SWEETLY VEGAN: No-Bake Holiday Treats Worth Celebrating


by Judith Fertig

“Visions of sugar plums” have been part of holiday mindsets since the advent of Clement Moore’s classic 19th-century poem commonly known as ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. We love to give and receive special treats and our tastes are evolving.

Instead of yesteryear’s sugary bonbons loaded with calories that we’ve come to regret, today’s preferred confections focus more on naturally sweet dried fruits, bestquality chocolate, healthful coconut and crunchy nuts. Vegan, gluten-free delicacies from chefs and culinary experts the world over help us celebrate the season in a deliciously healthy way, including those we highlight this month.

“Christmas isn’t Christmas without a traditional pudding,” says Chef Teresa Cutter, author of Purely Delicious. Cutter is founder and director of The Healthy Chef company in Sydney, Australia, which creates functional foods for taste and optimal health. Her no-bake desserts such as miniature Christmas puddings and carrot cake take only minutes to make.

Emily Holmes, a Queensland, Australia, wellness coach who blogs at Conscious-Foodie.com, says her favorite is Holmes’ Chocolate Cherry Mini-Cupcakes. She serves them with a pot of peppermint tea.

Houston-based Joshua Weissman is the author of The Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook and blogs at SlimPalate.com. He shares his philosophy on holiday treats: “My first thought is that I don’t want to feel guilty after eating it. My second is that I still want it to taste and look good.” His Almond Butter Pumpkin Pie Truffles fit the festive bill.

In New York City, noted vegan cookbook author and Pastry Chef Fran Costigan is an expert in all things chocolate, including her Chocolate Orange Sesame Truffles. “When you make something really delicious with real ingredients, your mouth knows it, your brain knows it, your body knows it. You feel satisfied,” she says.

Judith Fertig blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, Kansas.

No-Bake Vegan Desserts

Teresa Cutter’s Healthy Christmas Puddings

Yields: 6 to 8 small puddings

8 oz fresh pitted dates—approximately 10 to 15 dates, depending on their size

Zest from 1 orange

9 oz dried apricots, chopped 1

½ cups almond meal/ground almonds

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract 1

tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground ginger

1 to 2 Tbsp orange juice

3 oz white chocolate, melted, for decoration (optional)

Combine dates, orange zest, apricots, vanilla, ground almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a food processor. Process until mixture is combined and looks like fine crumbs.

Spoon the mixture into a large bowl. Add the orange juice, and then mix again. Pudding mix should come together when lightly hand-squeezed.

Divide into 6 small puddings. Line the base of 6 small decorative molds with plastic wrap and firmly press the puddings into them.

Once firmly packed in the mold, invert the pudding and remove the plastic wrap.

Melt white chocolate in a small bowl set over a simmering pot of water.

Spoon a little white chocolate over the tops of the puddings if desired and garnish with goji berries, fresh cherries or another fanciful topper.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve puddings with chilled mango coconut custard.

Mango Coconut Custard

1 mango, chopped

½ cup coconut milk

Juice from ½ orange

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve chilled with the puddings.

Teresa Cutter’s No-Bake Carrot Cake

Yields: 16 servings

2½ cups (9½ oz) shelled walnuts

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed or whole chia seeds

½ cup (2 oz) rolled oats (or gluten-free almond meal)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp sea salt

1 cup (6½ oz) of 12 large fresh dates, pitted

½ cup (3 oz) dried chopped apricots or pineapple (sulfur-free)

2 large raw carrots, grated

Zest from 1 orange

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Combine walnuts, flaxseed, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, orange zest and sea salt into a food processor and run it until mixed and finely chopped. Add dates and apricots. Process again until thoroughly mixed.

Add grated raw carrot and vanilla and then process again until combined. The mix should now form a nice dough.

Spoon into a bowl. Add and kneed oats through the raw carrot cake mixture.

Press cake firmly into a 6-inch round baking dish lined with parchment paper.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, allowing at least 2 hours for the cake to rest.

It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Enjoy as is or garnish with macadamia nut cream, a drizzle of honey and walnuts.

Note: Other raw nuts can substitute for walnuts—try pecans, almonds or macadamia nuts.

Macadamia Nut Cream

Combine 1 cup of raw cashew nuts or macadamia nuts with ½ cup of orange juice or coconut water and a little vanilla. Blend in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix until smooth and creamy.

Adapted from Vegan Chocolate, by Fran Costigan, used with permission.

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