Moving Your Cheese

Cheese is one of the worst foods to eat.  It is high in salt, fat, calories and concentrated milk protein.  Milk protein is a potent stimulator of IGF-1. Elevated IGF-1 is a risk factor for cancer and Alzheimer’s.  They also add aluminum to cheese to improve its melting and slicing properties and is thus one of the biggest sources of aluminum in the American diet.  But unfortunately, it is also one of the most addicting foods on the planet.  When you mention eating a plant based diet, invariably, people will say, but I can’t give up my cheese.  (I actually thought the same thing, but I did manage to give it up, although admittedly I still miss it). I found it helpful to find something to fill the void.  I admit that there really is no substitute that is its equal, but here are some recipes that can help.  


Cashew Cheese Spread

My adjunct from Greensboro (Marit) shared a sample of this with me during my last trip out there.  As soon as I tasted it I knew I had to have more and that I had to have the recipe.  It is about the best tasting plant-based cream-cheese-like spread (or Boursin type cheese spread) that I’ve ever tried.  I’m now totally addicted to it and everyone that I’ve shared it with has unanimously agreed that it is very good.  At first it looks a bit labor intensive, but trust me it isn’t.  And if I can make it, well anyone can.


Ingredients: raw cashews, Herbamare salt, maple syrup (or other sweetener), coconut milk (light) herbs (your choice, I use dried chives).  


Soak 2 cups of cashews (I use the cashew pieces) overnight in enough water to cover, plus two inches.  If you don’t plan ahead and remember to soak the cashews soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes.  


In the morning add the strained cashews to the food processor (or blender works also) with 1/2 cup of coconut milk (or coconut cream) and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey).  The first couple of times I made this I forgot to add the sweetener and it didn’t seem to hurt it that much.  The third time I think I only added 1/2 TBL, so your choice (so far I think 1/2 Tbl is best).  Then add the contents of enough dairy-free probiotic capsules to equal about 50 billion.  I used these capsules.  You get 4 billion per capsule so it takes 12-13 capsules

to make 50 billion.    


Blend all these ingredients in a blender or food processor until

really smooth and creamy (for about 5-10 min) occasionally

scraping the sides.  Transfer mixture to a glass container and cover

with a cloth napkin.  Place the dish on a heating pad that is

sandwiched between two kitchen towels.  Or you can set it in

an oven with the light on.   Let it ferment for 12 hours.


Then, mix in 1/2-1 tsp Herbamare salt and some dried chives.

(I’ve used fresh chives but liked the dried better).  You can also

experiment with other fresh or dried herbs.  Serve on crackers,

bagels or toast or with veggies like celery.  


Herbamare salt is salt with other herbs in it.  


Dairy Free Cheese Sauce (this is from my friend Chef Naas)

1 cup cashew nuts

1 can lite coconut milk

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 garlic clove

2 dates

dash of paprika and tumeric

Blend in a high speed blender until hot and smooth and pour on your favorite veggies or pasta.




Non Dairy Ricotta Stuffed Shells

This is a pretty yummy dish and is not that hard to make.  

I make it on the weekends and we eat from it all week.  


Ingredients

1.5 cups cashews, soak for a few hours or overnight

(if you don’t have time, i just put hot water on the nuts and let them soak while i prepare the other ingredients)

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs ume vinegar (or more lemon and salt)

1/4 cup water

salt, pepper to taste

1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup finely chopped spinach or kale

basil (fresh or dried)


16 jumbo shells

marinara sauce


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a blender or food processor, puree the cashews, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice.  Add enough water to help the blade along.  Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.


In a medium bowl, crumble tofu and mix in oregano, red pepper flakes, spinach or kale, fresh herbs.  Mix in the pureed cashews.  


Cook the shells.


In a baking dish slather a layer of marinara sauce at the bottom.  Stuff the shells and place in the baking dish.  Top with marinara sauce.  Bake for 25 minutes.  




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