Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cashew Cheese Toasts with Beluga Lentils

Back when I ate dairy, one of my favorite things was goat cheese on toast.  It was so wonderful alongside a nice big salad or just by itself.  There are so many vegan cheese products out there, but this homemade cashew-based cheese is astonishingly simple (yet elegant) and flavorful.  And it totally tastes like goat cheese!  I initially whipped up this batch of cashew cheese to drizzle on a pizza, but after leaving it in the refrigerator for a few hours, it firmed up to a consistency that left me wanting to spread it on a piece of toast. Fully assembled, this appetizer isn't anything you haven't seen before, but that doesn't mean it won't please the crowd at your Easter brunch!  And when they find out it's 100% vegan?  Watch their jaws drop. 


Makes about 1 cup of cheese for 18-20 small pieces of toast

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight or for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon white miso paste
1 clove of garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small 12-inch loaf of your favorite baguette or other type of bread (I used Trader Joe's sunflower seed mini loaf a.k.a. Judy's Lovestick)
1 cup cooked lentils (I used black beluga lentils)
Fresh herbs (Italian parsley, chives, etc) or other greens (micro greens, sprouts, spinach, etc)
  1. Blend the cashews and water in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Add the nutritional yeast, miso paste, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. 
  3. Continue to blend everything together until smooth.
  4. Taste the mixture and adjust it to your liking by adding more nutritional yeast, miso paste, lemon juice, or salt.
  5. Transfer the mixture to an air-tight container and refrigerate for at least an hour to let it firm up to a thick and spreadable consistency.
Assembly:
  1. Turn your oven on to broil.
  2. Slice your bread into 1/2-inch thick pieces.
  3. Spread a generous spoonful of cashew cheese on each slice of bread and place on a baking sheet.
  4. Broil for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.  Also, keep an eye on the edges of the bread and make sure that they don't get too dark.
  5. Remove from oven and top with a spoonful of lentils and chopped herbs or other greens.  Press the toppings down into the cheese a bit so that they stay in place. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
Wow. Tangy, creamy, crispy yumminess. I honestly think I can eat this everyday.  They're best when eaten fresh out of the oven, so plan your time accordingly if you're serving them at a party.  And feel free to skip the lentils.  I made some without lentils, topped them with micro greens, and they were still out-of-this-world delicious.  You can basically think up with any combination of toppings, so have at it.  Roasted peppers?  Sauteed mushrooms? Steamed beets? Sun-dried tomatoes?  Fresh basil? And let's not forget kale!  You get the gist.  :)

Enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Earl Grey Cashew Cream Frosting

I jumped onto the cashew cream bandwagon a few months ago.  I'm just amazed at all the lovely cashew-based sauces, creams, and cheesecake possibilities!  As I mentioned in my previous post, cashew cream is my new frosting alternative. I suppose it's more like a glaze, but it works fabulously when you're staring down at your naked cupcakes and wondering how to add extra decadence.  And for even more pizazz, I added some Earl Grey tea, which is my favorite tea in the world.  Behold:


Makes about 1 cup of cream

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for at least an hour (rinse well after soaking)
1/4 cup strongly brewed Earl Grey tea
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (or you can start with less and then adjust the sweetness to your liking)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
A dash of salt
Earl Grey tea leaves from 2 tea bags, finely ground (I used Twinings, which is already finely ground)
  1. Blend the cashews and brewed tea in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Add the agave nectar, vanilla extract, and salt.
  3. Continue to blend everything together until smooth.
  4. Stir in the ground tea leaves.
  5. Refrigerate cream for 30 minutes to an hour so that it firms up.
As a shortcut, you can also use raw cashew butter instead of soaking and blending whole cashews.  My favorite brand is Artisana.  However, the one drawback is the price...a jar costs about $14 at Whole Foods and that's the lowest price I've seen!  So, it's probably best to use it if you only need a small quantity of cashew cream or if you're really short on time. 

I'm sure this would be great on any type of cake...vanilla, lemon, banana, etc., but I went with basic chocolate. Yum!  I've added Earl Grey tea to many baked goods and desserts with varying degrees of success.  I'm glad that this yielded delicious results.  :)

Enjoy!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Cashew Frosting

Lately, I've been experimenting with frosting recipes that don't involve vegan butter or powdered sugar.  I know dessert is meant to be decadent and should only be eaten in moderation, but frosting in its traditional form is something that I both love and avoid.  Coconut oil is an alternative ingredient for frosting, but I can't seem to mask the coconut flavor, no matter how hard I try.  So, that leaves tofu or nut-based frosting or glazes.  I love the versatility of cashew butter.  From savory recipes to sweet, it gives you a fabulously rich and creamy base with which to work.  But for this cake, I really wanted the chocolate and peanut butter combo because it's probably one of the best flavor combinations known to man!  Agreed?  So, I added peanut butter to a standard sweet cashew cream recipe and taa-daa!  All natural peanut butter frosting!

You can use your favorite vegan chocolate cake recipe.  I went with the beloved vegan Wacky Cake recipe since it's quick, easy, and delicious.


Cake recipe from About.com

Makes an 8 x 8-inch cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.
  2. Into a large bowl, sit together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. 
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips, if using.  Pour batter into pan.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.
  7. Place on a wire rack to cool before frosting.

Frosting:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour (rinse well after soaking)
1/4 cup water
1 cup unsalted peanut butter
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (or you can start with less and then adjust the sweetness to your liking)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
A dash of salt
  1. Blend the cashews and water in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Add the peanut butter, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and salt.  
  3. Continue to blend everything together until smooth.

Assembly-wise, it's up to you.  If you're taking this to a potluck, you can probably just leave the cake in the pan and frost the top.  Why use another dish?  :)  For the sake of having a fancy picture to post here, I cut out pieces of cake using a biscuit cutter (and inhaled the leftover cake pieces).  Then I frosted multiple layers and topped them with quinoa crispies that I got from the bulk bins at my favorite natural foods store, Rainbow Grocery.

I didn't find the frosting to be too sweet, which was my goal.  It's not as firm as a typical cake frosting, but it sure is tasty!  (that was the main goal)

Enjoy!  :)