We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

Food Is Medicine

Here is the schedule of upcoming classes at Relish taught by The Nectary staff.

Managing Holiday Stress: Foods, beverages and techniiques to practice self-care for the mind/body/spirit at 6 p.m. Dec. 7.

Detox & Cleanse Thyself: Detox tips from naturopathic doctors Chris Holder & Jen Reigle at 6 p.m. Jan. 18.

It Starts with Your Gut: Balance your digestive system to balance your body, mind and emotions at 6 p.m. Feb. 22.

Each class costs $96 and includes a full dinner with beverage. For more details or to register: relishculinary.com or 707-431-9999.

The Nectary is located in The Barlow at 6760 McKinley St. #130, Sebastopol, and on the Healdsburg Plaza, 312 Center St. Visit their website at thenectary.net.

On Thanksgiving, the pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream tasted delicious. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

From now until 2018, there will be sweet treats laid out like a Candyland game board at every turn, from the office Christmas arty to the neighbor’s New Year’s Day potluck.

Need a chocolate truffle with that holiday shopping list? Pass the egg nog please. If the sugar doesn’t make us sick, the guilt that we feel about indulging in all of those calorie-laden bonbons probably will.

At The Nectary in Healdsburg and Sebastopol owned by Gia Baiocchi, the bakers substitute healthy fats like nuts and coconut oil for cheese and cream, and healthier sugars like honey and maple syrup for refined and processed sugars.

With alternatives like these, you can eat your holiday goodies and feel good afterwards. And when January rolls around, instead of facing sluggishness and sugar withdrawal, you’ll be clear-headed and ready to recommit to your health goals.

Hillary Mendoza and Meagan Ricks, who both work as raw food chefs at The Nectary, demonstrated all kinds of decadent desserts, from a Pumpkin Cheezecake to Crispy Crunchy Cranberry Cookies, during a “Healthy Holiday Sweets and Treats” class earlier this month at Relish in Healdsburg.

“Everyone seems to talk about being stressed out and the drinks and the treats this time of year,” Mendoza said.

“With these recipes, you can feel good ... and feel good about eating them.”

While some of the students revealed they were lactose-intolerant, others confessed to having food allergies, digestion issues and gluten sensitivities. One student simply had a sweet tooth that would not take “no” for an answer.

“I need to find sweets that are good for me,” said Terri Ottoboni of Windsor. “My friends used to call me the cookie monster.”

Although you may need to pick up some new tricks to substitute nut milks for dairy products, the results are satisfying and, once you get used to a reduced amount of sugar in your treats, just as delicious.

“There are alternatives that are just as good if not better than what you are used to,” Mendoza said.

“We are here to empower you so you can make choices that are good for you.”

Case in point: the Hold-the-Egg Nog, made with creamy cashew milk instead of heavy cream, sweetened with a hint of maple syrup and spiked with all the holiday spices we know and love, from cinnamon and nutmeg to turmeric and vanilla.

“The cashews help recreate that sweet, cow’s milk flavor,” Ricks said.

“Turmeric is an antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory. It also helps create the golden color.”

The recipe for Crunchy Crispy Cranberry Cookies was also a hit with the class, including Ottoboni, who said she would make them as gifts this year to give to friends and family.

The cookies are made with rolled oats and oat flour, pecans for crunch, spices like cardamom and nutmeg for flavor and maple syrup and coconut sugar for sweetness. The coconut sugar looks like brown sugar and has a caramel flavor.

Coconut oil and ground flax meal help bind the dry ingredients together, and orange zest and juice round out the flavors.

The Peppermint Bark — always a favorite at the holidays — consisted of a simple chocolate ganache as the bottom layer, made with cacao butter and cacao powder, and a White Chocolate Peppermint layer on top made with coconut butter and cacao butter, and a hint of Peppermint extract.

Single Thread Farm-Restaurant-Inn

Where: 131 North St., Healdsburg

When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday

Contact: 707-723-4646, singlethreadfarms.com

Cuisine: Japanese, California

Price: Very expensive

Corkage: $75, waived with bottle purchase

Stars: ★★★

Summary: Billed as the most anticipated restaurant of the year, this luxury kaiseki destination impresses with its meticulous detail.


Read BiteClub's preview of the Single Thread Farms here

In both, a small amount of maple syrup or honey provides the sweetness.

The class started out where Thanksgiving left off, with a pumpkin dessert. This time around, it is blended with cashew milk and maple syrup plus lemon juice and pumpkin pie spice mix, to create a raw filling for a Pumpkin Cheezecake (without cheese.)

The filling is poured on top of a raw “crust” made with dates, pecans, coconut flakes, coconut oil and sices, and topped with a Persimmon Cream made with cacao butter and cinnamon.

“Once you understand how to build a raw pie, you can sub in seasonal ingredients, like berries, instead of pumpkin,” Mendoza said. “You just need the right amount of oil.”

Finally, for those cold winter mornings and evenings, the class learned how to make a latte from Reishi Roast, a blend of herbs, medicinal mushrooms and superfoods that was developed by two herbalists, Lily Mazzarella and Amy Charnay of Farmacopia in Santa Rosa.

“We serve this at The Nectary,” Baiocchi said of the buttery and bitter latte. “Reishi is supposed to calm you. this is a really great way to wean people off coffee.”


The following recipes are from Gia Baiocchi of The Nectary, in The Barlow at 6760 McKinley St. #130, Sebastopol; and on the Healdsburg Plaza, 312 Center St.

Hold-the-Egg Nog

Serves 8

For cashew mylk:

4 cups water

2 cups cashews (soaked)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoons pink salt

For nog:

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

For cashew mylk: Blend all the ingredients in a high speed blend (on high for 2-3 minutes)

For nog: Add all the ingredients to the cashew mylk in a blender and mis. Serve warm or spiked with a little rum for a traditional-style egg nog. Grate a little fresh nutmeg on top for extra flavor.


Crunchy Crispy Cranberry Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

For dry ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats (gluten-free from Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup oat flour

1 cup pecans

1 cup cranberries (or dried cherries)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pink, Himalayan salt

For wet ingredients:

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water)

2 tablespoons orange zest

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix all wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well until completely combined.

Let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons of mixture with a small ice-cream scoop and flatten cookies out onto an oiled baking sheet.

Bake for 11 to 14 minutes (less time if you want them softer, more if you want them crunchier.)


Peppermint Bark

Makes 2 dozen pieces

For chocolate layer:

2 cups cacao butter

2 cups cacao powder

1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

For white chocolate peppermint layer:

3/4 cup coconut butter

1/2 cup cacao butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

To finish:

— Sea salt (optional)

— Vanilla powder (optional)

For chocolate layer: Melt cacao butter in a large metal bowl. (create a hot water bath by putting the bowl of cacao butter into another metal bowl with hot water.)

Add the vanilla extract and salt while the cacao butter is melting.

Once the cacao butter has melted, ad the maple syrup.

Keep the hot water bath going so the cacao butter stays melted.

Sift the cacao powder through a strainer into the liquid mixture to assure there are no chunks of powder. Whisk until smooth.

Line a rectangular pan with parchment paper.

Pour the chocolate layer evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place in the fridge ona flat surface to let harden evenly.

For white chocolate peppermint layer: Melt of the coconut butter and cacao butter in a metal bowl with a hot water bath underneath it.

Once melted, add the remaining ingredients and whisk together.

Get the pan with the solidified chocolate layer (completely hardened).

Pour melted white chocolate onto the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with chunky sea salt and vanilla powder for extra crunch. Cut into 24 pieces.


Reishi Roast is available at The Nectary in Sebastopol and Healdsburg and at Farmacopia, 95 Montgomery Dr. #90, Santa Rosa.

You can substitute almond or cashew butter for the coconut butter.

Reishi-Roast Latte

Serves 2

16 ounces boiling water

2 tablespoons Reishi Roast

2 tablespoons coconut butter

1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

— Pinch pink salt

In a French press, steep the Reishi Roast with the boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how strong you like your brew.)

While that steeps, add remaining ingredients to a high powered blender.

Once steeped, add Reishi Roast brew to the blender and blend on high for about 20 seconds to completely emulsify.

Pour into your favorite vessel, sip and enjoy.


Pumpkin Cheezecake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

For crust:

2 cups dates

1 1/2 cup pecans (and/or walnuts, almonds)

1 cup coconut flakes (fine)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder)

1 1/2 teaspoon pink or sea salt

For pumpkin filling:

1 cup coconut oil

2 cans pumpkin puree (or fresh baked and pureed pumpkin)

1 cup cashews (soaked)

1 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice mix (see recipe below)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoon pink salt

For crust: Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse slowly until everything is in medium-size chunks. Then run the food processor for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on how chunky or smooth you want the crust.

Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Distribute the raw pie crust chunks evenly over the pan. Then press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan.

For filling: Melt the coconut oil in a metal bowl in a hot water bath (placing a bowl with boiling water underneath the one with coconut oil in it.)

Strain and rinse the cashews. Place all ingredients (except the coconut oil) in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix.

Blend until completely smooth — no chunks! Put the blender on low and slowly pour the melted coconut oil in.

Use a spatula to scrape all the coconut oil into the pie mixture. Then increase speed and blend on high for a little less than a minute. Pour pie filling over the pie crust.

Leave the pie in the refrigerator for a few hours to help it set.


Pumpkin Pie Spice

Makes about 1/3 cup

1/4 cup cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon cloves

Place all ingredients into a medium bowl. Whisk together until evenly combined. Place in an airtight jar to keep fresh. Use as your spice mix for holiday sweets, treats and beverages.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

Show Comment