I love cheese. Really. I do.
I. Love. Cheese.
I never realized how much of it I ate, either, until I finally figured out that I actually am allergic to dairy, and gave it up. So, while my sinuses are forever grateful, my nose can properly function again and my skin is generally relieved, my taste buds have been threatening to storm the castle.
That is, until I went to dinner during a recent trip to Los Angeles at a vegan restaurant called Cafe Gratitude. Now look, I’m not vegan. While I’m trying to learn to eat healthier, and I think part of that includes reducing meat in my diet, I am, admittedly, a happy carnivore. But I’m adventurous and I was with friends, so why not?
If you haven’t been, I highly recommend Cafe Gratitude. It smells divine walking in the door and everything from the tea to the dessert was excellent. It was there, too, that I learned what you can do with cashews. Holy smokes- I had no idea what vegan eating could really be like.
When I got home, I started looking up recipes for cashew “un-cheese.” I’m not sure what to call it – it’s a substitute, I guess. That makes it sound like it will be icky, but it’s actually very good, and extremely easy to make. I started with a recipe I found online, but really you can tweak it to be almost anything: make it with ingredients that make sense for lasagna, and you can’t tell it isn’t cheese. Or, add things like honey, fresh chives and lemon and it’s a little sweeter – perfect as a dip for those fancy seasoned crackers or instead of cottage cheese on fruit or a salad.
This is a lasagna I made recently. Yes, that’s real mozzarella cheese on top (because I haven’t found a substitute mozzarella that’s any good), but the rest is dairy-free.
Cashew Nut Ricotta Cheese-subsitute
Prep: Take 2 cups of RAW, unsalted cashews and soak them in water overnight. You can soak for just a few hours, but I’ve tried both and it seems the cashews are softer and not as dry if you let them soak longer. I’d stay with overnight or at least from before you leave for work in the morning.
When the cashews are finished soaking, drain them and throw them in a food processor with these:
– about 1 1/2 – 2 TBSP of olive oil
– 1/4 cup soy creamer (or soy or almond milk, but the creamer is probably better)
Then flavor as you like. For my lasagna, I added garlic powder, basil, oregano, a little salt.
Blend on high speed until it’s smooth. That’s it.
You can try all kinds of flavor combinations because the nuts really don’t taste like much on their own, especially with the creamer.