Nick turned 36 last week and, per his request, I made him a Classic Yellow Birthday Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream frosting. The cake smelled, looked, and tasted delicious (I made it while the boys were at school so I had the frosting covered spatulas all to myself…). There was just one problem – I recently challenged myself not to eat sugar, dairy, or gluten during the week (I’m not sweating the frosting licks) as a simple way to recover from our holiday overload. Nick’s beautiful birthday cake had serious doses of all three.

This Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake saved the day for me and was the perfect thing to have as a healthier option alongside the classic birthday cake. I love tropical, tart desserts, especially during the dark winter months – they remind me of sun, sand, and heat! This dessert is also a great party alternative for guests who have food sensitivities.

DSC_0115 DSC_0123

Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake is incredibly simple to make – you don’t actually cook anything. The most challenging step for me is to remember to soak the raw cashews overnight. The crust, cheesecake filling, and fruit topping are all whizzed up using a food processor then layered into a springform pan and chilled.

While some sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free desserts are made with tofu or processed vegan foods, I like that this treat is full of recognizable ingredients like nuts, unsweetened coconut, and fresh fruit.

For all of you staying among snow and darkness this winter, give this cake a try. I promise it’ll make you feel like you’re lounging under a palm tree somewhere, however far off that actually may be.


Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake

Makes 1 9-inch cake – serves 12 to 16



1 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Juice and zest from 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

10 Dole pitted dates

1 tablespoon flour of your choice (all purpose or gluten-free)

Pinch of kosher salt



3 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Dole cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Juice and zest from 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 cup water


Pineapple Topping:

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 1/2 cups Dole frozen pineapple chunks, thawed

1 ½ cups Dole frozen mango chunks, thawed


  1. Start by making the crust. Place all the crust ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and run the motor until the mix forms into a dough. Turn the ball of dough out into a spring form pan and, using your fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.  
  1. Next, make the cheesecake filling. Add all the cheesecake ingredients to the rinsed food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for sweetness. This is not a sweet cake so if you prefer more sweetener, add in a tablespoon of agave syrup or other liquid sweetener. Pour the cheesecake batter over the pressed crust.
  1. Lastly, make the fruit layer by blending the melted coconut oil and thawed fruit in the food processor until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake. Set the cake in the freezer to set up. After an hour in the freezer you can remove the springform ring and serve or place the cake in the fridge to serve at a later time. Raw Pineapple Cheesecake is good chilled or at room temperature.

This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods.


Comments Off on Raw Pineapple-Mango Cheesecake


Sometimes vegan desserts or those trying to be something they’re not (hello pie made from tofu) are just so depressing it hurts. But then…there are some sweet treats made simply of fruits, nuts, healthy fats, and natural sweeteners that are just so good it hurts. Happily, this (Almost) Raw Strawberry & Ginger ‘Cheesecake’ falls in the second category.

I made these ‘cheesecake’ bars to bridge the end of our elimination diet and the start of eating in the real world again (yes, a world that involves whole grains and beans!). Sweeteners were not allowed last month (including maple syrup and honey) so the pop of sweetness from the dates, strawberries, and maple syrup in this dessert feels really special.


(Almost) Raw Strawberry & Ginger ‘Cheesecake’ adapted from My Darling Lemon Thyme

makes 12 – 14 bars

1 1/2 cups pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
2/3 cup whole raw almonds
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted if solid

3 cups raw cashew nuts, soaked overnight in cold water + drained
3/4 cup virgin coconut oil + 1 tablespoon extra, melted if solid
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (can omit if you are steering away from sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 pint strawberries



To make the base, line a 11 x 7 -ish tin with parchment paper, extending up and over the sides by a couple of inches. Place dates, almonds and coconut oil in a food processor and blend on high until relatively finely ground. Press mixture into the base of the tin, using the back of a spoon to pack down firmly.

To make the filling, place drained cashews, coconut oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla and salt into a food processor and blend of high until smooth. Transfer a little under half of the mixture to a bowl, then add grated ginger to the mixture remaining in the food processor and blend on high until smooth. Pour this ginger mixture over the base and place into the freezer while you continue.



Place 3 roughly chopped strawberries, the reserved filling, and extra 1 tablespoon coconut oil into the (unwashed) food processor and blend until smooth. Remove tin from freezer and pour strawberry filling over the top layer. Smooth off with a spoon or palette knife and place into the fridge 4-5 hours (or freezer 2-3 hours if in a hurry) or overnight, until set firm.

Slice remaining strawberries into thin slices and arrange over the top of the cheesecake. Slice and serve. Store in the fridge in a covered container for 5-7 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost on the bench 20-30 minutes before eating.





If you are not on a January food cleanse you probably know someone who is or has, at the least, made some resolution about food. I have mixed feelings on winter cleanses (I write this while I am on day 4 of one – ha!). The benefits are pretty clear – from reestablishing healthy eating patterns to zapping that steady steam of holiday alcohol consumption. The tough part is that it is winter. Sure, there are fresh vegetables to be found but the offerings pale in comparison to warmer months.

If you are in some eating state between vegan, gluten-free, raw, dairy free, or some creative combination of these, here are my favorite cleanse recipes that fit most programs. But really, when it comes down to it, simply cutting out packaged and processed foods does 95% of the work.

I’m off to make a kale salad and hide the final half bottle of pinot under the sink.


Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado & Pumpkin Seeds

serves 6

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and leaves separated
2 tablespoons raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced

Whisk together lemon zest and juice and mustard in a bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, toss dressing with brussels sprout leaves and pumpkin seeds. Gently stir in avocado, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.


Winter Juice

makes 2 small glasses

6 carrots
1/2 a cucumber
2 apples
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 celery stalks

Simply juice the fruits and vegetables according to your juicing machine’s instructions. We start with the softest produce and work our way up to the hardest (typically carrots). Pour into glasses and enjoy.


Spinach & Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

makes about 15

1 cup quinoa

2 eggs

1/4 flour of your choice

3 tablespoons tahini, almond butter, or peanut butter

1 tablespoon red or white vinegar

1 package (10-ounces) frozen spinach or kale, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup finely grated sweet potato

1/4 cup finely diced onion

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper or cayenne pepper

Olive oil, for the baking sheet

Start the quinoa cooking immediately so it can cook white you are prepping the other ingredients. Combine the quinoa and 3 cups water in a pot and boil it until it is soft, about 20 minutes. Drain well.

Transfer the quinoa to your favorite mixing bowl. Add the eggs, flour, tahini, vinegar, spinach, sweet potato, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir, knead, and smoosh all the ingredients together until they are one tight-knit family. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 400 F with the rack in the middle. Oil a baking sheet. To shape the cakes, first wet your hands. For each patty, scoop up 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mixture with your hands and form a 1/2-inch-thick patty, firmly patting it so it stays together (loosie-goosies will fall apart). Arrange the patties on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cakes are lightly browned and crisp, flipping them over once halfway through the baking time, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with a dipping sauce.


Farro Kale Salad

From Kale, Glorious Kale by Catherine Walthers

5-6 cups kale leaves, stripped off of stalks and torn or chopped into small pieces (1 small bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, minced (or in my case sliced thin)
1 cup of farro
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 1 tart apple, diced, or 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (or any combination)
4 ounces feta cheese

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash and spin dry the kale. Chop into small pieces. Add to a large bowl, lightly salt and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Vigorously toss and massage the salt and oil into the kale until well coated.

Place farro in a large saucepan and cover with 2 quarts of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Farro has a similar texture to barley when cooked, and has a nice toothy texture. Drain well, and combine with the kale. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Chop the onion, dill and parsley, and add to the kale and farro along with the pomegranate seeds, and apple or dried fruit, if using. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and gently toss. Place in a serving bowl or platter and top with the feta cheese.


Winter Muesli

makes about 4 cups

2 cups classic rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
5 dates, pitted and chopped
Milk (hemp, nut, coconut, cow) or yogurt for serving

Using your hands, simply toss everything together in a large bowl. Be mindful of the sticky dates as they tend to clump together but once everything is in contact with the oats the clumps will loosen up. Muesli can be eaten with milk like a traditional cereal, sprinkled over yogurt, or soaked in milk overnight to soften up its texture. I like it all three ways. For those who like a little sweetness, simply drizzle over some honey or maple syrup.

A large mason jar filled with muesli, tied with a ribbon, and small recipe card attached would make a great gift for those left on your list (especially beloved teachers and neighbors). Because muesli is gluten free (if you purchase certified GF oats), vegan, and easily adapted to be nut free (substitute walnuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds) it works for everyone. If you want to make a few personal mixes some additions that I especially enjoy are dried unsweetened cherries, shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and dried blueberries.


Detox Smoothies

Choose between a sweet or tart green smoothie.


Sweet Green Smoothie

1 pear, roughly chopped

2 cups baby spinach

1/4-1/2 a lemon, peeled (depending on how sour you like it)

1 cup water or coconut water

Tart Green Smoothie

3 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

1-inch piece peeled ginger root

1 grapefruit, peeled and roughly chopped

3-inch piece of cucumber

1 cup water or coconut water

Blend everything together until smooth.



Last year we had pretty black and white square holiday cards printed. Nick carved a linoleum stamp  and printed each with a “Happy New Year” block. They were never sent. The pile still lives stacked alongside unopened mail. This year however, this year, the cards are being SENT. I am feeling extra encouraged because Dylan’s preschool runs a fundraiser every fall offering Island families quick 15-minute portrait sessions with a professional photographer. This year, photos were taken at The Polly Hill Arboretum. I’m sharing some of my favorites here but what I really wish was that we had a behind the scenes photographer to capture all the volunteers, participants, and desperate (yet hilarious) measures parents went through to encourage little smiles.

If you are planning on baking some holiday cookies this weekend (between card stuffing sessions) and want a simple, wholesome Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie recipe I recommend trying this one out. Of course, you can toss in some dark chocolate, toasted coconut, chopped nuts, or substitute the raisins for any other dried fruit (I’m loving dried sour cherries these days). The point is, this is a good base recipe and one that is very adaptable to suit your holiday needs.

sarah and nick-26

Wholesome Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups oats

1 cup raisins (or any chopped dried fruit)

Optional additions: dark chocolate chips, toasted coconut, chopped nuts.


sarah and nick-23

1. Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar and coconut sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy.

2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

3. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

sarah and nick-21


4. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

sarah and nick-33

family photos by Anthony Esposito



I feel like I’m returning to the kitchen table of a best friend who I haven’t talked to in months – so much to say but not knowing where to start. This (almost) two month break has been the longest one I have taken from this space. And it had to happen (for many reasons). Mostly, I was busy…furiously working on the manuscript and photography for my second book (sorry no title yet). Elizabeth was behind the camera and I was at my stove, sofa, and kitchen table doing my darnedest to create exactly the book I had in mind. It is still very much a work in process but I am damn proud of all we have done. Because of this personal all consuming project, I shut myself off from many other things. This blog, side projects, and life chores like my own dentist appointments and car vacuuming were all postponed. But now, I’m on the other side and more excited then ever to be back here. I missed cooking whatever I wanted and sharing it with you.

The downside of a cookbook schedule is the strange, cobbled together meals and snacks it leaves behind. I have served a pie and side vegetable for dinner on more then one occasion over the past couple of months. Now we are a few weeks into our regular scheduled dinner and snack routine – another cause for celebration (especially for Nick and the boys).


First up, this recipe for Five-Minute No-Bake Granola Bars. They are perfect for busy people, small people, sweet people, and salty people. As the simplicity of the recipe suggests, almost every ingredient can be substituted with something else. The pumpkin seeds can be any seed or nut, your favorite dried fruit can replace the raisins, choose a sticky butter made from almonds or sunflowers, and bind with agave nectar or brown rice syrup. We stuck to this original recipe and they were delicious, especially enjoyed by a refreshed post-nap toddler.


Five-Minute No-Bake Granola Bars from Food52 Vegan

makes 16 small bars

2 1/2 cups rolled oats or quick oats

1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter

1/2 cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup, plus more as needed

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)



1. Line an 8 by 8-inch pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pumpkin seeds, and raisins.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, agave nectar, and, if using unsalted peanut butter, the salt; alternatively, combine these ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined. Add to the oat mixture and stir until everything is sticky and well combined. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add a bit more agave nectar.

4. Spread the mixture in the lined pan, then cover with foil or plastic wrap, and press firmly to form an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

5. Cut into bars and warp them individually. Stored in the fridge, they’ll keep for 2 weeks.