5 (refined) sugar-free desserts that don’t suck

This post has been in my drafts fooorrrever (read: since last October) and for whatever reason, I’m just getting around to posting it now.

raw browniesRaw brownies (see #1 for recipe)

All throughout last September, Bob and I went sugar-free. Most of the time, it was pretty easy to do, but some days were admittedly more difficult than others. The first week, we went out to dinner and hadn’t ordered dessert-which we almost always do. “This sucks,” Bob told me when we got home. “What can we eat that’s sweet?” Luckily, I anticipated that both of us would want a treat, especially on a Friday night when we tend to stay in and watch movies (prime snacking time!). Instead of completely cutting us off, I decided I would make us healthy desserts that were sweetened with natural ingredients like dates, cinnamon, real maple syrup or raw honey. Avocado Chocolate cookies were on the agenda that night and they did just the trick. The ingredients were few, the recipe was easy to follow and the cookies were done in no time. I knew that with a little foresight and some easy, healthy dessert recipes in my back pocket, we’d do just fine in our month-long no-sugar diet. And we did.

I started becoming more mindful of what was in my food. I had to be careful about the products I was buying. For instance, I had to make sure that the sandwich buns I bought were made without any added sugars (very hard to find, by the way) and I couldn’t allow myself any condiments like ketchup or bbq sauce unless I made it myself. The first week was rough and it felt very restrictive. But after that, I made sure to plan every single meal, right down to the snacks, each week and it was smooth sailing from there. The planning is what worked best for me. I’d highly recommend doing a month-long sugar detox. If you’re totally committed and prepared for it, then that’s more than half the battle! And you’ll feel healthy and energetic throughout and afterwards, which I think is reason enough to do it. My best advice is to just prepare, prepare, prepare.

This is a list of the goodies we enjoyed that month. The best part? They’re delicious and you wouldn’t even know that they contain zero sugar. The second best part? They’re good for you.

1.) Raw Brownies

brownie bites

Raw brownies are pretty much identical to that time I made brownie bites. Make ’em sans the sprinkles of course.

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: The cashews can be replaced for raw pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts or even a mix. I don’t recommend peanuts, as the flavor is too overpowering. I’ve had the best results with cashews or pecans. You can roll them up into little bites (as pictured above) or you can leave them flat in the pan and cut them into squares. This will last up to a week (perhaps a little over) in the refrigerator. I’ve gotten some great feedback on these brownies—everyone loves them!

2.) Banana Ice Creambanana ice cream

Recipe (adapted from The Kitchn):
serves 2

3-5 frozen bananas, sliced
1-2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
A dash of cinnamon

Toss frozen bananas,vanilla and cinnamon into a high-powered blender.
Pulse the bananas for a bit, as not to overwork your blender. Then blend until you get a smooth, frosty consistency.
Serve immediately. It melts quickly!

Notes: This was Bob’s favorite of the month and if you’re an ice cream fanatic and you like bananas, then you’ll go nuts for this stuff. You can leave it simple or you can throw whatever into it and transform it into a sundae. Bob really liked it with these paleo coconut macaroons we found at the store, but a topping of melted peanut butter sounds heavenly to me.

3.) 3-Ingredient Raw “Caramel” Dip with Fruit

Raw Caramel Dip

[Click here for recipe]

Notes: I love this dip most with bananas and apples, as I find those fruits to be most compatible with the caramel-like flavor. It’s quick to whip up and it lasts for about a week in the fridge.

4.) Avocado Chocolate Cookies

chocolate avocado cookies

Image and recipe by The Smoothie Lover

[Click here for the recipe]

Notes:  Mine came out a little flatter than what’s pictured above but they came out great regardless. No avocado taste whatsoever. These cookies are soft and uber-chocolaty with a partly-cakey, partly-fudgy texture (the best of both worlds!).

5.) Cherries & Chocolate Smoothie

cherry garcia smoothie

Recipe:
serves 1

1 cup of homemade almond milk
3/4 – 1 cup of frozen sweet  dark cherries
1/4 of a frozen banana
2 heaping tbs of raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
t tbs raw honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Taste and add more of anything to your liking.

Notes: This is basically a Cherry Garcia in smoothie form. Who wouldn’t love that?

3-ingredient raw “caramel” dip

Raw Caramel Dip.

I am automatically suspicious of any recipe that has quote marks in its title. Because once you see the quotes, particularly around something delicious like “cheese” or “chocolate”, in my head it translates “cheese” into “not real cheese and not as good” and “chocolate” into “carob powder that supposed to taste like chocolate but actually tastes like dirt”. I can tell you “caramel”, while not real caramel shouldn’t warrant the eye roll because it’s sweet and caramel-ly, sans the stickiness, but every bit as smooth. Oh. I also forgot to add, it’s completely guilt-free. As in, no refined sugar and no butter, but plenty of vitamins, minerals and natural sugars to keep you going. There are just three basic ingredients that are going to make this caramel dip, but you’re welcome and encouraged to add in a few other ingredients that could take the flavor up a notch.

I’ve experimented with a few raw caramel recipes and found a version of my own to be the simplest and most delicious. All it takes is a few good-quality ingredients.

3-Ingredient Raw “Caramel” Dip (adapted from Goodness Green)

1 cup of pitted Medjool dates* 
1/4 – 1/2 cup of homemade nut milk** 
1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla extract
Optional: a pinch of cinnamon, pinch of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of real maple syrup***

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until completely smooth.
Serve as dip for apples, bananas or any other food you desire.
Will keep in an air-tight jar in the fridge for about a week (perhaps a little more).

*Must be Medjool dates because these are sticky and have a sweet caramelized flavor. If these aren’t an option, then you’ll want to soak your other variety of pitted dates for 1/2 hour to 1 hour before blending to soften. You can then use the soaked date water as your liquid base.
**Water is a fine substitution here too. Also, you might want to err on the side of more, depending on how thin you want the consistency of the dip to be.
***The dip will be sweet without the syrup, so you’ll want to taste-test first before adding in.

Raw Caramel Sauce

Not only does this raw caramel have a brown-sugar-like sweetness and lovely, creamy texture, but t’s easy to to make, easy to eat, doesn’t require any cooking and won’t get stuck in your teeth. Sticky caramel apples be damned!

powerful blueberry smoothie

Powerful Blueberry Smoothie - filled with antioxidants, vitamins, omegas-3s and more

This powerful blueberry smoothie is full of amazing ingredients that fill you up, pump you up and make you feel good. The blueberries are superstars in that they provide healthy and high doses of antioxidants, fiber, copper, potassium and multiple vitamins. Frozen strawberries add a much-needed frostiness while giving the body vitamin C, polyphenols (protects against free radicals) and manganese (supports bone health). A little bit of avocado provides the healthy fats, while keeping this drink as creamy as can be. The chia seeds are great here because you don’t actually taste or feel their texture, yet you’re still reaping the benefits of the protein and omega-3s. And the maca? That’s optional, but I’ve been using it as a natural energy boost every now and then and it’s amazingly effective at getting me up and going. This smoothie is all that and one more thing: it’s completely delicious! It’s no wonder it’s so powerful.

As with any smoothie, this recipe is highly adaptable. You don’t need to use nut milk, like I did. Any other milk or even coconut water would be fine and should you like it more runny, then add a little more of it. If you want it more creamy, add more of that avocado. For more icyness, you can throw an ice cube or two into the mix, or even more frozen fruit. And if anything else, add more blueberries because blueberries are just the best.

Powerful Blueberry Smoothie
serves 1

1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
5 frozen strawberries
1/4 flesh of an avocado
2 cups to start with of your favorite nut milk 
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Adjust/add more ingredients to suit your taste.

Powerful Blueberry Smoothie.

So, my blender broke. Womp, womp. But I’m happy that it waited until all the ingredients were perfectly blended before it malfunctioned. I was wondering if I should get another cheap little thing or bite the bullet and go full-on Vitamix or some other high-powered blender that costs a boatload of money. But I think I’ve resolved to go with quality (cha-ching!) because in the long run, that might end up costing me less anyway. A friend has been singing the praises of the Vitamix, so I’m thinking about going in that direction. What do you think? Do you have a Vitamix or a good blender that you swear by? I’m open to suggestions.

a breaking bad cake

Happy Birthday Bitch

Last weekend, Jennifer‘s husband Anthony designed her this AMAZING Breaking Bad-themed cake for her birthday.

Breaking Bad cake 4

You’ve got your blue meth. Of course.

You’ve got your birthday bacon and eggs.

Breaking Bad cake 3

You’ve got your metaphoric fly. By the way, one of my favorite episodes.

Breaking Bad cake 1

You’ve got Tuco’s grill, the pink one-eyed teddy bear, a beaker, Walt’s undies (not pictured), the tank symbols, Hector’s bell, the Stevia and Heisenberg’s famously bad-ass hat.

Breaking Bad cake 2

But what you’ve really got here…is a damn awesome cake.

2 creamy dreamy smoothies to try

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I love using avocado in smoothies. Not only does it provide a much-needed boost of omegas and fiber (plus, a slew of other health benefits), but it lends its velvety smooth texture quite nicely in the smoothies below. The first is a recipe that lets the avocado be the star, so the ingredients are minimal. It’s mild yet luscious. In the second, the avocado provides a creamy base for a smoothie that tastes like chocolate-banana pudding—absolutely yummy.

Forgive me if you’ve seen these already (I’d posted them on Instagram a few weeks ago) but I thought it might be nice to share these with the people who aren’t on IG. Or perhaps it might serve as a friendly reminder to those who have seen it, so to say “Hey! Remember when I posted this? Don’t forget to try them, they’re fantastic!”

Avocado-Honey Smoothie
1-2 servings

Flesh of a whole avocado
1 teaspoon of lime juice
1-2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (or so) almond milk or cashew milk

Put all ingredients together in a blender and blend. Keep adding milk for desired consistency.

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie (recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker)
2 servings

1 frozen banana
1/2 frozen avocado
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I always add a little more for a deeper cocoa flavor)
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (or so) of almond milk or cashew milk

Put all ingredients together in a blender and blend. Keep adding milk for desired consistency.

Funnily enough, I had a hard time titling this post because I wasn’t sure of whether to refer to these as smoothies or shakes. Smoothies are typically fruit-based, while shakes are made with milk (or ice cream). These are a bit of both, so I went back and forth with it. Ultimately, I decided on ‘smoothie’ because the star ingredients are fruit. But you can still call them shakes, if you want to. ‘Shake’ sounds like more of a treat anyway, don’t you think?

easy homemade almond joy (without the coconut flakes)

It doesn’t look like an Almond Joy.

almond joy3

But it tastes like one, I assure you.

This recipe is for 4 kinds of people:
1. People who like the taste of Almond Joy.
2. People who like the taste of Almond Joy, but detest the texture of coconut flakes.
3. People who like the taste of Almond Joy, but do not have or want to buy coconut flakes (they can be so expensive!).
4. People who like the taste of Almond Joy,  but want a cheaper and healthier alternative than the candy bar.

The good thing about this bar is that it’s much easier and quicker to make than the homemade version with flakes. Yet it doesn’t sacrifice that famous coconut flavor that makes Almond Joy such a hit.

Oh and it’s Paleo-approved too!*

Almond Joy (without the coconut flakes)
makes about 15 2-inch pieces (or enough to evenly fit into a 9×5 bread pan)

6 tablespoons of organic unrefined coconut oil (refined oil does not have the coconutty taste that unrefined has)
1/2 cup of 100% unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
About two handfuls of roughly chopped almonds
Pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons of honey, or to taste

Line a small pan with parchment paper. I used a 9×5 bread pan. Set aside.
Melt the coconut oil  in a small saucepan on a medium-low heat until completely melted.
Quickly add in the extract, salt, honey and cocoa powder.
Bring heat down to very low. 
Whisk the ingredients until fully blended. Turn off heat to keep the chocolate from burning. If you like a deeper chocolate flavor, then feel free to add more cocoa powder, one tablespoon at a time.
Mix in half the almonds into the mixture.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the parchment-lined pan.
Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top.
Refrigerate for about an hour or more.
Once hardened, cut into pieces and enjoy!

almond joy2

*More on this tomorrow.

indoor s’mores

smores2

How I wish I could have a backyard with my very own fire pit! Think of the possibilities. Toasted marshmallows! Toasted everything!

The reality is that I live in a small apartment in Queens with no yard (unless you count the garbage alley as a “yard”) and so, no fire pit-toasted marshmallows for me. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have my s’mores and eat ’em too.

You know the deal: chocolate, graham crackers and a jumbo marshmallow. I even made a special diagram just for you! As if you needed one.

smores

Toast ’em in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes on high. I like to wait until the top of the marshmallow gets a little golden, but as soon as it starts expanding it’s warm enough to remove.

The toaster oven is a wonderful machine and it must be used! Marshmallows don’t have the same magic in the microwave. Of course, there was a time when I had no choice. But yes, the toaster oven, if you have one!

Press the remaining graham cracker on top and when the chocolate starts oozing out, think maybe I should’ve used only one piece of chocolate. That probably would’ve sufficed.

smores3

But upon first bite, think nope, two’s good!

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