An Alternative To Cheese...
As I sit here and write today, I’ve just finished my “meal prep” for the week. I gave myself a limit of just 2 hours this week. I haven’t been feeling it in all honesty. Having to cook for one person sounds like it can be simple, but the truth is at times I make too much and end up eating the same thing over and over. And well, that’s no fun. So, I decided to simply prep a few items this week- cut veggies, fruit, make a few sauces - and get creative with what I pair together from there. I’ve done this before (because we all go through meal prep fatigue my friends) but sometimes I don’t think I’m that creative to be able to do it this way. But…I’ve been in the kitchen now for awhile, so I’m getting more confident at being able to just wing it. Oh, and my A/C broke, so there’s that - whatever I can make without my (big) oven within a limited time.
Enter this little gem, nut “cheese”. You heard me right. Cheese that’s made out of nuts. Say what?? It’s definitely a thing and it’s caught on so much so that they sell nut “cheese” for quite a pretty penny. I’ve been experimenting with many people’s recipes online and have created a version of my own (and yes, you can switch out with different nuts) that’s much more cost effective, not to mention a little healthier for my heart.
Do not get me wrong, I love cheese. Period. End of story. But we do have heart disease in my family, a strong family history. So I don’t eat cheese as often as I would (if I could). Enter these alternatives, that simulate a cheese type consistency. I’m not here to convince you that these taste just like cheese, because they don’t. BUT, I made a zucchini involtini the other day with these alternatives, and let me just tell you, it was to.die.for!! I really mean it. You can’t see all that ricotta goodness inside, but it definitely tasted 100% legit.
I’ve featured a few “keeper” examples of bloggers recipes in the years past for these nut alternative “cheeses”, but now that I am creating recipes, I wanted you all to have my latest and greatest version. I started out using both cashews and almonds in this version, but recently used macadamias and let me just tell you, it exceeded my expectations in how good it was - just ask my friends!
With work, as I do community presentations, we often work what I call “late” nights. So the program might run from 6 pm - 7:30 or so. Then there’s the cleaning up and then the drive home, I’m not eating “dinner” till at least 8:30 or so. I’ve found that if I eat something at 5:00 pm or so, I’m good through the program, so that’s actually more like my “dinner” but I do need a snack after the program/before bed otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep (so you know that old myth that says you can’t eat past 6 pm? Clearly that’s just a myth!) I’ve been having “cheese” toast as my snack. I buy a really nice piece of bread, hello Zak The Baker, spread my “cheese” on top, load it up with a few tomatoes, and voila, you’ve got yourself a perfectly balanced snack, one that satiates me (hello protein and healthy fat). As you can see, it looks (and tastes) quite delish!
Without further ado, I give to you my go-to recipe for nut “cheese”. This particular version I used macadamia nuts, which are quite expensive, but it turns out just as delicious with cashews and/or almonds. Regardless, this version, comes in at ~$7.50, which for the amount it makes as well as the more expensive nut I used, I can’t tell you how much it’d go for at a gourmet type store - double at least! Looking at the cost analysis this way helps me know I got myself a deal. Not to mention, how much my heart will thank me later.
1 1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts (or cashews // soaked for 1 hour in hot water)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, more to taste, if desired
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup water (up to 1/4 cup more, adding 1 Tbsp at a time, if needed)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (optional)
Add macadamia nuts to a food processor along with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, 1/4 cup water.
Mix/blend, scraping down sides as needed. Then add more water 1 Tbsp at a time (if needed!) until a thick paste forms.
Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, salt for saltiness, lemon juice for acidity/brightness, or garlic powder for garlic flavor. You could even add a little onion powder - you do YOU! Blend again to combine. Herbs are also optional, but they do give a little color to the “cheese”. You’d add it at this time.
The "cheese" is ready to eat! It's best after chilling. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and even up to 24-36 hours. The longer it chills, the firmer the "cheese" will become.
*This recipe does require a food processor. This is one of the key kitchen appliances I tell people to invest in. I use it all the time. From making homemade sauces, like my chimichurri, to all my homemade energy bites, it’s a go-to must have. I used to have a 12-cup food processor, but have found this 7-cup food processor to be a great size, not too big, not too small. If you’re looking to invest, this is a good one to make.