The New Fast Food, for Meatless Mondays and Beyond, with The Veggie Queen

16 01 2012
The New Fast Food pressure cooking cookbook

Come On, Get a Pressure Cooker!

I have to come clean. Like so many people, I am a source of frustration to my friends. One friend in particular, I know. You see, some years ago, I decided to get all into pressure cooking, bought a lovely, safe, easy to use one, and set about cooking up beans and grains. I even created a class about beans and grains, and toted the cooker along, hoping to spread the word about how well it worked. Yep, the pressure cooker was a real solution to the two basic ingredients of a healthy kitchen that people always complain about taking too long to cook.

The classes were fun, but hardly anyone wanted to take them. I taught them a couple of times to small groups of people, and went back to doing it the way my students were familiar with. And I, old dog that I am, fell back into my old ways of cooking grains and beans in a pot. When it came time to write my book, The New Whole Grains Cookbook, I tested all the grains repeatedly in the pressure cooker, so that I could put those numbers in there. And then I hung up my shiny Kuhn Rikon Duromatic, just about forgetting about it.

Fast forward to hanging out with my friend, passionate pressure cooker advocate and vegan dietitian, Jill Nussinow. Jill loves her pressure cooker, and just can’t understand why, after all these years, Americans have not come around to embracing the speedy pot. You see, Jill, also known as the Veggie Queen, isn’t one of those people who compromises on good, healthy food. No, when she found herself raising a son and living a busy life, she didn’t go over to the dark side, and use the time crunch as an excuse to stock up on frozen pizzas and mac and cheese.

Instead, The Veggie Queen made the time-saving pressure cooker a daily-use utensil at her house. In her quest to put meals that she believed in on the table, she created a repertoire of veggie filled, colorful, all whole foods meals. And thanks to her hard work, we can all learn how to make real food fast, with The New Fast Food, The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes.

Buy The Book Here

Thanks to Jill, I dusted off my pressure cooker, and got cooking. I tried some of the basics, simple veggies cooked alone, grains and beans, all came out great.  Indian food is always a hit at my house, so I did a test run with her recipe for Quick Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Curry (pg185) I followed her instructions, and everything cooked perfectly. Where Jill’s ease with the cooker really comes into play is in the multi-step cooking instructions. It’s not complicated, she just has it worked out so that you cook the longest-cooking thing for a while, release the pressure, add another group of ingredients, cook some more, release, and add another group, for a few minutes longer. It’s a neat trick, allowing you to move beyond just cooking beans, to cooking a full one-pot meal based on beans. It all goes quickly, really, and with the new generation of cookers, quick release on a pot is just as easy as pushing a button.

So if you are as serious about eating whole, fresh foods as you are about saving time, it’s time to listen to the Veggie Queen. This book is a valuable addition to your cookbook shelf, with all the info and motivation that you need to explore this neglected technique. Her website, http://www.theveggiequeen.com/, is also a treasure trove of free information about the wonders of pressure cooking, as well as eating more plants.

For my part, I will try to keep my pot in rotation, and sing the praises of the pressure cooker once again!

The Curry, Over Quinoa

Quick Chickpea Curry with Summer Vegetables

Be aware that you need to soak the beans for this. Also- yes, it is really just one cup of water. One of the points Jill makes in the book is how the pot cooks with less water, and concentrated nutrients into the food. She also suggests that you can use whatever veggies you want in this.

10 Minutes High Pressure; Quick Release

3 Minutes High Pressure; Quick Release

1 Minute High Pressure; Quick Release

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large onion, thickly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1-2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups chickpeas, pre-soaked

1 cup water

2 medium potatoes, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 cups green beans, in 2 inch lengths

1 cup yellow squash (I used zucchini)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch cayenne or chipotle powder

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

METHOD

Heat the canola oil over medium heat in the pressure cooker, and saute the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, curry adcumin and saute for another minute, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the chickpeas and water.

About to add the chickpeas

Cover and bring to high pressure. Cook for 10, then quick release and add the potatoes, stir, and bring back to high pressure for 3 minutes.

Quick Release, just press and the steam escapes

Quick release again, and add the tomatoes, green beans, and squash.

Potatoes. then Zucchini, Beans and Tomatoes

Cover and bring to high pressure for 1 minute. Quick release, add the salt and taste to adjust the seasonings. If the mixture is too liquid, simmer to thicken. Garnish with cilantro, and serve over rice or other grain.

Open Up the Pot Carefully...





Raise a Glass of Bubbly, with Extra Fruit, for New Years!

26 12 2011

Fruit and Bubbly, Meant for Each Other

I think it’s no secret, I love a Nice Glass of Wine. In fact, at one point I noticed that almost all of the photos of me on Facebook depicted me holding a glass, and I promise that it is because the snaps are taken at festive moments, not because I always have a glass of wine in my hand. Honestly.  But this time of year, we all have parties and dinners to attend, and to be honest, alcohol has its downsides. In moderation, it can be a healthy thing, and the current science shows that a little drinking prolongs life. Maybe it’s because we relax and loosen up a little, and bond with the people around us.

It’s that moderation thing that seems to get people in trouble.

So, you have a few options, when it comes to drinking in a healthy way. Because it’s so easy to quaff a tasty drink quickly, I like to make mine weak. A personal favorite is to mix my wines, which are relatively low alcohol to begin with, with fruit. It’s a healthy way to have each glass contain less alcohol, as well as keep you busy eating the wine-soaked fruit. Have a few bites of cracker or some nuts in between, and you will keep the consumption down.

A great side benefit of this kind of mixing is that you can start with a relatively inexpensive wine, too. No need to go to that $50 bottle of champagne when you are making a sparkling cocktail. A $10 bottle of Prosecco will be fine.

A classic combo like the bellini is a common theme at my house. You can make a fruit puree, like the peach puree of the original bellini recipe. It’s easy, and I have made bellinis with everything from rhubarb to mango, whatever is in season. Just peel it and chunk it and put it in a pan with some sweetener, organic sugar is easiest, agave, works, too. Frozen fruit will do in a pinch. Boil and stir until the fruit is soft, then puree. Adjust with a squeeze of lemon or more sweet, if needed, and there you go. I’ve also made purees of raw fruit, when its really good.

Not up for that? Put a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds, raspberries, halved grapes, or sweet pitted fresh cherries in each glass and top with prosecco or cava. Add some juice to make it sweeter and more fruity-Apple cider and minced apples make a great spritzer, topped with sparkling wine. The bonus with small berries and pomegranate seeds is that the bubbles from the sparkling wine make them float up and then drop, making your drink lively and pretty.

For a great red wine version of the same idea, go for sangria, or mulled cider and wine. Sangria is basically red or white wine, with lots of chopped oranges, lemons and whatever else suits your fancy, cut with some ginger ale or club soda. Most recipes call for some liquor, but just leave that out. I know it’s kind of a summer drink, but why not? Add pears and apples for a wintry feel. Mulled cider and wine is perfect for the season, with spices, hot cider and just enough red wine to give it a little character. Leave it on the stove long enough, and the alcohol may well evaporate, anyway!

All of these drinks have official recipes somewhere, just google. Just ignore that part where you are supposed to add some liqueur to the mix. It not only adds alcohol and sugar, but usually tastes unnatural. These fresh drinks taste like wine and real fruit, no fake flavors. Stay away from adding shots of strong spirits, when you make something tasty and fruity, or people may not realize that they are guzzling hard liquor until it is too late.

Of course, you can use sparkling cider or de-alcoholized wines, too. Sober people deserve interesting cocktails, and you may just want to alternate non-alcohlic drnks with your occasional alcoholic one. I like to set this up with some flexibility, It’s easy to have sparkling cider right next too the prosecco, and just have your pitcher of fruit puree to add to the glass.

Bellinis all Around!

 

Bellini for Lightweights

Puree ripe mango, kiwi, or raspberries with sweetener, or cook some frozen fruit with sweetener and puree.

Mix 1/3 of a glass of fruit and 2/3 prosecco or cava. If you are a real lightweight, go for half and half.

Stir carefully, it will foam up and out of the glass. I often find it is best to use a large-bowl glass, like a cabernet glass, so you have room to stir and bubble. You will get more aroma that way, too.

For a crowd, you can also mix it in a pitcher.

Basic Sangria with Variations

If citrus isn’t your thing, try it with Pears and apples floating in the wine, or those expensive imported bing cherries at the market, with cherry juice instead of orange.

Serves about 4

1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja reds, Zinfandel, Shiraz)

2 Oranges, juiced

1 Lemon cut into wedges

1 Orange cut into wedges

2 Tbsp sugar or agave, to taste

2 Cups ginger ale or club soda

Choose your Fruit, Add Red Wine





Recycling the Leftovers, With a Little Spice

27 11 2011

Spike That Relish with Chipotle!

So the big feast is over. Did you knock yourself out, baking for weeks, up before dawn to start cooking? I’ve done that. Or did you sail effortlessly into a family gathering, where all you had to do was bring your wonderful self?  I hope you had a blast, either way. Whether you shared your meals with omnivores or ate with fellow veg-heads, you probably have the universal end result. Leftovers.

So, like millions of other people, you are facing that declining curve of interest in foods that in many cases, you only eat once a year. Stuffing? Mmmm, can’t wait, love it like crazy, but eating it for four days in a row, well, it gets old. I have the added experience of making Thanksgiving dishes for a couple of weeks beforehand for my blog, and preparing them for private clients who love having all the sides ready to re-heat when the big day comes. By the time I get to Thanksgiving, I’m ready to add some spice and interest to the usual flavors.

So, what am I doing about my left-overs? Well, I was lucky and didn’t have many. The one that I really need to repurpose is my cranberry orange relish. You know the one, a pound of cranberries, an orange, zested and pulp removed, and a cup of sugar. You grind that in a blender or food processor and it is a fresh, tart, traditional side.

It’s also something you only need a spoonful or two of on the side of the plate. So what will I do with the remainder?

I decided to go Mexican.

Putting it together

I took my cranberry relish and stirred in some salt and chipotle powder until it was spicy and smoky. I sautéed a couple of onions and a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil, then into the sauté pan I tossed a package of chicken style seitan and seasoned that with ground cumin and salt. I shredded some romaine that I bought for Holiday salad, and got out some leftover cashew cheese. Of course, you could use another dairy or non-dairy cheese, whatever is handy.

Voila, a whole wheat tortilla brings the whole thing together into a hearty burrito.

Thankful for another meal, I will dive in and relish the heck out of my relish.

Chewy, Creamy, Tangy, Hot.





Thanksgiving is Almost Here, Bring a Big Salad!

20 11 2011

The Pepitas and Pomegranates Make it Pop!

The big day is almost here. If you have already been testing and planning, you’ve been sampling some festive fare. If you put the whole thing off for the last minute, well, you still have time. We’ve shared (virtually) some Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Sauce, Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing, and maple-Dijon Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Today, it’s time to talk Turkey.

Homemade Mock Turkey Roast with Stuffing

For those of you who miss the turkey on holidays, or just want a home-style vegan meal anytime, this is a good way to mock up a bird. It’s really not much trouble, now that we can use gluten flour to make mock turkey with no kneading required—and lots of tasty, chewy goodness. Serve it with Basic Mushroom Gravy and all the traditional trimmings.

It’s great fun to share your vegan food with family and friends, so go for it. The salad will certainly win some converts. Enjoy!

Mock Turkey

2          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g minced onion

2          cloves garlic, minced

2          cups/255 g gluten flour

1          cup/115 g chickpea flour

½         cup nutritional yeast

1          tsp salt

6          oz/170 g reduced-fat or regular firm tofu, drained and pressed

1          cup/240 ml vegetable stock

¼         cup/60 ml tamari

½         tsp ground sage

Stuffing

1          cup/55 g cubed bread

1          tsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g chopped onion

¼         cup/60 ml vegetable stock

½         tsp ground sage

½         tsp dried thyme

½         tsp salt

2          tbsp walnuts, chopped

The Mock Turkey in a Wide Loaf Shape

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F/180° C/gas 4. Oil a 3- to 4-cup/720 to 960-ml metal bowl or a small loaf pan. Put a teapot of water on to simmer for the bain marie later.

2. To make the mock turkey: In a small sauté/frying pan, heat the oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until soft and sweet, 5 to 10 minutes. Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until very smooth. Add the stock, tamari, and sageto the tofu and blend. Add the onions and all the oil from the pan and puree. Stir the contents of the blender into the flour mixture until smooth. Scoop about two thirds of the dough into the oiled bowl.

3. To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in a small sauté/frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until soft and clear. Add the bread, stock, sage, thyme, and salt and stir until the bread is soft. Stir in the nuts.

4. Press the stuffing into a ball (or if you are using a loaf pan, into an oblong) and press it into the center of the mock turkey dough, then cover it with the remaining dough. Flatten the top, brush it with oil, and cover with foil. Put the bowl in a baking dish and pour in boiling water to make a bain marie. Carefully transfer it to the oven and bake for 2 hours. When the “turkey” is quite firm, take it out of the water bath, then put the bowl on a rack to cool. Run a paring knife around the edge to loosen it, then invert it onto a cutting board or platter. Slice the “turkey” and serve it with gravy and trimmings.

Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate

From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)

Serves 6
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.

Score the skin in quarters, then break open

1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed

the pith around the arils floats in water....

1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.





Thanksgiving is Coming, Veggie Stuffing to The Rescue

14 11 2011

Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing

If you are sharing the holidays with loved ones, chances are that you will be smiling across a table with a big roast turkey in the middle of it. That is part of living in the world we live in, for most of us. It’s really best to focus on the warm feeling of spending time with family and friends, and leave the discussions about food politics to another time.

Not to wimp out, but I’ve never seen much good come from explaining veganism to people with a mouthful of turkey. It’s just impolite.

No, save the explanations of your diet style for those who ask, preferably for another day.

Today, if you have some vegan love to spread, it’s going to have to be through delicious food. The best way to sway hearts and minds at Thanksgiving is to make such mouth-watering meatless sides that people start to see what a great life you are living. There you are, with your tasty wild rice stuffing and roasted brussels sprouts, and you look so healthy and happy. Those roasted sweet potato fries are terrific, and gee, it never occurred to me that they could be good in something with no bacon, cream or butter.

In the catering business, we sometimes refer to “heavy apps.” These are not for your I-phone, but refer to appetizers that are substantial enough to carry people through a party where no other food is served. Vegans can use this concept to add weight to sides, appetizers, or salads that they can share with everyone. Then, if you arrive at a bacon festival, in a pinch you can construct a good meal from them. Making a side or app heavier is just about adding some protein and heft, with things like nuts, beans, seeds, avocadoes, olives, and even whole grains instead of white, to make things satisfying. You can build a salad platter or a dip try to bring along that has lots of plant based proteins, just by adding extras. Just about any veggie or salad is yummy with a sprinkling of nuts.

Then, to rock the buffet table, make my stuffing and brussels sprouts recipes. They are delicious, and they will be devoured, I promise.

The Roasty Golden Bits Are The Best

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

From Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat No Dairy All Delicious (Chronicle Books)

If you don’t like boiled Brussels sprouts, you must try this version. All the sweetness and tenderness is concentrated and amplified by maple and Dijon. This is a great holiday side dish.

Serves 6

1          lb/455 g fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2          small shallots, quartered

1          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1          tbsp maple syrup

1          tsp Dijon mustard

Salt

Black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C/gas 6. In a heavy roasting pan/tray or baking pan, toss together the Brussels sprouts, shallots, oil, syrup, and mustard.

2. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir, and roast until the sprouts are tender, about 15-20 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Pouring in Stock

Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffing with Apples

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving when I was growing up was always the sage-laced stuffing. This hearty rendition has chewy wild rice and whole wheat bread, and apples and nuts for even more sensations as you chew. Don’t wait for the holidays to make this dish; it’s a great way to use up stale bread and can be made with bulgur, buckwheat, or any of the rices.

Makes 6 cups, about 6 servings
1 cup water

1/4 cup wild rice
4 cups cubed whole wheat bread (about 5 slices)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or oil
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and cook the wild rice in it. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and let them dry out for an hour or so, if you have time.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F In a large Dutch oven or pasta pot, heat the butter or oil and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until all are tender. Add the apples, stock, pepper, herbs, and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cooked wild rice. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the bread cubes.
3. Scrape the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish and top with the chopped walnuts, pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. You can cover and refrigerate the stuffing for up to 4 days at this point. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/widgets/hm_widget_as4.swf(Meatless Mondays Recipes, in case you need more!)





Start Planning Your Sides for Thanksgiving…

7 11 2011

A big Old Gnarly Jewel Yam

The Thanksgiving meal is always a biggie, especially for Vegans and vegetarians. We want to share our love with our families and friends, but not to eat any turkey. You may opt for a turkey free day, or you may be bringing a dish to a shared meal with omnivores. Either way, its all about giving thanks.

This week, I’m getting psyched for making my yams. Sweet potatoes, yams, all the same thing these days, just in case you were wondering. The original yam is a giant, not very sweet tuber that grows in Africa and the tropics, but the sweet potatoes that we grow here have taken on the name. I went to my grocery store and found three common examples, a garnet yam, the darkest red one, a jewel yam, the orange one, and a white sweet potato, the pale one. The garnet is sweetest, the jewel mid-range, and the white one, well, not too sweet at all.

The great thing about the colors is that they do signal the presence of high antioxidants. Of course, sweet potatoes are healthy foods, high in carotenoids and fiber. They are so rich and delicious that they really don’t need much fussing to make them really satisfying.

For a change, I thought I would make roasted yam fries. So, I lopped off a slice from my jewel yam to make it stable to slice, and placed it on the flat cut side. From there, I sliced it and then sliced the slices into French fry shaped strips. Then I preheated the oven to 425 F. I put the yams on sheet pans, being careful not to crowd them, and tossed with olive oil. I wanted all the pieces to have contact with the pan. I roasted them for 20 minutes on the bottom rack, then flipped the slices with a metal spatula. I roasted for 20 more. A sprinkling of coarse salt made them complete.

Slice Carefully into "Fries"

All Those Sugars Brown Up Beautifully

For variety, you can also cut them in spears, just cut the pieces fatter, and then roast them longer.

I ate mine with a dose of Sriracha sauce, but you can go more Thanksgiving-y by tossing them with chopped fresh herbs, like sage and thyme. Get crazy by making a mayo (or vegan mayo) mixed with herbs, smoky chipotle, or garlic for an aioli. Use coconut oil and curry powder for a little Indian flair. Sprinkle with chili powder and lime, and serve with salsa for a Mexican theme. Go for a bit of protein with a Thai or African style peanut dipping sauce.

Break out from your sweet potato casserole rut and give yam-fries a try.

Yam Fries with Thai Peanut Sauce

This may not seem like traditional TG fare, but you will find people devouring it anyway. Our tastebuds fatigue with all that sage and cranberry sauce, we need something spicy to keep us interested. Thai Kitchen curry pastes are fish-free, so look for them to avoid non-vegetarian ingredients. This sauce keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and is great for dipping, stir fries, or even slathering on sandwiches.

1 large sweet potato, cut fry-style

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or other oil

sprinkle of kosher salt

SAUCE

1 teaspoon canola oil

3  shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste (to taste)

1 cup coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)

1/2 cup peanut butter, pure and natural

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 pinch salt

For the fries, toss with olive oil on two sheet pans, then roast at 425F for 20, flip and turn the pans, and then roast for 20 more. Go for some good browning on the bottom. Serve hot with sauce.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and saute the shallots until browned. It’s not alot of oil but the sauce will be really oily if you add more. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the curry paste and work it all together, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk, then work in the peanut butter. Simmer for a minute, then stir in the soy sauce, sweetener and lime. Simmer over low heat until thick, the oil will start to separate when it is done.





The Vegan Cheese You Make at Home

9 10 2011

a Simple Pot of Cashew Cheese

Cheese.

When people hear that I wrote a vegan book, or want to talk about vegan, one topic always comes up. Cheese is often the hardest food for people to imagine giving up. Or maybe it’s ice cream, or yogurt. I hear that alot- people who can’t imagine life without yogurt.

Well, if you are one of those people, I understand. Cheese is delicious, and dangit, it’s really easy to use. A slice of cheese or a schmear of cream cheese makes a simple sandwich or bagel into a meal, and cheese makes pizza and pasta into the most popular food in the world.

So, whether you want to kick it or just cut back, you can make it much easier to do. Of course, you can buy processed cheese substitutes. Plenty of people swear by them, and they are convenient. In a previous post I made nachos with the very popular shredded Daiya cheese, and it was certainly a big improvement on the ones I remember from 10 years ago. Still, if you were eating cheese for protein or calcium, these substitutes may not have them.

The truth is, if you are a DIY kind of whole foods person, you want to keep it home made. That’s why I decided to start keeping a pot of nut cheese in my fridge at all times. I realized that a big part of the way we all eat is to just open that refrigerator door and start looking for some food. If you have dairy based habits, like bagels and cream cheese, cheese sandwiches, or cheesy pizzas, having the nut cheese is step one to making a really great stand in.

Nuts, by the way, are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Good fats, protein, all the good stuff, so you are boosting your nutrition with this move.

I did some experimenting to come up with a good recipe, and there are two in my new book, Big Vegan. But, if you haven’t got the book, you can certainly just improvise something. I’ll talk you through it.

Almonds Are A Fast Way to Cheese

First, just soak some cashews, almonds, or macadamias, or a combo of all three. Use skinless, raw nuts. You can try other nuts, like brazils, or even pistachios, but they will not be white and cheeselike. Just soak the nuts, drain them, reserving the water, and put them in a processor or blender. Blend, puree, and process, scraping down, adding just enough water to make a creamy smooth paste. Once it’s totally creamy, add some salt, lemon, or whatever you want to make it more savory. The nuts are basically sweet and rich, so to make it more cheesy you need an acid, salt, and some fermented flavors, like nutritional yeast or white miso. Or you can keep it simple and season it for each dish.

Creamy Cashew Cheese

Once you have this tasty, nutritious spread, you are on your way to saying “nuts” to cheese. Go ahead, dollop it on a prebaked pizza crust, smeared with pesto or tomato sauce. Build a panini, or toss it in the pan with hot pasta and veggies, adding a little olive oil and non-dairy milk as needed. Or just dip veggies in it, spread it on bagels, or sprinkle it over nachos.

Once you have it made, you have it made.








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