CREAM CHEESE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, preferably at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee (or liqueur of choice), optional
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or finely shredded coconut, for coating

 


In a large bowl, stir the cream cheese well until fluffy. Stir in the vanilla extract and coffee or liqueur. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and slowly add it to the cream cheese while stirring. Continue stirring until the white from the cheese is no longer visible and the mixture is uniformly brown.

Refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out the chocolate and shape it into 1-inch balls.

Place the cocoa powder or shredded coconut in a shallow dish and roll the truffles in the coating.

Refrigerate leftovers. Allow them to warm up and soften a bit at room temperature before serving them.

Makes 16

SPICED & HERBED GOAT CHEESE

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

5 ounces fresh goat cheese

Crackers or bread

 


 
Place the black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ground cloves, cayenne pepper, and thyme on a large plate. Stir with a spoon until well mixed. Spread into a thin layer.

Shape the goat cheese into a log. Roll the log in the spice-herb mix until the cheese is completely covered.

Wrap the goat cheese tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with crackers or bread and fresh fruit. The cheese is also delicious drizzled with a little honey.
 
Serves 4 to 6

CHOCOLATE TAHINI CRACKERS

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup tahini, stirred
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup agave syrup
2 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

 


 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter, tahini and salt. Add the agave and eggs and whisk agin until well combined. Incorporate the cocoa powder and stir some more. Finally work in the whole wheat flour and form a homogeneous ball of dough.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a thin layer, about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into small circles using a cookie cutter and poke holes in each cracker with a bamboo skewer or fork.

Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2-inch apart. Bake until hard, about 17 minutes.
 
Makes 30

WHOLE WHEAT OLIVE CRACKERS

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
2-3 tablespoons chopped black olives or tapenade
 


 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (first four). Add the beaten egg, olive oil, water and chopped olives. Work the mixture into a dough ball. Add a little more water if the dough feels too dry. Knead for a few minutes.

Using a rolling pin, spread the dough a little over 1/8-inch thin on a lightly floured surface. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut the crackers into desired shape.

Transfer the crackers to the prepared cookie sheet and bake them until crispy, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

 
Makes 50 crackers

PUMPKIN BUTTER

If upon tasting the pumpkin butter, it feels a little bit heavy on spices, don’t worry. The sharpness of the spices will mellow down after the butter sits in the fridge for a day or so. Just be patient with it.

2 (15-ounce) cans pure pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar

 


Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring very frequently, until the mixture is thicker and darker.

Let cool and store in airtight containers. Keep the pumpkin butter refrigerated–it is not safe to can it!

Makes 2 cups

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

pumpkin butter

PEACH YOGURT BRULEE

4 peaches, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon rose water

2 tablespoons water

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar, divided
 


 
Place the peaches, cinnamon, and ginger in a saucepan. Add the rose water and water. Simmer until peaches are soft but still firm, 3 to 5 minutes.

Layer the peaches on the bottom of 6 ramekins.

Whisk together the yogurt, vanilla, and half of the sugar to obtain a homogenous mixture. Spoon enough yogurt on top of the peaches to fill the ramekins.

Sprinkle the surface of the yogurt with the rest of the sugar and cook under a broiler on high until the sugar is brown and crusty, 7 to 8 minutes.

Let cool then refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.
 
Serves 6

DECONSTRUCTED BAKLAVA CUPS

5 phyllo sheets
Cooking spray or melted butter

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pistachios
1 tablespoon unrefined brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespsoons warm honey
 


 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the stack of phyllo sheets into circles the size of your serving glass. Place the circle stacks on the prepared cookie sheet. Spray the top of the phyllo circles with cooking spray or brush them with melted butter. Bake them until golden and crispy, 5 to 10 minutes. Take out of the oven.

Meanwhile, place the walnuts, pistachios, brown sugar, melted butter, orange blossom water (if using) and pumpkin spice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix and chop the ingredients.

Place half of the nut mixture in a glass, top it with half of the crispy phyllo circles, then the rest of the nut mixture and finally the rest of the phyllo.

Pour the warm honey over your stacked baklava. Enjoy lukewarm or at room temperature.
 
Makes 1 large cup. Serves 2.

SIMPLE PARSNIP DESSERT

1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chopped nuts and chocolate sauce for topping.

 


 
Cook the parsnips in boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off the water.

Place the cooked parsnips along with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree them until silky.

Transfer the parsnip puree into dessert cups and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.

Top with chopped nuts and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
 
Serves 4 to 6

GLUTEN-FREE MADELEINES

1/2 cup agave syrup
4 large eggs
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

 


 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two (12-madeleine) madeleine tins.

Beat the agave syrup with the eggs, butter, vanilla extract, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl until frothy.

Sift the brown rice flour, millet flour, salt and baking powder together; whisk them into the liquid mixture.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one a little over halfway. Bake until the edges of the madeleines are browned, about 10 minutes.
 
Makes 24

RED VELVET BUTTERMILK CUPCAKES

2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons red Food coloring

 


 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Add the flour mixture. Mix the buttermilk with the vanilla and food coloring and add to the mixer. Continue beating until all is well combined. Divide the batter evenly among the cups.

Bake for about 23 minutes. Cool completely before decorating with frosting of choice.
 
Makes 12
 
Adapted from Demolition Desserts and Joy the Baker.