A bright and beautiful salad leaves room for healthy cookies for dessert. Karen Schneider photo

I love recipes that have a bit of wriggle room so I can substitute ingredients when I’m out of something or can experiment with different options just for fun. It certainly is okay to play in the kitchen. You don’t have to be too serious — not at all.

For instance, this colorful, flavorful salad is fun to “mess with” and always makes me feel so healthy when I eat it! Sometimes I add cooked quinoa, chicken, shrimp or even seared scallops, or use a different cheese such as goat cheese, mozzarella pearls or even gorgonzola. And any toasted nuts work — walnuts, pecans … just use the recipe as a guide and use your beautiful imagination.

The berries can be swapped out for any fruit in season — try strawberries, peaches, nectarines and watermelon. Likewise with the greens — spinach, baby kale and mixed spring greens are all good choices.

If you’re looking for a sweet treat to add to your dessert repertoire that’s free of gluten, refined sugar, dairy and soy, this vegan cookie recipe is just for you. These cookies have that fabulous combination of being crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle.

When I make them, I simply use my blender to whirl gluten-free oats into flour, and I also use the almond meal left over from when I make almond milk.

If you use almond milk, have you ever tried just making it yourself? This will give you a drink and/or a cooking ingredient that has no additives and preservatives. Soak one cup of raw almonds in water overnight (add two Medjool dates for sweetener if you like) then drain the whole thing and rinse. To make the milk, simply put the soaked almonds and dates in the blender with 4 cups of water and blend until smooth.


You can use a nut bag or cheesecloth to strain the milk, then you will be left with almond meal that can be frozen and used later for recipes like these cookies.

If you don’t want to do all that, just buy almond meal (not flour). You can also use natural peanut butter instead of almond butter for this recipe, and for the chocolate chips, both Lily and Bake Believe brands are great options.

Berry, avocado and arugula salad

• 5 cups arugula
• 1 cup blackberries
• 3/4 cup blueberries
• 1 avocado, sliced
• 1 1/2 cups cucumber, sliced thinly
• 1/3 cup feta cheese
• 1/3 cup toasted pistachios

Assemble salad ingredients and toss in vinaigrette. Enjoy fresh.

Yield: 4 servings



• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• Fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk together all. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Yield: approximately 1/3 cup

Almond butter chocolate chip cookies

• 1 tablespoon ground flax
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1/4 cup coconut oil or vegan butter
• 1/4 cup natural smooth almond butter
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/4 cup organic cane sugar or coconut sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats, blended into a flour or 1 cup oat flour
• 1 cup almonds, blended into a meal or 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
• 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix the ground flax and water. Set aside for about 10 minutes to thicken.


With an electric mixer or in a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil or vegan butter and almond butter until combined.

Add both sugars and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the flax mixture and vanilla until combined.

Beat in baking soda, baking powder and salt, then beat in oat flour and almond meal. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape 1-inch balls of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. You can also use a retractable cookie scoop.

Bake for about 11-13 minutes or until lightly golden. The cookies will be very soft coming out of the oven, but they will crisp up as they cool. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.

Yield: 20 cookies

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net or (207) 504-0545.

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