Really Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix Recipe

Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix | pamela salzman

Snacks are tough.  My kids come home from school very hungry and they can eat a lot.  I want to offer them something nutritious obviously, but I don’t have a ton of time to make homemade snacks every day.   Some of my default snacks are hummus with veggies or whole grain crackers, rice cakes with nut butter, quesadillas, yogurt with granola, almond flour muffins, apples and bananas with nut butter, and smoothies.  Stovetop popcorn and granola bars are common, too.  If I left my son to his own devices, I’m sure he would polish off a pint of ice cream or a bag of tortilla chips, but he has homework to focus on and soccer practice or religious school, so he needs better fuel than that.

chickpeas for roasting

I’ve been intrigued by the appearance of “chickpea croutons” on dozens of salads I have seen all over Pinterest.  The cooked chickpeas are roasted until crunchy, sometimes seasoned with spices, and are a more nutritious alternative to croutons, which are basically small greasy bites of white toast.  I must have a little crunch in my salad, but I prefer the idea of chickpeas over croutons.  However, with all due respect to those who posted those crunchy chickpea recipes, most of them don’t work.  Either the chickpeas do not ever become crunchy or they only stay crunchy for a few hours and then they become soft, like real chickpeas.  My son actually likes chickpeas and he likes trailmix, so I had an idea to make crunchy chickpeas and mix them with nuts + dried fruit + dark chocolate = crunchy chickpea trailmix, a perfect snack.  Except I tried at least a dozen recipes and the chickpeas always eventually became soggy, until one time I roasted them in the oven for a little while and then turned the oven off but left the chickpeas in there.  In this way, they wouldn’t burn, but they would continue to dry out.  Ta da!  Winner!  This is the whole key to truly crisp-like-a-cracker chickpeas.

Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix | pamela salzman

We are not nut-free in our house, nor do my kids go to nut-free schools, but I know there are a lot of families out there who contend with this challenge.  This trail mix is easy to make nut-free since the chickpeas make a great sub for nuts, and they are both high in protein which is something I always look for in a good snack.  And believe me, I am not trying to replace nuts.  Nuts are super good for you with exceptionally healthful fats, protein and fiber, BUT they are also high in calories and I have been known to overeat nuts without realizing it and it is possible to eat too much of a nutritious food if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight.  Like I said in my last post, I would be really skinny if nut butter didn’t exist!  The nice thing about trail mix is that you can make it with whatever you have and to your liking.  I love a good balance of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, with a touch of dark chocolate for fun.  Trail mix is my go-to snack for traveling since it keeps really well, although in the summer I usually omit the chocolate so there’s no risk of melting.

Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix | pamela salzman

Every time I teach any recipe, someone asks me, “Does Mr. Picky like this?”  90% of the recipes I teach, he does like/tolerate.  He ate almost an entire pan of crunchy chickpeas in one sitting.  We all loved these and I haven’t even begun to experiment with savory seasonings.  As long as you have the method down pat, you should definitely play around with different spices, like garlic powder + smoked paprika, cumin + cinnamon + cayenne, just to name a couple.  I think these would be amazing on salads, or on soups or on top of creamy dips like hummus, or as a “bar snack,” to serve with cocktails.  These would even make a great hostess gift, especially if you’ve already given everyone you know homemade granola too many times. 😉  I can’t wait to hear if you try this recipe.  Or just let me know about your experience roasting chickpeas until now!

Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix | pamela salzman

5.0 from 2 reviews
Really Crunchy Chickpea Trail Mix
Serves: 2½ cups
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, virgin coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup, Grade A or Grade B
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup goji berries or other dried fruit of choice, such as dried blueberries or cherries
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate pieces
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, raw or toasted
  • ¼ cup toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes (I do this in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring until golden brown)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Pat chickpeas dry as best you can. Remove whatever skins are loose. Place chickpeas on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and add coconut oil, maple syrup and salt and toss to coat. Put back in the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. If a few pop, that’s ok.
  4. Turn the oven off. Toss the chickpeas with spices. Return pan to the oven and with the oven door closed and the heat off, allow the chickpeas to sit in the warm oven for another hour or until perfectly crunchy. You’ll have to test one to be sure. It should be dry and airy. If they’re still not crunchy, leave in the oven with the door closed and the heat off until they are crunchy through and through. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  5. Combine cooled chickpeas with dried fruit, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds and toasted coconut. The crunchy chickpeas combine well with many different ingredients for a trail mix, so feel free to make swaps according to what you have on hand or what you like.


Banana-Carrot Almond Flour Muffins Recipe

banana carrot almond flour muffins | pamela salzman

You know what makes me laugh about Passover?  When I was growing up (in a very Italian-Catholic home,) my mother was always quite excited when Passover was imminent because matzoh would hit the shelves in the supermarket.  And my grandmother was even more excited.  I remember Grandma visiting once during Passover and gifting us 3 boxes of Streit’s matzoh that she received with a coupon at Shop Rite.  We didn’t need any matzoh, of course, because my mom had already used a similar coupon at Pathmark and stocked up.  But we were happy to have it, because once Passover was over, matzoh would be nowhere to be found.

blanched almond flour and dry ingredients

ripe bananas

What’s the point of this story?  We actually bought matzoh because we liked it!  Who likes matzoh?  We did and we ate it with a schmear of Breakstone’s whipped butter, cream cheese or sometimes peanut butter.  Now, many years later, I am married to a nice Jewish guy and we observe Passover.  We don’t eat any grains or legumes or anything that can leaven for those 8 days.  And I buy matzoh because it’s traditional and we use it like we would bread, spreading it with almond butter and jelly or using it to sandwich roasted veggies and goat cheese (that’s for me) or turkey and avocado.  I make a veggie “lasagne” with matzoh and a very delicious matzoh brie too (you should check out my recipe for Tex-Mex matzoh brie.)

mashed bananas and wet ingredients

all wet ingredients together

But let me tell you, I don’t love it.  None of us in this house does.  But pickings were always slim during Passover, unless one resorted to boxes of cake mix made out of sugar, preservatives and matzoh meal.  Fast forward to 2014 when blanched almond flour has become as common as quinoa (which is ok to eat during Passover believe it or not.)  So I have been able to enjoy delicious, “normal” baked goods which just happen to be grain-free.   Just by using almond flour.  Game changer!

add in shredded carrots and dates

A few years ago I posted a recipe for some delicious almond flour muffins with banana, chocolate and chia seeds.  I will for sure make a batch or two of those next week, but I will also be making these amazing banana-carrot-coconut muffins.  I found this recipe in Andrew Weil’s True Food cookbook and made a few adjustments to make them even more healthful.  These muffins are a great cross between carrot cake and banana bread and have a nice, subtle sweetness.  I actually make one batch as a 2-layer cake for the seders and spread my vegan frosting in between.  I’ll make another batch and freeze them for breakfasts and lunchboxes, since I think these can serve as a meal-in-a-muffin.

Fill the muffin cups to the top

baked muffins

Ironically, my mother still buys matzoh, although the options are far more interesting than they used to be including spelt, onion and even gluten-free.  For me, I’ll enjoy Passover much more with these muffins!

muffins! | pamela salzman

banana carrot almond flour muffins | pamela salzman

banana-carrot almond flour muffins | pamela salzman

4.7 from 7 reviews
Banana-Carrot Almond Flour Muffins
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) I use Honeyville.
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 very ripe bananas*, mashed
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unrefined coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped (or raisins or dried cherries)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla and vinegar together, making sure that the oil is well incorporated into the other ingredients.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Fold in the dates, carrots, and walnuts. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. You will fill the cups to the top since these muffins don’t rise very much.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. (Since there is no actual flour, the muffins will not rise significantly.) Cool in the pan or on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the muffins onto the rack and let cool to warm or room temperature.
*Or substitute ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce + an extra 2 Tablespoons raw honey
This recipe calls for blanched almond flour, which is much finer and lighter than almond meal. Bob's Red Mill "almond flour/meal" is not fine enough. You can use almond meal in this recipe, but the results will be heavier and coarser.


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



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 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
Serves: 8-12
  • 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
  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.
*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!



Warm coconut millet porridge recipe

warm coconut millet porridge by

I don’t know what has taken me so long to share my favorite breakfast with you.  Although I haven’t really been holding out on you since I did snap a picture of this delectable millet porridge a few months ago and posted it on Facebook.  But I know most people want a recipe, they want DETAILS.  So here it is – my most favorite, comforting, hug of a breakfast, made with a grain (really a seed) that is so underappreciated and low profile that I am ready to shine some more light on it.

creamy coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

I have posted two other millet recipes on this site, a pilaf with mushrooms as well as a mash with cauliflower.  Neither of which has received much love in the way of comments even though I promised deliciousness, but I’m back to try again.  Coincidentally, Phoebe Lapine posted a lovely millet salad with fennel and tomatoes on her site this week and I thought this is the time.  Millet’s got some buzz.

warm coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

warm coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

I know it’s a risk to try something new, but millet is easy, non-offensive, as well as super nutritious, gluten-free and alkalizing.  And when you make it taste like dulce de leche meets horchata meets chai tea, I know you’re going to love it.  LOVE.  I actually make a big batch of millet every Sunday so I can have this yumminess every morning no matter how busy or time-crunched I might be.  Just like any other grain, you can freeze millet in batches and defrost whenever it strikes your fancy.  I have a feeling most of you aren’t big on over-the-top desserts or sweets, but with a little extra sweetener I think this could even pass for a dessert, like rice pudding.

warm coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

I absolutely must top something creamy with something crunchy, so a nut of sorts is always in the picture.  And I am mad crazy for toasted coconut so I’ll add that too, if I have some.  I wrote “optional” in the recipe next to the pistachios and toasted coconut so that you wouldn’t freak out over so many ingredients for a breakfast dish, but people, live it up and add them on!

warm coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

Today’s the day to give millet a shot.  No more excuses.  If you don’t live near a natural foods store, you can order it from Bob’s Red Mill, Amazon or Vitacost.  And if you do try this creamy, dreamy porridge, make my day and let me know about it!

warm coconut millet porridge by Pamela Salzman

warm coconut millet porridge by

5.0 from 2 reviews
Warm Coconut Millet Porridge
Serves: 2-4
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or if you prefer to use sweetened almond milk, you can lessen the added sweetener)
  • ¾ cup coconut milk (I use full fat Native Forest)
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons – 1 ½ Tablespoons raw honey (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons – 1 ½ Tablespoons Grade A maple syrup (optional)
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (this is amazing here)
  • 2 cups COOKED millet*
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios or almonds or walnuts (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted unsweetened, flaked coconut (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan whisk together almond milk, coconut milk, vanilla, honey, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir in millet and 3 Tablespoons coconut flakes, breaking up any clumps of millet.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, and lower to simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, breaking up any remaining clumps of millet, until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and serve with pistachios and toasted coconut flakes, if desired.
*I cook millet in a ratio of 1 part millet to 2 ½ parts water for about 30 minutes.

You can really adjust the amount and type of sweetener to your liking.  For breakfast, I am fine with no sweetener or just a smidge of raw honey and maple syrup.  You should try it with a little at first and then increase only if you need it.  Or use your sweetener of choice, such as stevia if that suits you.  I also very often eat this with goji berries and/or raw cacao nibs!

Trail Mix Cookies Recipe

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.

Trail Mix Cookies
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)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. 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.)
  6. Remove from the oven and cool cookies for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Coconut-Almond Tart with Strawberries Recipe

When I was a little girl, I loved any holiday where candy was involved.  I was crazy about sugar and my mother didn’t allow many sweet treats in the house, so I really looked forward to those “special occasions.”  Lucky for me, my auntie was all too happy to satisfy my sweet tooth whenever possible.  She was and still is an unbelievable baker as well as a top customer at her local chocolate shop.  You name the holiday, she had the matching sweets, especially on Easter, which was like sugar-on-steroids.  There were small little foil-wrapped bunnies for our baskets, large chocolate boxed bunnies, jelly beans in every color of the rainbow, chocolate eggs and the best one of all — a ginormous chocolate-covered coconut egg.  Imagine a moist, dense, sliceable orb of sweetened coconut covered in milk chocolate — I was obsessed with this confection!  Believe me, I’m not trying to tempt you here.  It was so sickenly sweet, I am sure if I had a bite of it today, I would be nauseous.  Definitely not worth it!

I’m no longer obsessed with that coconut egg (or candy, for that matter.)   But since then, I’ve always associated Easter with coconut, which is funny because it’s really a season-less food.  And in the last decade since I’ve been on the health food path, coconut has found it’s way to me in many forms, none of which is sweetened with sugar nor coated with chocolate-flavored sugar.  Today I rely on unrefined coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water and unsweetened shredded coconut and my body is much happier with me.  So when I was coming up with a new Easter dessert a few years ago, coconut immediately came to mind.  But since I also celebrate Passover with my husband’s family, I wanted something I could serve on that holiday, too, so no grains or flours allowed.  Lastly, I wanted a delicious dessert that wouldn’t make me feel sick after I ate a slice.  And this is what it really boils down to for me.  I rarely eat sweets and when I do, I’m not looking for dessert to take care of my nutritional needs.   So whereas it’s nice in theory to know I may be getting a few extra minerals from unrefined sweeteners and unprocessed ingredients, I just want a tasty treat that doesn’t make me feel like hell afterwards.  Like this coconut tart!


This tart is so delicious and light, but it also happens to be gluten-free, vegan (if you use coconut oil), Passover-friendly, and adaptable to the fruits of the season.  I love making this tart with strawberries now since they are absolutely everywhere and super luscious.  But I’m sure you can picture this like a traditional fruit tart with raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, ripe peaches and/or apricots.  If you don’t like coconut (seriously?), you probably won’t love this, but you can always swap your favorite (hopefully not too toxic) crust for this one.  The coconut custard is very subtle and not overly sweet, so do give it a chance.  For those of you looking to get a jump-start on your holiday baking (I love the way you think), you can definitely make both the crust and the pastry cream 2-3 days in advance and keep both covered in the refrigerator.  You can even wash, dry, and slice your strawberries the day before and keep them covered in the fridge, if it makes your life easier.  It’s best to wait until the day you serve it to spread the cream on top of the crust to avoid it becoming soggy.  Leftovers (what leftovers?) should be kept refrigerated otherwise you’ll run into the same soggy crust issue.  For my other two favorite go-to Easter and Passover desserts, check out my Lemon Ice Torte, which I’ve been making since 1991 (gasp!) and Coconut Macaroons.  With desserts like these, you won’t be tempted by your kids’ Easter baskets!

Coconut-Almond Tart with Strawberries
Serves: 8
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil or unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan
  • ¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup coconut milk (not light)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons non-GMO cornstarch, such as Bob’s Red Mill or Rapunzel
  • ⅓ cup cold water
  • 1 dry pint strawberries, sliced
  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9 ½ -inch tart pan with removable bottom with butter or coconut oil. Whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla until well blended. In a mixing bowl, combine almond meal, coconut and salt. Add wet mixture to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. It will be quite sticky. Press into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  2. Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in the almond milk, coconut milk, maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard vanilla pod.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cold water and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Pour into the coconut milk mixture and simmer, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened like pastry cream. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer cream to the refrigerator and chill.
  4. Just before serving, pour custard into crust and spread evenly. Arrange berries decoratively on top and serve immediately. Best kept refrigerated.

Coconut rice recipe

Coconut Rice | Pamela Salzman

Coconut Rice | Pamela Salzman

Before I started teaching so much, I used to do lots of pantry makeovers and kitchen re-organizations for other people.  Recently, I was helping my friend Jenni organize her pantry and I was completely envious of how it turned out.  It was like perfectly-labeled-Weck-jar-bliss.  Sigh.  I’m ashamed to say my own pantry is less than photo-worthy, which should not be the case.  So last week I finally became motivated to tackle my own pantry and turn it into a beauty queen instead of a wanna-be.  Perhaps I’ll blog about it when I’m done (I hope you’re patient).

My first step was determining how many containers I would need for the multitude of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and grains I have accumulated.  What blew me away was the number of different varieties of rice I have — 10!  When I thought about it, though, it makes perfect sense since each type that I have really does have a purpose.  I use arborio rice for risotto and sushi rice for (obviously) sushi.   I prefer the flavor of brown rice, but I love the convenience of white rice, so I have several varieties in both white and brown.

More importantly, my family loves rice in all forms, so I cook it often.  After finding not one, but two bags of brown jasmine rice, I decided to make coconut rice for dinner.  Coconut rice is one of my go-to stand-bys which I love to pair with anything spicy, gingery or saucy, like chicken curry or maple-soy salmon.  To cook the rice I use both water and coconut milk, which is incredibly rich and adds a lovely silkiness to the rice, as well as a subtle sweetness.  Plus coconut milk has lots of health benefits to boot.  I use Native Forest organic coconut milk because it’s the only one I have found that is BPA-free.  You can use any kind of long-grain rice, but I tend to use fragrant jasmine and basmati, either white or brown.  Don’t forget my kids’ favorite part — the toasted unsweetened coconut.  It makes the rice almost meaty, and more substantial.  I love the big flaked coconut, but if I can’t find it in my jumble of a pantry, I’ll use the thinner, shredded variety.  Wait — two more jars.  Check!

Coconut Rice | Pamela Salzman

Coconut Rice
Serves: 6
  • 1 ½ cups long grain rice, such as jasmine or basmati (white or brown)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 ¼ cup coconut milk (shake can before opening)
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup flaked or shredded unsweetened coconut
  1. Rinse rice to remove excess starchiness (you can soak it, too if you’re into that). Combine rice, water, coconut milk and salt in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes for white rice or 50 minutes for brown rice. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, covered for 10 minutes.
  3. Place coconut flakes in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and toast until golden. Don’t walk away from the pan. The coconut can burn easily!
  4. Transfer rice to a serving bowl and top with toasted coconut.
You can add diced, fresh mango or freshly grated ginger to the rice, too.


Healthy Granola Bars Recipe

Healthy Granola Bar

Has school started in your neck of the woods?  We’re back at it this week.  I get a little bummed when the kids go back to school.  I’ve really enjoyed spending more time with them and summer is so much less stressful, especially for my high schooler.  That and, despite what you might think, I don’t love making lunches at 6:30 am everyday, as well as trying to keep a substantial supply of well-balanced snacks for the kids and their friends.  You know I love to cook and it’s a major priority for me to feed myself and the kids well, but it’s definitely a challenging task which I know many of you try to tackle most days, too.

The fact is I don’t actually make all of the kids’ snacks, because I really don’t have that kind of time.   But there are a few that I can make quickly, easily and that are more delicious (and healthful) than what you can buy in a store.  I hope to post my guidelines next week for choosing a healthful snack, but making sure there’s some protein in there is super important, otherwise you run the risk of a blood sugar rollercoaster.  One snack that I guessed wouldn’t be too tricky to figure out was granola bars.  Last summer I tested granola bar recipes for about two months and had the tight jeans to prove it.  I wouldn’t call it a low-calorie snack mostly due to the nuts and seeds, but I if the kids need something to tide them over until dinnertime or get them through soccer practice, goldfish and a fruit roll-up aren’t going to cut it.  I am always going to look for something like these bars, which are made from real ingredients, contain protein and fiber and a minimal amount of sugar, plus a little love from Mom.

The problem is that these granola bars are so good, I have a hard time being in the house and not sneaking one or more when I’m not really even hungry.  They have most of the same flavors as my granola, but with a little butter.  What they don’t have is tons of refined sugar like so many granola bar recipes I see.  If you are dairy-free or vegan, you can definitely use coconut oil, but I have a soft spot for the combination of butter, pecans and a pinch of sea salt.  Yum!  Like granola, you can adjust this recipe to suit you.  (And yes, you can add chocolate chips.)  I like my granola bars a little on the thick side (see bottom photo), but if you like yours thinner and crunchy (see lead photo), you can use an 8 x 10 pan.  Try these out and if your family loves them, make a double batch and freeze them.  Because in my world, September not only means school, but soccer games, scouts meetings, study groups and playdates.  Need any more reasons to make these?

Healthy Granola Bars
Serves: makes 8-12 bars, depending how you slice 'em
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup chopped raw nuts (pecans or almonds are good)
  • ¼ cup ground almond meal
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup unsulphured dried fruit (such as chopped apricots, cranberries, cherries, blueberries)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (my preference) or melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If you like thick granola bars, grease an 8 or 9-inch square pan with butter or coconut oil and line with unbleached parchment paper (this will help get the bars out of the pan.) If you like them thinner, say ¾-inch thick, grease an 8x 11-inch pan.
  3. Place oats, seeds, coconut and nuts on large baking sheet and toast for 12-15 minutes. Do not allow anything to burn!
  4. In a large bowl combine almond meal, cinnamon, salt and dried fruit. When oat mixture is out of the oven, add to bowl. Mix the melted butter, brown rice syrup and vanilla together and pour over the oat mixture, stirring well to coat evenly.
  5. Pour mixture into pan and press down with a spoon, spatula or damp hands.
  6. Bake for about 20-25* minutes, or until lightly colored on top. The granola bar will be soft to the touch when it comes out of the oven, but will firm up as it cools. Allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the bar. Invert the pan over a cutting board to remove. Cut into individual bars and eat or store in a covered container.**
*Baking it longer will result in a crispier, firmer bar, but it may be harder for little ones to chew easily.

**If the weather or your kitchen is warm, it’s better to store the bars in the refrigerator.