As with all of my recipes, the ones in this blog started with a mission. Part one: A nutrition-filled alternative to oatmeal, which my husband loves but isn’t supposed to eat due to his food sensitivity. Part two: A nondairy hot chocolate that doesn’t taste like deprivation. This one was for me and for my youngest daughter—we are both hot chocolate fanatics and (sadly) both off dairy and cane sugar. Based on their reviews, I’ve succeeded. I hope you’ll think so too!

Breakfast Quinoa

The base here is quinoa cooked sweet, not savory. While the mix-ins I generally use are apple, dates, almonds and coconut, use your imagination! Pear is an easy alternative to apple, of course. If you like citrus, then I try orange instead of the apple. Pine nuts (preferably toasted) or walnuts—or any nut—are fine alternatives to almonds. Chopped figs or chopped dried apricots or raisins are alternatives to dates. (I don’t recommend dried cranberries because they generally contain sugar.) One thing I don’t add is sweetener—the natural sugars of the fruits are plenty.

Tip: If you’re not serving this to a group and will have leftovers, keep the quinoa separate from your mix-ins until you’re ready to eat. Otherwise, you’ll lose the freshness of the fruit and the crunch of the nuts.

If you are serving to a group, make a breakfast bar with the different options.


1 cup quinoa

2 cups unsweetened vanilla coconut milk (or your milk of choice)


  • Chopped apple (organic & unpeeled) (1/2 to 1 per person)
  • Chopped dates (1 or 2 per person)
  • Sliced almonds, toasted (a tablespoon per person, or to taste)
  • Unsweetened coconut, toasted (a tablespoon per person, or to taste)
  • Cinnamon (optional)


Rinse quinoa under running water. This helps remove some of the quinoa’s bitterness. The fruit and nuts will cloak the rest of the bitterness. Combine quinoa and coconut milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat but keep the pot covered to ensure all liquid is absorbed. (It often isn’t after the cooking time ends, but always is by the time I’m ready to serve.)

Toasted Coconut

Meanwhile…prepare your mix-ins. While you can buy both coconut and sliced almonds already toasted, I prefer to toast my own using the toaster oven. Cover the tray with foil. Spread on a layer of coconut and toast on a light setting. Keep an eye on it—you want it lightly browned, but not burnt. And the switch from “just right” to “scorched” can happen pretty quickly.

Toasted Almonds

Toast the almonds the same way. Do not try toasting the almonds and coconut together as their toasting times differ.

To serve, combine all ingredients and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

Store any leftover almonds or coconut in containers in the refrigerator. They will lose their crunch if you mix in to any leftover quinoa.

If you have leftover apple, give it a squirt of lemon juice to help prevent browning.

Maple-Mexican Hot Chocolate

My favorite part of this recipe is licking the spoon after I measure out the maple syrup, which I think is the singularly most delicious thing on the planet. (I’m often tempted to sip it like a cocktail!) I also used to be a huge chocolate milk fan, and this recipe is equally delicious cold. You can get creative with the extract—for example, I often make this with almond extract. The recipe here is for one serving.


1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch-processed!)

1 Tablespoon hot water

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

¼-½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice; I often use an almond-coconut blend)

Cinnamon to sprinkle


Put the cocoa powder and hot water into a microwave-safe mug. (We have an instant-hot at our sink, but hot water from the tap should work too.) Mix to make a smooth paste. Note: If you skip this step, the cocoa will be lumpy.

Add maple syrup (remember to lick the spoon!), vanilla extract and milk. Stir. Microwave one minute. Stir again. Microwave another 30-60 seconds, depending on your microwave and on your personal preference and whether the milk was taken from the refrigerator or the pantry. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!

To make it a mocha (which my daughter prefers), add a splash of brewed coffee or ¼ to ½ teaspoon of instant coffee powder (to taste).

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