Thursday, April 14, 2016

What do I call it... Plant Based Cheese?!

This is a hard one for me... I do not like to use substitutes for animal products because if we are going to avoid it we should just avoid it and not try to make substitutes for it.  And as a health coach I always try to make sure my clients can enjoy real food and not have to work too hard in the kitchen because the majority of the time they do not like cooking.  Or they are cooking for their family which can be harder too, especially when making big changes.  And cheese is usually the hardest thing to give up for most people.  So here goes a couple recipes for anyone to try.

So my family and I tried some plant based cheeses for fun!  Some were pretty gross and other just okay and then we finally found two that we really like after some major alterations!  I will only tell about the two that we really liked.  We will skip the details on the gross ones.  :)

The first one is a queso sauce and very versatile.  It can be used for dipping, drizzling or dumping on a lot!  When I served it at a family gathering the other day they said they could not tell it was non-dairy plant based.  I hope you all were telling the truth!  ;)  This one I drizzled it on my black bean soup and it was so good just like that.

The queso sauce is a great alternative to your typical cheese and sour cream on your taco salad or haystack.  Here I dumped it on and obviously you cannot see the beans under the salad and guacamole!  But is has a great flavor for getting it wet.  I know some like their ranch dressing this is also a great alternative to that.

My favorite thing to eat is chips and salsa!  I love hot salsa so I would add sour cream to it to cool it off a little (and I do not like sour cream but it was good with the salsa).  Well the queso sauce is so good with salsa and chips.  So happy with this alternative.  And honestly it is really healthy too.  Not too high in fat which is usually what most people do not like about cheese or the alternative cheeses is the fat.

The first batch of this sauce that I made it was too runny and tasted like a big vat of nutritional yeast.  Now I like nutritional yeast but I do not like it that much!  So I modified and modified until it was easy for me and my family and what I know my clients will have on hand and what I know they can find in stores near them.  I want to make it as easy as possible.  That is really the whole point of this blog anyway!  Recipe for queso sauce below...

The next 'cheese' we tried was a block cheese.  My kids call it 'cashew block' which just makes me laugh!  They love this alternative and eat it about 2x a week with different sandwich options.  They love making their own food at the table!  So for lunches we will makes fun sandwiches or burritos.  So this first one we made was for Taco Tuesday and we had black beans, greens, cashew 'cheese' and other veggies stuffed in it.  And of course a little salsa or taco sauce.

This one we we used homemade whole wheat bread, hummus, sprouts, gluten patties (or veggie burgers) and cashew 'cheese'.  I served it with cucumbers and tomatoes as well.  This is an odd recipe and I learned it from the cookbook '7 Secrets Cookbook'.  And I say odd because it uses agar powder which I found at an Asian store but it can also be bought from Amazon which is where some friends have bought it.  The first time I made it I didn't do it quick enough and it almost solidified in the pan that I was using to thicken the agar and water.  But I was successful.  I had to modify the recipe the second time because I wanted it to have more flavor.  Either way the kids liked it and they think it is neat because it slices and it is more like a real piece of cheese (but we still do not compare it).

And the last one was we toasted the bread, added hummus, sprouts (we use alfalfa, clover, radish and broccoli seeds for our sprouts), tomato and the cashew 'cheese'.  Either way it is fun to add to a sandwich or burrito.  We also cut it in little pieces and added it to our haystacks.  We couldn't really taste it but it was still a fun way to eat it.  So try out the recipes and see which one is preferable for your family.  Some say they are happy with nothing at all or do like the alternative.

Queso Sauce

1 c water
1 TBS lemon juice
1/4 c roasted red pepper
3 TBS green chilies 
3+ TBS jalapenos (I used the canned variety and this is our favorite way to eat it)
1/2 c cashews (soak overnight or for 2+ hours they will blend up nicer and creamier)
1/2 c oats (quick oats will make a lighter sauce and regular rolled will make it a lot thicker)
3 TBS nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Put all ingredients in a blender (high speed blender works best) in the order stated and blend for 90+ seconds.

2. Serve warm with your favorite salsa, salad or just for dipping!

Cashew Block Cheese

2 c water
3 tsp agar powder (buy here)
1 c raw cashews (soak overnight or for 2+ hours, they will blend up smoother)
1/4 c roasted red pepper
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1. Put all ingredients except 2 cups of water and 3 tsp agar powder in blender and set aside.

2. Have a glass pan (I used an 8x8 pyrex dish) ready to pour mixture immediately into.  It sets up fast.

3. Mix 2 cups of cold water and 3 tsp agar powder together in medium pan and bring to a boil.  Mix for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes at a boil. 

4. Pour water/agar powder from pan into blender immediately and blend for 90-180 seconds.

5. Pour mixture into the glass pan and let set up.  It takes about 30 minutes in the refrigerator and it will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  I was told you can freeze it and then shred it but have not gone to that extreme.  We are just happy for something fun to try and eat once in a while.

Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think about our crazy recipes!

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