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.


  1. Heather, Thanks so much for sharing these recipes and your experiences. I look forward to reading back in your blog for more info.


    1. Thanks Danielle --this is actually only my second post for this blog...but I plan to keep adding to it whenever someone asks me for a recipe. I'm more of a 'reactive' blogger, so if there is something you're on the hunt for as far as dairy-substitutes and recipes, ask and I'll post :)