No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars Recipe (no added sugar)

no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

After I posted these chocolate peanut butter bars on instagram a few months ago, I was harassed, yes harassed! into teaching them in my classes pronto.  Of course they look delicious and beautiful and there’s no added sugar, so I can see why there would be interest.  But, no one could focus in my cooking classes after that.  “The soup looks great, Pamela.  But when are you teaching “the bars?”

base layer of peanuts and dates

So I pushed this recipe up on the schedule from February to December and I am even doing something very uncharacteristic — I am posting the recipe before I have finished teaching it.  It is the season of giving and I love you all, so here it is.

press the crust

Are these chocolate peanut butter bars all that?  Well, if I do say so myself, they really are.  They are incredibly simple to put together and taste like a Reeses peanut butter cup collided with a larabar.  But, they’re not terrible for you.  You don’t need an oven, but you do need to make them ahead.  They’re hard to beat, if you ask me.

no bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

The base is a combo of dates and roasted, salted peanuts — chewy with a little texture.  The chocolate layer is melted chocolate and peanut butter plus an extra drizzle of peanut butter which gets swirled around into a pretty design like you’re all of a sudden a pastry chef.  And did I mention easy to do?

no bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

Since there are very few ingredients here, you know what that means.  The better the ingredients with which you start, the better the final product.  Poor quality peanut butter will give you bars that are not as good as these you see here.  I think you’ve seen in one of my Friday Favorites posts that I am very loyal to Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter.  It is quite honestly the only one I buy because it is the only one that meets my standards for peanut butter which are these:

  • organic, since peanuts are very heavily sprayed
  • in glass, since plastics leach when food is stored in them for long periods of time
  • no added sugar or salt, since I like to control the types of salt and sweeteners I add to my food
  • no added hydrogenated oils; can you say “inflammation?”  Avoid please.
  • tastes delicious!

my favorite peanut butter, Santa Cruz organic | pamela salzman

I love Santa Cruz Organic because they have been in the organic business before organic became a buzz word and a trendy marketing strategy.  Their products are also non-GMO and the company supports sustainable resources.  They are the real deal and have been since day 1.  After they saw my post a few months ago, they reached out and offered to provide me product for my next recipe that involved peanut butter.  So sweet!  So even though I am always reluctant to do a sponsored post, I accepted this one with a full heart since you know I have been a fan of Santa Cruz both on the blog, in my cooking classes and in my personal kitchen for many years.  You can find Santa Cruz products, including the peanut butter, at most Whole Foods store and other natural foods stores.  I have been purchasing Santa Cruz peanut butter from thrivemarket.com, which has the best prices.  There are four options:  Light-Creamy, Light-Crunchy, Dark-Creamy and Dark-Crunchy.  For this recipe I prefer the creamy, either light or dark.

no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

The key with achieving perfect swirls here is to make sure the peanut butter is a loose, drizzly consistency, like when you first stir the jar.  If it is too thick, it won’t swirl well.  Read the recipe for what to do if your peanut butter is too firm.  I am going to pan a few pans of these for cookie exchanges and for potlucks this season!

no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars | pamela salzman

No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Author: 
Serves: 16 squares
 
Ingredients
  • oil or butter for greasing dish
  • 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 3 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate (approximately a heaping ½ cup)
  • 3 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or use all semi-sweet)
  • ¼ cup creamy or crunchy natural (unsweetened and unsalted) peanut butter, divided
Instructions
  1. Grease an 8x8 or 9x9-inch glass baking dish with oil or butter and line with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Place peanuts and dates in the bowl of a food processor and process until completely crumb-like and sticky. Press into the bottom of your baking dish evenly, creating a crust. If mixture is too sticky, use plastic wrap to help spread it out.
  3. Using a double boiler or glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter and stir until combined and creamy. Pour on top of the peanut/date crust.
  4. Using a small spoon, drizzle (do NOT dollop) the remaining 2 Tablespoons peanut butter over the chocolate, teaspoon by teaspoon, in lines. If your peanut butter is not loose enough to do this, warm over a double boiler to thin it out.
  5. Using the tip of a knife, gently create swirls along the top of the bars. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before serving. Remove from baking dish and cut into squares. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge.

 

Gluten-free fudgy brownies recipe (refined sugar-free)

gluten-free fudge brownies | pamela salzman

Have you ever noticed that the best food images are usually of desserts?  Every time I go on Tastespotting, it seems like half the photos are sweets.  The irony is that I think desserts are the easiest things to make look and taste good.  Throw together some sugar, butter and chocolate and it’s probably going to be delicious.  Ok fine, I’m simplifying a bit, but I think I’ve tried more new dessert recipes with success than savory.  Anything with the word “crisp,” “cobbler,” “crumble,” or “buckle” is going to be great.  But chicken recipes don’t always provide the same guarantees, don’t you agree?

soak the dates

puree the dates and the soaking liquid

I also feel that way about dessert recipes using unrefined ingredients, especially in the sweetener department.  Show me a chocolate cake using maple syrup and whole grain flour and you have my attention!  It’s not so easy.

brush a little melted butter inside the pan

melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water

I recently made Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies for a large group meeting because they are perfect and it’s what everyone expects out of a brownie — that fudgy flavor and the flaky, crackly top.  (Although how in the world she only gets 20 brownies out of a 12 x 18 pan is a mystery.  I think I got close to 50.)  Unfortunately, I can’t duplicate that texture with honey, coconut sugar or stevia.  I am really committed to using ingredients that are less inflammatory and lower on the glycemic index than white flour and white sugar.  Of course, like I ALWAYS say in my classes, that doesn’t mean higher quality sweeteners are “good” for you or even health supportive.  Your body is just less offended by them.  You should still consume desserts in moderation whether they are made with honey or with sugar.

add in the dry ingredients

My kids and my husband are always the best judges of my cooking because they are brutally honest and they still have a taste for junk.  (People who eat health food 24/7 are much easier to please!)  But what I’ve learned to do is just call it like it is — no sneaky business, no tricky semantics.  These brownies aren’t like Ina’s, but you know what?  They would satisfy any chocoholic’s craving any day.  They’re super moist and fudgy with a rich chocolate flavor.  But they’re sweetened with my two favorite sweeteners, dates and coconut sugar.  I am very sensitive to refined sugars and these brownies don’t affect me at all!  Plus, they’re made with gluten-free oat flour.  Double awesome.  But if you like cake-y brownies, sorry.  This recipe is not what you’ve been waiting for.

ready to bake

I ate one of these brownies warm right out of the pan with some sliced strawberries to cut the sweetness a bit and thought it was fabulous.  Although I wouldn’t argue with you if you wanted to top one with some ice cream.  After a day or two, I pop any extras into the fridge and they are absolutely divine cold.  I taught these brownies in a class last year and I remember making sure I gave all of them away before every class ended because I didn’t want to be left alone with them!  But what you all want to know is — does Mr. Picky like these?  TOTALLY!  In fact, I told him these were gluten-free brownies with dates and he said, “I don’t even care!”

gluten-free fudgy brownies

I think these are best cut into small bites.  And if you have a mini-muffin pan, that would be a great way to go, too.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, these fudgy brownies are perfect for all of your sweethearts!

gluten-free fudge brownies | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten-Free Fudgy Brownies
Author: 
Serves: makes an 8 x 8-inch pan
 
Ingredients
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil (does infuse a hint of coconut)
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 10 pitted dates (buy the moistest ones you can find), about 1 cup
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup coconut palm sugar (or cane sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup GF oat flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional, but makes the brownies taste more chocolate-y)
Instructions
  1. Place butter in a large heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water; dip a pastry brush in the melted butter and use it to grease the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Add the chocolate to the melted butter and stir frequently until chocolate is melted. Remove bowl from heat; let cool about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the dates and the hot water in a medium the bowl and allow to soak for at least 10 minutes while you prepare everything else.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides. Set aside.
  4. Transfer the dates and water to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until a smooth paste forms. Add the palm sugar and process until smooth. Alternately you can do this in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. However, the food processor will make the date paste much smoother.
  5. Add the date-sugar mixture to the butter and chocolate mixture and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.
  6. Stir in flour, salt, baking powder and instant coffee powder until just combined.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not wet. Do not overbake! Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. They taste best if they have been allowed to sit at least an hour.
  8. Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan. Pull on the edges of the parchment to lift brownies out of pan. Transfer to a cutting board; cut into 2-inch squares.
Notes
You can fold in ½ cup chopped or halved walnuts and/or ½ cup chocolate chips after the flour.

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks Recipe (gluten-free/dairy-free adaptable)

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks | Pamela Salzman

I haven’t lived in a cold climate since I was in college, which was a loooong time ago.  Sure, several times a year I visit my family in New York and we ski in Utah, but it is not the same as being there 24/7 for months on end.  I am much better off in Southern California because I have never been nor will I ever be a cold weather person.  Even when I was growing up in New York, I loathed winter.   No matter how much I bundled up, I felt miserable when the temperature dipped below 40.   I remember sneaking into the hallway many a night and turning up the thermostat to 80 degrees and then turning it down as soon as I woke up in the morning.  My mother inevitably said to my father, “I was so warm last night!”  And now, 30 years later, my parents finally know why the heat in our house was so wacky.

two different types of coconut

I was walking in a parking lot (in LA) a few days ago, and I overheard someone say “Boy, it’s really chilly today!”  Um, it was 58 degrees at the time.  Perhaps cold is relative, but even I’m not that lame.  I sympathize with all of you suffering through the polar vortex of 2014.  I pray that the temperature becomes reasonable sometime soon.

butter and maple syrup

 

batter

If I lived in impossibly cold weather right now, I would probably move into the kitchen and bake and make soups all day long.  If you like the way I think, give this simple little coffeecake a try.  I found the recipe on epicurious.com four years ago and “cleaned” it up a tad with a whole grain flour and an unrefined sweetener.  You have to like coconut to enjoy this cake because you’ll be using three different coconut products here.  No complaints from me.  The actual cake is so moist, even when using whole grain flours like spelt or whole wheat pastry flour.  Even though unrefined flours contain more fiber and protein than “white” flours, I actually prefer the taste which is a littler nuttier.  But if it’s not your thing, you can use all-purpose flour here just the same.  But it’s really the top of the cake that is the best.  Just picture crispy, golden flakes of coconut mixed with soft chunks of bittersweet chocolate — RIGHT?!   Heaven.

ready for the oven

I think this cake is perfect for brunch because it’s not too sweet, but you could easily serve this for dessert with a little ice cream and/or some berries or oranges.  Although if the windchill is below 0 degrees where you are, pair this with some hot tea, crank up the thermostat, and call it a day.

coconut coffeecake with chocolate chunks | pamela salzman

Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks | Pamela Salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Coconut Coffeecake with Chocolate Chunks
Author: 
Serves: 8-12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups whole spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour*
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (use Earth Balance to make this dairy-free)
  • ¾ cup pure grade A maple syrup or cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I like Native Forest and Natural Value, which are BPA-free)
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate bars, broken into ½-inch irregular pieces, divided (or you can buy chocolate pieces)
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9” springform pan** and dust pan with flour, shaking out excess. You can also line the pan with parchment paper if you like.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir in shredded coconut and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer beat butter and maple syrup in a large bowl until combined. It will be lumpy. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions alternating with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Fold in half of the chocolate.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared cake pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate pieces over batter, and then sprinkle with flaked coconut.
  6. Bake cake until golden and tester inserted comes out clean, tenting with sheet of foil if coconut atop cake is browning too quickly, 45-50 minutes.
  7. Transfer cake to rack and cool 45 minutes before removing from pan.
Notes
*For a gluten-free version, use the following in place of the wheat flour:
½ cup sweet rice flour
½ cup brown rice flour
5 Tablespoons potato starch
¼ cup sorghum flour
3 Tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

**You can use a regular 9-inch cake pan, but inverting the cake makes a bit of a mess with the coconut. Just a heads-up.

The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of orange zest, which I thought was a nice touch, but my family didn't like it. If you love coconut and you want this to really taste like a Mounds Bar, you can add a ½ teaspoon coconut extract to the batter which just makes it a little more coconutty. And if you want this to taste like an Almond Joy bar, add a ⅛ teaspoon of almond extract to the batter!

 

 

Homemade chocolate-peanut butter cups and almond butter cups recipe

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter or Almond Butter Cups | Pamela Salzman

It is really ironic that I try to discourage sweets but I have always have so much fun making them!  I had the best time last Christmas making gingerbread men with my kids.  My favorite part of every Thanksgiving meal for me is baking all the pies.  And more recently, I thoroughly enjoyed making these chocolate peanut butter and almond butter cups.  After my friend Rachel Sarnoff from MommyGreenest guest posted here about choosing higher quality Halloween candy, I did a little research looking for the best options (organic, non-GMO, free of artificial colors, etc.)  And then I thought it might be cool to make my own candy for when I have guests over or to give as a hostess gift.  Do not for a minute think I would ever make my own Halloween candy to give out to trick-or-treaters!  That would for sure put me over the edge.  If you do that, however, I think you are amazing.

melting chocolate

I’ve seen DIY chocolate peanut butter and almond butter cups all over the internet, so I figured that would be a good one to try.  Plus, my husband and I both love them.  Reese’s peanut butter cups were always among my favorites at Halloween.  Let me tell you, these are a cinch to make!  No candy thermometer required.  No special ingredients needed.  You probably have it all in your pantry and they come together in a jiffy (no pun intended.)

almond butter cups in the making

Even better, I made these when I wasn’t in a rush.  I wasn’t trying to beat the sunset so I would still have natural light for photographing.  I wasn’t making these at dinnertime when I had other things to tend to.  In fact, my son was sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework, quiet as a mouse, and my girls were out at their activities.  And I found making these chocolates to be almost meditative.  I can’t wait to make them again!!  In fact, if you invite me over for dinner, I will likely bring you a little box of these!

pour melted chocolate on top

I know that some of you are ready to point out to me that these candies, no matter how much love and organic ingredients go into them, are not healthful.  And you know what?  You are totally right.  I am not going to sell these to you today as something that’s going to save your life.  Are they less bad for you than Reese’s?  I can argue that yes, they are probably less bad for you than Reese’s which contains GMO-sugar, non-organic peanuts and TBHQ, a toxic preservative which is a derivative of butane.  Nope, no butane in mine, but also not exactly health food.  But it is Halloween and I think we’re entitled to a few treats now and then and that’s that.

chocolate peanut butter cups

I have already made these several times, with both dark chocolate (less sugar) and milk chocolate.   I have used (homemade) almond butter as well as organic peanut butter.  And I have sweetened the filling with powdered sugar and also with a combination of powdered sugar and honey or maple syrup.  Clearly the least bad (I know that’s grammatically incorrect) option would be dark chocolate with almond butter mixed with powdered sugar and maple syrup.  And those are so delicious I can’t even believe it.  But if you are looking to make something closer to a Reese’s peanut butter cup, then you need to use milk chocolate, peanut butter and all powdered sugar.  Those were my kids’ favorites and I have to say they taste better than the real thing!

homemade reeses peanut butter

If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your kids or grandkids, look no further!

Homemade Reeses Peanut Butter Cups | Pamela Salzman

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Peanut Butter and Almond Butter Cups
Author: 
Serves: makes 24 candies
 
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces dark or milk chocolate
  • ½ cup natural creamy almond or peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter if you’re nut-free)
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (or 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar + 1 Tablespoon raw honey or pure maple syrup)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • sea salt flakes or pumpkin seeds for topping, if desired
Instructions
  1. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. If you are using a silicone muffin pan, it's probably a good idea to place the pan on a baking sheet so you can transfer it more easily to the refrigerator.
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl big enough to fit over the pot of boiling water without touching the water (this is a double boiler).
  3. Lower heat so that the water just simmers and place the bowl of chocolate on top of the pot. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until perfectly smooth. Set bowl aside.
  4. Mix the almond or peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together in a small bowl until smooth. This mixture should be a consistency that allows you to roll it into small balls.
  5. Spoon a teaspoonful of chocolate into each lined cup.
  6. Scoop a teaspoon of the almond/peanut butter mixture and roll into a ball with your hands and press down slightly to flatten a little. Place in the center of each chocolate cup and push down slightly to allow the chocolate to cover the sides, but not the top of the almond/peanut butter disc.
  7. Pour another teaspoon of chocolate on top of the cups covering the peanut/almond butter mixture completely. Use the back of your teaspoon to smooth out the chocolate on the tops of each cup.
  8. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt or a couple pumpkin seeds if you like and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to harden. If you need to speed this up, place in the freezer.
  9. Because the chocolate is not tempered, you should keep these refrigerated.
Notes
I use this silicone mini muffin pan.  Each individual mold measures 1½ inches across the top.  I found two mini baking liners at Michaels which worked perfectly, but these were just slightly too big for my pan.

 

 

Grilled banana s’mores recipe

I had my first s’more on a girl scout camping trip when I was 12 and I thought it was genius.  I loved that crispy graham cracker paired with a smooshy, slightly burnt marshmallow and the way the chocolate just started to melt a little.  Do-it-yourself desserts are just so fun to put together too, especially when you’re with friends.  I remember sitting around the campfire with the other girls trying to get the perfect golden toastiness on our marshmallows without actually setting them on fire and then giggling as we snuck an extra square of chocolate, because why the heck wouldn’t we?

I think s’mores have a way of bringing out the kid in all of us, so they are always a welcome dessert in the summer when we have other families over for dinner.  Set your s’mores bar with homemade graham crackers and your family and friends will be like, “no you didn’t!”  I certainly don’t have to tell you how to put together a s’more, but I thought I would share a fun twist on a classic.

Since I think marshmallows border on toxicity (I can be fun, really!), that was my target in creating a more healthful s’more.  Basically, I grill firm, but ripe and speckled bananas and use those in place of the marshmallows.  You still get something sweet, something soft and something that tastes amazing with chocolate and graham crackers.  The point of grilling them is just to get them warm enough so they melt the chocolate a little bit, so watch out for chocolate dripping down your chin.  With all the fun, new chocolates out there, I think it would be amazing to put out some interesting ones for people to use.  Picture a grilled banana s’more paired with caramel and sea salt chocolate or one laced with hot pepper or bits of lavender.  Did I have you at “grilled?”

Grilled Banana S'mores
Author: 
Serves: makes 12
 
Ingredients
  • 24 graham crackers (I used 3 x 3 ½ inch homemade)
  • 3 3.5-ounce thin bars of chocolate (thin is better so that it can melt a little)
  • oil for brushing the grill, such as coconut or olive oil
  • 2 large or 3 medium firm, but ripe bananas
Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Arrange 12 graham crackers on a platter and top with a 1-ounce piece of chocolate or a piece large enough to fit.
  3. Peel the bananas and slice in half crosswise. If the bananas are large, you can cut them in thirds. Then slice each piece lengthwise. Brush the grill with oil and grill bananas 2-3 minutes on each side until warm. The goal is just to get them warm so that they melt the chocolate slightly. You can also arrange the bananas on a baking sheet and broil them for a couple minutes until warm and toasty.
  4. Top each piece of chocolate with a banana slice and then with a graham cracker. Serve immediately.
Notes
Another option is to make s’mores sandwiches with raw bananas, wrap each individually with parchment and foil and place on the grill over medium heat until chocolate is slightly melted.
Or you can forgo the square of chocolate and spread with chocolate nut butter. Delish!

 

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Tofu Pudding

We used to celebrate Valentine’s Day a little differently than we do now.  It was also the one holiday of the year where I was off the hook.  My husband took care of the dinner reservation and the flowers, and all I had to do was wash my hair and get dressed up.  But it’s not as easy for both of us to get out of the house on a weeknight now that we have kids ranging in age from 8 to 15.  The book reports, sports practices, and a pre-6:00 am alarm the next morning just aren’t conducive to a relaxing evening out.  So these days I am happier making a cozy Valentine’s dinner at home for my family.  But what can make this feel like it’s not just any old night is… dessert!

Before you think I’ve lost my marbles, let me just tell you chocolate pudding made from tofu is nothing new.  Dairy-free and egg-free people, as well as vegans have been making it for years.  And you know what?  It’s delicious and uber-simple to make!  I was skeptical the first time I heard about using tofu in a dessert, but I also didn’t realize there were two different kinds of tofu.  There’s one kind that stays firm when you stir fry it or bake it, and there’s silken tofu which is rather gelatinous and very soft.  Silken tofu is used quite effectively to add creaminess in dairy-free desserts or salad dressings in place of cream cheese, sour cream and egg yolks, for example.  I’m still on the fence about tofu since I much prefer to consume soy in its more healthful, fermented form, which tofu is not.  But I also don’t promote a lot of pasteurized cow dairy (not easy for most people to digest.)  I’m guessing a little tofu every now and then won’t harm you.  However since tofu is made from soy and soy is one of the top four genetically-modified foods in this country (along with corn, canola and cottonseed), I do make a point of choosing organic or non-GMO tofu.

In my area I can’t find fresh tofu, which I hear is great, so normally my preferred brand is Wildwood Organics “Sprouted Tofu.”  The soybeans have been soaked and sprouted before being turned into tofu, resulting in a more digestible food.  But I did a side-by-side taste test in my free time and the Mori-Nu tofu that you see pictured here tasted more neutral than Wildwood so that’s the one I would recommend for this recipe.  And even though this is as “instant” as pudding gets, I do think it tastes better if it sits in the fridge for at least an hour, if you can wait that long.  I promised my kids that I would include their opinion in my post and let you know that they think the serving size is too small.  I disagree, but if you would like a more substantial serving, you can double the recipe to serve 6.  Instead, I prefer to keep the serving size as is and bring out some fun toppings (always a fan of the topping bar!) like fresh berries, finely chopped or sliced nuts, raw cacao nibs, finely shredded coconut or freshly whipped cream.  Dessert should be for special occasions and what’s more special than Valentine’s dinner with the ones you love?

More ideas for Valentine’s dinner and dessert coming soon!

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy-Peasy Chocolate Tofu Pudding
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces organic silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar or natural cane sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Transfer to individual ramekins or small bowls. Refrigerate for at least two hours for best flavor.

 

Roasted cinnamon pears with dark chocolate sauce

Cinnamon Roasted Pears with Dark Chocolate Sauce | Pamela Salzman

Cinnamon Roasted Pears with Dark Chocolate Sauce | Pamela Salzman

If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking you’ve got one last hurrah before the parties come to an end and the decorations go back in storage.  A final splurge before you return to your normal routine.  One last dance with the devil before resuming your life of miso and greens.  If you’ve been messing around with too much sugar this holiday season, there’s no point beating yourself up over it.  Hopefully it was worth it, but hopefully it doesn’t send you down that slippery slope of daily dessert.  I’ve got one last treat for you, but nothing you need to feel guilty about.  In fact, these roasted pears just might rock your new year’s eve.

Why don’t pears get more attention?  There are so many delicious varieties and the fragrance of a perfectly ripe pear is completely intoxicating.  Plus, I think they are sooooo beautiful.  I love pear crisps, pear upside-down cake or just simply sauteed pears on top of waffles or pancakes.  But the pear dessert I make most often is simply roasted with a rich dark chocolate sauce or plain vanilla ice cream.  I’ve tried poached pears before, but the flavor is not quite as intense as roasted.  The best part is that these are easy enough to whip together as a last minute sophisticated dessert for a dinner party or just a cozy night at home in front of the fire playing Bananagrams

I love when the sweet end to a meal isn’t loaded with sugar and refined ingredients.  I especially feel that way about fruit desserts, which should taste like fruit and not just sweet.  These roasted pears are certainly fabulous enough to serve without the dark chocolate sauce, but good gracious, the sauce is just heaven.  It’s good to have a perfect chocolate sauce recipe in your back pocket since it can dress up everything from plain berries to ice cream to a simple cake.  Mr. Picky suggested he might even try Swiss chard if he could put this chocolate sauce on it.  I just might let him.  If dark chocolate isn’t sweet enough for your lovelies, you can use semi-sweet or milk chocolate instead.  But just keep in mind, the darker the chocolate the higher the percentage of cacao and the lower the sugar.

Cinnamon Roasted Pears with Dark Chocolate Sauce | Pamela Salzman

 

What will be your grand finale for 2011?  Whatever is it is, I hope it’s delicious.  Wishing you a happy and healthy 2012!

Cinnamon Roasted Pears with Dark Chocolate Sauce | Pamela Salzman

Roasted Cinnamon Pears with Dark Chocolate Sauce
Author: 
Serves: serves 6 (in the photos, I doubled the ingredients)
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup pure Grade A maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 firm, but ripe pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons natural cane sugar or maple sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • sliced almonds or chopped pecans for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the pears in half through the stem, if possible. I take a knife and start an inch above the stem and slice through the stem, so both halves get a piece of stem – looks pretty! Then take the knife and slice the pear all the way in half, following the original cut. Remove the core with a round metal measuring spoon. Arrange the pears cut side up in an 8 or 9-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, whisk together maple syrup, apple juice, butter and cinnamon until butter is melted.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Baste occasionally with the pan juices.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm together cream, milk, sugar and butter. Stir to dissolve sugar. Turn heat off and add chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is melted and sauce is smooth.
  6. Serve 1 pear half per person. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and garnish with sliced almonds or chopped pecans, if desired. Any remaining pear basting liquid is delicious over French toast or pancakes.

Chocolate-covered frozen bananas

Are you asking yourself if I have gone mad?  Two desserts in one week!  What happened to “moderation?”  People, I write it like I see it and chocolate-covered frozen bananas are what the past few weeks have been about around here.  Have you ever been in a “food phase?”  I mean when you eat something that makes you think about eating it all the time and then you do?  Some food phases, like when I ate raw kale salad several times a week for months, are better than others, like in the ’90s when I went through a nonfat frozen yogurt phase that lasted several years.  Blech.  My husband is in a chocolate-covered frozen banana phase and I see no signs of it letting up.  It all started in May of this year at the bar mitzvah of my friend Kim’s son where they passed around mini-frozen chocolate banana bites at the end of the evening.  My husband and I looked at each other after a few as if to say “where have we been?”  Before I knew it, the mister was taking detours through town just to pass the Manhattan Creamery where he would buy a frozen banana or two.  He was even offering the kids frozen banana rewards for the most ridiculous things.  Obsessed.

All joking aside, I actually think these bananas have the potential to be an okay dessert, especially if you can use good quality, organic dark chocolate, which I keep telling myself has lots of antioxidants!  So I thought to myself, how hard could dipping bananas be?  Well, I wouldn’t be writing a whole post about it if it were just a matter of dipping a banana in chocolate.  Let me save you some time and some chocolate with my frozen banana tips and tricks:

  • use ripe, speckled bananas for maximum sweetness.
  • don’t use overripe, black bananas which will ooze after they’ve been covered in chocolate;  save those for banana bread.
  • insert the stick in the banana before freezing it (obvious to you, maybe).
  • insert the stick in the banana before peeling it, to prevent the banana from splitting.
  • freeze the banana before coating in chocolate so that the chocolate hardens right away.
  • do add a little oil or butter to the melted chocolate to thin it out a bit, otherwise it makes too thick a coating on the banana.
  • I prefer to spoon the chocolate over the banana as opposed to dipping.  The melted chocolate stays much more smooth and won’t seize up on you.
  • if you’re using toppings, work quickly.  If the chocolate is allowed to harden, the toppings won’t stick.

I think these are a really fun treat.  I feel better about hubby and the kids eating these than a lot of other things, plus they are super easy to make.  If you are going to take the time to try this out, you might as well make a whole bunch, so to speak, since they stay frozen for a good amount of time.  I decided to use toppings on most of them and I kept it real with toasted coconut, chopped nuts and crushed granola.  I’m sure you have probably seen similar bananas rolled in sprinkles or candy, but you didn’t come here for that, now did you?

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas
Author: 
Serves: makes 10
 
Ingredients
  • 5 large ripe, well-speckled bananas (or up to 7 small bananas)
  • 10 popsicle sticks or candy apple sticks (I used both here.)
  • 2 cups good quality chocolate pieces (I used Dagoba 72% chocodrops -- dark chocolate contains antioxidants and less sugar than semisweet or milk chocolate )
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • Topping ideas: toasted coconut, finely chopped nuts, crushed granola
Instructions
  1. Cut the UNPEELED bananas in half and insert a popsicle stick into the cut side of each banana. Peel the bananas and arrange in one layer on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze bananas until firm, at least 30 minutes, but ideally a few hours.
  2. In a double boiler, or in a heat-proof bowl set atop a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring frequently until smooth.
  3. If using toppings, arrange in shallow containers before starting.
  4. Remove bananas from freezer and one at a time, hold a banana over the melted chocolate and spoon chocolate over the banana until completely coated. Allow excess to drip back into bowl. Before chocolate completely hardens, roll in topping of choice and return to baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with all the bananas and return baking sheet to the freezer until chocolate is completely hardened, just a few more minutes. Serve immediately or store in a container in the freezer up to two weeks.