Dairy-Free Pesto

Last month my mom and I started a food and nutrition group, sort of a support group for healthy lifestyles. We have a variety of special diets in the group, and one of the ladies was really missing pizza! So this month’s challenge was to create a gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free pizza! Yes!

So this is the first installment in my pizza experimentation adventures. I made the first trial run pizza last night and it was delicious! Here is the recipe for the pesto. I had made dairy-free pesto before, but didn’t have nutritional yeast. That really adds the finishing touch! You wouldn’t know it’s missing the parmesan.

4 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cashews, soaked about 4 hours (or additional 1/4 cup walnuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/2-1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Makes enough pesto for about two 12-inch pizzas.

And that’s it!

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

This recipe is based on a delicious soup I had at Whole Foods. Smooth, creamy, comforting—perfect for a rainy day! 

3 pounds butternut squash
2 apples, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream (coconut cream may also work)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds and pulp. Place squash halves facedown in a 9 x 13 glass pan. Pour 1 inch of water into the pan. Roast at 375° for about 1 hour, until tender.

Mix the apples, onion, garlic, and ginger in a 9 x 13 glass pan with enough olive oil to coat. Bake with the squash in the oven 45-60 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples are tender.

Scoop cooled squash into the blender, add the apple mixture and chicken broth and blend until smooth. Add the cream and blend again, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.*

When soup is smooth, transfer to a soup pot to warm up on low until ready to serve.

* You may wish to add some of the liquid when you transfer the soup to the pot instead, as the blender will be very full!

Variations on a Russian Teacake

As you can probably tell from the picture, these are not your ordinary Russian teacakes. What they may lack in snowy whiteness, however, they make up for in delicious flavor and gluten-free, naturally-sweetened goodness! The luscious, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth flavor is like a cross between a pecan sandie and a Russian teacake. These were such a big hit at Christmas, I decided they could qualify as a winter cookie, at least until Valentine’s! 😉

On another note, that lovely quilted and embroidered snowflake table decoration was made by someone very special who just opened her very own Etsy store! In fact, every one of the beautiful napkins and other decor in the background of my blog were all made by the fabulous and talented Elaine. Please visit her store, Anna Katherine Styles, to find your own lovely table runners, mug rugs, and specialty fabric purses. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can place an order and have it made specially for you!

And…here’s the recipe.

Russian Teacakes
revised from the original Betty Crocker recipe 

1 cup butter, softened*
1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar**
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup white rice flour 
3/4-1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup arrowroot 
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and pecans 
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered coconut sugar for rolling (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 400º. 
Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. 
Stir in flours, nuts, and salt until dough holds together (add more brown rice flour if dough is too sticky). 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.
Roll cooled cookies in powdered coconut sugar and place on serving plate. 

* If you’re like me, you don’t want to wait hours for the butter to soften! If you choose to melt the butter in a saucepan instead, refrigerate the dough about 10 minutes before attempting to roll into balls. The temperature of the butter is the key to a workable dough. If the butter is too warm, the dough will just fall apart and leave butter all over your hands. If you leave the dough in the fridge too long, it will be hard as a rock and you’ll need to let it sit out to soften the butter again!

 ** To make powdered coconut sugar, whirl regular coconut sugar in the blender until fine as dust. To minimize sugar dust in your kitchen, place a towel over the blender lid while blending and wait 5 to 10 minutes after blending before opening lid. 

Winter Spice Bonbons 

It’s time for Christmas cookies! My sweet husband has requested 7 kinds of Christmas cookies (apparently lots of cookies were a tradition in his family). We’ll see how far I get! 😊

This first installment is based on the Lara bar. Many copycat Lara bars have been posted across the internet; this one is based on the seasonal flavors (like gingerbread cookie) I had found last year at Whole Foods. They were so good! And now I can make them to enjoy any time of year!

I hope you enjoy them too!

Winter Spice Bonbons

3 cups whole pitted dates
2 cups pecans
1 cup cashews
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Grind all ingredients in food processor* until smooth and sticky (you may still have some nut pieces). Form into balls or press flat between parchment paper and cut into into bars. Store in refrigerator.

*Note: this does not work well in a blender!

Creamy Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

I have tried several non-dairy yogurt recipes, and have not been so satisfied with any as I have been with this adaptation of the Urban Poser’s cheesecake recipe. It has just the right creaminess, does not taste like coconut milk, and has just enough nutty flavor to be delicious but not overpowering. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Recipe:

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
20 billion probiotics

Blend cashews, coconut milk, and water in Vitamix or food processor until completely smooth. Open probiotic capsules and add powder to cashew mixture. Blend completely. Scoop mixture into a glass bowl and place in yogurt maker (keep warm at 100-110°) overnight, about 12 hours. 

When yogurt smells sufficiently fermented, remove from yogurt maker and scoop back into blender. Add the following and blend well:

1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cream, butter, or ghee
1/4 teaspoon gelatin mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water 

Pour into bowl or individual jars and refrigerate 6-8 hours before serving.

Honey Lavender “Ice Cream”

The first flurries of snow have finally fallen on our side of town. The winter is almost here, though a few of the flowers in the garden are still holding on. This recipe celebrates the lovely lavender, one of the last blooming flowers of summer.

4 cups coconut cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut sugar 
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon guar gum*
1/2 tablespoon bourbon, optional**

Mix all ingredients except guar gum in blender. While blender is running, sprinkle in guar gum. Pour mixture into ice cream maker freeze according to machine instructions. 

*guar gum may be omitted for those on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or if you are using coconut milk that already contains it rather than using the pure coconut cream. It helps emulsify the water and fat content of the coconut cream so that it freezes smoothly rather than with ice crystals formed from the separated water.

**The alcohol is added to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. It still does freeze quite hard even with the bourbon, so you will need to take it out of the freezer about half an hour before serving it.

Strawberry “Ice Cream”

As summer is coming to a close and the beautiful fall light begins to slant through the trees with its particular golden hue, there is time for one more warm weather recipe: delicious coconut milk ice cream, brimming with the flavor of summer strawberries. This is sure to please both the coconut hater and coconut lover, as the strawberries and vanilla successfully camouflage the coconut flavor.

2 cups coconut cream, at room temperature
2 cups frozen strawberries (12 to 14 medium-large strawberries)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon guar gum*
1/2 tablespoon bourbon, optional**

Mix all ingredients except guar gum in blender. While blender is running, sprinkle in guar gum. Pour mixture into ice cream maker freeze according to machine instructions.

*guar gum may be omitted for those on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or if you are using coconut milk that already contains it rather than using the pure coconut cream. It helps emulsify the water and fat content of the coconut cream so that it freezes smoothly rather than with ice crystals formed from the separated water (this is also helpful when making ice creams with added fruit, like this one).

**The alcohol is added not for additional flavor, but to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. It still does freeze quite hard even with the bourbon, so you will need to take it out of the freezer about half an hour before serving it.