Imagine a world where kids love eating the healthiest food, are not irritable, moody, chronically whiney and unfocused. How much better the world would be if kids and adults alike just felt better, more focused and happier just from eating real food.
When we feel good, energetic and healthy, we feel whole, centered and focused. We are able to deal with conflict and chaos with calm. We sail through transitions and feel happy with our being. More and more, science is showing us the intimate connection between what you put in your mouth and how you feel. According to the World Health Organization, the major causes of all chronic diseases are known, and if these risk factors were eliminated, at least 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and over 40% of cancer could be prevented.
Just about everyone loves a good dessert. Especially kids. Desserts make your tongue feel gleeful and your heart sing. But have you ever thought about how your favorite desserts ultimately affect your wee ones little bodies? Most of our store-bought desserts contain gluten, dairy, unhealthy trans fats and refined sugar. Standard desserts are full of ingredients that cause people to age prematurely and develop many health problems including inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel, and asthma. Children and teens can develop ear infections, sinus congestion, eczema, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances, sensory integration disorder and a host of other mood disorders from eating too much of the wrong foods.
Desserts in traditional recipe books are filled with sugar, processed flour, trans-and oxidized fats (the kind that damage your arteries and impede your immune system), dairy products and other undesirable ingredients. Even the gluten-free and vegan “healthy” alternatives can be filled with highly processed and blood-sugar-spiking ingredients. Many conventional recipes you find on the internet or in the dessert section of mainstream cookbooks are just too complicated for the average busy person to make on a regular basis. Still others are loaded with oil and so-called “healthy” alternative sweeteners.
I’m here to help you create delicious raw and plant-based desserts that you can enjoy without the guilt. Below are three recipes using only whole, raw, plant-based ingredients. There’s no oil, no honey, no agave, no gluten, no dairy. No ingredients that cause blood sugar swings, gut imbalance, gas or weight gain (never mind what sugar does to our cells and mitochondria!).
These recipes are naturally sweet with whole foods and the flavor is rich with healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut. There are even some vegetable ingredients that help enrich them with more bio-available nutrients from whole foods. These desserts are so nutritious you can eat them for breakfast. Most any type of dessert can be made using whole, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar free ingredients. It’s actually easier than you think to make cakes, pies, cookies, ice creams, candies, and puddings. The recipes below combine nuts, seeds, fruits, both fresh and dried, coconut and vegetables and leave out the blood-sugar spiking white flour, sugar, artery-clogging shortening, and other not-so-great ingredients like butter, eggs and oils that are found in conventional recipes.
Enjoy! We would love to hear if you tried these recipes in the comments below!
Yield: 8X8 pan
The combination of vanilla and carob makes a delicious chocolate-like brownie. The kale has a special purpose in this recipe! You won’t taste it, but it helps your body absorb the sugar from the dates.
• 2 cups de-stemmed Kale, lightly packed
• 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups walnuts, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1 cup pecans, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1 tablespoon ground vanilla beans or vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates
• 2/3 cup carob powder
• 2 teaspoons water
1. Process the kale and salt in a food processor until chopped.
2. Remove the kale to a bowl and set aside.
3. Process the walnuts, pecans and vanilla until finely ground being careful not to over process into a nut butter.
4. Add the dates and kale and process until the mixture begins to stick together.
5. Add the carob powder and process until it is incorporated.
6. Add the water and pulse a few times.
7. Press into an 8 X 8 glass pan and chill for at least an hour.
8. Slice and serve.
Healthy Plant-based S’mores
Yield: 8” X 8” pan.
The apricots, walnuts and lucuma combine to give the base a “graham cracker” flavor.
• 1/2 cup walnuts, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1/2 cup almonds, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla beans or vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
• 3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots
• 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
• 1/2 cup lucuma powder
• 1 tablespoon water, if needed to hold mixture together
• 1 recipe Marshmallow Topping (recipe below)
• 1 recipe Carob Topping (recipe below)
1. Process all of the ingredients except the lucuma powder, water and the toppings in a food processor until chopped and the mixture begins to stick together.
2. Add the lucuma powder, and process until incorporated and the mixture begins to stick together again. Add water only if needed for mixture to hold together.
3. Firmly press the mixture into a parchment lined (optional) 8 X 8 glass pan.
4. Chill for at least 4 hours.
5. If it is lined with parchment, remove the mixture from the pan by pulling up the parchment.
6. Slice into 2″ squares.
7. Put the marshmallow topping in a pastry bag and pipe topping onto each square. Chill the squares while you prepare the carob topping.
8. Put the carob topping in a pastry bag and pipe on top of the marshmallow.
9. Chill the s‘mores for at least 1 hour and serve.
Notes: If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can either cut the corner off of a zip lock bag and pipe the toppings on that way or spoon the caramel topping on each square and drizzle carob topping on with a spoon.
“Key Lime” pie
Yield: 9″ pie
The spinach gives this pie the nice color that has come to be associated with key lime pie and some extra nutrients to help process the sugars in the pie.
Ingredients – Crust
• 1 cup almonds, ground, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1 cup finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
• 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1/2 cup pecans, preferably soaked and dehydrated
• 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates Ingredients – Filling
• 1/2 cup lime juice
• 1 cup spinach
• 1 banana
• 1/2 cup coconut butter
• 6 pitted Medjool dates
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sunflower lecithin
Directions – Crust
1. Process the almonds, coconut and salt in a food processor until finely ground.
2. Add the pecans and process until they are coarsely chopped.
3. Add the dates and process until the mixture begins to stick together.
4. Press the crust mixture into a glass pie dish.
Directions – Filling
1. Blend the lime juice, spinach, banana, coconut butter, dates, vanilla and salt in a high-speed blender until smooth.
2. Add the lecithin and blend until it is incorporated.
3. Pour filling mixture into the pie crust and chill for at least 4 hours.
- 1 cup 1/4” round slices of peeled zucchini
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup coconut meat from young Thai coconut
- 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
- 2 teaspoons psyllium powder
1. Blend the zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and the coconut meat in a high-speed blender until smooth.
2. Add the macadamia nuts and blend until smooth.
3. Add the psyllium powder and blend until the mixture thickens.
4. Put the mixture in a pastry bag and pipe on top of your favorite dessert
- 1/4 cup coconut butter
- 1/4 cup coconut nectar
- 1/2 cup carob powder
- 1/4 cup water
1. Blend the coconut butter, coconut nectar, carob powder and water in a high speed blender – on low speed until combined.
2. Put the mixture in a pastry bag and pipe on top of your favorite dessert.
Activating Nuts and Seeds for Raw Recipes
Nuts and seeds are easier to digest and more nutritious if you activate them first. When you cover them in water and let them soak, the germination process begins. The enzyme inhibitors, which keep the nut or seed from sprouting, are deactivated and the proteins and fats begin to break down into smaller molecules. Doing this makes the nuts and seeds much easier to digest and therefore more tolerated in the gut.
To Activate Nuts and seeds
Place them in a glass jar or ceramic bowl or in a colander in a bowl, and completely cover them with enough water to allow for doubling in size. Soak on kitchen counter or in the refrigerator for 4 hours or up to 8 hours. Harder nuts like almonds and hazelnuts require longer soaking time while softer and more delicate nuts and seeds require less time. Rinse and drain. You can use them immediately, or you can leave them in the strainer and allow them to begin to sprout. Sunflower seeds sprout in 4-6 hours. Almonds don’t fully sprout, but develop a short tail. Macadamia nuts don’t sprout at all. They turn mushy if left in water too long. It’s less important to soak the nuts that don’t have skins, like macadamia nuts and cashews. In fact, soaking either of these for too long causes them to get really mushy and lose their taste.
Activated nuts can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. After that, they begin to get moldy.
If you have a dehydrator, you can dehydrate the activated nuts for a couple of days, then store in the freezer. This way, you can just use what you need without having to soak in advance.
Some people soak a pound or two of nuts for 4-8 hours then dehydrate so they always have a handy supply of activated nuts.
Julie O’Connor is a holistic nutritionist, writer and health/wellness coach based in Portland, Oregon who specializes in supporting people who are experiencing digestive distress, anxiety, fatigue and brain fog to optimize their health and/or repair their relationship to food. After over two decades in the computer hardware and corporate venture capital industry, she was inspired by her own well-being challenges to return to her behavioral science roots and pursue graduate study in clinical nutrition. Julie grew up in Kentucky eating processed and fast food but now is a self-described seasonal foodie who enjoys recipe development and writing for publications, other practitioners and medical doctors. Her mission is simply to help make amazing transformations possible. You can check out her website here!