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Ooey gooey vegan double-chocolate hazelnut brownie cookies

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Is it wrong to crave cookies after yoga? I always feel so blissfully cleansed after class, like all the crud has been wrung out of my body and soul. So you’d think I’d reach for something simple and healthy, like a celery stalk. But no, within an hour, I go from serene yogi to Cookie Monster. But hey, what if cookies can be (almost) as good for you as celery? Mmm, Cookie Monster like!

There’s nothing that satisfies my cravings like these amazing, quick-to-make, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth, double-chocolate hazelnut cookies. They have the delectable consistency of brownies and they taste so rich an sinful…but they’re deceivingly healthy. This delicious recipe from my friend Bonnie will bring out the Cookie Monster in you, too, and since these bites-of-heaven are high in protein and there’s no flour or oil, there’s no harm in eating a few (or 10) in one sitting.

I just made a batch for a vegan potluck that’s happening after my friend Toni Cupal’s Jivamukti yoga class tonight, and after everyone has a taste, I have a feeling that I’ll get to see a few other yogis turn into Cookie Monsters. And I hope you do, too.

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Double-Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Cookies (Vegan and Gluten-Free!)

From fridge to table: 15 minutes
Makes 3 dozen irresistible cookies

2 tbsp ground flax
6 tbsp warm water
1/3 cup Dutch process cacao powder
1 cup almond butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or you can substitute raw coconut crystals for a healthier alternative, but the cookies won’t be as ooey gooey…but they’re still yummy!)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (Safeway carries “Chocolate Dream” now – hurray!)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a little bowl, mix the flax and water and let it sit for a couple of minutes. (This mixture is an egg replacement, and it’s awesome).

In a large bowl, combine the cacao powder, almond butter, baking soda, salt and flax/water mixture. Mix until well combined, then toss in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips and mix until thoroughly blended.

Drop little spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. No need to shape or flatten them – they melt into pretty little disks while baking. Bake for 11 minutes. Try your best not to eat them right when they come out of the oven since they will be the approximate temperature of molten lava. But feel free to devour them once they cool a little bit. Enjoy!

 

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Vegan Valentine’s: Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

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Rejoice! There’s something awesome to celebrate this Valentine’s Day: Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake!  If you want to detonate a depth-charge of love for your taste buds, make this oooey, gooey, chocolaty, moan-worthy vegan delicacy. I guarantee that it will totally blow away carnivores and veggies alike.

It took me 7 attempts to perfect the recipe for this decadent dessert, but all the work and determination was worth it! I didn’t want to just match the intense flavor and alluring texture of the butter- and egg-laden version of this iconic gourmet dessert; I wanted to best it with a truly world-class, connoisseur version that also just happens to be vegan.  And oh man, this melt-in-your-mouth lava cake totally does it! It explodes with the smooth, rich flavor of high quality cacao, and the silky texture will make you scream out “Oh God!! Yes, yes, yes!”  The chocolate lava oozes through dense, velvety cake and beckons you to lick to the plate clean.

This vegan recipe for Molten Lava Cake isn’t only better than all those versions with animal products, it absolutely crushes them!  This is an especially great dessert to make for those who mistakenly think vegans have to deprive themselves of decadence to eat an animal-free diet. And if you’re really nice, you can even invite them to lick the batter with you – it’s vegan, after all, so indulge!

Cimeron’s Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

Serves: 2 (or 4 if you share – this makes two individual cakes, but they’re huge and very filling)
From fridge to table: 20 minutes

6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup silken tofu
7 oz. Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate*, chopped
4 tbsp coconut oil

Vegan ice cream (optional)
Raspberries (optional)

* I highly recommend using Scharffen Berger chocolate for this recipe since its quality and flavor is truly unmatched, and it’s vegan. I tried all kinds of other chocolates for this recipe and none came close to incredibly complex flavor of Scharffen Bergers.

Preheat oven to 425. Generously grease two high-sided ramekins.

In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar and cornstarch and then whisk them to blend. Set aside.

Blend together the soy milk and silken tofu (I prefer using a stick blender for easy clean-up). Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Once fully melted, remove from heat and whisk in the soy milk/tofu mixture. Then pour the chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, sugar and cornstarch until silky smooth.

Divide equally between the two greased ramekins. Bake for 14 minutes. (If you prefer less lava, bake for 15-16 minutes). Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around inside edge of the ramekins so cakes will release smoothly. Place a plate atop each ramekin and then invert the cakes onto the plates. Top with vegan ice cream and raspberries and serve immediately. Then bask in the symphony of “om nom nom nom noms” that will accompany each bite of this delectable cake!

With this lovely molten lava cake, every day is Valentine’s Day for your taste buds.

Vegan molten lava chocolate cake

Bake the World a Better Place: Vegan Meyer Lemon Cake

Vegan meyer lemon cake

What could be better than seeing the look of pure joy on someone’s face when you bake them an awesome, beautiful, delectable Meyer lemon cake? Well, the fact that it took you only about 35 minutes start-to-finish makes it better. And for me, what makes the moment even sweeter is when I get to serve this yummy cake to a die-hard carnivore, knowing that in just moments when they’re moaning with joy, I get to see their jaws drop when I tell them that this cake is vegan…and healthy, and good for the environment, and good for animals!

That’s right, this moist, delicious, lemony heaven-cake has no animal products at all.  And since it uses olive oil to make it moist (which has a host of benefits, from helping to prevent strokes and heart disease to protecting cells from damage), and agave nectar as a sweetener (which means your blood sugar level won’t spike), it’s a healthy dessert. Without traditional animal-based cake ingredients, like eggs, milk and butter, it saves some chickens and cows while also being better for the environment.

So bake the world a better and happier place by making this easy, super yummy crowd-pleaser that will make both carnivores and vegans smile. Happy holidays!

– Cimeron

Meyer lemon cake with berries

Cimeron’s Vegan Meyer Lemon Cake
From pantry to table: about 35 minutes
Serves: 8

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour *
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
Zest of one Meyer lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mixed berries to serve on top

* I like baking with whole wheat pastry flour since it makes desserts lighter and fluffier. I get mine at Whole Foods, but you can find it at most high-end grocery stores or health food stores.

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a Bundt pan lightly with oil.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, blend the olive oil, agave nectar, water, lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend just until the lumps are gone. Pour into your Bundt pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake, invert, dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh mixed berries or a simple compote. (To make a compote, toss the berries in a bowl with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and agave nectar to taste – let sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the berries soften and release some juices).

This cake is definitely best when served on the same day it’s baked. Be sure to ziplock and refrigerate the leftovers to keep it moist. Enjoy!

How is it possible that my pencil-thin Meyer lemon tree produced approximately 8000 lemons this year? And how is it still upright?!

How is it possible that my pencil-thin Meyer lemon tree produced approximately 8000 lemons this year? And how is it still upright?!

Delicious Syrian Treat: Nuts and Wheat Berries Bejeweled with Pomegranate

Syrian Treat - YUM!

Looking for an incredibly tasty, unique breakfast (or dessert) treat with exotic flavors? This delicious, healthy dish will do the trick! Toasty notes of roasted nuts, coconut and wheat berries are beautifully balanced with warm cinnamon and bright little bursts of tangy pomegranate. Toasted fennel seeds add a dash of mystery on the palate with its faint hint fragrant licorice. Mmmm, this dish is so yummy and unlike anything you’ve ever tried! A bowl full of this high-protein, fiber-packed goodness will satisfy your taste buds, your belly and your whole body.

I’m not exactly sure what to call this dish (hence the lame name I’ve given it). A Syrian friend once made it for me many years ago and I’ve long forgotten the name. She told me it’s a dish that her family made for special occasions, but she always had some in her fridge to eat for breakfast; she also liked to spoon over yogurt and ice cream. I became an instant addict and have been making it (and modifying it) ever since.

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In addition to the trio of toasted nuts, its other main ingredient is the all mighty wheat berry. This little super grain is an unprocessed wheat kernel, which is packed with minerals, fiber and vitamins. In addition to lowering your risk of various cancers and heart disease, wheat berries have a lovely earthy flavor and a slight crunch – they’re really great in this dish.

Best of all, this tasty treat is bejeweled with the fruit of my people: the luscious pomegranate, which is as delectable as it is good for you. Honestly, is there any better taste of fall than ripe pomegranates? Well, I suppose there’s one: pomegranates that someone else has seeded for you – somehow, those always taste better!

So get ready to make your taste buds happy with this delicious Syrian Treat! (And please message me if you come up with a better name for it!)

Cimeron’s Syrian Treat

From pantry to table: about 45 minutes
Serves: 8

1 cup toasted, unsalted pistachios*
1 cup toasted, unsalted walnut pieces*
1 cup toasted, unsalted pine nuts*
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
1 cup wheat berries (available at Whole Foods and other natural food stores)
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tbsp brown brown sugar

* if you can’t find pre-toasted nuts, just buy raw nuts and roast them in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

First step is to soak and cook the wheat berries. These are tough grains, so soak them overnight, then add them to a large pot with about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the grains are tender, about 45 minutes. Then drain the wheat berries and put them in a large bowl.

(I like to save time and use my pressure cooker. If you have one too, here’s how you cook the wheat berries. There’s no need to soak them overnight. Just 3 cups of water, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 cup of wheat berries in your cooker and cook under high pressure for 40 minutes. Drain and add to a bowl.)

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350. Spread fennel seeds in single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Spread coconut onto a separate cookie sheet and toast until golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add both to the bowl with the wheat berries.

Add the pomegranate seeds, toasted nuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt. Stir well to blend, then serve and enjoy!

You can store this in the fridge for 5-7 days. (Who am I kidding? Once you taste it, it will be gone very quickly!)

Pig Out On Vegan Chocolate Cake

This cake will make you as happy as a piggy in a mud bath!

This cake will make you as happy as a piggy in a mud bath!

Converting carnivores, rejoice! You’re going to hog wild when you try this moist, delicious, luscious vegan chocolate cake!

I made this cake for my veterinarian, who is a serious chocoholic and one of the most wonderful people on earth. He provides incredibly compassionate veterinary care to the cats of Project Bay Cat, which is a humane feral cat management program that I co-founded 9 years ago. When I told him I wanted to make him a vegan cake to thank him for his kindness, he cocked his head and looked at me suspiciously, like he was trying to avoid a sucker punch.

“If it’s vegan, it’ll be good for me, so that means that it can’t taste good.  How could you possibly make it without butter, milk and eggs?” he asked with a far-off and somewhat fearful look in his eyes, probably envisioning a cake made of sawdust and frosted with spackle.

The challenge was on and I was determined to knock his socks off. To help overcome his vegan fears, I thought I’d distract him with a cute little pigs-in-a-hot-tub motif.

pig out on vegan chocolate cake

Much to my surprise, I was able to find a vegan version of the KitKat bar to create the siding for the hot tub – the dark chocolate version sold in Canada doesn’t have any animal-based ingredients – bonus!

When my vet saw this cake, he laughed out loud, and when he and his lovely wife tried it, they said it was the best chocolate cake they’ve ever had.

Give this a try – even without the cute pigs or the hot tub, it’ll still make you smile. It’s super simple and quick to make, and it’s moist, scrumptious and guilt-free!

Vegan Chocolate Cake (pigs in a hot tub edition)

Cake ingredients:
2 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cup water
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Frosting ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 tbsp coconut milk
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan margarine (or equivalent)
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp agave syrup

Other ingredients:
8 dark chocolate vegan KitKat bars, scored into 32 individual ‘logs’

Cake directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Oil  and flour two 8″ round pan. This is a very moist cake, which makes it somewhat challenging to remove from the pan once baked. So use some parchment paper on the bottom of the pan so the cake will easily pop out when done.

In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients well. Then add all the wet ingredients and stir well. Pour into baking pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely, run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto wax paper or parchment.

Frosting directions: 
In a high-sided mixing bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and cocoa. Add all the remaining ingredients, and using an electric beater, mix on low speed for one minute, scraping sides of bowl. Then mix on high for another minute or two until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Hot tub assembly:
I went for a smaller hot tub, so I cut off about an inch around the perimeter of the cakes. Place one cake in the middle of a plate and spread a thin layer of frosting on top. Then place the second cake on top. Spread some frosting on top and place your piggies in the ‘mud puddle.’  Frost the sides of the cake generously as this will act as the glue to hold up the KitKat bar siding. Carefully place the KitKat bars shoulder to shoulder, with the unmarked side facing out. To make them even more uniform, gently tie a wide-banded ribbon around the lower section of the hot tub. Then serve and listen to your friends and family squeal when they see this delicious vegan treat!

Sing Summer’s Song with Plum Granita

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It was close, but I’m happy to report that we survived Plumageddon! During a 3-week period every summer, our beautiful old plum tree dumps enough fruit to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. A few years ago, in a desperate attempt to put all the fruit to good use, I tried 14 plum recipes, and this one – elegant, vibrant Plum Granita – emerged as the Big Hit. It just sings summer! It’s my taste buds’ favorite summer song, and our friends request it more often than a 12 year-old asks to hear One Direction.

It’s no wonder why this granita so popular –  every spoonful of this icy delight bursts with the bright, sun-ripened taste of fresh plums. It’s got much more true-fruit flavor (and a lot less sugar) than sorbet, and its hint of fresh vanilla bean, allspice and cinnamon create a memorable melody of luscious flavor that will make you hum with joy. And bonus – it’s a healthy, fruit-filled alternative to fat-laden, dairy-based desserts. Plum Granita is a snap to make, and since it keeps well in the freezer, you can make a big batch and keep playing this hit throughout the year.

Enjoy!

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Plum Granita

3 pounds red plums, pitted and chopped
1.5 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole allspice berries
1 fresh vanilla bean

In a small pot stir together water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds and stir into the mix. Add the sliced vanilla bean as well, then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced to about 1.5 cups. Cool the syrup.

While the syrup cools, puree the plums in a food processor or blender. Place a sieve over a big bowl and press the pureed plums through it.

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This will fill your bowl with a thick liquid that looks kind of like a plum smoothy. Throw away the plum solids. Mix the cooled syrup into plum ‘smoothy’ and stir until well blended. Put the mixture into a Tupperware bowl and freeze for 1 hour. Then stir the mixture thoroughly with a fork, and repeat ever 45 minutes until you create a lovely, fluffy, light icy granita. Yum!

Can you see the tiny black specks? Those are vanilla seeds, which add a heavenly, aromatic dimension to this elegant dessert.

Can you see the tiny black specks? Those are vanilla seeds, which add a heavenly, aromatic dimension to this elegant dessert.

Foods That Fight Stress

Moist and delicious oatmeal blueberry cashew vegan cookies

It’s a natural tendency to reach for a cookie when we’re feeling stressed out. In addition to providing a little respite, they also make great projectiles. But these tasty Vegan Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry Cookies (recipe below) aren’t like most comfort foods that provide only a fleeting moment of emotional anesthesia. These cookies are actually packed with incredible ingredients that alter your brain chemistry to reduce stress hormones and increase the production of chemicals that will elevate your mood.

Can you believe that something as simple as eating the right foods can decrease anxiety, depression and stress? It’s pretty amazing! It’s all chemistry, really. Every time we feel tension, our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol, which elevates blood pressure, impairs the immune system, makes our shoulders reside near our ears, and inspires some of us to throw objects at the heads of annoying people.  Here’s why I’ve felt a bit stressed lately:

Our stress-inducing apocalypse-style patio

Yes, it’s loads of fun trying to write articles with the pleasant sound of the jackhammer just inches away! Stress is a killer – literally. John knows four people who have dropped dead at his workplace in the past year. Yikes!  So when I started seeing his brain-vein pounding more prominently in recent weeks, and when my legs began jackhammering at my desk (even when the demo guys were taking a break), I decided to do a little research about ways to combat our tension with food.

Check this out:

Oatmeal makes your brain produce the “feel good” brain chemical serotonin. It modulates mood, helps us combat stress and makes us feel happier.

Blueberries are high in vitamin C, which researchers have found reduces the psychological and physical effects of stress by curbing the secretion of cortisol. It has also been shown to help people bounce back from stressful situations more quickly. And bonus: blueberries are rich with anthocyanin, which improves cognitive function and memory. They’re also a source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure.

Cashews are rich with zinc, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. (By the way, did you know that our bodies can’t store zinc? Unless we consume some every day it can lead to zinc deficiency, which causes a host of other nasty problems like hair loss, mental lethargy and sexual health issues. So unless you want to be an impotent, balding slug, eat your cashews!)

So I figured: why not combine all these stress-busting, anti-anxiety foods into a delicious and healthy snack? Give these easy-to-make Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry cookies a try – they’re moist, delicious, addictive, and they’ll even help you suppress your urge to use one as a projectile. They’re so good that even carnivores who are fearful of anything vegan will love them.  And since they’re packed with complex carbs (verses the empty simple carbs found in most cookies) and are super good for you, there won’t be any guilt-related stress if you happen to gobble up, say, all 25 of them in one sitting. Enjoy!

Vegan spiced oatmeal-blueberry-cashew cookies. YUM!

Stress-Busting Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry Cookies

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 25 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup agave nectar**
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 olive oil
2 cups old fashioned oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup dried blueberries, rehydrated (soak in hot water for 5 minutes. Be sure to pat them dry)
1/2 cup toasted and unsalted cashews, chopped

* Whole wheat pastry flour is a little lighter and yummier for baking, but you can use regular flour if you can’t find the pastry flour, but if you do, just use a tiny bit less than ½ cup since regular flour is denser.

** If you prefer, you can use 2/3 cup brown rice syrup in place of the agave nectar. But cut back on the salt to 1/8 tsp. The cookies turn out even chewier this way, and with slightly crispier tops. 

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or a light spray of olive oil.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda and all the spices. In a larger bowl, mix the applesauce, agave nectar, vanilla and oil until blended. Then add in the flour/spice mixture and stir well. Add the oats, blueberries and cashews and mix until blended. Now let the mixture sit for 10 minutes – this will soften up the oats and make the cookies chewylicious.

Using your cookie scooper or a spoon, create 25 little cookie mounds on your baking sheets and bake for 12-13 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Now here comes the hard part: wait at least 10 minutes before wolfing down the cookies. They hold together better after they’ve had a chance to rest. Plus, waiting will help you keep the flesh on the roof of your mouth!

Vegan Valentine’s: Delicious Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

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“Wait, that’s vegan? They don’t look vegan. Are you sure they are?” asked my chocoholic friend as he stared wide-eyed at the vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes I made for him. When he bit into one of the moist, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes, his face lit up with pleasure, but then he squinted his eyes and asked again: “Are you sure these are vegan?! They’re really, really good!” I laughed and said: “Yep, I made them myself and I swear they are! Your wife doesn’t want you to die from clogged arteries, and neither do I, so these are made without any animal fat. They’re much better for you.” I still don’t think he completely believed me though! 🙂

That got me to thinking: what do carnivores think vegan baked goods look like?  I took a poll among my meat-eating friends and found that this is what they visualize when they think of baked vegan treats:

That used to be the case for my carnivore, but I’ve been working hard to change his mind.  He’s finally realizing that vegan cupcakes aren’t dry, dirt-encrusted bricks wrapped in hemp leaves. Top bakers and chefs all over the world are recognizing the health benefits of desserts free of animal products and we’re seeing more and more incredibly tasty and inventive recipes from them. This vegan chocolate strawberry cupcake recipe is by chef Chloe Corscarelli, who used these yummy and pretty little cakes to win the Cupcake Wars competition. Most impressive: she was competing against people using whipping cream, butter, and every other animal fat you can imagine, and these amazing cupcakes kicked all of their booties. Score another point for Team Veg!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, give these beautiful cupcakes a try and see if you can convert a carnivore or two yourself!

vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes

Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Serves: 12
From fridge to table: 1.5 hours

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting and finishing:
2/3 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 2/3 cups plus 1 tbsp sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp soy milk (or rice or almond milk)
1.5 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line 12-cup muffin pan.

To make cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup water, the oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Divide batter among cupcake cups. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool completely in pan.

To  make frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla to mix. Beat in nondairy milk, 1 tbsp at a time, and beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Cut tops off of cooled cupcakes and set aside. Smooth about 1 tbsp of frosting onto each decapitated cupcake and cover with a few strawberries. Replace top and then add a dollop of frosting and few slices of strawberries. Dust cupcakes with a little powdered sugar. Then enjoy!

Delicious Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Compote with Crispy, Sweet Tortillas Tricks the Carnivore

Have you ever seen the TV show “Chopped?” The host gives the chefs a mystery basket filled with a random assortment of oddities and they compete to see who can make the most delicious and creative dish. “Chefs, your mystery basket contains leftover pizza, pickle juice, bitter melon and an old shoe – you must use all these ingredients to create a stunning dessert.” I’m still not sure if I love the show because it’s hysterical to see the look of absolute horror on the chefs’ faces, or because they inspire me with their insane creativity. Either way, that show motivated me to create a pretty awesome “make it work” moment last night, which helped me trick my converting-carnivore husband into eating (and enjoying!) a non-dairy ice cream and a few servings of fruit – that’s a huge feat!

So my mystery basket (otherwise known as my fridge) contained: extremely stale low-fat tortillas, blueberries, pomegranate balsamic vinegar, peaches and Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream. The challenge: get John to eat fruit and fool him into thinking he was eating real ice cream (so he wouldn’t give me “the face.”)  Not an easy challenge! But I’m happy to report that the resulting concoction was spectacularly delicious and had a nice little surprise that kept my carnivore (and me) coming back for more.

In typical Cimeron fashion, this dish is super quick and easy to make. (John and I have several “I’m so hungry I’m going to start gnawing on the couch” moments each week, so I often have to cook fast and simple dishes or else risk having teeth marks on my arm).  And this dessert packs a nice punch of flavors and has some really beautiful texture combinations. There are two ‘wow’ elements in this dessert: one is the luscious balsamic peach-blueberry compote with blueberry syrup – the fruit is enhanced by a touch of balsamic vinegar, which adds just the right amount of acidity to balance out the sweetness of the dessert, and the flavor is simply addictive. The other is the crispy, cinnamon-and-sugar baked tortilla triangles, which miraculously stay super crunchy even when soaking in the blueberry sauce! That was a lucky surprise. John loved breaking up the triangles and using the pieces to scoop up the “ice cream” and fruit compote, and I just couldn’t get enough of the lovely crunchiness of it. While we were licking our plates, John turned to me and said: “You have not been Chopped! Oh, and can I have more please?”  High praise indeed.

Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Surprise
(with blueberry syrup and crispy cinnamon-and-sugar tortilla triangles)

Serves: 4
Active prep time: 6 minutes
From fridge to table: 30 minutes

3 tortillas, cut into triangles
2 large peaches, sliced
2 1/2 cups blueberries
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (note: I used a divine pomegranate balsamic from 11Olives.com and it was fantastic in this dish. But plain balsamic will work well too)
2 tbsp sugar
Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on the tortillas
Olive oil

Non-dairy ice cream (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Lay out the tortilla triangles on a baking dish. Spray with olive oil, or if you don’t have spray, lightly brush it on. Sprinkle each triangle with a little cinnamon and sugar. Bake until they are crispy and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. (Note: some may puff up while baking, which I think makes for an even prettier dessert!)

Meanwhile, slice up the peaches. Place them in a large bowl along with 1.5 cups of blueberries.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup of blueberries with the 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp sugar. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Cook until a nice syrup starts to form and about half of the fruit has broken down,  about 1-3 minutes or so. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the fresh peaches and blueberries and stir well. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice while it’s sitting.

Arrange a couple baked tortilla triangles on a plate and put a generous scoop of non-dairy ice cream in the middle. Top with big spoonfuls of the peach-blueberry compote and syrup. For a pretty presentation, take a baked tortilla triangle and plant it like a flag on top of the ice cream. Then watch it all disappear in an insant!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita: a Refreshing, Easy Dessert

Ah, pomegranates: the fruit of my people! Whenever I see them, I think of my sweet Persian mother and how we used to sit together and seed pomegranates for hours while laughing about the fact that we always put more pomegranate seeds in our mouths than in the bowl. The tiny ruby fruit-gems burst with juicy flavor and are simply luscious and divine! And it’s incredibly good for you, too – several scientific studies have found a surprising array of the health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its ability to: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fight breast cancer, prevent cartilage deterioration (aka osteoarthritis), prevent lung cancer, slow prostate cancer, and even prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. No wonder it’s consider a super-food!

I can’t wait for the fall harvest of my favorite fruit, so I decided to create a super easy and truly delicious dessert that pays homage to my Persian mum…and also to my taste buds: Pomegranate-Lime Granita. The lime perfectly pairs with the pomegranate to give it a slightly citrus hint to tantalize your palate. This recipe also has a secret mission: to get my husband to consume more pomegranate juice. John loves this granita so much that he eats tons of it, which makes me happy since he’s getting plenty of pomegranate power in his dessert.

If you’ve never had a granita, it’s a light and refreshing frozen dessert. The texture is kind of between Italian ice and sorbet. I make mine fluffy since I like the crunch of fruity, icy crystals, but it’s just as easy – okay, it’s actually easier – to make it smoother. And bonus: this dessert is crazy-easy to make. Active time is less than 3 minutes. Who knew that creating a tasty and super healthy dessert could be so simple and quick? Try it let me know what you think!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita

Serves: 8
Active time: 2 minutes
Freezing time: depends on the temp of your freezer. For me, I like to give it at least 7 hours, but I prefer to let it set overnight

3 cups pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
The juice of one lime (I like to use Persian limes, aka Bears limes, since they’re super juicy. And well, they’re also the fruit of my people!)

In a Tupperware bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze. If you want your granita fluffy and more crystallized (like I have in the photo), mix it with a fork every hour or so while it’s setting, breaking up the frozen chunks. If you want it more firm or you’re just lazy (warning, you’d better have a sharp fork and a strong arm – it’s going to be quite hard), just let it set in the freezer and when it’s done, scrape it with a fork. On hot summer nights, I like to freeze my serving bowls so it keeps the granita nice and cold while we’re eating it.

As my mum used to say, nush-y-jan (which I think is either Persian for ‘bon appetite’ or possibly ‘gimme more pomegranates.’) 🙂