Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cashew - Gesundheit!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I am allergic to pecans and walnuts, both of which I like. When I eat them, often my lips and tongue will tingle and swell and sometimes go numb, like I've just had a shot of Novocain. Needless to say, I avoid the little buggers, which is particularly difficult when it comes to walnuts since they seem to be in EVERYTHING! So far I haven't experienced anaphylactic shock from eating them, but I really don't want to push my luck.

Fortunately for me my favorite nuts are almonds and cashews. Even more fortunate for me is that so far I have experienced no adverse reactions to either.  Which is great since a lot of vegan cooking uses both.

I'm sure most of you have heard how good nuts are for us. And they are! They are chock full of protein, vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. A few almonds can boost your energy and satisfy the crunch craving. Although nuts can be high in calories, these are far from empty calories. And almonds and cashews can also be made into wonderful butters and can be tossed into stir frys and salads.

And here is a very interesting article about the health benefits of cashews and how they can help depression.  Who knew???

Cashews also have another great feature. They can be made into a cream sauce that can rival most high fat butter and cream sauces in taste, and surpass them hands down when it comes to healthy eating. It's true!

I love cream sauces on pasta and in casseroles.  LOVE THEM! So when I had to remove diary from my diet, I mourned the loss of these yummy comfort foods.  Then I discovered cashew cream through many of the new recipes I was trying.

Hooray for cashew cream!

Recently I made creamy mushroom and asparagus pasta from Minimalist Baker. While the recipe called for vegan cream cheese (which I dislike), I substituted it for 3/4 cup of soaked cashews and increased the almond milk to 1 cup. I followed the rest of the recipe as written and was rewarded with a very yummy comfort food dish that was creamy, lemony, and cheesy (this last part thanks to nutritional yeast, another great vegan discovery).

BTW, I've gotten a lot of my non-vegan and non-vegetarian friends following Minimalist Baker and you should too! Dana and John also do a lot of gluten free recipes, if you need to go that route. I have a lot of great vegan blogs that I follow but this one is hands-down my favorite. Check them out!

Mushroom Asparagus Pasta
Another favorite recipe of mine is tofu and mushroom stroganoff from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbook Isa Does It, and which can also be found here.  This dish is incredibly satisfying on many levels.  Hmmm, it's been awhile since I've made it...

Isa has a acronym in her cookbook - ABS, which stands for always be soaking.  A lot of recipes using cashews as a cream base will reference this step.  Cashews make the best and smoothest cream if they are soaked in water for several hours or overnight. Just put the amount of cashews the recipe calls for in a bowl, cover with water, and stick it in the fridge. It will even last a few days. Soaking causes the cashews to swell and soften so that when you put them in a blender with your plant-based milk, veggie broth, or water, the sauces will be smooth and creamy.  If you have a high speed blender, you might be able to skip this step.  I do have a very powerful blender, but I find that the soaking step does make a better sauce.

BTW, cashew cream is made with RAW cashews, not roasted, salted cashews.  I buy mine at Trader Joe's and buy the bags of pieces, which are a lot cheaper than whole or half cashews.  Nuts don't need to be pretty to be whirred around in a blender, so why pay for whole cashews?

Go Nuts For Nuts!

1 comment:

Crafty Damn Hero said...

I LOVE cashews. They are hands down probably my favorite nut, followed close by pistachios.
I had no idea they could be made into cream sauces however. I am looking forward to trying this out as a "healthy makeover" for recipes.
Thank you for posting!