Category Archives: Desserts

Lemon Berry Custard Pies (GF +Vegan, No Added Sugar)


Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (13 of 15)

I’m quickly becoming a dessert activist.  The little people in my head are marching around with picket signs and chanting Vegans are sweet too!  Dairy-free treats are fun to eat!  Mo dairy, mo problems!  Gluten-free sweets are great for me!  Desserts ain’t just for the iron-clad belly!Sensitive belly?  Oh welly!  Sweets and peace for everyone!  Make vegan bellies happy!  This month, I celebrate 7 years as a cancer warrior.  Cancer has taught me to be creative and adaptable, to live well in the face of challenges.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (2 of 15)

I created this recipe for a fellow cancer survivor who eats a diet completely free of added sugars.  At first, my brain drew a blank.  I love stevia as a sugar free sweetener, but normally use it in combination with another sugar source such as honey, agave or coconut sugar to round out its slight bitterness.  What’s sweet but not processed?  I tossed in a few soaked dates, which added the deep sugary roundness I was looking for.  Even the Mister, a self-proclaimed stevia hater, approved.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (3 of 15)

Within the strict parameters of the sensitive belly’s diet, the sugar cravers get creative!  Just because you can’t indulge in the typical milk, sugar and gluten-laden treats doesn’t mean you have to sit in a corner eating a piece of fruit, or worse, nothing, while everyone else indulges in a creatively and deliciously concocted dessert.  Nobody puts Baby in the corner!

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (4 of 15)

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (5 of 15)

These little desserts come with a salty sweet crust made with toasted coconut, nuts, dates, and sea salt.  This is a versatile crust that can be used with any dessert or pie that doesn’t have to be baked after filling.  The creamy custard-like filling will make you question everything you thought you knew about vegan desserts.   When layered together, it’s salty-sweet, nutty, and creamy, with a lemony zing to wake up the tastebuds from a their long winter’s nap.  On top, a colorful burst of flavor from berries.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (6 of 15)

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (1 of 15)

These little guys would be equally suited to a small informal event such as a dinner party or baby shower, and a fancier event like a wedding.  I always get the most gratification when people who think that the dessert couldn’t possibly fit their dietary needs’  eyes light up when they they discover they can partake along with everyone else.  Eating dessert is such a sensory experience, a way to share something enjoyable with those around us.  When I have the occasion to eat dessert, it’s because I’m with friends.  We’re having fun!  We’re spoiling ourselves, and even the belly-challenged among us need spoiling every now and then.

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (7 of 15)

Phew!  Now that we’ve found dessert peace and harmony, we can commence rock-starring our way through life’s other challenges!

Vegan Lemon Custard Berry Pies (1 of 1)

Lemon Berry Custard Pies   (vegan + Gluten-Free, no added sugar)

Makes 6 quarter-pint mason jar pies

For the “custard”:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in boiling water for an hour, or in cold water overnight
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve the zest to garnish)
  • 1 cup chilled coconut cream (see note)*
  • 3/4 tsp powdered stevia
  • 3-5 pitted dates, soaked in hot water for an hour
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

For the crust: 

  • 1/2 c cup roughly chopped pitted Dates, chopped
  • 3/4 cups cups mixed raw nuts, toasted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toast in dry pan for about 2 min, or until slightly golden and fragrant
  • 1-2 pinches of sea salt, to taste


  • 2 cups berries, sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • zest from 1-2 lemons

Equipment Needed:

  • Quarter pint jars, ramekins or muffin liners for serving
  • Blender
  • Food processor

Blend the filling:

Blend the cashews, lemon juice and chilled coconut cream very thoroughly in a blender, pushing down the sides with a spatula as you go.  If needed, add a very small amount of the coconut liquid to loosen it up if it won’t blend.  Blend in the stevia.  Add the dates, one at a time, tasting after each addition (I used three).  Blend in the vanilla.

Make the crust:

Blend nuts with coconut in a food processor.  Add the non-soaked dates gradually and pulse until they are incorporated.  Blend in the salt to taste.

Press 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into the bottom of each mason jar or muffin liner in a muffin tin.  Spoon some of the cashew custard mixture over top.  Chill in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, or quick chill in freezer for 20-30 minutes (the texture will end up firmer than a pudding but not as firm as cheesecake).

Top with the chopped berries and garnish with lemon zest.

*When using coconut cream to make into pie fillings, whipped cream, etc, it is important to use the white cream and avoid the clear liquid.  If you can’t find coconut cream, you can use 2-3 cans full-fat coconut milk.  The cream should be at the top after chilling.  Just scoop it out and discard or reserve the clear liquid for another use.  I like Trader Joe’s and Thai Kitchen brands.  I have also found good quality coconut cream at Asian grocery stores. 



Filed under Desserts, Vegetarian and Vegan

Cinnamon Toasted Coconut Snack Bites (gf, vegan)

Cinnamon Bites |

The other day, I had a major craving for a cookie.  In particular, a snickerdoodle.  It was about to be one of those I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t get that cookie moments.  I’ve seen lots of recipes for nutritious sweet snack bites on Pinterest, and wondered if I could get my sweet fix with something a little better—okay, substantially better for me—than a cookie. 

Cinnamon Bites |

So, I used my very limited amount of left brained-ness, and analyzed the snickerdoodle.  What was I after?   It wasn’t my goal to recreate the snickerdoodle.  I think sometimes when we make too many substitutions trying to make something healthier taste exactly like the original, we end up not getting what we want.  My very scientific analysis told me that I was craving something toasty, sweet, and cinnamony, with notes of vanilla. 

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Asian Quinoa Salad |

The combination of toasted almonds, toasted coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon blended in the food processor released a lovely fragrance. I used dates to bind everything together, and a pinch of sea salt, because I can’t get enough of the salty sweet taste. 

Cinnamon Bites|

The Mister and I reached the conclusion that they tasted like a cross between a cinnamon donut hole and the yummy gooey cinnamon swirls between the layers of a cinnamon bun.  Since these sweet little dessert-snack bites are full of almonds, and not just empty white flour, I only had to eat two before my sweet tooth was completely satisfied. 

Asian Quinoa Salad |

Cinnamon Bites |

Are they a dessert?  A pre work-out snack?  An energy bite?  Yes, yes, and yes.  But what’s the best part of all?  They were exactly what I was craving and also full of foods that have more substance and nutritive value than the empty cookie I was dreaming about.   

Snickerdoodle?  What snickerdoodle?

Cinnamon Bites|

Cinnamon Bites|

Cinnamon Toasted Coconut Snack  Bites

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut flakes, or 1 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see below)*
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups (packed) pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1) Toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium high heat, stirring often until fragrant and darkened slightly, about 7-8 minutes.  Allow to cool.

2) If using shredded coconut, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 325˚oven, for 8-10 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly golden.  If using toasted coconut flakes, skip to step 2.

3) Blend the toasted coconut in a food processor until it looks like coarse sand.  Reserve 1/3 cup in a small bowl.

4) Add the almonds, cinnamon and sea salt to the food processor with the coconut and blend until the texture of coarse sand.

5) Add the dates and vanilla, and blend until combined and sticking together (test a ball of the mixture by squeezing it into a ball)

6) By the rounded tablespoon, form the mixture into a ball by squeezing and pressing it together.  Repeat for the remaining.  Roll the cinnamon bites in the reserved coconut crumbs, using your fingers to press the coconut onto the outside of each ball.  Store in an airtight container.


Filed under Desserts, Snacks

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Mousse


I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you for a while now! This past summer, the mister and I went to his family reunion in Grand Mesa. If you associate what I associate with reunions, you’re probably thinking about Aunt Ethel’s special jello surprise, cousin Susie’s mystery meat casserole, mountains of deviled eggs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), hot dogs, and of course, macaroni salad. I must have been in some strange family reunion twilight zone, but there wasn’t a speck of jello surprise to be found.

Veganchocococonutmousse|Spoonwithme-com (4)

When you come from a family of lacto-impaired-vegetarians, meat-atarians, and gluten-freegans, people have to get a little creative, especially when it comes to dessert. My cousin-in-law Lena, who has mad vegan skills, whipped up a batch of this mousse. The mousse was silky smooth with the luscious texture every good mousse should have, but was much lighter. Fresh berries were a perfect match. The dessert was satisfying without being overly rich or heavy. Unlike other vegan desserts, the ingredients in this one are simple and straight-forward–coconut cream, cocoa powder, and sugar. Lena kindly agreed to let me share the recipe, which is on the menu at Evolution Fresh, the juice bar and nom-worthy healthy restaurant she manages in Seattle. Thanks Lena!

Veganchocococonutmousse|Spoonwithme-com (2)


It’s a beautiful thing when the world’s diverse eaters can unite over a dessert that everyone loves and can feel good about eating! If only everyone’s family reunions could taste this good!

Veganchocococonutmousse|Spoonwithme-com (3)

Veganchocococonutmousse|Spoonwithme-com (1)

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Mousse

Recipe adapted from cousin Lena and Evolution Fresh

Serves 2-3

The biggest secret to making coconut mousse successfully is temperature. Coconut cream must be cold in order to whip up. If you happen to have xanthan gum on hand, it helps to firm up the mousse even more. If you can’t find cans of coconut cream, you can use the cream from 3-4 cans coconut milk (not light). If using regular coconut milk, refrigerate the cans for at least 2 days, then use only the cream from the top, saving the clear coconut water for another use (It tastes great in smoothies!).    Makes a great topping for berries!

If you can get your hands on it, Mayan cocoa powder makes a great variation on the basic mousse.  If you’d like to imitate the taste of Mayan cocoa powder, you can add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.

  •  1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut cream*, refrigerated for at least 2 days
  • 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, used for thickening)

Scoop the chilled coconut cream into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the coconut cream on medium high speed 4-5 minutes, until fluffy and forms peaks.  If using xanthan gum, add to the mixture and beat for a minute.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Chill or serve immediately.


Filed under Desserts

Whole Wheat Banana Bread with Walnut Crumble

Crumbly Banana Bread

Nothing makes teachers act like kids more than a snow day. It’s a dirty little secret that teachers hope for snow days with even more fervency than students.  A couple nights ago, Facebook was abuzz with weather-related status updates.  SNOW DAY!  WOOHOO!…Finally got the call!  No school tomorrow!…Very happy camper right now…  And then there was my status:  Saaaaahhhhnnoooooooowwwwww daaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy! Yesssss!  I was the teensiest bit excited.  Now, what does one do in winter conditions with time off and a bowl full of spotty bananas?  Do I even need to say it?


Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked Up Banana Bread is my go-to recipe.  For years, I actually followed the recipe as written–besides replacing the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, and the bourbon with other various liquors.  I had never thought to drastically change it, because I knew I had found everything I was looking for in banana bread. It was moist.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  Spiced and fragrant, with an underlying boozy hum.  I was completely satisfied with the recipe, and not tempted to change a thing.




But then…  My eyes began to wander.  Visions of coffeecake crumble danced in my head, and I just couldn’t shake the thought.  Banana bread and coffeecake in one?!?  Do you think?  Nawwwww!  Deb’s recipe is perfection.  You can’t!  But you must!



I started tinkering around, trying to create a nutty crumble to complement, but not over-shadow the banana bread perfection.  I finally arrived at the perfect intersection between coffeecake and banana bread: a fragrant crumble with toasty, wal-nutty clumps on top, and my favorite (almost) original “Jacked Up” banana bread underneath.

Banana bread up

You won’t even need to summon the snow gods to make this banana bread.  Just a little bit of time, and few spotty bananas!

Sliced Banana

Whole Wheat Banana Bread with Walnut Crumble

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one loaf

For the Banana Bread:

4 ripe bananas, smashed with a fork

1/3 cup melted salted butter (or earth balance vegan butter)

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon (optional)

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of ground cloves

1 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour

For the Walnut Crumble:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup walnuts

3 1/2 tablespoons cold butter (or Earth Balance vegan butter)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt


  1. Spread the walnuts on a cutting board and smash them using the bottom of a measuring cup or jar. Combine all walnut crumble ingredients in a medium bowl. Using clean hands, blend the ingredients together until the butter is completely incorporated.  Squeeze handfuls of the crumble in your hands, then break apart the bigger clumps to form pieces resembling a coffeecake topping.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Lightly grease a loaf pan with butter.
  3. Put the bananas in a large bowl, and use a fork to mash them.  Mix in the melted butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, brandy, and the spices.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the top and mix it in.  Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Pour into the buttered loaf pan.  Spread the crumble topping evenly over top.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool before slicing and serving.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Breads, Breakfast and Brunch, Desserts

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes (vegan)


Chocolate and peanut butter fell in love on an unsuspecting day, not much different than today.  The weather was cold, but not too cold.  The sky a nondescript dusty blue.  These were the olden days, the golden days, before Reese’s were even a gleam in the eye of a lucky entrepreneur.

Peanut Butter Balls

Rolling the Peanut Butter

Chocolate and peanut butter just couldn’t get enough of each other.  They had a little fun, took a little roll in the hay, and created a love child.  Yes, that’s right, a peanut butter love child dipped in chocolate.  I hate to be the one to have told you this, but I thought you should know. This is just what happens when two foods with perfect genes fall in love.

Chocolate Chunks

Chopped Chocolate

The first time I made buckeyes, I knew they would be good.  I mean, how could you go wrong with two foods so meant for each other?  I didn’t, however, expect them to be this good.  I’m not really a sweet eater most of the time.  I’m normally a savory kind of gal, so a couple bites of most desserts usually does it for me.  I’ve never felt such a compulsion to keep going back to the fridge as I did with these buckeyes.


I’m reminded of sneaking bites of dough while mom was occupied with pressing the Hershey’s Kiss into the middle of her peanut butter cookies.  The cookies were always good, but I always thought the dough was even better.  This peanut butter filling has the same sweetness and little hum of vanilla as the cookie dough, with a little bit of saltiness and a more concentrated peanut butter flavor.

I heart Buckeyes

Some combinations seem to have been written in the stars.  I have a chocolate peanut butter lover at home as well.  If you do too, look no further. Heart-shaped boxes filled with waxy chocolates are over-rated.  Buckeyes are where it’s at.

Lovey Buckeyes

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Adapted from The Splendid Table

Makes about 60

Although this recipe has been adapted to be dairy-free, real cream cheese and butter can be substituted.  Be sure to use emulsified peanut butter for this recipe.  The oil-on-top type won’t work as well here.  

For the centers:

  • 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, at room temperature (or real cream cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 10 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance (or real unsalted butter)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coating:

  • about 4 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


Make the centers: Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.  Blend together at medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.  Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes, or until chilled but still pliable.

Form the peanut butter balls:  Scoop a tablespoon of the peanut butter mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands.  Place it on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Repeat for the rest of the peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.  (Leftover filling can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to a week).

Prepare the chocolate:  Bring an inch or two of water to a boil in a small/med saucepan.  Place the chocolate in a metal mixing bowl on top of the pan of boiling water.  When the chocolate begins to melt, whisk it until smooth.

Dip the buckeyes:  Spear a peanut butter ball with a toothpick, and twisting it into the chocolate, without submerging it completely.  Place it on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Carefully  twist the toothpick to remove, and smooth over the hole with your fingers.  Repeat with the remaining peanut butter balls.  To create hearts, use the end of an oval-handled utensil such as a spoon, to stamp the two sides of the heart.  Fill with melted chocolate using the back of a spoon,  a squeeze bottle or piping bag.

Refrigerate until the buckeyes firm up.  They can be stored in single layers separated by wax paper in an  airtight container for up to 4 weeks.


Filed under Desserts