Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Creamy Herb Nut "Cheese" Dip (vegan)

Well, Christmas has come and gone as fast as it always does, and the new year is just around the corner. This was our first Christmas with a baby, and it was more fun than I thought it would be. And, he doesn't even care about presents or treats yet! Maybe that is because he is only 2 months old, but it was fun to celebrate the holiday with him and our families. A new baby brings so much joy to life and family. It is fun to experience it and be a part of something bigger than yourself. I am so thankful for family and love this Christmas.

I didn't do a bunch of cooking this holiday, but I did do a lot of cookie baking. I made 5 batches of my favorite GF/DF cookies and they went with us to every gathering we attended. It was a fun treat, and it was something I knew I could eat whenever dessert time was in full swing.
I shared one of my new favorite recipes in my last post. I think I made that recipe 3 times in a week to share with friends. It is my new found favorite, and I know I will be making those all year now. My husband has been enjoying the cookies, but then asked me last night to never make cookies again because he can't stop eating them. I told him I would for him of course, but let's be honest... I could never really stop baking and inventing new cookies, haha :)

Now, my thoughts come to the New Year holiday. I love to celebrate a new year, but really I feel we are more like celebrating the old year and then looking hopefully ahead to the new year to be full of life as the last. I know many of my friends and family have had a rough year this past one, and are looking to have a fresh start and a breath of fresh air. I couldn't agree more than a "new year" is a time to feel like to start something new, or let something go. This past year for me has been one of many changes, and I am looking forward to the next to see what another year of loving life may bring.
And, of course, we need a good dairy-free, gluten-free recipe to celebrate! How about some nut cheese dip to enjoy those GF crackers and veggies with. I know dairy-free "cheese" never sounds that interesting, and to be honest I would love to indulge in some goat cheese right now, but I am making the sacrifice to be strictly dairy-free while nursing my newborn, and so I must create and indulge in a savory nut cheese instead. And, it is not that bad. It is deceivingly good. So I will share the little creation I made to spice up your dairy-free life...

Creamy Herb Nut "Cheese" Dip Recipe
1 cup of soaked raw cashews for 6-8 hours (soak the raw cashews in water for 6-8 hours in a glass bowl or container, just cover the nuts in water and then after the soaking time, rinse 2-3 times under clean water, then they are ready to use).
1 ts. of apple cider vinegar
juice from one lemon ( 2 TB of juice)
1 ts. of sea salt
1-2 ts. of Italian herb spice blend
1 ts. of minced garlic, or onion works too

Optional: Roll finished cheese in pecans or fresh herbs

Put all the above ingredients in a food processor (or high powdered blender) and blend on high for a few minutes until the nut cheese is creamy. Put in the fridge to get cold and firmer, and then pull from the fridge and roll in pecan pieces before you serve. You can roll into a ball-like form and put on a plate to serve up with the crackers or veggies. Or, if you want to just keep it in a bowl as a dip that works too. Be creative and enjoy the ability to do what you want with this creation. My favorite crackers are, "Mary's Gone Crackers" in any of her varieties. They are crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Here are a few more New Year's appetizer ideas for you this season:

And I am sure I will be making some more cookies, or a finger-food dessert as well. I hope you have a blessed end of 2010, and that you look forward to the new year in hope for a better year than the last!

Much love to you, friends!



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranberry Oat Gingerbread Cookies (vegan)

Cookies are my favorite thing to bake around Christmas, so many kinds of cookies. I love to make some 10 varieties and then try one of each. I know, that's indulgent, but still... it's only Christmas once a year, right?! Well, let's just say maybe only one cookie a day then. But if you are gonna eat a cookie, it better be good, and why not good for you too. Santa needs fiber as well, it's not just for us healthy kids. Although, I bet Santa has to work on that belly to impress the kids *wink*. But because we all know that Santa would appreciate a some fiber around the holiday feasting, that is why I came up with this whole grain, vegan cookie to satisfy the craving!

You gotta love how at Christmas time the magical beauty of gift giving, Santa Clause, and sitting close to home with loved ones warms the soul. It is a magical time of being thankful for every single gift in your life. It is a quiet and peaceful time to reflect upon the year and the love you have shared. It is more than just one day to gather and unwrap all the gifts you just scurried to buy and wrap. It is about the greatest gift of all... God sending His son, to this earth, to say, "I am with you!" You are not alone, God is with you and on your side. Which is the greatest gift and love of all! That is the love and peace that fill my heart this season and I am so excited to share this love with my family and friends. And in the meantime... share some goodness in the form of a healthy cookie recipe to make and enjoy this season.

Not to mention, these cookies smell and look beautiful too. A perfect blend of spices and red cranberries to cheer you up on any day. Good food just looks good, doesn't it?! I think so, and my favorite part is that eating whole grain vegan cookies just make you feel good too. No guilty sugar highs and lows, and no regrets to try and fix. Just a lovely cookie to enjoy!

Cranberry Oat Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
1 cup of buckwheat flour 
3 TB of flaxseed meal 
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 1/2 ts. of pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ts. of pure vanilla
3 TB of So Delicious coconut milk beverage or other milk product
2 TB of unsweetened applesauce (or 2 more TB's of coconut milk beverage)
1 TB of maple syrup
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Mix all of the dry ingredients first together in a large mixing bowl. Then add the wet ingredients and mix well, the dry and wet will have to sit together for a minute to let all the ingredients soak into each other and blend well. It is a pretty sticky batter and that is ok. Lastly, add the dried cranberries and mix well. Use a TB to spoon out the cookie dough onto a parchment papered pan. Bake 12 to a pan, in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Pull from the oven and do not touch.... let 5-10 minutes go by before you moved from the pan, so that the cookies can dry and sit so to avoid crumbling. These will be perfectly chewy and crispy then. Then, move from the pan and start again, this recipe makes about 24 cookies. A tip before you put them in the oven would be to press them down just slightly on the pan so that they spread better, but really, these vegan cookies are so yummy without the eggs that you won't even notice.

And because I love cookies so much at Christmastime, I made a variety last December that I will be making again for sure...

And, these probably won't make it till Christmas Eve under the tree for Santa, sooooo... it's time for sharing with friends and family!

Hope you have a warm and cozy day!

Much love to you!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Munch Mix

It's that time of year... the mall parking lot is full to the last spot and the holiday commercials are flooding your mind. Whether or not you have finished your Christmas shopping yet, you may be looking for some creative extra gift giving ideas for friends, neighbors and teachers. There is something about homemade gifts that share more than a gift... they share uniqueness and creative love. I love receiving jams, cookies, and granola. So special to get some tasty treats to try around the holidays or serve at a holiday party. That is how this "munch mix" came into creation. It is super easy and could even be made in a last minute whim for a party "chex" mix kinda treat. I know they make certain chex mix cereals gluten-free so it is possible to probably make the traditional chex mix gluten-free if you wanted. But, this mix is slightly inspired by those delicious sugar and cinnamon roasted almonds that you can find at the mall, or maybe the county fair.
The great thing about this mix is that it is very easy to make, the ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive, and you can make a big bowl for a party or wrap it all up in cute holiday bags as gifts. It is very simple and fun! A good idea for kids to get involved in gifts for friends and teachers... not to mention a yummy snack later to enjoy. Here is the recipe I used to make this creation...
Holiday Munch Mix Recipe
4 cups of gluten-free Nature's Path Whole O's cereal or other GF cereal of choice
2 cups of almonds (or pecans)
2 cups of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
1 TB of pure vanilla
1 ts. of sea salt
2 ts. of ground cinnamon

other optional additions: 1 cup dried coconut, or sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour onto a parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Then pull from the oven, do not touch, it will be very hot and sticky. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, or you can let cool for hours on the counter. When it is cool then mix it again with a spoon and toss in a bowl, or get ready to bag for gifts. I had some cute see-through cellophane bags to package it, then tied it with a ribbon and then had a few cute holiday stickers and also a sticker saying it was a creation from my kitchen. This mix can go a long way in entertaining this holiday season!

I have been trying to get creative in gift giving this year and have been searching other's ideas in making cute, frugal and even nutritious holiday gifts. So... this is just one of them that is an easy, fun addition. Here is another idea to wrap up in a tin or baggy: Cinnamon Vanilla Nuts from the Nourishing Gourmet, or Cookie Mix in a Jar from Elana's Pantry.

I hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

Much love!