Sometimes New York City feels enchanted. This past Saturday, after a falafel dinner and bottle of white at our favorite Middle Eastern joint, Philip and I meandered through Manhattan’s Riverside Park, through the
tunnels and along the Hudson River. It was raining and magical and pretty damn romantic. This was near where my parents lived when they lived in the city, when they were first married, many moons ago before I was born. It’s also old stomping grounds for my Columbia alum boyfriend. However, to me, the oasis of green, the echo-y tunnels, and the salty river air all felt novel.
I’m looking forward to many more adventures this summer—spontaneous or otherwise– and more time outdoors in general. I also plan to experiment more with low-sugar desserts. Stuff that tastes like a treat but doesn’t make my guy (or anyone else for that matter) feel like crap. I based this recipe off of my recipe for chocolate mousse, swapping the baking chocolate with creamy cacao butter and adding vanilla bean. (Bonus to working with cacao butter: soft hands!) Like the chocolate mousse, this dessert contains no sugar (unless you count the optional addition of fruit)– yet is still perfectly sweet, flavorful, and thoroughly indulgent.
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
½ cup grated cacao butter (or cocoa butter)
1 tbsp agar powder
30 drops stevia extract
fresh or frozen berries for serving, optional
- Transfer coconut milk to a measuring cup and stir in the vanilla seeds. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
- In a double boiler, gently melt the cacao butter over low heat, stirring frequently. When melted, add the coconut milk-vanilla mixture, agar powder, and stevia. Whisk well. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool for a little while. Then cover and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or until firm.
- Using an electric mixer, mix for 4-5 minutes, until smooth and fluffy. Garnish with berries, if desired, and serve. If not using right away, keep in the refrigerator until ready to do so, then fluff again with electric mixer just before serving.
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups
AKA plops, though my mom will deny ever giving them such a name. (In all fairness it was probably one of my sisters.) We grew up eating these no-bake wonders as well as helping our mom make them. She originally got the recipe from the mother of her childhood best friend, passing the recipe along to my sisters and me, and my sisters to their kids. If there’s any cookie that’s dear to our hearts, it’s plops. This is the veganized, slightly more healthful version, which calls for natural peanut butter and unsweetened coconut.
*If your peanut butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt.
½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine, preferably Earth Balance
2 cups sugar (I use organic cane)
3 cups oats (certified gluten-free if necessary)
3 tbsp cocoa
2/3 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Line a couple of baking sheets, cutting boards, or other flat surface with waxed paper.
- In a saucepan, mix the milk, margarine, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring to melt all the margarine, until mixture comes to a rolling boil, then cook for 1 more minute
- Remove from heat and add oats, cocoa, peanut butter, coconut, and vanilla. Stir to mix.
- Drop by spoonfuls (each roughly a heaping tablespoon) onto waxed paper and let cool. If your kitchen is hot you can speed up this process by putting them in the freezer.
Yield: Around 40 cookies
Here we are in the middle of summer. Markets are bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables, stereos are turned up high (this group‘s in mega heavy rotation at our place), nights are long, and days are hot. I’m so grateful to have working air conditioning– and am more than delighted to indulge in frozen treats such as these delicious cherry almond coconut pops.
1 (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk, room temperature
1 cup sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp arrowroot
2 tsp almond extract
- Give the can of coconut milk a shake before opening, then pour into a saucepan with the other ingredients. Let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently; don’t allow mixture to reach a full boil.
- Let cool a bit, then pour into ice pop molds and freeze overnight.
Yield: 6-7 popsicles
I concocted this dreamy mousse for my boyfriend, who currently can’t eat sugar, gluten, or alcohol– but still needs his chocolate fix. Stevia can be tricky to work with because of its bitter flavor and unusual mouthfeel, but here that bitterness blends right in with the rich chocolate, while the creamy coconut milk rounds things out. The result is a dessert that is decadent and luscious and airy all at once.
1 (4 oz) bar 100% cocoa baking chocolate, chopped
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk (full fat)
30-35 drops vanilla stevia extract, preferably this kind
1 tbsp agar powder
Optional garnishes: berries, shaved chocolate, cacao nibs, coconut, nuts
- Pour coconut milk into a cup and whisk in agar powder. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a double-boiler, gently melt chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
- Whisk in coconut milk-agar mixture and stevia drops, starting with 30 drops and adding more if it tastes like it needs it. Turn heat up to high, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, whisking almost constantly and being careful not to let mixture burn.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Using an electric mixer, mix for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy. Serve or keep in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Yield: about 10 servings