Raw Cacao-Coconut Fudge Bites (Vegan)

I hope everyone is enjoying (or surviving) the summer heat!

It’s hot here. Plus, there’s no air conditioning in my apartment so I refuse to turn on the oven in the middle of the day. I would much rather stick my head in the fridge…that might have something to do with the fact that these little squares are waiting for me 🙂

No bake, quick and oh-so-delicious — these dense little blocks satisfy not only my craving for chocolate but any decadent dessert or after-meal treat. They can also stand in as a speedy afternoon pick-me-up when you need a little burst of energy and/or to quench a midday sweet tooth.

Did I mention they are chock-full of healthy fats, fiber, protein and antioxidants (you gotta give it up for raw cacao!).

The base of these fudgy bites are homemade coconut butter (though a store bought version works here too) and your favorite nut or seed butter. Tailor these filling squares to your liking with various extracts, nut/seed butters and add-ins. The addition of dried fruit would be delicious – cherries, raisins, apricots, cranberries, goji berries, banana or dates would be delicious!

Raw Cacao-Coconut Fudge Bites

Ingredients

12 oz unsweetened shredded coconut (or about 1 1/2 cups coconut butter)
1/2 cup of your favorite nut or seed butter, or combo (I’ve used both almond and peanut butter)
1/3 – 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder but would not be raw or even carob powder for caffeine-free)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
3-4 Tbsp agave (honey or maple syrup can be subbed) and/or stevia or your favorite sweetener to taste
3 Tbsp flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds but can be subbed for your
2 Tbsp chia seeds
optional: for a protein boost, add 2 scoops of good-tasting chocolate or vanilla protein powder (be sure you like the flavor!)
optional add-ins: 1/3 – 1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts and/or or dried fruit of choice

For sprinkling/garnish:
2 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp raw cacao nibs

Directions

1. Line a large loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside (Can use small or large pan for different thickness).
2. In a food processor, add coconut and process for about 10 minutes or until the coconut turns into a butter. See my post here on to make homemade coconut butter.
3. Add in nut butter through sweetener and process for another minute until smooth (the more liquid sweetener used will result in more of a fudgy texture)
4. Add in flaxseed meal, chia seeds and protein powder (if using) and process for 30 seconds. Stir in add-ins at this time, if using.
5. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until hardened, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares/blocks and enjoy!

Makes 20-30 squares (depending on size)

Tip: I put these in the freezer to harden and tried to cut them and they didn’t cut as easily. I think hardening in the refrigerator next time would be my preference, but I was impatient 🙂

Bite-Size Peanut Butter Layer Cups (No-Bake, Grain-Free)

Happy Friday! Here’s a sweet treat to kick off the weekend 🙂

I’ve been a little lazy lately with turning on my oven. I have a toaster oven and a typical stove + oven but these warmer Spring days have me craving chilled dishes and fuss-free snacks and desserts.

Plus, dessert isn’t an option for me. I LOVE SWEETS. I eat dessert every night in some form or fashion which gives me the extra push to health-ify my treats so I can enjoy them without the guilt.

These cute little cups fit the bill. 

I’ve professed my love for nut butters over and over again and here’s another tribute to my all-time favorite food. These grain-free peanut butter cups are little bites of heaven…the perfect ending to my day (or anytime you need a little sweet pick-me-up)!

Bite-Size Peanut Butter Layer Cups (No-Bake)

Ingredients

Crust Layer:
3 Tbsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp peanut flour* (OR almond flour or almond meal)
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp honey, agave,coconut nectar or maple syrup (do not use honey if vegan)

Peanut Butter Filling Layer:
7 Tbsp unsweetened, all natural creamy or crunchy peanut butter*
dash of pure vanilla extract
2-3 tsp honey (agave, coconut nectar or maple syrup could be subbed) + a pinch of stevia if you wanter a sweeter filling
2 Tbsp peanut flour or almond flour (or more if needed to hold together, depends on how runny your nut butter is)
pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Layer:
2 Tbsp raw cacoa powder, cocoa powder or carob powder
2 Tbsp peanut butter (I used all natural, unsalted crunchy but creamy works too)
2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp honey, agave, coconut nectar or maple syrup (add a pinch of stevia if you want a sweeter topping)
pinch of sea salt (omit if using salted nut butter)

For garnish, optional
unsalted or salted peanut halves

Directions

1. For crust: Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl until well incorporated and mixture sticks together. (I used a fork).

Divide evenly into 11-12 mini silicone cupcakes molds and press evenly to create firm mini crusts. If you do not have a silicone pan, line a mini muffin tin with plastic wrap for easy removal. Set pan aside while you create the filling.

2. For the peanut butter filling:  In the small mixing bowl (you don’t have to rinse the bowl out), add all of the ingredients and stir to combine. If the mixture isn’t holding together and is too runny, add more peanut/coconut flour a little at a time (this will depending on the consistency of your nut butter, I used a fairly thick peanut butter).

Divide evenly onto the crusts and press firmly to form a flat layer, repeat with remaining cups. Freeze the cups for a few minutes while you prepare the chocolate topping (optional but helps harden the topping more quickly).

3. For the chocolate topping: In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together until smooth and uniform. Spoon on top of the filling and garnish with peanut halves if desired. Refrigerate the cups until chocolate layer is hardened and enjoy!

Makes about 12 mini cups (can be doubled or tripled). Store in the refrigerator.

*If you looking for a nut-free option, substitute sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter, and use pulsed sunflower seeds to make a seed meal (or buckwheat flour or even finely shredded coconut) for the peanut flour. You may need to increase the sweetener slightly unless you are using sweetened sunflower seed butter; I find sunflower seed butter to be a bit more bitter than other nut butters but it’s completely up to you!

PS. Get ready! I am dedicating next week to pizza, another one of my all-time favorite foods…
Have an awesome weekend 🙂

Speedy Sweets N’ Snacks

For some reason or another, some of routine recipes never get posted. Maybe they seem too simple for me to share? Instead of just assuming that you didn’t want to see some of my favorite go-to munchies, I thought I’d share a few with you in this post.

1. Super Secret Cookie Dough– variations of this recipe have been posted at many blogs so I hadn’t bothered sharing my version until now…I’ve been making this “cookie dough” for over a year now and have made several variations (list below).

Healthified cookie dough that takes about 7-8 minutes to pull together. Plus, it’s packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats from the nut butter – this stuff is seriously addicting! I’ve even sandwiched two cookies together with this as the “filling”. Usually it doesn’t last that long and I wind up eating it with a spoon 🙂 I bet it would even be yummy as frosting on a cupcake!

What is so super secret? There are chickpeas in this dessert! It sounds ridiculous and even yucky to some but I LOVEEEEEEEE this stuff! Give it a try before you judge me, ok?

Super Secret Cookie Dough 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (if you use the ones from a can, rinse thoroughly)
1/3 cup chunky OR creamy peanut butter (almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter etc can all be subbed)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt (omit if using salted nut butter)
2 Tbsp almond milk or other non-dairy milk
3-4 Tbsp coconut palm sugar, honey, agave or a combo (my favorite is 2 Tbsp powdered coconut sugar, 1 Tbsp honey and a pinch of pure stevia to round out the flavors)
2 Tbsp flaxseed meal, almond or other nut meal or oat flour (or sub your favorite flour)
chocolate chunks, chips or carob or cacao nibs (I chopped up a portion of the Lindt bar Hint of Sea Salt – my fav! )

optional: one scoop of good tasting vanilla protein powder (I use Jay Robb’s)

Directions

1. In a food processor, add chickpeas and process until finely chopped (there might still be chunks, that’s ok). Add the peanut butter, vanilla, salt and a drizzle of almond milk until smooth and creamy.
2. Add the sweetener, flax/nut meal (and protein powder if you want the extra boost – the amount of sweetener may need to be decreased if your protein is really sweet) and process until blend well. If additional sweetener is needed, add it at this time to taste. If you need another drizzle of almond milk, feel free to add a small amount at this time (I like it thick!).
3. Stir in the chocolate chips (or chopped nuts or dried fruit) and enjoy immediately or refrigerate for a couple hours. I love the flavor straight from the food processor but refrigerating the mixture helps the flavors meld and it’s even better!

2. No-Bake Coconut Macaroons – chewy coconut bites that are egg-free, grain-free and vegan! These quick yummy morsels can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes and frozen for a sweet bite-size treat. Coconutty goodness through and through 🙂

No-Bake Coconut Macaroons 

Ingredients

2/3 rounded cup coconut flakes, slightly crushed with your fingers (could also use 2/3 cup shredded coconut)
1/4 cup almond flour or almond meal (or your favorite flour if you want nut-free)
1 Tbsp maple syrup, honey or agave (date paste, raisin paste or mashed banana would do the trick too)
dash of pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
3 Tbsp coconut butter, melted

Optional Mix-in ideas – mini chocolate chips, chopped dried fruit chunks, lime/lemon zest, spices

Directions

1. Line a plate or small baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until well incorporated. Using a tablespoon, pack mixture firmly to form small rounds to help stick together. Plop (yes, this is a formal baking word) onto prepared plate/sheet and freeze for 30 minutes until hardened. Enjoy!

Makes about 6-7 macaroons (can be doubled or tripled). Store in freezer or refrigerator.

3. “The Comfort Snack”aka gluten free toast with spread of choice + chia seeds + fruit. Simple? Of course, but it’s one of my favorite quick snacks or light desserts – my favorite combination is cream cheese (I love the flavor of vegan Tofutii cream cheese but it’s a guilty pleasure) but coconut butter, nut butter, ghee, or goat cheese are all delicious!

This really doesn’t need instructions – but toast a slice of your favorite gluten free bread. Remove immediately and smear on your favorite spread (about 1 tbsp or so), sprinkle with a heaping 1/4 tsp chia seeds (or flax) and top with slices of fruit (bananas are the best!). Sometimes I will even use cottage cheese as the spread; scoop a spoonful and then toast to warm the mixture, then sprinkle with chia and add the fruit.

4. Veggie Nachos – okay, okay, I know this isn’t considered healthy but I have to include another guilty pleasure – I am a completely sucker for tortilla chips, add some vegetarian refried beans, homemade salsa or pico de gallo, shredded organic cheese and fresh cilantro and I have a salty snack that I cannot resist. Everyone deserves a little indulgence occassionally, right? The only thing I am missing here is homemade guacamole

Indulgent Vegetarian Nachos 

Ingredients

About 14-15 corn tortilla chips (you could also use bean and rice chips like Beanitos if corn-free
1/2 cup BPA free black or pinto vegetarian refried beans
1/4 to 1/3 cup organic shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend – use dairy free for vegan)
1/3 cup salsa of choice or pico de gallo
1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. 2. Spread chips on the lined baking sheet with slight overlap. 3. Drop or spread refried beans onto chips. Next, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. 4. Remove from oven, spoon salsa/pico over the chips and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy immediately!

Serves 1

*For a healthier approach, add some sauteed chopped vegetables (zucchini, onion, squash, peppers) on top of the beans prior to baking.

A few of my other favorite quick snacks are:

Fajita-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas
Protein Nut Butter Balls 
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Bites 
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
3-Ingredient Elvis Soft Serve Ice Cream

Happy Thursday! 🙂

Peanut Butter No-Bake Cheesecake (with PB and J Option)

Until the past few years I haven’t been a fan of cheesecake. I think the aversion began when I was afraid of anything containing dairy, due to the fact I was told I was lactose intolerant and I would have major stomach issues. Turns out, I can eat dairy within reason and gluten was the culprit.

I thought I would give cheesecake another shot but with my twist on it. Since I eat a large majority of the things I create/make, it’s gotta be healthy or the waistline would suffer much more. I had great results with agar agar powder when making my coconut milk panna cotta so I thought I would give it a try with a no-bake cheesecake. This worked beautifully!!!

I made a no-cream cheese cheesecake with peanut butter, cottage cheese, almond milk and a no-bake chocolate crust and it has a rich and creamy texture and no fuss with a cracked top either! I’ve attempted a baked cottage cheesecake a couple times in the past with okay results – but it was nothing to write home about, this however is!

I served this cheesecake “plain” with chopped peanuts and another slice with a sour cherry compote – oh boy, this contrast is lovely! It’s the old-time favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich all dressed up in dessert form. The sweetness of the cheesecake, the saltiness of the peanut butter and the tartness of the cherry compote made me giggle with excitement. Strawberry or raspberries could also be subbed in place of the cherries for a yummy combo too.

Peanut Butter No-Bake Cheesecake

Ingredients

For chocolate crust (makes one 6 inch crust, can be doubled)
1/4 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup raw almonds, peanuts
2 Tbsp flaxseed meal (or your favorite GF flour)
2 Tbsp cocoa or cacao powder (or carob powder for caffeine free)
4 medjool dates (soaked if really dry)
dash of sea salt

For filling
1/4 cup of powdered coconut/palm sugar (I pulsed mine in my magic bullet)
1 cup of non-dairy milk, divided (I used unsweetened almond)
1 1/4 tsp agar agar powder (not flakes, will need 3x as much)
2 cups of 2% cottage cheese (if really watery, strain for 15 minutes – mine was really thick)
1/3 to 1/2 cup unsalted, natural creamy peanut butter (I used 1/2 cup) – can substitute sunbutter for peanut free
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of stevia extract or liquid stevia to taste

For garnish
chopped raw or roasted unsalted peanuts

For sour cherry compote (inspired by my orange scented cranberry sauce)
1 1/4 cup frozen tart red cherries, chopped (could use fresh pitted cherries)
1 1/4 cup  fresh cranberries (you could use frozen too)
3-5 Tbsp coconut palm sugar, honey, agave OR 7-110 medjool dates OR a combo (adjust sweetness to taste)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup apple juice

Directions

For the crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse until combined. A ball should form and stick together. If too wet, add more oats, nuts or flaxseed meal and if too dry add a tiny drizzle of oil, milk or water and pulse again.
2. Press into a 6 inch springform pan (no need to grease) and set aside while you prepare the filling.

For the filling**: 
1. In a small saucepan, combine agar powder, 3/4 cup of milk and powdered palm sugar and stir. Let side for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender or Vitamix, combine cottage cheese, peanut butter,  vanilla, pinch of stevia and remaining 1/4 cup of milk. Blend until smooth and well incorporated (1-2 minutes)
3. Heat the agar, milk and palm sugar over medium heat until simmering and bubbles start to form. Stir constantly for one to two minutes until sugar is mostly dissolved and the mixture starts to thicken.
4. Remove from heat and add to blender. Blend immediately for one minute or until well combined.
5. Pour over prepared crust and let chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours up to overnight (or until set). Remove sides from spring form pan carefully, garnish with chopped nuts and serve with compote if desired. Enjoy!

For cherry compote (you will have extra after using for cheesecake, could use as a sauce for pancakes, breads, garnish etc):

1. In a medium saucepan, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to bring to a simmer  on medium-low and let cook for about 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Halfway through cooking (5-6 minutes) use a fork or a spoon to mash berries and cherries and release more of their juices. Let cook for another 5 minutes, occassionally stirring and mashing until thick. (sauce will thicken more as it cools)
3. Serve immediately warm or refrigerate until ready to serve for a chilled sauce. Heat on low to reheat if preferred warm and enjoy!

*If using dates for your sweetener for the compote, soak them until soft and puree them along with the juice before cooking

**Recipe Notes: I used one 6 in springform pan for the peanut butter cheesecake with the crust and poured the remaining filling into two glass serving dishes for a crustless cheesecake for kicks. This is an easy alternative if you don’t want to make the crust! You could pour it into cocktail glasses and serve with a compote or crushed gluten free graham crackers 🙂 You could even make individual cheesecakes and divide and press the crust to the bottom of individual ramekins or glasses for easy serving.