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Almond Joy Cookies

almondjoy_329_sI wish I could take full credit for these tasty almond coconut chocolate creations, which without fail cause the response “You made these? They’re SO good! Can I have the recipe?” But like many things I bake, I started with an idea, Googled it, found something that sounded like what I had in mind and then tweaked it—in this case just a little bit. When I searched for something along the lines of “almond meal coconut chocolate cookie” I ended up at a recipe that originated from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. The most major changes I made are an increase in volume so as to produce more than a dozen sizable cookies (they’re so good that they will disappear quickly so might as well make extra while you’re at it!), a change in the sweetener from sugar to brown rice syrup, and an increase in cooking time. Also, I usually use chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs (or a combination of the two), but you can do either depending on how sweet you want them.almond joysThe end result is a very moist, dense cookie with a lightly browned top and bottom. They really do taste like a healthy version of Almond Joy candy bars. These are also one of the few gluten-free cookies I’ve ever had that taste as good as, if not better than, most cookies that contain gluten. An added bonus is these can be whipped up quickly, and while the recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes, I’ve done it without that step and the end result was fine. So give them a try and see if you’re transported back to the Halloweens of your childhood when your belly was full of those little chocolate-coated coconut bars with an almond on top. This time if you eat several in a sitting, though, you won’t feel ill!
almond joy cookies

Almond Joys
(makes about 15 hefty cookies)

2 3/4 cups almond meal (I like to mix Bob’s Red Mill, which is very light and fine, and Trader Joe’s, which is darker and coarser)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or cacao nibs, or a combo of the two)
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
5 Tbsp. coconut oil melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond meal, chocolate chips, coconut, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until doubled in volume, whisk in the coconut oil, vanilla, and brown rice syrup. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or even overnight.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1.5-inch balls and place on the parchment. Press down slightly to flatten a bit. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then enjoy! Best eaten while chocolate is still warm and runny, but they keep well in an airtight container for up to a week.

Festive Cranberry Tart


I thought I’d squeeze in one more post before the end of the year (I know, wonders never cease) in case anyone is looking for a somewhat healthy, easy, impressive-looking and extremely tasty dessert to make for a holiday gathering. Vanessa Seder, an incredibly talented food stylist and recipe developer I often work with, was the inspiration for this recipe. She created a cranberry tart for a cookbook we both worked on this year, and her photo of it on Instagram got me thinking something similar would make a great holiday card for my clients. I spent two days playing with adaptations of the recipe, shooting it and making the cards. Time consuming, yes, but worth it for a nice end-of-the-year marketing piece. Here’s the photo that I printed on the card. It’s already gotten a great response!


With two sweet tooths (yes, this is technically the plural of the phrase) in our house, I’m always searching for healthy, but still satisfying dessert options to make. I try to avoid refined sugars (or use them sparingly) and use whole grains as much as possible. You might be surprised at how often it’s possible to create great desserts with these parameters. In this case, the almond meal and spelt flour crust is crumbly and flavorful, and the tartness of the cranberries is set off just enough by the natural sugars in the maple syrup and apple cider to make the filling pleasingly sweet, but not cloying. So here’s my somewhat healthy version (okay, so a stick of butter isn’t ideal, but I also tried this with an almond meal and coconut oil crust, which was almost as good) of a cranberry tart that you can wow your friends and family with this holiday season. And they won’t have to feel bad about having that second slice!

Festive Cranberry Tart

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup almond meal
1 large egg, beaten
8 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter cut into small pieces

4 cups cranberries
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup spelt flour (or arrowroot)
¼ cup apple cider
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Mix sugar, salt and flour in a medium bowl. Mix butter in with your fingers until a coarse meal with pea-size pieces forms. Drizzle egg over butter mixture and mix gently with a fork until dough begins to hold together. Form into a ball and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disc about ½ inch thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13” round about ¼” thick. Transfer to an 11” round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it into edges. Trim off excess dough by running a rolling pin over the edges of the pan. (If you don’t have a tart pan, you can use a pie plate instead; adjust diameter of rolled-out dough accordingly).

Mix cranberries, maple syrup, flour and cider in a medium bowl until combined.

Fill the tart shell with the cranberry mixture and place tart pan on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 50 min. or until filling has thickened (it will solidify more as it cools). Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

Make the Basics, Part II: Spring Pesto

Well, things are greening up around these parts given a solid week of wetness, with more of the same in the forecast. The lack of sun is doing little for growth in our garden. I was trying to figure out something to make out of pretty much the only two things we have in abundance right now—spinach and mint.

I decided a spring pesto could be interesting. And it was! The taste is pure spring and the intense green color is enough to cheer up even the dreariest of days. I put it on pasta with fiddleheads and Maine shrimp, but it would be great liberally drizzled on top of a creamy soup or on grilled or roasted veggies. Because the flavor isn’t nearly as intense as a basil pesto, you can use a lot more than you would traditional pesto. This recipes makes about a half cup.

I did this in a food processor because I wanted it to be a uniform, smooth texture (and I was in a rush), but you could also do it the traditional way with mortar and pestle, which takes longer but produces a more intense flavor.

Spring Pesto

4 cups tightly packed spinach
1 large handful mint leaves (about 30)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil
pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons parmesan

Put all ingredients except cheese in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Stir in cheese at end. If using mortar and pestle, make a paste of all ingredients except oil and then drizzle in oil in a steady stream while constantly stirring.

Make the Basics, Part I: Granola

This is the first installment in an occasional series of recipes I will share with you of basic foods I think are worth making yourself. Whether it be because the store-bought version isn’t nearly as tasty or healthful as one I can create or because it’s much more expensive to purchase the prepared version, there are several staple items in my diet that I’ve found are better made at home. Granola is one of these. Now that I’ve come up with a recipe that suits my tastes perfectly, I plan to make my own much more often. It’s simple, takes a half hour and can frequently be made with ingredients you have on hand.

After making many different batches, I’ve settled on this recipe that uses my favorite elements of a few different recipes. It’s plenty sweet to my taste, even though there is no sweetener other than maple syrup. The coconut oil adds a nice flavor, but you could use a different type of oil if you don’t like the taste of coconut or it isn’t readily available. You can also use a different type of sweetener, and, of course, you can substitute various fruits and nuts based on your likes and what you have in your cupboards. Go ahead and experiment. Remember, recipes are merely suggestions!

My Favorite Granola
(with a nod to The New York Times and Super Natural Cooking)

3 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup pistachios (or almonds or other nuts)

3/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins or other dried fruit)

3/4 cup pure maple syrup (or honey or brown rice syrup)

1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (oats through nuts). Combine maple syrup and coconut oil in a small saucepan and heat on low, stirring until the oil blends with the syrup. Pour on oat mixture and stir until mixture is evenly coated. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until as toasty as you like. Mix in dried cranberries. Cool and then store in a pretty glass jar on a kitchen shelf or counter (clearly, this is the most important part of the recipe!).