Healthy Harvest Baking

Cranberry Walnut Pie

Malorie DavisI worked as a pastry chef for several years before becoming a nutrition counselor. After culinary school, I skipped around the country working as a line cook, breakfast cook, pastry chef, executive chef and pastry chef again. I ended up with an unexpected reward at the end of it all – interesting friends all over the country. The most valued friend I gained, and probably the most interesting, would be a fellow pastry chef. Long story short, we keep in contact today mostly by speaking of food, a little about our lives, and sharing recipes. We're like foodie pen-pals.

A few weeks ago, she baked a cranberry and walnut pie and sent me a photograph of it. It was one of those moments when I knew I had to get the recipe and try it for myself. The same feeling you get when you see a recipe in a magazine that stands out, so you immediately rip out the page. I asked if I could tweak the recipe to make it a bit healthier, which I did and it turned out lovely. Anytime I enjoy one of her ideas or recipes, I can imagine us back at our old summer job, eating and giggling together in the lunch room.

I plan to make this pie for Thanksgiving, and I hope you do, too. Although my family is unbeatable and our Thanksgivings are always special, I wish I could sit down to such a feast at a large table with all my friends from across the country. A hunting buddy would bring the wild turkey from Montana and a friend from Vermont might roast root vegetables from her farm. My dearest friend would make this pie. As she suggests, it would be served with pumpkin ice cream.

Cranberry Walnut Pie | Rachael Bratene, 

Photo: Rachael Brantene,

Yields 2 pies.

Homemade pie crust recipe of your choice, prepared. Should be enough for two pies. Press into pie tins.
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
4 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups walnuts, roughly chopped 

Preheat your oven to 425 F.

In a mixing bowl, mix thoroughly all ingredients, except cranberries and walnuts. 

Divide the cranberries and walnuts into the two prepared pie tins. 

Pour the wet mixture over the cranberries and walnuts, divided evenly. 

Place pie tins on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for 35 minutes more. 

Let cool slightly before serving. Serve with pumpkin ice cream. 

Apple Groaning Cake

Malorie DavisGroaning cake is an ancient cake that carries folklore along with it. As tale and tradition would have it, the cake is meant to be prepared and consumed after the birth of a child. Some people even believe the scent of the cake baking in the oven helps labor symptoms or that cracking the eggs while in labor will make it go faster. Other than that, I don't know too much about it so I won't pretend that I do. Judging by the name, I'd say it has something to do with easing pains or being a source of comfort and I can vouch for that.

October is prime apple season here in Southern California. It's a tradition of mine and my mother's to drive up to the nearest mountain town during apple harvest and visit the many orchards and store-fronts. This year, we got to take my daughter for the first time, which made it extra-special. We always indulge in the cider donuts and taste the many different ciders and apples. Then, we take a couple bags of our favorite pick of the day for baking and enjoying at home. I've been using those apples for many things the past few weeks and this groaning cake was my favorite.

picking apples 

I found a recipe for groaning cake in a cookbook I flipped through while antique shopping. The book smelled and looked 100 years old or more. The recipes and housekeeping tips were just as old-timey. The recipe in the book listed orange juice, and I soon found out that it's traditional. I decided to change things up a bit and used apple cider as the liquid, and I also made the cake gluten-free. I think you'll find this recipe a delight, especially enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. Whether you've just given birth or not.

Apple Groaning Cake 

Photo: Rachael Bratene,


1 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs
2 cups peeled and grated apples

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Generously grease a Bundt pan with butter or coconut oil; set aside.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.

Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until the center is tested with a toothpick and comes out clean.

Persimmon Fritters

Malorie DavisPart of living a sustainable lifestyle is sharing with your neighbor. With that of course, come gifts from thy neighbor. For a number of reasons, it’s nice to know you can count on the people close to you. I am starting to grow my own here in California after relocating from Wyoming, but I don’t have it all. Persimmons are in season here, and several people I know have plenty. I would much rather take a basket of the season's finest from a neighbor or friend and repay them with treats, than buy the waxed and unripe persimmons from the grocery store.

I make a few different things with the nutrition-packed fruit, including chocolate chip cookies, but I also wanted to make something new and different. Maybe it was the large jar of coconut oil I had on hand, but somehow I landed on the idea of Persimmon Fritters. A good idea it was.

Much like an apple or peach fritter, the persimmons are diced and mixed into a simple batter. I chose to make mine gluten-free and the texture was spot-on. Persimmons make for a very rich and sweet fritter, so I like to enjoy them with a bit of tart jam. Also, you could add another fruit to balance out the flavor. Blueberries would be lovely. These fritters are incredibly easy and quick to throw together and they make a large amount. Perfect for sharing with neighbors.

Persimmon Fritters 

Persimmon Fritters

1  3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon baking powder
1  1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground or fresh ginger
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
2 cups persimmons, peeled and diced small
Coconut oil for frying
Maple syrup or confectioners' sugar for serving

  • In a large pot, heat enough coconut oil for the fritters to be submerged, over medium heat.

  • While the oil is heating up, combine all ingredients in one bowl thoroughly, folding in the persimmons last.

  • Using a spoon or an ice-cream scoop, drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. Do 3 or 4 fritters at a time, careful not to overcrowd the pot.

  • Fry for 1 minute, then flip the fritters over and fry for another minute, or until both sides are golden brown.

  • Remove fritters from the oil and drain on a towel.

  • Repeat, using all of the batter.

  • Brush each fritter with maple syrup before serving, or dust with confectioners' sugar.

  • I like to serve mine with pomegranate or plum jam.

Pumpkin Cornbread

Malorie DavisIt’s officially here. All of the wonders of fall and the month of October are upon us, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t happy about it. This marks the start of our most comforting memories. Sure, most people wait the whole year for summer and all of its bounty, but there’s no denying the sentimental feelings you get when you see the trees turning or use your fireplace for the first time. Many of us are still busy harvesting and preserving, which is exciting enough. This season also brings cozy sweaters out of the closet, warm meals and more nights in. Of course, I can’t go on without mentioning that fall brings us the ever so popular pumpkin-flavored everything.

As a former pastry chef turned homemaker and avid home baker, for me fall is arguably the most glorified season. Although December holidays put up a good fight, the smells and tastes of October and November are my favorites. Americans especially have grown to adore pumpkin-flavored treats and other cozy tastes and spices of this season. Take a look online for a moment or a peek into any American restaurant or coffee shop menu, and you’re sure to see pumpkin this and pumpkin that. With the amount of work I do researching food online, I sometimes wonder if people try to incorporate pumpkin into everything.

For those of you with pumpkins growing in your backyard garden or farm, bravo and happy preserving to you! Fresh puréed pumpkin does in fact make a world of difference in recipes. If you aren’t so lucky, store-bought pumpkins are fine and canned pumpkin-puree will do, just as long as there are no questionable added ingredients.

As I mentioned, I am a former pastry chef. It’s probably true that I’ve made hundreds of different items into a pumpkin version. At the beginning of this season, I was lacking inspiration. I needed something new. Rather, something old-fashioned but new to me. Wild game chili sparked my idea for this pumpkin cornbread. It can be served buttered with warm maple syrup, or with chili or other stews. It’s extremely simple and just as versatile. You can use this recipe all season long and into the holidays!

Pumpkin Cornbread 

Pumpkin Cornbread

1 cup brown rice flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup gluten-free cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal, optional

  • Preheat your oven to 400 F and grease an 8-by-8 glass baking dish or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with coconut oil.

  • In a medium sized bowl, mix the rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, cornmeal, and flaxseed meal with a fork until well combined.

  • In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, honey or maple, and molasses with a whisk until thoroughly combined.

  • Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture with a spatula and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into prepared pan or skillet.

  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

  • Serve with butter or butter and maple syrup. Excellent with wild game chili.

Beetroot and Raspberry Chocolate Cake

Malorie DavisAfter a summer filled with bright, fruity, and light treats, I had a hankering for something more. The nights are getting cooler, and I’m almost ready for the warm comfort foods of fall and winter. Late summer harvest means some heartier fruits and vegetables are finding a temporary home in my kitchen. The last few weeks, I’ve been up to my ears (I’m not alone here) in zucchini. Now, raspberries and beets are making an appearance. 


chocolate cake
A slice of cake to celebrate the end of summer. 

Depending on your location, you might have to wait on those beets a bit longer. Either way, I know the question “what should I do with these beets?” will be asked in quite a few households across the world. You might preserve pickled beets, prepare a beet hash for eggs or steaks, or maybe try a new trendy beet salad. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that most of you won’t think, “beet chocolate cake.” The idea stems from the classic red velvet cake, as the traditional method was to use beet juice for the red coloring. As it turns out, the flesh of the beetroot proves that it should be a star in the cake as well. Making the cake moist, interesting and rich. I almost wish I never made a chocolate cake without it.

Raspberries lend a fresh and brightening hand, raising the bar for chocolate cakes everywhere. I also use avocado to replace the fat in the frosting. If you’re not lucky enough to be near avocado growing weather (I am in sunny Southern California) then, you can use any frosting or glaze you fancy.

I use coconut and almond flours in this cake, to please the many Americans going grain-free, and to make it available to those sensitive to gluten. It’s also free of refined sugars and gets its sweetness from raw honey and pure maple syrup. Some might think of that as extreme, I like to think of it as making extremely good use of my late summer harvest. After all, beetroot and raspberries are really the stars of the show here.

Oh wait, did I mention that it is densely and deliciously packed with healthy dark chocolate? That’s right. As if the abundant tastiness from your garden isn’t enough, I added a hefty amount of chocolate. It’s sure to cure the most serious of chocolate cravings. Let’s all have a slice of cake to celebrate the end of summer, shall we?

Beetroot and Raspberry Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
2 beetroots, cooked and grated with a cheese grater
4 eggs
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1  1/2 cups almond milk (can sub regular milk)

For the frosting:
1 avocado
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
1/4 cup almond milk
1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease 2 round 8-inch cake pans with coconut oil or butter; set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond milk.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder with a whisk. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly mixed and all one color. Stir in the grated beetroot.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon, until thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Combine all ingredients, except for the almond milk, with a hand mixer on medium-high until smooth and free of lumps. Then, add the almond milk and mix until smooth.

Divide the frosting in half into two separate bowls. In one bowl, mix in the fresh raspberries.

Once the cakes are baked and they have cooled in the pans completely, turn one cake out onto your cake plate. Top with the raspberry frosting.

Turn out the second cake on top of the raspberry frosting and top the cake with the remaining frosting. Let stand or chill in the refrigerator until set.

Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.