IMG_0984As soon as it hits your tongue, you will know it tastes nothing like real cheese. But nut cheese is still a delicacy to be revered.  It’s complexity of texture and flavor leave you wanting more but in a different way than a hunk of havarti.  That is, in a good way.

Dairy cheese is both comforting and addicting, making it one of the hardest things for many people to part with.  Yet, dairy can be the root cause of many nagging issues like sinus problems, chronic pain, skin irritation or acne, tummy troubles such as constipation, bloating and gas.  Years ago when I decided to give up dairy, many of these issues improved for me, and I’ve seen the same thing happen with many of my clients too.

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The first time I had nut cheese I was at a raw foods restaurant in Miami.  It was one of the most amazingly delicious meals I’d ever eaten.  Then I had it again at Pure Food and Wine in New York.  Let me just say their lasagna is to die for;  I dream of going back for more!

Nut cheese was just one of those things I loved but assumed I’d have trouble duplicating. Finally I got up enough courage to make some.  On my first try, I used macadamia and pine nuts.  It was a recipe from Silvana’s kitchen.  Silvana called it dairy free ricotta, which sounded delicious especially for the gluten free lasagna I planned to make.  But I gotta be honest, I didn’t love it.

Then I remembered the cashew cheese I’d fallen in love with at Natural Products Expo. Directly across from our booth was the booth for Treeline cheese, which makes vegan cheeses made from tree nuts and cashews.  Their cheese is an amazing work of art.

So I decided to give making nut cheese another try, this time with cashews.  Mine turned out more like a dip, but it is a delicious topping for a burger, zucchini pasta, grilled chicken or salmon.

IMG_1059The nutritional yeast gives it it’s cheesy taste.  Nutritional yeast is not to be confused with active yeast for baking bread.  High in B vitamins, it’s a very popular ingredient in vegan cooking to boost protein and nutrient quality of foods.

IMG_0966After you get over the fact that you have to soak the cashews, its actually super easy to make.  There is no real science to exactly how long you need to soak the cashews.  At least two hours and up to twelve is a good guideline.  I usually place mine in water in the morning when I’m making breakfast.  Then I process them for milk or cheese later in the afternoon.

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup filtered water (for better taste)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon raw organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the cashews in a glass container or bowl, covering them completely with water.  This step is super important because it makes the cashews blendable and gives smoother results.  After anywhere from two to twelve hours, drain the cashews and rinse.

Add cashews and all the other ingredients to Vitamix or other high speed blender.  A food processor will work too.  Blend or process until smooth.  Makes about a cup of cheese.

Add more water if want it to be runnier for a sauce. Add more nutritional yeast if want your cheese to be thicker and more spreadable.
For a delicious salad dressing, blend with a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a clove of garlic.

Use as a sauce in wraps or sandwiches, a dip for veggies or as a topping for grilled chicken burgers or salmon.  Chill in a cute little mason jar or other container for several hours before eating.  Keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.

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