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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Start the New Year Off Right: Three Ways to Make Healthy Desserts Extra Special

Dec 31, 2018 01:29PM ● By Melanie A. Albert

As part of your new year aspiration, enjoy preparing beautiful, healthy, delicious plant-based desserts. Use these three ways to make your desserts special with beauty, flavor, and even nutritional benefits. The recipes are your guide to having fun in your kitchen creating new desserts with and for your family and friends.

Prepare healthy desserts with fresh berries, superfoods, and hand-ground spices to enhance your cooking experience and to add extra flavor.

  1. Fresh Berries. Add berries to your plant-based pies and fruit crisp desserts for color, juicy texture, and sweet taste. Experiment with a variety of berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Choose a single berry for your dessert, or mix and match with a few different varieties for added color and texture. 
  1. Superfoods. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Include a few superfood berries in your desserts for a boost of nutrition, along with flavor impact.

Experiment with goji berries as a topping for your pies. Goji berries (wolfberries), used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, are antioxidant- and protein-rich, with a strong, sweet, bitter taste.

Try a pie filling with two antioxidant-rich South American superfood berry powders: acai and maqui. Acai berries, grown in the Brazilian Amazon, have a deep wild berry taste, with a hint of vanilla and chocolate. Maqui berries, native to the Patagonia region of Chile, do not have much flavor but add a rich, purple hue to desserts.

  1. Aromatherapy with Spices. Take time to hand grind spices to add mindfulness, flavor and aromatherapy to your dessert cooking. Cinnamon is both sweet and savory, while cloves are spicy. Cardamom is floral, and nutmeg is warm and woody. Use a micro-plane grater to grind cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. A mortar and pestle works well to grind cloves and cardamom seeds. Enjoy your aromatherapy experience with spices.


Three Delicious Plant-Based Desserts

Turn on your favorite music and enjoy creating these amazingly beautiful, delicious and “healthy” desserts with your family and friends: Berry Cashew Cream Pie, Chocolate Goji Berry Cream Pie, and Aromatic Apple Berry Crisp with Freshly Ground Spices. The desserts feature berries, chocolate, goji berries, and amazing aromatic culinary experiences with hand-ground spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom.

Berry Cashew Cream Pie

Create a stunning cream pie that’s simple to prepare and full of flavor. Enjoy the process of adding superfood berry powders, acai and maqui, to create a beautiful purple layer of color to the pie, and have fun plating with your favorite fresh berries.

Walnut Crust

Simple Ingredients

1 cup walnuts

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp coconut oil

¼ tsp vanilla

¼ cup coconut flakes (optional)

Pinch salt

Simple Steps

  • Process walnuts into a flour in a food processor.
  • Add cinnamon and salt and pulse to combine.
  • Add vanilla and coconut oil, and process until dough is crumbly but sticks together.
  • Press crust into the bottom of an 8-inch by 8-inch parchment-lined pan.
  • Chill in refrigerator or freezer to set.


Simple Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews, presoaked in water 2-4 hours

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp light agave

2 Tbsp coconut oil

Pinch sea salt

2-3 Tbsp cashew milk, as needed to blend

Simple Steps

  • Blend cashews, lemon juice, vanilla extract, agave and sea salt in a high-speed blender.
  • Add coconut oil and blend.
  • Add cashew milk, as needed for smoothness.
  • Pour filling on top of crust in chilled pan. (Save ¼ cup of the filling to make superfood filling.)
  • Chill in refrigerator or freezer to set.

Superfood Filling

Simple Ingredients

¼ cup of cashew filling

½ tsp acai powder

½ tsp maqui powder

Simple Steps

  • Put cashew filling, acai powder, and maqui powder into a small bowl.
  • Stir with a spoon until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour the filling onto the top of chilled pie in the pan.
  • Chill in refrigerator or freezer.


Simple Ingredients

½ cup fresh blackberries or blueberries

Simple Steps

  • Cut pie into squares or rectangles.
  • Plate with fresh blackberries or blueberries.


Chocolate Goji Berry Cream Pie

Try this simple chocolate dessert recipe for your family and friends. This gourmet-quality pie is so much fun to make and is beautiful and delicious. Learn to quickly and easily melt chocolate chips right in your oven. Enjoy the pie with superfood goji berries. If you have extra chocolate pie, cut it into small pieces and freeze for snacks.

Pecan Crust

Simple Ingredients

2 cups raw pecans

¼ cup maple sugar

1½ Tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp sea salt

Simple Steps

  • Pulse pecans and maple sugar in food processor.
  • Add coconut oil and sea salt.
  • Pulse to combine well.
  • Press and shape mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.


Simple Ingredients

2½ cups vegan dark chocolate chips

2 packages organic soft silken tofu (260g packages)

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Pinch of sea salt

Simple Steps

Melt Chocolate Chips

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Pour the chocolate chips in a single layer onto a flat baking sheet.
  • Place in the oven to melt for no more than 3-4 minutes or until melted. Be careful that you don’t burn them.

Blend the Filling

  • Place tofu, vanilla, sea salt, and melted chocolate chips into a food processor.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour mixture into pie crust and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Top with nuts and fresh fruit or goji berries.
  • Enjoy.


Aromatic Apple Berry Crisp with Freshly Ground Spices

This apple berry crisp is an all-time favorite. Mindfully hand-grind and savor the aromatherapy of freshly ground warming spices, along with the pleasing scent of the apples sautéing in the spices. Enjoy the process of setting up your mise en place, cooking and enjoying this dish with your family and friends.


Simple Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup almonds, walnuts or pecans, sliced

¼ cup maple sugar

1 tsp cinnamon, fresh ground

1 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground

1 tsp cardamom seeds, fresh ground

¼ cup grapeseed oil


Simple Steps

  • Hand-grind cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Mix all dry ingredients for topping until well combined.
  • Pour in grapeseed oil and mix.


Simple Ingredients

5 apples, sliced

2 pears, sliced

1 cup raspberries

1 cup blackberries

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil

¼ cup maple sugar

1 tsp cinnamon, fresh ground

1 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground

1 tsp cardamom seeds, fresh ground

½ tsp cloves, fresh ground

1 orange, juiced and zested

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Simple Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Place sliced apples and pears in a large sauté pan.
  • Turn heat to medium and add remaining filling ingredients.
  • Cook apples and pears for 15-20 minutes until slightly soft; stir occasionally.
  • Pour cooked apples and pears with sauce into 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish.
  • Top with oats topping, raspberries and blackberries.
  • Bake on middle oven rack for 30-35 minutes.
  • Plate and enjoy!



Melanie Albert, founder and CEO of Experience Nutrition Group LLC, in Phoenix, is the author of the award-winning cookbook A New View of Healthy Eating and healthy recipe blog at, and offers cooking workshops, team-building events, and retreats. Albert has step-by-step cooking photos of these recipes on her blog for those who are interested. Recipes and photos courtesy of Albert. For more information, visit




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