Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomato-Less "Marinara" Sauce: A Nightshade-Free, Tomato Style Sauce

Somewhere around 2005 I was deep in the middle of my advanced yoga teacher training. A natural, whole food approach to eating had already been a well established culture for our small little family but as a part of the training program I was encouraged to experiment with different perspectives and approaches to healthy living. We embraced this challenge with enthusiasm and as it has turned out, this "explorer" mentality is something that our family eventually just adopted as a general way of life.

This approach has led us through a number of amazing seasons. We've been vegetarians and vegans. We've embraced Ayurvedic cooking and medicine (learn more HERE) and explored all sorts of other fun and interesting choices. And as we've meandered down this path of discovery, we've found that some recipes just stuck with us, even when our journey evolved into another new phase. They've become our standards; the kind of beloved staples that one generation passes on to the next.

This blog was originally started as a way to share our journey, and the recipes we found along the way, with other people on this same path. For us, food has always been about community; about "breaking bread".....even if we are in a time when "bread" is off the menu.  

Even before I needed to be nightshade free for personal health reasons (learn more HERE), this tomato-less marinara was one of our family's most treasured staples. It's been in our family for over nine years. In fact, an earlier version of this recipe was the second post that I put up on here! It has evolved a bit over the years but I can honestly say that it is one of the greatest things that I have ever made. One of my favorite things being how packed with healthy vegetables it is. I'm super excited to be sharing it anew with you guys and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.....maybe this will become a favorite for your family as well. 

Tomato-less Marinara (nightshade free)
Makes about 1 US quart (4 cups/945ml)


1 1/2 cups (8oz/225g) 1" cubed carrots (about 2 medium)
3 cups (1lb/455g) peeled, 1" cubed Butternut squash (from a 1 1/2 lb/680g squash)
1 1/2 cup (8oz/225g) peeled, 1" cubed red beets 
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups (9oz/250g) diced yellow onion (1 medium)
3 TBLS Ghee or other fat for frying 
1 cup (250ml) water 
1 cup (250ml) Merlot or Cabernet wine* 
2 tablespoons coconut vinegar (or other vinegar)
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice 
1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning herbs**
2  teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, or more to taste
Optional: up to 1/2 cup of water/wine to desired consistency

*Can you substitute anything for the wine? Well yes, you can. However the sauce just won't taste the same and it won't be THIS sauce. So I leave that substitution in your capable hands and taste. If alcohol is the concern, consider cooking the sauce for longer, adding more liquid as needed.

**Substitute Italian seasoning with a mix of 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as: Basil rosemary, oregano & thyme. 

For results that are most representative of this recipe , I recommend making it by the weights listed.

Special equipment:

Stove top vegetable steamer (Like THIS one) or a Pressure cooker (I recommend THIS one)

Immersion blender (THIS is my favorite) or regular blender


Prepare the first 5 ingredients as stated above (chopping, mincing, etc…), set the garlic and onions aside. Use a steamer or pressure cooker to cook the the carrots, butternut squash and beets together till soft (can be pierced with a skewer). This takes about 40 minutes with a stove top steamer, over a medium high heat.

While the veggie mixture is cooking, heat the ghee (or other fat) over medium heat till melted and hot. Add the prepared garlic and onions to the hot pan and cook until they are caramelized and soft (this adds extra savory flavor to the sauce and imparts flavor to the fat). Set aside until the rest of vegetables are ready.

Transfer the steamed vegetables, onion mixture, water, wine, vinegar and lemon juice to a medium sized sauce pan and blend till smooth. I prefer my immersion blender for this job. If you don't have an  immersion blender, use a regular blender, then transfer the puree to a medium sauce pan. 

Stir in the herbs and salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes (longer if trying to cook out the all the alcohol). Stir periodically to keep the sauce from sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan. At this point you can add more liquid to desired consistency. Consistency will vary from batch to batch. 

Remove from heat. Serve immediately or pour into mason jars and let cool to room temperature. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. The sauce will thicken some once chilled. When ready to use, reheat over medium heat first then add more wine or water if needed.

We love to pair this sauce with our favorite grain free pasta by Cappello's. It is delicious!

For Pizza Sauce: To achieve a thicker "paste" for pizza sauce, omit 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the initial water. 

Pictures for Pinterest (just click photo to pin)


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cherry Chiffon Cream Pies w/ Chocolate Macaroon Crust(Nut/Grain/Dairy/Egg Free)

These days it seems like waiting around every corner there's a profound and thought provoking new perspective anxiously coiled in anticipation for that bright, illuminating moment when our respective smartphones and tablets spring to life. Poised and ready, these new views seek to challenge us to think different and re-evaluate this thing called life and the vast and inexhaustible mysteries of the human experience. 

It's during times like these that I find myself drawn back to days gone by; to nobler times when the genteel overruled the grotesque and when dignity and propriety were the order of the day. It is from these revered times that I draw the sentiment which so aptly describes how I feel about this particular recipe. It is in the immortal words of the seminal and enduringly timeless rock band Warrant that I find my truth:  
She's my cherry pie, cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise. Tastes so good make a grown man cry....Sweet cherry pie, oh yea
In all seriousness though, I spent a number of my younger years in the "valentine's haters" club. Over the past 16 years of marriage, motherhood, working, sickness, recovery, life etc etc, I've realized that there are a whole lot of things out there that legitimately deserve to be on my 'dislike' list; and at the end of the day.....a holiday that celebrates love and appreciation for the people in my life just isn't one of those things.

And amazingly enough, once I let go of that particular bias, I found that my love of Valentine's day and everything surrounding it has just grown and grown with each passing February. So now I make no apologies for throwing my heart and soul into celebrating it each year. Mind you, I don't think shimmery balloons, teddy bears and cheap chocolates are ever a suitable demonstration of your feelings (unless you count that one year that I completely filled Ben's office with them while he was away at lunch....but that was different), however....I do believe that there is no greater time of year to throw yourself into extravagant, indulgent, luxurious desserts. I mean honestly...."love" always gets a pass right?! And so, in the name of love, I give you this year's offering......

Cherry Cream Pie (tarts) w/Chocolate Macaroon Crust

Nut/Grain/Dairy/Egg Free


Chocolate Macaroon Crust
1 1/2 cups unsweetened extra fine-shredded coconut (I recommend Let’s Do Organic* for my recipes)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon full fat coconut milk

*You will find that different shredded coconut brands act differently. This has to do with the "fineness" of the shred or grind. Though "Let's DO Organic' doesn't label their shredded coconut as extra fine, it is. I recommend an extra fine shred for my macaroon recipes because it holds the best. If you use a coarser shred you may find that you need to use less wet ingredients and the final product may be more fragile. Consistency differences from brand to brand are just one of the quirks to grain free baking. Pulsing the coarser shredded coconut brands in a food processor may help with these issues.

Cherry Cream Filling:
1/2 cup (about one cans worth) of cold coconut cream (like found at the top of a chilled can of coconut milk)
4-5 tablespoons cherry jam (see recipe below, or use store bought)
added sweetener if needed

Whipped Cream Topping:
1/2 cup of cold coconut whip cream (as seen above)
Honey or maple syrup if desired, sweeten to taste (1 tablespoon is usually good)
Shaved bittersweet chocolate and/or whole cherries to garnish

**Cherry Jam (make a few hours to 3 days in advance)
1 pound fresh or frozen pitted cherries 
1/4 cup Madeira wine or water
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (more if desired)
1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Directions for making the jam: Gently pulse the cherries in a blender or food processor. This step can also be  done at the end of the cooking process if you have an immersion blender. Don't puree them, just pulse until the cherries are coarsely ground, leaving some large pieces for texture

Transfer to a small sauce  pan and the rest of the ingredients then bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken. This could take anywhere from 20-35 minutes depending on the size of your pan/pot. Stir often toward the end, pulling the spoon across the pan. You'll know it's about done when you pull the spoon through the jam and it takes a second for the juices to fill the space back in.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then chill. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. If you find it is too thick once cooled, stir in a little more water or lemon juice to desired consistency.                                             

Directions for the tarts:

All components can be made ahead of time and assembled when desired.

For the crust: 

Makes 12 mini (2 1/2 inch) tartlets, 4 small (3 1/2 inch) tart shells or 1 (6-7 inch) pie/tart

Preheat the oven to 345 degrees. Lightly grease your tart pan.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix well. 

Press the macaroon dough evenly into the tart pans. About 1 rounded tablespoon per mini tart or 3 level tablespoons for the four small shells. Take your time pressing the dough firmly into the pan and shaping the sides for best results. If your house is super warm, chill the unbaked tart shells in the freezer for a few minutes.

Bake the mini shells for about 15 minutes (times will vary from oven to oven and size of pan). Check them half way through. Gently press down the center of each tart if it is rounding up, rotate the pan and continue to bake till done. They should be firm to the touch. Let cool completely in the pan or they will break apart. They will be much stronger once cooled.

For the Cherry Chiffon Cream:

Transfer the cold coconut cream to your standing mixer bowl (or medium sized bowl if using a hand mixer) and beat on high for 2-3 minuets or until thick and fluffy. This can take longer with a hand mixer. Continue beating air into the cream as you add the jam 1 tablespoon at a time. If you need to slow the mixer to add and return to high. Once all the jam is added, let the mixer go for another 3 minutes or so to get the lightest, most airy cream possible. The cherry cream should have the texture of softly whipped cream. Not to dense but too runny. Transfer the cream to a bowl and use immediately or chill to enhance the the flavor and color. If the cream was a bit too runny, chill it and it ail firm up. Beat again till fluffy before filling tart shells.

Clean the beaters and bowl to remove any residual cherry cream, then beat the rest of the coconut cream with the optional sweetener. Beat till light and airy. Alternatively you can always whip the cream topping before preparing the cherry cream so that you don't have to clean the bowl at all. This is, of course, a more logical approach but then that would be just a tad too put together and organized for the likes of me, haha... :)

Assembling the tarts:

Carefully remove the cooled tart shells from the pan, unless using you're doing a single pie crust, in which case you can just leave it in the pie pan. I usually place a cookie sheet on top of the mini tart pan and flip the shells out onto the sheet. Sometimes they require a little tap to get them all out. Be gentle as the tart shell edges can be fragile.

Scoop mounds of cherry cream into each tart. Smooth them out if needed. 

Using a piping bag with a star tip (or whatever you like), pipe a small amount of plain coconut cream on top of the cherry cream. 

Garnish the tops of each filled tart with shaved bittersweet chocolate and a cherry. Serve right away or chill for later use.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge: A Guest Post By James Trenda

Today I am sooooo excited to have James from "I'm No Chef" grace the pages of my blog with this absolutely amazing fudge recipe. James and I met over on Instagram because of his brilliant photos. And his recipes are just as brilliant. Go find him on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Your kitchen will be better for it!

Here I bid you adieu, this is probably my last post before Christmas…unless some fancy strikes me. Happy holidays to all of you. Celebrate with gusto!

Christmas is right around the corner and the air is frigid in these parts. Heeding the wind and weather, I wore a hoodie under a down-insulated parka the other day while rockin' my 49ers beanie. Not quite Eskimo, but pretty close. Unfortunately, I forgot my gloves, so my hands were freezing while I was trying to drive. 

I absolutely love this time of year, though, even if my car’s heat is on the fritz. Snow covered Pines, white elephant parties, and piping hot chocolate make for good times.  But there is one thing that provokes me during the wintry holiday season—more so than flu shot mandates and dry knuckles. It’s more aggravating than burnt gingerbread cookies and oversized lawn ornaments. It starts the moment after Thanksgiving—literally right after—and it lasts through the hanging of new calendars. You know it’s coming, but you can’t stop it. I’m referring to the invasion of the procrastinators, of course. No matter what time of day you go out, there are swarms of people, everywhere, like bees on a half-empty soda can. They’re feisty, and they all want that sweet, sweet commercialized nectar. After all, ‘tis the season to shop, you know.

 [Pause for satirical effect]


Fudge is one of those things that I didn’t eat a whole lot of growing up, and I don’t have a particularly good reason for why that is. I don’t even remember what possessed me to make this, but I promise you after you taste this you will feel possessed. Possessed by your primal hankering for smooth, rich chocolate. Possessed by an innate impulse to downplay its decadence, so as to ward off competing chocoholics. You’ll be possessed like an elf in a workshop—because you’ll want to make it again and again. 

When I set out to make fudge, I knew it had to hold up at room temperature. That’s how fudge should be, and that’s how traditional fudge is. How else are you going to take it with you to a party to share with all your friends? You were planning on sharing, weren’t you? You don’t want to have to store it in the fridge; it’ll be forgotten. And who’s to say there will even be a fridge where you’re going?

So, make this recipe, share it with those you love or those who accept bribes and be sure to come back and let me know what you think. But before I go, what’s one thing you love about this time of year?

From the cold mountains of East Tennessee, 

James (@imnochef) 

Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge

1 cup pure maple syrup, grade B
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter (or ghee for the casein/lactose free)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces whole almonds, roasted and chopped (optional)

Cook’s Note: You can make the marshmallows a couple days ahead of time or reserve 3 ounces — about 1 cup OR about 1/4 of the entire marshmallow recipe — of the marshmallow cream before transferring the rest to a pan. Then start on the fudge.  Also, don’t coat the reserved marshmallows with anything, such as starches or coconut flakes.

Method: (Updated)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Arrange the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let them cool off for a few minutes and then coarsely chop the almonds.

3. Lightly grease an 8-inch x 8-inch pan (for smaller cubes) or a 7.5-inch x 4.5-inch loaf pan (for larger cubes like the ones pictured). Line with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to lift out the fudge after it cools.

4. Attach a candy thermometer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the maple syrup, coconut milk, butter (preferred) or ghee, and salt and bring the mixture to a full simmer over medium heat, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook the mixture, stirring every 5 - 10 minutes to prevent the sugar from burning, until its temperature reaches 240 degrees F (soft ball stage).  The more the mixture reduces, the more frequently you’ll need to stir.

Cook’s Note: Make sure your thermometer is submerged enough into the liquid to get an accurate reading. Since there’s not a lot of liquid in the pan to begin with, you’ll want to start keeping a close eye on it after 20 minutes. If necessary, tilt the pan toward the thermometer side so that the tip is fully submerged and the surface of the liquid is closer to the immersion line on your thermometer. Read the temperature for about 20 to 30 seconds to get a good reading and to make sure you haven't gone too far. If it’s not even close to soft ball stage (240 degrees F) or if it starts to drop in temperature, rest the pan back on the burner and continue cooking. Keep checking the temperature every few minutes until you get a steady reading of 240 degrees F.  It usually takes me about 30 to 35 minutes of total cooking time to reach 240 degrees F, but how long it takes for you may vary.

5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Using a clean sturdy spatula or wooden spoon stir in the marshmallows until about half of it is melted. Then stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla until the chocolate is completely melted and the marshmallows are completely incorporated. If using, stir in the chopped almonds.

6. Transfer the mixture into your prepared dish lined with parchment paper and smooth the top with parchment paper or a rubber spatula.

7. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 4 hours, but overnight would be best.  If cooling it overnight, let it cool to room temperature first, then cover with foil.

8. If necessary, run a knife or thin rubber spatula along the edges and corners of the pan to loosen the fudge. Remove the fudge from the pan and set on a flat cutting surface. Using a clean, smooth-edged knife, cut the fudge in to square blocks or other desired shape.

Cook’s Note: For best results, wipe the blade of the knife clean after each cut and only cut the fudge straight down in one continuous motion. Store fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.


Thank you so much, Jenni, for letting me stop by and hang out for a bit.  You’re such an inspiration to me and so many others.  Your food, your pictures, your family, and your story will keep us warm this winter and throughout our lives.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Caramel Apple Coconut Macaroons (Grain/Dairy/Refined Sugar Free, Vegan)

Caramel Apple Coconut Macaroons

Egg/Dairy/Gluten/Grain/Cane Sugar Free Primal/Paleo


1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4  cup coconut milk 
1 1/2 cups finely shredded coconut (I use  "Let's Do Coconut")
1/2 cup super fine blanched almond flour (for best results use THESE brands)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Bare Fruit Crunchy Green Apple Chips, broken into tiny pieces (or homemade)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil

Get the caramel topping recipe HERE  


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, combine the maple syrup and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook till the liquid is reduced by about half (or 1/4 cup but no less). This takes between 5-7 minutes. You can check by pouring the sauce into a liquid measuring cup. If it's not quite there, just pour back into the pot and reduce some more.

While the sauce is cooking, combine the almond flour (scoop and sweep method), coconut*, cinnamon and crushed apple pieces in a medium sized bowl. Mix till well blended.

When the sauce is ready, add it, the vanilla and the oil to the mixture. Mix until well combined. Careful the sauce may still be quite hot.

Using a rounded measuring tablespoon, scoop up a spoonful of dough. Drag the spoon up the side of the bowl to gently press dough into the spoon. Tap the spoon with the open side facing down on the side of the bowl and allow the formed dough to fall into you hand. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till golden around the edges and a little on the tops. Times will vary from oven to oven.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Cookies will be fragile while they are still hot, but will hold well once cooled. 

Eat as is or drizzle with your favorite caramel recipe and allow to set. Get my caramel topping recipe HERE.  If desired, push a Popsicle stick in the tops of each cookie and serve.

Makes 12-15 cookies depending on how packed your dough was and how much dough you ate while working. :)

*If your coconut shreds are fairly thick, you may need to pulse the almond flour and coconut together in a food processor a few times to get the right texture.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vietnamese Inspired Chicken & Cabbage Salad (Paleo)

Once upon a time...long long ago, a little American girl packed up with her family and moved to Southeast Asia. As you might imagine this was quite an adventure!  It was filled with new smells, tastes, sounds, colors and many more things the girl had never experienced before.  
The open markets in Asia remind me of the farmers markets here, only on steroids.  They're bustling with hundreds of people selling, waving hands, yelling and negotiating prices for fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and much more! It was a beautiful thing!  My love for these new tastes and experiences was forever sealed.  I pretty much love all Asian styles of cooking now. 
This recipe is a light salad, reminiscent of Vietnamese and Cambodian cooking.  The Nước chm Sauce is modified to make it a little less fishy for my kids...and they LOVE it.  I also added olive oil for body and omitted the commonly used garlic and red chili's.  This makes for a very fresh salad taste that your whole family will love.

The Savoy Cabbage in this dish is a sweet, tender, light and crinkly cabbage.  Savoy is high in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber.  It's also a very good source of fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  If you have trouble finding it at your market you can also use Chinese cabbage, or a mixture of romaine and ice burg lettuce cut into very thin slices.

A word about fish sauce... it is important to buy a good fish sauce that is from the first pressing, with no added fillers, colors or chemicals. "Red Boat Fish Sauce" is a great fish sauce and is free of additives and sugar.

Vietnamese Style Chicken and Cabbage Salad

Paleo, Grain/Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Nut Free


2 cooked chicken breast, pulled or shredded

1 small head of  Savoy Cabbage (about 5 cups) thinly sliced

1 cup  julienned carrots

6-7  Spring green onion tops, thinly sliced

1/4 cup  Mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup  Basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup  Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Nước chm Inspired Salad Dressing

1/4 cup water or coconut water (the clear stuff, not milk or cream)
2-3 Tbls  fresh lime juice (to taste)
2 Tbls fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbls  honey (omit for 21DSD & Whole30 plans)
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbls mild flavored Olive Oil or other oil 
1/2 chopped red seeded chili is optional


If I can, I use leftover roasted chicken. Otherwise I roast the chicken breasts.  This makes the chicken very moist and easily pulled.  To roast chicken breasts:  Place them in a baking dish with a cup of chicken broth and roast them at around 300 degrees for about 25 minuets or till cooked through (165 internal temp), baste a few times.  Cool a bit then pull into thin strips or shred.

Thinly slice the cabbage, carrots and spring onion tops(the green parts) into long strips.  

Roughly chop the herbs and place all the above ingredients into a large bowl.

In a seperate bowl or mason jar, measure out all the dressing ingredients.  Shake or mix well.

Pour the Dressing over the salad, toss and serve with Sriracha Chilie Sauce or other chili sauce.

Feel free to play with the salad dressing ratios to suit your taste.

This article was originally published 07/2011 and republished on 10/2013

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Cups w/ Vanilla Maple Whipped Cream(Egg/Nut/Dairy/Refined Sugar Free)


There's a special place in my heart reserved for fall. I think that's true of most people as well, but even more than just a general fondness for fall, I'm specifically in love with the change......

It's not just the cool weather and moody skies that I love; it's feeling those unexpected shocks of cool air that cut through the last steamy remnants of summer. It's suddenly noticing that the leaves are now green in the middle and brown on the edges. It's never quite knowing what time it is because the waning light is changing so quickly. Fleeting as it is, there's just something magical about the whole process.

This recipe embodies the whole beautiful experience to me. The warm flavors of pumpkin and nutmeg, beckoning me to embrace the coming fall season; even as the chilled chiffon airiness and bright, fresh whipped cream cling to the memory of those long lingering last summer days.
We only have a few short weeks like this each year, and this special treat is one of the ways that our family revels in the subtle passing of another glorious summer and embraces the coming colder days. I hope that you all enjoy it as much as we do.

Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Cups w/ Vanilla Maple Whipped Cream (revised)

Paleo, Dairy/Egg/Nut/Refined Sugar Free Grain/Gluten Free, Paleo, Primal


1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (I used Libby's organic or fresh pumpkin puree)
1 cup chilled coconut cream* (takes 1-2 cans)
4-5 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

3/4 teaspoon gelatin powder (I use Great Lakes grass fed beef gelatin)
1 tablespoon water

*To make whipped coconut cream for the mousse, chill 2 cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge at least overnight or longer. When ready to use, open the can and scoop out the cream leaving the liquid behind. 

Coconut cream Tips: 

Even if the coconut cream is not fully solid once chilled, it will whip up nicely. Just pour off the cold cream, leaving behind as much watery liquid as possible. I actually find this cream gives me smoothest and most voluminous "whipped" cream.

Due to the nature of coconut milk and it's cream, sometimes you can get a "grainy" batch. This happens when the fat particles separate from the liquid into tiny grainy bits. This kind of cream does not work well as "whipped" cream. It needs to be silky and smooth to start with in order to produce a silky smooth mousse. Try another can and transfer this milk/cream to a jar to save for other another use like smoothies or soup. You can also freeze it into ice cube trays. 


For the mousse:

Set cream aside in a small bowl.

In a small (1/3 cup size) metal measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over the tablespoon of water and allow to bloom for about 5 minutes. Gelatin needs to be sprinkled evenly with no lumps. Set aside to bloom.

Place the metal cup with the gelatin over a burner set to medium heat and gently melt the gelatin mixture till it becomes liquid with no sign of graininess. It must be completely melted and clear or you will get gelatin bits in your mousse. Do not let it boil. Alternatively you can use a small microwave safe container instead and and melt the gelatin in the microwave with a few short bursts. then let it cool slightly, but not so long that it sets.

In a large mixing bowl combine the to pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and spices. Using a standing or hand held mixer with whisk attachment, beat mixture till smooth. I use my Kitchenaide with this 3 quart mixing bowl for small batches like this.

Pour the melted gelatin into the pumpkin mixture while whipping it. Continue beating till well combined.

In another bowl, beat the cream till light and fluffy, about a minute. Then add the whipped cream to the pumpkin mixture and beat again till well combined.

Immediately transfer into cups or ramekins, cover and chill for 2-4 hours or until set.

To serve, top with the "isi whipper" cream or just regular whipped coconut cream and garnish with nutmeg.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups worth. How many servings.... I leave that up to you. But I find this recipe generally serves 2.

For the Vanilla Maple ISI Whipper Cream (Get an isi HERE)

1/2 cup liquid coconut cream (just the cream, I use Natures Forrest for my isi whipper. It tends to stay more liquid when chilled, use the Thai Kitchen or other brand if making regular cream)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour all ingredients into your isi whipper, swirl to mix, charge and shake 15-20 times. Chill for an hour or so unless the cream was already cold. You can test a little to make sure it's coming out nice and thick. If not, chill a little longer. If you've chilled it for a few hours or more, you will need to let it sit out for a few minutes on the counter before dispensing. (Coconut cream can get very thick as it chills, but it liquifies pretty quickly). If you have trouble dispensing, turn the canister upside down and give it a good shake or whack to help get the cream down toward the dispenser.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Belly-Friendly No Bake "Cheesecake" Bites (Gluten/Casein/Refined Sugar Free)

Well as a lot of you might already know, with the help of a bunch of amazingly generous folks, our Kickstarter was a huge success. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about.....just watch this.)

Needless to say, after a crazy 17 day push I was more than a little bit worn out! In fact, it's taken me almost two weeks to sort out all my plans and get the "post-kickstarter" balls rolling. So as a thanks to all those who supported the Kickstarter (and a bit of a teaser as to what the book will be like) I'm going to go ahead and release the much anticipated (and promised) Cashew Cheesecake Bites! 

Obviously, since I'm posting this recipe for the world to see, I'm sharing this with more than just the Kickstarter supporters, but here's why.....

There's an old adage that says: 

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little 'extra'." 

This is a theme that runs through everything that I do and is something that I always try to come back to, not just in the kitchen, but in all of life. I strive to make everything I do be, in some way or another, unique, creative and always have that little extra. This will be especially true of the book. In fact, the whole concept of the book is more or less built on this one simple principle. 

So yes, there are any number of cashew cheesecake recipes out there. And they are all really great. But there's not a lot of ones using fermented cashew cheese as the base. 

Typically non-dairy cheesecakes use lemon juice to add the tartness that is associated with dairy based cheesecakes. By fermenting the cashew mixture we can get that wonderfully mingled tart and sweet flavor without having it taste distinctly like lemon. The fermenting process also takes out much of the "cashewy" flavor that so often dominates theses types of cakes. This gives us sooooo many more options when it comes to complimentary flavors and let's not forget about all those "belly friendly" probiotics too!

In truth, this recipe isn't that different from any other non-dairy cheesecake. It takes a few simple preparatory steps but other than that it's pretty basic. And there is the "little extra" that I was talking about. Just a few simple steps added to the "ordinary" and what you get is a treat that's nothing short of Extraordinary!!! It really does taste like cheesecake.

Belly-Friendly No Bake "Cheesecake" Bites

Grain/Gluten/Egg/Casein Free


For the filling:

3 cups non roasted cashews* (soaked for 2-4 hours)
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
The contents of 3 or 4 probiotic capsules, equivalent to 40-45 billion probiotic strains** (what I use)
1 teaspoon gelatin powder plus 2 tablespoons water 
3/4 cup maple syrup 
3/4 cup softened or liquid ghee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

(You can add 1-2 extra tablespoons of coconut milk if needed to keep the batter moving in the blender. However, these will turn out much better if you can manage without the extra liquid)

Vegan Subs: Replace ghee with coconut oil. Omit gelatin, it will be slightly softer. Use vegan friendly sweetener

*It is possible to sub soaked slivered almonds or macadamias here. You may need to adjust the liquid content slightly with each nut. The texture with nuts other than cashews can be more grainy and less creamy.

**Probiotics are used to make a tart cashew cheese, much in the same way as making yogurt. It is possible to use yogurt starter, but unless you know the live probiotic count in your starter it could be difficult to know how much to use to get the desired tartness. Tis is also the potential problem with whey. HERE is a great probiotic that is often readily available in most health stores. I recommend 4 capsules of this particular brand.

For the Crust:

1 cup fine ground almond flour (such as Honeyville)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or vegan friendly sweetener)
3 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You will need 1 standard size loaf pan (approx. 9" x 5") lined with parchment paper.

For the chocolate coating (optional)

1 bag Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips or 10 oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon Ghee or coconut oil. 


Preparing the Cashews:

The night before making your "cheesecake", combine the cashews and coconut milk in food processor and process until smooth. This will take up to 10 minutes to get the smoothness necessary. Patience is a virtue here. (as seen in the 1st row of pictures)

- At first you might want to stop the processor a few times and push down any cashew that creeps up the sides. Eventually it will move cleanly on it's own. 

- You will notice a change towards the end. It will become quite smooth and creamy in color. It should be approx the texture of a smooth ricotta cheese. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the smoother it is, the better the probiotic distributes, which is essential.

Once the mixture is smooth, you can add the contents of the probiotic capsules to the mixture. Blend again till well combined. 
I add the probiotic last just in case the cashew mixture gets too hot for it. Temperatures above 110 degrees can begin to kill the probiotic cultures. It will be warm to the touch but it can't be too hot. Allow it to cool a bit if needed before adding the probiotic. This isn't usually a problem with higher end processors.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover the bowl with a lid or a plate that fits and place in your oven with the oven light turned on. 
DO NOT turn your oven on to low or warm. Even these low temperatures will kill the probiotics and the mixture will not be able to ferment. This is much like making yogurt or sourdough. You can also use a dehydrator set on low, just be sure the bowl is covered. 
- Allow to sit overnight and for at least 12 hours or more. It should be good and sour when it's ready. Times will vary depending on the environment and the quality of the probiotic. Old probiotics or ones that were left out of the fridge will have less fermenting power.

Don't have an oven light? Perhaps one of THESE other options used for making yogurt will work for you.

Making the Crust:

When you're ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line and grease a standard sized loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving long flaps hanging over the sides of the pan (for easy removal later). 

- Combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the parchment lined bread pan. 

- Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden but not too dark. Times will vary depending on the oven and size of pan. 

- Remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can also skip the crust if you like, or use your favorite crust.

Making the Filling:

- In a small bowl combine the gelatin and the water. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. 

- Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with shallow hot water or microwave the gelatin mixture in short 10 seconds bursts till just melted. You'll know it's ready when the gelatin is liquid and has no graininess left when rubbed between your fingers. Try not to over heat it. :)

- Transfer the cashew cheese mixture, prepared gelatin mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth. This should only take a few minutes with a high powered blender or 5-8 minutes with a regular one.(as seen in the 2nd row of pictures)
High powered blenders work best. If you don't have one you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons more of coconut milk at this time to help it move through the container. The less liquid you have to add  and the smoother you can get the mixture, the creamier and more cheesecake like it will be later.
Pour the batter over the cookie crust in the prepared pan (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). Smooth the top as needed, cover and chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours or till good and firm.

These are delicous as is or with your favorite chocoalte coating recipe. One easy coating option is listed below.

Making the Coating:

- Melt your chocolate in double broiler with the fat until melted and smooth. Do not over heat.

Cutting and Dipping:

- Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and run a knife along the sides of the cake to help it release from the pan. Using the parchment paper flaps, pull it up and out of the pan. Place it face down onto a cutting board with the "cake side" facing up. Cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares with a sharp knife (as seen in the 3rd row of pictures). If it is too hard, let it sit for a few minutes. Not too long though or the bites will become too soft for the dipping process.

- Using a skewer, pierce the through the cookie side of bites. Using a spoon, pour chocolate evenly over the entire cake bite (as seen in the 3rd row of pictures). It should begin to harden pretty quickly.

- Once coated, I like to place them on a chilled parchment lined cookie sheet so that the bottoms firm quickly and don't spread out. 

- Once the chocolate is set you can transfer them to a sealed container and store in the fridge. I don't keep these bites frozen because the chocolate will accumulate condensation, bloom and look bad. I don't like to keep these more than two days. They could be kept longer in the freezer without the chocolate coating,