334. Spicy Spinach Egg Bake [Dairy Free]

Spicy Spinach Egg Bake | Dairy Free | Ann Ning Learning How

This dish was inspired by my Care Group.  R made some wonderful Mediterranean egg “muffins” (crustless quiches) that were fantastic, and Mrs. R brought a spinach casserole to our house I immediately had to know how to make. I modified it so it’s now dairy free.  I also took the opportunity to use two of the lovely eggs our CSA gave us that week.  The panko on top is optional.  The first time I used two pint-sized baking rounds with my panko mix on top and it turned out nicely colored but kind of moist.  The texture was still enjoyable, though.  I wanted to avoid adding another fat source so I stuck with my nut/egg mixture.  The next time I used a pie dish and it came out golden brown without the panko.  So depending on your dietary needs, go with what you want!

Spicy Spinach Egg Bake
Preheat oven to 350
Grease a pie dish or two approx. pint-sized dishes

  • 4 cups frozen spinach, defrosted – I poured my spinach (very nice quality, the leaves were frozen but separate) in a 4 cup Pyrex and microwaved it for 2 minutes.
  • ¾ cup raw cashew (pieces), soaked and rinsed
  • ¾ c water
  • 3 Tb nutritional yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 spoonful garlic-chili sauce – if you don’t like spicy food try 2 cloves of garlic or some garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • optional:  2 Tb panko

Place the spinach in the bottom of your dish(es).  In a blender, combine the cashews, water, eggs, nutritional yeast, chili sauce, and salt & pepper.  Blend until smooth.  If using panko, pour a splash over the panko in a small dish, stir to combine.  Pour the rest of the eggy mixture over the spinach.  Sprinkle the top with your panko if you like.  Bake for around 25 minutes at 350.

192.  How to make Simple Cashew Cream

192. How to make Simple Cashew Cream


I do not make health claims for any of my recipes/practices.  This theoretical conversation illustrates why:

Friend:  Do you seriously eat like that?

Me:  Yeah.

Friend:  So how’s that working out for ya?

Me:  Well… [makes sucking teeth sound]

227. Thin Mint Brownie Pie [Vegan | Gluten Free]

Thin Mint Brownie Pie |Gluten Free & Vegan | Ann Ning Learning How

It’s time for more pie!  To clarify:  I am not vegan, just like I’m not Paleo.  I just like incorporating elements of being vegan/Paleo into how I eat.  Plus I’ve invested in a bag of flax seed here at Ai Ai’s and I want to use it up.  So I made a Thin Mint / Grasshopper  Brownie Pie for Ai Ai and Josh since this summer has been very peanut-butter heavy and I’m trying to be more equitable about this.  Also, it could not have been easier to make.  One of the benefits of cooking the way I must is that I prefer things with only a few ingredients and simple assembly.

Side note:  I’m not a supple leopard, either.  

175.  Becoming a Supple Leopard

175. Becoming a Supple Leopard

The chocolatey smell of the brownie base was intoxicating as it wafted tantalizingly from the oven.  Sadly, when I actually made the effort to hold on to a nearby counter and bend down to look in the oven my brownie pie was bubbling in a very disturbing way.  So I figured I’d bake the life/effervescence out of it, hence the long baking time.  But then my sister suggested that we take it out of the oven since we were dangerously close to the burning zone and it would set up anyway.  Happily, it totally did.  The top looked pock-marked but I was going to cover it all in mint cream anyway so it didn’t matter.

We set it in the freezer for a while after I let the brownie cool and I topped it with the mint cream and sprinkled it all with chocolate chips.  We should have let it set more but we couldn’t wait anymore!  And let me tell you, I could have eaten the WHOLE THING and I prefer peanut butter.  Because I baked it so long the edges of the brownie were that gooey-crispy-fudgey combination that I love.  That might have been the clincher.  I had high hopes that my children would like it, but I think they have been biased by some experimental vegan strawberry funfetti donuts (grain free) I made that were epically disappointing for them.  If I figure out how to make them better you’ll see them, but in the meantime I vowed to bake something my children will actually enjoy and rushed out to the store to buy a cake mix.

They were so polite, though, in telling me that my Thin Mint Brownie Pie was not their preference – it was so sweet.  I wanted to get up and make those cake mix donuts right then.  But they had already hatched a backup plan:


For the record, though, Ai Ai and Timmy loved the Thin Mint Brownie Pie, too.  And it’s only because I feel too guilty to be eating pie at 9am that I’m not rummaging in the fridge right now for the leftovers.

Thin Mint Brownie Pie [Grain Free and Vegan]
preheat your oven to 350 and grease a pie plate

The Brownie:
inspired by Our Fifth House’s Paleo Brownie Pie

  • 3 flax eggs – room temperature.  I just put 3 Tbsp of flax seed in a bowl, added 9 Tbsp of water, mixed it up and let it sit and thicken for about 15-20 minutes.
  • 1 c cocoa
  • 3/4 c maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • generous splash of vanilla
  • small splash of peppermint extract

Combine everything, mix well, pour into your pie plate and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Then turn the oven down to 300 and bake for another 15 minutes for a total baking time of 55 minutes.  Don’t be scared of the bubbles (see above).

The Mint Cream:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked (my new method is to cover them with just boiled water for an hour or just microwave them in water for 1-1.5 minutes) – drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c non dairy milk
  • 1 romaine leaf (this is to impart a delicate green hue to the cream – I would have used spinach but we didn’t have any; you can’t taste it, promise)
  • splash of vanilla
  • splash of peppermint extract
  • maple syrup (add to taste at the end).
  • chocolate chips for sprinkling

Blend everything except the maple syrup and chocolate chips.  Add maple syrup to taste at the end.  Chill the cream in the fridge while your brownie cools.  Pour the mint cream over the brownie base and sprinkle with chocolate chips (I used mini dairy-free ones – so cute!).  Let the pie set up in the freezer, then store in fridge before serving.

192. How to make simple Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream ||Ann Ning Learning How

This is an excellent non-dairy alternative for those who can eat nuts.  Cashew cream can take on sweet flavors or savory seasonings.  It’s really easy, too – you don’t have to bother measuring.

A friend and I were chatting on Sunday.  “Have you ever thought of writing a book on healthy living?” she asked.  I laughed and said, No, I didn’t think it would work out anyway.  I’m not exactly the poster child for robust health.  Yes, I lived, but that was thanks to Divine intervention via an Extremely Skilled Surgeon and an army of medical professionals who have helped me/are helping me along the way.

I do not make health claims for any of my recipes/practices.  This theoretical conversation illustrates why:

Friend:  Do you seriously eat like that?

Me:  Yeah.

Friend:  So how’s that working out for ya?

Me:  Well… [makes sucking teeth sound]

I was quite healthy before my injury.  My blood test numbers were pronounced “perfect” when I got my health screen at work, and I got a full check up at the doctor’s before going to Africa.  This was a calculated move on my part – I wanted to tell Mom and Dad that a doctor had said I was A-Okay so they’d feel better about letting me go.  BTW my AVM was entirely asymptomatic.  There was no way my doc could have known something was growing in my brain unless I went to get my head scanned for something else.  Since I never got scanned for anything before the AVM rupture, no one ever knew.

So here I am, in my second year of recovery, writing about cashew cream etc.  I also drink juice with lots of fruits and veggies in it and quite like it (Thanks, Mom!), and eat and do lots of other things to give my body the best chance at whatever “peak” performance is for me at this point. Example:

Green Juice || Ann Ning Learning How

I didn’t fall down yesterday – is that peak performance?  (Update 8pm:  I did fall – but not on the floor.  It was one of those moments when I couldn’t put my left foot down so it was dangling in the air and I hit my head on the doorway because I tipped over.  Boo.  And I thought I had a clean record for this post.)  And I climbed up and down the hill at the S’s house (in lieu of the stairs sans rail) on Wednesday.  I was, however, fast asleep when Tanpo brought the garbage and recycling cans in.  You win some, you lose some.

Well, it turns out that my “peak performance” eating attempts are interesting to some who have food allergies, or preferences for less wheat/dairy and more natural sources of nutrients.  (Spinach Grasshopper cookies, anyone?)  I figure if I’m going to put anything in my system I should probably try to make it as benign as possible.

Now I wouldn’t characterize cashew cream as a 100% benign “free” food.  It’s simply a non-dairy alternative to sweet or savory cream.  People also use the thick part on top of a can of full fat coconut milk to make whipped cream.  I’ve never tried this, but I imagine that the coconut taste would lend itself better to sweets/desserts.  I’ve found cashew cream, though, to be pretty forgiving – it withstands my half-hearted/non-existent measuring techniques and takes on whatever flavors I throw at it.  So here are the instructions and some explanation:

How to make Cashew Cream

You need:

  • Raw cashews – you’re going to pulverize these so you needn’t spend money on nice full-size cashews.  Trader Joe’s sells 8 or 16 oz bags of raw cashew pieces.  If your supermarket doesn’t have a cheaper bulk section, this is a nice alternative.
  • Water or non-dairy milk for mixing
  • Seasonings of your choice.  Here are my favorites:
    • Sweet:  Vanilla, cinnamon, a little almond extract, agave or honey if I’m serving this to “my” babies and want to make it sweeter.
    • Savory:  splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic powder, vinegar of your choice, Worcestershire sauce, Italian dressing, whatever – you probably don’t want to add these all at once.  Just pick and choose – you’ll end up with something nice and creamy to add to your recipe, or a salad dressing/veggie dip to enjoy on its own.


1.  Soak raw cashew pieces.  I generally keep mine in the freezer, put them in a Pyrex when I’m ready, cover them with hot water and let them sit for about 3 hours.  I’ve read things that give a range of:  soak for at least an hour or as long as you can while preparing other ingredients, 3 hours, 8 hours and overnight.  I try not to let them soak too long.  I’ve gotten tired before and given up on actually making the cashew cream so I’ve drained and frozen my soaked cashews, then defrosted and pulverized them on a later date.

2.  Blend them up!   Of course I use my Vitamix, but I’ve heard you can use a regular blender or food processor – it just takes longer.  I put my cashews and just a little bit of liquid in first to get the blending going.  You might have to scrape down the sides or use the tamper.  I then add enough liquid to achieve the consistency I want – e.g. pourable vs. not pourable.  (Side note:  I made a yummy cake with the languishing bananas I mentioned earlier this week.  Very thick cashew cream was the base for the frosting.  And yes, indeedy, I did frost the cake.  Heavily.)

3.  Add your seasonings:  You can choose to add your seasonings directly into the blender or just scoop out a portion and season it individually.    You’re all done now!  You can freeze the cashew cream if you don’t eat it all within a few days.


145.  Illness, Body Image, and Why I Eat the Way I Do.

145. Illness, Body Image, and Why I Eat the Way I Do.