Holiday Pastries: Lemon-Cranberry Scones, Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps and Carrot Cake Cookies

Moms and grandmas are known for cooking with love, but cooking to show people you love them isn’t exclusive to moms and grandmas. Especially during the holidays, I love to share home-cooked meals and desserts with friends and family.

This year, I attended a potluck brunch filled with delicious flavors including biscuits and sausage gravy, kale frittata, purple cauliflower and leek quiche, lemon bars, coal cookies and more. I brought lemon-cranberry scones, which were a huge hit. You can substitute orange for lemon and any dried fruit for the cranberries.

For my next baking adventure, I made chocolate-espresso snowcaps and carrot cake cookies before our family trip to Tahoe. Enjoy the recipes below!

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Lemon-Cranberry Scones

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a knife until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the egg, milk, agave nectar, lemon zest, lemon juice and dried cranberries. Stir into the wet mixture into the flour mixture until moistened.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for five or six turns. Pat the dough in to a 1/2-inch thick round. Cut into 16 square or wedge-shaped pieces and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 16 small scones.

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Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar for coating

Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, espresso, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture. Add milk and beat until just combined.

Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and roll balls in sugar two times until fully coated.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes, until sugar coating is cracked. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Makes 20 cookies.

Recipe from Martha Stewart.

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Carrot Cake Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed finely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and yolk. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Mix in oats and carrots. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Pour pecans into a medium bowl, and roll balls in pecan to coat.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.

Makes 20 cookies.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

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Raw Fig Bars with Pecans

I was never a fan of Fig Newtons growing up — I opted for Oreos or chocolate chip cookies. But as people say, your preferences, including your tastebuds, change every seven years. While I still love sinking my teeth into a rich piece of fudge, my sweet tooth often opts for fruit flavors instead.

Last year, I followed a raw diet for three days, and after three days, I was ready to eat simple things like steamed vegetables and cooked quinoa. Nonetheless, I still like to experiment with raw recipes because eating foods in their raw form keeps all of nutrients intact and at their highest levels. This raw recipe hits the fruit lover’s sweet tooth and is easy to make. My favorite part of this recipe was the combination of the filling and topping, so if you’d like to eliminate some of the carbs here, just try those two layers.

Raw Fig Bars with Pecans

Ingredients:

> 1 cup brown rice flour
> 3 tablespoons maple syrup
> 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
> 2 cups dried Mission figs, soaked in water for 3 hours
> 1/4 teaspoon salt
> 1 1/2 cups pecans

Instructions:

To make the crust, combine the brown rice flour and 2 tablespoons maple syrup in a medium bowl. Add fig water until it sticks together. Press into a 9×9-inch pan.

To make the filling, blend the figs, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and salt in a food processor. Add the fig water until it’s a smooth consistency but still thick. Spread the filling on top of the crust, leaving about 1/4 cup in the food processor.

To make the topping, add the pecans to the food processor and pulse until there are small but chunks, but it’s not too fine. Spread and smooth on top of the fig filling. Cut into bite-size pieces and enjoy.

Makes 9 servings.

Adapted from One Green Planet.

Pumpkin Banana Frozen Treat

Halloween and Thanksgiving are long gone, so what do you do when you find a can of pumpkin puree in your pantry? Recently I’ve seen many delicious recipes for a healthy version of homemade ice cream, so I decided to give it a try with my pumpkin puree. This recipe is simple yet delicious, and thankfully it’s healthy so when you find yourself eating nearly your bodyweight in this frozen treat, you’re not nearly as guilty as if you’d done the same with, say, Ben & Jerry’s.

Pumpkin Banana Frozen Treat

Ingredients:

> 2 medium bananas, sliced and frozen overnight
> 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
> 2 tablespoons honey
> 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions: 

In a food processor, blend the bananas, puree, honey and spice thoroughly. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 8 hours.

Makes 2 servings.

Adapted from The Gracious Pantry.

Raw Apricot Lemon Bites

When fresh fruit doesn’t sound like it’s going to satisfy your sweet tooth, turn to this dried fruit and nut recipe that combines for the perfect balance between sweet and salty. The bites are so dense that it only takes one bite to give you a sugar boost.

Apricot Lemon Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped walnuts
> 1 cup dried apricots, torn into pieces
> 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
> 1 teaspoon cinnamon
> 1 teaspoon salt
> zest from 1 lemon
> 2 tablespoons lemon juice
> 1/4 cup shredded dried coconut

Instructions:

Process walnuts in a food processor until they resemble a gritty flour. Add the dried apricots, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. Process until well combined, and the mixture is sticky.

In a medium bowl, combine coconut and apricot-lemon mixture. Combine with a spoon or your hands until the coconut is distributed evenly.

Press mix firmly into a parchment lined pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate for two hours and cut into bars or form into bite-sized balls.

Adapted from One Green Planet.

Blueberry Cashew Bars

A vegan picnic calls for hummus, pita bread, veggies, sweet potato chips, guacamole, apples and peanut butter — but the missing link is the dessert. To add a sweet something to the menu, I made these blueberry cashew bars that were marketed as cheesecake bars but really take on their own nutty consistency. They are full of flavor and delicious to all, regardless of following a raw or vegan diet.

Blueberry cashew bars

The recipe was adapted from Choosing Raw.

~ 1 1/2 cups walnuts
~ 1 cup raisins
~ 1 cup apricots, cut into bites
~ 1 cup blueberries
~ 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours and drained
~ 1/3 cup maple syrup

1. To make the bottom layer, place the walnuts, raisins and apricots in a food processor and pulse to break the ingredients down. Process until the mixture is ground up and sticking together when you squeeze a little in your hand.

2. Press the bottom layer into a 9 x 9-inch pan that is lined with aluminum foil, and chill.

3. To make the top layer, process the blueberries, cashews and syrup in a food processor until they’re as smooth as possible, about two minutes. Pour the top layer over the bottom layer in the pan. Use a spatular to smooth the top layer evenly.

4. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15-20 bars.

Vegan Almond Apricot Bites

With the new year come new resolutions and goals to live a healthier lifestyle. For many, that not only includes exercising more but also making more conscious decisions about what you’re putting in your body. Just because you promised to watch what you eat and reduce the sugar intake doesn’t mean you have to exclude all desserts. This raw and vegan dessert redefines dessert by providing healthy fats and nutrients that your body needs.

Vegan Almond Apricot Bites

The recipe was borrowed from FitSugar.

~ 1 cup raw almonds
~ 1 cup raisins
~ 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
~ 10 dried apricots, chopped
~ 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Place the almonds, raisins and cinnamon in a food processor. Process until mixed thoroughly into a thick almond paste, about three minutes. Add chopped apricots and pulse for 30 seconds. Add coconut and pulse for 10 seconds.

2. Remove the dough and place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Seal dough in 1/4″-thick rectangle. Place dough in freezer for 30 minutes to solidify.

3. Cut into small squares and store in fridge.

Makes 20 bite-size servings.

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

With a plethora of Christmas desserts in recipe books and on the Internet, sometimes it’s hard to choose which most people will enjoy. Since classic sugar cookies are well, classic, I decided to bake up some chocolate snowcap cookies with a hint of espresso. They not only have a wintery look to them, but a festive taste as well.

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

The recipe was taken from Martha Stewart.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
~ 4 teaspoons instant espresso
~ 1 teaspoon baking powder
~ 1/8 teaspoon salt
~ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
~ 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
~ 1 large egg
~ 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
~ 1 tablespoon milk
~ confectioners’ sugar, for coating

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined. Mix in cooled chocolate.

2. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.

4. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, about 12 minutes. Cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack and enjoy!