Recipe: Cashew Cheese Spread

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Don’t worry, after this long winded rant on cheese there is an actual recipe. It’s a simple but very awesome recipe, which is prefaced by my thoughts on cheese.

So, why no cheese?

Ok first off, let me start by saying that I LOVE CHEESE. Being a vegetarian is pretty easy but going vegan is really difficult for me. During my vegan challenge, I’ve literally wanted to GORGE on a brick of cheddar, smothered with melted brie topped with goat cheese balls.

I’ve been hearing time after time that cheese is bad for you. This is up for debate, and I’m not here to draw any major conclusions. The reason why I’m opting to reduce my cheesey consumption is two parts ethical, one part health and one part vanity.

Ethics:

I want less animals to suffer: less cheese = less cows suffer. I know that is a pretty big simplification because I’ve personally known dairy farmers, and I know that there are ethical ways to raise goats and cows for milk. In fact, this summer I’d like to do a Quebec cheese trail so that I can feel comfortable eating cheese from farms that I’ve visited in person and deemed “ethical.” That being said, there are numerous large scale dairy farms where the treatment of the animals is less than holy.

Heath:

I am a little divided on my position towards dairy from a health perspective. I do think that we probably consume more dairy that we should – lactose intolerance is probably evidence that dairy not conducive to everybody.  Most vegans will quote the China study at this point to talk about how casein (dairy protein) causes cancerous tumours in rats. I haven’t read the China study so I can’t draw any conclusions just yet but cheese does tend to be very high in fat and cholesterol which we all know is bad. Finally, dairy products are supposedly acid forming once they are metabolized which in excess can throw your body’s biochemical balance out of wack. That’s enough for me to consider the overall benefits of eliminating cheese.

Vanity:

I’ve heard time and time again from friends and dermatologists that eliminating dairy from your diet can help with skin conditions such as acne. Being that I have fairly acne prone skin, I’ve tried altering my diet in many ways (including no dairy) without too many results. So I’m fairly skeptical that it will make a difference but given that this is something that’s bothered me forever, I figured it was really time to buckle down and commit to being dairy free for enough time to really see the effects. I’m aiming for 2 months off the dairy but I will allow for the occasion cheat (for poutine). I don’t think I’ll ever commit to no cheese for life but I can definitely see the effects and learn to reduce if I feel like doing so will have a positive effect.

So there you have it! Dairy free since April 14′ (with the occasional cheat for poutine, c’mon people, I’m human!).

So how did I do it?

There is absolutely NO WAY for a cheese lover like me to go dairy free without some kind of substitute. My answer: CASHEW CHEESE SPREAD.

No kidding, you absolutely need to make this now! It is so easy and so absolutely delicious. Even if you eat cheese you should still try this spread anyways, all you need is a few simple ingredients.  Within minutes, you’ll have the fattiness of cheese, without the guilt.

How to make cashew cheese?

STEP 1: Soak 1.5 cups of raw cashew nuts in water for minimum two hours, maximum over night.

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STEP 2: Drain the soaked nuts, place in a blender, add water and seasoning.

My no fuss seasoning includes:

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews (that you’ve soaked)
  • 1/2 cup water (add a little more water for a milky consistency or a little less for a more spreadable texture)
  • 1/3 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Nutrition Yeast
  • 1 tbsp of tamari
  • 2/3 tsp garlic powder
  • A little black pepper to taste (optional)

 

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STEP 3: Once all your ingredients are in the blender, blend on medium speed for a few minutes. REALLY BLEND ‘ER UP! It should be pulverized!

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STEP 4: Scoop out your mixture from the blender and store in a small jar for later use.

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What to do with your cashew cheese spread?

Use it anywhere that you’d use sour cream: on tacos, nachos, baked potatoes.

Add to a sandwich or bagel instead of cream cheese.

Use in place of mayo or cream for dips and salad dressings.

Add a little to your tomato pasta to make it a rose.

Let your imagination go wild!

 

 

Montreal’s unexpected veggie-friendly establishments.

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Photo cred: Gemma Correll

You may have noticed that I like to talk about “co-existing” with meat-lovers. This is in large part because most of my friends and family have not adopted my vegetarian lifestyle, and it has been a headache at times. They want to eat red meat, and I just want eat something without stressing the waitress out, or paying too much for a poor excuse of a salad. Over the course of my co-existence with carnivorous, I’ve taken note of a few meat-lovin’ establishments that are surprising veg-friendly. These are the places that I’ll head to if I simply cannot convince my friends to try to newest vegan hot spot.

1. Marven’s

  • Speciality: Steak, Lamb, Calamari & Souvlaki.
  • Veggie option: Veggie souvlaki, greek salad, veggie platter.
  • Location: Parc-Ex

This classic Montreal dive is a beloved spot for steak and lamb chops. I like it because I can order a “veggie” souvlaki platter loaded with salad and feta cheese. Drench your fries in Marven’s sauce, and you’ll be in for a treat. It’s a good spot to swing by for a social gathering since it’s got a lively atmosphere. And bonus – it’s CHEAP!

2. Baton Rouge

Surf & turf, ribs and a killer grilled veggie sandwich. Seriously, I’ve had this sandwich on numerous occasions and it was consistently yummy. It’s got portobello mushroom, red peppers, eggplant, zucchini and goat cheese. Not vegan friendly but I’m sure you can ask them to hold the cheese and mayo in a pinch. Kudos to them for whipping together a sweet vegetarian option. They’ve also got some decent starters but it ain’t cheap!

3. Reuben’s Deli

  • Speciality: Smoked meat.
  • Veggie option: Grilled veggie sandwich.
  • Location: Downtown

When your buddies are in the mood for smoked meat, convince them to go to Reuben’s deli. They have a fabulous spinach artichoke dip, a massive greek salad and a delicious grilled veggie sandwich.  It’s pretty much the same deal as the Baton Rouge sandwich. I’ve actually gone here with vegetarian friends just for the sandwich. It’s also the same price point as Baton Rouge, but high prices are to be expected when you’re eating right downtown.

4. Burger De Ville

This burger joint is a regular spot for my colleagues and I. They are fairly enamoured over the idea of bacon cheeseburgers on the lunch hour. Luckily they’ve got a yummy portobello burger options for about $5.75. If you really want to splurge get the Mediterranean burger but swap the meat for a mushroom, which turns it into an epic grilled veggie sandwich. It hits the spot but I’ve had to turn a blind eye to how close they grill the mushroom to the beef patties. Personally, I can live with the proximity for a little lunchtime socializing.

5. Le Gros Jambon

  • Specialty: Diner food (Hot dogs, burgers, mac &cheese)
  • Veggie option(s): Veggie Burger, Mac&Cheese
  • Location: Old Montreal

This trendy diner is a fun spot to grab a cheap bite in the old port. I usually recommend this place to tourists since decent cheaper options in Montreal’s beloved old town are few and far between. Besides being affordable, Le Gros Jambon is fun and accommodating to vegetarian needs. They offer a veggie burger, 4-cheese mac & cheese and a small salad. You can even omit to aioli to make your veggie burger vegan. The brunch is not as veg-friendly so I recommend this one more for lunch.

How to date a Vegetarian

VeggieLove

It’s the week after Valentine’s Day, and incase we weren’t already bitter and bruised by love, I figured I’d address some pretty harsh dietary dating truths.

Vegetarians have suffered long enough! Everyday we face limited menu choices, constant badgering about our dietary choices and now this? According to a match.com survey, a whopping 30% of meat-eaters would not date a vegetarian. Whhhhhat?

Honestly, I wasn’t really surprised by that figure. I’ve seen the disappointed look on my date’s face when I tell them, “No thanks, I don’t eat meat.” They usually respond with, “Really?! Not even BACON?”

To be fair, I understand that dating someone with dietary restrictions can be annoying – especially if you have a thing for romantic steak dinners. But isn’t the dating pool small enough already? Should we really be limiting ourselves based on dietary differences? Vegetarians need love too!

Why date a Vegetarian?

 1. They’re cheap dates.

If you’ve decided to treat your date to a romantic soiree, there is no chance you’ll be stuck paying for the lobster. Veg-options are always the cheapest 😀

2. They’re slimmer & trimmer.

Plant-based diets are lower in fat, that’s a fact. Sure, not all vegetarians are health freaks but it’s safe to assume that they are generally more health conscious than the average Joe. Healthier lifestyle=better bod.

3. They’re good cooks.

Being forced to think outside the box in the kitchen means learning to be creative. If you are willing to eat vegetarian food, chances are you’ll really enjoy what they make.

4. You’ll learn about new foods.

Hemp seeds, seitan and tempeh are just a few of the weird foods that you’ll have the pleasure of tasting for the first time. If things don’t work out, at least you’ll have a whole new slew of food knowledge.

5. You’ll become healthier.

Skipping the pulled pork (from time to time) on date night will do you good! Chances are you’ll integrate more greens into your diet, it may be the kick you need to build healthier lifestyle patterns.

funny-picture-ron-swanson-vegetarian-meal

So, for all those meat-lovers who want to woo a vegetarian, I may have a couple of useful tips for you.

How to date a Vegetarian:

1. Be respectful of their choice.

Vegetarianism is a choice that means facing obstacles just when it comes to ordering lunch. If we’ve decided to stick to our guns, chances are it’s pretty important, so trying to convince us otherwise is just plain arrogant. Quit your attempts to convert your vegetarian partner and just learn to accept them as they are. And please, for the love of bananas, don’t brag about how good your bacon cheeseburger tastes, that one got old a long long long time ago.

2. Be open-minded to new culinary adventures.

Dating a vegetarian can mean eating food outside of your comfort zone – just roll with it. Indian, Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine tends to be a more veg-friendly, but probably difficult for the “steak & potato” type.  If you can be flexible for your date, chances are they’ll be more open to having a plain salad at your favourite steak house.

3. Be very considerate with restaurant plans.

Always check the restaurant’s menu before you make a reservation. When you go out in groups, suggest a place that has veggie options. If you are stuck bringing your veggie date to a BBQ joint, call beforehand to see if they can prepare something à la veg. This one is pretty key and it should earn you a ton of extra brownie points.

4. Don’t confuse being vegetarian for being high maintenance.

Okay, so vegetarians can be difficult when it comes to dinner plans but don’t assume they’re difficult with everything else. A lot of veggies are easy-peasy with other aspects of life and romance.

5. Don’t assume they’ll try to change you.

Look, I’ll be honest; a lot of vegetarians are probably pretty passionate their decision, and chances are they would be happier if you adopted a flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) way of eating.  That doesn’t mean that they will try to convert you from the get-go, or that they will expect you to change what you eat around them.  How about just asking what they expect and how they feel? Not all vegetarians are on an anti-carnivore crusade.

6. Don’t forget to tell your family that you’re dating a vegetarian.

So you’re finally ready to take your veggie love home to meet the family? Don’t, under any circumstances, forget to tell your family that your new love is a vegetarian! If you do, all parties involved will be left feeling incredibly awkward. Your date will be hungry and worried they’ve insulted your family. Your family will feel awful about leaving an important house guest to go unfed. It’s all very ugly and you’d be surprised how often this happens. Don’t make this mistake!

Hope this helps! Happy belated Valentine’s Day and good luck!

I dedicate this post to my ex-boyfriends, who despite adoring meat, often opted to eat veggie with me. To all the meat-lovers out there, it can’t hurt to widen your dating pool a little. Who knows, maybe next year the “V” in Vday will stand for “veggies.” Heheheh.

THIS IS NOT A TOMATO!

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Seriously guys, this is not a tomato!! I feel deceived, cheated, mislead, deluded into thinking that this was a tomato my whole life. What you see in that photo up there is a poor excuse of a vegetable (or fruit?). I’m not sure…

Okay, so what am I yammering on about? TOMATOES! I love tomatoes so much that I felt the need to write about them. I like all types, shapes and species. I like them cooked or raw. I like them in a sandwich or as a side. I just love them! Up until 7 months ago I didn’t realize how good they could get.  I always knew that fresh garden tomatoes were tastier but I resigned to mostly consuming grocery store tomatoes . Then I signed up to weekly veggie baskets from Lufa farms. My first basket contained a pint of cherry tomatoes that were so juicy and sweet; I could eat them like candy. From that moment on I exclusively ate locally grown Lufa tomatoes.

Unfortunately, last week something terrible happened. For reasons out of my control, I missed my basket. Lufa generously refunded me but I was forced to wait a WHOLE week to get my tomatoes! In preparation for dinner, my sis and I were forced buy tomatoes at the grocer. My sister carefully selected the best looking and most expensive tomatoes on the vine. No matter how red and plump they looked in the shop, they were still tasteless and bland.

Why do grocery store tomatoes suck?!

The main reason for the tasteless tomatoes is that they are prematurely picked. Since most tomatoes we consume are grown in Mexico or California, they are picked while green and change colour over the transportation process. This means the fruit (or vegetable?) is picked before it has had time to receive the proper nutrients needed to make it nourishing and tasty. Another reason is that farmers know that growing a “good looking” tomato is more important than a tasty one. As long as it looks pretty in the shop, it will sell. Read more about this here.

This principle is not just true of tomatoes but a multitude of fruits and veggies. That is why it is so important to eat local. It’s not just about saving the planet. It’s about rewarding your body with nutritious food that will delight your taste buds. And hey, you also reduce your carbon foot print at the same time!

In Montreal, we are really lucky to have a service like Lufa growing local rooftop tomatoes all year round! Your tomatoes will be picked the very morning that they are sent to you! Can you imagine how much more delicious they are? Lufa also partners up with a number of local organic farms. One of my favourite items from the partner farms is fresh garlic, which is significantly better than store bought garlic.

Equiterre also offers organic baskets all year round and while they may not have as many tomatoes as Lufa, they are worth checking out too.

Moral of the story: if you aren’t registered to your local csa (veggie basket), then do it!

Become a better cook!

You’ll be forced to be more creative in the kitchen, working with the veggies that you receive. Even with customizable baskets, you’ll still have to choose from a more limited list of vegetables. A nice perk is that you’ll often get to try veggies that you never thought of eating before.

Save money!

You’ll pay a little more but you’ll waste way less! The mere fact that you’ve paid more will encourage you to eat everything. Since the veggies are fresh and haven’t spent a week on a truck/ship/plane, they’ll last way longer too!

Be happy!

Good food makes everyone happy! Not to mention your blast of natural vitamins and minerals will leave you feeling like a super star!

Consume less pesticides!

Most local community veggie baskets are organic so you’ll consume less chemicals.

Save the planet!

This may be an exaggeration but you’ll definitely lessen your carbon footprint significantly.