healthy party idea! how to host a chocolate bar

healthy party idea

Stick around here long enough and you’ll know that I’m obsessed with helping people kick their sugar addiction and love living life without it. While this can be much easier to do when you’re by yourself at home, here’s a healthy party idea that is meant for a crowd and can even be taken on the road…host a “Chocolate Bar.”

I did this for a group of ladies at our local rock climbing gym this week and it was so. much. fun! It’s easy to do too.

But what it is?

A “Chocolate Bar” is kind of like a Menchies (except without all the sugar) or a salad bar (but this is dessert). You start with a base – in this case, my favorite chocolate avocado pudding recipe, and then provide a variety of mix-in and toppings options for your crowd to pick from.

Read on for the how to…

vegan chocolate pudding

Healthy party idea: How to Host a Chocolate Bar

1) Start by making the vegan chocolate avocado pudding. Since it’s gluten and grain free, this is perfect for your gluten-free and paleo friends and family too. If you have guests with nut allergies, I recommend making a nut-free batch first and storing it away

2) Brainstorm and gather your topping and mix-in ideas. I highly recommend choosing toppings and mix-ins that are free of added sugars (and vegan too!). Otherwise, this party is not quite so healthy. Here are my suggestions:

  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios)
  • Fresh fruits (raspberries, strawberries, cherries, oranges)
  • Unsweetened dried fruit (raisins, goji berries, apricots, cranberries, cherries, coconut)
  • Cacao nibs
  • Instant coffee
  • Peanut butter
  • Peppermint extract
  • Date caramel (grab my recipe for that here)

3) Create a large sign to display at the Bar plus smaller food tag cards in front of all the toppings and the pudding too. This is so important, especially if you have guests with particular food allergies, aversions or dietary preferences. If you have guests with nut allergies, I recommend keeping the nut-free pudding and topping options separate from the rest to avoid cross contamination.

4) Decide whether you will have the pudding portioned out ahead of time or will have guests help themselves to that along with their topping and mix-in selections. I shared my favorite ideas for doing this with my VIP readers in a brief video. If you aren’t already a Wildberry Press VIP and want to become one so you have access to that video, plus printable versions of the recipe and how to, click here to learn more.

5) Optional, but fun (this is a healthy party idea, after all!): Have guests name their creation, snap a selfie with it, then share their picture with you which you can use to create a shareable Chocolate Bar Photo Album!

That’s it! So easy and super fun. And if you’re looking for other healthy recipes for a party, try these ones from my blog:

chocolate peanut butter mousse (vegan, dairy free, gluten free, no added sugar)

(this post contains affiliate links which help fund this blog but at no cost to you)

“We go together like birds of a feather…”

If chocolate and peanut butter ever had a theme song, that would be it. They were simply made for each other. #Godsagenius

And if you were playing Family Feud and had to name a food that went with peanut butter, I’m pretty sure “chocolate” would be a top answer. (“Jelly” might have the edge, numbers-wise, but taste-wise chocolate has “j” beat hands down IMO). You too?

So it was only a matter of time before I gave my go to chocolate mousse recipe a slight makeover to transform it into a chocolate peanut butter mousse.

 

 

There are three things I especially love about this chocolate peanut butter mousse recipe:

  1. It’s easy to make. With so many things on the go…four kids, two business, plus life and laundry, I want as many easy recipes in my life as possible.
  2. It’s a crowd pleaser. Whenever I hit on a recipe that satisfies many palettes, it quickly becomes a go-to and I love that this chocolate peanut butter mousse works as a snack or can be dressed up for company.
  3. It’s healthy but decadent. It’s my mission in life to prove that you can have a healthy dessert and eat it too without the sugar rush and crash and regretting that last bite, piece or helping. Dates and stevia stand in for added sugars but without fueling a sugar addiction and the fats from the avocado, peanut butter and coconut milk give a richness to the dessert that we often crave but with more substance and nutrients than we receive from butters and oils.

 

I’m giving you an option for a peanut butter mousse layer if you want to get all fancy pants and dress it up for guests. I’m perfectly content either way, but definitely run with the second option when I want to add a little wow factor. Mixing it up in food processor (this one’s my favorite), is my preferred way to make it because I find it easier to scrape than a blender. If you do go with the blender option, make sure it’s one with a motor powerful enough to handle blending the ingredients, especially the dates.

If you’re opting to add the peanut butter mousse layer, then you definitely want to serve this in a clear glass container. I used a Weck canning jar in this picture, which you can find here. For a slightly smaller size, these Weck tulip jars are my favorite. Yep, I totally crush over beautiful containers. And for parties, these jars make great portable, classy and environmentally friendly individual portion sizes. They’re my favorite party trick. For a party, though, you’ll want to double or triple the recipe depending on the number of guests.

 

P.S. Typically, I prefer using full fat coconut milk in my recipes, but because of the fat content in the peanut butter, I opted to use low fat coconut milk for this chocolate peanut butter mousse.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse
Prep Time
10 mins
Chilling
1 hr
 

Easy but decadent, this chocolate peanut butter mousse whips up in a jiffy and satisfies all the cravings.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Keyword: chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, easy vegan dessert recipe, no added sugar dessert recipe, vegan chocolate mousse
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
  • 1 just ripe avocado
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup date paste
  • 1 15-oz can low fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. If making without the peanut butter swirl, add all ingredients to the food processor or blender and mix until smooth and creamy and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.


  2. If making the mousse with the peanut butter swirl, add all ingredients EXCEPT the avocado and cocoa powder to the food processor and blender. Blend thoroughly, then remove 1/4-1/2 cup and set aside. Then add the cocoa powder and avocado to the remaining mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

  3. In clear glass containers, fill each 2/3 full of chocolate mousse, add enough peanut butter mousse to create a layered effect and then top with more chocolate mousse. Chill for at least one hour in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping

no bake chocolate mint squares (vegan, no added sugar, paleo, gluten free)

 

There are three things I have to do before I start writing a blog post: get my pictures purdied up, make sure my nails are clipped short and fix my hair in a ponytail. The pictures are essential. The other two? Just a couple quirks that minimize distractions for me. LOL

Now that those are out of the way, let’s chat about these no bake chocolate mint squares.

They are a minty take on a couple of recipes I frequently use for desserts and are fast and simple to whip up. The only downside, perhaps, is waiting a couple of hours for them to set in the fridge. Which is why it’s always a good idea to leave a little bit of the mousse filling in the food processor bowl.

Here are the stats on these no bake chocolate mint squares:

  • chocolatey
  • minty
  • vegan
  • gluten free
  • paleo option
  • raw option
  • no added sugar
  • plant protein
  • higher in fat (thanks to the avocado, coconut milk and nuts)

 

I’m giving you two options for the finished look: naked…

 

 

 

…and fancy.

 

Truthfully, I often go the low-key route and let the taste of these squares do all the talking (especially if I’m in a hurry), but occasionally it’s fun to dress things up a little, especially if you’re bringing these along to a friend’s house or potluck.

To make the fancy version, be sure to follow the steps in the instructions carefully which will save you time and ingredients. Trust me on this one.

If you use peppermint essential oil (like I did), make sure it is a high quality one and approved for internal consumption. My favorite brand is by Young Living with the extra bonus of being able to support my friend in her business. If you use peppermint extract, you’ll need more than the EO since it isn’t as strong.

Now for the recipe, shall we?

 

No bake chocolate mint squares
Prep Time
10 mins
Chil Time
2 hrs
 

These vegan chocolately minty squares are easy to make, free of added sugars and can be suited to a gluten free and paleo diet.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Servings: 16 squares
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the base:
  • 1 cup almonds (raw if preferred)
  • 3/4 cup date paste*
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 scoops 100% pure powdered stevia
For the filling:
  • 1 just ripe avocado
  • 1 15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup date paste*
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 scoops 100% pure powdered stevia
  • 2 T peanut butter (or almond butter for paleo)
For the green drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup reserved avocado/coconut mixture (see instructions)
  • 2-3 pinches 100% pure powdered stevia
  • 1-2 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1/8-1/16 tsp matcha
For the chocolate drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup reserved chocolate mixture (see instructions)
  • 3 tsp unsweetened almond milk
  • cacoa nibs (optional)
Instructions
For the base:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until the nuts are chopped fine and the ingredients just hold together when pinched between your fingers. Be careful not to over mix as the nuts will release their oils.

  2. Pour into an 8x8 glass baking dish and press down firmly and evenly to form the base. Set aside.

For the filling:
  1. Add the coconut milk and avocado to a clean food processor bowl and mix until smooth. If making the fancy version of the squares remove 1/4 of the mixture, add to a clean jar and set aside.

  2. Add remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the bowl a couple of times. If making the fancy version, remove 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture, add to a clean jar and set aside.

  3. Pour filling over the base, cover with foil and chill in the fridge for at least two hours to set. Cut into 16 squares and serve. Store in the fridge for up to two days (if they last that long 😉 )

For the fancy version of the squares:
  1. Combine all green drizzle ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover the jar with the lid and chill until ready to decorate the squares.

  2. Thin the reserved 1/4 cup of chocolate mixture with almond milk. Cover the jar with the lid and chill until ready to decorate the squares.

  3. Once the squares are chilled and set, pour the green drizzle into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Alternatively, you can use a plastic sandwich bag by spooning in the mixture, sealing and cutting off a tiny corner of the bag. Drizzle over the squares in a loose zigzag pattern.

  4. Repeat for the chocolate drizzle using a clean bag. If desired, sprinkle cacao nibs over the squares.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping

warming indian mulligatawny soup (vegan, dairy free, oil free, no added sugar, gluten free)

As someone who prefers to use medication as an absolute last resort, I’m always on the lookout for food and recipes that give the body a fighting chance against infection before medication is needed.

And this warming Indian mulligatawny soup is just what the homeopathic doctor ordered.

Chock full of spices, vegetables and a kick of plant-based protein from red lentils, this soup comes together easily even if the ingredient list looks intimidating. Actually, it’s exactly because of all these ingredients (which are mostly spices) that makes this soup an excellent meal especially during cold and flu season.

For example:

  • Ginger strengthens the immune system, helps with digestion and helps with respiratory health
  • Turmeric and cinnamon are antioxidants and anti inflammatory
  • Cardamon helps with digestion problems
  • Thyme soothes sore throats and coughs and also helps with digestion

 

 

One of the reasons I also love this soup is that it’s one of the few soup recipes my husband also enjoys.  Without meats and cheese, he jokingly refers to most soups as “tea with vegetables” i.e. they don’t feel filling enough. The kids, on the other hand give it a mixed review. LOL

This warming Indian mulligatawny soup is a plant-based and oil-free version of a recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen and I’m grateful for the friend who passed it along. While the rice isn’t strictly necessary, it rounds out the recipe as a hearty meal. Quinoa would also work well as substitute.

 

warming indian mulligatawny soup
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 
Course: Entree, Soup
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small apples, diced
  • 1 14.5 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1.5 T curry powder
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilatro, chopped
Instructions
  1. Add a little water to cover the bottom of a large soup or stock pot and saute the onions, garlic and carrots over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the fresh cilantro and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are cooked thoroughly.

  2. Add fresh cilantro and serve over rice or quinoa if desired.

 

mini pumpkin pie-lets …updated (vegan, dairy free)

As I was cooking for Thanksgiving last week, I discovered a bit of an oops in this recipe for mini pumpkin pie-lets. Originally, I posted that the recipe made 12 pie-lets, when really, it makes about 36. I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote up the original. Total face palm.

Hint: if you want more than a little pastry leftover to make these, then make two dozen mini pumpkin pie-lets and eat the leftover filling like pumpkin mousse.

I updated the recipe in the original post plus made a slight tweak to the spices because I can’t help it…I’m always experimenting! I found that I liked a little more of each spice compared to the portions I initially wrote down. I’m re-sharing the updated recipe here too.

If you want a little more behind-the-scenes details on how my Thanksgiving prep went (including why I felt like a total failure), I’m sharing that with my newsletter insider crew. If you want to get on that list so you never miss a recipe and have direct access to tips and stories I only share there, you can do that by signing up here.

Now for that updates mini pumpkin pies recipe…

 

pumpkin pie-lets with maple coconut whip
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
42 mins
 

Made mostly added-sugar free, these mini pumpkin pies are a vegan twist on a traditional holiday recipe.

Course: Dessert
Servings: 36 mini pumpkin pies
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 2.5 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan buttery spread, chilled
  • 1/2-2/3 cup ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup date paste
  • 1/2 small just ripe banana
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • scant 1/2 tsp ginger
  • scant 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 4 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the maple coconut whip:
  • 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup or 1/2 scoop stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Instructions
For the crust:
  1. For best results, chill the bowl, pastry blender, utensils and all ingredients for at least 30 minutes.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt, then use the pastry blender to cut in the butter until tiny pea-sized balls begin to form. Gradually stir in a 1/2 cup of the ice water using a metal spoon. Add more water as needed until the pastry begins to form the shape of a ball.

  3. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Before rolling out, divide the dough in half.

  4. Remove half of the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8"-1"4 thickness. Use the lid of a wide-mouth mason jar to trace out circles for the individual pie crusts. It's best to start around the edges of the crust and then trace out the circles on the inside to maximize the use of your crust. Put scraps aside in the fridge and roll out the other half of the dough, then use remaining scraps and re-roll.

  5. Place each crust into a mini cupcake/tart pan and gently form the crust to the inside of each cup. Prick the bottom of each pie crust several times with a fork, then line top of pan with a double thickness of foil before placing in a 450 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

  6. Remove from oven and remove each shell to cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze in a sturdy freezer-friendly container until ready to use.

For the filling:
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined. I find it helps to blend for several minutes, let it rest for a few minutes and then give it a final blending for an additional 1-2 minutes.

  2. If not filling the mini pie shells immediately, store filling in an air tight container in the fridge.

For the maple coconut whip:
  1. Chill the can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight to have the cream set. Open the can and carefully drain off the liquid/remove the cream from the can.

  2. Place the cream in mixing bowl and add the maple syrup or stevia and the vanilla. Use a set of beaters or hand whisk to whip up the cream. The coconut whip can be made one day ahead of time, but you'll need to repeat the whipping process before serving.

To assemble the pie-lets:
  1. Spoon the pumpkin pie filling into each pie shell. Top with a dollop of maple coconut whip and a dash of nutmeg.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I’ve found the full-fat coconut milk at Whole Foods doesn’t set well and not all brands do. Thai Kitchen is one brand, however, that has pretty reliably set for me. You can get it here if you can’t find it in the Asian section of your local grocery store.

mini pumpkin pies with maple coconut whip (vegan, dairy free, nut free, added sugar free option)

 

Aren’t these the cutest? Teeny pumpkin pies just waiting to be popped into your mouth. Pumpkin pie made without any added sugars and allowing only a hint of it in the coconut whip.

Funny thing, though, until I came up with this recipe, I wasn’t a pumpkin pie fan. Never baked one. Never wanted to. It’s a texture thing.

With this recipe, the texture (thankfully) changes by pulling out the milk, eggs and sugar and replacing it with whole fruits. It also keeps the filling added sugar free which means you’re never going to regret that “one last piece.” So, yay, for a healthy makeover too!

 

 

Besides those two pumpkin pie victories, I think my biggest cause for celebration was the pastry crust. As I shared here, I’m normally a crisp person because of my pie crust struggles. But this crust came together beautifully with the combination of whole grain spelt flour and Earth Balance vegan buttery spread, plus keeping everything chilled. (BTW you’ll definitely want to come back here early Wednesday for a recipe idea using leftover pie crust dough.)

You could easily bake the pumpkin pie shells ahead of time – even freeze them a few weeks in advance – and the filling is perfect for making a day or two ahead of time to let the flavors of the spices fully develop. My personal preference is to let each person add their own dollop of coconut whip along with a dash of nutmeg, or leave it off completely.

 

pumpkin pie-lets with maple coconut whip
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
42 mins
 

Made mostly added-sugar free, these mini pumpkin pies are a vegan twist on a traditional holiday recipe.

Course: Dessert
Servings: 36 mini pumpkin pies
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 2.5 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan buttery spread, chilled
  • 1/2-2/3 cup ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup date paste
  • 1/2 small just ripe banana
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • scant 1/2 tsp ginger
  • scant 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 4 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the maple coconut whip:
  • 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup or 1/2 scoop stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Instructions
For the crust:
  1. For best results, chill the bowl, pastry blender, utensils and all ingredients for at least 30 minutes.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt, then use the pastry blender to cut in the butter until tiny pea-sized balls begin to form. Gradually stir in a 1/2 cup of the ice water using a metal spoon. Add more water as needed until the pastry begins to form the shape of a ball.

  3. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Before rolling out, divide the dough in half.

  4. Remove half of the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8"-1"4 thickness. Use the lid of a wide-mouth mason jar to trace out circles for the individual pie crusts. It's best to start around the edges of the crust and then trace out the circles on the inside to maximize the use of your crust. Put scraps aside in the fridge and roll out the other half of the dough, then use remaining scraps and re-roll.

  5. Place each crust into a mini cupcake/tart pan and gently form the crust to the inside of each cup. Prick the bottom of each pie crust several times with a fork, then line top of pan with a double thickness of foil before placing in a 450 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

  6. Remove from oven and remove each shell to cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze in a sturdy freezer-friendly container until ready to use.

For the filling:
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined. I find it helps to blend for several minutes, let it rest for a few minutes and then give it a final blending for an additional 1-2 minutes.

  2. If not filling the mini pie shells immediately, store filling in an air tight container in the fridge.

For the maple coconut whip:
  1. Chill the can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight to have the cream set. Open the can and carefully drain off the liquid/remove the cream from the can.

  2. Place the cream in mixing bowl and add the maple syrup or stevia and the vanilla. Use a set of beaters or hand whisk to whip up the cream. The coconut whip can be made one day ahead of time, but you'll need to repeat the whipping process before serving.

To assemble the pie-lets:
  1. Spoon the pumpkin pie filling into each pie shell. Top with a dollop of maple coconut whip and a dash of nutmeg.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:

If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers (see this post). I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I’ve found the full-fat coconut milk at Whole Foods doesn’t set well and not all brands do. Thai Kitchen is one brand, however, that has pretty reliably set for me. You can get it here if you can’t find it in the Asian section of your local grocery store.

 

 

weeknight spinach tikka masala (vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free)

My love for Indian food – especially south Indian – has grown over the years and my favorite go-to curry sauce is this one. It’s one of the often-requested dishes from my boys (although they like chicken to go along with it…sigh). But, my girl…she’s a tough one! So far I haven’t won her over to that recipe, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when she actually liked this one. Praise the Lord.

If you’re looking for a quick-ish fresh meal to make and one that rocks leftovers – this one is it!

 

 

The sauce is the epitome of comfort food, Indian-style, with its warming spices and rich creaminess of the coconut milk. It gets an added nutrition boost from quick-cooking red lentils, which makes them ideally suited for weeknights, and freshly chopped spinach. It can be spooned over chickpeas or quinoa for added plant-protein or served traditionally with rice (brown is best). For our meal, I served it with oven roasted broccoli and green beans since those are two family favorites, but you can easily adapt your veggie add-ons to suit your tastes. Weeknight tip: use frozen veggies to save on chopping time!!

 

 

For a quick weeknight meal, I recommend following the preparation steps outlined in the recipe. Alternatively, you could prep the sauce ahead of time and simply re-heat when ready to serve.

 

weeknight spinach tikka masala
Cook Time
25 mins
 

Warm comfort food designed for weeknights and made for leftovers.

Course: Entree, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6 people
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the tikka masala sauce
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 tsp freshly minced ginger or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
For the rest of the dish:
  • chickpeas, quinoa or rice
  • veggies of choice
Instructions
  1. If you are serving with brown rice and don't have a rice- or pressure cooker, put a pot of water on to boil (like you would for pasta) and turn on the oven to 350 degrees F. If you are serving with quinoa, rinse thoroughly and add to pot with water. For less mushy quinoa use a scant 2:1 ratio of water to quinoa. For example, if you're cooking one cup of dried quinoa, add only 1 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Cooks in about 10 minutes.

  2. Spread your veggies on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven. Rinse lentils thoroughly and set aside.

  3. Begin to chop the veggies for the tikka masala sauce. If cooking rice, at whatever point in this process your water starts to boil, add in the rice and cook uncovered as you would pasta. Set the time for 23 minutes.

  4. Finish preparing the tikka masala sauce and add in the lentils. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover the pot, then reduce to a simmer.

  5. Chop spinach and take a peek at your veggies in the oven. When they start to brown slightly, turn the oven off. Keep them in the oven until ready to serve so they stay warm.

  6. When the timer beeps, test your rice for doneness, then either allow to cook for another minute or two or drain immediately and return to the pot.

  7. When the lentils are fully cooked (about 10-15 minutes), add in the spinach and cilantro and stir to combine.

  8. To serve, add quinoa/chickpeas/rice to a bowl along with the veggies and spoon the sauce over top.

  9. 9) Store leftovers in the fridge for up to several days or freeze for later.
Recipe Notes

Recipe Notes

  • I prefer buying my broccoli and green beans frozen to save me a step.
  • If you want leftovers, I recommend doubling the sauce recipe.

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • I’m able to buy my broccoli organically and in bulk from BJ’s (a wholesale club). If you don’t have a wholesale club membership and want to check BJ’s out, click here to get details on a membership (if you sign up we both get $25!!). Or, if you’re not sure if a wholesale club membership is worth it, you can download an article here where I share my experience and steps in evaluating whether a membership made sense for us.
  • You should be able to find canned full-fat coconut milk in most grocery stores. I buy either the Thai Kitchen brand or Whole Foods 365 coconut milk (which is better since their cans are BPA free!). However, if you can’t find it, try here.
  • I get my red lentils in bulk from Whole Foods, but you also can find them here.
  • I love Trader Joe’s frozen french-style green beans which is what I used here.

 

 

 

roasted carrot coconut ginger soup (vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free)

This roasted carrot coconut ginger soup absolutely hollers “fall” doesn’t it?

The bright orange color. The roasted root vegetables. The richness of the coconut milk and comforting heat of the ginger. Then add a sprinkle of spicy sweet pumpkin seeds and this is a meal and the sings. The inspiration for this soup came from similar versions I’ve seen in stores. But my version comes without the added oils that most store-bought varieties include and cutting back on added oils = a healthier you.

There are two extremely important lessons I learned when making the soup: 1) peel the carrots before roasting them. I merely scrubbed them to leave the nutrient-rich skin in tact, but found it gave a bitter overtone to the soup.

 

 

2) Be extremely careful if you puree hot soup in a blender. I overfilled mine to “speed up” the blending step which resulted in a big mess and a couple burns on my skin. Yep. Big time blender fail.

 

 

Also, when I made this soup, I pureed the roasted carrots, onions and ginger with the coconut milk and then put in my stock pot along with the water, seasonings and lentils.

 

However, you could try adding everything to the stock pot, bringing it to a boil, then simmering for at least 30 minutes before blending it. Doing it this way would save you an extra step.

If you want to serve your soup with the spicy sweet pumpkin seeds – something I highly recommend! – you can get that recipe when you purchase a copy of the Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition recipe ebook. Not only does it include the spicy sweet pumpkin seeds, but you’ll get:

  • 5 essential sauce recipes
  • 5 essential snack recipes
  • 5 easy main dish recipes
  • 3 fall-inspired bonus recipes
  • A shopping list of all ingredients

PLUS you’ll receive two bonus items: a meal prep tip sheet and a meal plan tip sheet which includes a suggested meal plan featuring the recipe in the Fall Perk Up Your Pantry recipe book. All for only $8! Click here to buy it now.

 

 

roasted carrot coconut ginger soup
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 15 mins
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins
 

A soup that absolutely hollers, "fall." From it's bright orange color, warming heat and rich creaminess, it a perfect recipe to celebrate the season.

Course: Main Course, Soup
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 8-10 medium carrots, peeled, cut in half
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 14-oz can full fall coconut milk
  • 1/5-2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup red lentils, well rinsed
  • 4 cups water
Instructions
  1. Place carrots cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet (avocado oil recommended) or one lined with parchment paper along with onions and garlic. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until carrots get a slight char on their cut sides.

  2. Remove from oven and add all ingredients to a stock pot, bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked and carrots are very soft.

  3. Using a blender stick or traditional blender, carefully puree soup until very thick and smooth. Serve immediately or store in fridge for a day or two to let flavors further develop.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES:  Serve with spicy sweet pumpkin seeds for a fun twist and added crunch (in place of crackers)

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • You should be able to find canned full-fat coconut milk in most grocery stores. I buy either the Thai Kitchen brand or Whole Foods 365 coconut milk (which is better since their cans are BPA free!). However, if you can’t find it, try here.
  • I get my red lentils in bulk from Whole Foods, but you also can find them here.

lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

lemon squaresI think one of the hardest things to do when you change the way you eat is to stop indulging in your memory of the foods you used to enjoy. It’s hard to convince the brain that the sugar/dairy/meat-laden dish once inhaled without second thought will now cause your body to launch a revolt.

I have a few food memories that are hard to short circuit. One of them is of the lemon squares my husband whipped up one dreary afternoon – made with extra lemon juice. I almost swoon at the memory.

100_1796Tempting as it is to consider making a conventional batch of lemon squares to satisfy my lemon cravings, the sugar content alone scratches it off the list. You can read a little about my decision to cut back on sugar here.

Thankfully, the plant-based, low sugar lemon curd recipe I posted earlier this month is an excellent substitute for the traditional lemon square filling. It’s complemented by a gluten free, coconut crust, inspired by this recipe. And the icing sugar? It’s actually a dusting of coconut flour.

lemon square collageWhat is your favorite lemon dish? What foods do you have a hard time resisting based on the memory alone?

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon squares recipe

lemon squares (vegan, low sugar, gluten free)

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-17 minutes

Serves: 16 squares

Ingredients

    for the Crust & Topping

    • 1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • 1 c. almond flour
    • ½ tsp. baking soda
    • 1 scoop 100% pure stevia
    • ¼ c. melted coconut oil
    • 1 tsp. coconut nectar or agave
    • ½ tsp. vanilla
    • Coconut flour (for dusting)

    for the Filling

    • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Zest from one organic lemon (optional)
    • ½ c. white grape juice
    • 3 T coconut nectar or agave
    • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
    • 5 T organic cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 1 T vegan butter
    • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
    • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

    Instructions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

    Using your hands, mix all ingredients for the macaroon crust together in a bowl.

    Pour crust into a greased 8”x8” glass baking dish and press crust firmly to compact it together.

    Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool.

    While crust is baking, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt in a sauce pan. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

    Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

    Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

    Cool slightly, then pour over crust.

    Recipe Notes

    The more you press the crust, the better it will hold together after baking.

    Use a pizza cutter to give a nice clean cut to the squares.

    I love this recipe for the lemon curd because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

    *It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

    Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

    Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn.

    I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

    I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

    Refrigerate to set, then use a sieve to dust with coconut flour.

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    lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

    lemon curdtextScones are one of the desserts my mum makes if company is coming for lunch or in the afternoon and usually she serves them with jam. But on occasion she would treat us to lemon curd to accompany the scones. Perhaps it is because we had it so rarely that I enjoy it so thoroughly.

    Given the use of eggs and lots of sugar, lemon curd was something I didn’t think I would be eating again after switching to a plant-based diet several years ago and drastically cutting back on my sugar intake (including unrefined sugars) last year.
    100_2352Lemon curd is something I associate with my mum and with England and with special occasions…which makes this a good follow up to Mother’s Day and this post.

    But when my mom made a lemon meringue pie using a plant-based lemon filling, it got me thinking that perhaps it was possible to recreate a plant-based lemon curd. After doing some research and experimenting, I finally arrived at this recipe.

    I was able to reduce the sugar by using white grape juice and adding less than 1/4 cup of liquid sweetener. I usually use coconut nectar since it carries a low glycemic rating, which means the body absorbs it more slowly than other forms of sugar. You can find it for a good price here at Vitacost (I recommend stocking up to save on shipping). The organic cornstarch (find it here at Abe’s Market) and coconut cream help thicken it.

    lemon curdprocess
    left: curd before adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter right: after adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter

    CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon curd recipe

    lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

    Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

    Cook Time: 5-7 minutes

    Makes: about 2.5 cups

    Ingredients

    • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Zest from one organic lemon* (optional)
    • ½ c. white grape juice
    • 3 T coconut nectar** or agave
    • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
    • 5 T organic cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 1 T vegan butter
    • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
    • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

    Instructions

    In a sauce pan, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

    Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

    Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

    Cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

    Recipe Notes

    I love this recipe because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

    *It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

    **I like using coconut nectar because of its low glycemic rating. I buy mine through Vitacost – clicking this link gives me credit to their Refer-a-Friend program.

    Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

    Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn. You can get it through Abe’s Market, but natural foods stores also may carry it.

    I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

    I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

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