Category Archives: Sweets and Treats

Date Nut Skillet Cookies

Still using up the pantry.  I found dates and coconut, and remembered these sweet, old-fashioned cookies that my Nana used to make.  Salted butter works best. Enjoy!

¼ c. lightly salted butter
½ c. light brown sugar
1 egg
8 oz. pitted dates, chopped
½ c. finely chopped pecans, toasted
1 c. crispy rice cereal
¾ c. sweetened coconut flakes

In a medium-sized cast-iron skillet, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar. Stir in egg and chopped dates. Return the pan to the stove.  Cook mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and cool, stirring often, about 5 minutes (or until cool enough to handle). Stir in pecans and cereal.

Spread coconut flakes on a small plate.  Using buttered hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into generous 1” balls, rolling each ball in coconut before setting it aside. You’ll end up with about 30 cookies.  Let cool.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Strawberry English Cake

I make this cake each year, as soon as the strawberries come in.  It has a light, unusual texture that calls you back.  Thought I’d post it in time for Mother’s Day.  Enjoy!

2/3 c. sifted cornstarch
1 c. powdered sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar (opt.)
2 T. water
1 tsp. vanilla
Few drops almond extract (opt.)

1 c. finely diced strawberries
1 c. whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8” round cake pans with wax paper. Set aside.

Sift cornstarch, salt, and ½ c. powdered sugar together three times. Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and water until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry).

Beat yolks slightly. Add vanilla and almond extract (if using). Gently fold egg white mixture into yolks, folding just enough to combine.

Divide batter between pans. Bake for 30 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Cool.

To remove cakes from pan, run a sharp, thin knife along sides of pan twice. The first time, just cut/separate cake from tin. The second time, use knife to gently push cake inward, toward center, releasing an inch or so from the bottom of the pan all the way around. Locate an edge of wax paper and life cake from the pan. Remove wax paper.

Whip cream. Fold in finely diced strawberries.

Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread a very thin layer of whipped cream and strawberries on top. Top with second layer. Ice cake with remaining whipped cream. (Note: Whipped cream and strawberries will cover, but barely. Be prepared to see patches of cake where cream doesn’t quite cover. This is how cake should look– It will taste delicious. Don’t worry.)

Serve. Cake tastes best the day it is made.

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Honey- Spiced Pecans

There’s no denying…. I’ve become obsessed with the taste of honey and hot pepper.  It all started with the Red Pepper & Acacia Honey (from Tuscany!) that I found at beekind in San Francisco.  For this recipe, I use local wildflower honey and cayenne pepper.  The spicy-sweet combination on the crunchy pecans is reeee-aaallly good.  You might try adding a little less salt if you’re using salted butter.  Enjoy!

2 T. butter, melted
4 T. unfiltered honey
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
½ tsp. salt
2 c. pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine melted butter, honey, cayenne and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in pecans and gently toss to combine. Spread nuts out in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes, stirring once, until toasted. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Butterscotch Pudding

This has become my go-to recipe when I have extra milk on hand.  It comes together quickly, and the kids like to help.  I found it years ago in Cooking Light magazine, though I omit the non-dairy topping (yuck!) and add a little almond extract.  The flavor is deep and the texture creamy.  This makes 5-6 servings.  Enjoy!

¼ c. cornstarch
1 c. dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 cups 1% milk, divided
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract

Whisk together cornstarch, brown sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Once well-combined, whisk in 2 cups of milk. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until little bubbles form along the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, and remaining one cup milk.

Pour a cup or so of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the egg, then pour contents of the bowl back into the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium-to-medium-high heat. Boil one minute and remove from heat.  Stir in butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Divide among six dessert cups. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of each pudding (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill at least 4 hours. Serve cold.

Note: For special occasions, you could garnish each pudding with a tablespoon or so of whipped cream and a little ground nutmeg.

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Banana Bread

According to John-Bryan Hopkins at, today is National Banana Bread day.  The stars must be in alignment for this recipe, which I whipped up yesterday and fed the kids this morning.  The recipe uses the same dry ingredients as the Pumpkin Bread I posted a few weeks ago.  It happens to be gluten-free, though it is just as good, if not better, than regular banana bread.  My kids scarf it down in every variation- with nuts, without nuts, with dates, without dates.. . I’ve even turned it into Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (well, cake really,) for special occasions.  That variation is included below.  Enjoy!

Banana Bread
1 c. soy flour
½ c. corn (or potato) starch
¼ c. brown rice flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

¼ c. butter, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs

Scant ¾ c. mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)
½ c. toasted walnuts, chopped (opt.)
½ c. chopped dates (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 8×4” loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine soy flour, corn starch, rice flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Briefly attempt to cream butter and sugar (there won’t be enough butter to do this, but at least combine to grittiness). Add eggs and beat until thick and pale yellow.

Add half the dry ingredients and mix briefly. Add the mashed bananas. Mix. Finish adding the dry ingredients, reserving a tablespoon or so if using walnuts or dates. Toss dates and/or walnuts with that little bit of dry ingredients, then stir into batter. Scrape into loaf pan and smooth top. Bake 55 min, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread  (variation)- Follow the recipe above, omitting dates. Up the sugar to ¾ c. (or 1 cup, if your bananas were not super-ripe). After beating the butter, sugar and eggs until thick, stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and ½ tsp. almond extract. Fold in 2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips and ½ c. walnuts (opt.) Continue as above.

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Banana Peanutbutter Blitz

I call this a “blitz” for two reasons:  First, it comes together incredibly fast. Second, my children dive into it like they haven’t eaten in a week. It works for breakfast, lunch or dinner–  even desert.  Enjoy!

3 medium ripe bananas
2 T. all-natural peanut butter
1 T. honey
Scant ¼ c. salted roasted peanuts
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Peel and thinly slice bananas and scatter over a serving plate. Drizzle peanut butter on top. (Note: Loosen peanut butter if necessary in microwave, warming at 10 sec intervals until “drizzle-able.”)

Drizzle honey over peanut butter and bananas. Put peanuts in a sandwich bag and crush lightly with the flat side of a meat mallet (or the side of a can). Once crushed to a course chop, add cinnamon to the bag and mix. Scatter this over bananas. Serve.

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Vanilla Ice Cream Custard

After reading the alarmingly long list of ingredients (and the saturated fat content!) of Trader Joe’s Super Premium vanilla ice cream, I decided to make my own.  I basically adapted my favorite pudding recipe, cutting the corn starch a little and amping up the vanilla.  Turned out better than anything I’d made before, and absolutely delicious on baked apples.  Makes about 4 cups.  Enjoy.

Vanilla Ice Cream Custard

2 c. 2% milk, divided
1 c. heavy cream
Vanilla bean
2 T. cornstarch
2/3 c. plus ¼ c. sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Almond extract (few drops), opt.

In a small saucepan, heat one cup milk and cream over medium low heat. Scrape in seeds and stir. Add pod, cover and steep at least 20 min. Remove pod. Rewarm gently.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine cornstarch and ¼ c. sugar. Pour in warm vanilla milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add remaining sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, stirring often. Mixture will thicken slightly.

In the meantime, whisk egg yolks and remaining cup milk in a medium bowl until combined. When vanilla mixture has begun to bubble and thicken, pour one cup (or so) of it into the egg mixture, whisking to temper eggs. (This step must be done quickly and smoothly so you don’t get scrambled eggs!) Pour tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly. Keep at a slow boil for one minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in extract(s). Let cool.

Pour cooled mixture into airtight container, placing saran wrap directly on the surface to prevent a “skin” from forming. Chill until cold (ideally overnight). Process in an ice cream maker until quite firm. May be made ahead and frozen in an airtight container. Allow to sit at room temperature 10-15 min. before serving.

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Secret Ingredient Brownies

Craving something sweet.  Made these for after-school snacks. Will freeze any extra for lunch-box treats. 

  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed very well and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 T. canola oil
  • 1+ c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 T. spiced rum (opt.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • salt (opt)
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries, soaked to plump in spiced rum or water and drained (opt)
  • 1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts (opt), combined with 1 tsp. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 ^ F.  Coat 8×8″ pan with cooking spray.

Place black beans bowl of a food processor and process until a paste forms.  Add eggs, oil,  1 c. sugar, cocoa powder, brown rice flour, xantham gum and baking powder.  Process until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times.  Add spiced rum (if using) and vanilla and almond extracts.  Process to combine.  Taste.  Add salt and more sugar if needed.  Fold in dried cherries and walnuts, if using. Spread in prepared pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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