Taste Good, Feel Good Food: three easy recipes to nourish your body and please your palate

The kids’ have finished dinner and had baths and they patiently await CAKE.


Naomi had cake the night before at Asher’s pirate birthday party. She’s not tired of cake yet – or her pirate eye patch!


This recipe was inspired by a Foolproof Flourless Chocolate Torte at one of my favorite blogs, Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. After making his delicious cake twice, I went to work to adapt the recipe and (gasp) create a lighter, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan flourless chocolate torte.

I swear on all things dark chocolate, this cake will knock your socks off. It. Is. SO. Decadent. Luscious, rich and completely sinful.

The over-the-top, decadent dessert disappeared immediately. This morning, my son Asher requested cake for breakfast! If the resident cookie and cake “monster” approves, you know it’s superb.


The lightly sweet, dense dark chocolate torte is topped with melted chocolate. Once it is set, it is sprinkled with coarse Maldon sea salt. Salty sweet combinations make my knees buckle!


The top of the cake is essentially a devilishly dark chocolate candy bar. The interior is creamy and smooth.

To elevate the cake, I added one of my favorite ingredients, figs, by way of a sauce. Calimyrna figs are slow poached in red wine until plump and soft. The end result yields not only delectable fruit, but also a syrupy, complex topping to drizzle over slices the cake.

If you wake a double batch, you could pair the figs with your favorite cheese on a gorgeous cheese board.


Last night, I once again had a slice of this cake for dessert. Shocking. This time, I ate the cake without the figs. It’s amazing “naked” or adorned by gorgeous, sweet and earthy figs – depending on your mood. If you just.need.chocolate. Go fig-less. If a bit of elegance is required, poach that fruit.

DSC_3929Any dried fruit – apricots, cherries, dates – would be delicious poached in the wine. White wine would certainly work if you prefer it, particularly a floral, fruit-forward variety.


My discovery in making this cake as healthy and straightforward as it is: good quality ingredients and a few nutritious substitutions result in a fantastic cake. With a few food allergies in our family and among friends, it is refreshing to have recipes on hand that both taste fantastic and are easily devoured by all.

Planning to eat my share of chocolate torte that night, a light meal preceded the cocoa-crazed dessert. Stefan challenged me to make a dish with five ingredients (oil, salt and pepper serving as “free ingredients”).

Over the past year, I have discovered that dishes with less ingredients are often not only easier to prepare (important for mom’s with young kids and little time) but just taste better. I believe this is called “cooking with restraint.”


Salads and roasted vegetable creations have a place at our dinner table every night. The colors and flavors of fruits and vegetables – acids, oils and herbs – a crumble of fine cheese – is awe-inspiring. Winter beets and valencia oranges at the market bring tears to my eyes.


We already know that intriguing goat and sheep fromage basically sends me into a fainting spell in the dairy section.


Mediterranean Eggplant and Pepper Salad with Myzithra Cheese is a refreshing and light, yet filling, side-dish. This dish has an Italian theme, from the vegetables to the choice of cheese.

Leftovers can be tossed with some dressed arugula (arguably the most popular salad green in Italy) and a protein for a filling lunch the following day. Not that we had any salad remaining.


Both of these recipes represent so much of the way I love to eat. Cleanly, yet decadently. Food should make you feel good, yet also leave you with a feeling of indulgence. Treat yourself, and treat your body well, too.

Of course, no matter what food allergies or restrictions your family or friends may face, there is always a way to adapt a recipe to make it fit your lifestyle and healthy needs.

Thank you to Stefan for inspiring me to cook with restraint and to cook more. As I say, I am a work/cook in progress.



Mediterranean Eggplant and Pepper Salad with Myzithra Cheese


one medium eggplant

one medium red bell pepper

2 Tablespoons garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil, homemade or store-bought, plus more to drizzle, if desired

kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

12 kalamata or castelvetrano olives, cut into fourths

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons (or more, to taste) Italian Myzithra sheep’s milk cheese (it’s similar to a dry feta)


Preheat the oven to 375•F. Avoid raising the temperature, as extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point. An oven thermometer (available at almost every grocery store) is an inexpensive and useful tool to aid in the production of well-cooked food.

Place the eggplant and peppers on parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss the vegetables with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. I prefer to aggressively season these vegetables when roasting.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are the lightest hue of gold and caramelized – but not overly-roasted. Cool and use a frying turner/spatula to place on a small serving plate.

Sprinkle with olives and parsley and drizzle lemon juice over top. Crack additional black pepper, if desired. Taste before adding additional salt, as the olives and cheese have a good bit of salt. You may choose to drizzle additional garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

Red Wine Poached Calimyrna Figs


1/2 cup fruit-forward red wine, such as Syrah

1 cup filtered water

1/3 cup unrefined turbinado sugar

1 1/2 cups Calimyrna figs, about 8 very large figs

pinch of salt


Bring the wine, water, sugar, figs and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and fork-tender and the sauce is sufficiently reduce. It should be almost syrupy and coat the back of a spoon. If you are cooking at high altitude, the figs may take as long as 35 minutes to complete the poaching process.

Allow to cool completely in the saucepan. Serve the figs and syrup with the torte.

Simple Flourless Chocolate Torte (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Inspired by a gorgeous recipe posted by Stefan at Stefan’s Gourmet Blog

11 ounces chocolate 72% Belgian dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 unrefined turbinado sugar

1/4 cup finely ground flax seeds

3/4 cup strong coffee

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup strained, dairy free “Greek” yogurt (such as almond milk or coconut milk varieties), room temperature

2 Tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder (it creates a fudgy texture and deeper chocolate flavor in this recipe)

1-2 Tablespoons Fig brandy, or substitute a cherry or raspberry liqueur, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. very fine salt

a neutral-flavored oil (grapeseed, canola, coconut) cooking spray with a high smoke point, to grease the pan

6.7 ounces (or 6 if some “disappears”) melted chocolate, to drizzle over the cooled cake

Maldon sea salt or a prefered coarse salt, to sprinkle over the cake at the last moment


Preheat your oven to 350•F.

Spray a standard, 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the cake pan with neatly cut parchment paper, and coat the paper well with cooking spray. In each step, make sure to be generous with the spray. You may use a large springform “cheesecake” pan if you have one.

Mix the ground flax and coffee in the bowl. Place in the refrigerator for at least fifteen minutes to allow the “flax eggs” to gelatinize. These will act as a binder in the cake. Allow the flax eggs to come back to room temperature before using.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Process until silky and smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. A few small crumbs are fine; the cake will continue to bake as it cools due to carryover cooking.

When cooled, invert onto a plate. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Allow chocolate to set, then sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.

Serve with the poached figs and syrup.

©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2015), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.


21 thoughts on “Taste Good, Feel Good Food: three easy recipes to nourish your body and please your palate

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Shanna. Great post. The salad looks and sounds delicious. I can’t believe what you did to the cake — not only flourless, but also butterless and eggless. Myzithra cheese is Greek by the way.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Stefan. I love both your original version and my allergy-free version. As for the cheese, this Myzithra cheese was actually made in Italia, though you are correct about it’s Greek origins. I’ve uploaded a photo to the blog post for the gorgeous cheese itself. 🙂

      1. Sorry for being a smartypants. I was confused as the name did not sound Italian at all. Actually, my favorite Gouda is from Beemster, which is less than 10 miles from here (and 50 miles from the actual city Gouda), and aged for about 18 months.

  2. Another elaborate post, Shanna! Anything inspired by Stefan is decadent and so is your cake. Good job on making it all allergies free. The Eggplant salad sounds delicious too. Now I have to check and sample how myzithra cheese tastes like. 🙂

  3. Dreamy 🙂 Love the photos, especially of your scrubbed kiddos. Happy Birthday to big brother! Cake for breakfast? Smart kid, smart mom 😀

  4. This is all right up my alley! Dark chocolate cake, yes please! Leftovers for breakfast, of course! Veggies roasted and topped,with cheese, I’m there! Sometimes simple is indeed the best.

    1. I feel like we have such similar tastes in food and pretty much identical family lives! Your blog is a real joy to read and your pictures are awesome. Thanks for your encouraging Gretchen and culinary commiseration, Gretchen.

  5. Your chocolate cake looks fabulous; I would love to dig into a piece right now! Myzithra cheese is delicious; we used to get spaghetti with olive oil and Myzithra at a favorite restaurant, and it was excellent. Lots of temptations on this post~I love the all the Mediterranean flavors. Thanks for sharing!

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