Parenting Recipes Uncategorized

Recipe: Energy Balls

IMG_1172 2It took me a while to transition mentally from having an exclusively breastfed baby to a happily eating toddler.  One of the areas I struggled in for a while was what snack I could have on hand that was fat- and protein-filled rather than 100% carbohydrate.  It would make it so much easier to quickly throw together a balanced meal on a busy day.  And it would provide my toddler with a more grounding energy-dense snack if he was crashing well before the next meal.

The answer: Energy Balls!  (or “nut balls” as our family calls them)

Energy balls are made from nuts, coconut, and dried fruit.  They are mildly sweet and their texture isn’t as sticky as nut butters.  When hungry, my toddler will always eat them when offered.  They travel well and store for weeks in the fridge.  And, if you’re comfortable having your toddler help with using the food processor, they can be made with full toddler involvement.  In other words, making energy balls can BE your fun activity for the day.

Once you master the general recipe, there’s lots of room for improvisation.  I like having cashews for at least 50% of the nut/seed mixture because they have a neutral flavor and result in a creamy final texture.  The most important part of the process to remember when experimenting is making sure the texture gets sticky enough to clump into balls.  Try the recipe below to get comfortable, and then  try your own variations based on flavors you love or ingredients you have on hand.

A note: We soak, sprout, or ferment all the grains, beans, and seeds we eat.  The nuts I use for this recipe have been soaked in salt water and dehydrated first.  This makes them easier to digest and makes more nutrients available to our bodies.  If you’re interested in learning more, I thought this was a clear and informative article.  Both soaked/dehydrated and “regular” nuts can be used successfully for this recipe!

Final note: Dessert energy balls!  The recipe below is meant to be a nourishing every-day snack that you can feel good about feeding to your kid whenever they want.  If they eat a bunch for a snack and don’t eat their protein at dinner, no big deal.  However, the recipe can also be turned into a nourishing and indulgent treat by adding a few more dates and/or chocolate chips.  They can also be coated in melted chocolate.  Yum!  We did this around the holidays for stocking stuffers and to enjoy (it was not a sacrifice, we all really enjoyed!) the resulting nut balls instead of cookies.

Energy Balls

(makes apx. 1 quart of small balls)

2 cups cashews
1 cup other seeds/nuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1-2 t. spices (I use ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or vanilla with a pinch of black pepper)
6 dates, chopped (or more if you want the energy balls to taste noticeably sweet – like cookie dough)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried fruit (If larger pieces, dice into small bits.  If hard, soak ahead of time in water.)

  1. Assemble food processor on a counter that toddler can safely stand at.  Do not plug in yet.
  2. Fill measuring cups with cashews, nuts and seeds.  Have the toddler dump them into the food processor.  Taste testing is allowed 🙂
  3. Provide toddler with ear protection if desired.
  4. Blend until nuts have turned into flour.  Let your toddler turn the blender off and on.  (Note: this is the step that can mess things up… if you don’t blend enough here, it can be hard to get the balls to stick together later).
  5. Add coconut, dates, spices, and salt.  Allow toddler to taste test ingredients and smell spices.
  6. Blend until mixture forms a ball.  This is hard work for the food processor.  It can help to stop every once in a while, break up the clumps with a spoon, and/or pulse.
  7. Taste test and take a spoonful out to see if it can be squeezed into balls without crumbling.
  8. When the mixture passes your squeeze test, put the mixture into a mixing bowl and add in your dried fruit.  Mix together with washed hands or a mixing spoon.
  9. When still warm, squeeze teaspoon-sized portions of the mixture into balls and place on a plate.
  10. Refrigerate plate for several hours to harden.  Then pour into a storage container and store in fridge.

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Parenting Recipes Uncategorized

Recipe: Nourishing Pancakes


Slowly but surely, pancakes have become our #1 breakfast staple.  L would eat bread, butter, and fruit all day every day if he could, but he also consistently likes pancakes.  And because I can put things like vegetables and eggs into pancakes, most days we have them.

I realized pretty early on that though L wasn’t adventurous when it came to eating a variety of textures or certain flavors, he would still accept a variety of colors and some different flavors when they were served in the shape of a familiar food.   I have fun thinking about how to make a batch of pancakes turn into a certain color or what new veggies or dinner leftovers I might include.

One thing that is probably already apparent is that I very very rarely follow a recipe when cooking.  I can’t bear to – there’s almost always something I want (need?) to change or add.  I prefer to get comfortable with a process, like cooking pancakes or muffins, and then follow a basic foundation recipe with regular tweaking.  I’ve finally forced myself to write down some notes while cooking, and have two recipes to share: 1) Carrots and Greens Pancakes is written out all the way and can be followed strictly to make yummy (and greenish) final products.  2) A basic Nourishing Pancakes recipe which provides you with the opportunity to play around with some of the add-ins based on preference or what leftovers and veggies are in your fridge or garden.  Both recipes are gluten free and leftover pancakes can easily be refrigerated or frozen and heated in the toaster.

One more note: I use ingredients like soaked oats and cassava flour because they are things we have in our pantry and fridge at all times.  I use oats soaked in water and a splash of sourdough starter and cassava flour because I generally avoid grains that haven’t first been soaked, sprouted, or soured.  These processes (soaking, sprouting, or souring) help reduce the amount of phytic acid in the grains (or beans, nuts or seeds) and therefore allow your body to absorb more of the nutrients the oats contain.  If you want to read more, I found this article to be informative.  Scroll down to find the section on oats.


Carrots and Greens Pancakes

Makes approximately 14 4-inch pancakes

3 eggs
2 carrots, chopped (cooked is even better, but I rarely have cooked carrots on hand)
1 banana chopped
1/4 cup packed cooked greens (spinach, kale, chard, nettles, etc.)
1/2 cup strained soaked oats (oats soaked in water with rye flakes + 2 T. vinegar or 2 T. sourdough starter for 24 hours)
1 T. cassava flour (if you bake with wheat flour, feel free to use 1T. wheat flour here)
1/4 t. ginger powder
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash of salt
butter for frying

  1. Adult: chop carrots and gather ingredients.  Toddler: chop banana with butter knife and small cutting board.
  2. Put all ingredients into a wide-mouth quart jar or mixing bowl with tall walls.  The adult can fill measuring spoons or cups, toddler can dump them in.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree all ingredients.  Help your toddler know how to safely use an immersion blender (if you don’t have an immersion blender, put all ingredients into a food processor and blend).  This can be really fun for them once you can trust they will keep the tool in the liquid while pressing the button.
  4. Heat large cast iron skillet and have the toddler add a pad of butter. Once hot, turn pan down to low.
  5. Pour batter into pan in small circles (we like pancakes that are about 4″ diameter).
  6. Flip when tops are no longer liquidy looking.
  7. Enjoy with your preferred condiments.  L and I put pads of butter on ours, I add a sprinkle of salt, and Evan adds a drizzle of maple syrup.


Nourishing Pancakes

Makes approximately 14 4-inch pancakes

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetables (cooked and not watery is best).  You can add more if dry roasted root veggies.
1 banana chopped
1/2 cup strained soaked oats (oats soaked in water with rye flakes + 2 T. vinegar or 2 T. sourdough starter for 24 hours)
1 T. cassava flour (if you bake with wheat flour, feel free to use 1T. regular flour here)
1 t. total spices (we like a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, and/or fennel)
dash of salt
butter for frying

Optional nourishing add ins:
– 1/4 t. turmeric + 1/4 t. ginger + 1/8 t. black pepper (this combo is very anti-inflammatory)
– 1/2 t. dulse flakes (adds iodine, important if you’re using non-iodized sea salt)
– 1/2 t. camu camu (adds vitamin C)
-whole blueberries, add a few to the top of each pancake after pouring into the skillet

Color ideas:
– using one beet for your vegetable choice will turn pancakes magenta
– using greens will turn pancakes green
– using sweet potatoes + turmeric will make pancakes orange-yellow

  1. Adult: prepare and gather ingredients.  Toddler: chop banana with butter knife and small cutting board.
  2. Put ingredients into a wide-mouth quart jar or mixing bowl with tall walls.  The adult can fill measuring spoons or cups, toddler can dump them in.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree all ingredients.  Help your toddler know how to safely use an immersion blender (if you don’t have an immersion blender, put all ingredients into a food processor and blend).  This can be really fun for them once you can trust they will keep the tool in the liquid while pressing the button.
  4. Heat large cast iron skillet and have the toddler add a pad of butter. Once hot, turn pan down to low.
  5. Pour batter into pan in small circles (we like pancakes that are about 4″ diameter).  If adding blueberries, add them now.
  6. Flip when tops are no longer liquidy looking.
  7. Enjoy with your preferred condiments.  L and I put pads of butter on ours, I add a sprinkle of salt, and Evan adds a drizzle of maple syrup.

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Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

A Perfected Pickle

It was feeling ironic that dill pickles were my least successful naturally fermented vegetable.  Whenever I tried pickling cucumbers, their taste and texture seemed less than ideal.  So I dove into an information rabbit hole.

My technique was perfected thanks to the facebook group called “Wild Fermentation Uncensored.”  It is a information treasure trove and open forum for everything fermentation-related (if you join, be sure to check out the files, specifically the document “fermentation basics”).

naturally fermented dill pickles2

Here’s how I perfected my pickles:

-I aimed for a pickle between a half and full-sour.  To do this, I mixed 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sea salt (Real Salt brand) into one quart of water (weigh out 38g of salt if you’re using a different coarseness).

-I cut off the blossom ends of each cucumber (they apparently have softening enzymes in them) and soaked the cucumbers in ice water for about an hour (this is supposed to prevent mold from forming in the fermentation process).

-As I had done in the padt, I put some wild grape leaves in the bottom of my jar (they provide tannins to the ferment which helps keep pickles crispy).

-I used less garlic.  I find that fermented garlic is one of the main sources of “funkiness” in natural ferments.  If trying to appeal to a general audience (and my husband), I’ve found that most of my pickles are received more enthusiastically if I cut back on garlic.

-Our house was below 75 degrees, which is ideal to create good pickles…. above that and things can get quickly out of control.  Below 68 or so and things start to slow down and take a lot longer.

Cucumbers in ice bath

dil pickle jar prep

The process:

Starting with a half gallon mason jar, I packed the bottom with a bunch of dill, one sliced up garlic clove, and several grape leaves.  I then packed in my cucumbers, fresh out of their ice water bath.  I then poured my brine over the top so everything was completely submerged.  I used a half cup mason jar as my weight – it fits perfectly into the wide mouth of the half gallon jar and keeps all the cucumbers below the brine.  I then loosely covered the jar with a cap and placed it in a bowl on my counter in case the brine overflowed.

Every day, I screwed the cap on tight and tipped the jar back and forth so bubbles hiding under pickles and leaves could come to the top.  I then re-loosened the cap.  After about a week, I put the whole jar into the fridge and let it sit there for another week before tasting (in the fridge fermentation is slowed dramatically, any fizziness can work its way out of the pickles, and the flavors can continue to meld together).

The results: 

Yum!  The flavor was mildly garlicky and dilly, sour and salty.  Most importantly, the pickles were crisp and crunchy!  I quickly set off to the garden to pick more cucumbers for a second batch.

naturally fermented dill pickles

Home Gardens Musings Recipes Uncategorized

Summer Garden Bounty

The end of July and beginning of August are an exciting time for Vermont gardeners.  Finally we enjoy a huge diversity of sun-ripened fruits, berries, and vegetables from our gardens and farms.  We’ve been savoring first raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, broccoli, onions, garlic, and beets.  Waiting all these months, of course, makes it all much more exciting and delicious.

garden goodies

After several long rainy weeks, we’ve been enjoying a stretch of sunny low-humidity days and cool nights.  Though it’s meant fewer lake swims, it has been perfect weather for daily weeding sessions, keeping up with the ever-growing lush green lawn, and kitchen cooking projects.

End of July Garden

In the kitchen, I excitedly pickled a batch of kohlrabi, fennel, and beets.  They flavors and colors are blending wonderfully, turning bright pink (click here to learn more about natural fermentation).

July Pickles

buckwheat pancakes

I’ve also been LOVING a newly discovered recipe for Sourdough Buckwheat Pancakes.  Buckwheat is a really interesting “grain” and  offers a unique alternative to wheat.  This recipe sprouts and sours the buckwheat, making it even more nutritious and digestible.  The pancakes were nutty and tender with crisp edges (be sure to use plenty of grass-fed butter in your pan), and a perfect vehicle for the delicious fruits and berries that are now in season. 

Happy harvesting, happy feasting!

lake sunset

Musings Recipes Uncategorized

April in Vermont

april snow

April arrived in true Vermont style: with a blizzard.  Luckily, we live in a state where friends and neighbors revel in the snow.  We all enjoyed one more dose of sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowball fights followed by a cozy night by the fire.


One week later, temperatures climbed past 75 degrees, we enjoyed the first blooms in our garden, and planted peas and spinach.  Ahhhh, April in VT.  After enjoying these mild days, I need to remind myself that a few more dramatic swings are likely before the weather turns truly springy.


With Easter right around the corner, I’m getting ready to do another batch of naturally died deviled eggs.  Everyone’s backyard chickens increase production as the days grow longer, so there are always plenty of delicious eggs to play with at this time of year.  After hard boiling them and removing the shells, I’ll soak a few eggs in each of the following solutions:

-Yellow: Boil water and add 1T turmeric.  After solution has cooled, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt.
-Blue: Boil water and add 1/4 cup elderberries and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  (If adding apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt, do so slowly to avoid volcanoes 🙂
-Red: Boil water and add three slices of beet.  After solution has cooled, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt.
-Green, orange, purple…?: This year I’ll be experimenting with combining the brines above to see what other colors are possible.

After they’ve soaked several hours (or longer), I’ll slice my eggs in half and devil them.  Mix egg yolks, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, finely diced red onions, salt, black pepper and relish to taste.  Mix until creamy and spoon filling into egg whites.


Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring!

Recipes Uncategorized

Homemade Sushi


Making your own sushi is a surprisingly easy process and creates a beautiful array of appetizers or centerpiece for a special meal.  The most difficult part of the process in Vermont is obtaining really high quality raw fish.  If you do have a good source, that’s great!  If not, there are plenty of other delicious ingredients that can be used to make flavorful and colorful sushi rolls.

The only piece of equipment that is unique to the sushi-making process is a bamboo sushi rolling mat.  They’re widely available online for less than five dollars, however, and don’t take up much room in a drawer.


Prepare your rice:

True sushi rice should be white and short grain, prepared with rice vinegar.  Cook one cup of rice with just over one cup water.  Cover pot and bring to boil.  Simmer, covered, for about 10 additional minutes until water has been absorbed.  Taste rice to make sure it is cooked through.  If so, stir in two tablespoons rice vinegar and a dash of salt. Allow to rest, covered for a few more minutes so any grains stuck to your pot release.

Decide on your flavors:

“Sticked” or thin log shapes (imagine a carrot stick or baby carrot) work best for rolling into sushi.  Thick spreads like cream cheese can also work well.  Very hard things or ingredients in small pieces or bits work less well.  I like avocado slices, pieces of cooked sweet potato (extra credit for marinating them ahead of time), marinated tofu slices, smoked salmon (if you don’t have a reliable source for raw), red onions, egg strips (beat eggs with salt and sesame oil, fry in a flat “pancake” in a frying pan, cut into strips), and various pickled vegetables.  I often scan the fridge for leftovers that could be included.

Prepare your prep counter:

Gather everything you need on a counter with plenty of space.  I gather: my rice pot, a bowl of water for dipping fingers, a sharp knife, a cutting board, a bamboo rolling mat, nori (seaweed) sheets, ingredients for inside the sushi, and a platter for completed rolls.


Roll the sushi:

It will become much more clear how to make a nice sushi roll after trying it once!  Here’s my best effort to explain using words:  Lay out your bamboo mat and place a sheet of nori on top, closer to the left side of the mat.  Dip your fingers in water to moisten them.  This keeps the rice from sticking.  Take a handful of rice and push it into a thin layer covering the left half of your piece of nori.  Arrange your ingredients in a modest strip from the top to bottom along the left edge of the rice.  Moisten the bare right hand side of the nori with water.

Begin to roll the left edge over and around your ingredient strip.  When the left edge touches down, keep the bamboo mat up (so you don’t roll it into the sushi, and continue to roll the sushi until you’ve reached the end of the nori.  Give the whole roll (with the bamboo still around the outside) a gentle squeeze to bond everything together.  Your ultimate goal is to have enough rice to wrap around your inside ingredients, with extra nori to bind to itself, making a strong outer layer.  No matter how it comes out, it will taste good!

Open up the bamboo mat and lay the sushi roll on a cutting board.  Moisten the blade of a sharp knife with water.  Gently slice your roll into pieces of sushi and arrange on your platter.


We serve our sushi with a dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and hot pepper paste), pickled ginger, and wasabi.  Yum!


Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

Homemade Bath Salts


Homemade bath salts are SO SO easy to make yourself.  They offer a great way to take advantage of the healing, relaxing, and restorative powers of warm baths in the winter.  Epsom salts have been used for generations to relieve aches and pains.  More specifically, they provide you with a dose of magnesium, a mineral that is often lacking in our modern diets.  Magnesium’s many powers include: maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping the heart beat steady, and helping bones remain strong. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aids in the production of energy and protein (from Medline).

When you make bath salts at home, it is also fun to experiment with different combinations of essential oils.  In addition to smelling good (without exposing you to synthetic fragrances), each essential oil has an array of superpowers that help promote health and wellness.  A simple google search can help you understand the range of benefits from each different essential oil or provide you with essential oil suggestions for treating a specific heath condition or promoting a feeling or mood.

Simple Homemade Bath Salts (adapted from Wellness Mama):

  • 4 cups epsom salts (very cheap and available at all drug stores)
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 40 drops of essential oils (available at health food stores and online)

Mix together in a glass bowl.  Store in a quart canning jar.  Use 1 cup per bath.

Lavender, birch, and frankincense for my “Aches and Pains” bath salts mixture
Recipes Uncategorized


It’s not new news that we tend to have and abundance of vegetables.  Even now – at the end of January – we have about 15 butternut squash and a bushel of onions stored in the basement.  The long growing season allowed many plants to yield far more produce than we are used to – it really was a year of abundance in the garden!

Therefore, I was really excited to get a spiralizer for my birthday.  This gives me one more tool in my arsenal for preparing and presenting veggies in a totally different form.  The spiralizer takes any round or cylindrical veggie and “spiralizes” it into spaghetti cut (1/8th inch), fettuccine cut (1/4th inch), or ribbon cut noodles.


So far I’ve experimented on beets, onions and squash with great results.  Here’s our new favorite way of eating butternut squash:

Roasted “Squoodles” (squash noodles)

  1. Preheat your oven to 45o degrees F.
  2. Cut the bottom bulbous part off the butternut squash and refrigerate for later use.  Peel the cylindrical part and cut off the very top, making sure both ends are flat and parallel to each other.
  3. Assemble your spiralizer. I used the fettuccine cut blade.
  4. Press the top end of the squash into the Food Holder (covered in a bunch of pokey things that will hold the squash in place), and push the other end against the center of the blade.  Apply pressure against the blade by using the side handle while turning the handle.
  5. squash-noodlesOut come the squoodles!
  6. Toss squoodles with olive oil and salt (they want to have full coverage of olive oil but not be dripping in it).
  7. We’ve had great luck putting a cookie cooling rack in our roasting pan, and then putting the squoodles on top.  This allows air to circulate around them, making them more crispy and less limp.
  8. Roast for 20-30 minutes.  We like a few of ours to get slightly burnt, which allows the entire batch to  get crispier.  Turn on your oven light and keep an eye on things without opening the door.  They are very thin, so can go from crispy to burnt quickly!
  9. Enjoy!


Recipes Uncategorized

Fresh-from-the-Garden Spring Rolls

Sometimes you just don’t have the time to dive into a multi-step recipe.  Summer days are often quite full of activity.  But summer is also the time when beautiful fresh ingredients abound.   Spring rolls to the rescue!  All you need to do ahead of time is keep a package of thin rice-paper spring roll wrappers on hand.  Follow the directions on the package, adding whatever fresh herbs and veggies are in season to make a beautiful but easy meal.  It can be fun to lay out the different ingredient choices and have each person make their own.  After ingredients are prepped, it only takes a minute or two for assembly.


Delicious ingredient options:

-Any fresh herbs on hand: I love thai basil, regular basil, cilantro, mint, scallions, and parsley.

-Edible flower petals: It never hurts to add extra color inside and out!

-Thinly sliced veggies: really this can be any veggie you like eating raw.  Be conservative in your amounts – it is easy to be tempted to over-stuff your rolls.

-Protein and fat: A great way to use leftovers!  Sliced avocados, already cooked fish, pulled or ground meat, tofu (see below), toasted sesame seeds, strips of omelet, or bits or sausage or bacon turn your spring rolls into a satisfying and complete meal.

-Pickles: I prefer the garlicy gingery spark of kimchi in my spring rolls, but really any freshly fermented veggie will do.

-Leftovers: Do you have small amounts of cooked veggies, meat, or beans left over from a previous meal?  Include them in your ingredient offerings.

-Sauce: Dipping sauce is what really makes spring rolls so yummy.  The simplest option is a mixture of whatever of the following items you like and have on hand: soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger, grated garlic, hot sauce, miso, olive oil and/or sesame oil.  Be sure to include at least one salty ingredient, something sour, and an oil.  I like to mix in a generous dollop of peanut butter for a wonderful peanut dipping sauce.

Thinking ahead?  Marinate some tofu. This is great to do in the morning before going to work.  Drain tofu and put into a container with soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger, grated garlic, and sesame oil and shake gently.  Smear with a thin layer of miso paste and leave to marinate during the day. You can also give the same treatment to shredded carrots or sliced cucumbers for some yummy quick pickles.


Recipes Uncategorized

Celebrating Pi Day with Berries


Happy Pi Day!

We celebrated by making a delicious blueberry and raspberry pie with coconut.  This grey muddy time of year is when the berries in our freezer, harvested last summer, taste best to me.  It’s also the time of year when we try to use up any remaining bags or jars of last year’s harvest before fresh goodies start to grow.  The sweet and sour flavor-packed berries were the perfect choice for a mid-March pie.


The Crust:

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons grass fed organic butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vodka

Coconut flour and oil alone make a crust that struggles to stay together.  Substituting in some coconut flour and oil make this crust unique while maintaining the perfect flakey texture that we look for in pie crusts.  Using a bit of vodka instead of more water keeps the texture flakey and prevents it from getting hard.  Don’t worry – the alcohol bakes away!

Mix flours and salt.  Pinch butter and oil into flour until the mixture is crumbly with no huge pieces of butter remaining.  Mix cold water and vodka and pour the liquid over your mixture.  Fold together, knead gently, and let rest at room temperature.  Roll out and line your pie dish (see first photo above).  This makes one bottom crust – if you want a top crust, double the recipe.


The Filling:

2 cups thawed blueberries
2 cups thawed raspberries
1/4 cup tapioca pearls
1 cup sugar (use palm sugar to avoid blood sugar spikes)
optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate and/or 1 tablespoon cream

Thaw your frozen berries.  Remember to use extra, as the volume decreases when frozen berries thaw.  Pour away the liquid (but save it!  it’s delicious!).  Mix all ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes.  Fill pie crust.  Cover with a top crust if desired and slit.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool before slicing.

We topped ours with toasted coconut instead of a second crust.  Yum!