You had me at pizza: Flourless, dairy-free pizza with a cauliflower pine nut crust and nut-based faux mozz

I need pizza. I really do. But the Whole30 means no pizza for mama on our Friday night pizza night (even though we make the best, fresh from scratch, whole wheat or gluten free home made pizza). What really defines pizza is the crust and the cheese, so really I am SOOL while on Whole30, but I can make something that is compliant and kinda like pizza. Now if you are looking for something that truly tastes like pizza, made from whole ingredients without some fancy machinery and lots of time, please tell me the secret because in my opinion, you can replace the crust or replace the cheese but not both at the same time. When I am giving myself a break from Whole30 and eating dairy or gluten every so often, I place the faux cheese on a real crust or real cheese on faux crust, and voila, healthier pizza that tastes like pizza. This is a very tasty Whole30 compliant oooey gooey dairy-free faux mozz on a flourless, gluten-free, dairy-free cauliflower crust. It is tasty and satisfying and hits the spot on Friday night pizza night.

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Nacho your typical nacho: Baked sweet potato chips with gooey vegan cashew cheez

I blame everyone else’s talk of football – I don’t pay attention to the sport nor does anyone in my household, but I can’t help but pay attention to what people are making for game day snacks (they are talking about food, how can I not pay attention?) As a result, I end up with cravings for food like nachos. But I try to avoid corn chips, tortilla or cheese in my diet, which pretty much eliminates the main components of nachos. Anyone who knows me knows that I refuse to be limited. Each limitation is an open door to creating something new – something, as my daughter says is “same same but different.” So I made baked sweet potato chips topped with a vegan gooey cashew based cheez, salsa, guacamole, purple cabbage, purple kale, tomato, avocado, cilantro, jalepeno and scallion.

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I’m bout to get jalapeno business: Baked almond crusted jalapeno poppers with a faux cashew and pine nut based cheez

So I don’t follow, pay attention to or watch football (well, I should say US football. I do follow what football is to the rest of the world, especially around the World Cup). But one thing that I have liked in the past are the snacks and food associated it the game – the unhealthy, carb loaded, cheesy, fatty and sometimes spicy treats. Of course I almost never eat them. But with everyone so focused on football and speaking about it non stop compounded with the cold rainy weather and my current Whole30 restrictions, suddenly it is what I am craving. So what do I do – get down to business and make it my way – dairy-free, gluten-free, nut based and baked.

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All about deez nuts (and dooz squashes): Gluten and dairy-free Spaghetti squash noodles with butternut squash cashew cream sauce, kale and pistachios

We have had an influx of visitors from back home in NYC (I love it!). And of course if people come over, I have to cook because that is just how I operate. Lately I have been swamped with work and toddler changes/tantrums, prepping my food every day for Whole30 and resisting that which I should not eat. So when guests come to town, if I don’t have anything prepped or time on my hands I need to come up with quick dishes. My fridge is overflowing with squash purees, so I decided to make her a pasta with a cayenne spiced pumpkin goat cheese sauce. My husband and friend loved it and I was drooling, frustrated I could not eat it. So of course I began to create a compliant recipe in my head and made it the very next day – gluten-free, dairy-free, white wine-free full of whole foods. Instead of spaghetti noodles, I used spaghetti squash. Instead of pumpkin, I used butternut squash just to change it up. Instead of goat cheese, I used cashew cream and nutrional yeast. Instead of white wine, I used lemon juice. And added kale and pistachios. Heavenly. I had three servings.

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Sometimes you just feel like an impasta: sweet potato pasta with zucchini ribbons, arugula, baby spinach, almond slices and walnuts topped with nut power green pesto

Who needs real pasta when there are so many veggieful imposters out there: sweet potato, zucchini, rutabaga, yellow squash and so much more. I love the real slim shady – that fiberless, refined, calorically dense carbohydrate that loves to wreak havoc on my body, but as I always say,if I am going to eat it I want it to be the best. So I’ll wait until I have an opportunity to consume the perfect handmade al dente pasta which is few and far between. In the meantime I would rather an impasta. I usually use a spiralizer to make noddles, but lately I have been craving a flater wider noodle – like pappardelle or even fettuccine would do. On a recent trip through an airport, I saw a beautiful picture on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine of pappadelle with pesto, arugula and walnuts and wanted to make it my way. Sweet potato noodles with zucchini, baby spinach, arugula, almond slices and walnuts and topped with a power pesto made of leafy greens, basil and nuts and a cashew nut based parmesan. Not as pretty as the front cover, but very very tasty.

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To dairy or not to dairy: Zucchini ravioli with ricotta cheez and leafy greens in sage “butter” sauce with cashew nut parm and toasted walnuts

Earlier this summer, I had dinner with one of my good friends back home in New York City who loves good food and knows good Italian. He took me to Via Carota where I indulged in the most perfectly cooked tortelli with nettle and ricotta in a simple butter sauce topped with parmigiano-reggiano. It was divine – my mouth still waters thinking about it. I will never be able to make pasta as perfectly fresh and aldente as that – and nor should I. Perfecting such an art would take an unnecessary amount of time and would require me to eat pasta daily (why would I not take advantage of such a talent if I had it). Instead, I can be a connoisseur of pasta and eat it sparingly because finding such exquisitely made pasta is not easy and often expensive unless you are lucky enough to know of a fine Italian home cook. Does it mean that I must be left to salivate over my dreams of such fine cooking until I can experience it again? For me, the answer lies in being able to create something similar that is healthy, nourishing, fulfilling that can be eaten often without guilt or regret. So I made a pasta-less ravioli using a zucchini wrapper and I made this two ways : with and without dairy, because sometimes this girl loves a bite of cheese. I stuffed it with a mix of leafy greens and either real ricotta cheese or one made from cashews, and topped with a sage infused ghee based butter sauce and topped with walnuts and either parm or dairy-free cashew nut parm.

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Food glorious food: Zucchini “ravioli” bundles filled with savory beet puree, cashew nut goat cheese and chard

Taste and smell are linked to memories and have the ability to pull old memories from our brains. I find the reverse to be true as well – if I remember a food I ate, my mouth waters and I can smell it in my mind’s nose. On a stroll through my former work neighborhood, I passed Fig and Olive where I had the most amazing ravioli filled with goat cheese and herbs –  I could not let the thought go. I wanted to taste that soft doughy bundle of dairy.

I am lucky that if I am faced with craving, it awakens the creative problem solving side of myself and I can come up with a tasty gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian , protein filled, balanced and satisfying alternative.

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A taste of home reinvented: saag kaju “paneer” and cauliflower pulao

Food is a source of comfort and memory for me. Certain foods provide me with more than sustenance. They almost feel like a constant – something to return to when I need comfort. Though the biology is still being investigated,  smell has been linked to past memory. I often fry spices for many of my dishes and that smell invokes memories of my family and my childhood.

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