Nutella Breakfast Strudels

Nutella Breakfast Strudel

I know you are probably getting sick of sweets from me. And I was all geared up to share a few simple savories…but then I realized it’s going to be Valentine’s day very soon.

And I have a long tradition of covering you in chocolate for Valentine’s day. Chocolate is, after all, one of my first loves.

So here we are. And you may, if you have been tracking with me for a while, notice something special about the amazing pastries I am sharing with you today: they are full of BUTTER!

Woot! Caitlin’s pediatrician cleared me to eat dairy again. This may or may not have happened two days after I had a small psychotic break and ate a cupcake that I totally meant not to eat.

Anyway. You better believe I have been loading up on all the cheese and butter and cream I have been craving for the last few months. Because as delicious as food can be without dairy, it’s hard to achieve true decadence in the absence of butter.

So I decided this year that we would indulge in breakfast instead of saving all our chocolate for dessert. (Though, let’s be honest, these strudels make an amazing dessert if you have the patience to wait for dinner time!)

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Raw Fudge Brownies

Raw Fudge Brownies

If you know me, you may know that I occasionally go on a one-woman crusade against refined sugar.

(Whaaaat!? Give up refined sugar? But…what about dessert? For heaven’s sake, your blog isused to be named after brownies, girl! No one can live without sugar. Forget diamonds, chocolate is a girl’s best friend.)

This first started as I became aware of how much sugar is in everyday foods, such as mayonnaise and bread and salad dressing and granola. At that time I had a young baby, and I was bound and determined that he would not eat any refined sugar, ever (hah). I started researching the effects of sugar on the body, and it led to making a New Year’s resolution to avoid all refined sugar for 31 days.

I never intended to give up sugar long-term, but here are a few things that happened during that month:

  1. at first, I was reallly, reallly hungry, and quite a bit cranky, but then my hunger levels started to regulate;
  2. I became more adventurous in what I ate;
  3. I stopped binge-snacking during my kid’s nap time because I was thinking more about what would be good for me to eat, and I was avoiding most of my lazy snack foods;
  4. people started telling me how thin I looked. I didn’t really lose weight during this time, but eating no refined sugar and less highly refined carbs in general actually made my body shape change! I did not exercise one single time, so this was definitely a result of my sugar fast;
  5. I felt really proud of myself;
  6. I still totally ate dessert! Because, let’s face it, no big change in your diet will be sustainable unless you find ways to include the things you really love. For me, that is dessert!
  7. everything tasted sweet even without refined sugar. When I finally started eating sugar again, I ate much smaller amounts (initially anyway) because it was overwhelmingly sweet and honestly made me feel a little sick for a few weeks.

I write a food blog and I love to bake, so I did go back to eating sugar. But I enjoyed my sugar fast more than I expected! So much that I repeat it a few times a year, especially if I have been going overboard with sugary foods or if I am feeling out of balance or mentally/physically/emotionally unhealthy.

Since my first refined sugar fast, clean eating has become quite trendy. Basically, eating “clean” involves aiming for whole, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding highly refined foods.

These raw brownies totally fit that bill, and they are completely delicious. Not only are they sweetened entirely by the naturally occurring fruit sugars in Medjool dates, but they are full of healthy things, like raw nuts and raw cacao! They are chewy and dense and chocolatey and rich, so rich. (Plus, they are other good things, like vegan and gluten-free!)

Raw brownies will satisfy any dessert craving, and you can feel good about eating them!

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Snickerdoodle Layer Cake

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I have noticed a change in myself recently.

The longer I do this blogging thing, the more I bake and cook and try new things, the less I am daunted by recipes that have many steps or seem like they may take a while. I am no longer irritated by sifting. I expect to leave a mountain of dirty dishes in my wake…it doesn’t even seem like a deterrent anymore.

Surprisingly, recipes that I once thought of as time-consuming actually go faster! (I think I finally gained some knife skills, y’all.)

I have become more of a perfectionist, more critical of the foods I produce…because I can actually think of a dozen ways to balance the flavors or improve the texture! (Consequently, I no longer even bother to photograph every new dish I make, because I know I will want to tweak it before I share it.)

Last week, someone sent me a recipe that was literally just a list of ingredients. And I made a pretty amazing cake out of it without batting an eye or consulting any cookbooks.

I feel almost like a different person…I have started to trust myself in the kitchen. I have started to listen to my instincts more and have fewer facepalm moments.

I realized all of this due in large part to this cake. (Thank you, cake, and thank you, mom’s birthday!)

This cake is nothing short of delicious. It’s tender and airy, richly cinnamon and sweet. It tastes like a crisp snickerdoodle cookie. Oh, and it’s made entirely without wheat or dairy. Woot!

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Zimtsterne

Zimtsterne

I’ve been feeling pretty grinchy this Christmas season.

This isn’t a fun time of year to be forbidden from eating any dairy of any kind. I have been lusting after trays of cookies and holiday cheese balls and getting grumpier and grumpier.

But I just can’t imagine Christmastime without holiday baking, even if I can’t eat the spoils myself.

And wouldn’t you know it, the cookie that was at the top of my list to try this year actually turned out to be dairy free! And gluten free!

Surprise!

These cinnamon stars (little German lesson for you: Zimt = cinnamon, Sterne = stars. Literal naming at work…) are chewy and moist and simply amazing. Especially if you thought you were staring down a month without cookies. If you know anyone with food sensitivities, make these immediately. They will be so grateful!

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Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

I know…it’s a little crazy to be making ice cream in December. But someone once told me that ice cream is even better in cold weather, because it doesn’t melt while you are trying to savor it slowly!

Just get on board, okay? Because this ice cream is so delicious, and the festive wintery flavor combination will make your taste buds swoon.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust

I have never liked pumpkin pie.

I know I’m not alone in that.

Because of pumpkin pie, I believed until well into my adulthood that I hated all pumpkin things.

Thank God I got over that!

But seriously, pumpkin pie is not the only way to enjoy your pumpkin this Thanksgiving. And why do pie when you can go cheesecake?

Pumpkin cheesecake is amazing and gorgeous, it’s creamy and tangy and sweet and warm with Fall spices. It’s basically Fall dessert perfection.

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Toasted Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats

Toasted Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats

You really shouldn’t be surprised by what I’m about to tell you.

After all, I have a long, illustrious history as a picky eater. I know it’s mind-boggling that a person could hate fruit and all fruit-flavored things, donuts, fried stuff in general, tea, the flavor of honey and maple syrup, but it’s all true. Plus, the real reason I became a vegetarian (you know…aside from hoping to become healthier) is just that I don’t like meat.

So you really shouldn’t be surprised:

I have never liked Rice Krispie treats.

When I went off to college and discovered that not all Rice Krispie treats were Scotch Krispies, I simply avoided them in the dessert line. While all my friends would stampede toward the sweets on a day that Rice Krispie treats were available, I would meander around and grab an extra bagel (please and thank you, freshman 15…).

It should also not surprise you, then, to learn that I have never made Rice Krispie treats before.

But last week my husband drove off with our grocery cart and came back with two bags of marshmallows, a box of Rice Krispies, and a glint in his eye.

And do you know what? When I was trying to decide how to make peace with the Rice Krispies and marshmallows, I found a recipe that used brown butter and toasted marshmallows (um, nom!). At first I felt a little mean, deviating from the standard. I knew what Dave really wanted.

But these treats are really good! Still classic, with that stretchy, crunchy, almost-too-sweet marshmallow flavor, but also caramel, a rich hint of toasty brown that…might…actually…make me reverse my anti-Krispie stance.

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Derby Pie

Derby Pie

Well, I missed the Kentucky Derby this year…both because I don’t really care for televised sports and because I had just had a baby.

So I suppose this shouldn’t really be called “Derby Pie.” I should probably call it something else…like “Pecan Pie Straight from Heaven,” or “Most Delicious Pie That Will Ever Cross Your Lips,” or “Why-Would-Anyone-Ever-Deign-to-Eat-Another-Pie-That-Doesn’t-Include-Bourbon Pie.”

Seriously. Where have chocolate and bourbon been all my life when I was eating plain, regular pecan pie? I have always loved pecan pie at Thanksgiving, but this pie is truly a marvel.

As Fall is pie season…I highly recommend you start baking.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies and Cream Brownie Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Cream Brownie Bars

I’m in the middle of my second one of these cookie-brownie bars as I type this, smearing my keyboard with buttery fingers and dropping tiny shards of Oreo between the keys.

I’m actually not sure I’m going to be able to stop eating these. They are that good!

If you live within a 5-mile radius of me, have mercy and come over to eat some sugar. Save me from myself!

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Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

I turned 30.

I had a small midlife crisis, which resulted in a writing a long and silly bucket list—my 30 after 30. (Friends, don’t be surprised if I try to rope you into tap dancing class or hot air ballooning. Don’t be surprised if I start speaking to you in Irish—though the only phrase I have mastered is ólaim fíon!)

And, of course, I made dessert. Because what good is a birthday without dessert?

This amazing tart is exactly what you should make for every single celebration you ever attend from now on. Initially I thought of this as the 30th birthday tart, after I made it for my best friend’s 30th earlier in the year…but it’s too good not to share year round.

Not only is this tart rich and decadent and impressive, worthy of any special event you can think of, but it is actually incredibly easy to make! There are only six ingredients, and no baking or candy thermometers involved!

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