We’re three days out from Christmas. By now most of us are in a baking frenzy. And some of us—including me—need to come up with holiday treats that are also gluten-free and low in dairy. If this is your challenge, and you’d like something quick and simple, the following recipes are for you!
In an April 2012 issue of Whole Living Magazine, I came across this recipe for a healthy fruit and nut bar. It wasn’t meant to be a holiday treat, but when I read the ingredients—dried fruit, dark chocolate, nuts and coconut—all I could think of was Christmas. And while I make this all through the year, it remains a Christmas favorite on the dessert table for those who are gluten-free and those who just like yummy desserts. Further, if you are trying to be healthy this holiday season, you can’t beat this dessert—just cut it into little squares instead of full-size bars to keep portion size reasonable because this is a calorie-dense treat.
- One and a half cups dried fruit (Any combination of dried fruit will work, and I’ve always used a mixture: figs, dates, cherries, blueberries, apricots, apples, mango, cranberries. This year I’ve used apricots, blueberries, cherries and dried apple rings.)
- One-half cup toasted nuts (Again any nuts you like: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios. This year’s nut is pistachio.)
- Two tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut (I tend to use a bit more—we are coconut fans. Our choice for coconut is Blue Mountain Organics. I buy flaked coconut, so for this recipe I give it a whirl through the processor to get it to a finer consistency.)
- Coarse sea salt
- One-half ounce dark chocolate, melted (It’s Christmas—go for a whole ounce.)
- Pulse the dried fruit, nuts, one tablespoon of the coconut and a pinch of salt in a food processor until finely ground. (Dividing this into two helps my poor old processor perform better.)
- Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an inch overhang on all sides. Transfer the mixture to the pan and press firmly to form a rectangle.
- Use the parchment overhang to remove the molded mixture from the pan. Drizzle with chocolate and sprinkle with remaining coconut.
- Transfer to the refrigerator and leave until firm, about 15 minutes. And that’s it!
Note: I always use unsweetened, unsulfured and, preferably, organic, fair-trade dried fruit. For instance, the taste and texture difference between bright-orange dried apricots that are loaded with sulfites and the organic variety that look shriveled and brown is amazing. Try organic once and you will never go back. Trust me. Store in an airtight container for up to five days or covered in the frig for at least a week, but they won’t last that long. (I’ve even mailed these out in the Christmas box—very carefully wrapped--with great success.)
If you recall my post on the vendors at the Land of Goshen Community Market, you know I’m a huge fan of the coconut spreads made by Angie Carl from My Coconut Kitchen. A visit to her website reveals a plethora of recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts. Last year for Christmas I made her Minty Patties—a take on a York Peppermint Patty—that was fantastic. So then I started experimenting with the basic recipe and realized you could make all kinds of coconut confections that are gluten-free, dairy-free and to-die-for. Here is Angie’s original recipe with variations on my holiday table treats—I created toasted pecan pie patties and orange-sesame patties.
- One-half cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
- Three-quarters cup NAKED coconut butter, melted (For my pecan pie patties, I used ROASTY-TOASTY coconut butter, and for my orange-sesame patties, I used EXOTIC ORANGE coconut butter.)
- Two tablespoons pure grade B maple syrup (For my pecan pie patties, I stuck with the maple syrup, and for my orange-sesame patties, I used raw honey.)
- 10 drops peppermint oil/extract (For my pecan pie patties, I used almond extract, and for my orange-sesame patties, I used vanilla extract.)
- One cup dark chocolate chips
- One teaspoon coconut oil (We really like Dr. Bronner’s organic coconut oil for both cooking and DIY beauty products.)
Mix the first four ingredients until well combined. Using a tablespoon, form the mixture into patties (I get about 10 patties per recipe.). Place the patties on a flat dish lined with parchment paper and freeze for at least 30 minutes (It can be longer—up six hours, I’ve found—so you can make this step ahead.). Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler until completely melted.
Dip each frozen patty in the melted chocolate using a fork. Lift, tap and remove the coated patties to the parchment-lined plate and set in the refrigerator for several minutes to harden.Before the chocolate begins to set, I sprinkle with nuts, cocoa powder, sesame seeds–whatever strikes my fancy. Be creative!
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Finally, there’s nothing easier than chocolate bark, an ebony pallet on which you can paint your own individual masterpiece. We love dark chocolate with fruit and nuts and sea salt. One of my all-time favorites comes from the November 2011 issue of Whole Living Magazine. Start here and end up wherever your imagination can take you—
Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Sea Salt
- Eight ounces dark chocolate, melted (Our choice is Green & Black’s 85% Cacao.)
- One-quarter cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- One-quarter to one-half teaspoon sea salt (Our brand is Celtic.)
Pour the melted chocolate into the parchment-lined pan and smooth with a rubber spatula into an even layer.
Sprinkle with pistachios and sea salt.
Chill in the refrigerator until completely set—about 30 minutes. Peel off the parchment and break into pieces. Nothing easier than this.
Stores covered in the frig about a week, but you will never have it around that long.
So, in the next few days—be brave in your kitchen, be well, be blessed. Merry Christmas!
BTW: any leftover melted chocolate in my house gets spread out on a piece of parchment paper and topped with whatever goodies I can find—this year it was extra ground pecans and salt. A little treat for the gal in the kitchen as she whips up the next Christmas treat.