Monday 29 October 2018

12 vegan recipes using cheesy cashew cream

A few months ago, I discovered this cashew cream.  Ever since I have made it quite often and used it for lots of cheesy recipes.  It has been such a success I want to share it.  But before the recipe links, here are 12 reasons why I love it:
  1. It is not exactly like cheese but fills the gap where cheese used to be. It has enough texture and flavour except if you want cold slices of cheese.
  2. It is mild enough to substitute for a creamy sauce but cheesy enough to substitute for a cheesy sauce.
  3. It has lots of nutrition which is not something you can say about all vegan cheese substitutes.  
  4. I prefer it to a lot of commercial cheeses I have tasted.It works as a dip or in a salad sandwich.
  5. It is very versatile and adapts to different recipes so you can have a one recipe fits all approach.
  6. It is crispy around the edges and creamy in the middle like a good cheesy topping should be.
  7. It can be adapted with different flavours such as truffle oil, spices or pumpkin puree.
  8. It is quick to make.
  9. It keeps in the fridge a week or two.
  10. It makes me happy to eat meals without cheese.
  11. It makes it easier to give up or eat less cheese.  It means never again having reason to say "I could never go vegan because I can't give up cheese".
  12. It saves me having to go hunting out vegan cheese/cheese sauce recipes again.  I have tried so many cheese sauces I used to get confused about what to use before this recipe crossed my path.

In Lasagne - the cashew cream cheese works well in this lasagne, which also has tomato sauce and spinach "ricotta" both as a layer and on top instead of a bechemal cheese sauce.

In Soup.  I added cashew cream to this Lettuce, broccoli and pea soup at the end instead of cream for creamy texture and some added protein.  I also did the little decorations on top with it.

On a Pasta bake.  I really loved how easy this past bake was and that it was every bit as good as one with grated cheese or bechamel cheese sauce on top.

In a Nut roast - when I made this Layered festive nut roast I made the layers by mixing cashew cream with herbs in the green layer and tomato paste in the red layer.

In a Tofu scramble - this Tofu scramble with cashew cream was really good.  The cream cheese makes it soft with little crispy bits where it catches (I have never eaten scrambled egg so not sure how close it is to that!).

On Pizza - it works well on a margherita pizza with cashew cream replacing the grated cheese, but I need to experiment more with toppings. I think a bianco pizza would be fun.

On a Vegetable Tart - this Vegie Ribbon Tart uses cream cheese instead of an egg and cheese mixture on puff pastry as a base for vegie roses of ribbons. 

As a Sauce - such as in this Tex Mex vegan bowl of tomato flavoured beans, vegies and rice.

In a Risotto - try this Creamy spring risotto soup where I have added some cashew cream instead of parmesan at the end.

As topping on cheese muffins - I used it here on top of our favourite "cheese" and parsley muffins to give a crunchy topping that you might get with grated cheese on muffins.

Would it work in a Frosting?  I tried mixing (failed and soft) chocolate fudge and cashew cream to make a chocolate cream cheese style frosting.  Not a total success with 9 year old but I liked it. Would like to experiment more.

Finally who can resist Cheese on toast. It is not really a recipe but I am a big fan of slathering a thick piece of sourdough bread (and fruit bread works too) with cashew cream and grilling it until it is golden brown and crisp on top and creamy underneath.

This is not the end of my experiments.  I would be curious to try nachos, tacos, cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese, welsh rarebit, pot pies and all sorts of other creamy comfort foods.  Stay tuned!

Thursday 25 October 2018

Kale salad - two ways

On the weekend I bought a big bunch of kale and a purple cauliflower from our farmers market.  Sylvia was at a sleepover with two friends so I had time to let the cauliflower roast and think about how to eat the kale.  I made quite a simple salad. It was so good I made a more complex kale salad the next day.

Below is my first salad in a bowl of vegies.  It contained the kale and fruit salad, corn on the cob, roasted purple cauliflower, chopped red capsicum, leftover margherita pizza and mac'n'cheese balls.  It was delicious and used up a few bits of leftovers.  Win win.  Then we watched a sweet movie called What If (starring Daniel Radcliffe).

The next day I expected Sylvia to be quite tired after her sleepover.  However after a good giggle at Johnny English Strikes Again, we did some grocery shopping.  At home she asked me to get some scissors and I said only if she put away the groceries.  She did this happily, then put away the dishes drying on the sink, reorganised the fridge and started on the cupboards.  This is my child who usually baulks at the idea of picking up her clothes after her.  Whatever they gave to at the sleepover, I want some if it makes her so agreeable.  It was lovely to have energy to clean up the backyard and make salad for tea.

I had thought the Spend with Pennies blog is where I got the dressing on the previous night but found it was quite different.  The salad was far more substantial with lots of raw broccoli, nuts and seeds.  I loved this even more than the fruity kale salad.  We had it three nights running and the only reason I didn't eat it three days running for lunch was that I forgot to take it to work on the third day.  It was excellent with bangers and mash, with fried rice, and with potato scones.

More kale recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Kale, cheese and mole quesadillas (v)
Only-kale-can-save-us-now salad (gf, v)
Potato and kale enchiladas (gf, v)
Potato, cauliflower and kale pesto mash (gf, v) 
'Teriyaki' tofu with brown rice and kale (gf, v) 
Tomato and kale soup with pistachios (gf, v) 

Kale and broccoli salad
Adapted from Spend with Pennies
Serves 6-8 as side salad

5 cups chopped kale
1-2 tsp olive oil
pinch salt
2 cups chopped broccoli (1 head of broccoli)
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds
1-2 carrots, grated
1-2 stalks of celery, diced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup cranberries

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp seeded mustard
1 clove garlic minced
1-2 tsp honey or sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Wash, dry and chop kale.  (I measured mine after this and packed it in the cup measure quite a big.)  Massage the kale (with your hands) with olive oil and salt.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix dressing ingredients either by shaking in a jar or whisking until oil and vinegar mixes to make a slightly creamy mixture.  Dip a kale leaf in to check seasoning.  However I found it really garlicky but the garlic toned down by the next day.  Mix dressing into salad.  Keeps in fridge for 5-7 days.

Kale, apple and strawberry salad
Serves 2 as side

3 tsp olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp seeded mustard
1/4 smoked honey

3 large leaves kale
1/2 apple diced
3 strawberries diced

Make the dressing by either shaking all ingredients in a jar or giving a good whisk until it all comes together.  Wash, dry and chop kale.  Massage the kale (with your hands) with the dressing.  Stir in fruit and serve.

On the stereo:
No no no: Beirut

Sunday 21 October 2018

Vegan Margherita pizza experiments

One of our favourite things for Friday dinner is pizza using this Fast track sourdough pizza dough.  We've been cutting back on dairy lately so I did some experiments with vegan margherita pizza using this dough.  We tried Biocheese from the supermarket and home made cashew cream.

Before I got so busy, I made my own pizza sauce but lately haven't had time and been buying pizza sauce.  It comes in a squirty bottle so I amuse myself by drawing pictures with it (let's not talk about whether we eat anything that has a face!).  Both pizzas used this sauce.

First, we tried some Pizza Shreds by Biocheese.  I really like Biocheese and was interested to see they are now marketing cheese specifically for pizza.

The cheese looked like dairy cheese when uncooked but when cooked it looked like it was still uncooked.  I have found that this is quite typical of vegan cheeses.

The Biocheese tasted quite good on the pizza, albeit slightly dry.  However what I disliked was checking the ingredients.  The main ingredients seem to be water, coconut oil, starch and modified starch.  When I want to find a substitute for cheese I want it to have some nutrients as well as the taste and texture.  This cheese is high in fat but has no protein and I suspect no calcium.  This was disappointing.

Enter the more old school home made cashew cream.  This is similar to the vegan mozzarella that I have made previously.  However the cashew cream is simpler (just blend, no cooking required) and probably packed with more nuts.  It certainly had a lot more nutrients than Biocheese.  Lots of protein, some calcium (not the most calcium loaded of nuts), good fats and lots of vitamins and minerals.

And the taste and texture?  Well a cashew sauce like this is the opposite of Biocheese.  When it goes on the pizza it looks melted and when it is cooked it looks melted.  It lacks a little of the fatty cheesy texture of Biocheese, it has better cover and tasted pretty cheesy.  And I mean cheesy when you want a good substitute, rather than cheesy that would fool a cheese lover!

So this experiment has made me favour the cashew cream above Biocheese.  It is not always quite as convenient to make your own (as my note on pizza sauce will demonstrate above) but I find this cashew cream pretty quick to whip up in a high speed blender and keeps well in the fridge for a week or two.  So while not all of our pizzas are being dairy free, I would like to experiment more with this pizza sauce and different toppings. I will keep you updated!

Meanwhile you can see some of my experiments with vegan pizza toppings on my list of pizza toppings that I have tried.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Creamy spring risotto soup (vegan)

Just as I delight in discovering asparagus all over again each year, so I delight in rediscovering a favourite recipe for spring risotto soup.  I found it many years ago when I first started blogging and had a tough time.  This recipe was easy enough for me to make when I had no energy for cooking.  This year I have made it a few times with glorious farmers market asparagus when I have had little time after work.

When I first decided to make this risotto a few weeks back after asparagus appeared at the farmers market, I was surprised to find there was no Arborio rice in the pantry.  It seems I have not been making risotto that much lately.  I actually planned to try a new risotto recipe and then found this one was close enough and I knew it was easy and full of greens.  I tried it with couscous and it was not the same.  This is easier than regular risotto because you all all the water at once and don't have to constantly stir it.

So I bought some Arborio rice.  However my recipe I usually use is served with parmesan and pinenuts, neither of which I had.  And regular readers will notice I am quite in love with a cashew cream recipe lately.  It added the flavour and protein to make it a complete meal.  I make the disclaimer that I have never been one for adding lots of creaminess to risotto.  I never liked eggs or cream so why would I add these to a gorgeous risotto.

The cashew cream ramps up the comfort factor in a risotto that already melts in the mouth in the most pleasing way.  Of course you could also add some parsley, pinenuts and even parmesan if you have them on hand.  But this way is quite easy if you have a tub of cashew cream.  I am looking forward to enjoying this risotto a few more times before asparagus season ends.

I am sending this risotto to Shaheen (and VegHog) for their Eat Your Greens blog event.

More asparagus recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Asparagus, artichoke and wild rice salad (gf, v)
Asparagus, potato and quinoa soup (gf, v)
Asparagus, strawberry and greens salad with poppyseed dressing (gf, v)  
Chunky asparagus and cashew dip (gf, v)
Crustless asparagus and potato quiche

Spring risotto soup with cashew cream
Serves 4
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

1 medium leek
1-2 tbsp vegan margarine
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (200g) Arborio rice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1.2 litres boiling water
2 1/2 tsp vegie stock powder
1/2 tsp salt
good shake of pepper
2 cups (250g) fresh or frozen peas
2 small bundles (500g) asparagus spears
1/4 cup cashew cream

Optional garnish: chopped parsley and toasted pinenuts

Cut the leek into 4 lengthways and wash between the layers.  Bring kettle to boil.

Cut into 0.5cm slices.  Heat the butter and margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and cook til softened (approx 4-6 mins). Add rice and garlic.  Stir to coat with oil.  Add hot stock and simmer for 15 minutes (or 13 minutes for thicker asparagus).  Stir occasionally.

While the rice is simmering, prepare vegetables. Break the woody ends off asparagus and chop into 2-4cm lengths.  When rice is almost cooked, a lot of the water will be absorbed. Add asparagus and cook for 4 minutes (or 6 if thick asparagus), stirring more frequently so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the saucepan.  Stir in peas and bring to the boil.  Stir in cashew cream.

If desired, serve with parsley and toasted pinenuts.

NOTES: You could add other greens.  I have added broccoli in the past.  Green beans would work.  I considered kale.  It would be lovely with some fried asparagus on top.  The amounts of greens I have given are indicative and depend on what is available.  If you have some nice stock, substitute it for the boiling water and stock powder and check the seasoning.  If it is too savoury, add a tsp of apple cider vinegar to lighten the flavour.  I have tried this and it worked well.  If all the water does not get absorbed that is fine as this can be served as a soup.  I find that the water usually is absorbed but it is still quite wet.

On the stereo:
The Bottom of the Lake: Tinpan Orange

Sunday 14 October 2018

White Night Geelong 2018

Last night I went to White Night Geelong.  It was the first time that White Night, which I have enjoyed in Melbourne a few times, this year was its debut in regional city, Geelong.  It was lots of fun to wander around with my parents, my daughter and my niece.  We mainly stayed around Johnstone Park which had the great atmosphere of convivial crowds enjoying fantastic light creations on a balmy spring night.  Here is the trip I took.

We started at the Town Hall.  I have seen light shows at the town halls over quite a few years at Christmas time.  The festive light shows last a few weeks so it is fairly quiet when we go.  Last night the street was closed and it was full of people coming and going.

The light show last night was for the 1918 World War I Armistice centenary in a couple of weeks.  It started with a display for every year of the Twentieth Century up to 1914.  We were bemused and thought perhaps we were going to sit through a display for every year up to the present.  But in 1914 the story of World War I began and it started to make sense.

Here is the map of Europe with the red blotch of Germany spreading across it as it acquired countries.

A lot of the story was from an Australian perspective.  So here is Australia pledging full support for the "home country" Britain halfway across the world!

We saw lots of military footage between the pillars.

Here the pillars bear the name of battles such as Ypres (which I still think of as "Wipers" as the Aussie soldiers used to say).

And here are some statistics to remind us of the toll on Australia.  It wasn't in the light show but I still remember my shock and horror when studying World War I at school (even if I now rely on the web for exact stats) that our nation of less than 5 million had 416,809 men enlist, over 60,000 deaths and 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner!

And this is why the Town Hall had poppies floating down until it was covered.  Poppies for remembrance.  Lest We Forget!

It was a pretty intense way to start.  After that we just wandered at the Geringhap St edge of Johnstone Park.  I really loved this green lit building but never got to stop and understand it.  Such is the nature of White Night.

This eagle seemed like it might be Bunjil, supreme creator in Aboriginal stories but I never verified this.

I loved how the colours on this part of the Civic Buildings worked around the advertisements for the Archibald Prize exhibition in the Geelong Art Gallery.  The portrait of Guy Pearce was the winner.

Then we walked into the roundabout where Geringhap Street meets Mercer Street and Malop Street.  Buildings like the one above usually don't get much attention but suddenly they were worth a second glance when lit up with dreamy images

The Dalgety's Warehouse had images of different decades.  It is a mystery to me as to why they had the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s but not 1970s.  And the 1960s had lots of stylish people and cultural events such as the Vietnam War and Aboriginal rights. 

Then 1980s were just a load of junk food like chiko rolls and bubble o bill.  I was outraged that it was like nothing interesting happened then.  What about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989!

We continued wandering down Geringhap St towards the waterfront where there were more lights but never got that far.  We got talking to family friends we bumped into (one of whom it turns out knows my boss!) and my niece got really tired.  The lights on poles along the side were birds that at times lit up one at a time to look like one bird flying.  Really effective.  And there was live music on a rooftop.

We had to move aside for this amazinggiant of a robot.  The people in the crowd barely came up to his knees and it was very impressive from afar.  Like some Dr Who alien.  Close up it was fascinating to see puppeteers at work.

I really liked this quirky display.  It say Capitalism works for me.  People were queued up to push a button to say either True or False.  While we were there the True vote was just winning.

Then we walked back through Johnstone Park and enjoyed the festival atmosphere.  This light show was a wishing tree but we didn't stay long enough to understand it.  People seemed to be writing on large pieces of card hanging from the tree.

Kids were dancing on these light discs.

And there was the Neon Dog Park.  For the dog lovers in my family.  (There are many.)  I took photos but quite a lot of people were posing with the dogs so it was challenging.

Dog peeing on the tree.


Dog begging for a bone.

Dog on a leash complete with glowing turd (not in picture as man was trying to post with leash).

Cute dog. 


Past the dog park were lots of critters in a mix between a Chinese new year and Alice in Wonderland.  A huge toad.


Spider.  Is that a redback?

And then we headed back to the car.  My parents were not aware of the buses but my brother at the Waurn Ponds cinema last night said there was a huge queue there for buses to White Night.  The organisers were very lucky with the weather and I am sure it will be considered a great success.

You can read about my previous White Night outings: