Monthly Archives: February 2014

Homemade Dairy Free & Soy Free Sour Cream

Cashew Cream (Dairy Free Sour Cream)

Cashew Cream (Dairy Free Sour Cream)

This is probably the easiest recipe you’ll ever see me post but since it’s becoming a frequently made item in my home so I thought it was worth posting.  We’re mostly dairy free these days, after realizing that both of us had issues with it after an elimination diet (to look for sensitivities).  Since then, I’ve also realized that certain dairy products (as well as wheat) for me lead to binge eating behavior and as someone who has worked really hard to have a healthy relationship with food, I’m not interested in keeping those triggers in my life.

So long story short, cashew cream is a fantastic occasional substitute for sour cream (and it even can stand in partially for making a cream cheese frosting – I shit you not).  You might be wondering why I don’t just go out and buy a dairy free sour cream (there’s plenty out there today).  The reason I don’t go that route is because #1 I like to make things from scratch when I can and #2 fake versions of foods are usually filled with lots of yucky stuff, like extra sugar, extra salt, preservatives and processed soy.  No thanks!

I should warn you, if you’re someone who eats a lot of dairy, you’d probably try this and be like “this tastes nothing like sour cream, she’s nuts!!”.  But if you’ve been off the stuff for a while and just want a little bit of creaminess to dollop on top of your chilli, or to top on your baked potato?  I’ve got you covered!

1 cup raw whole unsalted cashews
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
sea salt to taste

Soak your cashews in water for at least 6-8 hours.  This will soften them so they’ll be super creamy and also remove some of the phytic acid (which interferes with digestion and magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron absorption).

After soaking, rinse and drain the cashews and then put all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Scrape down the sides with a spatula if necessary.

Chill for an hour before serving.   The cashew cream will stay good in the fridge for a week but I don’t think it’ll be in there that long!

Stay tuned, in a few days, I’ll be posting a recipe that makes great use of this stuff! Winter comfort food coming right up!

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How Ninjas Spend Their Sunday Mornings in Manchester, NH

Photos courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Photos courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Last Sunday, I took an Introduction to Aerial Fitness Circus Workshop with my friend Karen.  She bought a groupon for the workshop earlier this winter and asked if I would go with her. I love trying out new ways to get and stay fit so I jumped at the chance to try it even though the idea of me doing “Aerial Circus” conjured up not very graceful images in my head.  Willing, yes.  Graceful, no (but working on that!).

The workshop was through Go Ninja which is a part of Bareknuckle Murphy’s Boxing Gym in Manchester, NH.  When you first walk in to the gym, there are colorful silks hanging down from wooden beams on the ceiling and a boxing ring in the background.  Our instructor, Heather Murphy, was super welcoming and made us feel comfortable with her sense of humor and no bs attitude.  She ran our group through a warm up that included jumping jacks, downward dogs, planks and a few different stretches for our hip flexors and wrists and had us introduce ourselves. Once we were warmed up, she showed us how to tie a knot in the silks that would be supporting our bodies while we were in the air.  If you are afraid of heights, have no fear (or not too many) we made our knots low to the ground since we were all beginners.  Heather told us they have a “no falling” rule and none of us wanted to break it!  She stressed that we needed to learn the foundation of each move and how to activate our core before we could go on to crazy complicated stuff.  She made the moves look so easy but some require a ton of strength and all require trusting in yourself (and in the silks) for support.

We had a blast!  I got sweaty palms just watching Heather do some tricks on the silks but once I got on it and felt how strong it was (the silks are rated for supporting 2000lbs) and could feel how close the floor was, it became a lot less scary to lift my legs up over my head and go into an inversion or stand on the rope with both legs.  It was a little difficult to get comfortable with how the silks felt pressing in to my back/waist but they had little foam “noodles” you could use to pad the area – it helped a lot!

Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon

Photo courtesy of Karen Gagnon

I definitely plan to take more aerial classes.  I actually can’t wait!  It was super fun and challenging!

In addition to the Aerial Fitness Circus classes, Go Ninja also offers Modern Dance, Pilates, Aerial Yoga, Mixed Martial Arts and workshops for kids and moms.   They also offer private sessions and can host parties.  This workshop would make a great alternative for a healthy bachelorette party or girls night out.  If you want to try something new and build confidence – check them out!  The best way to make exercise a consistent part of your life is to find something you really enjoy doing.  Don’t be afraid to try new things!  Everyone was a beginner once!

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Recipe: Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apricots & Pumpkin Seeds

Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

I’m a meat eater but I like to try to have a couple of vegetarian days a week.  I feel more balanced when I don’t eat too much of any one thing.  The husband is a little less thrilled about vegetarian meals than I am so I have to make sure the dishes are substantial and hearty or he’ll be in the kitchen looking for a snack as soon as he puts down his fork.  I’ve had to get creative!  This one is a winner!

This meal can take center stage and hold it’s own next to any meat filled main course.  Buttery acorn squash, hearty wild rice, crunchy vegetables, apricots, pumpkin seeds and warming spices will taste good on your tongue and it will make your kitchen smell like happiness.  The flavors are reminiscent of stuffing at Thanksgiving (my recipe anyway).  If you’re like me and your kitchen wouldn’t know a sharp knife if one came crashing through the window, then you can relax – we cook the squash whole in this recipe!  Save your fingers and a trip to the emergency room by cutting in to the squash after it’s cooked.  Is it conceited if I call myself genius? Probably, but I don’t care.  This is a good one!

Sometimes I serve it topped with a dollop of hummus, half an avocado or a fried egg (or a combo of two!).  So satisfying I’ve even eaten the leftovers for breakfast!


2 whole acorn squash
1 cup Lundberg Wild Rice blend
1 cup Apple Cider or 1 cup water + 1 medium apple diced
3/4 cup of water
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup organic raw shelled pumpkin seeds
8 organic turkish apricots, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp dried basil leaves
black pepper and salt to taste
optional:  1 tbsp of butter for each squash half

Turn oven to 375 degrees.  Wash the skin of your acorn squash, dry and then put on a cookie sheet and carefully place in the oven (they might try to roll around).  It’s okay if the oven isn’t fully heated yet.  Cook the squash for 45 minutes, then check it for doneness.  You should be able to insert a knife easily into it’s flesh.  If still firm, keep cooking until soft.  When done, let cool for a few minutes, slice in half and then scoop out the seeds and fibrous membranes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

While the squash is cooking, bring the apple cider (or chopped apple & extra water) & water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Pour in the wild rice, return to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low so it simmers.  Cook for 45 minutes then turn off the heat and leave the cover on for a few more minutes.

When the rice is almost done cooking, heat a large skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil and when oil is hot saute the onion, celery, bell pepper and poblano peppers until they begin to soften.  Add sage, basil and allspice and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the chopped apricots and pumpkin seeds and add the rice when it’s done cooking.  Fill each acorn squash half with 3/4 – 1 cup of the rice and vegetable mixture.  I like to place a tablespoon of pastured butter (try Kerrygold if you don’t have a local source) in each squash half before filling with the rice mixture.  This is optional of course, but it adds a lot of flavor and richness which will keep your satisfied for hours. This meal is vegan if you leave it out.

Pop the filled squash back in the oven for 10 minutes or so just to warm the squash back up.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

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