One-bowl Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

vegan and paleo gingerbread cookies

One-bowl Vegan Gingerbread Cookies recipe
makes 2 dozen

Spice cookies like chewy molasses cookies and gingerbread are all-time favorite holiday treat. I love that they aren’t quite as sugary as most sweets and that they take well to natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or molasses. For the past few years, I’ve been making different spice cookies from various blogs and combining them and adjusting them, and this recipe here is my own version that I’ve landed on. A couple tips: any rolled and cut-out cookie needs to have the dough chilled, otherwise they will be a mess. Also don’t skip the arrowroot—it gives the cookies a little snap, plus you’ll want extra for rolling out the dough.

3 cups blanched almond flour (find it here*)
1 heaping tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup arrowroot (find it here*) plus extra for rolling
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsulphured blackstrap molasses

  1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, black pepper, sea salt, baking soda and arrowroot. Stir together with a fork or a whisk so that there are no large clumps remaining.

  2. With a rubber spatula, stir in melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and molasses. Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or put in the freezer for 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 350. Line 4 half sheet trays with parchment paper. Once dough has chilled, cut it in half and press into a flat disk. Using arrowroot like flour, roll out dough until it’s 1/4” thick, continuously flipping and dusting with arrowroot so that it doesn’t stick to the counter. Use a cookie cutter to cut out cookies and then peel away the excess. Transfer cookies to the sheet trays and bake in batches for 12-14 minutes. Continue with the rest of the dough and re-roll any excess to make more cookies.

  4. Let cookies cool on racks completely and then transfer to an airtight container if not serving immediately.

Note: To make a quick icing for these, combine about 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and just enough water to make a thin glaze. Drizzle over cookies and let dry overnight if you want to stack them.

*affiliate link

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Bites

cocoa and coconut energy bites recipe

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Bites
makes about 20

I'm constantly making different kinds of nut/seed/dried fruit energy bites based on what I have in my pantry at that time.  This coconut, pecan, and chocolate version is one that I have been making lately.  Chocolate is my go-to dessert, so this is a more nutritious option for when I'm craving a sweet bite.  As with all treats like this, you can substitute what you have on hand.  Play with the ratios if you like energy bites sweeter, less sweet, more chocolatey, etc.

1 cup pecans
2 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse pecans until you get a coarse meal.  Then add dates, coconut, vanilla, coconut oil, cocoa powder and sea salt and blend until you get an evenly incorporated sticky dough.  

2. Spread coconut for rolling on a plate.  Roll tablespoons-sized balls of dough in your hand and roll in the coconut to coat.  Repeat will the rest of the dough and put in refrigerated for 2-3 hours to chill.  Store these in the fridge and eat cold (they taste best this way!)

Spicy Tahini Hot Chocolate

spicy tahini hot chocolate vegan recipe

Spicy Tahini Hot Chocolate recipe
makes 2 small servings or 1 large serving

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds that's popular in Middle Eastern cooking.  It's become a staple in my pantry for making creamy sauces because I love its smooth texture and high calcium content, but I often forget I have an open jar in the fridge and end up buying a new one.  So much tahini!  So I decided to use up some of my tahini by taking it into the dessert realm.  Hello Tahini Hot Chocolate.  Non-dairy milks often make very watery hot chocolate compared to fat-rich dairy milk so the addition of tahini here makes a richer and creamier beverage with a slightly nutty edge.  I love spice in my hot chocolate so I also added cinnamon, cayenne, and ground ginger, but feel free to leave out if you aren't feeling as spicy.

1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used cashew)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tahini, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne
1/4 of a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar (70% cocoa) OR 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips

1. In a small pot, heat milk, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of tahini, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground ginger, and cayenne.  Whisk until smooth.  Once heated, break apart chocolate bar and whisk in or add chocolate chips.  Taste and add more maple, tahini, or chocolate if desired.

2. Pour into 2 small tea cups or 1 mug and drizzle with a tiny extra bit of tahini if desired.

3-Ingredient Butterfinger-y Clusters

healthier butterfinger recipe

Butterfinger-y Clusters
makes about 40 clusters

In an attempt to make a healthier homage to one of my favorite candy bars from childhood--Butterfingers!--I ended up with something that looks nothing like a Butterfinger, but tastes almost exactly like one.  Simmering maple butter until almost caramel-like helps create that crumbly, toffee-esque center that's reminiscent of this favorite treat.  After adding the peanut butter you may end up with a candy-bar center that's sliceable but...I did not.  I embraced the broken bars, tossed them with melted dark chocolate and turned them into clusters.  Purists will want to still seek out the real deal, but maple and dark chocolate-lovers like me will be satisfied with this simplified treat.

1 9-ounce jar of maple butter (or DIY if you can't find it)
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 3-ounce bars chocolate (I used 60% cocoa)

1. In a small pot heat maple butter until simmering for about 5 minutes.  Let it darken and bubble up but don't let it burn.  If you have a thermometer, look for it to hit 275.  If not, just keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn but still simmers and bubbles away.

2. Turn off heat and stir in peanut butter until well blender.  Spread mixture into a lined loaf pan or glass tupperware and let cool in the fridge.  Be careful--hot sugar (even maple) is super hot.

3. Cut peanut butter mixture into fun-size bars.  Watch as it crumbles.  Embrace it.  Melt chocolate bars in the microwave or a double-boiler and stir-in peanut butter crumbles.  Spoon clusters onto waxed paper-lined sheet trays and cool in the fridge until solid.  

 

Velvety Chocolate Almond Butter Coins

velvety chocolate coins

Velvety Chocolate Almond Butter Coins
makes 16

1/2 cup 70% dark chocolate chunks (could use chocolate chips or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut butter

1. Prepare a mini muffin tin with 16 paper liners.

2. In a double boiler (or microwave) melt chocolate chunks.  Remove from heat and stir in almond butter and coconut butter until totally blended.  If they aren't blending easily, heat gently.

3. Take about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and pour into each of the muffin cups.  Chill until solid in the fridge or freezer and keep cold until serving.

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

peanut butter cookie bites

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites
makes about 20

I’m a terrible baker, but give me some dried nuts or seeds and a food processor and watch out!  These are pretty addictive considering they taste like a dessert even though they make a great pre- or post-workout snack. Don’t get too eager and eat them too quickly—I promise they taste best chilled.  My favorite part of these cookies is the cute cross-hatch so don't skip that step!

1 cup dry-roasted almonds
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter (use the best! I like MaraNatha Hint of Sea Salt)
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Pulse the almonds into a fine meal in the bowl of the food processor.  Add the peanut butter, dates, vanilla, and salt and puree until well-combined.  It will be thick and not 100% smooth.

2. Take heaping teaspoon sized amount of the “dough” and roll into a ball.  Pinch down onto a flat surface and using the tines of a fork, make cross hatches just like you would for a peanut butter cookie.  Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  These should last a week or more in the fridge in an airtight container.

Chocolate Almond Butter

 DIY Nutella - Chocolate Almond Butter

Chocolate Almond Butter
makes almost 2 cups

Nutella is a pretty solid mood booster, except if you accidentally look at the ingredient list.  Expecting to find cocoa and hazelnuts listed first, you'll be kind of bummed out to see Sugar and Palm Oil instead.  The good news is that nut butters--even the chocolately kind--are incredibly easy to make at home!  You'll know you'll have something fresh with top-notch ingredients and you can customize it to your preferences (for example, I prefer almonds to hazelnuts and dark chocolate to milk).  Almonds are a great source of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, which can lower your "bad" cholesterol and help regulate your blood sugar.  This blend was made up of what I had on hand so I actually subbed in about 1/2 cup of walnuts for some of the almonds.  Still delish.

2 cups of almonds
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse and puree the almonds until you have almond butter.  This will take 5-7 minutes.  Stop every minute or two to scrape down the sides.  The almonds will get gravel-y, then almost dough-like as they form a ball, then finally will turn into a creamy--and warm--nut butter.  Let it go longer than you think you need to.

2. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.  Once almonds are creamy, add melted chocolate to the food processor, along with vanilla and sea salt and puree until smooth.  Transfer to a mason jar and leave at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.  

Black Bean Brownies

black bean brownies

Black Bean Brownies (vegan and gluten-free)
makes 9

Black beans might seem an unexpected ingredient in brownies, but their soft texture is actually the perfect vehicle for chocolatey fudginess.  Be careful not to overcook these—they will get kind of rubbery.  My advice if you are sharing these with friends: tell them there is a secret ingredient and make them guess, revealing your secret only after they’ve fallen in love with these healthy treats.  

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips
pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Buzz up rolled oats in the food processor until they form a rough flour. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips to the food processor and blend for a couple minutes until very smooth.

2. Add most of the chocolate chips and pour into an oiled 8x8 baking pan.  Top with extra chocolate chips and flakes of sea salt (optional) and bake for 15-17 minutes. You want the center to still be soft—it’ll firm up as it cools.  Cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

DIY Vanilla Extract

DIY Vanilla Extract
makes 8 ounces

Any baker worth her bundt pan knows that high quality vanilla extract is the key to robust flavorful desserts, particularly chocolate ones.  I created this batch of vanilla extract with vanilla beans that I bought in India and then promptly forgot about and leftover local vodka that was just hanging out in my liquor cabinet.  You can use any high proof alcohol to create vanilla extract--including rum, bourbon or even brandy--but I prefer the vodka, possibly because it's just what I'm used to.  If you are making these as holiday gifts, let your giftees know they take 6-8 weeks to mature.

2-3 whole vanilla beans
8 ounces of vodka

1. Slice beans vertically to expose the inner seeds.

2. Place vanilla beans in an an 8-ounce mason jar and cover to the top with vodka.  Seal tightly.  Keep in a dark, cool place and shake the jar every couple of days.  The extract will slowly darken and flavor will develop, about 6-8 weeks and a minimum of 4.  You can use the extract straight out of the container or strain into smaller bottles.  

Homemade Mounds Bars

Homemade Mounds Bars
makes 10 fun-size candy bars

In celebration of Halloween, I'm posting a candy bar makeover for one of my childhood faves: Mounds bars!  A combination of coconut and dark chocolate, these mini candy bars are a little more grown up than the store-bought ones.  Since these are wholes foods-based, they need to be stored in the fridge, but are delicious served cold.

2 cups unsweetened, desiccated coconut
1/4 cup coconut butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
2 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars (at least 70% cocoa)

1. Mix coconut, melted coconut butter, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla extract and melted coconut oil together in a bowl.  Using your hands, form 10 mini bars.  Lay evenly on a wax paper-lined plate and chill in the freezer until firmed up, about 15-30 minutes.

2. In a double boiler (or microwave) melt chocolate bars.  Dip coconut bars in chocolate and remove to another wax paper-lined plate.  Chill in freezer until solidified, 5 minutes.

3. If you have a little leftover chocolate, drizzle a zig-zag pattern on top of the chocolate bars and top with a little flaky sea salt.  Store in the fridge and serve cold.

Apple Honey

Apple Honey
makes about 1/2 cup

A few weeks ago, my CSA box included a half-gallon of locally made apple cider.  Not typically a big juice gal, I didn't drink most of it right away.  Seeing that the cider was nearing its expiration date, I couldn't bring myself to dump out the whole thing, so I put the remaining 5 cups in a pot and simmered it until it reduced to a syrupy consistency.  You could really use this reduction method to squeeze more life out of any juice or even mulled cider.  The apple honey is pretty neutral tasting although it's a touchy caramel-y and a little tarter than regular honey.  Try it on toast, in smoothies, on oatmeal or in nut and fruit energy bites.

4-5 cups of apple cider

1. In a medium pot, boil apple cider until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 1 hour.  Remember it will thicken much more as it cools.  Cool and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Note: You can do this with any amount of cider, but use at least 4 cups or else you won't have much honey at the end.  The reduction goes very slow until the end, where it reduces quite rapidly so keep you eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.  

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
makes 2 cups

Roasting strawberries until they are soft, thick and syrupy is one of my favorite ways to eat this summer treat.  I add a splash of sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar here to add some acidity to the fruit, alongside maple and vanilla to give it some earthy, caramelized sweetness.  You can leave the berries and their juices alone or thicken up with kuzu or arrowroot powder (or even chia seeds) to make more a pie-filling like consistency.  Top oatmeal, yogurt or ice cream with this mix.

2 pints strawberries
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon kuzu or arrowroot

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Hull strawberries and cut in 1/2 or in 1/4s if large.  In a small baking dish, toss strawberries, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and vanilla.  Roast in oven until broken down and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

2. If desired, make a slurry of 1 teaspoon kuzu dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water.  When strawberries are bubbling, stir in kuzu slurry until it dissolves and thickens the mixture.

Banana Nice Cream with Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Banana Nice Cream with Peanut Butter and Chocolate
makes 1 pint

This is my take on the "nice cream" trend that uses frozen bananas to make an ice cream-like treat.  I added peanut butter and melted dark chocolate to make it decadent and play off of the banana flavor.  You can serve it immediately like soft serve, or let it harden in the freezer and scoop it out later.  You'll want to take it out 5 minutes before serving to let it soften enough to scoop.  

2 bananas, peeled, sliced thinly and frozen
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
2 ounces dark chocolate melted

1. In a food processor, pulse frozen bananas until they start to break up.  Then run the food processor continuously until you get a smooth, even mixture the texture of soft serve.  Add peanut butter and blend completely.

2.  Using a spatula, add a heaping scoop of the nice cream to an empty deli pint container.  Drizzle in a little of the chocolate with a spoon.  Add more nice cream, etc, continuing to layer until the pint is full.  Let solidify in the freezer for 2 hours and serve.

Raspberry Rose Chia Jam

Raspberry Rose Chia Jam
makes 8 ounces of jam

Chia jam is a great way to incorporate omega 3-packed chia seeds into your daily diet.  Spread on toast or serve warm on top of oatmeal or pancakes.  I love using frozen berries for chia jam since it's so easy, but really any kind of fruit would work.  Rosewater is totally optional, but I think it adds just a little floral edge to this jam to make it more interesting.  You could add vanilla instead.

12-ounce bag of frozen raspberries (3 cups)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 tablespoon chia seeds

1. In a small pot, heat raspberries until they start to break down and release their juices.  Add maple syrup, rosewater and chia seeds and simmer until mixture reaches a thin jam-like consistency (it will firm up more as it cools).  Remove and store in the fridge for 5 days.

 

3 Ingredient Chocolate Truffles

3 Ingredient Chocolate Truffles
makes 15 truffles

There are few things that make me happier than a dessert I can make with only a couple of steps and a couple of ingredients.  By mixing chocolate with coconut milk, I make a vegan ganache that's smooth and creamy and makes great truffles.  (A regular truffle would use chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a by-weight ratio of 2:1).  Your truffles will only taste as good as the chocolate you get, so be sure to buy a brand that you like to eat.  I love the combination of chocolate and salt so I find chopped pretzels to be a fun topping.  If you want to go more natural, try rolling the truffles in cocoa powder, shredded coconut, or chopped hazelnuts or almonds.

6 ounces of 70% dark chocolate (2 3-ounce bars)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canned coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
options to garnish: cocoa powder, unsweetened shredded coconut or chopped spelt pretzels

1. Very finely chop dark chocolate and place in a bowl.  Bring canned coconut milk to a simmer (on stovetop or microwave) and pour over dark chocolate.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 8 minutes.

2. Add vanilla extract and stir chocolate and coconut milk mixture until totally smooth.  (If there are unmelted pieces, just gently heat for a few seconds at a time to melt.)  Chill in the fridge until firm but not totally hardened, about 1 hour.

3. With a melon baller, tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, scoop out truffle portions and roll into a ball in your hand.  Garnish by rolling in cocoa powder, coconut or chopped pretzels (my favorite).  Serve immediately or store in fridge until serving.  These are best chilled.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

chocolate avocado pudding recipe

Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Makes 4 cups

One of my clients who follows a mostly Paleo diet has me make this pudding for him every single week!  It has a beautiful smooth texture and it always surprises people how delicious it is .  Just keep in mind, because of the avocado and coconut milk, it has a lot of fat.  The good kinds!  But still, you'll want to take it easy.  I love pairing a rich dessert like this with a lighter dinner like a salad. Best of both worlds!

2 avocados
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.  You may need to add a couple splashes of water. Chill well before serving.
 

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

dark chocolate peanut butter cups

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Makes 12

I’ll say it: these dark chocolate peanut butter cups are WAY better than Reeses.  Sorry purists.  Rich and flavorful dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids and can lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol.  Raw honey helps provide body and a little sweetness to the filling.  Raw honey (with traces of bee pollen and propolis) is an antibacterial and antifungal and is believed to help with allergies and immunity.  Seek out a natural peanut butter brand that only contains peanuts and salt for the best taste and texture.

2 3.5-ounce bars of dark chocolate (60-70%)
1/3 cup natural creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons raw honey
flaked Maldon sea salt

1. Line a mini muffin tray with 12 paper liners.

2. Chop up chocolate bars and melt in the microwave or a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whisk peanut butter and honey together with a fork. Pop the peanut butter bowl in the fridge to chill.

3. Fill each paper liner with 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate and tilt the pan to completely cover the bottom and slightly up the sides of each paper liner. Pop into the freezer to harden.

4. Take a heaping 1/2 teaspoon scoop of the peanut butter mixture and roll into a ball. Place on top of the chocolate and press gently to flatten into a thick disk.  You want to leave a very thin circle of chocolate around the peanut butter so that the chocolate will completely encase the filling. Repeat for all muffin cups.

5. Take 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate (or more) and cover each cup completely. Give the pan a little shimmy to flatten the surface of the chocolate.  Top each with a pinch of sea salt and chill in the fridge. Serve once hardened. Make a bunch of friends fast.

Individual Blueberry Blackberry Crisps

blueberry blackberry crisp vegan natural

Individual Blueberry-Blackberry Crisps
Serves 4-6

The beautiful colors in blueberries and blackberries tell you that they are bursting with anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant.  Berries are bountiful in the summer, but this recipe can use frozen berries for a year-round treat.  While the berries are the star of this dessert, the whole-grain and nut topping adds crunch and richness while still being nutrient-packed and slow-digesting.  You’ll wonder why you’ve been adding flour and white sugar to desserts all these years.

for the filling:
12 ounces blueberries (1 pint fresh or 1 bag frozen)
12 ounces blackberries (1 pint fresh or 1 bag frozen)
1 tablespoon arrowroot (can substitute cornstarch)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
grated zest from 1 lemon

for the topping:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons coconut oil

special equipment:
4-6 small ramekins or gratin dishes

1. Preheat oven to 350. Set ramekins or gratin dishes on a sheet tray. Depending on the size of your dishes, you may need more or fewer.

2. In a large bowl, combine berries, arrowroot, maple syrup and lemon zest.

3. In a different bowl, toss oats, almond meal, sliced almonds, maple syrup and coconut oil together.  Mix evenly with your fingers until you get a crumbly texture.

4. Spoon the berries into the ramekins, filling them all the way (cooking will reduce their volume). Top each ramekin with a couple spoonfuls of the crumble topping. Cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. You want the crisps to be lightly browned and the filling to be bubbling beneath.

5. Cool for about 5 minutes until warm and thickened. Can serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or homemade coconut yogurt.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

raw chocolate macaroons

Makes 20

If I could choose a dessert to be served at my funeral this would be it. They'd be easy and stress free for my grieving loved ones to put together and the combination of chocolate, coconut, and sea salt seem like the perfect way to honor my memory.  Rich and chocolately, these little guys are best served chilled.

2 1/2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup coconut butter, melted if necessary (not the same as coconut oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cocoa or raw cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl until a sticky “dough” is formed.  Use a small ice cream scoop to create even macaroons or form tablespoon size macaroons by hand.  Top with a flake of sea salt.  Chill for at least 2 hours and serve cold.

 

 

Cookie Dough Energy Bites

Makes 14 cookies

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup hemp seeds (or more cashews)
1 cup medjool dates
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Buzz up cashews and hemp seeds in the food processor until you get a fine meal.  Add dates, salt and vanilla extract and process until you get a “dough” that sticks together.  Remove dough into bowl and mix in chocolate chips.

2. Take a tablespoon-sized amount and roll into a ball and press flat into a cookie shape. Repeat with the rest of the dough and chill for at least 2 hours.  Serve cold.