Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grain-Free Pecan Tart

Deeeeeeep breath.

Now exhale.

Here we go.

The wedding is over, the tropical(ish) mini honeymoon is behind us, and it's barely breaking double digit temps here in Chicago. Talk about a reality check. And as though that wasn't enough, by some freak accident of fate and misery, we had no heat or hot water from Sunday afternoon to Monday at lunch time, which - for someone who likes baking with a gas stove or, you know, generally not dying of exposure - was kind of a bummer.

Luckily, I made (and remade, and remade again) this tart just in time before the gas line imploded or whatever, so Thanksgiving is saved! I know I might be giving myself a little but too much credit with the whole saving-Thanksgiving thing, but could you just give it to me this one time in honor of my not-entirely-defrosted-yet fingers and toes?

I don't quite know how to say this but this tart is one thousand percent worth the credit. It's entirely grain free and sweetened with dates and a tiny bit of maple syrup, but the crust is moist and flaky, the pecans are crunchy and toasted, and the filling can only be described as creamysilkysweetbutnottoosweetmildlycaramelydeeprichperfection. You know what I'm saying.

Grain-Free Pecan Tart
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  • 1 homemade grain-free and vegan pie crust (Get the recipe here)
  • 8 large pitted medjool dates (soaked in hot water to soften if necessary)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter or shortening, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup large pecan halves

Cooking Instructions
  1. Prepare the crust dough and put it into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, then preheat the oven to 350F. Once preheated, transfer from the fridge to the oven without letting it warm to room temperature and bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges begin to turn slightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside; do not turn off the oven. 
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, puree the dates, eggs and molasses until the dates are liquified.
  3. Add the salt, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and pulse a few times to combine.
  4. With the processor running, add the melted butter in a thin stream. 
  5. Pour the batter into the pre-baked crust and gently smooth into an even layer. Arrange the pecan halves in a single layer on top of the batter.
  6. In the oven that is still heated to 350F, bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust has turned a deep golden brown and the batter has turned from shiny to matte. A tester may not come out completely clean, but it should only have a few crumbs on it at most.
  7. Remove from oven and let it cool and set on a wire rack before removing it from the pan. 

Yield: Makes one 9" pecan tart

Grain Free and Vegan Pie Crust

A number of you had asked me for a grain-free and vegan pie crust recipe and I am finally delivering on it. This recipe is as versatile as they come and can be used for anything sweet or savory that calls for crust.

A few notes:
  • Because of the lack of gluten and low starch content of the flours you're using, this dough is very "short" which means it breaks easily. Luckily, it also adheres back to itself easily, so if you aren't gentle enough and it falls apart when you are transferring it to the pan, don't worry, just carefully press it back together and smooth over the creases to adhere. No one will ever know.
  • If you prefer to use dairy-based butter, you can swap it in instead of the vegan butter/shortening that the recipe calls for.
  • Chilling is a mandatory step for lighter, flakier crust. You can make the crust ahead and refrigerate it (in the pan is recommended, so you don't have to risk bringing it back to room temp to roll it out) over night if you want to, but make sure you give it at least 30 minutes of chill time in the fridge.
  • Pre-baking instructions are included in the recipe, but if you are making a recipe that doesn't include pre-baking, like this pot pie, obviously skip this. 
  • This recipe only produces one crust, so if you are making a double crust pie, you're going to have to - you guessed it - make two recipes. I would suggest making two separate batches, as opposed to doubling the recipe.
  • It is difficult but possible to lattice this crust. Just be very, very, very gentle. 
  • This crust will brown a little bit, but like a regular pie crust, if you want a deeper, crispier golden brown, you should finish your pie with an egg wash. 

Grain-Free Pie Crust
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  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons coconut flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup very cold vegan butter or shortening

Cooking Instructions
  1. Prepare the vegan buttermilk: combine the lemon juice and almond milk in a bowl or glass, stir gently, and set aside to curdle. 
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almond and coconut flour a few times to break up all of the clumps. 
  3. Add the butter  and pulse 5-7 times until it is broken into clumps slightly smaller than a pea. 
  4. With the processor running, add the buttermilk in a thin stream until the dough forms a paste. 
  5. Turn off the machine and let it sit for 60 seconds before proceeding (this allows the flour to absorb the moisture from the buttermilk)
  6. Turn the dough out on to a piece of wax or parchment paper, gather into a ball and press into a thick disc. Cover with another piece of wax or parchment paper and roll into a flat disc about 10"-11" in diameter. Loosen the parchment from both sides of the dough and then carefully slide the dough into a lightly greased 9" pie or tart pan. 
  7. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to overnight) before using.
  8. To pre-bake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Once preheated, transfer the pan from the fridge to the oven without letting it warm to room temperature and bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges begin to turn slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool slightly before filling and finishing the baking process. (Note: If the recipe does not call for pre-baking the pie shell, skip this step) 
Yield: Makes one pie crust.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lightened Up Fish Tacos + A Taste of Puerto Rico

Lightened Up Fish Tacos

When you are back to reality after the greatest couple of weeks of your life, when you are watching snow flurries out the window and trying to resist the urge to sell your house and move to a houseboat in the Caribbean, when you're surrounded by laundry waiting to be folded and a sink full of dirty dishes...well then it behooves you to take solace in a fish taco. 

I know I should be posting things involving squash and pecans and cranberries and, believe me, there are plenty of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes on the way, but I just can't dive in yet. To acknowledge Thanksgiving is to put the wedding chapter behind me, and I just need to hold on to it for one. more. day. So, grab a mojito and pull up a chair: we're having fish tacos in November. 

Lightened Up Fish Tacos

After a prolonged absence, I feel like maybe I owe you some kind of recap. But I also don't want to be perceived as one of those people who flashes their wedding pictures around like they are the only woman who has ever gotten married. But since I spent a few days of my hiatus in Puerto Rico, let's compromise and stare longingly at the longingly at photos of the beach...

...and the rainforest...

...and wish we were there. 

I'll be the first to admit that this is the world's worst snapshot of a beautiful island, and I apologize to anyone who is Puerto Rican, has been there, or has even the slightest affinity for it.  I had hoped to get out of the resort to explore San Juan and eat some authentic Puerto Rican dish that I could then recreate for you, with my own twist, here. But you'll have to forgive me, because when we arrived last Monday, I had only slept for a total of about 7 hours since the previous Friday morning, and it was pouring rain so, instead of getting out of the hotel to explore and try some of the local fare,  our "mini moon" looked mostly - between naps, that is - like the bottom of a mojito and a fist full of fish tacos. Every day. 

We got a 4-hour reprieve of partial sun on Thursday that allowed us to sit by the pool and get the most imagined of tans. And of course, fish tacos by the pool, one of which I took to the beach. It was heavenly. [...then the rain started up again and didn't stop monsooning until after we left. whatever.]

So, this past week was a little rough, as we faced the backlog of chores, to-do's and missed work to catch up on. Nothing a few fish tacos couldn't fix, though. My biggest complaint about most fish tacos - and my biggest compliment of the ones in Puerto Rico, besides the quality of the local fish - is the completely unnecessary complexity of most recipes. Breaded, fried, over-salted, and tons of crazy toppings. In PR, they were simple: good fish, lightly seasoned, topped with a simple, fresh, crunchy slaw, an optional crema, and nothing more. 

When I made my own, besides not breading or frying them - hence the lightened up part -  I added a little more heat to the seasoning (and dialed back the salt to homemade levels, as opposed to the supersonic sodium content of most restaurant food, particularly in hot climates) and added avocado which, quite frankly, doesn't ever hurt. 

The slaw was so fresh and flavorful that it pretty much stands on its own, so this recipe has some leftovers built in, or you can simply load up your tacos with slaw until you have to practically unhinge your jaw to fit the taco in your mouth. 

I'll let the tacos speak for themselves now.

Lightened Up Fish Tacos

Lightened Up Fish Tacos

Lightened Up Fish Tacos
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For the fish:

  • 15oz sturdy whitefish (I used wild cod), cut into 1/2"x3" strips
  • 3-4 Tablespoons olive or another healthy oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of allspice

For the slaw:

  • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup fresh, washed cilantro (packed), roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For assembly:

  • 8-10 small corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup fresh (washed) cilantro, packed
  • Avocado slices
  • Lime wedges
  • Crema, if desired (see note)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking dish with tin foil and spray or brush foil with about a tablespoon (or less) oil. Put aside.
  2. Toss the fish with more oil, until each piece is completely coated. I used about 3 Tablespoons.
  3. Arrange the greased fish close together in a single layer in the pan. 
  4. Make the seasoning by whisking together all of the spices (garlic through allspice) in a small bowl.
  5. Sprinkle half of the seasoning evenly over the fish pieces, flip them, and then coat with the remainder of the spice mix. 
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear. 
  7. While the fish is baking, make the slaw. Toss together the cabbage, carrots and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the slaw ingredients (oil through red pepper flakes) to make a dressing. Pour over the slaw, making sure to coat it at evenly as possible. Use your hands to gently massage the dressing into the cabbage, which will soften it slightly. 
  8. When the fish is finished cooking, assemble the tacos: Top 2 tortillas with 2-3 pieces of fish, then cover with slaw and garnish with additional cilantro, an avocado slice, a lime wedge and a drizzle of crema (optional). 

(1) If you want to finish these with a crema-type dressing, stir together about a 1/4 cup plain greek or coconut milk yogurt with a Tablespoon of lime juice and a pinch each of salt, pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes (or to taste). If it's too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it out to a pour-able consistency. Drizzle over the tacos before eating.
(2) To make this paleo, simply skip the tortillas and eat the fish over the slaw topped with the garnishes. It's just as good - I promise!

Yield: 4-5 tacos

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest Post | Frittata with Turkey Italian Sausage and Kale

While I'm off getting married, several of my beloved blogging buddies are stepping in to share some recipes so that you, my wonderful readers, don't get too lonely (or hungry). I will finally be back next week, but before I do, Amy is making us dinner. Or breakfast. Or, lunch if you prefer. Frittata is an incredibly forgiving and adaptable one-skillet dish that is appropriate for any meal and any fridge (or, usually, in my case, fridge clean-out effort). Amy dressed this one up for winter with hearty sausage and sturdy greens, which not only makes it nutritious and seasonally appropriate but makes it pretty darn gorgeous as well. 

Amy's food is always beautiful, though (especially these little pavlova petite fours, which I am more than a little infatuated with, that she made for my virtual bridal shower). If you like what you see - and you will! - make sure to check out the rest of Amy's wonderful food, exciting travel stories and beautiful photography at Club Narwhal, and on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


Paleo Frittata with Italian Sausage and Kale | Club Narwhal

Hi, lovelies! My name is Amy and I blog about my adventures inside and outside of the kitchen on Club Narwhal. You might remember me from Nora's surprise blogger bridal shower--I brought Pavlova Petit Fours. I loved the excuse to buy gold sprinkles! Like all of you, I just plain adore Nora and am so pleased that I can pitch in while she is in full blown wedding mode. 

While I don't follow a full-time gluten/dairy-free diet like Nora, I have done a few paleo and whole food challenges. During my last one, I wanted to figure out how to makeover one of my favorite brunch recipes so I could eat it all the time! And as much as I love indulging in frittatas oozing with melty cheese, I found myself making this paleo frittata over and over again--long after the challenge ended. It is both light and filling and downright delicious. 

Paleo Frittata with Italian Sausage and Kale | Club Narwhal

This frittata is the perfect kitchen sink meal because you can add pretty much any veggie with spectacular results. Sausage and kale is my favorite combination, plus I don't have to bust out my kitchen knives to prepare it. All you do is rinse the kale leaves, rip them up, and saute them with the sausage! It's almost too simple. 

We love making this frittata after a busy day at work. It's on the table in twenty-five minutes and feeds at least four hungry adults. You really can't go wrong here! Oh, and I'm super excited to play around with using this frittata base as the filling for my favorite hash brown crust quiche

Thanks so much for having me, Nora! I love to internet-meet new folks so stop by and say hello! You can find me on Facebook, Pinterest, InstagramGoogle Plus, and--of course, Club Narwhal!

Paleo Frittata with Italian Sausage and Kale | Club Narwhal

Paleo Frittata with Turkey Italian Sausage and Kale

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 3 links gluten free turkey Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 3-4 kale leaves, de-stemmed and ripped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pepper to taste
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • green onion for garnish

Cooking Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt coconut oil in a cast iron skillet (or oven-safe skillet) over medium heat on the stove top. (Make sure the oil gets up on the sides of the skillet so you can easily remove the frittata when it's ready.) Saute onion and sausage until the sausage is cooked through. Stir in kale leaves, herbs, salt, and pepper and cook for another minute or two. 
  2. While the sausage is cooking, whisk eggs and water in a medium bowl. Add whisked eggs to the sausage mixture. Reduce heat to low and let the frittata cook, undisturbed, for about 2-3 minutes, until the edges of the frittata are set and the middle is bubbling.
  3. Finish cooking the frittata in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the middle is just set and the top is golden brown. Let the frittata cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and serve! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guest Post | Wassail Sugar Cookies

While I'm off getting married, several of my beloved blogging buddies are stepping in to share some recipes so that you, my wonderful readers, don't get too lonely (or hungry). I am back in the country after a brief "mini-moon" (as the kids are calling it these days), but am still catching up on life, work and blogging. 

Luckily, Mary Frances made some insanely sweet and zesty cookies to tide us over! I have never had wassail before, and didn't really even know it was an actual thing outside of Christmas songs, but from the flavors in these cookies, I feel like I have been missing out. Thank goodness for Mary Frances! If you don't already follow her blog, The Sweet Tooth Life, you should definitely check it out! She always has creative, tempting, sweet recipes like these cookies to share, and most of her recipes are healthy/vegan/often gluten-free! Her voice is warm and welcoming and her photography is bright and inviting. She's so talented; it's hard to believe she is still in high school! Scroll down for a delicious recipe, and check out her other recipes on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.


I cannot even explain to you guys how much fun it was to see all of Nora's wedding photos. All the planning and late nights and phone calls and dress shopping ... and all I brought were cookies. Sorry guys, but cookies it is.

Wassail Sugar Cookies

Back to Nora because oh my GOSH she looked gorgeous. And although I know she deserved the break ... I'm ready for her incredible recipes to fill my feed again :)

Welcome back Nora and again, congratulations!

Wassail Sugar Cookies

I am super excited to share these cookies with you today because to be on Nora's blog is, like, a huge deal. She's just talented plain and simple. As I was trying to brainstorm dessert recipes that fit her dietary restrictions, I was going to do pomegranate sugar cookies. But that was not very exciting. Sooooo I ate two snickerdoodles, made some coffee, ate another snickerdoodle, scoured the fridge, drank the coffee and I hate to admit it, went to bed. Sleeping on it was great because the next morning I wanted wassail (which if you didn't know, is a hot winter drink usually made of cranberry, orange, and apple juice mixed together) and bam, wassail sugar cookies were born.

Wassail Sugar Cookies

A combination of oat flour and almond flour keeps these gluten free, but gives them a fantastic texture. When I've baked with only oat flour, my baked goods tend to be too dense. The same with almond flour, but also too grainy. The combo worked great. To keep these dairy free and refined sugar free, I used coconut oil and honey respectively. Then we get to the fun stuff aka apples, cranberries, and oranges. I shredded the apple so that the cookies wouldn't have to be super thick to accommodate chunks and then I just used zest from the orange.

 To make the cranberries easier to slice, I froze a bag. Don't worry, they don't freeze solid, but are firm, so that they don't squish or juice or whatever. Freezing the cranberries also makes sure the juice doesn't bleed all over your dough. Finally, I added a dash of cloves and cinnamon because I love those two and the warm spices just make the cookies. These are soft cookies. A little chewy, not at all fudgy or crunchy, but good old soft sugar cookies.

Wassail Sugar Cookies

Except healthier. And prettier. Well, this was the batch that I made drop cookie style. Don't do this. Roll out your dough, I repeat, roll out your dough. You'll end up with beautiful cookies. I made a batch but I had already photographed these and I was already way late with sending this into Nora. If you check Instagram, I'll put up a picture later.

And, even though I am a diehard black coffee gal, real wassail with these cookies is just about as cozy as you can get. Which is good, because it's a whopping 32 degrees right now. Happy Tuesday!

Wassail Sugar Cookies

Wassail Sugar Cookies 
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  • 2-1/4 cups oat flour 
  • 1 cup almond flour 
  • 6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted 
  • 6 Tablespoons honey 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 medium apple 
  • 1 orange 
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, frozen 

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Whisk oat flour and almond flour together. 
  3. Stir in coconut oil, honey, vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon. 
  4. Shred the apple and squeeze most of the juice out. Fold in apple shreds. Zest the orange and stir in the zest. Finally, chop the cranberries and fold them in. 
  5. Divide the dough and half and roll out each half of the dough to 1/2 in thickness on a large piece of plastic wrap. Freeze for 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Remove one batch from freezer and using a glass cup, cut out 10-12 cookies. 
  7. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Repeat with second batch. Let cool and enjoy!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 12 minutes
Yield: 20 cookies

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Guest Post | Kashi Almond Butter Cookies

While I'm off getting married, several of my beloved blogging buddies are stepping in to share some recipes so that you, my wonderful readers, don't get too lonely (or hungry). Today's post comes from one of my favorite food photographers, recipe sharers, and human beings in general. Erika and I share a penchant for chocolate, Paris, and masochistic graduate school programs, or so I realized when she mentioned that she had enrolled in an MBA program this past summer. As though we needed something more to bond over! 

A student by day, Erika runs The Pancake Princess by night/weekend/whenever she doesn't have class or other school obligations, and it is truly a work of art. The recipes are varied and creative, with a healthy-but-not-holier-than-thou bent; the writing is personal enough to be relatable, but without being uncomfortably intimate, and still informative and relevant to the actual food. And her photos take my breath away, so much so that I actually thought twice about asking her to guest post because I was afraid that after you saw her pictures, you'd never want to look at mine again. I hope that doesn't happen, but just in case, let's all distract ourselves with cookies!


So Nora got married. We’re making cookies.

Do these seem like equivalent events? It’s essentially the same thing minus the dress and lots of relatives plus an oven and flour all over the place and swapping cake for cookies and classy wedding music for the Katy Perry Pandora station. Right? Anyway, let’s all clap our hands and squeal for a second because weddings and honeymoons are exciting stuff. !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nora holds a place near and dear to my heart not just because of her amazing recipes, but also because she has already gone through an MBA program and talked me down (via amazing email chains) from a few emotional ledges that I was teetering around on before I started my program a few months ago. She understands, y’all.

Back to the cookies: I have to do a complete disclaimer and say right now that I’ve never actually tasted the soft-baked cookies these are based on. Developing this recipe came about at the request of my friend, who was consuming them by the box (literally. By the box.). By her account, these are as good as the real deal with nearly identical nutrition facts: about 130 calories per cookie with approximately 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, once I tasted a cookie fresh out of the oven, I had no desire to go buy a box to compare them for myself. These hearty, grain-packed cookies have tons of texture from chewy oats, crumbly-soft cookie bits, crunchy nuts, and melty chocolate. They’re very reminiscent of a chocolate granola bar and I have no shame eating them for breakfast. And while we’re on the subject of chocolate and eating cookies for breakfast, let’s cross our fingers and hope that Nora is doing all of that and more on her honeymoon, because that awesome lady deserves it!

Kashi Almond Butter Cookies
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  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • 1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup each: buckwheat, oat and whole wheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons slivered or whole almonds, chopped and toasted

Cooking Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, coconut oil, almond butter and vanilla. 
  2. Add the next five ingredients (rolled oats through salt) and mix until just combined. 
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips and almonds.
  4. Scoop a scant 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie to form 12 cookies. Flatten into a circle—they will not spread in the oven. 
  5. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the tops look dry. Remove and let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days

You can make these gluten-free by using all buckwheat and oat flour, but they will be slightly more crumbly with less of the soft-baked feel. You can also try using brown rice flour for a portion of these cookies (the same note about crumbliness still applies)—the total amount of flour just needs to add up to ¾ cup. If you only have whole wheat flour, feel free to use just that. These cookies are very forgiving when it comes to flour substitutions. I’ve also tried subbing olive oil for the coconut oil, but I got the best results by following the recipe as written.

Recipe courtesy of Erika, aka The Pancake Princess, who can be found at

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guest Post | Flourless Mini Chocolate Cake Bites

While I'm off getting married, several of my beloved blogging buddies are stepping in to share some recipes so that you, my wonderful readers, don't get too lonely (or hungry).

Today's post comes from Monica, the brilliant, funny, and creative co-author of the decadent baking blog Pass the CocoaIf you aren't familiar with Monica and her co-blogger Caroline's work, you can find them on their blog, as well as on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

Monica is one of the few blogger friends that I have had the pleasure of meeting in person and boy did we have a blast! We had so much to talk about and I felt like I had known Monica for ages. (You may feel the same way about her, after seeing her mentioned many times in this space before!) 

I am so grateful to her for agreeing to post because I know that between college classes, med school applications and running her own blog, her time is extremely limited! Not to mention that gluten- and dairy-free* baking is not her forte. But you would never know it, would you, judging from these beautiful little cake bites below? Read on for more!

*Although  this recipe is not written to be dairy-free, it is very easily adapted for those of you who aren't good with lactose. Please see my notes below the recipe for suggested substitutions.


Hey guys! My name is Monica, and I co-write the blog Pass the Cocoa with Caroline.
Nora is one of those people you can have a conversation with and then feel an instant connection. That is, at least, how we began our friendship -- based on our mutual love of Nutella, to be exact -- just a short year and a half ago. Still, a lot has happened in that short span of time. We traded countless comments and emails and a couple guest posts (like this and this). We even had the opportunity to meet each other in person over the past summer (perks of living in a big city and a small world). Let me just say this much: Yes, Nora is every bit as much of a fun, vibrant young woman as she is on the blog. Such sweet people do exist!

I think it can be said for many people that blogging is as much about the food as it is about being adventurous, taking on new challenges, and bringing your own life experiences into the recipe. That's what makes each blog unique, and ever since Nora's shift from the Buttercream Fanatic of decadent baking to A Clean Bake of healthy desserts, my admiration for her has only grown. Her recipes take what is conventional and add a flair of originality and a little spice of life. It is this creativity, along with Nora's friendly and effortlessly witty prose, that keeps me coming back for more.

In any case, I am thrilled to be posting for Nora while she is having her much deserved "wedding leave." I've been teasing Nora with the idea of a Nutella dessert since like the beginning of time (aka when she first asked me to guest post). We have a thing for Nutella, as you can begin to see.

So today, I present to you these Mini Chocolate Cake Bites. Decorated with Nutella AND pumpkin cream cheese frosting, these mini cake bites are all kinds of amazing. They melt in your mouth and satisfy your deepest chocolate craving. Yes, they're gluten-free, which is awesome. Plus, they're miniature. Which is always so much more fun.

Congratulations to the lovely bride, Nora! May your marriage always be filled with love and happiness together... (:
Monica & Caroline

IMPORTANT notes on the recipe: I used a "mini whoopie pie pan," which actually served very well to make mini muffin/cakes. This recipe is exactly the same as the White Chocolate Mousse Truffle Cake, except without the white chocolate mousse part, and the chocolate cake portion size is reduced. I would recommend taking the pumpkin cream cheese frosting recipe with a grain of salt. I used pumpkin butter, which may have a different consistency than regular pumpkin puree, and I wanted to make a very small amount that is just enough to frost half of the cakelets, so I only approximated that I think should be enough to frost all 30 mini cakes.

{Flourless} Mini Chocolate Cake Bites
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For the mini chocolate cake bites:

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

For the Nutella/pumpkin cream cheese frosting:

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) cream cheese, cold
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons Nutella
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons pumpkin filling
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin pan with liners, or not.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate and stir to combine until smooth. Add warm water, vanilla, and salt. In a separate bowl, thoroughly beat eggs and sugar. Slowly mix in the cocoa powder until smooth. Then add chocolate/butter mixture. 
  3. Bake for 7 - 12 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
  4. For the cream cheese frostings, simply combine the ingredients in a bowl using a hand-mixer or a food-processor. Frost, serve, and enjoy!

(1) Note from Nora: If you can't eat dairy, you can replace the butter with vegan butter or coconut oil, the sour cream with coconut yogurt and the cream cheese with coconut cream. If you don't eat refined sugar, replace the granulated sugar with coconut sugar or granulated honey, and pulse it in the food processor to replace the powdered sugar in the frosting.
(2) Adapted from Yammie’s Noshery

Yield: ~30 mini chocolate cake bites