Seriously Good Grain-Free Brownie Bites

Grain Free Brownie Bites

These little grain-free brownies are one hundred times better than those store-bought brownie bites in the brown paper bag. One hundred. And they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free as well! Not only that, but they take less than five minutes to make and only dirty one bowl (your food processor). A win-win.
Chocolate Hazelnut Mini Cupcakes
I’ve found that some of the photos of gluten-free recipes that are circulating look incredibly good and their recipes sound wonderfully delicious. In reality, however, they’re disappointing: hard little lumps of dough masquerading as scones, or mushy discs pretending to be cookies. This recipe for mini chcocolate cupcakes is actually more like a brownie because the finished product is quite dense. But they are incredibly good and wonderfully delicious and you should definitely make them. Soon.


And by the way, they freeze well. Make ’em and hide them for spur-of-the-moment dinner parties. I served these last night with my sugar-free Strawberry Banana Ice Cream that my Vitamix kindly whipped up for me in about 30 seconds flat. Love that machine!

Seriously Good Grain-Free Brownie Bites

Makes 24 mini-cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 mini-muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Combine the chocolate chips and hazelnuts in a food processor and process until you can’t get them any finer ground, but before they start to clump together into a dough.

3. Add the eggs, honey, vanilla and salt and process for a full minute or two.

4. Fill muffin tins almost to the top as these won’t rise significantly. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan.

5. Just eat them as is, or frost with Whipped Chocolate Coconut Milk Frosting

Whipped Chocolate Coconut Cream Frosting

    •  1 (14 ounce) can full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
    • 1 (10 ounce) bag dark chocolate chips

Melt the chocolate over low heat in a medium pot. Remove the can of coconut milk from the refrigerator. Carefully open it and scoop the hardened milk from the can into the pot. Stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat, let cool. When cool, beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. (Soooo good!)


Definitely pinnable.
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Posted in cakes, desserts, gluten-free, nuts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Berry Crisp: Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

Saskatoon Berry Crisp

This gluten-free berry crisp is just so good for you it could be either breakfast or dessert.
Or both. Use blueberies, Saskatoon berries, strawberries or whatever berries are in season in your neck of the woods.

Serve it with a dollop of plain yogurt in the morning or with whipped coconut milk after dinner, or just enjoy it as is.

I used Saskatoon berries because I happen to have a love affair with them and the Saskatoon berry farm just down the road has them all picked and ready for me to simply drive up and bring them home to freeze for the winter. Blueberries, or any summer fruit will work equally as well in this recipe. Just prepare your berries, spoon them into ramekins or a large baking dish and top with my Gluten-Free Hazelnut Granola.

Gluten-Free Berry Crisp

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Summer Berry Crisp
Serves 8

  • 4 cups Saskatoon berries, blueberries or other berries
  • 2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (or less depending on the sweetness of your berries)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Topping: 2 cups Gluten-Free Hazelnut Granola


Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Toss berries gently with tapioca starch, lemon juice, honey, almond extract and cinnamon. Spoon into 8 ramekins or a 9 inch baking dish.

2. Top with granola, making sure the berries are completely covered. Place the ramekins or baking dish on a baking sheet as the berries sometimes bubble over.

3. Bake at 350F. for approximately 25-30 minutes or until berries are bubbling. Serve warm or cold. It is equally as good!

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Watermelon Limeade with Cucumber and Fresh Mint

Watermelon Limeade

The little ones have gone home again, but the big watermelon that they couldn’t finish remains. So do the sticky pancakes-and-syrup fingerprints and tiny Playmobil people left behind (and apparently terribly missed!) under the deck chairs. The house is pretty quiet without them wiggling and giggling and asking, “What are we going to do next?” We miss them already, but we love our adult routines too.

A relaxing happy hour on the deck seemed like a good idea. With half a watermelon in the refrigerator taking up way too much space, turning it into a refreshing drink was the thing to do. Mixed with cucumber and fresh mint from the garden and some freshly squeezed lime juice, it’s one I want to remember and make again.

WatermelonLimeade by JoinMeForDinner

Watermelon is not only fun to eat, it’s good for you too. Besides being an antioxidant and containing significant levels of Vitamins A, C and B6, it’s a great source of potassium and it provides more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, even more than tomatoes.

Watermelon Limeade with Cucumber and Fresh Mint

Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • juice of 3 limes (or lemons if you want lemonade)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


  1. Pour hot water over the honey and stir until combined.
  2. Squeeze the limes (or lemons) to extract the juice.
  3. Place the watermelon, cucumber, lime or lemon juice and honey mixture in a high-speed blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Using a fine sieve, strain the juice into a pitcher. Don’t skip this step!
  5. Add the mint leaves and chill.
  6. Serve over ice.

We finished off the rest of the melon with these Watermelon Feta Stacks as snacks.

Watermelon Feta Stacks2.jpg

You can keep this drink refreshing, healthy and kid-friendly OR you can add a shot of vodka to it. Alternatively, rim the glass with coarse sea salt, add a shot of tequila and call it a Margarita! What do YOU do with leftover watermelon?
Watermelon Margarita.jpg

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Refrigerator Pickled Beans

refrigerator pickled beans

Summertime is Caesar time. Here is one more way to use some of those extra beans that are so plentiful in the garden or in farmer’s markets right now. This is a fast and easy recipe that produces a crispy, crunchy pickled bean that can be as mild or as spicy as you like. Just adjust the seasoning to your taste. Crunch away, or use them as stir sticks in your Caesars.

Refrigerator Pickled Beans with Dill

Makes one 16 oz. jar

  • fresh green beans, stems removed (enough to stuff a 16 oz. Mason jar–about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)*
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic OR  1 to 2 tablespoons of minced garlic scapes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of coarse sea salt
  • 2 – 3 sprigs of fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • ¼ to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want them)

*I made one jar with white vinegar and one with apple cider. They are both good. The apple cider tastes a little stronger. You decide.


  1. First, make the brine as this takes the longest and it needs to cool. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and garlic in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Sterilize your jar and lid by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly and then pouring boiling water over all. Let it stand for a few minutes.
  3. Prepare the beans. Wash and remove the stems but leave the tip on. (It looks cute when you use these as a garnish.) Use the straightest ones you have, then fill the jar so you know exactly how many to use. Remove them from the jar and trim the bunch all at once with a sharp knife so that they will fit in the jar with about 1/2 inch of headroom.
  4. Fill the jar with the beans. Add the peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and fresh dill. Carefully pour the brine over top so that the beans are completely covered. Put the lid on tightly. Store in the refrigerator. Resist the urge to taste for at least 2 days.
  5. These will last for about 2 weeks or more in the refrigerator. If you want your pickled beans to last longer, you should blanch and shock them in an ice bath first or ultimately process them for longer storage.
Posted in preserves, preserving/drying food, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Green Bean & Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing.jpg

If you live where I do and you have a garden, you’re likely experiencing a similar problem of “too much and all at once” with this hot and sunny weather we’re enjoying. Two short rows of green beans in our garden yielded two of these deep 10 inch bowls in two days . . . and I know there will be more tomorrow.
fresh green beans

What do you do with all those extra beans, besides pickle them, freeze them or give them away? Try this fresh and crispy summerlicious salad. Tender crisp beans are tossed with other garden offerings: raw chunks of zucchini, sliced green onions, halved cherry tomatoes, and fresh dill and drizzled with a balsamic dressing.
Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad by JoinMeForDinner

Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Serves 6
4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces*
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 cup mini San Marzano tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
2 green onions (scallions) sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. high quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced

*no need to use a knife. Just snap them. If they don’t snap, they’re not very fresh.


  1. In a large saucepan, cover beans with water and boil for about 3 minutes. Have ready a large bowl full of ice water. Drain the beans and immediately put them in the ice bath. Cool completely, then drain and pat dry.
  2. In a large salad bowl, combine the beans, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, dill and feta.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking the next 7 ingredients together. Drizzle over the salad just before serving and toss.

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Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini
Sweet figs with a hint of orange are thinly spread over a toasted baguette and topped with fresh goat cheese and a sprinkle of chives or green onions in this, my newest “go-to” appy. I’ve made this one several times this summer, but it would be equally good at any time of the year. It’s uncomplicated goodness on a tiny piece of toast. The fig paste can be made well in advance and stored in the frig where it will keep for a week or two.
Earlier this week, I made this recipe to take on our “glamping” getaway to our friends’ beautiful West Coast cabin. We’re also heading out on our boat soon, so I’ve packed some to take with us. (If glam camping is known as glamping, would boat camping then be called bamping?)
Sweet and salty. I never tire of that contrast in a dish. Use a gluten-free cracker or bread if you like. The photo shows it on small squares of gluten-free apricot and raisin bread.

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini1

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Yield: 1 baguette, about 24-30 slices (or substitute gluten-free bread or crackers)


  • 1 cup dried figs, (about 12) stems removed and quartered
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • Pinch salt
  • 5 ounces fresh goat cheese at room temperature
  • 18 baguette slices, sliced on a sharp diagonal
  • 1 green onion, (scallion) or chives, thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil for brushing on the crostiniDried figs


  1. Place the chopped dried figs, orange juice, water, orange zest and salt in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the figs are soft and only about 2 tablespoons of the liquid remains, 20 to 30 minutes. If the mixture gets dry, add water to keep it moist. Cool the mixture and puree in a blender or food processor to make a paste. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the baguette slices with a little olive oil. Toast the baguette slices for a few minutes until they are beginning to crisp. Spread the fig paste on each of the crostini, then top with about 1/2 Tbsp. goat cheese. Sprinkle with freshly chopped green onions or chives and serve.
Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini2
Posted in appetizers, boating or camping food, breads, Christmas, finger foods, gluten-free | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asparagus-Avocado Salad with Peas and Radishes

AsparagusAvocado Salad with Peas and Radishes.jpg

Even though I’ve lived in this valley all my life, I never tire of its beauty. Neither, apparently, does my daughter who is on a work-away on an olive farm in Tuscany right now. The closing line of her last email read, “I really miss the valley especially in all its spring glory! But I think a farm in Tuscany is the next best thing.”

Next best? Cowichan is more beautiful than the famous hill towns of Tuscany? Tuscany–the setting for countless romantic novels, famed for its olive groves and rolling hills and cypress-lined roads is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular areas of the world. But one could certainly argue that our little valley can now rival it, both in beauty and in the wide variety of produce that the land supports.

Chive Blossom

That’s a really roundabout way of saying I’m grateful that I have so many local farms producing organic vegetables and fruit close by and at this time of year, I’m thankful to have an asparagus farm just down the road from my home. The asparagus shoots in this salad were picked only a few hours before they graced our lunch table. They’re oh so sweet and nothing like the ones imported from Mexico that lie wilting in the produce sections of our supermarkets.

Asparagus, radishes, avocados, peas and chives–does that spell springtime to you? This salad has a perfect balance of textures and flavours and they are all mingled together with a light sesame rice wine vinaigrette. What could be better on a sunny spring day?

asparagus salad with avocado, peas and radishes.jpg

I’ve adapted this recipe from a few I found circulating around Pinterest. Be sure to steam the asparagus lightly, just until crisp tender and bright green, then plunge it into an ice bath to stop further cooking.

Avocado-Aspargus Salad with Peas and Radishes
Serves 4

  • about 16 fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 ½ cups green peas, hulled
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10-12 radishes
  • 1 shallot, minced finely
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil (toasted sesame oil, if you have it)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • snipped fresh chives and chive flowers for garnish


  1. Hold each asparagus spear, bend slightly and snap off the tougher end piece (usually an inch or two in length) Save for making soup.
  2. Steam the spears over boiling water in a steamer basket just until crisp tender and bright green. Immediately transfer to a bowl filled with ice water. Let cool and drain. Slice each asparagus spear into 2 inch lengths.
  3. Boil the peas for 1 minute, rinse in very cold water and then drain.
  4. Thinly slice the radishes.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Season to taste with sea salt. Add the asparagus, peas and radishes and toss together. Check the seasoning and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Peel and thinly slice the avocado just before serving to prevent it browning. Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the serving platter. Drizzle with a little lemon juice if not serving immediately.
  7. Gently spoon the salad into the middle of the platter and garnish with fresh chives and chive blossoms. Chill and serve.
Bees love chive blossoms

I had to wait until this little guy was finished before picking my chive blossoms!

Posted in gluten-free, lunch, salad dressing, salads, vegetables, vegetarian meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment