Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nutty Cheese


I've been on a mission, of sorts, to eat less hard cheese. If you are allergic to dairy, like Rosie, it's not a question of limiting a food as much as eliminating it completely. She has known nothing other than her beloved soy cheeses like Tofutti and Daiya since she began eating hard foods. I decided now that she can have certain nuts, it might be fun to stretch our vegan cheese wings and see what's out there.
Julie Platt's wonderfully photographed and very clearly written, This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home, has helped me on my quest.The book has some wonderful options for everything from cheddar to mozzarella and beyond. The ingredients are accessible (in my opinion) and the instructions are clear and achievable for most people. 

 I decided to start with an easy one, an ersatz pimiento cheese. Or, if you're from the South, "pimenta".  You might recall it as that orangy cheese spread in a crock that was ubiquitous at your parents cocktail parties in the '70's.  But it's actually a nice spread when made with real ingredients and not processed cheese like stuff.  The almond based spread in Platt's book combined a cheesiness from nutritional yeast flakes and the robust pimento flavor from a generous addition of the jarred peppers. I made a few adjustments, as I had to use jarred roasted peppers instead of pimentos. I added some smoked paprika to make up the flavor, and it did so in spades. It can be eaten immediately or refrigerated for about a week. After a few days I felt it took on the flavor (and it had the texture) of smoked salmon spread. Another treat I love, but could do with a health upgrade.  My neighbor tried some on nachos and thought it was a great option if you're cutting back on cholesterol.

I was thinking a crock of cheese spread with GF crackers would make a wonderful and tasty Mishloach Manot--the gifts of food for friends and family on the Jewish holiday of Purim, as described in the biblical Book of Esther. On Purim, we rejoice over G-d's hidden miracles and remember that even in a moment of crisis or danger, G-d's mercy is near at hand. What better way to share our holiday cheer than with fun costumes for the children (or fun loving adults) and creative gift packages of food. Have a happy Purim!

You can find canned pimentos or jarred peppers in the same section of your supermarket as olives and pickles. The amounts make a lot, so consider halving the recipe. I didn't have smoked sea salt, so I used 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika and regular sea salt, and it worked great! 

Smoked Almond Cheddar Spread

This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home by Julie Platt, p. 33

2 cups raw almonds, rinsed and placed in covered bowl with water to cover overnight
1/2 to 3/4 cup pimientos from a jar, with 1/2 to 3/4 cup packing liquid
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 3/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt (I preferred less salt)
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Drain the almonds. In the bowl of a food processor, place the first five ingredients with 1/4 cup of the pimiento liquid. Process until the ingredients are well incorporated.

Remove the lid and test the mixture for texture and salt content. If you want a smoother spread, add pimiento liquid in small increments and process again. Add more salt if needed.

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Makes approximately 3 cups of spread.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


I love finding new products, and I was excited to see this one practically jump off shelf at me. Legumes in a bag. Not something to stir most peoples hearts, but I was excited because I had a choice of lentils or chick peas. Gefen makes them in a 16 ounce vacuum sealed (I guess) pouch. And they're great for taking a scoop for a salad or a stew and putting the rest back in the fridge for another time. Until now, lentils are were definitely a plan ahead item for me. They'd have to be soaked, then cooked, then incorporated into whatever dish I planned to use them with (like my favorite m'jedra), but now you can take a scoop, toss and go. They're great to mix with microwavable rice or toss into a salad.

I used another convenience item Gefen vacuum packed beets to make a great winter salad. Gefen is just knocking it out of the park this year!  It served double duty as a side dish then as a lunch the next day with an egg sliced on top (you can also use cubed tofu or leftover chicken). I made the dressing and stirred up the salad in one storage container--so no muss no fuss!

Serve this delicious and hearty winter salad to your sweetheart and enjoy the good heart healthy benefits

If you want to make this even easier, substitute a bottled citrus vinaigrette for the dressing.  It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Sweet Heart Beet and Lentil Salad

1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh dill ) or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

2 cups cooked brown lentils
3 medium cooked beets, cubed
1/4 cup diced Bermuda onion
11 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained and rinsed (or 2 fresh, peeled and pithed)

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Add salad ingredients and gently fold together.

Chill 2 hours before serving.

Servings: 8