I think the first thing that goes through your mind when you talk about plant based eating is what you would have to give up and if that was even possible in your present mindset. “I could NEVER give up cheese, I just love it too much!” is one of the most common responses I hear when I tell people that I am plant based. Personally, I had a love/hate relationship with cheese. Yes, I want the cheeseburger, yes, I love mushroom alfredo sauce, and cheese fondu – count me in! It wasn’t until I finished enjoying all the cheesy, deliciousness that my body reminded me of my lactose intolerance and that’s where the love affair goes a bit sour. That said, I am happy to announce that without the dairy, my love affair with cheese continues!
The world of plant based cheese has sprouted over the past 5 years. The grocery store now carries a number of options, these are mostly found in the produce section or in the health food fridge section, some now are even store branded. When I went plant based there were very few options on the market, one orange and one cream coloured, came in a block, sliced or in shreds, and it may sweat but no matter what you did, it would not melt.
Today there are quite a few popular brands in most stores including Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Chao, Gusta, Embourg, Miyoko’s, Sheese, Nafsika’s & Vivolife. They come sliced, in blocks, shreds, cream cheese, parmesan, feta and even curds for poutine, and they even melt! If you are entertaining and want to pull off a whole plant based tray then look for Nuts for Cheese, VegCheese, and our own local producer The Frauxmagerie on Georgian Bay in Meaford. Even private labels like PC, 365, and Good Value brands are claiming their stake. In fact, I just tried the Boursin dairy free cheese spread and dare I say it’s better than the original.
In this three-part series I will give you three of my favorite cheese recipes. Home-made and always a huge hit, especially when entertaining – “I can’t believe it’s not cheese”! While the ingredients may be not what you expect the finished product will have you questioning whether dairy cheese is such a huge sacrifice.
This is the first cheese I started making, it is a soft spreadable cheese that I would compare to a goat cheese, but there are no goats involved in the making of it. I use it as a soft cheese on a cheese plate, as a topping or stuffing for pasta, crumbled on a salad or spread on a crispy bread for a sandwich. Mostly though, I keep it in the fridge and snack on it, spread on some sesame rice crackers whenever I want – Delicious!
Recipe: Basil Cashew Cheese
1 ½ cups raw cashews (soaked overnight)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp Hamalyan pink salt
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 bunch fresh organic basil
Soak cashews in 3 cups of water in a sealed container in the fridge overnight. Soaking cashews is a necessary step to make them creamy. Once done drain and rinse cashews and then pat dry.
Wash and zest the lemon, then cut in 1/2 and juice the lemon
Wash and destem the basil, keeping one perfect leaf to the side for the top of your cheese
Add cashews, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast and basil to your food processor or high-speed blender. Process until smooth, you may need to use a spatula and wipe down the sides of your processor a number of times and keep processing.
Once you have a creamy consistency, empty the mixture from the processor onto a sheet of parchment paper, I lift the bottom of the paper to the centre and then the top of the paper to the centre to make the mixture log shaped, I do this multiple times to get it to a uniform width.
Then I transfer it to a sheet of plastic wrap, place the left-over basil leaf in the centre of the log and then wrap the cheese lengthwise before twisting then ends to maintain the log like shape.
Put it in the freezer for at one hour. Remove and transfer to a plate to serve or put in the fridge sealed for up to a week.