Cinnamon Almond & Cashew Butter (Refined Sugar-Free)

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I love ALDI. Practically everyone knows that. I love the fact we can get in and out in under 25 minutes due to the fact that I know where everything is, and I can build my grocery list based on the store layout (don’t act surprised). They carry a lot of organic produce, gluten-free products, and I always find something new- like extra virgin olive oil from Greece, or grass-fed bison. However, today I was disappointed to find that their only almond butter option contains both cane sugar and palm oil. Womp womp.

I have a fancy pants Vitamix that I love using for smoothies and soups, but I’ve been afraid that an attempt to make my own nut butter would result in a burnt out engine. Standing in the aisle condescendingly shaking my head at that jar of refined-sugar full almond butter, I decided it was time to give it a go.

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In order to make nut butter at home, you’ll need either a fancy pants blender or a food processor. I would say that any blender is fine, but I don’t want you cursing my name if its motor can’t handle nut butter 🙂 If you do use your food processor, the time it takes to get to nut butter consistency may vary.

A couple things to note; roasting the nuts at a low temperature before blending is an important step that you shouldn’t skip, because it brings out the oils in the almonds and cashews, making it easier to blend into butter. You can also adjust this recipe to use all almonds or all cashews if you want. I like the blend because the almonds lend a lot of flavor while the cashews are creamier, and make the butter easier to blend. However you choose to combine, just be sure to stick to the ratios below.

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Cinnamon Almond & Cashew Butter

Makes about 3 C of nut butter

2 c raw unsalted almonds

1 c raw unsalted cashews

2 t melted coconut oil

2 t kosher salt

2 t vanilla

1-2 t cinnamon (optional)

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Method:

Preheat oven to 250°. Spread nuts in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are warm to the touch. Remove baking sheet from oven. Add nuts to blender or food processor and blend at 30 second intervals.

Tip** If your blender starts to smell like it’s overheating, give it a break for a minute before blending further. Try starting with a lower power setting and increasing as you go.

As you blend, you’ll notice the nuts change to a flour-like consistency, and then start to stick together and change into butter consistency (this took about 5 minutes in my Vitamix). If mixture is too dry, add melted coconut oil and continue to blend.

When nut butter is smooth, add salt, vanilla, and cinnamon if desired, and blend for an additional 30 seconds. Store refrigerated in airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Rewind to 20 years ago in our tiny kitchen on Parkside, where my mom would be cooking apples on the stove, and my sister Liz and I would take turns turning the mill to strain the applesauce. We loved the fun, messy, time-intensive process, but nothing topped eating the fresh applesauce hot out of the pan. Fast-forward 20 years to my current tiny kitchen, where I’m up to my ears with apples from our trip to the orchard. I decided it was time to make applesauce.

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Since I don’t own a food mill, I decided to give slow-cooking applesauce a try.  Not only did it make my tiny kitchen smell aaaaamazing, it turned out so delicious that I am convinced I’ll never want to buy applesauce from the store again! It was so simple, and the apples we picked were so juicy and sweet that it didn’t require any added sugar.

I love this recipe because you toss the ingredients in the crock pot, set it on low, and can go work on something else. I let it cook all morning and afternoon, and this gave the applesauce a chance to really break down and let the flavors mingle. The result is perfectly chunky, cinnamon-y, naturally sweet applesauce that is perfect on its own or baked into breads, muffins, etc.

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Slow Cooker Applesauce

Makes about 8 cups

3 lb. apples (about 9 medium-sized)

Juice from 1/2 lemon

3 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick, whole

3/4 C water

Method:

Peel and thinly slice apples and add to crock pot. Squeeze lemon juice over apples and add spices and water. Give it a stir and set to low for 7-8 hours. Stir every hour or so.

Tip** If you let it cook long enough, the apples will break down on their own and shouldn’t have more than a couple little lumps. If you want a perfectly smooth consistency, you can use an immersion blender to get your desired consistency.

Keep in airtight container in fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months. Enjoy!

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’ve learned to live without a lot of fun dairy-filled things since coming to terms with my lactose intolerance a couple years ago, but cheesecake was really hard to let go. I used to make a marbled pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving as a pumpkin pie alternative, and it was always a hit. With all my freshly- made pumpkin puree in the freezer this year, it occurred to me that  a vegan alternative could work…

Now I know that putting the words “vegan” and “cheesecake” together are going to scare a lot of you, but after bringing these bars into work and to a potluck last week, I concluded that this vegan dessert is a dairy-free success! I have officially converted numerous non-believers into vegan pumpkin cheesecake fans and it’s all thanks to Minimalist Baker for inspiring me to try a cashew-based batter.

This recipe is no-bake, but does require some time on the front end to properly soak your cashews before blending them to make your “cheesecake” batter. Keeping this in mind, be sure to allow for an hour of inactive time before you get started!

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Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Makes ~ 16 squares

For the crust:

1 C pitted medjool dates

1 1/2 C pecans

1/4 t sea salt

For the filling:

1 1/2 C raw unsalted cashews (I use pieces because they’re much cheaper!)

About 3 C boiling water

3/4 C pure maple syrup

1/2 C pumpkin puree

1/3 C full fat coconut milk

1/4 C lemon juice

2 t vanilla extract

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t cardamom

1 t pumpkin pie spice

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Method:

In a medium bowl, soak cashews in boiling water for about an hour. Once soaked, drain cashews and set aside.

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper (one long sheet overlapping another so you have an “X.” This will make removing the cheesecake super easy once it’s set!

Add dates, pecans, and salt to food processor and pulse until dates break down and crust begins to stick together, forming a ball. Spray your fingers with nonstick spray and press crust into bottom of lined pan, setting in the freezer while you make filling.

Add soaked cashews to food processor and blend until smooth, adding coconut milk as needed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pumpkin. Mix until filing is smooth, scraping sides to incorporate all ingredients.

Spoon half of filling mixture onto crust and put back into freezer. Add pumpkin puree to the other half of the filling, and pulse until combined. Spoon carefully on top of white filling, gently spreading to create an even top layer. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top, and lightly drag a toothpick or butter knife in a swirling motion.

Place in freezer for about 2 hours or until set. Remove from pan by lifting parchment paper and use chef’s knife to slice into 12-16 pieces. Keep these stored in the freezer, wrapped with plastic wrap. They should keep up to a month, but I promise they won’t last that long!

Tip** Let them sit out at room temp about 30 mins before serving so they’re not totally frozen

Enjoy!

 

Spiced Apple Muffins (GF & Nut-Free)

Matt and I ventured to the Illinois/Wisconsin border last Sunday to pick some apples, and came home with half a bushel of McIntosh. Half a bushel doesn’t sound like an intimidating amount, but let me tell you it’s WAY more than our tiny kitchen can store. So I’ve been spending the last week finding ways to enjoy them and muffins was first on the list!

Most gluten-free muffin recipes center around the use of almond flour, but since I have some nut-free people in my life, I experimented with oat flour as a replacement and they turned out great! These little guys are packed with fresh apple goodness, are refined sugar-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and gluten free! They are filled with warm spices and will make your home smell like Fall. The sweet-cinnamony crumb topping is the final touch on these magical muffins. It sounds impossible, but they are even Matt approved and that’s how I measure a good muffin.

I was trying to use as many apples as I could, so please note that this recipe makes a double batch of muffins. Or, if you only have one muffin tin like I do, make 12 muffins and a loaf of bread! You could half the recipe, but you’d probably regret it.

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Spiced Apple Muffins

Makes 24 muffins, or 12 muffins + one loaf

For the muffins:

1 3/4 C oat flour (2 C old fashioned rolled oats)

1/4 C coconut flour

2/3 C tapioca flour

4 t cinnamon

2 t baking soda

Pinch cardamom (optional)

4 eggs

2 t vanilla

1/2 C coconut milk (or almond milk if you aren’t making nut-free)

1/3 C coconut oil, melted

1/3 C honey

2/3 C pure maple syrup

2 C shredded apples, excess liquid squeezed out

1 C small diced apples

For the crumb topping:

1 T vegan butter, melted

1 T honey

1/3 C old fashioned rolled oats (whole, not oat flour)

1 t cinnamon

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Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and line muffin tins, or grease and line loaf pan with parchment paper.

Make oat flour! I use my Vitamix for this because it’s a quick and easy clean up, but you can also pulse in your food processor or just buy oat flour at the grocery store. 2 C of regular oats makes about 1 3/4 cups of oat flour if you’re making at home.

In large bowl, combine oat flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, spices, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, and milk. Add coconut oil, honey, and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Shred 2-3 medium sized apples using food processor or by hand (these do not have to be peeled). Cut another apple into a small dice. Add all apples to wet ingredients and stir together.

Make a well in dry ingredients and carefully pour in egg/apple mixture. Using rubber spatula, carefully fold together until combined. Do not over mix! Spoon into prepared muffin tin or loaf pan.

To make crumb topping, combine ingredients and spoon on top of batter.

For muffins, bake about 18-20 mins, and for loaf bake about 35 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

If you aren’t eating them all fresh out of the oven, keep refrigerated so they stay fresh longer. Enjoy!