I’m on a role with traditional Southern recipes…potato salad…baked okra…and now for something sweet…banana pudding. With a little extra yumminess on top – a nutter butter crumble. Nutter butters might be my favorite packaged cookie and one I definitely miss since omitting gluten. Because peanut butter and bananas go together so perfectly, I decided to try a nutter butter crumble to go with this banana pudding instead of the typical shortbread cookie or vanilla wafer.
I started with some good quality peanuts. Peanuts are actually not a nut but a legume. Legumes are quite similar to a nut in that both are little seeds encased in a pod. But legumes come from a different family of plants and you will find multiple seeds in their pods versus only one with a nut. Nuts also do not break free of their pod on their own as legumes do, and nuts do not adhere to the wall of their pods as legumes do. Even though peanuts so closely resemble a nut, alas, they are different…they are a legume, containing more than one seed per pod. Because peanuts are a legume, many people who are allergic to nuts can still eat peanuts and vice versa. When picking out your peanuts and peanut butter, go for quality – always choosing organic to avoid the fungi Aspergillus that produces aflatoxins, which are known carcinogens for our bodies.
I used my Magic Bullet to process the nutter butter crumble, but a food processor or Vitamix would also work well. I combined a little almond flour, coconut sugar, peanuts, and peanut butter and pulsed until a crumble formed.
Next, I made a very simple vegan and paleo banana pudding by whisking together arrowroot starch (tapioca starch would work well too) and coconut sugar in a medium sauce pan. The coconut sugar is darker in color, like the color of brown sugar, so the pudding has a caramel color to it. I chose coconut sugar over regular white table sugar because its glycemic index is lower than white sugar, and it is less processed and actually contains some nutrients like iron, calcium, and potassium. I slowly added 3 cups of almond milk (coconut milk would work well too), whisking continually over medium heat until it became thick and bubbly.
Time to add a mashed ripe banana. As I smashed this banana with a fork in a small bowl, I couldn’t help but remember making baby food for my each of my kids. They are 11 and 13 now – my 13 year old is now looking me in the eye! When she was an infant, I was definitely the farthest thing from healthy. Those were my cookie dough, yellow cake with frosting, Cool Whip with a spoon eating days. But Kayley wouldn’t eat baby food from a jar. So I quickly learned how to make my own, freezing different pureed combinations in ice cube trays. Her favorites to start with were mashed avocados and mashed bananas. Hence the memory when mashing this banana. Bananas are an easy food to digest, one that’s good for the gut when suffering from any uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. Plus, they provide lots of energizing nutrients, most famous for their hearty dose of potassium. As my pudding was thick and bubbly on the stove, I whisked in the mashed banana. After a minute, I turned off the heat and added the vanilla.
To assemble the puddings, I layered slices of banana and nutter butter crumble on the bottom of 4 (I really could have stretched it to 6) small glasses. I divided the pudding on top of the nutter butter crumble in each of the glasses. The pudding oozed down in the spaces between the banana and crumble, and I refrigerated the glasses for a couple of hours. The last step was to top each with more sliced bananas and nutter butter crumble. I’m not the best at creating pretty presentations, but the taste makes up for it. Enjoy!
- ½ cup almond flour
- 5 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoons organic peanut butter
- ½ cup organic peanuts
- ¼ cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
- ¾ cup coconut sugar
- 3 cups almond or coconut milk
- 3 ripe bananas
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Combine almond flour, coconut sugar, peanut butter, and peanuts in a food processor and process until a crumble forms. Set aside.
- Mash one of the bananas. Set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, whisk together arrowroot starch and coconut sugar.
- Over medium heat, slowly whisk in almond milk, stirring continually until thick and bubbly.
- Whisk in mashed banana, and cook for 1 more minute.
- Turn off heat, and whisk in vanilla.
- In 4 – 6 small glasses or bowls, layer slices of banana and then a couple spoonfuls of nutter butter crumble.
- Divide pudding over the crumble in each of the glasses.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Top with banana slices and remaining nutter butter crumble. Enjoy!
I can always tell if I’m going to like a restaurant by the after dinner mints waiting at the door. A few local favorites here in Frisco have large bowls of Andes chocolate mints, and those are my favorites. No need for dessert after the meal because my mind is on the creamy little treat I’m no doubt going to grab on my way out. And of course I never take just one.
In my opinion, mint gives peanut butter a run for its money when considering which I like better to pair with chocolate. And one clear advantage of mint – this time of year, my yard springs to life with the stuff. Plus, mint has a few health benefits in its back pocket too. It is a leafy green after all. Mint has long been known to be soothing to the digestive tract and beneficial to those with irritable bowl. Plus, mint has a cooling effect that is useful for skin maladies like burns, rashes, and irritations. Breathing in mint opens the airways of those with asthma, allergies, or a cold, and chewing mint freshens your breath with its anti-bacterial quality. Mint contains some nutrients too: folate, vitamin A and C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc. So with an abundance of this little gem sprouting in my backyard, I’m looking for ways to use it besides making mojitos.
For this Friday’s treat, I decided to make paleo and vegan chocolate mint fudge. If you’ve ever made traditional fudge, you know what a headache it is to pull off – watching the thermometer closely to achieve that perfect soft ball state. Plus you know the amount of butter and sugar and marshmallow crème involved. This fudge is just as delicious (seriously!) without any cooking or processed sugary ingredients. It takes minutes to make and melts in your mouth just like the real thing.
To make chocolate mint fudge, I started with raw cashew butter. I chose this raw cashew butter by Artisana, and added one cup to my food processor.
Next, I melted (over a double boiler or in the microwave) ¼ cup of cocoa butter (raw coconut oil also works just as well), which is the fat portion of the cocoa bean, so it’s both a vegan and paleo butter, and I added it to the food processor. I like using cocoa butter because it helps out with the chocolate flavor plus gives this recipe the melt in your mouth quality of the fudge I grew up loving.
Cocoa butter is handy to have in your pantry for any candy making, and it is also good for your skin so is ideal for making your own skin care products. Although the type of fat in cocoa butter is in large part a saturated fat, surprisingly, small amounts of this type of saturated fat have been shown to protect your heart in a 2006 American Heart Association Study.
I added 1/3 cup raw cacao powder and ¼ cup maple syrup to the food processor. I always buy pure maple syrup, as the alternatives are highly processed and include other unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. When purchasing pure maple syrup, notice you have the choice of two grades: A and B. Ever wonder what the difference is and if it even matters? Grade A is lighter in color and sweeter in taste with a more subtle maple flavor, while Grade B is darker, less sweet, with a more robust maple flavor. Both are a good source of manganese and zinc, but Grade B, with its darker color, contains more. I always choose Grade B.
Lastly, I flavored the fudge by adding vanilla extract, mint extract, a handful of mint leaves, and a little bit of sea salt before processing the ingredients to form a smooth ball of chocolate fudge. I pressed the ball of fudge into an 8×8 ceramic pan and put it in the refrigerator to harden. The result is a rich and creamy treat that is so good it replaces the traditional fudge recipe in our house. I cut the pan of fudge into small squares, and I store it in the fridge.
- 1 cup raw cashew butter
- ¼ cup melted cocoa butter or coconut oil
- ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- handful of mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until a ball of fudge forms.
- Press into an 8×8 ceramic or glass pan.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Cut into small squares, and store in the refrigerator.
Growing up, I loved to bake. Chocolate chip cookies were my favorite. More often than not, by the time the cookies were baked, I wouldn’t even be hungry for more than a bite because, you see, I had satisfied my craving by nibbling on the dough in the process. Sometimes I think I my main motivation for making cookies was to eat the dough. Whoever came up with cookie dough ice cream and cookie dough bites is a genius, as these were some of my favorite treats in my sugar-holic, gluten eating days.
Another one of Rob and my favorites to bake was yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Like Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines – whichever boxed variety was on sale. I shared on my “about me” page that before we had children, we were known to bake a yellow cake and eat it for dinner! Yes, I showed absolutely no self control with my sweets. And with two of us living in the same house with insatiable sweet tooths, we were terrible!
So this smoothie (almost like a milkshake!) is right up my alley – flavored like yellow cake batter – buttery, with a cake-y texture and a hint of vanilla and almond.
To achieve the buttery flavor, I used a heaping tablespoon of macadamia nuts and a tablespoon of coconut butter (coconut oil or macadamia nut oil will do). I added a frozen banana and almond milk for creaminess and a dried fig and extracts for sweetness and flavor. If you don’t have a dried fig, a couple of medjool dates will work just fine. I flavored the cake batter smoothie with vanilla and almond extracts.
For a cake-y texture, I added a scoop of Sunwarrior raw vanilla protein powder. Any vanilla flavored protein powder will work, but I like Sunwarrior because it lends a grainy texture that to me, helps the smoothie resemble cake batter. Sunwarrior protein is a combination of cranberry, pea, and hemp protein, and I like that it is vegan, raw, and easy for my body to digest.
Before blending the smoothie, I prepared my glass by coating the rim with honey, and then dredging the rim through dark chocolate shavings. I made the dark chocolate shavings by processing a handful of dark chocolate chips in my Magic Bullet.
I blended the smoothie for at least 30 seconds, so the macadamia nuts and fig would be smooth. What a delicious yet fairly guiltfree dessert with a little added protein boost. To make the smoothie even more guiltfree, add some spinach for a green cake batter smoothie. I promise you won’t even taste the greens.
- 1 tablespoon macadamia nuts
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter (coconut oil or macadamia nut oil will work)
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 dried fig (2 medjool dates will work)
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- optional: honey and dark chocolate shavings to garnish
- Process a small handful of dark chocolate chips in a food processor or Magic Bullet.
- Prepare glass by coating the rim in honey and then dredging the rim in dark chocolate shavings.
- Blend together all other ingredients until smooth, and pour in the prepared glass.
I used to think gluten free baking was intimidating, but now I realize it’s much easier than even my old gluten filled favorites. And my family agrees. They now prefer (and ask for) cookies and cupcakes made with almond flour over the traditional Nestle Tollhouse type recipes.
Second to chocolate, butterscotch has to be my favorite flavor. My grandmother made a butterscotch pie for her family every week while my dad was growing up, and when my parents married, my mom took on that tradition of making my grandmother’s recipe for every special occasion. It is still my dad’s favorite splurge, and with his birthday coming up next week, I am sure my mom will be busy in her kitchen preparing his pie.
Butterscotch is a flavor similar to both caramel and toffee. All three are made with butter, sugar, milk, and maybe a little vanilla. The difference between caramel, butterscotch, and toffee is in the type of sugar used: caramel calls for white sugar, and butterscotch calls for brown sugar. Caramel ends up tasting sweeter while butterscotch is a bit richer. Toffee is basically butterscotch that has been cooked a little bit longer to make it even richer.
To create the butterscotch flavor with paleo and vegan “clean” ingredients, I made a couple of simple substitutions. I started out with almond flour as the base, but substituted coconut oil for the butter. Instead of using brown sugar as a sweetener, I went to honey. Brown sugar is just white sugar with a little molasses added, so I added a little bit of molasses to these cookies. I love molasses. It’s a thick liquid sweetener with a robust flavor and lots of energizing minerals like iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium.
My spice cabinet is filled with lots of different extracts. They make it so easy to add a familiar taste without adding many (if any) calories. Extracts are basically a concentrated form of the flavor made by brewing the spice or ingredient with alcohol (some are alcohol free like those made by Frontier) and water. I used a little bit of butterscotch extract to give these cookies that rich buttery taste. You can purchase butterscotch extract online, or try using English toffee liquid stevia (purchase at Whole Foods) as a substitute.
After mixing up all the ingredients in a medium bowl, I formed balls of dough (about 20 balls), and then used my fork to stamp them like I would a peanut butter cookie.
I baked the cookies for about 8 – 10 minutes, and YUM!!! A little sweet something for my Friday.
- 2 cups almond flour
- ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- ½ teaspoon butterscotch extract (or English toffee liquid stevia)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together almond flour, coconut oil, honey, molasses, butterscotch extract, and sea salt until a dough forms.
- Form balls with the dough using your hands, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Flatten cookies gently by stamping with a fork.
- Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges.
I always try to post a dessert recipe on Fridays. I figure most people strive to eat their healthiest during the week and are ready for a little splurge by the time the weekend comes. Plus, kids are home on the weekend and no doubt scavenging the kitchen for something sweet.
When I posted the lasagna rolls with macadamia nut cheese on Monday, it opened up a macadamia nut craze for me all week. I love macadamia nuts. Although they’ve gotten a bad wrap for their high fat content, it is a good fat – about 3/4 of the fat is monounsaturated fat which is the kind that is good for your heart and lowers cholesterol. Macadamia nuts also have a certain type of monounsaturated fat called palmitoleic acid, which helps to speed up fat metabolism, and like other types of nuts, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. So don’t let the fat and high calorie content in these babies scare you off. They are a little bit of buttery heaven that are a good addition to a healthy diet.
Today, I decided to pair macadamia nuts with what goes so perfectly with them – white chocolate. White chocolate is actually cocoa butter, or the fat that is pressed from a cacao bean. The result is a creamy white semi solid that when sweetened tastes nothing short of amazing. To avoid fake vanilla and other unnatural ingredients, choose Sunspire White Chocolate Chips available online or at Whole Foods. Or, if you are avoiding dairy (pretty much all white chocolate chips contain dairy), you can try a vegan white chocolate chip like King David Kosher Vegan White Chocolate Chips.
I went to my flourless chocolate peanut butter bars for a guide when making these blondies. I used almond butter instead of the peanut butter and substituted white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts for the dark chocolate chips. Because the batter is very thick and will not pour, I pressed it into an 8×8 baking pan. I baked them for just a little over 20 minutes, and they turned out perfect!
- 1 cup almond butter
- ½ cup honey or agave nectar
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup macadamia nuts
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together almond butter, honey, egg, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
- Fold in macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips.
- Press into a greased 8×8 pan.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
I was first introduced to Nutella when my family spent three weeks in Italy a couple of years ago. I’m not sure how I missed it before because I know all grocery stores in the U.S. carry it. We rented a villa in Italy, so we needed to stock it with food to eat during our stay, and that’s when we picked up the Nutella. It is ridiculously good and not at all like any other nut butter. I would say it more closely resembles cake frosting than a health food – it is that yummy.
We are a very active family, so I’m always trying simple recipes that we can snack on between meals for a quick energy boost. One of our favorites is gutty putty. My mom used to make them for my brother and I growing up all the time. This recipe is a similar idea but using the flavor of “nutella” or hazelnuts and raw cacao instead of peanut butter.
These “nutella” energy bites are not made with actual Nutella, just the Nutella flavors of hazelnut and chocolate. They aren’t nearly as rich and indulgent; however, they can be enjoyed without all the sugar and guilt. I ever so slightly toasted the hazelnuts before adding them to the food processor to help bring out their flavor.
I processed the nuts until they were coarsely ground and then reserved ¼ of a cup to roll the bites in. Without this step, the “nutella” bites end up oily and frankly unappetizing, as they look like brown balls of you know what.
I call these energy bites because I used several “superfoods” known to be a good source of nutrients and energy: cacao, maca, honey, and hemp hearts.
Raw cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world! (according to David Wolfe) Cacao is also high in many minerals like iron, which is necessary to make the hemoglobin part of our blood, the part that carries oxygen to all parts of our bodies – our brains, our muscles, our organs…everything! Cacao also contains endorphins, tryptophan, and serotonin – all of which are feel good substances that boost our mood.
Maca is known for being an aphrodisiac. It’s been grown for centuries in South America as food for warriors to make them superhuman strong for battle. Maca increases blood oxygen and activates our endocrine glands to give us a big boost of energy.
Honey is known for its sweetness and for helping those with seasonal allergies, but it is also a huge enzyme source, so it increases muscle reflexes and mental focus. I choose raw honey from a source close to where I live for the most benefits.
Hemp hearts are one of my very favorite foods and one of the most nutritious and energizing you can find. These little seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are so important to regulate inflammation in our bodies, and contain a healthy omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 3:1. They are also a good plant source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Protein is the building block for pretty much everything – muscles, bones, hair, skin, nails, glands, hormones, neurotransmitters, immune system antibodies.
These energy bites are as easy to make as gutty putty. After coarsely grinding the hazelnuts and removing ¼ of a cup, I added the remaining ingredients to the food processor and processed until a dough formed. Important step – taste the dough to make sure it is sweet and chocolatey enough for your taste. Add more cacao and/or honey and process further until you reach the desired taste.
I removed the blade from the food processor and, using my hands, formed balls out of the dough. I rolled each ball in the coarsely ground hazelnut, and now I have a quick energizing snack when the need arises.
- 2 cups hazelnuts
- 12 medjool dates
- ⅓ cup honey (more or less to taste)
- 3-4 tablespoons cacao, to taste
- 2 teaspoons maca
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup hemp hearts
- Very lightly (no more than 1-2 minutes) toast hazelnuts to bring out their flavor.
- Transfer to a food processor, and process until coarsely ground.
- Remove ¼ cup of coarsely ground hazelnuts, and set aside.
- Add the dates, honey, cacao, maca, vanilla, and hemp hearts to the food processor, and process until a dough forms.
- Remove the blade of the food processor, and using your hands, form balls out of the dough.
- Roll the balls in the coarsely ground hazelnuts.
- Store in the refrigerator.