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.  


 
 
This is a refrigerator cheesecake; no baking needed!  It takes only about ten minutes until the filling is set enough to serve. This one has a rhubarb topping, but use whatever you like on the top!  The cheesecake can be made gluten-free, and this version is sweetened with honey.  It can even be dairy-free if you have a nondairy substitute for cream cheese; use any milk you prefer in place of the milk called for in this recipe.
This makes one 8x8 pan or one 8" pie pan.  Pick your shape.  :)

Crust:
3/4 c. quick-cooking oats (GF if needed)
1/4 c. oat flour (whirl oats in the blender until powdered)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (melted) or butter
1 Tbsp. honey, liquid

Stir all four ingredients together, then press into the bottom of an 8x8 pan or up the sides then along the bottom of an 8" pie plate.  Put it in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling.

Filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla1/2 cup evaporated milk, half-and-half, or whipping cream (or coconut cream)
2 Tbsp. Ultra Gel

Beat the cream cheese until softened, then mix in the honey, lemon juice, salt, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Gradually add the  milk/cream and Ultra Gel; beat until thick and fluffy.  Spread evenly over the chilled crust.  Let chill for at least 5-10 minutes away if you like. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Lemon Topping:  1/4 c. lemon marmalade (use this recipe, substituting lemons for orange), thinned with just enough water to make it a sauce.

Rhubarb Topping:
1 c. chopped rhubarb (about 1 big stalk)
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. honey, to taste

Combine in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for two minutes; stir.  Repeat until the rhubarb is soft.  Mash and taste to see if it's sweet/tart enough for you.  
 
 
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.)

 
 

Yesterday I got to have lunch with some friends at a neighbor's house.  We each brought something; Emily, whose house we met at, made Apple Butternut Squash Soup; this link goes to the recipe on her website.

I had lots and lots of Romaine lettuce on hand, thanks to another friend...  so a salad seemed in order.  I started out intending to make honey-mustard dressing, but it lacked something... so I looked around the kitchen to see what to use.  In went some orange peel and the white parts of some green onions.  

Oh.

That was good!

Next about a pound of lettuce and the green parts of three green onions were mixed with around half of the dressing; just enough]to lightly coat.  Then four or five sliced hardboiled eggs went on top, 4 oz. of cubed cheese, and a big handful of toasted pecan pieces.  
Everyone loved it, except the person who didn't try it because she's allergic to eggs and nuts. :/

This would be delicious brushed onto chicken a few minutes before done baking.

Honey-Orange Dressing  Makes about 1 cup

1/4-1/3 c. honey (depends if you want this more sweet or more tangy)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (I used 2 drops of essential oil)
2 Tbsp. onion (I used the bottom 1 1/2" from 3 green onions)
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest (I used about half the peel from a clementine)

Throw everything into a blender; puree until smooth.  


 
 
This seasonal New York-style cheesecake is not exactly "lite", just light.  Not leaden.  But it is a little lower fat because I substituted one cup of cottage cheese in place of the original one cup of heavy cream.  :)  This gives it a higher protein content and reduces the fat.
This is an amazing pumpkin cheesecake, with just the right amount of tartness, sweetness, and spice.  I adapted it from an America's Test Kitchen recipe.  The whipped cream topping is optional but perfect.

The recipe- which is below- calls for a 9-inch springform pan.  I don't own one, but I do have a 9-inch round cake pan.  I use it instead by cutting out a circle of parchment paper and lining the bottom with it, spraying the inside edges with cooking spray, and going ahead with the baking.  When it's done, run a knife around the inside edge to help it pull away, cool and chill completely, and invert the pan over a plate.  Tap hard.  If it's being really stubborn, run hot water over the bottom of the pan (held at an angle so the plate doesn't fill with water) and try again.  
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Crust
1 sleeve (about 5 ounces) graham crackers- whack it a few times to break into chunks
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Put the cracker pieces in a blender or food processor; run until finely ground.  Put the butter in a 2-cup microwave-safe container and melt it, about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Dump in the crumbs, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix well, then sprinkle over the bottom of a 9" springform pan.  Press down evenly using the bottom of a glass or something else flat.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until it starts smelling delicious.  Remove and let cool while you make the filling.

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or your own- or, better yet, use pumpkin powder)*
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or use 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice in place of these four spices)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup cottage cheese
5 large eggs room temperature

Pour the pumpkin puree on a triple layer of paper towels, spread evenly, then top with another triple layer. Press firmly to absorb the extra moisture.  The Test Kitchen said that when they didn't do this, the cheesecake was always wet.   OR- best idea ever!- use your pumpkin powder, using only half the water you normally would.  That means you'd use 6 Tbsp. pumpkin powder-- barely over 1/3 cup-- plus enough warm water to equal one cup.  (Ta-da!  aren't you extra-glad now that you made some?!)

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil for a water bath later.  Put the pumpkin in a blender or food processor, and add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice, cottage cheese, and eggs.  Blend until smooth. Pour over crust. Put this pan in a roasting pan or on a jelly roll pan if that's all you have.  Put it in the oven, then pour water in that larger pan, enough to come about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, until the center wobbles like Jello instead of like water; a thermometer poked into the center should register 145-150 degrees F.  Run a knife around the inside edge of the cheesecake, then put the cheesecake pan on a wire rack to cool.  When cool, chill for at least 4 hours to let it firm up.  (I didn't have that much time; mine cooled on the counter for 30 minutes, then went in the fridge for 3 hours.  It was a little soft in the center, but sliced OK.  The leftovers sliced much more nicely the next day.)

Brown Sugar and Rum (flavor) Cream Topping
1 cup whipping cream, very cold
1/2 cup sour cream or 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. rum flavor*

Whip the cream until it barely starts to thicken.  Add sour cream or cream cheese (I used cream cheese since I was out of sour cream), brown sugar, salt, and rum flavor. Beat about a minute, until thick; spread on top of cooled cheesecake.

*I have a whole bunch of Stephen's Gourmet Rum Sauce mix packets; each packet makes 2 cups of sauce; I used half of one dry mix in place of part of my sugar.  But I don't know if the company still makes the mix; I got them for ten cents apiece on a clearance deal. So you can use rum flavor.  Or use 2 tsp. rum if you happen to like it.  Or, if you live nearby, call me and you can have a packet.  :)
I also cooked a bit of the sauce and used that to drizzle a design on the top of the cheesecake.  Mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top would be great instead, as would some sugared pecans or hazelnuts.  Mmm.
 
 
Can you tell it's zucchini and tomato season?  I've wondered before why so many recipes combine those two vegetables.  I now suspect that it's partly because the plain zucchini excels at tasting like whatever you cook it with, and very few things can top a fresh garden tomato in the flavor department.  This recipe also uses any mellow white fish, probably for the same reason.  The other ingredients both perk up and round out the flavor.  This one's a keeper.

Baked Fish and Vegetables

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest or 2-3 drops lemon essential oil
1 lb. zucchini or summer squash,sliced 1/4" thick
1 lb. tomatoes (3 medium), sliced thin, OR cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. minced fresh basil or 1 drop basil oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs. mild white fish 
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar*

Preheat oven to 450 F and move an oven rack to the lowest position.  Mix together the butter, minced garlic, lemon juice, and zest.  If using basil oil, add it to this mixture.  Rub a little of the butter mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Put the zucchini slices in the bottom of the 9x13 pan; add the tomatoes in a second layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and with half of the basil (unless you used basil oil).  Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then place the fish on top of the tomatoes.  Dot the butter over the top, add the rest of the basil, and drizzle with the vinegar*.  Cover tightly with foil; bake about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when you twist a fork in it.  Serve immediately.

Serve over rice to pasta to soak up the delicious sauce!

*The original recipe, from America's Test Kitchen, calls for 1/4 cup dry white wine.  I don't cook with wine, so the white balsamic is what I found in my pantry to add the savory flavor.  Since it's strong, I used only half as much (2 Tbsp. instead of 1/4 c.).  If you have neither, chicken broth and a splash of soy sauce would give a similar depth.
 
 
The sauce in this filling is from my great-grandmother, who I hear was an excellent cook. She lived in the ‘Mormon’ colonies in Mexico, left in 1912 to avoid Pancho Villa and other warring factions, returned after the Revolution, and earned money through millinery (making hats) and sewing.  Her last few years were in Arizona, where she cooked and sewed at the LDS Mesa temple.   This recipe was her enchilada sauce, only she used 3 cups of water and 3 Tbsp. chili powder when using it over enchiladas, since more liquid is needed for those.  

These are gluten-free if you use cornstarch and not flour in the filling.  Using shredded meat instead of burger makes these a little more authentic, but ground meat is awfully convenient.  Unless you happen to have some leftover roast available to shred.

Individual Tamale Pies 
Makes 12 muffin-sized ones, or can be made into a 9" pie pan

Crust:
2 c. masa harina  (OR use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 c. flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil or other fat (oil, butter, lard, etc)
about 3/4 to 1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all together to form a moderately thick dough.  Grease 12 muffin cups.  Shape a ball a little bigger than a ping pong ball (3 Tbsp. dough), then press dough in a muffin cup, making a layer about 1/4"- 3/8" thick.  Repeat until finished.  Set aside.  

Filling:
2 cups cooked burger or shredded beef, pork, or chicken
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. butter, optional
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour

 Mix together the meat, tomato sauce, butter, salt, sugar, and chili powder, and bring to a boil.  Stir the cornstarch or flour into 1-2 Tbsp. water,  to form a slurry.  Gradually mix the slurry into the boiling mixture, cook and stir until thickened, about a minute.  Taste it and add a little more salt if you like.

Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into each of the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is set and the filling just starts to bubble around the edges.  Let sit for a couple minutes, then remove them by placing an upside-down cookie sheet on top, then flipping the whole thing upside down (see slideshow below).  

Serve with plain or with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, or anything else that sounds good.



 
 
Somehow I've ended up with more dried fruit than planned, and it's getting a little old and turning dark.  Here's a new way to use it: a sugar-free caramel sauce!  Well, "sugar free" doesn't actually mean really all-sugar-free, BUT... all the sugar in this is naturally occurring in the fruit.  So it's no-sugar-added caramel sauce.  Unless you're a sugar addict, in which case you could add as much more sugar as you like!   This is a sauce to spoon, not to pour.  If you'd like it pourable, add more milk or some liquid honey or maple syrup until it's the consistency you want.

Next post will be for a rich, creamy, healthy no-bake New York style cheesecake, using this caramel sauce in the filling as the sweetener.

Fruit-sweetened Caramel Sauce

15 pitted dates (about 110g or 4 oz.)
1 to 1½ c. milk, any kind (I used coconut milk)
¼ c. melted browned butter or ghee, optional but helps give a caramel-y flavor
1/16 tsp. salt
1Tbsp vanilla

Blend until smooth, starting with the lower amount of milk; add more only if needed.  Makes about 1 1/2 - 2 cups.   If you don’t have a powerful blender, soak the dates overnight in the milk or simmer them together for 10 minutes, then puree.  If you prefer it sweeter, add a little honey, brown sugar, or stevia.

Try other dried fruits.  Peach is good.  Pear has naturally caramel undertones and would be delicious with a dash of cinnamon or coriander.  
 
 
Why is it almost Taco Salad?  Because there's no tostada or chips with it.  If you want full-blown Taco Salad, just add some.  Pretend they're corn-chip croutons.  I didn't use those because of a sudden urge to make roasted potatoes and didn't want a lot more carbohydrates in the meal.  Besides, if I opened a bag of chips, the whole thing would disappear, and that's anywhere from $1- 2.50, depending on if we're using cheap tortilla chips or Fritos.  The potatoes, as our carb, cost about $ .50 instead.  Yum.

Almost-Taco Salad

 ½ lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. tomato powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
1 head of lettuce (or a half head each Iceburg and red leaf lettuce)
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ c. shredded cheese
1 tomato, cut in wedges
Optional: thin-sliced onion, sliced avocado, jicama cubes, cooked black beans, drained canned corn, canned green chilies....

Cook the beef until browned.  Meanwhile, wash and chop lettuce and veggies.  Put the lettuce in, then add the vegetables and most of the cheese; mix slightly.  When the burger is done, drain off grease, then add tomato powder and chili powder.  Stir to coat, taste and add salt if needed.  Spread out the meat on a plate to cool more quickly.    When it’s cool, top the salad with it and the remaining cheese.

My family thought it was good without salad dressing, but if you want something to drizzle on top, Ranch is a good choice- especially if you mix a little chili powder into it-, OR this:

Creamy Garlic Dressing:

¼ c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1 Tbsp. water or milk
½ tsp. garlic powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. dried parsley, optional, if you want it to look prettier

Whisk until smooth.
Serve with oregano-roasted potato wedges and vegetable sticks.