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Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares {Paleo, Vegan}

As we’ve been gearing up for Thanksgiving and experimenting with different dishes, I’ve been trying some new desserts.

Inspired by the textures of Meghan Telpner’s Rawmazing Key Lime Pie, I thought I’d infuse the flavors of fall into a melt-in-your-mouth, coat-your-tongue, creamy, no-bake cheesecake.

And I wanted an excuse to use pumpkin.

Pumpkin

Because I love pumpkin.

All things pumpkin.

Especially when it’s mixed with sweet maple syrup, creamy cashews, and warming cinnamon and ginger.

It’s my new go-to for a Thanksgiving dessert.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares.

I’m going to keep it short and sweet here today because this recipe is that good, but all you need to know is it’s easy to make, doesn’t require baking, and is so addictive you’ll want to eat multiple squares at a time.

The creaminess comes from the raw cashews (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it), and the slight hint of tartness we’d usually get from cheese comes from a spoonful of lemon juice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ingredients

Base

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (make sure they’re soft)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch fine grain sea salt

Filling

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 2-4 hours then drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Put all the crust ingredients into a food processor, and process until the ingredients stick together. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a square baking dish.
  2. Put all filling ingredients in your blender or food processor (high-speed blenders like a Vitamix or Blendtec work best) and blend until smooth and creamy. You may have to stop to scrape down the sides. I had to use the tamper for my Vitamix to get it to be smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour the filling evenly over the base and smooth with a spatula. Cover the dish and place it in the freezer to set for 4-6 hours.
  4. Let the dish sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares. I sprinkled a thin layer of cinnamon on top before serving.

15 Nourishing Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

They’re baaaack…

PUMPKINS!

From pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bread to those cute little pumpkin-shaped mellocreme candies from Brachs, pumpkins seem to be popping up everywhere as we approach fall.

I love pumpkin because of how versatile it is. You can sweeten it in smoothies, breads, muffins, pies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and even pancakes. You can also make it savory and roast it with fresh herbs or blend it into soul satisfying soups.

Aside from being able to morph into just about any kind of recipe you can imagine, pumpkin is also loaded with nutrients that support our immunity, digestion and beauty. Pumpkin is awesome because, it’s…

  • Loaded with vitamin C, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that supports our immune health.
  • High in fill-you-up fiber, which keeps us “regular” (this is a good thing!) and keeps us feeling satisfied for hours. A one-cup serving of winter squash like pumpkin has about 1/4 of your daily recommended fiber intake. Considering fewer than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber, this is a big advantage!
  • Excellent source of beta-carotene – a potent antioxidant and cancer-fighter that also happens to be good for our eyes and skin health
  • Packed with lycopene and carotenoids that are known to help diminish cancer cells, inhibit diabetes, hypertension, the degenerative signs of aging, and prevent macular degeneration
  • Full of potassium, which helps restore our body’s electrolyte balance
  • Has a low or medium glycemic index (GI) value, which means it supports a balanced blood sugar (and balanced mood and weight – they all go hand-in-hand!)

If you want to learn even more about why pumpkin rocks, check out this site.

Now, onto the recipes! Here are my top pumpkin-lover recipes from my blog and a few other places 🙂

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Here are a few ideas for savory pumpkin recipes:

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your own pumpkin puree from a real pumpkin, check out this post about How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree.

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? Feel free to share below! 🙂

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes: Gluten Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! It’s my favorite food holiday and a wonderful time to reflect on what matters most and what we value and appreciate.

I have a lot to be thankful for, including all of YOU who have been SO supportive of me and my continued work on this blogging adventure.

I am SUPER excited to spend most of the day in the kitchen Thursday preparing yummy and nourishing food for my family. I love them and want them to be well!

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I love how colorful the Thanksgiving plate can be, how amazing our house smells as everything is cooking and all of the flavors are coming together, and taking the time to reflect on what matters most to me.

Here are a few of the recipes I’ve shared on the blog before (and some I haven’t!) that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner 🙂 Just as a little reminder, all of these recipes are dairy-free and gluten-free, so just about anyone can enjoy them!

Thanksgiving Recipes

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Parmesan
  2. Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  3. Butternut Squash and Quinoa Harvest Salad
  4. Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad
  5. Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole
  6. Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares
  7. Maple-Glazed Delicata Squash
  8. The Ultimate Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing {Paleo}
  9. Cran-Apple Quinoa Salad
  10. Paleo Pumpkin Muffins & Bread
  11. Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts
  12. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
  13. Green Beans Almondine
  14. Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash
  15. Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Cranberries & Pecans
  16. Protein-Packed Pumpkin Spice Dip
  17. Melt In Your Mouth Apple Crisp
  18. How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
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Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

People often ask where I look for recipes when I’m trying to come up with ideas. Here are a few of the blogs I will be getting inspirations from this Thanksgiving. Check out the recipes and let me know if you end up trying out any of them!

Healthy & Gluten-Free Recipes from The Detoxinista

I love so many of her recipes and try out at least one of them every couple of weeks. I’m excited to try out her Clean Green Bean Casserole (cut back on the sodium – it’s a LOT!), No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Tarts, and Grain-Free Stuffing, but she highlights a full list of 10 of her favorites here, so be sure to check it out!

Grain-Free Thanksgiving from Against All Grain

I made a recipe for a dense, moist (everyone’s favorite word, right??) pumpkin bread that I saw blogger and author, Danielle Walker, post on Facebook and brought it to my church for our annual Thanksgiving dinner tonight. SO worth it!

Not only that, but Danielle is offering a completely grain-free Thanksgiving recipe ebook for sale on her website for less than $5! Many people who have digestive challenges feel better when they at least temporarily eliminate grains from their diet.

Against All Grain's Pumpkin Bread (Nut-Free, Grain-Free & Dairy-Free!)

Against All Grain’s Pumpkin Bread (Nut-Free, Grain-Free & Dairy-Free!)

Nourishing Meals by Tom Malterre

What caught my eye was this mouth-watering picture of an Apple Cider & Herb Brined Turkey. This Wild Rice Stuffing recipe with apples, cranberries, and sage looks (and sound tasty), too, so I may try it!

I also happen to think the two Nourishing Meals cookbooks are FANTASTIC, and I highly recommend them.

Our Paleo Thanksgiving by realfoodwithdana

I’ve been following Dana’s work on Instagram for the past few years and have gotten to meet her in person at the Natural Products Expo East several times. She focuses on paleo recipes (no beans, grains, dairy, refined sugar or processed foods), and she is fun and funny, too. If you’re not already following her on instagram, you can do that here.

In this post, she shares over 50 paleo-friendly, mouthwatering Thanksgiving recipes that you will definitely want to check out to upgrade your menu.

Nomtastic Thanksgiving Recipesfrom nomnompaleo

I love the playful vibe of this blog and appreciate how simple and fun their approach is. Their Roasted Garlic Autumn Root Vegetable Mash, Brussels Sprouts Chips (um, yes, please!!) and Cran-Cherry Sauce are all on my list of menu possibilities.

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes from oh she glows

Angela posts amazing recipes (and beautiful photos). I made my own version of a sweet potato casserole tonight but think this one looks pretty awesome, too! This Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Pudding Cake sounds as incredible as the pictures look and may be worth trying.

And now for a little gravy on top…

For whatever reason, I’ve never been a fan of gravy, but I know it’s most people’s favorite thing about the meal, so here is a recipe for a gluten-free gravy and another for a vegan mushroom gravy recipe to check out! Both have good reviews. Bon Appetit also wrote a simple post about how to make gluten-free gravy, and you can check it out here.

What’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving dish? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

Snacks + Sweet Treats

From mint chocolate chip ice cream and dark chocolate caramels to sour patch kids, Swedish Fish and just about every fruit snack flavor, I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth.

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is experiment with recipes for upraded sweet treats made from whole food ingredients and enjoyed every now and then as a treat. Food is meant to be savored and enjoyed, and when we slow down to savor high quality food, we find that we are satisifed with less than we might be if we had rushed through the experience.

Many of these treats are pretty rich, so a little goes a long way! Take time to slow down and savor them 🙂

Check out the recipes below for healthier alternatives to some of your favorite sweet foods. Common sweeteners used in the recipes include Medjool dates, bananas, raw honey, 100% pure maple syrup, coconut sugar and raisins.

You may find you like the “upgrades” better than the originals! 🙂

sunbutter buckeyes2NB Lactation Cookies

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cookie dough banner 2-Minute Peanut Butter Banana “Ice Cream”

5-Ingredient No-Bake Fig Newton Bites

Addictive Cinna Mocha Fudge Bites

Addictive Pizza Poppers {Paleo, Vegan}

Avocado Fudgesicles

Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Cookies

Banana Bread Muffin Tops

Brassica Tea Rice Pudding

Cherry Dark Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies {Paleo}

Chewy Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites {Paleo}

Chewy Cranberry Almond Butter Granola Bars

Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Chocolate Nutella Hazelnut Truffles {Paleo, Vegan}

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Balls

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Dip

Coconut Chai Almond Butter Bites {Paleo}

Coconut Chocolate Brownie Bites

Gingerbread Cookie Bites

Healthy & Homemade Donut Holes

Homemade Granola

Homemade Rolos

Honey-Glazed Peaches

Mexican No-Bake Brownie Bites

Mini Dairy-free Cheesecakes…3 Ways!

Mint Chocolate Brownie Bites {Paleo, Vegan}

Mint Chocolate Birthday Bliss Balls

No-Bake Chocolate Covered Cookie Dough Bites

No-Bake Chocolate Walnut Brownies

No-Bake Orange Cranberry Breakfast Bites {Paleo, Vegan}

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie {Paleo, Vegan}

Ooey Gooey Triple Berry Peach Crumble

Paleo Pecan Pie Poppers {Vegan}

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Oat Energy Bites

Pecan-Coated Pumpkin Spice Bites

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Raw Almond Butter Cups

Seductive Raw Chocolate Fudge

Simply Amazing Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Sunbutter Buckeyes

Sunny Cran-ola Bars {No-Bake}

Super Food Trail Mix

Sweet & Salty Super Food Chocolate Bark

Tart & Tangy Raspberry Lime Popsicles

8 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Thanksgiving {+ Dozens of Recipes!}

I have so many positive memories of Thanksgiving from growing up – the giant glazed donuts from Woodlea Bakery we got every year for breakfast, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and helping my mom peel apples for her signature three-apple pie.

We never did anything too extravagant, and it was usually just the five of us – my parents, me, and my brother and sister – but Thanksgiving was a special day in our house. Now that I’ve grown to love cooking so much, it’s become my second favorite holiday after Christmas. Some of my favorite crowd-pleasing, gluten-free, dairy-free recipes to make are gluten-free stuffing, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, roasted garlic cauliflower mash, and pumpkin cheesecake.

I wanted to offer up some helpful tips and tricks to support you on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the websites that give tips for Thanksgiving just tell you to use healthier versions of your favorite staples, avoid going back for seconds, and watch your alcohol consumption. While I agree that all of those recommendations are useful to some extent, I’m here to offer something different, something more inviting and life-giving.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

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1) Be Present & Enjoy It

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to come together with friends and family to celebrate the abundance and blessings in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy pace most of us keep throughout the year. For at least this one day, we can choose to pause, reflect, and be present. Enjoy the day. Savor the meal.

Part of being present means being aware of our body. If you’re going to eat something, OWN IT. Notice how it smells, tastes, and feels. Notice the signals your body sends you. Are you really hungry or do you just want something to do? Your body will let you know when it is no longer hungry. Pay attention to it. Take a break. Save the leftovers.

2) Eat Breakfast

When we know we’re going to be eating a lot later in the day, many of us will skip breakfast or eat too little early in the day to “save up” for the afternoon. Instead of skipping breakfast, which will lead to overeating later, have a nourishing breakfast to start your day. Try one of these 25 breakfast recipes, like this pumpkin spice oatmeal or this quick and easy black bean scramble.

3) Upgrade Your Recipes

All of us have family favorites that aren’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, but I invite you to give a new side dish recipe a try. I put together a collection of nearly 30 nourishing, delicious, and upgraded Thanksgiving recipes in this blog post. You won’t want to miss the maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, shredded Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin spice dip, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin cheesecake.

You can also check out this post by Adventures of a Sick Chick for a list of paleo Thanksgiving recipes, featuring my gluten-free stuffing!

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Shredded Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts

4) Taste the Rainbow

Most Thanksgiving plates look pretty one-note with lots of browns and whites and a little bit of green or orange. Focus on filling your plate with as many colors as possible. This sweet potato casseroleshredded Brussels sprouts salad, and butternut squash and quinoa harvest salad will all add color to your plate!

The more colors you have, the more fiber is on your plate, the fuller you will feel, and the more nourished you will be. If you have kids, encourage them to count the colors on their plate and celebrate who gets the most.

5) Reallocate Your Plate to 50 / 25 / 25

That’s the ratio I recommend to “up” the nutrition of your plate. Half of the plate filled with vegetables (i.e., greens, salad, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) with some room for fruit, 25% protein (i.e., poultry, meat, seafood), and 25%  fiber-rich starch (i.e., sweet potatoes, squash, corn, grains). I’m a big advocate of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate below, which is a visual representation of the 50/25/25 ratio.

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6) Slow Down

I hear a lot of people (me being one of them!) say things like, “But you don’t understand, it’s just that I LOVE food.” It’s given as a reason why we eat so much. Here’s something to consider from author, Geneen Roth, one of my favorite writers and truth tellers:

When you love something, you spend time with it.

Boom.

Man, she is always so spot on.

If you really, truly love food, spend time with it; take time to connect with your food. Pause before you eat and offer gratitude for the farmers who grew it or raised it, the money you have to purchase it, and the hands that prepared it. So often we forget about the process our food goes through to get from the farm to our fork. If you want to cut down on discomfort later that day, slow down and chew your food thoroughly before taking the next bite. 

7) Take a Digestive Enzyme

If all else fails and you realize you’re not going to follow any of the steps above, give your digestive system some support and take a digestive enzyme. This is kind of like the last-ditch effort. I almost feel like I’m advocating for overeating by putting this one in here, but I also think it could help a lot of people. When we overeat, we put a lot of extra work on our digestive system and don’t have enough enzymes to break down the massive amounts of food we’re eating. Some of my favorite digestive enzyme brands are Rainbow Light, DigestGold, and Garden of Life. You can find them on Vitacost.com.

8) Move Your Body

Moving your body helps stimulate digestion and regulate your blood sugar – something that is usually out of whack due to the amount of food most of us eat on Thanksgiving. 

Start a new family tradition focused on movement. Take a walk Thanksgiving morning for at least 30 minutes and try to do the same after dinner. Find a Turkey Trot 5k in your area on Active.com. Or, if you’re in Baltimore, check out the classes at my favorite place to get movin’…Movement Lab!

Some of Baltimore's Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Dancing with some of Baltimore’s Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Do you have any helpful tips to share to make Thanksgiving more nourishing for your body, mind and soul? Feel free to comment below!

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