Sweet & Creamy Cashew Dip

Pumpkin seeds, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds…there are so many different kinds of nuts and/or seeds to enjoy daily. They make a great snack during the mid-afternoon when you’re looking for something crunchy or salty. Overall, they are a good source of protein, many minerals (magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc), and healthy fats.

I have been particularly enjoying cashews lately. Added on top of salads, mixed in with a pilaf, they seem to fit in with either salty or sweet dishes. They can be roasted in the oven with various spices (cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt) or blended into a creamy dip for a sweeter flavor. Below is a recipe I created for these versatile nuts that tastes great paired with fresh fruit or can be used as a light frosting.

Sweet & Creamy Cashew Dip

Cashews are one of the highest nuts containing iron, along with providing calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The mildly sweet flavor of the cashews combined with the sweetness of dried figs creates a tasty dip to pair with fresh fruit such as apples or pears or as a topping for muffins or scones.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 dried Turkish figs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients into a high speed blender and puree until all ingredients are combined and the texture is smooth and creamy.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Makes: 1 ½ cups

Copyright 2011, J. Usdavin, Original recipe.


Stuffed Delicata Squash with Lentils

Winter squash is a terrific source of vitamin A, which is beneficial for the immune system and an excellent choice to add to your meals throughout the week to keep colds and the flu away. In addition, vitamin A is an antioxidant, important for vision, along with supporting growth and development. Along with vitamin A, winter squash is a great source of carotenoids, which help decrease inflammation, vitamin C, important for immunity, along with b-vitamins for energy production.

This wonderful fall vegetable contains plenty of complex carbohydrates and fiber to keep your blood sugar level and energy stable throughout the day. Since it is high in these nutrients, winter squash can be an excellent substitute for a grain in your meal.

Here is a vegetarian recipe made with lentils that provide protein, warming spices, and pomegranate seeds to provide a touch of sweetness, which are also high in antioxidants!

Stuffed Delicata Squash with Lentils

Squash is a wonderful root vegetable with an abundance of fiber, vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and folate. If you do not like squash, try substituting it for another winter vegetable such as pumpkin, acorn, or butternut. Use of organic ingredients is preferred.

  • 2 delicata squash
  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut off ends of the delicata squash; slice it in half, and then in half again down the middle (length wise). Remove the inside seeds with a spoon and discard. Place the delicata squash flesh side down in an oven safe dish and add water to just cover the bottom of the pan; place in the oven. Roast the squash until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium sized pot, add lentils, water and cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat until lentils are done, about ½ hour. Drain any excess water and discard the cinnamon stick.

In a large bowl, combine lentils, sea salt, coconut oil, cinnamon, spices, red wine vinegar, and pomegranate seeds. Stir to combine.

Spoon the lentil filling (about ¼ cup) into the reserved squash and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Preparation time:  30 minutes

Makes 6-8 servings

Copyright 2011, JoAnne Usdavin, Original recipe

Apples Galore!

Fall is definitely in the air. The days are becoming shorter; it’s getting darker a little bit earlier. The air is brisk, leaves are swirling, the wind is whistling, the rain has begun to fall. Yet, the sun is still peaking its way through during the day (occasionally). What does fall mean to you? I happen to love seeing the leaves change color, crunching the fallen leaves on the sidewalks, embracing fall harvest foods and looking forward to the holiday season.

Apples, pears, cranberries, pumpkins, pomegranates, winter squash, and many other delicious foods are coming into season. My personal favorite, apples! There are so many varieties, granny smith, gala, honey crispy, Macintosh, Cortland, pink pearl (an heirloom with a beautiful pink interior), etc. Tart, with a subtle sweetness and crisp texture that is especially common with the granny smith is my absolute favorite. One thing I love about the farmer’s market is to be able to taste all the different varieties from local farms to see if I find a new variety to include into my basket (of course, along with my tart grannies). I happened to have a Cortland the other day…I was surprised to see it out here in WA, as it is more common on the East Coast. It’s one of those apples with a crisp texture, bright white flesh on the inside with a not too sweet taste. I savored every bite; it was delicious. What is your favorite fall food or dish? How do you enjoy cooking/eating it?

Here’s a gluten free apple/cranberry cobbler that utilizes several different types of apples. Feel free to use your favorite variety/varieties.

Cran-Apple Cobbler

A wonderful, fresh dessert that utilizes fall fruit. The sweet apples combined with the tart cranberries prove to be an amazing combination. The cobbler is perfect topped with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract


  • 1 honey crisp apple, washed and core removed, chopped
  • 1 gala apple, washed and core removed, chopped
  • 1 cameo apple, washed and core removed, chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, washed and core removed, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9×9 square inch pan.

To make the topping:

In a large bowl, add the almond meal, flours, oats, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add the maple syrup, egg, and almond milk. Stir to combine and then cut in the coconut oil using a pastry blender or fork. Then stir in the almond extract.

To make the filling:

In a large stockpot, add the chopped apples, cranberries, and applesauce. Heat on the stove over medium to low heat until fruits release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into baking dish.  Top filling with spoonfuls of topping.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until topping is brown and cooked through.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes, plus 25 minutes baking time

Yields: 1 9×9 inch pan

Copyright 2010, J. Usdavin, Original recipe.