Nosh

Cashew Crazy…Cheesin’ with Nuts

Food allergies seem to be so prominent ‘these days’…I truly think a lot of that has to do with how our food is being processed and preserved as well as how much more in tune we are to our bodies as a whole.  I have extremely sensitive skin.  I get terrible eczema when I am exposed to chemically laden products as well as when I consume dairy.  I am a cheese lover so this has caused quite a bit of heartbreak…and truth be told I fall off the wagon sometimes and indulge in a good gouda, peppery parmesan or molten mozzarella…(I’m salivating as I type this) and I still treat myself to a latte at the tea shop in town every now and then.  I have found cheese and sour cream the hardest forms of dairy to give up so I’ve been working really hard at coming up with alternatives.

Sadly, you will never find an alternative that is a dead ringer for the original.  That’s just something I’m learning to live with! But the following recipes give you a satisfying nibble to enjoy with wine and crackers, on top of pizza or lasagna, or to pile into tacos and on top of nachos.  I find it most helpful when looking to go dairy free to experiment with vegan recipes (even though I’m not vegan).  If you are like me and can’t consume dairy it’s often super daunting to have to rework a recipe on your own so that it jives with your restrictions.  It’s a lot easier to add meat to a recipe then delete the dairy I’ve found!  Living in a small town there are fewer dairy alternative products available and honestly I like controlling what goes into the food we eat and in turn consume less additives and preservatives.

I have experimented with a lot of nuts when making cheeses and milk.  I’ve purchased nut bags to get the silkiest product and I’ve created a lot of flops and successes out of the nut pulp.  Cashews have become my pantry staple.  I buy them raw and unsalted from the bulk barn and keep a stock in my freezer.  The key to any nut milk or cheese is to soak your nuts prior to blending.  You can do this overnight in cold water or a quick method is to let them simmer in a pot of water for a half hour or so.  I have to say my favourite tool has become my vitamix blender.  I don’t even have to strain anything anymore.  I saved up for this appliance though, it comes at a hefty price.  If you don’t want to spend your life’s savings as I did you can purchase any sort of high speed blender and nut bags are super cheap!

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Here’s my recipe for Cashew Cream which is a solid base for most other recipes:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • simmer over medium heat for 30-45 mins or soak overnight then strain
  • In a high speed blender, combine your soaked cashews with 1/2 cup cold water and a pinch of salt.  Blend at a high speed until smooth adding more cold water as you go until you have the desired consistency. I use this cashew cream in soups, sauces, coffee creamer, and anywhere that calls for cream.  You can simply thin this down with more water to get the desired consistency to use as a milk substitute as well. (You can use this same method with any other raw nuts.  I also like almonds but I be sure to skin them after they have soaked to get a more pure consistency. If you want to sweeten your milk/cream simply blend with a pitted date and some vanilla. This makes a great coffee creamer.)

Cashew Sour Cream

  • Using the above method blend up your soaked cashews adding less water so you have a thicker cream.
  • While blending add:
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice from half a lemon
  • an extra pinch or two of salt

Cashew Cheese

  • 2 cups soaked and drained cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca starch (this is what gives your cheese it’s goo)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (this gives nut cheese it’s tang, it’s a yellow flaky product that can be found at most health food stores or at bulk barn)
  • In a saucepan combine all the ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the cheese comes together and thickens.  You’ll notice it starts to get gooey.  Keep cooking and stirring for another couple minutes then take off the heat and let cool slightly before adding flavours and pouring into molds.  You can also just use this ‘cheese’ at this point.  It’s a bit of a basic mozzarella.  I usually add a splash of apple cider vinegar and some garlic powder though.
  • Smoky Chipotle Cheese: add 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper, pinch of cayenne (or more for added heat)
  • Lemon Herb Cheese: add 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your liking (I used dill, parsley and chives), juice and zest from half a lemon.

 

Experimenting has become the key to my success when avoiding dairy.  Most recipes can easily be changed but substituting the dairy milk for a nut milk.  I have found that it doesn’t change the final product at all in most baking (muffins, cakes, etc.). Adding it to soups instead of whole milk or cream has been my favourite as I’ve discovered nut milk does not separate if over heated like a dairy milk does.  Nutritionally speaking I am not an expert so I have not much guidance in that respect.  Since eliminating dairy in our house I make sure we are taking multi-vitamins with calcium daily.  We eat a very balanced diet for the most part so I’m also sure to up our leafy greens whenever I can. I do suggest talking to a nutritionist if you have any concerns!  All in all it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen and have something up your sleeve to indulge in if you’re also dairy free or to have something in your arsenal to offer those in your life who are.

 

Blog

M.I.A….

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You guys!! Can I just say OY!!! It’s been a hot minute since I last posted and I realize that I’ve probably lost what few loyal followers I had but I promise I’m working on some new content and it won’t disappoint.

This spring and summer has left my heart truly upheavalled. We lost an incredibly special family member and more than that one from my tribe.  I have been reeling to say the least.  So I’ve deliberately been taking the time off to get some sort of life balance back and let my heart mourn on it’s own schedule.  I’ve struggled with my “comeback post” here on the blog.  I didn’t know if I wanted to even acknowledge my absence or if I should just jump right into some fabulous recipe but authenticity got the better of me (which I’m grateful for) and I felt like recognizing why I’ve been MIA was important.

Loss of any kind is hard…and grieving is a term I’m learning has a lot of edges and complexities.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family, healing and hurting.  My new mission has been to fill every single moment right up to the brim and our summer has truly reflected this.  One thing I’m learning is that it’s ok to let the pain shine.  Giving it validation isn’t something I wanted to do at first.  But I’m learning through the support of some amazing people in my life that it is more than ok to cry…and even more so, it is ok to smile again too.  One. Day. At. A. Time….but with purpose.  That is my mantra.

So with all that said I look forward to getting back online and sharing some of my life with you…the lessons, the little hacks, the delight, the delicious, the time-saving, the messy and all the real.

Thank you for sticking around, I promise it’ll be worth it!

Rhea

Create

Toddler Travels

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This winter…am I right?!! Brrr! With spring break right around the corner here’s a fun idea if you are lucky enough to be road-tripping to somewhere warm or even if you’re planning a stay-cation! Little play dough activity kits are sure to keep your kidlets busy in the vehicle or indoors!

The sky is the limit as far as themes go, upon research I found some fun ideas for fairy kits as well as farm kits, ocean life kits or whatever your little is interested in!  I’m sure it would be great to even focus on alphabet kits with magnetic letters and then items to represent each letter!

I made two kits for my travelling toddler and our upcoming trip to Texas!  I themed his dinosaur and construction site.  I added trees and signs as well as some dinosaur figurines and CAT implements.  I also found a book to go along with each theme and then made some essential oil scented play dough to add to each kit.  I put each themed activity together in a clasped lid container for easy access in the vehicle.  E can play with these in the truck on his lap desk I made him last year! (search “travelling” to find this post). You could also add beads, marbles, stones, a wide array of figurines, and cookie cutters!

The recipe I used for play dough is as follows (from a generous friend):

  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cream of tarter
  • 2 cup flour
  • 2-4 drops essential oil for each container of playdough
  • Boil the water and salt and once dissolved add the remaining ingredients. Remove from heat and let cool enough so you can kneed the dough to the consistency you want. (I wore rubber gloves so I could handle it sooner. This is also when I added food colouring and essential oils.)

 

Nosh

Four Ingredient Gluten-Free Wraps…Love-ly Lunch or Dinner!

As promised and just in time to spread a little love for Valentine’s Day, here’s an easy and tremendously healthy recipe to try! I’ll be the first to tell you that restricted diets aren’t fun and often times not super convenient to create wholesome menu items that don’t make you feel like you’re “missing out”.  These gluten-free wraps are game-changers.  You are in control…no additives and no extras means they are healthy and with only 4 ingredients plus water they are super accessible and easy to make.

In the original Spinach-Gluten-Free Wraps (adapted from elavegan.com) I modified the recipe a bit to include a healthier starch alternative.  Arrowroot powder or starch is one of the healthier starches to use plus it is freezer stable for all your sauce needs.  Just like corn starch or potato starch it is used as a thickener.  It has no flavour or taste so adding it to anything is great.  Arrowroot has potassium and B-vitamins as well as it is very gut-health friendly.  It is gentle on the digestive system and is often used to aid digestion specifically for IBS sufferers.  It has metabolism boosting qualities and it is great for circulation and heart health.

I was so impressed with how quick and easy these wraps were to whip up.  With a consistency much like crepe batter these “tortillas” were a lot of fun to make.  After mastering the spinach recipe I couldn’t help but think of other vegetable possibilities.  Perfect for Valentine’s Day the ruby hue of roasted beets came to mind first.  This recipe was equally as easy to whip up and once I got the recipe tweaked just right I was in mad-love with these beautiful wraps too.  I filled ours with greek style chicken breast, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta and we enjoyed them along side some lemon oregano heart shaped roasted potatoes…A perfect and LOVE-ly meal for anytime of the year but so easily festive for February 14th!!

Spinach Gluten-Free Wraps

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Blend all ingredients in a processor or blender until smooth…this batter resembles crepe batter, as does the method.
  • Pour roughly 1/2-1/3 cup batter into a heated non-stick skillet and kind of twirl the pan to spread the batter into a larger round.  Cook evenly on both sides until slightly browned on a medium heat.  Much like pancakes you’ll see bubbles rise and pop before you’ll be able to flip them.  Don’t rush this.  If the tortilla doesn’t want to flip it’s likely not ready.  It should be easy to peal off the pan!
  • Keep warm under a tea towel while you cook the entire batch.

**Add more water if you want bigger, thinner wraps.  1 cup is great for more small sized taco-style tortillas…The thicker the batter the thicker and smaller the wrap is as it doesn’t spread as far in the pan.

Beet Gluten-Free Wraps

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 3/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup roasted, peeled and diced beets
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Same method as above.

 

Nosh

Peppernuts…spicy little morsels of my childhood!

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Peppernuts or Pfeffernusse are coin-sized cookies that pack a lot of punch.  Spicy notes of cinnamon, anise and black pepper hit your taste buds with a ton of flavour.  The smell of these little treats alone bring me back to christmases of my childhood.  My grandma made them every year at Christmas…the time she spent in her kitchen had to have been unreal!  They are crunchy and sweet and delicious.

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The recipe for these German-mennonite cookies is easy to follow.  Although a bit tedious they are fun to make and share.  Fill up mason jars, coffee mugs or dessert tins and pass them around this Christmas.  I love them with a steaming mug of black coffee or tea.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground star anise
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp canilla
  • 8 cups + flour
  • In your mixer or with an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the syrup and spices along with the vanilla.  Add in the flour and baking soda gradually until a soft dough is formed (much like a sugar cookie dough).
  • Roll into ropes (the thickness is up to you, I rolled mine 3/4-1 inch thick). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
  • Slice into thin coins while still frozen and bake on parchment lined baking sheets at 350* until golden and crisp.  Let cool (they’ll crisp even more) and store in airtight containers.  (This recipe makes 6-7 pan full, I’ve halved it many times as well when I’m not as energetic for a full batch!!)