. I also like to scoop the dough onto baking sheets with my ice cream scooper, freeze them raw (the same way you would freeze fruit), and when they are frozen solid, gather them up and put them in a container to freeze for a rainy day or the next sleepover. And from the empty containers I generally see in the morning, I have also observed that teenagers are at their most STARVING in the middle of the night.
Author: Pamela, inspired by epicurious via Smitten Kitchen
Serves: makes 3 dozen cookies
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup natural cane sugar (or coconut sugar)
⅔ cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup rolled oats (either old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
1 ½ cups chopped pecans (or walnuts or macadamia nuts)
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup unsweetened, dried coconut flakes (or use extra pecans)
½ cup dried fruit, such as cranberries (or use extra chocolate chips)
(Or use 3 ½ cups trail mix instead of above add-ins; chop nuts)
½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 egg at a time until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add half the dry mix to the butter with the mixer on low speed. After the flour has been incorporated, add the remaining flour mixture and stir together.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes. (If you bake the dough directly from the fridge, add 3-5 minutes.)
Remove from the oven and cool cookies for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.