Say ‘Not Cheese!’
My introduction to health started by eliminating dairy from my diet at a young age, and in return I said ‘bye’ to my childhood friend, asthma. I learned first hand the connection between what I eat and the effects it has on my body. One thing was for certain, dairy was the root of my health challenge. Fast forward to today and there is extensive research on the health concerns related to dairy and how it can impact your overall health. Coincidence? Not a chance.
I think most people can agree that the most challenging animal based food people struggle to give up when embracing a plant based diet is cheese. Yes there is the occasional bacon addict, but in polling many people over the years, from clients, students to friends and family, cheeses takes the cake.
In my late teens when I jumped on the non–dairy wagon, there were not isles of thedairy free alternatives that we are blessed with today. From a chefs perspective, using only plants to achieve similar textures, mouth feel, and comfort that so many people associate with dairy, was a challenge.
There are more and more dairy alternatives showing up on the shelves weekly. You have endless choices and varieties of dairy free milks ranging from hemp to quinoa and whole grain to almond. Then there is the saturated category of vegan ice creamsyou can find made from soy, rice and coconut to cashew. There are some incredibledelicious options sure to satisfy any ice cream monster. Dairy free alternatives for cheese on the other hand are a bit scarcer. Yes, there are the heavily processed, high oil ‘cheeses’ packed with gums, funk and other ingredients I can not pronounce thatslightly resembling soft plastic with their smell and taste (sounds delicious huh). While they can serve a purpose of a dairy free alternative, very few dairy free cheeses that you can find today are created with whole, plant based foods. Soon, we hope there will be some game changers on the shelves that are readily available. (We know a secret that we will be able to share soon!) Seems like quite a need, huh?
On that note, I wanted to share a series of nondairy substitute blogs with you, highlighting some simple recipes that have been my ‘go to’ staples for catering events and special occasions. Remember, these recipes are quite concentrated andrich and are nice to use for the occasional party, treat, spread, or addition to meals but be careful with them, it may be tough to have just one bite.
Essential equipment for the best results:
- Vita mix – A high speed blender is a key component to turn any nut or seed based cheeses, or creams from its raw product into a silken thick cream. Just remember in order to blend to the smoothest consistency, when using a blender you will need to use some liquid and fold while blending to ensure the thickest texture without blowing out the engine. Most vita mix based cheeses, if you are looking for a thicker consistency, you will proceed to strain, press and culture, depending on the recipe.
- Robo coup blixer – next to a Vita mix, this is my machine of choice when making non dairy cheeses, reason being that with a Blixer, you will only need to add a splash of water if any when blending, giving you the end result of a thicker, smoother cheese consistency needing little to no straining.
It all starts with a base, this cashew cheese recipe is a great versatile recipe to build from. Check out this video filmed years back showing the use of the blixer, and creating this base recipe.
What are some of your favorite dairy free cheeses, or cheezy recipes you enjoy? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Cashew Cheese Au Poivre
Base Cashew Cheese
2 cups raw cashews soaked in water for a few hours to overnight, to soften
¾ teaspoon *New Chapter Probiotics powder, or other potent pro-biotic powder dissolved in 3/4 cup warm filtered water
2 ½ tablespoons nutritional yeast, small flake
1 tablespoon onion powder
¼ t fresh powdered nutmeg
1 ½ t sea salt, fine
¼ teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons crushed pink peppercorns
3 tablespoons chives, fine minced (optional)
½ tablespoon flaked sea salt
In high speed blender, blend the soaked cashews with probiotics and luke warm water until smooth. Removing the lid, and folding the mixture at medium speed in order to achieve the optimum smooth consistency. Note: if using Blixer, you will use less water and result will be a thicker product.
Scrape out with rubber spatula into a glass bowl. Allow to sit in bowl covered with towel ina room temperature place for 14-16 hours to culture.
The following day once finished culturing, hand mix in the nutritional yeast, onion powder, nutmeg, sea salt, and white pepper.
Store and use as a plain cream cheese substitute, or use as a base for endless variations and applications.
Note: Don’t have time to culture? Omit the probiotics and replace with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. The end result will be slightly different but still a similar flavor profile without the zing.
Peppercorn crusted option.
In small spring form pan, terrine mold lined with plastic wrap or round mold, press the cashew cheese firmly into pan. Allow to chill for 1-2 hours to firm up.
While still in the pan, sprinkle the peppercorn, chive and course salts on top, creating an even crust, press slightly. Note: if using a spring form or terrine mold, once lined with plastic wrap, cover the bottom of the pan with the peppercorns, chives and salt mixture, and continue to press the cheese on top. This will make it easier to flip over once set, so the top is encrusted.
Serving suggestion: This is an awesome recipe with a layer of pesto or tapenade in the center, or just drizzled with a white balsamic syrup and served with crackers of choice.
Interested in some hands on non dairy cheese making? Or want a perfect gift for your sweetie, join us for a weekend food and wine training to remember this May! Check out my events page for upcoming culinary trainings!