I have a sort of love/hate relationship with cheese. I have fond memories of my dad and I eating stinky cheese together when I was just a kid. We were the only two in the house that would eat it. I don’t know if the stink made it taste better, but I loved it. As I grew older, my taste in cheeses fanned out into the stinkier and creamier and nuttier and more acidic types of cheeses. Who knew that eating stinky cheese as a four year old would turn me into a cheese connoisseur. I even made some of my own rudimentary cheeses.
Fast forward to 2014 and I find myself praying for healing and praying for wisdom in how to care for myself and I find myself watching Dr. Fuhrman on PBS. This is where the hate part of the relationship comes in. I don’t believe cheese likes me. It’s funny that I was eating paleo to try and conquer inflammation in my body and the things he was saying seemed counter-intuitive to what the paleo diet was saying. Paleo: eat meat and lots of it and that will vanquish inflammation. Dr. Fuhrman: meat causes inflammation. hmmm…. So, what do you believe? Well, as I do with most health claims, I used my body as the science lab to see how it worked. Back when I first tried this way of eating a couple of years ago, I have to admit that I wasn’t fully invested in it. Give up dairy? pshaw! I used to say that if I gave up dairy, what else could I possibly eat. Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how satisfying and creative this way of eating can be. And the thing that really has amazed me is how good I feel. It’s been three weeks as of this coming Tuesday and I noticed a huge difference in the first week and now, after almost three weeks, I actually have whole days where I’m not in pain and I have energy during the day and I can get through a day without having to take a nap. I can’t say that I’ve felt that way ever in, maybe, the last 14 years. So, to say that it’s an answer to prayer is an understatement. It’s really quite a miracle.
Now, this brings me to my dairy free cheese. I’m not a huge fan of the stuff you get in stores. And it’s really, really expensive to boot. It all has that sort of plastic-y sort of taste to it and then when you melt it, it turns into this soupy, sticky mess. So, I had to give making my own a shot. I’m glad I did. This turned out really well. I made it for New Year’s Eve and then I used some on my pizza on Friday night pizza night. Eating it plain on crackers was quite lovely. It has a sort of creamy, not plastic, texture and a pleasant salty/nutty flavor. My youngest ate probably half of the cheese by himself. Having it on pizza? It doesn’t melt that well, but it’s a nice accent on pizza because it gives that salty/creamy flavor that ‘real’ cheese has on pizza. Okay, so it’s not stretchy like a mozzarella, but it definitely lends a nice flavor to pizza. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. Hope you like it.
Dairy Free Cheese
1 Cup Raw Cashews
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast Flakes
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Tsp. Smoked Sea Salt
2 Tsp. Onion Powder
½ Tsp. Granulated Garlic
1 ½ Cups Water
2 Tbsp. Agar Agar Flakes
Cover the cashews in water about 1” over the level of the cashews. Soak the cashews for at least 4 hours, or overnight. I soaked mine overnight because I don’t have a very powerful blender.
Drain cashews well. Add cashews, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, salt, onion powder, and garlic to a food processor bowl. Bring the 1 ½ cups of water to a boil and add the agar agar. Stir while boiling for one minute. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for another 7 minutes, until agar flakes are completely dissolved. Add agar mixture to the food processor with other ingredients and process until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a dish to mold the cheese in. I have a cheese mold that is just the right size, but you can use any container that is about 2 cups. Line the dish with plastic wrap and spray with grease. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared dish and let sit for about 2 hours in the refrigerator until the cheese is set and ready to be used.