Dairy-free’s the way to be
Being dairy-free certainly has its advantages. I feel great, my skin seems to have improved, and my eczema doesn’t flare anymore. But it also has its downsides: cheese! Or the lack thereof to be clear. Like many others who cut dairy from their diets, I miss cheese tremendously. All of it. Pretty much the only varieties I didn’t like were Swiss and cream cheese (weird? yea maybe. don’t ask me why but I never liked either).
Brie, feta, sharp cheddar, manchego, stilton, roquefort, gouda, smoked gouda, cranberry crusted goat cheese. Wendsleydale with cranberries or apricots. Add a little fig jam… omg my taste buds. Growing up I couldn’t get enough muenster or Monterey Jack. And halloumi, oh halloumi how I miss thee! I miss them all.
But, mounting research suggests that dairy has it’s downfalls when it comes to our health, so now I stay away. I actually find that I’m missing cheese less and less because being dairy-free has opened me up to a whole new world of vegan cuisine. And I’ve successfully entered the realm of making my own vegan cheeses!
I actually stopped using dairy milk years and years ago. Growing up we were fed the line that dairy is good for our bones and helps kids grow healthy, tall and strong. I had my cereal with milk every morning and my mom made me drink milk with dinner every night. And I hated it. The cereal milk was ok once it was saturated with the flavor of the cereal, but downing that milk at dinner was torture. I remember seeing the Got Milk campaigns everywhere, so I resigned myself to the fact drinking milk was just something I had to do and the cool kids were doing it too. So I suffered through.
Frankly, dairy alternatives weren’t widely available on store shelves until relatively recently, and I simply wasn’t aware of alternative them because I didn’t think I had to avoid dairy. Once I discovered almond milk, everything changed, but it was still a long time before I actually learned about the versatility of nuts, much less explored what I could do with them in my own kitchen.
Now, I use nuts, nut butters, and nut milks for basically everything and I make a lot of it myself. I even get my occasional yogurt fix in with coconut and cashew based versions. No, I definitely still don’t make yogurt myself, but I actually do know how to using my own cultures. But the real game-changer: nut-based vegan cheese. We’ve come a long way baby.
Go Nuts for Vegan Cheese
As long as you’re ok with nuts, it’s actually surprisingly quick and easy to make vegan cheese. I put off attempting cheese-making because I assumed it would be really difficult. I mean, look at what’s involved in actual cheese-making. I do not come from a DIY-in-the-kitchen, made-from-scratch kinda family, so making anything from scratch is a big deal, and cheese simply occupied the ‘to-do-never’ list.
To be fair, there are plenty of vegan cheese recipes out there that get pretty fancy, but it’s not at all necessary to go to great efforts to make delicious vegan cheese. My vegan parmesan, for example, requires just 3 ingredients and takes under 5 minutes (after soaking). And now this simple yet delicious raw vegan feta recipe is gonna be a regular on my rota! It’s quick, creamy, and tart, and it tastes surprisingly close to the real thing.
At this point I’ve used it in many salads and recipes, and it’s ah-maze.
Raw Vegan Feta Cheese Recipe
What you need
- 1 cup cashews (macadamia nuts work well – I used a mix!), soaked at least 2-3 hours
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp fine ground sea salt
What to do:
- Soak the cashews (or nuts of choice) for several hours, up to overnight. Rinse and drain.
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend until thoroughly combined and the mixture is thick and creamy.
- Store in the refrigerator and consume within a week.
Eat up! xx