Ultra Soft Chocolate & Cherry Tahini Cookies

These GF soft-baked chocolate-cherry cookies come together in just 15 minutes and are oh-so-good! Made with tahini instead of butter, this recipe takes ‘better-for-you’ baking to a whole new and delicious level! Oh, and they’re ultra soft and studded with chocolate chips. What more could you want?

Soft-baked cherry-chocolate cookies made with tahini. GF, DF, and SO easy.

Soft-baked cherry-chocolate cookies made with tahini. GF, DF, and SO easy.

Baking is a new thing for me. I’ve always considered myself a competent cook, but never a baker. Sure, I could dump a box of cake mix into a bowl and add an egg and water, but that’s where my baking skills ended. Baking always felt like something that required too much precision and patience for my endlessly-moving, ‘monkey mind’.

Nevertheless, here I am, dishing up another fast and insanely easy baked good recipe. This recipe took six tries to perfect (beginner problems) but I am so pleased with the result. These cookies are chocolate-laced, delightfully soft and offer just the right about of sweetness.

Speaking of sweetness, I used a combo of coconut sugar and brown sugar for this recipe...

Is Coconut Sugar Healthier Than Cane Sugar?

Coconut sugar is a minimally-processed sweetener derived from the sap of coconut palm and has a subtle caramel flavor. It’s not as sweet as cane sugar and also has a lower GI score. In theory, this means coconut sugar produces a smaller rise in blood sugar levels per serving than cane sugar.

However…when I looked up coconut sugar in Sydney University GI bank I found something interesting. The serving size used to determine the GI score for coconut sugar is 1 teaspoon, whereas the serving size used for cane sugar is 2 teaspoons. As such, coconut sugar may not actually be lower GI than cane sugar on a teaspoon to teaspoon basis. Either way, both coconut and cane sugar are energy dense, light on nutrients and best consumed in moderation.

GF, DF chocolate-cherry tahini cookies.

GF, DF chocolate-cherry tahini cookies.

Now, back to those GF, DF chocolate-cherry cookies I mentioned earlier. We’ve been dunking them into cups of tea all week, and they’re simply delicious. Made with tahini instead of butter, they’re lighter on saturated fat than the average cookie and contain about half the sugar. I’ve tested six different versions and this one offers the softest texture and best ratio of chocolate and cherries per bite. Happy baking!

These chocolate-cherry cookies area ready in 15 minutes, and are made with tahini instead of butter or oil.

These chocolate-cherry cookies area ready in 15 minutes, and are made with tahini instead of butter or oil.

Soft-Baked Chocolate-Cherry Tahini Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 egg

  • ¼ cup brown sugar

  • ¼ cup coconut sugar (Note: If you’re fresh out of coconut sugar you can sub in brown sugar instead however you’ll get a sweeter cookie with a coarser texture.)

  • ½ cup tahini

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil (at room temperature)

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • ¾ cup all-purpose gluten-free flour

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • ⅓ cup dried cherries

Directions

  1. Line two medium baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350℉/ 180℃.

  2. Roughly chop the cherries.

  3. Add the egg, brown sugar, coconut sugar, tahini, coconut oil and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Mix together until smooth and shiny.

  4. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl. Combine until a stiff dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

  5. Pinch off a small chunk of cookie dough and roll between your palms to form a 1-inch/2.5cm ball. Place the ball on the parchment-lined baking sheet and gently flatten with the back of your hand. Repeat with the remaining dough.

  6. Insert the baking sheets into the oven and bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until just golden around the edges.

Makes 12 medium cookies.

Chocolate-cherry tahini cookies made with tahini instead of butter. Gluten-free, dairy-free and ready in 15 minutes! @edwinalclark.

Chocolate-cherry tahini cookies made with tahini instead of butter. Gluten-free, dairy-free and ready in 15 minutes! @edwinalclark.

Tuscan Chicken, White Bean, and Vegetable Soup

This hearty, healthy soup is ready in 30 minutes and offers a bouquet of rich and delicious Italian ingredients. With 5 different veggies, steeped in a tomato-based broth, this dish is bursting with color, flavor, and nutrition. Stay warm over winter with this nourishing, gluten-free, dairy-free recipe!

Warming chicken, white bean, and vegetables soup, inspired by the Tuscan countryside. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and packed with vegetables!

Warming chicken, white bean, and vegetables soup, inspired by the Tuscan countryside. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and packed with vegetables!

Tuscany is one of my favorite places. A couple of summers ago we spent a week touring the countryside of Central Italy in a micro-car and it was magical. The wine was good, the food even better, and the scenery was breathtaking.

We stayed in a little town called Montepulciano, famous for its uphill barrel-rolling race and red wine. Villa Poggiano was our home for the week and I cannot speak highly enough of their property and service. Nestled among vineyards and olive groves, it’s truly a fantastic place to stay.

The pool at Villa Poggiano — the ultimate place to cool off and relax between adventures in summer.

The pool at Villa Poggiano — the ultimate place to cool off and relax between adventures in summer.

Perched on a hill, Montepulciano is everything you would expect from a medieval Tuscan town.

Perched on a hill, Montepulciano is everything you would expect from a medieval Tuscan town.

No blog post on Tuscany would be complete without a mention of the food. I’ve never eaten so many dishes spiked with truffles or devoured more pasta and cheese than our week in Montepulciano. Tuscan cuisine is fresh, flavorful and hearty, and continues to inspire my recipes to-date.

This soup is one of those Tuscan-inspired dishes. It’s not necessarily traditional, but it’s packed with Italian flavors and fresh ingredients. It’s rich and warm, without being heavy, which is exactly what I crave during these cool winter months in San Francisco.

We have another trip to Italy planned for May. I am not sure if we’ll be back to Montepulciano or adventure somewhere else. Regardless, my memories of Tuscany will remain alive in the kitchen.

One-pot, healthy Tuscan white bean, tomato and chicken soup. A quick and flavorful meal, packed with nutrition!

One-pot, healthy Tuscan white bean, tomato and chicken soup. A quick and flavorful meal, packed with nutrition!

Tuscan Chicken, White Bean, and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • ½ white onion

  • ¼ lb (114g) white or cremini mushrooms

  • 1 cup chopped carrots

  • 2 zucchini

  • 2 cups spinach or kale

  • 2 raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 2 x 14 oz (411g) cans diced tomatoes

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

  • 1 x 14oz (411g) can white beans

  • ¾ tsp salt

  • 2 tsp dried oregano

  • 2 tsp dried basil

  • 1 tsp dried parsley

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • Parmesan (optional)

Directions

  1. Crush and mince the garlic.

  2. Thinly slice the onion and mushrooms. Peel and chop the carrots, as needed.

  3. Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch (0.5cm) thick discs. Halve each disc.

  4. Roughly chop the spinach/kale.

  5. Drain and rinse the canned white beans.

  6. Place a large soup pot on the stove, and turn the stove onto medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, white onion and carrot to the pot. Cook until the onion becomes soft and translucent.

  7. While the garlic and onion are cooking, thinly slice the chicken breasts.

  8. Add the chicken to the pot, and brown all over.

  9. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, white beans, salt, dried oregano, dried basil, dried parsley, and brown sugar to the pot.

  10. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

  11. A few minutes before serving, remove the lid, and add the chopped spinach/kale to the soup. Continue cooking for another minute or so to wilt the greens. Top with grated parmesan.

Serves 6

Craving more healthy eats and treats from around the globe? Find more recipes here.

Quick and healthy Tuscan white bean, chicken and veggie soup. GF, DF, and delicious!

Quick and healthy Tuscan white bean, chicken and veggie soup. GF, DF, and delicious!

Quick Winter Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry

Need a little comfort food? This creamy, vegan curry offers all the warmth and satisfaction of a slow-cooked meal but is ready in 30 minutes. Made with a combination of chickpeas, winter squash, broccoli, red peppers, and light coconut milk, this meatless dish is loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients and is a delicious way to warm up on a cold day.

Vegan chickpea, winter squash, broccoli, and red pepper coconut curry. GF, DF.

Vegan chickpea, winter squash, broccoli, and red pepper coconut curry. GF, DF.

Winter has hit me hard this year. The moment I stepped off my Sydney to San Francisco flight, my throat started to feel scratchy and within 24 hours I was nursing a nasty head cold, along with a hefty dose of jet lag. (Read more about combating a cold with food here).

The only thing that I’ve felt like eating during this epic bout of congestion are big, steaming bowls of soup. So, that’s what has been brewing in my kitchen. This nourishing recipe was born out of my craving for something extra warming and loaded with veggies. It takes just 30 minutes and is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan for those with dietary restrictions or simply looking to eat less meat in the New Year.

Offering a combination of plant-based protein, veggies, high fiber carbs and fat, this recipe is a meal all by itself however you can serve with brown rice or cauli-rice if you need a little something extra. Furthermore, you can mix and match veggies, depending on what’s in your fridge. Winter squash can easily be substituted for sweet potato and the same goes for broccoli and cauliflower. Carrots, eggplant, green beans, peas, and white potatoes also pair well with curry. Happy noshing, winter warriors!

Quick chickpea and veggie coconut curry made with broccoli, butternut squash, red bell peppers, curry powder and light coconut milk.

Quick chickpea and veggie coconut curry made with broccoli, butternut squash, red bell peppers, curry powder and light coconut milk.

Vegan Winter Squash and Chickpea Coconut Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • ½ large white onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 2 cups winter squash or pumpkin

  • 15 oz (1 can) chickpeas

  • 1 tbsp canola oil

  • 2 cups broccoli florets

  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth

  • 15 oz (1 can) light coconut milk

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 4 tsp curry powder

  • Lime wedges

  • Fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Slice the bell pepper and onion into thin strips.

  2. Crush and mince the garlic.

  3. Peel the squash/pumpkin and chop into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes

  4. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

  5. Add the canola oil, bell pepper, onion and garlic to a large pot and place on the stove. Turn the stove on to medium heat and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent.

  6. Add the squash/pumpkin to the pot, and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.

  7. Add the chickpeas, broccoli, broth, coconut milk, salt and curry powder to the pot.

  8. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin/squash is tender.

  9. Remove the lid and simmer for another 3-5 minutes uncovered to thicken the sauce.

  10. Top with finely chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Serves 4.

Quick chickpea and winter squash coconut curry. The perfect dish to snuggle up with on a cold day. GF, DF, and vegan.

Quick chickpea and winter squash coconut curry. The perfect dish to snuggle up with on a cold day. GF, DF, and vegan.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Made with a combination of quinoa, caramelized veggies, dried cranberries, and a creamy lemon dressing, this colorful dish offers loads nutrition and flavor! Make a big batch over the weekend and enjoy all week long as a vegetarian, gluten-free main or side.

Roasted veggie quinoa salad made with bell peppers, red onion, sweet potato and baby arugula, and topped with a creamy lemon dressing. Vegetarian, and gluten-free.

Roasted veggie quinoa salad made with bell peppers, red onion, sweet potato and baby arugula, and topped with a creamy lemon dressing. Vegetarian, and gluten-free.

Happy New Year, friends! After seven amazing weeks in Sydney, I am getting back into the blogging groove again, and this wholesome, delicious recipe is the perfect way to kick-off 2019.

But before I get into the recipe, I want to take a moment to talk about new year’s resolutions. Most of us make them, however, very few are actually realized.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Aiming too high, inadequate knowledge or skills, and lack of support are just a few of the reasons why new years resolutions fail. Often the intention is there, but the execution is where many come unstuck. If you have a specific destination in mind, you need a thoughtfully-crafted roadmap to get there.

How To Get What You Want This Year

Whether you want to lose weight or learn to surf this year, every single goal you set for yourself should be S-M-A-R-T:

SPECIFIC: What exactly do you want to achieve? If you want to exercise more this year, how many days a week do want to exercise? What kind of exercise do you want to do? Does walking count as exercise, or do you want to do something more intense? Details matter.

MEASURABLE: How will you measure success? ‘I want to go to the gym twice a week’ is a good example of a measurable goal. Success = two gym sessions a week. Every goal needs a quantifiable outcome.

ACHIEVABLE & REALISTIC: Is it possible to attain your goal within the given time frame? Aiming too high is one of the most common reasons that resolutions fail. It’s okay to be ambitious, but you also need to be honest about what you can achieve.

TIME FRAME: Every goal needs a time limit. Specifying a time frame creates a sense of urgency, and makes a goal easier to measure.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let your new year’s resolutions fall by the wayside this year. Set S-M-A-R-T goals, rather than unrealistic ones. If you have a long-term goal in mind, create mini-milestones to keep you motivated. Baby steps matter, particularly when combined with consistency.

This easy roasted veggies quinoa salad makes a great vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free side or main dish.

This easy roasted veggies quinoa salad makes a great vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free side or main dish.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

This recipe has become one of my favorites over the last couple of months and is the ultimate intersection of healthy and satisfying. Happy 2019!

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa

  • 2 red bell peppers

  • 1 medium sweet potato

  • ½ large red onion

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ cup dried cranberries

  • ½ cup dry roasted or raw almonds

  • ¼ cup feta

  • 2 cups baby arugula

  • Salt + pepper

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp tahini

  • 2 tbsp warm water

  • ½ lemon

  • 1 tsp honey

  • ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425℉/220℃. Line a large baking sheet (or two half sheets) with parchment paper.

  2. Slice the bell peppers and onion into ½ inch (1 cm) thick strips. Place both in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Slice the sweet potato into ½ inch (1 cm) discs and cut the discs into quarters. Add the sweet potato to the bell peppers and onion.

  4. Add the olive oil, salt and garlic powder to the mixing bowl, and stir until all the veggies are coated.

  5. Pour the veggies on the baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Insert the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20-25 mins or until the sweet potato slices are cooked through. Allow the veggies to cool.

  6. While the veggies are cooking make the dressing by juicing the lemon and combining the tahini, warm water, lemon juice, honey and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until well-combined. The dressing should be slightly thicker than honey. Add more warm water, if needed.

  7. Add the quinoa, roasted veggies, feta and cranberries to a large mixing bowl.

  8. Finely chop the almonds, and transfer the chopped almonds to the mixing bowl.

  9. Season the salad with salt and pepper, and gently combine the ingredients in the mixing bowl, being careful not to overwork.

  10. Right before serving, add the baby arugula to the quinoa mixture, and drizzle the salad with lemon-tahini dressing. Gently toss the salad with tongs or salad servers. Serve cold.  

    Serves 4.

Craving more healthy eats and treats? Check out my recipe page here.

Roasted veggie quinoa salad.png

Healthy Chocolate Mint Truffles

Sweeten your day with these healthy chocolate-peppermint truffles. Made with a combination of dates, oats, cocoa powder, and tahini, this simple, 6-ingredient recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free, and makes a delicious, edible gift, especially as old Saint Nick rolls in.

Healthy chocolate-mint truffles: The perfect GF, DF edible gift for the holidays.

Healthy chocolate-mint truffles: The perfect GF, DF edible gift for the holidays.

‘Tis the season. Can you believe it? Where did 2018 go? As we approach Christmas I am feeling extra grateful for all the adventures that 2018 has afforded us. And there have been many this year.

My first international trip of the year was to London to visit my dear friend, Luce, and her husband, Gus, who were at the time expecting their first baby. We sipped tea and ate crustless sandwiches in Fortnum and Mason, and cozied up inside watching the snow fall. It was such a lovely and worthwhile trip, even if it was only five days.

In 2018, we also attended the weddings of some of our most treasured friends in NYC, Santa Cruz, and Hawaii. All were fantastic, unique celebrations, laced with personal touches and thoughtfulness...as well as champagne! Few things in life get me more excited than bubbles and good friends.

Then there were the work trips to LA, DC, Sacramento and Austin. I was fortunate to speak at three professional events on nutrition innovation and startups this year and loved every moment of it. I’m hoping to do more speaking in 2019.

To top it all off we enjoyed some pretty dreamy holidays this year too. We explored Jerusalem and Tel Aviv together with my Mum and Dad mid year. After that we flew to Istanbul and had a terrific time exploring mosques and markets in Europe’s most populous city. Now, I am in the middle of a seven week trip to Sydney, my longest stint at home in roughly 10 years.

This year hasn’t been without it’s bumps. There have been surgeries, job changes and some pretty significant stress along the way, but I have so much to be thankful for. And that is largely my focus this Christmas.

The other big piece, of course, is the celebration. I don’t have a large family, but Christmas in my house is a big affair. As the annual visit from Saint Nick approaches, I felt like making something Christmasy and minty without the sticky mess of a candy cane. This is recipe is the end result and has been my favorite snack of late.

Made with just 6 ingredients, this EASY recipe is GF, DF, vegan. Moreover, these delicious, chocolatey bites are packed with fiber and healthy fats.

Merry Christmas, friends! May it be your best yet.

6-ingredient chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats and cocoa powder. GF, DF.

6-ingredient chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats and cocoa powder. GF, DF.

Healthy Chocolate Mint Truffles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Deglet Noor dates, pitted

  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats (more about the health benefits of oats here)

  • 6 tbsp tahini

  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

Directions

  1. Add the dates, old-fashioned oats, tahini, cocoa powder and maple syrup to the food processor. Process on high until the ingredients form ‘chocolate dirt’.

  2. Line a baking tray or tupperware container with parchment paper. Take a small handful of ‘chocolate dirt’ and press together to form 1-inch balls. Place the truffles on the parchment paper and refrigerate until firm.

Makes approximately 30 truffles.

Find more delicious eats and treats here.

 
Healthy chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats, and cocoa powder. The perfect healthy snack for a chocolate-lover or a delicious edible gift!

Healthy chocolate-mint truffles made with tahini, dates, oats, and cocoa powder. The perfect healthy snack for a chocolate-lover or a delicious edible gift!

Reduced-Sugar, Gluten-Free Banana & Zucchini Muffins

Craving banana bread? Enjoy a miniature version with this gluten-free banana muffin recipe! Sweetened with bananas, these quick and fluffy muffins contain less added sugar than the average baked good, but taste just as delicious. Pair with your morning coffee or eat them all alone as a snack. Either way, these muffins won’t last long!

Gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins made with Greek yogurt.

Gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins made with Greek yogurt.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks over here. Two weekends ago I was in DC for the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition (aka FNCE) with 10K other dietitians. It was a wonderful, hectic trip filled with loads of catch-ups and learnings.

This year Sonja Goedkoop and I presented at FNCE for the first time on nutrition innovation. I was humbled by the response we received and encouraged by the interest in innovation! (More on FNCE coming soon to the blog).

After FNCE I had a day at home in SF before flying to the Big Island of Hawaii for the nuptials of two good friends. The Big Island is an interesting place, offering everything from lush rainforests to volcanoes, and beaches. During our five days on the island we hiked, swam, sunbaked, and celebrated.

Now that I’ve returned to terra firma, I’m back in the kitchen and loving it! This week I whipped up this batch of banana muffins and they disappeared almost as quickly as they were produced. Made with gluten-free flour, mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, and zucchini, these babies are fluffy, moist and, offer just the right amount of sweetness. They’re also ready in under 30. Happy baking!

Reduced sugar, gluten-free banana-zucchini muffins. Great for breakfast or as a snack/dessert!

Reduced sugar, gluten-free banana-zucchini muffins. Great for breakfast or as a snack/dessert!

Reduced-Sugar, GF Banana & Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 extra ripe medium bananas

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup grated zucchini (1 medium zucchini)

  • ⅓ cup canola oil

  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

  • ⅓ cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉/180℃, and line a muffin tin with baking cups.

  2. Mash the bananas with a fork in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add the eggs, grated zucchini, canola oil, Greek yogurt, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir until well-combined.

  4. Pour the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into the mixing bowl. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the ingredients form a smooth-ish batter.

  5. Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer the muffin batter into the muffin cups.

  6. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before removing them from the muffin tin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Find more delicious eats and treats here.

 
 
Reduced-sugar, gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins.

Reduced-sugar, gluten-free banana and zucchini muffins.