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!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (GF, Nut-Free & Dairy-Free)

I have always loved zucchini bread because of its moist, wonderful texture, but it’s never really been a go-to bread recipe when I’m baking. However, this past summer, my coworker Bob brought me a 7 pound zucchini, and the first thing I thought to make was zucchini bread! Although 7 pounds seems huge, when I shredded it in my food processor it was even more than I expected. I was literally drowning in zucchini. I used about 1/2 of the zucchini right away, but froze the rest in quart size ziploc bags for when Winter came and 7 lb vegetables were no longer in surplus.

These muffins are great for so many reasons. They’re moist, full of rich chocolate, super soft, and best of all, very allergy-friendly! I brought these to a girls’ brunch a few months ago and they were a hit. When I remembered I still had leftover shredded zucchini in the freezer, I instantly thought of these muffins. I was a little hesitant to use anything other than fresh zucchini, but these turned out as delicious as I remembered.

Whether you’re looking for a perfect on-the-go breakfast recipe, or trying to sneak more vegetables into your picky kids’ (or husband’s) diet, these muffins are the answer! Give them a try- I hope you love them as much as I do!

Recipe notes: If you’re using zucchini that’s been frozen, you will have a lot of excess moisture, so be sure to squeeze most of the water out or your muffins will be sad and soggy. In the recipe below, I mention dairy-free chocolate chips, but you can use whatever kind of chocolate chips you’d like and still get the same results. Dairy-free (vegan) chocolate chips can be found at Whole Foods!

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Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 C dairy-free chocolate chips, divided

2 C grated zucchini, excess water squeezed out

2 eggs, beaten

6 T coconut or vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 C Gluten Free flour blend

1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 t baking soda

12 t baking powder

1 C coconut sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and line standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

Melt 1/4 C of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring between to ensure they’re melting evenly. Set aside to cool sightly.

In a large bowl, add grated zucchini, eggs oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Add melted chocolate chips and whisk again until fully combined.

In separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and remaining 1/4 C of chocolate chips. Make a well in center of bowl and slowly pour in wet mixture. Fold together with rubber spatula until incorporated, making sure to not over-mix.

Pour into prepared muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. You don’t want to over bake these or they’ll be dry!

Tip** Store these in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in sandwich size ziploc bags for busy weekday mornings!

Quick Pickled Red Onions

I loooooove vinegar- anything sour, really. So when I received some beautiful, large Weck jars as a wedding shower gift last year, I learned how to “quick” pickle vegetables and haven’t needed store-bought since! I love knowing exactly what goes into them, especially because it’s hard to find them without added sugar. I have found that home-made have so much more flavor! This recipes subs traditional white granulated sugar out for pure maple syrup, which lends a tiny bit of sweetness without overpowering the bite of the vinegar that I love so much. I have these big boys at home, but any kind of canning jar will work!

Making these is so easy and fun, and having vibrant, flavorful pickled veggies on hand makes dressing salads, tacos, breakfast sandwiches, etc. up so easy! I call it “quick pickling” because it doesn’t involve the whole canning process (putting jar in boiling water to seal out excess air). I love this method because whatever you’re pickling is ready to enjoy as soon as the next day! They keep for about 2 weeks, although my pickled red onions never last that long.

You can apply this method to just about anything- Jalapenos, cucumbers… even carrots, green beans, or cauliflower! You can play around with different spices such as turmeric, and add fresh or dried herbs. You will be amazed at how easily these quick pickled red onions come together and how fancy they make your meals look!

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Quick Pickled Red Onions

3 medium-sized red onions

1 C distilled white vinegar

1/2 C water

1 T salt

1 t black peppercorns

3  cloves garlic

3 T pure maple syrup

Method:

Slice onions and add to jar. Add vinegar, water, salt, and peppercorns to  medium sauce pan and bring to low boil. Peel garlic cloves and add to boiling mixture, turn off heat, and add maple syrup. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Pour mixture over sliced onions. It should completely cover the onions. If you’re a little short on liquid, add more vinegar.

Seal tightly and store in fridge. You’ll notice the liquid turns a vibrant red and this is how you know they’re ready to enjoy!

Tip** I usually try to make these a couple days before I want to use them, but they should be good 24 hours after making.

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Apple Cobbler (GF)

My friend Jillian and I have been avoiding gluten and refined sugar for 3 weeks now in an effort to get our eating habits back on track, and the goal was to make it to Halloween. I’ll say it’s been a pretty valiant effort, despite the beer (or two) I’ve had along the way, and the hot dog I saw Jillian eat at the 5k we organized…

This weekend, I was really craving apple cobbler, and this presented a challenge because traditional apple cobbler contains flour, butter, and at least one type of refined sugar. I have been searching for coconut sugar to use in paleo recipes and finally found some yesterday at Whole Foods. I thought apple cobbler would be the perfect chance to  experiment with my new ingredient, and turns out it perfectly enhanced the natural sweetness of the apples in this warm, gooey dessert! Lemon juice adds some balance to the sweetness and keeps the apples from browning as you make the crumb topping, and the warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg comes through really nicely in the finished product.

This recipe makes about 4 servings if you’re anything like Matt and I,  but you could probably stretch it to serve up to 6 people, especially if you’re serving it with ice cream or whipped cream. It  reheats so beautifully, I might venture to say it’s even better the next day!

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Apple Cobbler

Makes 4 servings

4 medium apples (Granny Smith or McIntosh work best)

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 t cinnamon

3/4 t nutmeg

2 T coconut sugar

1 T arrowroot powder (or corn starch)

For the topping:

3/4 C old fashioned rolled oats

1 t cinnamon

1 t vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

4 T butter of choice, melted (I use Earth Balance vegan butter)

1 T coconut sugar

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Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and grease 8×8 square pan.

Peel and thinly slice apples, adding to greased dish. Sprinkle lemon juice on top of apples and toss. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut sugar, and arrowroot powder and toss again.

In medium bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, melted butter, and coconut sugar and mix until it clumps together. Sprinkle evenly on top of apple mixture, and top with a few more teaspoons of whatever butter you’re using.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the apples are nice and soft and it’s bubbling around the edges. Your whole house should smell like Thanksgiving 🙂 Let cool for 15 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream. Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Oat Bars (GF)

This morning, I needed a break from apple and pumpkin everything. Don’t worry, I’m okay… I think. I had some fresh cranberries in the fridge that I’ve been meaning to use, and the thought of warm oat bars fresh out of the oven to enjoy with my coffee was just too good to pass up. It’s Friday but my brain is already in weekend mode.

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These bars came together quickly and easily, and I love the way the crunchiness of the slivered almonds and the warm soft bursts of fresh cranberries is dispersed throughout the baked oatmeal. Cinnamon and ground ginger add some spicy warmth, making it a perfect companion for your Saturday morning coffee.

As with any breakfast I make, the goal is usually to have leftovers that I can store for on-the-go breakfasts. I think these will be perfect warmed back up in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. I’ll pat myself on the back now; breakfast for next week is ready to go!

 

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Cranberry Oat Bars

Makes 9 squares

2 C old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 C coconut flour

1/4 C tapioca flour

1/2 t sea salt

1 1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/3 C coconut oil, melted

1/4 C pure maple syrup

1/4 C agave (or you can just do a full 1/2 C of maple syrup)

2 eggs

1/3 C  milk of choice

1 1/4 C fresh cranberries

1/2 C slivered almonds

Tip** If you have an orange laying around, try adding a teaspoon of fresh zest to this recipe!

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 8×8 square baking pan with nonstick spray.

In large mixing bowl, combine oats and both flours. Add salt, cinnamon, and ginger and whisk together until combined.

In separate bowl, beat coconut oil, maple syrup, agave, eggs, and milk together. Pour into dry ingredients and fold together until combined. Fold in cranberries and almonds and mix until evenly dispersed.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cut into 9 squares. Serve warm topped with yogurt and nuts, or freeze individual squares for busy weekday morning breakfasts! Enjoy.