Nosh

Cashew Crazy…Cheesin’ with Nuts

Food allergies seem to be so prominent ‘these days’…I truly think a lot of that has to do with how our food is being processed and preserved as well as how much more in tune we are to our bodies as a whole.  I have extremely sensitive skin.  I get terrible eczema when I am exposed to chemically laden products as well as when I consume dairy.  I am a cheese lover so this has caused quite a bit of heartbreak…and truth be told I fall off the wagon sometimes and indulge in a good gouda, peppery parmesan or molten mozzarella…(I’m salivating as I type this) and I still treat myself to a latte at the tea shop in town every now and then.  I have found cheese and sour cream the hardest forms of dairy to give up so I’ve been working really hard at coming up with alternatives.

Sadly, you will never find an alternative that is a dead ringer for the original.  That’s just something I’m learning to live with! But the following recipes give you a satisfying nibble to enjoy with wine and crackers, on top of pizza or lasagna, or to pile into tacos and on top of nachos.  I find it most helpful when looking to go dairy free to experiment with vegan recipes (even though I’m not vegan).  If you are like me and can’t consume dairy it’s often super daunting to have to rework a recipe on your own so that it jives with your restrictions.  It’s a lot easier to add meat to a recipe then delete the dairy I’ve found!  Living in a small town there are fewer dairy alternative products available and honestly I like controlling what goes into the food we eat and in turn consume less additives and preservatives.

I have experimented with a lot of nuts when making cheeses and milk.  I’ve purchased nut bags to get the silkiest product and I’ve created a lot of flops and successes out of the nut pulp.  Cashews have become my pantry staple.  I buy them raw and unsalted from the bulk barn and keep a stock in my freezer.  The key to any nut milk or cheese is to soak your nuts prior to blending.  You can do this overnight in cold water or a quick method is to let them simmer in a pot of water for a half hour or so.  I have to say my favourite tool has become my vitamix blender.  I don’t even have to strain anything anymore.  I saved up for this appliance though, it comes at a hefty price.  If you don’t want to spend your life’s savings as I did you can purchase any sort of high speed blender and nut bags are super cheap!

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Here’s my recipe for Cashew Cream which is a solid base for most other recipes:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • simmer over medium heat for 30-45 mins or soak overnight then strain
  • In a high speed blender, combine your soaked cashews with 1/2 cup cold water and a pinch of salt.  Blend at a high speed until smooth adding more cold water as you go until you have the desired consistency. I use this cashew cream in soups, sauces, coffee creamer, and anywhere that calls for cream.  You can simply thin this down with more water to get the desired consistency to use as a milk substitute as well. (You can use this same method with any other raw nuts.  I also like almonds but I be sure to skin them after they have soaked to get a more pure consistency. If you want to sweeten your milk/cream simply blend with a pitted date and some vanilla. This makes a great coffee creamer.)

Cashew Sour Cream

  • Using the above method blend up your soaked cashews adding less water so you have a thicker cream.
  • While blending add:
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice from half a lemon
  • an extra pinch or two of salt

Cashew Cheese

  • 2 cups soaked and drained cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca starch (this is what gives your cheese it’s goo)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (this gives nut cheese it’s tang, it’s a yellow flaky product that can be found at most health food stores or at bulk barn)
  • In a saucepan combine all the ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the cheese comes together and thickens.  You’ll notice it starts to get gooey.  Keep cooking and stirring for another couple minutes then take off the heat and let cool slightly before adding flavours and pouring into molds.  You can also just use this ‘cheese’ at this point.  It’s a bit of a basic mozzarella.  I usually add a splash of apple cider vinegar and some garlic powder though.
  • Smoky Chipotle Cheese: add 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper, pinch of cayenne (or more for added heat)
  • Lemon Herb Cheese: add 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your liking (I used dill, parsley and chives), juice and zest from half a lemon.

 

Experimenting has become the key to my success when avoiding dairy.  Most recipes can easily be changed but substituting the dairy milk for a nut milk.  I have found that it doesn’t change the final product at all in most baking (muffins, cakes, etc.). Adding it to soups instead of whole milk or cream has been my favourite as I’ve discovered nut milk does not separate if over heated like a dairy milk does.  Nutritionally speaking I am not an expert so I have not much guidance in that respect.  Since eliminating dairy in our house I make sure we are taking multi-vitamins with calcium daily.  We eat a very balanced diet for the most part so I’m also sure to up our leafy greens whenever I can. I do suggest talking to a nutritionist if you have any concerns!  All in all it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen and have something up your sleeve to indulge in if you’re also dairy free or to have something in your arsenal to offer those in your life who are.

 

Nosh

Four Ingredient Gluten-Free Wraps…Love-ly Lunch or Dinner!

As promised and just in time to spread a little love for Valentine’s Day, here’s an easy and tremendously healthy recipe to try! I’ll be the first to tell you that restricted diets aren’t fun and often times not super convenient to create wholesome menu items that don’t make you feel like you’re “missing out”.  These gluten-free wraps are game-changers.  You are in control…no additives and no extras means they are healthy and with only 4 ingredients plus water they are super accessible and easy to make.

In the original Spinach-Gluten-Free Wraps (adapted from elavegan.com) I modified the recipe a bit to include a healthier starch alternative.  Arrowroot powder or starch is one of the healthier starches to use plus it is freezer stable for all your sauce needs.  Just like corn starch or potato starch it is used as a thickener.  It has no flavour or taste so adding it to anything is great.  Arrowroot has potassium and B-vitamins as well as it is very gut-health friendly.  It is gentle on the digestive system and is often used to aid digestion specifically for IBS sufferers.  It has metabolism boosting qualities and it is great for circulation and heart health.

I was so impressed with how quick and easy these wraps were to whip up.  With a consistency much like crepe batter these “tortillas” were a lot of fun to make.  After mastering the spinach recipe I couldn’t help but think of other vegetable possibilities.  Perfect for Valentine’s Day the ruby hue of roasted beets came to mind first.  This recipe was equally as easy to whip up and once I got the recipe tweaked just right I was in mad-love with these beautiful wraps too.  I filled ours with greek style chicken breast, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta and we enjoyed them along side some lemon oregano heart shaped roasted potatoes…A perfect and LOVE-ly meal for anytime of the year but so easily festive for February 14th!!

Spinach Gluten-Free Wraps

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Blend all ingredients in a processor or blender until smooth…this batter resembles crepe batter, as does the method.
  • Pour roughly 1/2-1/3 cup batter into a heated non-stick skillet and kind of twirl the pan to spread the batter into a larger round.  Cook evenly on both sides until slightly browned on a medium heat.  Much like pancakes you’ll see bubbles rise and pop before you’ll be able to flip them.  Don’t rush this.  If the tortilla doesn’t want to flip it’s likely not ready.  It should be easy to peal off the pan!
  • Keep warm under a tea towel while you cook the entire batch.

**Add more water if you want bigger, thinner wraps.  1 cup is great for more small sized taco-style tortillas…The thicker the batter the thicker and smaller the wrap is as it doesn’t spread as far in the pan.

Beet Gluten-Free Wraps

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 3/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup roasted, peeled and diced beets
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Same method as above.

 

Nosh

Peppernuts…spicy little morsels of my childhood!

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Peppernuts or Pfeffernusse are coin-sized cookies that pack a lot of punch.  Spicy notes of cinnamon, anise and black pepper hit your taste buds with a ton of flavour.  The smell of these little treats alone bring me back to christmases of my childhood.  My grandma made them every year at Christmas…the time she spent in her kitchen had to have been unreal!  They are crunchy and sweet and delicious.

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The recipe for these German-mennonite cookies is easy to follow.  Although a bit tedious they are fun to make and share.  Fill up mason jars, coffee mugs or dessert tins and pass them around this Christmas.  I love them with a steaming mug of black coffee or tea.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground star anise
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp canilla
  • 8 cups + flour
  • In your mixer or with an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the syrup and spices along with the vanilla.  Add in the flour and baking soda gradually until a soft dough is formed (much like a sugar cookie dough).
  • Roll into ropes (the thickness is up to you, I rolled mine 3/4-1 inch thick). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
  • Slice into thin coins while still frozen and bake on parchment lined baking sheets at 350* until golden and crisp.  Let cool (they’ll crisp even more) and store in airtight containers.  (This recipe makes 6-7 pan full, I’ve halved it many times as well when I’m not as energetic for a full batch!!)
Nosh

Ginger Cookies with a Split Twist

I’ve waited patiently for the beginning of December to let myself truly explode Christmas!! (Ok that’s a lie, I haven’t waited patiently…I haven’t even exactly waited as we’ve already done some Christmas activities including decorating the tree…oops!)  I just honestly can’t hold in the excitement! This time of year makes me feel closest to the magic of childhood!  If unlike me you are just letting yourself get into the spirit I hope to give you some easy inspiration to take your traditions to the next level this Christmas or inspire you to bring in some new traditions!

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In this post I’m showing you how to elevate an already favourite ginger cookie recipe (or use mine) into something super decadent and fun.  This is an easy decorating technique that your kids or grandkids (or nieces or nephews or even the neighbor’s kid) can get involved in easily as well.  Share the gift of baking with your loved ones!

Ginger Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Cream the butter and sugar then add the molasses, spices and vanilla.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated.
  • Drop by scoopful on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 375* for 10-12 mins (rotate your pans if you are baking them together on convection.)

For the decorating:

  • Melt 3/4 cup white chocolate discs over a double boiler.
  • Dip each cooled cookie into the melted chocolate to cover half and then lay on waxed paper.
  • Sprinkle with your favourite decorations!  We used gingerbread man sprinkles and Christmas coloured little ball sprinkles.
  • Let cool to set the chocolate then share!
Nosh

Caramel Corn Craziness

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I’m a theme fanatic and I live for traditions. Halloween is one of my favourite holidays for getting full-on themed and I love that it’s all for the kids!

On E’s first halloween I dressed him up like a bucket of popcorn and hubby and I sported fancy bow-ties as the concession workers.  Of course we had to make caramel corn for our treats to give out on halloween night.  And we made oodles and oodles of caramel corn… (three batches to be precise)…caramel corn craziness!

 

 

I had a deep craving and perhaps a bit of nostalgia so I whipped up a batch today so we can munch on it and share on halloween (if there’s any left!!)

Here’s the recipe so you can partake in the feasting too!

  • 16 cups popped corn
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • sprinkling of salt (optional for that salted caramel hit!)
  • Pop your popcorn and lay it out on parchment paper on cookie sheets (I use 3)
  • In a large sauce pan bring the butter, syrup and sugar to a boil and let bubble for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Take the caramel off the heat and add vanilla. (Be careful as it may splatter)
  • Divide the caramel over the pans of popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn as best as you can.  Put the sheet pans of caramel corn into a 250 degree oven and every 15 mins for 1 hour remove the pans and stir to coat the popcorn.
  • Once baked for 1 hr sprinkle with salt and let the popcorn cool.  I like to go through it and remove any of the kernels that didn’t pop.  Store in air tight containers or bags.
  • You can also add nuts to the popped corn before coating with the caramel sauce or finish with sprinkles for a fancy flair!