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Nutrition’s new norm: Guilt-free cashew cream cheese - PHOTOS

blog by Alyssa Hood  • 

I recently learned that when trying to eliminate a food or start a diet, cheese is the adorable boy that’s the hardest to break up with. It makes so much sense.

Discovering this makes me feel slightly less insane as I daydream back to the days when a block of Cracker Barrel was a completely appropriate and satisfying dinner.

Let’s face it, cheese is almost indescribably delicious, and I often used to wonder how my lactose-intolerant friends survived in a world without this cow-produced piece of paradise that had woven itself so intimately into my diet.

Not only do we have an array of flavors and textures at our fingertips, ranging from feta to mozzarella to cheddar, but cheese can literally be added to a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Either way you look at it that is both exciting and scary.

Soups, salads, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, chicken, eggs, bagels, pasta, potatoes, popcorn, tortilla chips, pastries—yup, you’ve had cheese in or on all of them and (probably) loved every second of it.

So when you start to really pay attention, don’t you find it odd that cheese is harder to avoid than the chicken pox in kindergarten?

Now you’re still wondering why we become hungrier than a garbage disposal around this yummy little white hunk of heaven. The good news is it isn’t our entire fault.

Science says traces of morphine were actually found in cows’ milk back in the 1980s—not only making our mothers addicted, but passing the cheese-drug to us innocent little babes during breastfeeding.

Sorry for the over-share, but sometimes the truth hurts.

So, as I was stuck in the Logan International Airport for eight hours trying to get back to Buffalo during Boston blizzard Hercules, I decided to stop sticking my nose up at the term “vegan” and explore what this plant-based, dairy-free, meat-free hype was all about.

To be honest, I was more curious if it was possible to actually survive such an extreme lifestyle more than anything else. 

Because the only book I had packed in my carry-on was a Christmas gift cookbook: Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen, I plopped myself Indian-style on the floor of Terminal C and got ready to LEARN.

Vegan or not, as an aspiring cook the recipes I found inside were both beautiful and full of flavor. Upon turning the pages, I went immediately to the easy section to decide what I should make first.

As someone who doesn’t love cooking huge meals when I am alone, having dips or spreads ready to go in the fridge for when hunger strikes is key.

This way I don’t have to take the agonizing extra starvation minutes to whip up a snack, and I can just grab a dipping device from the fridge: carrots, celery sticks, crackers, apple slices, tortilla chips—the possibilities are endless.

So tucked in the back of this revelation of a book is where I found my dip-topia. Ah-ha! An alternate cream cheese recipe?

The chance to save me from my guilty cheese comas forever, not to mention a release from all those extra-creepy growth hormones? Count me in.

See the original recipe here, then use the photo and text guidelines below as you continue on the path to culinary wizardry.

Step 1)

To begin this cashew cream cheese recipe, make sure you already have two cups of cashews soaking in a bowl of water overnight.

This allows them to get all hydrated for the big game. Your blender also won’t have to work as hard and the cashews will get that important creamy texture.

Step 2)

The next day, I promise all you need is 15 minutes to whip this off. I prefer to first pull out all my ingredients and sit them on the table for a face-off so that I know what I am up against.

For a no-distraction simple recipe like this, a glass of wine and fun jams blaring are highly encouraged.

Step 3)

After you have had a good stare-down with your components, grab your soaked cashews and add them to the blender with water and lemon juice.

Step 4)

While that fun noise is going on, chop your chives, parsley and onions.

These need to be finely minced so you’re not gnawing on a chunk of onion in your cheese.

Make sure you have MR. Knife with you (you know which one I am talking about). And maybe a few Band-Aids just in case. [Editor’s note: I sliced my finger with a sharp knife the other day while in combat with a butternut squash. Feel bad for me.]

As you transfer your blended cashews into a bowl, toss in your hacked-up greens and onions.

Step 5)

On top of those additions, this recipe also calls for onion powder.

Don’t be scared, your breath will be fine.

The cheesy kicker here is the special ingredient called nutritional yeast. “Yuck!” you’re saying? Just stop.

This superb additive is packed with salty flavor and crazy health benefits. You didn’t think this recipe was just cashews and onions did you? This is how we transform it from cream to cream cheese.

Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast and your taste buds will be dancing. If you’re wondering where in the world you can find this strange stuff, it is at every local Wegmans, usually in the vitamin or organic foods section.

Step 6)

Last but not least- stir in some of that salt and pepper to taste.

Now look what you can do! On top of just using this for a dip, it’s also great to dollop on top of a pasta dish or to mix in on the stove-top with veggies.

Don’t be scared to spread it on a rice cake or bagel, in a sandwich, on top of a piece of fish, or between roasted beets either. This cream cheese knows no bounds.

So what have you learned? Instead of giving an agonizingly regretful stare at the empty tub of Philly and box of Wheat Thins you just finished, you can contemplate creating something even more flavorful and fulfilling that your body will thank you for.

How ‘bout that?

(All photos are courtesy of Alyssa Hood).

TAGGED: alyssa hood, gluten-free, healthy living, nutrition's new norm, photos, recipes

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