Warning: Epic post here.
Cheese is a beautiful thing. I adore cheese. I have been known not to share my favorite cheeses with anyone. If a person isn’t going to appreciate cheese on the level that I do, why should I give any to fill-in-the-name-of-said-family-member? I know. But, it’s true. Cheese. Such an easy word to say. Cheeeeeese. It just rolls right off the tongue. Tell someone that you have a piece of cheese and they should ask you what kind it is. If they don’t, let them go – you don’t need a non-cheese-inquisitive person in your life.
If you can eat real cheese – by all means EAT CHEESE! And eat it with people who love cheese as much as you do! Just remember to smile sympathetically at those of us who can’t eat the cheese. We know what we are missing out on. Real cheese is good. Fake cheese is not. At least, most of it is well, terrible.
So why fake even bother with cheese? Well, having to give up cheese wasn’t by choice – I can tell you that. I am not anti-dairy; I love whipped cream, yogurt and we’ve already covered my love of cheese. I’m not a vegetarian, vegan, or anything else that advocates no animal products. I believe the that God put animals here for us to live off of, and that’s that. And I have been known to sneak in a piece of real cheese now and then. But, it turns out that some of us just can’t handle our dairy all that well. We get achey and ookey after eating it. So, we look for alternatives. And we settle.
Padme and I tried a few different “cheeses” when she had to go dairy-free. She decided she would rather go without than have any of the alternative out there. We opted for nutritional yeast, which imparts a great cheesy taste on food. They use it on Doritos, chips and all sorts of things to add flavor without spending the money to add extra cheese.
Then along came Daiya cheese.
It was like a breath of fresh air! Little grated strips of love in a bag – melty, creamy, cheddar or mozzarella cheesy goodness without the dairy! Then along came the wedges, slices and cream cheese…….well, that cinched it. Daiya had won us over. Mostly. I still am not crazy about all of the ingredients that go into the “cheeses”, but as long as they are natural ingredients, non-GMO, and I can pronounce all of the stuff in the bag – we’ll compromise. And we are very happy with Daiya – I hope to make a cheesecake out of it soon.
So we were sailing along in our sturdy little boat made of fake cheese when I saw something on, where else, Pinterest. Cheese – raw-foodies “cheese” made from nuts.
OK. I couldn’t let that one go. Because I have a fascination with raw food, I had to explore further. And so I read. I soaked. I blended. And suddenly, I had this….
A delightful Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Almond Cheese.
Can’t have nuts?
How about this?
BBQ and Chorizo Sunflower Seed Cheese.
Pacman shape optional.
Think about it this way – it’s not creamy cheese. I don’t have a Vitamix so I couldn’t puree it into oblivion. Someday I will have that Vitamix, and when I do……Where was I? It’s not a dip. There’s no yogurt or sour cream in sight. It’s not exclusively for “raw” foodies. I baked both of these. It’s something in between all three. When it’s baked, it develops this “crust” on it and holds its shape great for slicing. When used raw, it spreads like those cheese products you see in little tubs at the market that are flavored. So, it isn’t going to easily fit into any category that you know of – but, if you put in a bit of work, you can make a non-dairy person so very happy.
They will be even more happy around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trust me. For every baked brie, cheese plate and cheddar topped anything – you can substitute these recipes and a few bags/tubs of Daiya and everyone wins! Need a cracker? I have a recipe for rice crackers also. You will be hailed as the best, most thoughtful host/hostess that ever lived. Rose petals will be thrown at your feet. Seriously.
Ready? (And by the way, I see no reason why either recipe wouldn’t work for the other – make BBQ & Chorizo Almond Cheese!)
Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Almond Cheese
You will want to start preparing this 24-48 hours ahead of time.
You will need:
2 cups of soaked, raw almonds – I buy raw sliced almonds just for this cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt, I used pink Himalayan sea salt for extra flavor
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1 tbsp dried rosemary, smooshed into teeny-tiny pieces. Really. No one likes biting into twigs.
1 caramelized, sweet yellow onion
1/2 cup water, plus 1 tbsp. at a time as needed
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (optional for extra zippy flavor!)
1. 24-48 hours before you will want to enjoy this, soak your almonds. This is easy to do – place your almonds in a bowl and cover them with water. Change the water after 12 hours. I have even placed them in the refrigerator to soak when I ran out of counter space. Rinse the almonds off after the soaking is complete then drain. You aren’t soaking them to make them soft, but to extract all of the yucky enzyme-blocking things that almonds produce to make some people digest them not all that well. That was about as polite as I could say that…….
2. Caramelize your onion – Slice your onion very thin. Heat a pan to med-high. Put some sort of oil/bacon grease/butter in the pan and when melted, add your onion. Turn down heat to medium and cook until all the onions are softened and brown in color. Apologies for the blurry picture….
3. Preheat your oven to 300. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor/blender/Vitamix and blend thoroughly. This could take a few minutes, but is well worth it. Add in the extra water a tablespoonful at a time to get the consistency of peanut butter/almond butter. Not too thick, but not runny either.
*If you wanted to form this into a ball, coat it with almonds, refrigerate it and then eat it raw, this is the time to do it.
4. Using a well oiled pan, or parchment paper, shape your cheese into a Pacman. No, whatever shape you want! I also sprinkled some sea salt on top of my raw cheese before I baked it.
5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. You will notice that the crust has formed and it look slightly darker in color and be very textured. This keeps well for 3 days, if it lasts that long……
6. Serve warm – yummy! Or chill thoroughly – the flavors will settle and meld together, it tastes wonderful! Was that tooting my own horn? Sorry. But not 100%. Helpful hint from Heloise: this is delicious served with either peach preserves and crackers, or with a dollop of yogurt on top of each slice. Or yogurt and peaches. I gotta go……
BBQ and Chorizo Sunflower Seed Cheese
You will need to start the seeds soaking 12 hours ahead of time
You will need:
2 cups of raw sunflower seeds
2 tsps. paprika
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup water plus 1-2 tbsps. extra, if needed
1/3 cup BBQ sauce (I used Annies Sweet and Spicy Sauce)
1/2 lb cooked chorizo sausage (I use the links sold at Whole Foods, and take the meat out to cook it, like ground beef)
1. Follow the soaking directions as for the cheese above, but shorten the time to 12 hours.
2. Preheat your oven to 300. Mix all ingredients together in a food processor/blender/Vitamix until smooth.
3. Shape into a round, top with salt or BBQ/smoked salt if desired. Bake for 1 hour.