Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


choc-hazelnut-butter

As a kid, Nutella used to be one of my favorite spreads- on toast, on crackers, on cookies, in a spoon…  But I’m far more conscious about ingredients and nutrition now, and the fact that Nutella is so loaded with sugar and palm oil somehow makes it less appetizing.   On my quest to find a healthier chocolate hazelnut spread to satisfy my Nutella craving, the options seem to fall short.  “Sugar-free” appears synonymous with “sugar substitute added” (and I don’t like the aftertastes).  Raw and organic options were gritty instead of creamy.  Some options had too many extraneous ingredients…  Eventually, I figured I should just try making it at home to suit my preferences.  Four ingredients and 3 batches later… I settled on a recipe that I love!

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Tiger nut milk


tiger-nuts
Tiger nuts, tiger nut milk, and tiger nut flour- YUM!  Years ago, when I was visiting Spain, I tried these tiny little snacks called tiger nuts.  They were sweet and nutty, and so addictive!  Many of the places I visited also sold tiger nut milk, which tasted like dessert.  I was so surprised when I learned that they are actually root vegetables, and not nuts!   Anyhow, I saw some in the store and had to pick them up.   I started munching on them the minute I checked out at the cashier.  In addition to just snacking on them, I made tiger nut milk (soooo good when chilled). Since I couldn’t bear to waste any of the tiger nuts, I turned the fibrous pulp into “flour” and now have a new flour to play with in the kitchen.  I’ll post recipes using the flour as I work on them.

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Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake


 

keto-pumpkin-cheesecake

This has been my breakfast for the last week- and I’ve loved every bite! It’s perfect for the season, and all the spices and flavors totally make up for not adding sugar.  I really dislike the idea of using synthetic sugar substitutes, and I don’t enjoy the aftertaste of the ones I tried. That’s why I am always trying to come up with sweet recipes that don’t require sugar at all.  The flavors and textures in this cheesecake, combined with the natural sweetness from the pumpkin and dairy, make this satisfying enough that I don’t miss the sugar.  If want to add sugar, I’d go with a little maple syrup or brown sugar.

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Chocolate Avocado “Mousse”


avocado-chocolate-mousse

I’ve been really craving a chocolate dessert lately.  I was walking around town, and none of the restaurants had chocolate desserts that were sugar-free (including no sugar substitutes) and gluten-free.  So… I decided to play around with making one at home.   Based on what was in my pantry, I came up with this super-easy “mousse.”  I poured the mousse into these Hazelnut Coconut crusts.  The final product is a rich, decadent, thick filling in a thin, nutty crust.  As you can see in the photo, it sliced beautifully.  I added a small amount of vanilla whipped cream before serving to lighten it up.  As a result, one small slice was so incredibly satisfying =)

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Hazelnut Coconut Pie Crust


nut-coconut-crust

This is a quick and simple crust that I use as the base for tarts/pies.  I love the texture because you can press it thin, and when it’s finished,  it still holds together, but is crumbly and easy to cut with you fork/spoon.  It’s also neutral (no sugar, pinch of salt), so it can be used for both sweet and savory tarts.  You can also add flavors to the crust if you want (cocoa powder, Italian seasoning, etc.).  The recipe below makes a thin crust for 2 4-inch tart tins or a medium thick crust for 1 6-inch tart tin.  You can scale up as needed for bigger tarts.

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Coconut Butter


coconut-butter

I feel silly even posting this recipe since it’s only one ingredient, but the end product is so amazing, it’s worth it just to have people try it!  I was very thankful to have my Vitamix for this recipe since it really works the motor.  I imagine it would work in a blender or food processor, but may just take longer or be grittier.  Also, I made it unflavored so it can be more versatile, but feel free to add vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, sea salt, etc. to make whatever flavor you want.

Side note: I couldn’t bear the idea of cleaning out and wasting the coconut butter stuck to the sides of the blender container, so I made this Almond Milk right after the coconut butter in the same blender.  The residual coconut butter resulted in a slightly thicker and sweeter almond milk- delicious!

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Kiwi Basil Sorbet


Kiwi SorbetIn this unbelievably hot weather, we were in the mood for something tart and refreshing.  Homemade sorbets are amazing because you can taste the freshness.  As a bonus, you can also control the sweetness (I often find store sorbet too sweet).   This kiwi basil sorbet really hit the spot in 90+ degree weather!   I left the seeds in for the crunch and because it looks pretty, but if you want a smooth sorbet, you can strain them out.

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Pumpkin Pie Spice


Pumpkin Pie Spice

Why did I ever buy pumpkin pie spice when it is this easy to make?!?!  I ran out today as I was making some muffins.  After panicking for a minute, I realized that I had all the spices that go in to pumpkin pie spice at home.  So I played with mixing the spices in varying proportions (it was very scientific!).  The recipe below is what I settled on.  I listed everything in teaspoons so it is easy to scale up if you want to make a larger batch.

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Pineapple Coconut Sorbet (dairy-free)


Pineapple Coconut SorbetWe had an ice cream party at work this week, and the forecast for the week was in the 90s… totally put me in the mood for pina coladas and pain killers! The sorbet below started out as a pina colada sorbet with just pineapple and coconut. But, somehow, it morphed towards a pain killer as I kept adding/adjusting ingredients. I love how the final sorbet came out- a slight kick of ginger with a creamy ice cream-like texture.  I will definitely be making it again this summer!

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Linzer Cookies (eggless)


Linzer CookiesI love making these cookies because you can make them for any occasion by changing the shape in the middle.  Plus, they look really pretty with the dusting of sugar on top.  I tend to go light on the sugar dusting because I like the speckled look.  I made similar cookies a few years ago (Almond Jam Cookies), but I’ve been playing with how to make them with less white flour and eggless so everyone in my family can eat them.

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Espresso Cookies


Espresso CookieThese cookies are based on the absolutely delicious World Peace Cookies, which I highly recommend trying.  I loved those cookies, but was in the mood for an espresso flavored cookie.  I’ve been trying to work the espresso flavor in to a cookie for ages, and the structure of this cookie was perfect for it.  I tend to make these cookies small since no matter what size they are, I always have more than one…

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Quark Cheesecake


Quark CheesecakeThis is a twist on the regular, widely-available cheesecake.  I find this more delicate with really interesting tangy-sweet flavor.  I make quark following a recipe from Three Shepherds Farm.  If you’ve never had quark, its a German fresh, soft cheese.  It reminds me of a cross between sour cream (texture) and cream cheese (taste).  From what friends tell me, you can also use farmer’s cheese (although I’ve never tried it).  I’ve made this recipe with a few different crusts and prefer a thin graham cracker crust, or a shortbread crust (pictured).
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Gooey Salted Caramel Brownies


Salted Caramel BrowniesMake at your own risk…  For a little extra effort, you get an amazing end result (to the point of being addictive).  The salted caramel compliments the chocolate brownies SO incredibly well.  My “in a pinch” favorite combo is to use the Ghiradelli brownie mix with Trader Joe’s soft caramels.  Note: I ask you to use recipes scaled for an 8×8 pan (most commercially available brownie mixes), but to make these brownies in a 9×13 inch pan- this is not a typo!  It’s just my preferred ratio of chocolate to caramel… =)

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Speckled Chocolate Cashew Cookies (eggless)


Speckled Cashew CookieI have had cashew flour in my fridge for 2 weeks, and no inspiration as to what to make with it.  I also found odds and ends of chocolate in my pantry.  Put them together… and this cute crispy cookie is born!  It’s surprisingly easy and looks pretty.  I’m definitely going to include them on my holiday cookie tray!

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Anise pinwheel cookies (eggless)


Anise Pinwheel CookieThese anise cookies are definitely in my top 10.  I LOVE them.  The base is a blend of oats, cashew, and all purpose flour.  They just melt in your mouth and leave a great taste.  Perfect after dinner, or with tea.  The pinwheel design looks pretty, but does take some time.  If I don’t feel like going through the effort, I just drop ~1 tsp of the dough onto the cookie sheet and bake them.  Much easier, and just as yum!

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Marbled Oreo Bark


Oreo BarkKicking off my holiday baking!  Oreo bark always seems to be a favorite.  I make it marbled with dark chocolate to cut the sweetness of white chocolate.  It’s also one of the easiest things to make for my holiday cookie trays.  No baking, no stove top, easy to make ahead.. so many reasons why it’s good!  My favorite seasonal variation is to use peppermint Oreo cookies (which is what is in the picture).  The only tip I have is: have everything ready, and move fairly quickly to get the marbled effect.  You don’t want one chocolate to harden too much while you are working on the other one.

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Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream


Pumpkin Pie Ice CreamI can’t believe I forgot to post this recipe weeks ago!!!  Talk about a seasonal ice cream that I wish I could eat all year long… This is my favorite pumpkin ice cream.  It’s rich and so flavorful- makes me feel warm and cozy even though it’s frozen!  All the spices just make me want to curl up with a bowl of this and a book…  I know pumpkin season is almost over, but this should work well with canned 100% pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling).  I really recommend reading all the way through the directions since this recipe has requires a bit of pre-planning and has multiple steps that are important to do in the right order.  It’s totally worth it though…. =)

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Spiced bourbon applesauce


ApplesauceThis is a fun twist on applesauce.  If you’ve never made applesauce before, I think you’ll be surprised at how easy and delicious it is!  I can’t recall the last time I bought applesauce from the store… I don’t have a particular kind of apple that I use – it’s usually a mix and match of what I have at home.  I’d say to use the apples you like the taste of!  There aren’t too many ingredients, so the flavors really stand out.  I don’t always add bourbon and it still tastes amazing.  The bourbon just makes it feel a little more indulgent.  Also, I like it chunky so I don’t puree it at the end, but you can if you like smooth applesauce.

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Vegan “Marzipan” Candies


Vegan MarzipanHappy 4th Anniversary!!!  Time really flies, especially with fun food!  What better way to celebrate than with these small super satisfying bits of candy!  These vegan “marzipan” candies are quick and easy to make.  I’ve made them before with white sugar, but given the new healthy eating goal, I switched to agave.  They taste good and actually hold together well.  I put marzipan in quotes since these are not pure white like traditional marzipan because I use the almond flour from Trader Joe’s which has the skin ground in.  They also have some grit, which I like, as opposed to being completely smooth.  I came up with the measurements by starting with a bowl of almond flour and slowly adding the agave until I got the right consistency to roll.  So if your mix looks too crumbly, add some almond flour.  If it looks too dry to come together, add a bit more agave.

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Lavender Lemon Ricotta Cookies


Lemon Lavender Ricotta CookiesLast weekend, Three Shepherds Farm came to the cooking school to teach cheese making and it was amazing!  The whole milk ricotta had such a great taste and texture, that I ended up eating a lot fresh (in salads, with fruits, etc).   I flew through what was made in class, and ended up making another batch myself.  Turns out ricotta isn’t too hard to make at home- which means I am totally making fresh ricotta from now on!  So after the second batch, I found myself with some left in the fridge.  I decided to experiment with ricotta cookies… I tried a bunch of different flavors and recipes: pumpkin (couldn’t resist!) orange (which was good, but didn’t feel as light as the lemon ones), and plain lemon (good, but something was missing).  I ended up loving the lemon ones with a bit of lavender- and that’s the recipe below!  It sounds a bit fussy, but I found the quantities and steps really affected the outcome.  I kept the cookies in an air tight container and they retained the softness and texture, and I’m on Day 5… =)

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Vegan Diwali Tea Cakes (Almond Cardamom Saffron)


Vegan Diwali TeacakeHappy Diwali everyone!!!  This recipe blends the Indian and the American in me- tea cakes with Indian flavors.   These cakes are my attempt to vegan-ize a dessert and make it a little less sweet and heavy while still keeping the feel of Diwali.   Plus, it gives me an excuse to use these really cute silicone molds my friend got me.  If you don’t have tea cake molds, you can use mini cupcake molds (makes ~24).  Happy celebrating! =)

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Vegan “Nutella” Ice Cream


Nutella Ice CreamNUTELLA!!!!! That should be enough of an intro… =)  This was really born out of my attempt to not eat a whole jar of Nutella in one sitting.  The recipe below is fairly simple as far as ice cream recipes go.  Sadly, Nutella is not vegan.  However, if you make a vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread at home, you can use that- I’m still working on a good recipe, so if anyone has one, please share!  Also, I made this twice- once creamy (strained the blended cashew-almond milk mix through a cheesecloth) and once without straining.  I prefer the second one because I like the texture that the blended cashews give.

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Homemade Pumpkin Pulp


Pumpkin Pulp 2

Until last year, I always used to buy pumpkin pulp from the store, and I’ll admit, I still do if I’m craving pumpkin dishes and don’t have a real pumpkin on-hand.  However, now, if I plan ahead, I prefer to buy my own pumpkin and cook it.  It feels like the epitome of fall to go to a farmer’s market and pick out a pumpkin to bring home.  I like using pie pumpkins because I find that they have less seeds and less stringy flesh.  Don’t be intimidated- the toughest part is cutting the pumpkin in half… =)

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Strawberry Balsamic Sauce


Strawberry Balsamic SauceThis recipe stems out of picking far too many strawberries to eat…  Even though it has pectin, it is NOT a jam.  I changed the proportions to make it more of a sauce and less sweet.  I like it on Greek yogurt (pictured), ice cream, pancakes, chocolate cake… let your imagination go wild!

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!


 

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!!!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!!!

After countless batches of chocolate chip cookies, with every possible variation of ingredient quantities I could think of, I’ve finally settled on a recipe that I absolutely LOVE.  Now I make this in large batches, form logs, wrap them in parchment paper, and keep them in my freezer.  If the craving hits, I can slice off a few cookies and pop them in the oven- 10 minutes later, I’m a happy girl! =)

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