sunbutter cookies: the best, “I don’t miss pb” alternative

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via

It’s awesome to enjoy mini-triumphs in the kitchen. This recipe is for sure, the very best peanut butter alternative cookie I’ve ever made or tasted. It’s one of the reasons why we don’t miss pb. Creating an alternative that is better than the original feels amazing, since my friends and family absolutely LOVE this cookie and my son is not missing out on a thing because of his severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via

One of the reasons this cookie is so great is because it calls for superior ingredients. If you want to make better desserts, the quality of the ingredients used really does matter.

Over the years, I’ve tried just about every nut-free spread I could get my hands on and was constantly disappointed. I was thrilled when I found SunButter brand products. Before having to deal with the family situation of removing nut products from our kitchen years ago, peanut butter was a loved staple. I admit to trying it since (while away from my son, of course) and it just wasn’t as good to my tastes anymore. I actually prefer the ingredients and overall taste of sunflower seed butter and one day, plan to make it on my own. SunButter brand comes in organic and sugar free. I can find the original, creamy version in most stores that I shop (even Target) so I tend to pick this variety up the most and is what I used for this recipe.

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via

As far as brown sugar goes, I’ve switched over to the brand, “Serious Food. . . Silly Prices,” dark brown sugar. I picked it up at my local Sprouts market, because it was beautiful and seemed worth a try. I wasn’t necessarily drawn to the basic packaging, it was the sugar crystals that were calling me. This sugar looks, feels and tastes out of this world, and is hard to compare to the options you’ll typically find at the store. I’m certain that switching over has helped to make my recipes for cookies and other desserts even better.

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via

This is a super simple recipe and one I make over and over again. Let’s put our ingredients together and make some yummy cookies!

Mili’s Sweets Sunbutter Cookies Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

3/4 cup salted butter, softened (one and 1/2 sticks)

3/4 cup cold, sunflower seed butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs (I use extra large.)

2 cups all purpose flour (For gluten-free cookies, substitute with artisan, all purpose gluten-free flour.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

If you want to bake the cookies right away, preheat your oven to 375. If you want cookie dough that is a little easier to handle, cover and refrigerate the dough after you make it, for about an hour, and then preheat your oven when you’re ready to enjoy fresh baked cookies. (It’s easier to make the fork-design when the dough is chilled, but it’s not going to change the overall taste, whether you bake the dough right away or not.)

You can mix cookies the old-fashioed way (in a big bowl, with a wooden spoon) or allow a machine to do most of the work for you. I use a standing mixer and the standard metal, beater attachment to mix cookie dough. First place the softened butter, both the granulated and the brown sugars and sunflower seed butter in the bowl. Mix until creamy. Next, add eggs, one at a time.

Next, mix in the dry ingredients until totally combined. You can add the pure vanilla extract last, or after the eggs are incorporated, whatever works best for you.

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via milissweets.comOnce you’re ready to bake, prepare the cookies 6-8-up on a cookie sheet. I make rounds and flatten them, before placing the fork design. Make a simple box of two vertical and two horizontal impressions. From there, sprinkle each one with a liberal amount of granulated sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet after one minute. Allow to cool and enjoy.

I hope you make this recipe, whether you are staying away from peanuts or not! If you do, please let me know how it goes!

A couple side notes:

When a cut apple is out, the oxygen creates a brownish tone to the fruit. The same thing will naturally happen with sunflower seeds that have been cut or made into a butter that is mixed into recipes. The tone is a greenish hue. This is natural, making the food still edible, just like the apple. To avoid it, completely cover and seal the batter when it’s not in use.

As most of you know, this blog is a joy of mine. I take personal time to write my stories and recipes because I love to write and share in this format. All of the recipes I share are like little personal treasures. Each one of them are really made and enjoyed in my kitchen at home. At this time of my life, I do not get paid to highlight specific products. If I was being sponsored, I’d let my readers know. I only share what is in my pantry and what I prefer to use, since when I choose one product over another, it’s because it’s a tried and true, personal choice, and not because any outside source has swayed me.

Thanks for being here! Take care.

xox, Mili

sunbutter cookies, best alternative to pb, recipe via



citrus-orchard reception


citrus orchard reception and hydrangea wedding cake, via

After setting this wedding cake and cupcakes for my son’s Kindergarten teacher, I realized that I have been blessed with the opportunity of catering the weddings of most of my children’s school teachers. It’s sweet to think how they love and nurture my precious child for a whole school year, and in-turn, I am able to love and nurture the dessert table details that they wish for. It’s been a joy that these opportunities have had such perfect timing.

citrus orchard reception and hydrangea wedding cake, via

The highlight of the dessert table, was the centerpiece, the wedding cake for Bridget and Justin. They enjoyed 200 guests at their wedding and each guest received a slice of Perfectly Pineapple, filled with toasted coconut and vanilla butter cream, covered with vanilla butter cream. I placed three tiers on display and made three other, separate tiers for the food caterers to cut on-site.

citrus orchard reception and hydrangea wedding cake, via milissweets.comThe bride wished for everything to be pretty, in either white or ivory. The main detail was her request for cascading, white hydrangea on the cake. On either side were Peach Cobbler cupcakes and mini Vanilla Velvet cupcakes for the children.

citrus orchard reception, hydrangea wedding cake, via

The family orchard in Poway was stunning, set with white tables and chairs and white linens draped to touch the ground – my favorite way to display table linens. The highlight color was gold and one of the best parts as the reception went on, into the evening, were the lights and lanterns that hung from the trees.

citrus orchard reception and hydrangea wedding cake, via

I loved that they used vintage cake cutting knives. Alongside them, in the foreground, I placed a small, framed wedding etiquette sign and three bunches of hydrangea in vintage glass vases, to match the floral used on the cake.

It was a beautiful day for such a wonderful couple. I’m so happy for them and was happy to hear that the cake and dessert table were enjoyed.


cherry pie: gluten-free with flakey, butter crust


cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

When we made plans to visit our friends for dinner the other night, I wanted to bring something special that I knew they would enjoy. I remember them mentioning how much they love cherry pie. I also knew that for the last couple of years, my friends’ husband has been avoiding all gluten products, as a health-conscious choice.

I can totally understand and respect the need and even the desire to avoid certain ingredients, and decided to give myself a baking-challenge: bake a totally gluten-free pie, with from-scratch crust. It’s what I did and as promised, if it worked out really nicely, I would share the recipe.

First, I’ll share my gluten-free pie crust recipe, that can be used for any and every pie you make.  From there, I’ll share my recipe for my from-scratch cherry pie filling, that I’ve been making for my family and friends to enjoy, for the last 10 years or so.

gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via


Mili’s Sweets Gluten-Free Pie Crust Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 and 1/2 cups gluten-free, all purpose flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend, all purpose, gluten-free flour)

2 sticks salted butter (1 cup, cold)

1/3, plus 2 tablespoons cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Tools: pie tin, pastry cutter, parchment paper or silpat mat, bowl, standing mixer, rolling pin

for egg wash (optional): 1 egg white, whisked and applied with a kitchen-safe brush


gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Place the butter in the bowl and and use your pastry cutter to push into the butter, cutting it into small, pea-sized pieces.

Place this mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer, and place the standard paddle attachment. Add the water and mix at medium speed until the dough completely lifts from the bowl.

Use your hands to form the dough into a ball.

gluten-free and all-butter pie crust. Recipe via

Place the dough onto a silpat mat or parchment paper that has been dusted with the gluten-free flour.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough flat, until it’s smooth and about 1/4″ high.

Using the mat or paper, invert the rolled-out dough into your pie pan.

The dough is very similar to shortbread so it’s elastic and super easy to work with. You can fill in any spaces or mistakes with your hands and like magic, it comes together beautifully.

Once your pie pan is prepared with the dough, set it aside. Form another ball with the remaining scraps of dough and re-roll out the rest, that will be used for the top of your pie.

If you like to use an egg wash, for a golden-brown finish to the crust, simply take one egg white and whisk it in a small bowl. Use a kitchen safe brush to apply it onto the inside and all around the crust. It would be best if you do this just before pouring in the prepared pie filling.

Now it’s time to prepare the cherry pie filling. This is so delicious and is definitely amazing in other desserts besides pies. For example, it is over-the-top served with vanilla bean ice cream, used as a filling for cupcakes or as a topping for cheesecake. The list goes on and on. . . (I hope you really enjoy this and tell me if you do make this pie.  This recipe, like all of my recipes that I share with you on my blog, is a personal  treasure.)

Mili’s Sweets Cherry Pie Filling Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

6-7 cups (or about three, 12oz. bags) of dark, sweet pitted cherries.

1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons all purpose flour (When making gluten-free pie, I substitute with Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons salted butter (added after pie has been filled)

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via


Here’s what you’ll do:

Please note that you can find dark, sweet, pitted cherries in the frozen fruit section of your local grocery store. There are also organic varieties. If you have the tools and the time and can pit the many fresh cherries needed for a single pie, then I am amazed! I love the fresh-frozen option and you’ll find that there are better brands than others. I honestly do not want to pit fresh cherries, in fear that I might leave a pit or two in a pie.

Over medium heat, place all of the ingredients (except for the butter) into a large saucepan, including: 6-7 cups of cherries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and water.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. More water will created in the pan as the cherries start to cook. I typically use my wooden spoon to do all of the mixing for fruit pies. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once you see small bubbles forming around the edge of the pan, it’s time to continue stirring. From start to finish, it will take a total of 30 minutes to cook the cherries down to a nice thickness, perfect for pie filling.

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via


Once it’s done, pour the hot prepared filling into the prepared pie crust. Now is the time that you’ll add the two tablespoons of butter. Make little pats and place the pieces all around the top.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next, you’ll cover the pie with the remaining dough. You’ll notice that the dough is delicate, compared to dough that uses shortening. It will make it a little more challenging to lift strips for a lattice. You should have enough remaining dough to either cover the top completely, or to make a lattice.

Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash and if you wish, sprinkle the top of the entire pie with granulated sugar.

I placed the pie in a cookie sheet, in case some filling decided to seep out during baking (which usually happens). It helps to keep the oven clean.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool before serving.

Some people (like my husband) prefer a cold pie. If that’s what you like too, then cover with plastic wrap and serve when you are ready. Vanilla bean ice cream makes the perfect pair with this dessert. I prefer to eat pie without any sides.


cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

I topped the pie with a fake-lattice design, by simply leaving the top strands at the top, without weaving them over and under the bottom pieces. No one noticed, but of course I did. After tasting the pie, I didn’t care either. The crust is light, flakey and absolutely divine. It takes the pie to a whole other level. No one would even care or notice that it’s gluten-free. It’s that good!


Gayle Chase - July 21, 2014 - 6:30 am

You have wonderful pastries. - July 21, 2014 - 8:06 am

Thank you Gayle! xox

plum dahlia and lilies

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

I was honored when Alyssa and Sopek (family) asked me to cater and set the dessert table for their spring wedding. They wanted to keep it simple and weren’t sure about having a cake so I made it happen for them as a gift.

I love working with fresh flowers when decorating cakes and I was so happy to use plum dahlia and lillies for the first time. They were so beautiful and stunning against the ivory butter cream.

What always happens when I cater a wedding that I’m invited to is, I have to miss the actual ceremony. There’s no way around it. Luckily, my husband was there to fill me in on the details as I worked in the open courtyard they had reserved, across from the Natural History Museum at Balboa Park.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

The weather was perfect that day and I was able to set the desserts in the shade, which is always the way to go if in an outdoor venue.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via milissweets.comI made a simple cupcake menu, to match the colors and font-style of their wedding invitation. Initially I planned on folding the cards so that they could face upright. However, the breeze wouldn’t allow it, so I compromised and placed the menu cards under the mini cupcake pedestals.

Guests enjoyed cupcakes in Bananas Foster, Raspberry Truffle, Mocha Chip, Salted Chocolate Caramel, Perfectly Pineapple and Creme Brulee.

plum dahlia and lilies wedding - wedding cake and dessert table via

I never allow for any waste if I have extra flowers on-hand. The bride and groom decided not to have floral arrangements made for the dessert table, so I made use of my glass cylinders and placed a small amount of water to have a pretty arrangements on either end of the table.

This was a joy and a labor of love!


celebrating my beautiful mother

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

There’s no one like my mother. No one who knows me more, whom could ever love me the way that she loves me. No one has sacrificed more for me. Her example is one of the main reasons why I am who I am. It took me a while and a lot of growing up, to truly understand her life and the love that she has given.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This is a woman who deserves to be celebrated! She always puts everyone first and never-ever wants to burden anyone with her personal needs or for any extra attention. She’s just amazing. She feels so loved and well-cared for as it is, so every day is a blessing . . . no need to make a fuss.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

My brother and I were about to change all of that. For her 70th, we wanted to make a fuss and threw her a beautiful birthday party. A whole year has passed, and she is still thanking us and cannot believe that it was all for her!

I invited mostly family and a few of her friends to lunch at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Lakeside. Owner, Maria DiGiovanni, has been friends with my family for so many years, and her food is so delicious – just like the food that we loved at big family gatherings when I was a child. I wanted the food to be authentic and something that my family could really enjoy.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Of course, I would take care of dessert. However, the floral arrangements were the first thing on my mind. I wanted to honor my mother with beautiful flowers everywhere. “Abudanza” came to mind. I set an appointment with my dear friend Karen at Franco’s Flowers and with my own vases, she made my dreams come true.

I had more gorgeous blossoms in Double-Star Lilies, Dahlia, Peonies, Carnations and Roses in pale pinks and ivory, placed in individual water tubes to decorate the bottom of her elevated birthday cake.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via“Pineapple-Coconut Paradise” is her favorite cake that I make. It’s a vanilla custard cake, (that I named “Vanilla Italia”) with fresh pineapple sauce soaked in. It’s filled with a layer of Italian custard and vanilla butter cream. It’s covered with whipped cream and lots of toasted coconut. She is diabetic but once a year, she is “bad” and has a slice of this dessert.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

Besides the cake, the centerpiece of the dessert table was a mural I made with special photos from her life. There was also a small white bird at the center. The invitation and decor was all about a little vintage bird, so I added lace and used birdcages and mason jars throughout the party setting.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

It takes a special maturity (a true gift if you can receive it in-time) to understand that your loved ones are really not all about you. At the beginning of this post, “me” was mentioned several times. That’s really how I felt through childhood – that my mom was all mine. God made her just for me. It wasn’t until I was about 18, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I even began to realize how significant, rich and special her life was before I ever arrived and continued to be every day thereafter. I wanted to learn all about her life and  the best fact was, that it really wasn’t about me at all. I am just some seasoning in her beautiful life.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I had a lot of vintage, handmade table linens and used them throughout the party as well. This was a special  table I set for guests, toward the entry. I wanted them to arrive, drop off their gift, and write her a well-wish or  love note. I placed additional old photographs to view and the framed tribute that I wrote for her:

70 Years of Maria Rosaria

Inside the five-foot frame that holds this beautiful woman,

is God-given strength and courage to move mountains.

On July 12, 1943, she was pronounced dead at birth,

as the seventh child of her family. Her mother saved her life.

At the age of 13, she followed her father’s dream of coming to America.

She entered the 6th grade, not speaking a word of English.

As a high school student, she had to become the woman of the house.

She takes pride in her impeccable work ethic.

She gives all that she has, and all of her personal time to

her faith, her family and to the poor.

She was a single-mother and raised two children.

While in hardship, she worked odd jobs to be sure

her children attended Catholic school.

She overcame poverty.

She always maintained her generosity.

She has worked for Mercy/Scripps Hospital a total of 34 years.

She survived cancer.

She collects rosaries.

She misses her mother every day.

Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are her heroes.

She lives for the kisses she receives from her grandchildren.

We adore you, Maria Rosaria!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

This was the pretty birdcage arrangement placed at the gift/tribute table.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

I made very simple party favors. I packaged clear rock candies on a stick, with a Shabby-Chic-labeled thank you note. It was super simple and I had enough so that every guest (including children) could take one home.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.comEveryone loved the dessert table! Every single sweet vanished and guests took the time to come up and look at the mural. I made cupcakes in Double Dutch, Lemonade, Orange Dream and Tiramisu, chocolate chip cookies and I provided fresh apricots and cherries for the diabetics in our group.

The very best part of the entire day was when my mom blew out her candles. I wish I had a better camera on-hand that day, but despite the low-quality, you have to see the joy from the children and the look on my mom’s face – this moment was priceless!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via

The children helped to place all 70 candles on the cake. As soon as they were lit, I had to move fast to present it to her! Thank goodness my hair was back because that was a serious flame! The children and their joy really helped to make this moment so incredibly special.

This was a day my family and especially my mom, will never forget. She’ll be 71 next weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate her sweetness and her heart of gold, all over again.

xox, Mili