Avocado Spinach Pesto – Dairy and Nut Free

I am so excited to share this pesto recipe with you!  With school back in full swing again, it is a constant struggle to make healthy delicious and quick meals that everyone will eat.  This pesto is perfect! It is raw, clean, loaded with heart healthy avocado, garlic and don’t freak out, full of spinach!  And it is dairy and nut free.  I have been trying to use up the last of our summer herbs in ways to make them last a bit longer and with a full plant of basil begging to be picked, pesto was the most logical creation.

All 3 of my kids (who have very different taste buds) love it which is always a huge plus.  We have slathered it on hot crusty bread topped with mozzarella (for my daughter who can eat dairy), tossed it in pasta with chicken and grilled veggies, whipped it into mashed potatoes, put a large spoon full in rice, and just about any other way you can imagine using pesto.  Because all of the ingredients are just thrown into a food processor and blended, I thought it would be a great way to sneak in veggies and anything else to boost the nutrition content for my sugar addicted kids. I love avocados for their amazing omega benefits and their creamy rich consistency.  I used one to takes the place of the nuts and to replace most of the oil that is usually added to fresh pesto.  Then spinach.   I have to beg and plead and bribe my kids just to take one bit which is usually a corner of a leaf before they start gagging and choking.  BUT….they love fresh basil and guess what, they look alot alike don’t they? (The tricks and manipulation of being a mom never ends in this house…)

I have not found a recipe for pesto that doesn’t have dairy OR nuts that can substitute for the real thing in terms of salty, garlicky and richly delicious.  I also wanted something that was a good “go-to” condiment or sauce that I could have hand that would give me a variety of options. You know how kids put ketchup on everything?  I am out to change this. So I have created a nutritious explosive flavor filled pesto!  And I am always looking for a reason to celebrate anything with a glass of wine;)  This recipe deserves an entire bottle of celebration! Omega rich avocados, iron and mineral packed spinach, heart healthy garlic and done in less than 5 minutes by just dumping into a food processor? You can thank me later;)

Avocado Spinach Pesto – Dairy and Nut Free

Yield: Around 2 cups


  • 6 cups washed spinach
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tblsp. Olive Oil (or any mild flavored oil)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (adjust to your own taste but this packs a delicious punch!)
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea (again, you can adjust this to your own liking
  • Grind or two of fresh pepper


  1. Throw it all in a food processor and blend on high until creamy. I would take the top off and scrape down the sides a couple of times to make sure it is all fully incorporated.
  2. THAT'S IT, ENJOY!!*
  3. * If you find that it is too thick for your liking, you can add a couple of tablespoons of broth or hot water to thin it out.

Fresh Blueberry Muffins – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

Blueberry muffins, like the chocolate chip cookie, are an American classic.  They are a sure thing for both adults and children and a year round taste. I love baking breads and muffins so that our kids can grab a quick breakfast and/or snack on the go. And don’t underestimate the power of how delicious your house smells to raise sleepyheads out of dreams!  These lemon scented muffins are bursting with fresh blueberries that add their own natural sweetness. The coconut milk yogurt and applesauce, my two favorite egg and dairy substitutes, boost the nutrition while working to keep the muffins moist and tender.  If you prefer orange to lemon scented, just substitute out the lemon juice and rind for orange juice and rind.

This recipe is pretty basic so you can adjust for other berry variations.  If your go-to berry is raspberry, like my daughter’s, then substitute raspberries.  Or do a mixed berry muffin. Simplicity and flexibility is the goal of all of my recipes so adjust the flavor profile to fit your own tastes!

Fresh Blueberry Muffins – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soy Free


  • 2 c. gluten free flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. lemon rind (or more if you want a stronger lemon flavor)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used flaxseed milk)
  • 1/2 c. coconut yogurt (I used unsweetened vanilla)
  • 1/2 c. applesauce (I used unsweetened)
  • 1 Tblsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 Tblsp. honey or maple syrup
  • 1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Line a 12 muffin tin with liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine coconut milk, coconut yogurt, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon rind.
  4. To the yogurt mixture, add sugar, honey (or maple syrup), coconut oil, vanilla extract and applesauce. Mix well. Pour slowly into the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
  5. Fold in blueberries.
  6. Pour batter evenly into 12 muffin cups and bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for 5 minutes before removing. These are delicious warm from the oven but if you have any leftover and want to save them, store them in an airtight ziplock bag or container. Enjoy!


Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free, Soy Free

Chocolate chip cookies are a staple of most childhoods.  I grew up on Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies; soft, warm and gooey out of the oven. Really, is there anything better? When I began the journey of recreating all of my son’s favorite baked treats to be top 8 free, the first thing he asked for was chocolate chip cookies. O.K. no problem! A chocolate chip cookie that is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, stays soft, is gooey and tastes like a “regular” cookie. Um…problem, not so easy.  Who knew how important that darn egg is!  After countless batches thrown in the trash, this recipe is my own little miracle.

Chocolate chip cookie lovers fit into 2 categories; those who like crispy and those who like soft. This house is definitely a soft chocolate chip cookie house. To accomplish the right soft almost doughy texture, I use applesauce which also makes me feel like I’m making the cookie healthier because I”m adding fruit, right? Because these are consumed by the handful in our house, I’ve reduced the sugar to a level that is lower than other cookies, without taking away any of the cookie taste.  And I use chocolate chunks instead of chips because chunks = more chocolate! Unlike most gluten free, egg free cookies, these cookies stay soft for a few days and don’t turn into hockey pucks at the stroke of midnight. The best part? If you love raw cookie dough, go ahead and pig out as there aren’t any eggs! I suggest you double this recipe and freeze half for later, assuming they aren’t all eaten within the first hour!

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free, Soy Free

Yield: 24 cookies


  • 3/4 c. non-hydrogenated soy free shortening (I use Spectrum)
  • 2/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 4 oz. unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 8 oz. gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mil 1 to 1 Baking Flour which includes xanthan gum) *
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks (I use Enjoy Life)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together gluten free flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (and xanthan gum if your flour blend does not include it.
  3. Cream shortening and sugars on medium until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add applesauce and vanilla. Blend well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the shortening and sugar mixture, mixing just until thoroughly blended. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  5. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


* if your flour blend does not contain xanthan gum, add 1 t. xanthan gum to the flour mixture.


Starting Out Gluten Free, Dairy Free and/or Egg Free

A year ago, I didn’t know what a blog was. Yes, I am that uncool. And now that it’s out in the open, my teenage daughter is denying her DNA. All pride aside, the process of going gluten free, dairy free and/or egg free, or any other food “free”, for that matter, can be overwhelming and daunting. Because of my own challenge of going through it, I am always asked for advice or more importantly, for recipes. But how do you even start? I mean let’s be honest,it’s not like you can ignore this. And the issue of food “problems” isn’t going away. In fact, it is growing at an alarmingly rapid rate (See Food allergy facts and stats). I am willing to bet the every single one of you knows at least one person other than yourself that has a food “issue”.

So how do you start from taking something for granted, like grabbing a muffin or throwing snacks together based solely on what you feel like eating, to suddenly having this become an exhausting thought process? Apply this to a child, and the challenge doubles. Almost every single “typical” child’s food contains one or all of these. I know. When our son was 8, we were told that his body could not break down the proteins in most major food categories. I clearly remember that first year of feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the one thought of what I was going to feed him for this next meal or for a snack when he got home from school? What can you just grab that is quick to eat? Starting out is the hardest part because it will take effort.


Your mindset is key here. Yes, this is going to be work and things are going to have to change. No one likes drastic change, you’re not alone. But you can’t look at this as being deprived. Too many people see this as a “poor me” situation and focus on all the foods they can’t have anymore. Seeing the glass as half empty doesn’t do any good. You have to look at this as a challenge that will pay off because you (or your child) will finally feel SO MUCH BETTER! This is just a new approach to eating. But your attitude is so important. If you were diagnosed with diabetes, you’d have to change how you eat, right? This is no different.


This will probably be your biggest challenge. Yes, it adds an extra step to your former life of just grabbing food without giving it any thought. You are going to have to get into the habit of automatically reading ingredient labels. If there isn’t one, you need to ask about the ingredients. Do not take anything for granted. Gluten and dairy can HIDE in things like seasonings and marinades. And as a warning, many, many people have no idea what gluten is or what ingredients are considered “dairy”. I can’t tell you how many people think that “gluten” is the name of the ingredient to look for. You need to educate yourself.

Gluten and dairy aren’t necessarily obvious in your food. It is often “hidden”. Nacho cheese flavored corn chips contain dairy in the cheese seasoning. Gluten and dairy can also be found in medicines, gummy vitamins, seasonings (aka “whey”), marinades and many other unsuspecting foods.


Go through your entire kitchen, yes both your pantry and your refrigerator and throw away anything that contains any of the ingredients you can’t have. This means looking at EVERY bottle and package. Now, here is where you will need to make a choice. You will need to decide if you are going to completely revise your kitchen to be free of your particular food, or if you are just going to have a separate “safe” zone. I will also address that in another blog if you decide to do the latter. I tried having 2 different eating lifestyles in our home but it became too much work so, for the most part, we have all just changed our diet to eat like Alex.


Start finding new brands or substitutes for the particular item(s) you can’t have. For example, if you can’t have eggs, which egg substitute works best for you if you are going to bake? Chia eggs? Flax eggs? Psyllium husk? Egg replacer? While this is time consuming at the beginning and will require alot of your own taste trial and error, in the end you will have your “go-to” product. You will rebuild your pantry and refrigerator so that it is safe.


I realize that many of you might be feeling even more overwhelmed after reading this post. This change to your eating lifestyle does not happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen in a week. Changing your eating habits is a gradual process of learning and trial and error. The accomplishment that I felt when I conquered the simple chocolate chip cookie for my son, without any of the top 8 allergens, was as much as if I had earned a doctorate. Just start..take small steps, one meal, one day at a time, and please do not ever hesitate to ask me any questions you might have. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll try to find it. To help you get started, I have posted one of my family’s all time favorite recipes, Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread!

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread – Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soy and Nut Free

Eating should be fun. It’s that simple. But when you have food issues, it can quickly become a dreaded task. When we first learned about Alex’s food issues, my goal was to recreate favorite treats that could be a snack, a dessert, a breakfast and if necessary, a lunch item. Without any of the top 8 allergens. It needed to be nutritious without tasting that way. It needed to taste like “regular” banana bread. This recipe was the answer! It meets all of those things. I make this and freeze it so we always have it on hand, and it is a staple item that I give to friends, regardless of food issues. Kids absolutely love this and NO ONE, and I mean no one can tell this is free of anything!

I have made this recipe into both muffins and bread. To be honest, if you just add frosting to the top, this also passes as banana cake or banana cupcakes!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread


  • 1 1/2 c. gluten free flour (if your flour blend includes xanthan gum, eliminate it below)
  • 1/2 c. gluten free oat flour *
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. xanthan gum
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. coconut yogurt
  • 1 Tblsp. vinegar (I use apple cider)
  • 1 t. vanilla


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350(F) and lightly grease standard loaf pan.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mash bananas until there are no lumps left.
  4. Mix together all wet ingredients and add mashed bananas.
  5. Pour dry ingredients into your wet mixture. Mix until combined then fold in 1 1/2 cups dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life).
  6. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack. Cool completely before cutting.
  7. ENJOY!!
  8. *Oat Flour - you can easily make your own, just place 1 cup of gluten free oats into a food processor and pulse until finally ground.

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