Cocoa Chia Date Balls


Of all the desserts I make, this is the simplest one to put together and one of the most popular ones too, especially if you are gluten free. Actually, this is more than a dessert, it’s an energy ball.
You know those energy bars that your trainer tries to sell you or your local natural food store carries, stating how healthy it is and natural they are. Well, these Cocoa Chia Date Balls beat those energy bars, hands down!

The key ingredient here is medjool dates. That’s right…. that dried fruit that grows indigenously across the Middle East and North Africa and is one of the seven blessed species that God blessed. There must be a reason, from all the fruits we have in this world, God decided that this is the one He’s blessing. For good reason, Medjool dates only contain about 66 calories each – so that’s ideal if you are concerned about your shvelt body. They are a good source of fiber and contain high levels of the essential minerals potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. In other words, it’s good for you. Dates were commonly eaten by nomadic travelers as they provide a lot of energy and healthful nutrients with the added benefit of being readily available. So if a nomad can survive on dates in an arid desert, you certainly can thrive on these as well. Although, right now in NY, it feels as hot as a blow dryer blowing on me.

Now about the taste of these delightful energy balls. They are raw!! That means, no baking. Just throw into a food processor and presto. The combination of cocoa and dates suggests a taste of a rum liqueur. Many people have asked me if I use rum, and somehow the cocoa just extracts the taste of rum when combined with dates. Each bite is like a cookie that is moist and a bit nutty. I added chia seeds, because it expands in your belly and makes you feel full. Plus there is a lot of talk about chia as a protein source. Important for us vegetarians. I originally made a version of these for my Silk Road Vegetarian cookbook called Orange Blossom Date Balls. For that recipe, you will need to purchase my book. As you can imagine by the name, it’s a fragrant date ball, more reminiscent of the Silk Road.


Cocoa Chia Date Balls

Makes 16

2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons filtered water
10 medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon raw coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, soaked and dried, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups shredded dried coconut

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let seeds absorb water. Once absorbed, place in the food processor with the dates and coconut oil, and process until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add the sea salt and cacao powder, and process until smooth and well combined.
  4. Add the walnuts and process until evenly distributed, then remove from the processor and stir in the coconut (the mixture will be very thick, and you may need to use your hands).
  5.  Form the mixture into 16 balls, and enjoy!  Store extra in the fridge.

Gluten Free Ginger Bread

About 20 years ago, I was a practicing Naturopathic doctor in Manhattan. The philosophy of naturopathy, is to feed the body the nutrients it needs to heal itself. By and part, this also means avoiding certain foods that may trigger the body to attack itself. I entered the field of natural medicine as a consequence of a debilitating ulcer. After seeing many gastroenterologists, who medicated meds that were not helping me feel any better,  I went to see a holistic practitioner.  Dr. Michael Wald– who now practices in Westchester guided me to avoid all wheat and dairy. After a couple of months on an elimination diet, I was on my way to healing my ulcer. I was fascinated by the outcome, and spent many hours in the NY Academy of Medicine researching medical documentation on how to cure an ulcer naturally.

In any event, and not to digress too much, that was the turning point in my life that led me to study naturopathy. Although, I was told by my MD’s to avoid spices, ginger was my ally. Ginger has been a popular culinary spice and medicinal herb around the world for centuries, especially in Asia, India and the Middle East. It is used regularly to treat indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, early references to ginger bread to treat an upset stomach has been documented from the 15th century in Sweden. Thereby this recipe….

At one time gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it was adapted to meet the tastes of different cultures. And of course, I always love to morph a recipe to suit my culinary taste. That is why if you sample gingerbread in a country other than your own it may not look or taste as you expected. It can be a bread or a spicy sweet cake in a molded shaped. My version is gluten free- and now that you know a little about my history, you can undertand why all the recipes on this blog are gluten free. 

Akin to the original Middle Eastern recipes, English gingerbread is a dense, molasses-based, spice cake- which is the way I like it too. Some recipes add mustardpepperraisinsnutsapple, and other spices to the batter. If you want to sprinkle any of these into your version, I strongly encourage that you mix in the flavors you fancy.

This recipes utilizes the classic method for making gingerbread, which requires melting the butter in with the molasses, and sugar before adding the dry ingredients – in this case they are gluten free. To give it some extra kick I used two forms of ginger: ground, and candied to ensure a pronounced ginger flavor. A heavy dose of other classic gingerbread spices give the cake some more dimension. These methods and ingredients together create a gingerbread that is dark, dense, a little bit sticky, and outrageously flavorful.

Serves 10


1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup molasses
7 tablespoons coconut milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Gluten Free oat flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup crystallized ginger (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease and line a 13 x 4 x 4 inch loaf pan. Place the sugar, butter, and molasses in a sauce pan and heat gently until melted and blended, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool slightly, then mix in the coconut milk and egg.
  3. Mix the flours, salt, spices and baking powder in a large bowl.
  4. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid mixture and beat well.
  5. Add crystalized ginger and mix into the batter, if you desire a more pronounced ginger taste.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or wrap in foil.

Gluten Free Spiced Banana Nut Cookies

The true origin of Bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious travelers, it ended up in India.  Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, and is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. In the late part of the 1800’s is when Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country.

Ever since then, bananas have been used as a sweetener in many desserts. These moist banana morsels are an ode to the past, and yet modernized with rolled oats which adds just the right amount of crunch and fiber. Oats contain a healthy dose of soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber in oats is slow to be digested, making you fuller longer. The fiber in oats is also beneficial to the digestive tract in keeping the bowels functioning regularly.

Mashed ripe bananas and dates adds sweetness and flavor – a delicious way to use up your overripe bananas, and add even more of a nutritional value to these cookies.Forget about buying all those power bars with complicated ingredients, instead bake these amazingly simple, gluten free and vegan nuggets and enjoy it on the go.

Yields 36 cookies


3 overripe bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in the oats, dates, oil, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and ground cardamom. Mix well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Grease a cookie sheet and then drop teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Apple Crumble

If you get a chance to do your own apple picking- do it! Driving right to the orchard, where you can set up a family picnic is an idyllic way to spend the day. Wander through the orchard with a basket in tow and breath the crisp fall air.Apple picking is one of those familiar autumn traditions and with its bounty calls for an old-fashioned apple crumble. Easy to make and a perfect dessert to beckon the Fall season with warm baked apples.  An oat crust, that cracks audibly when you press it with your fork, sandwiches a moist apple filling in a cinnamon spiced syrupy juice.  Can be served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6




2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan butter or 1 ½ sticks vegan butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (fugi or cameo)
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup crushed walnuts

1 Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch pie pan.

2 In a bowl, combine rolled oats,  and ½ cup butter. Knead the crumble until all ingredients are mixed well.

3 Combine sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

4 Firmly pat three quarters of the dough into the pan. With finger, spread the dough out into a thin layer. The balance of the dough will be used for the crumble topping.

5 Pour apples on top of the oat crust and then the water. Cut remaining butter into pats and place over the apples. This helps to emulsify the apples when cooking. Add remaining crumble on top of the apples, firmly patting into place. It will not completely cover the apples, but that is fine. Sprinkle walnuts over the crumble and in between the gaps.

6 Bake covered for 50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

7 Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Gluten Free Autumn Honey Cake

This past week was the beginning of the Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashana. The holiday signifies the creation of the human world some 5772 years ago.
A traditional way to bring on the New Year is to celebrate with sweet edible things on the table, to symbolically express their wishes for a Sweet New Year. It’s still not too late to make a honey cake for the New Year, since we are supposed to be eating sweet foods until Yom Kippur- this coming Friday. This recipe for Honey cake has been passed down through the generations with tones of cinnamon, allspice and clove, which are very grounding and homey during the New Year, when family gets together for the festival.
This honey cake is moist, soft and plush with a little crisp edge topped with almond slivers for an extra crunch. Another bonus with this cake is that it can be made up to a week in advance as it preserves really well. In fact, honey is a preserving agent and allows the spices to fully develop, so actually tastes better with time.

I find it so interesting that so many Jewish communities around the world have created their own signature sweet dishes for the Sweet New year. Among Askenazi Jews there is the custom to make a sweet noodle kugel and a sweet stuffed cabbage- just to name a few. So what are your traditional dishes that you make on Rosh Hashana?

Serves 2 (9-inch) loaf pans

3 ½ cups All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-teaspoon baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1-cup vegetable oil
1-cup honey
1-cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1-cup raisins
½ cup almonds, slivered
¼ cup almonds, slivered for topping


               1    Preheat oven to 350°F
               2    In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice and clove.
               3    In a separate large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until thick and light in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in the oil, honey, coffee, orange juice,     lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest. The batter will be light and fluffy. Stir flour mixture slowly into batter. Fold in raisins and then mix in ½ cup almonds.
              4    Oil the two loaf pans and line bottom with waxed paper. Oil again and fill each pan with batter up to one inch from the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Ginger Pear Crumble

I make this crumble most often once when the fruits of summer give way to apples and pears in the fall. Crumbles are easier to prepare and faster to bake than pies, crisps and cobblers and are the perfect showcase for seasonal fruits.

This dessert is the simplest of all: fresh pears are covered with a ginger snap topping and baked until the crust is crispy and the filling bubbles and thickens. Gingersnap cookie crumbs is the base for this sweet, nut-filled crumble that tops this pear crisp. I used Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Ginger Snap cookies, however feel free to use any other brand of your choice. Serve with light cream or a scoop of vanilla yoghurt.

Serves 8


4 medium pears, pared, halved and cored
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup finely crushed ginger snap cookies
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place pears, cut side up in a 9-inch pie pan. Drizzle orange juice over pears.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine ginger snaps, sugar, walnuts and butter. With your hands work it until it looks something like mortar.
  4. Pat ginger snap mixture over the pears. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.