This is meat-free, dairy-free, and in the photo above, also made using gluten-free pasta.  Its rich and creamy taste would never make you suspect there are so many 'normal' ingredients missing.  You will not taste the avocado, and surprisingly, it doesn't even make the sauce look green.  It adds richness along with those healthy, satisfying fats.  
If you used canned chickpeas, you'll have about one cup extra; you can either stir those in with the pasta, or save them for another use.
If you don't have an avocado, or don't want to use one, omit it and increase the chickpeas to three cups instead.

12-16 oz. pasta, cooked according to directions; save the cooking water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chickpeas- or use 2 cups from two (14-oz) cans, drained
one 6" sprig fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 medium avocado, peel and pit removed
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, or 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.

In a blender, combine 3 cups of the pasta cooking water (may also use the water drained off the cans of chickpeas), chickpeas, rosemary, red pepper, avocado, and lemon juice.  Blend on high until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp. salt), and stir in parsley.  
Pour over pasta and toss to coat.  
If the sauce is too thick, add water 1 Tbsp. at a time until it's the consistency you like.  


 
 
Santa Rosa plums are dark on the outside, often with a bluish hue that rubs off, ruby-colored inside, and explode with sweet juice when you bite into a fully ripe one.  They are apparently highly prized, which is nice for me, because my 3-in-1 plum tree is about half Santa Rosa.  They tend to ripen pretty much at once, which means we have only about a two-week window for eating them fresh, and need to be quick about canning, drying, making jam, or otherwise using them.  

Gelato usually uses milk instead of cream, and sometimes fewer egg yolks, as well.  If you use whipping cream in place of the milk, you'll have plum ice cream instead.  You can triple this batch if you really, really want to pull out your ice cream maker, but this smaller batch can be made using a high-speed blender. It's lightly sweet, with just enough brightness from the fruit, and full of flavor.  And yes, you may use other types of plums.  The color may or may not be the same, though, depending on the variety you use.  If you can't have eggs, you could thicken the milk with 1 Tbsp. cornstarch instead, but it won't be as creamy.

One pound of plums can mean anything from 4-10 plums, depending on their size.  If yours are small, ping-pong-ball sized, you'll need about ten.  If they're big ones, 2 1/2" across or so, you'll likely need only 4-5.  Either way, the goal is to end up with about 1 3/4 c. puree.

Santa Rosa Plum Gelato
Makes about one quart

1 lb. Santa Rosa plums
1/8 tsp. almond extract, optional but delicious!
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. whole milk, divided (dairy-free options include almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk)
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 c. sugar

Wash plums and remove stems.  Remove pits; you'll to cut them out.  Drop the pitted plums into a high-speed blender, add almond and vanilla extracts, and blend until smooth.   Pour into two empty ice cube trays.  Pour 1/3 c. of the milk into the blender and swish it around to get more of the puree; pour this into the ice cube trays as well.  Put them in the freezer.

Combine the two egg yolks, salt, and the sugar in the unwashed blender.  Heat the remaining 2/3 cup milk in the microwave for 1 minute, until steaming.  Meanwhile, turn the blender on to beat the yolks and sugar.  With the motor running, pour the hot milk in a thin stream into the yolks.  Once it's all in, increase speed to high, and run about two minutes, until the custard thickens slightly.  It will begin to coat the blender sides with a slightly thicker, opaque coating, and the mixture will steam quite a lot.  

Pour the custard into a container with a lid; refrigerate. Wash the blender; there's not much more unpleasant to wash off than dried egg yolk!

3-4 hours later, pull both the now-frozen puree and the now-chilled custard out.  Pour the custard into the (washed!) blender, add the puree cubes, and blend, using the plunger handle to get them to mix.

The gelato will be a soft-serve consistency.  If you want to be able to form round scoops, pour in a container and return to the freezer for another 1-3 hours.

 
 
The fastest, simplest S'mores ever!  My 6-year-old had a blast making these nearly by herself.  If you have a toaster oven, you can make just a few and hardly heat the kitchen up at all.  Even a big batch doesn't make your whole kitchen hot, or make you smell like campfire, or have the neighbors wondering what's on fire.  
If you use GF/CF chocolate chips and GF grahams, these are also a gluten-free, dairy-free treat.

For a big batch, you will need:

1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semisweet, you choose)
one 10-oz bag regular marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used precrushed ones) OR 4-5 crackers, crushed
Also:
A cookie sheet, an oven with a broil setting, and a sheet of parchment if you want the easiest cleanup.

Put the oven rack in the highest position.  Dump the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl; I used a Corelle cereal bowl.  Microwave for one minute; stir.  If it's not quite melted, microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Repeat if needed, but once you get past 2 minutes it overheats and clumps.  (You can rescue it by stirring in 1-2 tsp. oil.)

Dip the bottom half of a marshmallow into the chocolate, then dip into graham cracker crumbs.  Place on cookie sheet, at least 1/2" apart.

Turn the broiler on and put the marshmallows in.  If you have HI and LO options, here's what happened in my oven with them:

HI:  browned at 35-40 seconds.  Centers were still firm.
LO:  browned at 1 1/2- 2 minutes.  Nearly the whole marshmallow was now melted and gooey.  

Either way, watch these things closely!   Don't walk away for even a few seconds or they may be black when you get back.  Flaming marshmallows over a campfire in the dark may be entertaining, but they're not nearly as amusing in the house!

The marshmallows ready to be broiled.
 
 
Warm, chocolatey, just sweet enough, high fiber, and with little pockets of gooey melted chocolate chips!   My sister-in-law posted a similar recipe on Facebook.  It sounded delicious and had very little added sugar.  The original recipe called for applesauce instead of oil, but I'm a fan using healthy fats alongside carbohydrates so that my kids and I aren't hungry again an hour after breakfast!  It helps you process the fiber in these, too.

Chocolate Fudge Banana Muffins - makes 12
(can be gluten-free and dairy-free)

3 medium bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 c. oil or melted butter (I like coconut oil in these)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. oat flour (or you can use all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
chocolate chips, optional (1/4- 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  
Whisk together eggs and brown sugar.  Mix in the oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients and add to the wet.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide between the muffin cups; bake about 17-23 minutes, or until the top of a muffin springs back lightly when gently pressed.
 
 
These are fun.  We made them as a little homeschool science project.  EVERYONE in the family thought these were awesome, and we had enough to give a couple to some of my son's friends who are fascinated with rocks.  My next-door-neighbor, the Webelos Scout leader, pointed to a pile of broken rocks on her sidewalk.  "This,"  she said, "was what we did so the boys could feel like they might find a geode- we gave them hammers and rocks from our yard.  We should have made these instead!"

They'd love them too.

These would make some amazing and unusual Easter eggs, too:  make a bunch the same size and wrap two halves together to form a ball.

Edible Geodes
Crystal-growing solution (Rock candy syrup)
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Mix the two, heat on high in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Add several drops food color if you want, along with ½ tsp. flavoring (optional). Let cool a bit while you make the rock shells.

Rock Shell (Marshmallow Fondant)
8 ounces marshmallows
2-4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ c. coconut oil or shortening

Mix marshmallows with 2 Tb. water in a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir.  Microwave 30 seconds more, stir. Repeat until it’s melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and mix with a spoon and then with your hands.  Spread 1 Tbsp. coconut oil on clean counter, knead the fondant on top adding more coconut oil when needed.   When smooth and stiff, take half of it and set aside.  Take other half and knead in ¼ c. cocoa powder to make fondant brown.  Roll out ¼“ thick.  Roll out the white half to the same size and stack them on top of each other.    Line a few bowls with aluminum foil, sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cut a piece of the two-layer fondant to fit, and line a bowl with it, with the brown side touching the foil.  Repeat until you run out.   Trim off any fondant that is beyond the lip of the bowl, using scissors.  Set aside.

Pour the sugar syrup into the fondant-lined bowls.  Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least a day (or 2-3 days for bigger crystals).  When ready, break the surface and pour off the syrup. Turn the geodes upside down to drain for an hour.  They’re ready! 

 
 
This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
Bonus- this fudge can be made dairy-free and still have that creamy, melt-in-your mouth text ure!

This week in Joyschool I taught the kids about the process of making chocolate.  I had a library book that had pictures of each step, from cacao tree to wrapped chocolate bars, and I brought hands-on things, as well.  They got to see, smell, and taste bits of roasted cocoa beans (didn't like them!- it's like eating unsweetened chocolate but crunchier.), see and smell cocoa powder, see, smell, and have cocoa butter rubbed into their skin, we melted and molded chocolates (cute little Easter shapes).... and then made this baggie fudge.  If you're making it yourself or have careful children, a single bag is fine, but for this group that includes a few 3-year-old boys, I double-bagged it. :)  This could be a fun Family Home Evening activity AND treat. 
Our batch was made using the coconut oil and coconut cream, since 3 of the kids can't have dairy.

I had brought walnuts in the shell to use in the fudge, but the kids had so much fun cracking the nuts first and eating the bits inside that they were all gone before the fudge was ready.  It's good fudge either way!

Baggie Fudge
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened or melted
1/2 c.  cocoa powder
1/3 c. coconut cream, OR 1/4 c. water and  1/2 c.  nonfat dry milk powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups unsifted)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Put the ingredients in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  Put this bag inside another bag if  it seems like a good idea.  Squish, knead, or pound the bag until everything is well mixed.  (Giving the kids 30 -second turns seemed to work the best- and gave them practice counting.)  

Once it's mixed, squish the mixture into a rectangular shape near the top, making the rectangle about an inch narrower on each side than the bag.  Put the bag on a cutting board or similar surface.  Cut down one side of the bag and across the bottom with scissors. Cut fudge into squares, or use small cookie cutters to make cute shapes.  Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

If fudge is a little too soft, let it chill in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up.



 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
I have the HARDEST time finding bouillon that doesn't contain MSG.  Here's a solution:  no MSG, no fillers, no preservatives.  Only what you choose to put in it.

This recipe was adapted from Traci's Transformational Health Principles by Traci J. Sellers

Vegetable Broth Powder     (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Nutritional Yeast (to make your own, see here)
1/4 cup RealSalt (or Himalayan salt; something with those trace minerals)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (see how to make your own, here)
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano, optional
1 tsp. dried lemon peel, optional
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. ground thyme 

 Put everything except parsley in a blender or food processor, in the order given.  Blend until
 powdered.  Add parsley, pulse just enough to chop it a little bit (you're aiming for small bits).  Store in an airtight container indefinitely.  

To use, add a heaping 1/2 tsp. per cup of water, or 1 Tbsp. of powder  for every quart of water.

 
 
We discovered roasting vegetables about three years ago.  Now when I buy broccoli or cauliflower, they are almost always served roasted.  Even my kids who  "don't prefer"  (the PC term at our table) broccoli, like it roasted. 

 Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken    - serves 6-8
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups cooked chicken 

Preheat oven to 475, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position about 20 minutes.  Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt.  Roast about 20 minutes, stirring once about after about 15 minutes.  Cauliflower is done when parts of it turn a deep golden brown.  Stir in the chicken .

 We ate this with rice and chicken gravy (see below) on the side; conveniently enough, it also takes about the same amount of time to cook.  If you start the rice first, then cut up the cauliflower, the rice should be done about the same time if you're using regular white rice and cooking on a stove top.

Since I didn't have any leftover chicken,  I put 1 lb of chicken in my pressure cooker along with two medium-small onions (or use one med-large) and about 1/2 tsp. salt.  My pressure cooker does not lose water when it cooks, so I didn't add any.  (If your pressure cooker does, please add water!  Probably 1/2 cup, as the chicken and onions release moisture as they cook.)  It was done after 15 minutes of high pressure. 

Clear Chicken Gravy
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup juices from cooking the chicken and onion

(microwave instructions)  
In a  1-cup glass measuring cup, stir together the water and cornstarch until smooth.  Stir in a little of the cooking juices, then stir in enough that you have 1 cup total.  Microwave for 1 minute; stir.  If it hasn't thickened yet, microwave another minute and stir again.  Add salt if needed.  (Mine didn't need it.)