"Plant-based" seems to be the new buzz word in alternative diets. So what is it? Is it vegetarian? Is it vegan? Well, yes and no. A plant-based diet is a way to lean into veganism. It's a plant centric way of living that focuses on fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and for the most part, leaves out meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods and sugars. I like to think of plant-based folks as people who want to eat healthy, but are afraid to commit to a vegan diet. And I have to tell you, I'm all for it! You might be wondering why yours truly, who is a hard-core, tree-hugging, animal saving vegan would be okay with someone who is essentially vegan but still eats a hamburger every once in a while. Why wouldn't I be? I love the idea of more and more people eating less factory farmed meat, dairy and eggs. They may eventually become vegan...or they might not. And that's okay because they are now living a much healthier lifestyle, they are inadvertently showing more compassion to animals, and they are decreasing their carbon footprint—three things I feel strongly about.
By now you know how I feel about dairy, from a health stance and an animal rights stance. Dairy is probably the worse thing you can feed your body. If you are new to Ferns & Peonies, feel free to catch up on the blog I wrote on the subject (Ditch the Dairy). As a way to help you combat your cheese cravings, I came up with a Faux Chevre Cashew Cheese with Fresh Herbs recipe a few months ago. I decided to use some fresh italian basil from my garden today and give you a nice twist on that original recipe with a sun dried tomato and basil version—the perfect summer combo.
Remember, you have to give yourself a head start when making nut cheese since you have to soak the raw cashews at least overnight or 24 hours if you have it. Drain and rinse the soaked raw cashews and then add them to your food processor with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, water, nutritional (brewers) yeast, salt and pepper.
Process for approximately 1 minute, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides before starting again.
Once it gets to a hummus-like consistency, stop processing, set aside, and move to your cutting board. Chop about 8 large italian basil leaves and 1/3 cup of sun dried tomatoes. Do NOT use the sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil. Instead, find the ones in a bag that are simply sun dried tomatoes. Chop those up as well.
Stir this (by hand) into your cashew cheese mixture.
Next, on top of a fine meshed colander, lay out a piece of cheese cloth about a foot long and scoop your cashew cheese into the center of the cheese cloth. Take the ends up and twist into a ball over the sink, turning hard to encourage some of the excess moisture to seep out. I take my other hand and start wiping this excess moisture off of the outside of the cheese cloth ball. With the ends still twisted tightly, set the ball back into the colander and place it over a bowl. Store in the refrigerator like that for 12 more hours to dry it out.
Unwrap and discard your cheese cloth and you have a lovely faux chevre cashew cheese ball with sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Serve it with low-processed crackers (like Mary's Gone Crackers) or a crudite platter.
So if being or calling yourself a vegan makes you want to bolt due to commitment issues, give the plant-based lifestyle a go. It's the perfect way to limit or cut meat, dairy and eggs from your diet, while focusing on protein rich vegetables and whole grains and nature sweetened fruit. You will be surprised at how easy it is and how good your body will feel. Oh, and don't be surprised if you drop a little weight in the process!
Time: 10 minutes active and 36 hours passive preparation time
1 1/2 c. raw cashews
3 c. water
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. course black pepper
1/3 chopped sundries tomatoes (not the kind packed in oil)
8 large basil leaves, chopped
In a jar, soak raw cashews in water for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Drain, rinse and add to food processor.
Blend the drained cashews and the rest of the ingredients, except the fresh herbs, in your food processor for approximately one minute, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times.
Transfer to a bowl and hand mix in the chopped sun dried tomatoes and basil.
In a soup bowl, lay out a piece of cheesecloth about a foot long and scoop the cashew cheese into the center. Bring the ends up and twist to form a tight ball. Set in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and put in the refrigerator to drain over 12 hours. Should yield approximately a tablespoon of moisture to throw out.
Unwrap your cashew cheese from the cheesecloth and serve with a vegetable crudite or gluten-free vegan crackers.
Will keep fresh in your refrigerator in an airtight container for 5 days.