Sweet Treats

Flourless Double Chocolate Nutella Cookies

Wanna know the real reason I made these cookies flourless? It's not because I wanted gluten-free cookies, although these are perfect for people avoiding flour. I wanted a chewy, fudgy cookie that crackled on top. I love the combination - a crackly, chocolatey exterior and chewy, brownie-like interior. Yes, you can achieve that with other flourless cookie recipes - but I find most recipes dish up cookies that stick to the baking sheets (even with parchment paper) and then the cookies fall apart. 

Hence brown rice flour. I added stone-ground brown rice flour to the batter because it adds strength to the cookies, while adding a rich nutty taste.

But why add cornstarch? Brown rice flour is hearty, and cornstarch "softens" the grain and helps tenderize the cookies. 

These are healthy too: Not only are these cookies flourless, the contain just 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter for the whole batch - 2 dozen large cookies! And, I used 2 large egg whites and 1 large egg, which slashes 10 grams of fat from the batch.

Why the salt? I adore a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt on sweet cookies (the flavors balance each other). Try it, you'll love it!

Flourless Double Chocolate Nutella Cookies

3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling over top

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2-4 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the powdered sugar, brown rice flour, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and remaining cup of powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until blended and smooth. Beat in the egg whites and egg. Beat in the Nutella and vanilla. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar-brown rice flour mixture. Beat until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheets - use a cookie scoop or heaping tablespoon for each cookie, leaving about 2 inches between cookies (you'll need to work in batches to prevent overcrowding the pans - I used 4 cookie sheets total, 6 cookies per pan).
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are crackly and the edges are set. Cool on wire racks before sprinkling with the sea salt.
Makes 24 cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Covered Cherries

Meet your new favorite cookie! I was planning to do a variation on traditional oatmeal raisin cookies by adding dried cherries and chocolate chips. I'm sure that would have been awesome, but then I saw gorgeous chocolate covered cherries in the bulk bin section of my favorite market... Plans change, right? And I'm so glad they did this time. These are incredible - there are just enough cherries to add sweetness and chewiness, without taking away from the signature flavor of an oatmeal cookie.

Versatile cookie dough: You will love this cookie dough - it's a basic yet fabulous oatmeal cookie dough that is open to many variations.

Let's think about those variations: This time chocolate covered cherries - next time, I might try chocolate covered blueberries or espresso beans! You can also fold in chopped walnuts, peanuts, and any dried fruit you like.

These cookies spread! Take note, as is the case with many oatmeal cookie recipes, the cookies spread as they bake, so make sure you leave at least 2 inches between each mound on the baking sheet.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Covered Cherries

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oats, regular or quick-cooking
3/4 cup chocolate covered cherries, or any chocolate covered fruit, or chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until blended and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture and then beat in the oats.
Fold in the chocolate covered cherries.
Drop the cookie dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire racks for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 24 cookies

Oreo Stuffed Blondies 

I know, right? These are insane! I made these decadent squares because My Dark Chocolate Chip Blondies were such a hit. But I have a problem making the same recipe twice. Character flaw I guess (or not). That being said, I needed to come up with a twist, something that would WOW my friends and family! The batter stayed pretty much the same (I just made more of it) and then I nestled chocolate sandwich cookies in the middle! Think about all the possibilities you have here - you could put any kind of cookie or candy in that middle layer! Have some fun with these.

Great for parties: I made these for the end-of-season track party, so consider them for your next party where you need lots of goodies for a crowd. You'll make the masses happy.

About the cookies: I had a full box of Back to Nature cookies in my pantry so I used those. I had 1/2 package of Oreos!!

Oreo Stuffed Blondies 

Cooking spray
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
24 chocolate sandwich cookies (or any cookie!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture.
Spoon a little less than half of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan and smooth the surface (the reason behind spooning a "little less than half" is because the batter will slide in between the cookies, so you need a little more of it for the top layer.
Arrange the cookies on top, like this:
Spoon the remaining batter over top and smooth the surface.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean or with little bits of blondie clinging to it.
Cool before cutting into squares.

Makes 28 squares

Cookies and Cream Tart with Chocolate Ganache

I can honestly say that this might be one of the best (and easiest) desserts you've ever had. There are three layers of decadence: 
  1. Chocolate tart shell that's reminiscent of chocolate shortbread. What's not to love about that?
  2. Cookies-and-cream filling that blends Double Stuff Oreos and sweetened condensed milk; you can imagine how insane that layer is. 
  3. Chocolate ganache topping, a creamy and smooth blend of melted semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream that firms up as it cools. The ganache also makes a beautiful glaze. 
I could have stopped with the tart shell and been happy. Or eaten the filling with a spoon. Or slurped up the ganache before it firmed up. That's how incredible each layer is. Put them together and, well, it's what culinary dreams of made of. 

Cookies and Cream Tart with Chocolate Ganache

For the crust: 
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
For the filling: 
12 Double Stuff Oreo cookies
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
For the ganache: 
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, and butter. Process until the mixture is well blended and starts to come together (it will look like fine crumbs, but you can squeeze them together with your hand).
Pour the mixture into a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan and press into the bottom and up the sides. Prick all over with a fork. It will look like this:
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tart looks "dry" and is firm to the touch.
Cool on a rack for 5 minutes.
To make the filling, process the Oreos on a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sweetened condensed milk and process until blended and smooth.
Pour the filling over the crust and smooth the surface. It will look like this:
To make the ganache, place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and set aside. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles start to appear. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Don't stir, just let the mixture stand for 10 minutes (why not stir? because it cools the mixture too quickly and the ganache will be grainy).
After 10 minutes, stir until blended and smooth, making sure to incorporate the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl. Pour the ganache over the filling, just until you reach the top (you may have 1/3 cup or so leftover - chill that and eat it with a spoon on another day). Look how glossy it is! That's my reflection - and the light fixture!
Chill until set, about 1 hour.

Serves 8-10

Insanely Awesome Lemon Squares

I recently learned that people love lemons. I mean really LOVE lemons. Who knew? It all started when I made my Lemon-Chocolate Chip Crinkle Cookies. People started raving about their favorite lemon cake, lemon muffins, lemon meringue pie, etc., etc. 

And guess what everyone seems to agree on? Lemon squares rock! There are plenty of lemon square/bar recipes out there, but I wanted to create bars that EVERYONE would agree are THE BEST. Bars that balance the tangy sweetness of lemon curd with a rich shortbread crust. I tweaked here and there, and came up with this incredible recipe. For the crust, I used both granulated sugar and powdered sugar for the perfect balance of sweetness and texture (most recipes use one or the other). I also added lemon zest to the crust for extra zing. For the filling, I skipped the tricky process of creating actual lemon curd, which requires standing over the stoves whisking until the mixture is perfect, and stopping right away so you don't ruin it. That's too risky for all of us, right? Instead, I let my mixer do the work of getting the eggs frothy, which helps prevent lengthy cooking times and runny bars. It also cuts out 1/2 cup of butter from the curd. Not that these are diet bars by any means...

Once those two layers met, magic happened. Pure bliss on the palate. That said, I hope you try my version - I think you'll be happy. 

Insanely Awesome Lemon Squares

For the crust: 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for sifting over top
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut up
For the lemon filling: 
4-5 lemons (you need 2/3 cup lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the sides (this will help remove the bars from the pan). 
To make the crust, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is pale golden all over. 
While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the 2/3 cup lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, sugar, and eggs. Beat on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until frothy. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture. Whisk until just blended. Pour the mixture over the shortbread crust. 
Bake for 20 to 25 more minutes, until the topping is just set (filling won't be jiggly when you gently shake the pan). 
Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled before sifting powdered sugar over top. 
Cut into squares and serve. 

Makes 16 squares

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse
When making mousse from scratch, there are two important tips for a successful outcome:
Make sure to thoroughly clean the mixing bowl and beaters before beating the egg whites.
Room temperature egg whites beat better than cold ones.

Cooking spray
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, divided

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Coat an 8 1/2-inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.  Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, double boiler or bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. 
Meanwhile, separate the yolks from the whites and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl.  Beat the yolks until thick and pale.  Gradually beat in the chocolate until blended.  Fold in the vanilla. 
Beat the whites with 1/4 cup of the sugar until soft peaks form.  Fold one quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture and then fold in the remaining whites.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until almost set but still slightly jiggly in the center.  Cool the mousse in the pan before cooling completely (still in the pan) in the refrigerator.  Dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar before serving.

Serves 12

Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate Covered Almonds

Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate Covered Almonds
You can make this tart countless ways just by switching the preserves – I use orange marmalade, but you could certainly use apricot preserves, seedless raspberry, strawberry or blackberry preserves, or any other jam, jelly or preserve you like.

9-inch refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces light cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate covered almonds, coarsely chopped (into 1/2-inch pieces)

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan.  Prick the bottom all over with a fork.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow the cooked crust to cool slightly. 
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream cheese, orange marmalade and vanilla until blended.  Spread the mixture all over the bottom of the tart and smooth the surface.  Top with the chocolate covered almonds.  Refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 24 hours).

Serves 8

Mini Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

Mini Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
For the best outcome, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you start making these cookies. The egg whites will get bigger and fluffier and the result is a puffed up, amazing little cookie.

4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 250ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat together the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until the mixture is foamy.  Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until blended.  Add the vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are very glossy.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Drop the batter by scant tablespoons onto the prepared pans, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pans and switching which rack they’re on halfway through cooking.  Turn the oven off and let the cookies rest in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely at room temperature.

 Makes 36 cookies

Molten Lava Cake

Whenever we celebrate something huge in our family, we often include Molten Lava Cake for dessert. You know the one – insanely-rich chocolate cake filled with fierce, semi-sweet chocolate lava. As you cut into the warm cake, melted chocolate goodness comes bubbling out. My boys often fight for the gooey center.

If you’ve read my blog long enough, you clearly realize that I feel compelled to recreate our favorite restaurant dishes in the comfort of my own home. But, as a nutritionist, I also feel obligated to make these winners healthier and suitable for Healthy Eats. Check out my recipe below. What a blast I had testing it! I lightened up the molten cake by using fat-free sweetened condensed milk, egg whites and light butter. I also baked the cakes in ramekins so I could fill each one with semi-sweet chocolate morsels without the chocolate sneaking out of the batter.

While testing, I made a ton of the ramekins and had a few leftovers. Guess what? I popped them in the fridge and 3 days later, reheated the cakes in the microwave. Holy chocolate heaven! Feel free to do the same.

Molten Lava Cake

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
3 large egg whites
4 tablespoons light butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon powdered/confectioners’ sugar
6 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat 12 ramekins with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a fork to break up brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, egg whites, melted butter and vanilla. Mix on low speed until blended. Gradually beat in boiling water. Gradually add flour mixture and mix on low speed until blended.
Spoon 3 tablespoons of the batter into prepared ramekins. Insert 1/2 teaspoon semi-sweet chocolate chips into center of batter (and make sure batter covers them on top – that gives you a smooth surface).
Bake 11 minutes, until edges are cooked and center is still jiggly.
Sift confectioners’ sugar over top just before serving.

Serves 12

Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

I invented this bundt cake recently for my sons and a bunch of their friends. We were having a sleepover and I wanted something easy and quick to serve for breakfast the next morning (we had an early outing planned and I knew it would be a mad dash for all). I baked the cake on Saturday, wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap (after it cooled) and then served it bright and early the next day. If you plan to do the same, sift the confectioners’ sugar over the top just before serving. It’s an amazing treat for kiddos and adults alike.

Keep this recipe in your back pocket this fall – it’s an excellent breakfast or brunch for visiting houseguests and it makes a fabulous hostess gift for a holiday party. Your friends will like knowing that it’s a lightened up cake, made healthier by using lowfat yogurt instead of sour cream and light butter instead of regular butter or margarine. To jazz things up, you can also add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans to the cinnamon-sugar, swirl layer.

Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

Cooking spray
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
3 large eggs
1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup melted light butter or margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 10-inch bundt pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Mix well and set aside. 
In a mixing bowl, beat together remaining 1 1/2 cups of the sugar with the eggs until blended and smooth. Beat in yogurt, melted butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add the flour mixture and mix until just blended.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture over the batter. Top with remaining batter and smooth the top.
Bake 8 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30-35 more minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean.
Cool cake, in pan, on a wire rack. Invert cake onto a serving plate and sift confectioners’ sugar over top.

Serves 12