Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Say (No to) Cheeeeese!

Nothin' says yummy like cheesy nachos in my tummy.  Or a creamy lasagna.  Or delectable sweet cream to dip my strawberries into.  Unless of course it's followed by my infant suffering with gas pain, and bloody mucousy stools.  Didn't I say I wanted to be vegan anyway?  So what's a mamma to do?

The available commercial substitutes out there are delish.  But they are usually mere flavour/texture substitutes and they generally lack any reasonable nutritional value.  Daiya cheese, for example, will be the only thing that can make a plate of nachos or vegan gluten-free pizza yummy, but using it on anything else means I'm eating something with all the 'bad' attributes of cheese (fat, salt) and none of the 'good' (calcium).

I've discovered, however, that nuts (most often cashews) blended in water (using a high powered blender like a Vita-mix) can pretty much give me a yummy and reasonably nutritious substitute for any cheese product: ricotta cheese, alfredo sauce, vanilla maple fruit dip, cream cheese, and even yogurt (if I decide to get wild with my electric blanket and probiotics).

So, here is my list of tried recipes for cheese-less cheez sauce.

Tried and True:

  • Alfredo Sauce: Kelly Childs 
    • This recipe is so simple that as long as my vitamix is already on the counter I can make it with a baby on the hip and a preschooler wrapped around my legs.  That's about as easy as it gets.  The recipe is lenient when it comes to estimating the measurements (read: scoop a spoonful of soy-free Earth Balance with a soup ladle to 'guestimate' a teaspoon while your infant tries to grab said ladle).  And it's good.  Really really good.  We skip the tamari because we are soy free.  We now have coconut aminos in our fridge (once we replace the bottle that got broken by a crawling 11 month old with a penchant for quick grab and release) and I think coconut aminos would be a suitable substitute.  Freezes well, and you don't need to use much.
  • Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheeze: Oh She Glows
    • This has the added (and time consuming) step of cooked squash but, say you have a baby who just started eating solids.  So you have this entire butternut squash on the counter and you wonder just how much squash one baby can eat.  Use half the squash for the Oh She Glows recipe and you've cut your little one's carotene overdose by half.  The rest of the ingredients are very similar to Kelly Child's alfredo sauce.  Move over Alfredo, I think I have a new best friend.  I have frozen my first batch and expect it will defrost just fine.  Use plenty more than the alfredo sauce for a nice creamy mac n' cheese.  I have yet to try it as a casserole...
  • Ricotta Cheese: this is unsourced.  I will try to find where I got this from (yikes, and I thought I was a stickler for APA referencing)
    • 2 cups macadamia nuts
    • 2 cups almonds
    • juice of 1 lemon*
    • 1/2 Cup freshly squeezed orange juice*
    • 3 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Blend.  Lumpy is OK.  
    • Great in lasagna or as a spread on crackers.
    • * if citrus is avoided in your diet, add 1/2 cup of water instead of citrus.  It still worked out for us when we were citrus-free.
  • Sweet vanilla maple cashew cream: This recipe was available as the wonderful winning entry to a video contest.  It was submitted under the title "Heather + Vitamix".  No relation to me.  Neither am I blonde nor can I crack open a coconut like this 'other' Heather can.  I can no longer find the video, but here is the recipe:
    • 2-3 cups of soaked raw organic cashews (soak overnight, especially if you do not have a powerful blender)
    • 2-3 cups coconut water (less for a thicker cream).  (I've used filtered water in a pinch)
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup (I use less)
    • a pinch of sea salt
    • vanilla beans (2 sticks worth, or, like me, just eye ball a few tsps of vanilla extract)
    • Blend on high in a vitamix until smooth (3 minutes)
  • Cashew Cheese (Substitute for Cream Cheese)  My simplified version (sans probiotic and fermentation with a heating pad) is below:
    • 1 cup soaked cashews (overnight)
    • 1/4 cup liquid (water or coconut cream)
    • puree for 10 minutes (I think I did quite a bit less)
    • Season with herbs, onions, garlic, sundries tomatoes, etc.
    • Great on crackers.
So, there you have it.  Non-cheese cheez in a nutshell.  Pun intended.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nut Ring Loaf

OK, Liv, this one's for you:

Nut Ring Loaf
(meat-free, corn-free, potato-free, grain-free)
(with modifications: vegan, gluten-free)

When I needed a dairy-free vegetarian recipe that would feel a bit "Christmassy" or "Thanksgiving-y" this one fit the bill.  It is a bit heavy on the mushrooms (which means my husband won't touch it) but the flavours are right for a Thanksgiving feast.  In time, I'll figure out a substitution to cut out or reduce the mushrooms. 

The recipe is from Simply In Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.  This cookbook gets a lot of use in our house.  Simply In Season is chalk full of recipes divided by season, with an emphasis on local 'in season' produce.  Each page has a little tidbit about smart food consumption (how to support local farming, what fair trade is) or a reflection on the pleasures of community-based growing, cooking, and eating.  Many recipes have dairy, cheese, butter, or meat, but I have found that most of those are easily modified to vegetarian or vegan.  The recipes that we've tried have all been great and have led to me focus a bit more on seasonal vegetables in my kitchen.

For now my only modifications are that I cook it in a Corningware casserole dish instead of a ring mold, and I use gluten-free flour.  I have yet to substitute flax seed for the eggs to make it vegan.  To make this substitution,  mix 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed (buy it ground, or use an old coffee grinder) with 1 Tbsp (and no more than 2-3 Tbsp of cold water).  Mix it like a wall-painter mixes Plaster of Paris: add water gradually and mix to a thick paste.  This equals one egg.  Double for the nut ring loaf.  Alternatively you could use a commercial egg replacer like PaneRiso Egg Replacer from the grocery store, though it contains cornstarch and potato starch.

This loaf goes great with stuffed acorn squash from the original 1977 Moosewood cookbook.  I'll post these recipes soon.

So, without further adieu, here it is:


Nut Ring Loaf
(meat-free, corn-free, potato-free, grain-free)
(with modifications: vegan, gluten-free)

Onion-Celery Sauce
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
5 stalks celery
1 Tbsp flour (we use Bob's Red Mill All Purpose gluten-free)
1 1/4 cups of white wine or broth
In a large saucepan saute onion in 2 Tbsp oil until soft, 4-5 minutes.  Add celery and saute for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle on flour.  Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring.  Add wine or broth.  Cook and stir 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

Almond-Apple Mixture
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds (ground)
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 apple (grated)
2 eggs (or make it vegan with ground flax seed and water, or egg replacer)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Combine in a large bowl.  Stir in the onion-celery sauce.  Set aside.

Mushroom Filling
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
5 cups mushrooms (finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
1 1/4 cups walnuts (chopped)
In separate saucepan saute onion in 2 tsp oil until soft, 4-5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lightly oil a Corningware casserole or an 850 ml ring mold.  The authors suggest lining it with parchment paper --I have not done this, but rather have opted to serve it directly from the casserole dish.  Spoon 1/3 of the creamy almond-apple mixture, add mushroom filling, then cover with remaining almond-apple mixture.  Bake at 375F for 50-55 minutes.  Cool in ring mold for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving dish.


Our Online Recipe Box

I find I share the same recipes with family and friends over and over again.  Most of these recipes are not original, but many of them are ones that we've searched high and low for, and modified a lot to accommodate our flexitarian, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, paleo, refined-sugar-free, and raw-curious mastications.  

In this Happy Tummy Happy Home blog, I'll post the links, the modifications, the burned batches, and the lessons learned.  Because everybody knows when the tummy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.