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;)
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!
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.
#1 DON’T BE A VICTIM
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.
#2 YOU MUST READ ALL LABELS
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.
#3 CLEAN OUT YOUR PANTRY/REFRIGERATOR.
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.
#4 NOW REPLACE
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.
#5 BE PATIENT!
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!