Thursday, July 5, 2012

Saturday Nut Fever

Hethyr:  At the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer, I must admit that for a while I've been feeling rather uninspired in the kitchen until very recently.  Though I love to cook, I often don't feel like making the effort when it comes to cooking for Jon and me after long days of cooking for clients.  And now with my dietary restrictions, it's not as easy for Jon to just whip something up for both of us... no more quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches for this girl.  No more calling our favorite pizza place for a pie on a night we don't feel like cooking.  And even one of the (VERY FEW) "safe" restaurants in town is no longer safe.  I ordered a salad that I've eaten several times before and something must have been cross contaminated with gluten, because I paid for it for a full three weeks.  From now on, I will certainly be a bit more hesitant about ordering from their gluten-free and/or vegan menus.

"Make yourself a dang quesa-DILL-a!"

However, I made a discovery maybe a month or two ago that has eased the pain of not being able to have dairy... at least to some extent...  okay, I still miss cheese terribly.  But, I decided to try my hand at making my own nut milk (even though I've never really liked the store-bought stuff) and let me tell you - this stuff is top notch!  It's also super-easy to make and it's the only alternative milk that I've had that is thick and creamy like real milk and doesn't have an overpowering nutty taste.  Score!  I also adapted a recipe I found all over the Web to come up with a really great soft cheese substitute (think spicy ricotta-esque) that has become my go-to for spreading on gluten-free crackers, but I'd still love to find a substitute for things like mozzarella and cheddar, so I'll still be on the lookout.

Aside from cheese, I also really miss yogurt.  I've tried the store-bought almond-based, dairy-free stuff and I think it's disgusting.  I've also tried the store-bought coconut-based, dairy-free yogurt and I like it, but it's expensive and not something I'm willing to buy on any kind of regular basis.  So where does that leave me?  Again, nuts to the rescue!  I found countless recipes online for a raw cashew "yogurt" and opted to try it my own way.  The results were quite a success.  I first tried it in a dill sauce to serve with salmon and, aside from a slightly grainy texture, I was surprised at how great it was.  The next day I tried it with homemade gluten-free granola and was again pleasantly surprised by the results.  I'm positive that cashews would result in a smoother, creamier texture but cashews also have a stronger nut flavor.  So it's up to you what kind of nuts you want to use.  I will mix it up depending on my mood.

Nutty goodness: cheese, milk & yogurt

But my favorite discovery so far has been a nut-based Alfredo-style sauce.  There are quite a few recipes for this online, but I made my own.  While I realize that the nut milk and nut yogurt are not exact substitutes for dairy-based products, I am willing to boldly say that most people would not have a clue that this Faux 'Fredo Sauce isn't the real deal.  I have a VERY picky palate and this stuff is awesome.  I have used it on pizza and pasta so far, and I have NO complaints whatsoever!

So, although not overwhelmingly inspired in the kitchen lately, I am finding things that make my gluten-free, dairy-free life a little more joyful and I'm still on the lookout.  I will definitely share them with you, dear readers, if I feel like they're worth sharing.  For now, please enjoy the following FOUR recipes!  And, if you're good, maybe next time I'll post a recipe for an amazing gluten-free pizza you can make using the Faux 'Fredo Sauce.  :)

Macadamia Nut Milk
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup raw macadamia nuts
Water for soaking
4 cups water

1.  Soak macadamia nuts in water overnight in the refrigerator, then drain and rinse.

2.  Place macadamia nuts in a good blender with four cups of water and blend well.

3.  Place a colander over a large bowl and line with a flour sack cloth and pour in the nut mixture.  Once milk has drained through, gather four corners of the cloth and squeeze to release all of the nut milk.  Discard nut pulp or reserve for another use. 

4.  Pour nut milk into a reusable container with an airtight lid.  Store in the refrigerator. 

* Note:  I've stored this for up to a week at a time in the refrigerator, but I don't know how long it will keep after that - it never lasts that long in my house and I usually make a double batch.  I go through about 1/2 gallon per week between drinking, cooking and baking.

Spicy Macadamia Nut "Cheese"
Makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Up to 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (optional)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Pepper, to taste
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste (I use a lot because I like it spicy!)

1.  Soak nuts overnight in water, then drain and rinse.

2.  Add all ingredients to a good blender and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings and/or Sriracha.

3.  Eat right away or chill in a covered jar in the refrigerator overnight to let flavors develop.  Store for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Note:  This is a very versatile recipe... instead of Sriracha, try some curry powder, Herbes de Provence or chopped fresh rosemary or oregano to add flavor... or any other herbs and spices you can think of!

Macadamia Nut "Yogurt"
Makes 2 cups

1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1 cup water

1.  Place cashews and water in a good blender and blend until the consistency of heavy cream.

2.  Pour mixture into a jar and cover with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band.  Place in a warm place (like the top of your refrigerator) and allow to sit. 

3.  You can start checking the yogurt after 6 hours, although mine has taken up to 24 hours.  First you'll see small bubbles start to form, then you'll see the "whey" or liquid sink to the bottom and the "curd" or solids floating above that.  You can also smell a slightly sour smell.  At this point, transfer the yogurt to the refrigerator and chill.

4.  When you're ready to eat it, stir together the "whey" and yogurt.  You can sweeten it with honey, vanilla, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc., etc., etc. if desired or stir in some granola and fresh fruit.

Faux 'Fredo Sauce
Makes about 3 to 3 1/2 cups

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1.  Mix all ingredients together in a good blender and blend until smooth.  Use immediately or pour into a jar with a lid and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to develop.  Use it on pasta, dip (gluten-free?) breadsticks in it, use it on pizza (check back next time for a recipe!) or drizzle it over steamed veggies...  I have a feeling I'll be finding a LOT of uses for this one!

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Jon:  My wife loves nuts.  Big nuts, little nuts, round nuts, oblong nuts, smooth nuts, bumpy nuts, dark nuts, light nuts... it doesn't matter what they look like or who they belong to... she simply adores them.  The girl just can't get enough nuts.

Of course I'm talking about edible nuts that grow on trees, so if all you perverts can go ahead and get your minds out of the gutter then I will continue with my nut monologue.

Our lazy Susan houses several large, medium and small mason jars full of nuts.  We have a two-gallon tupperware bin full of more nuts.  Our garage freezer has various bags, jars and sacks full of nuts.  In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen so many nut sacks in one house in my entire life.  Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts... it's nutrageous.

Even before Hethyr learned to make all sorts of nut-based concoctions like milk, yogurt and cheese, she purchased and consumed nuts by the pound.  On more than one occasion, I can honestly tell you that she bought more than one hundred dollars worth of nuts from Whole Foods.  She would load up her grain bags with dozens of scoops from the bulk aisle bins like some mad nutaholic.  I've never seen a girl walking around a grocery store with such massive nut sacks in all my life.

I suppose that when you can't consume gluten or dairy, you find solace in the delicious snackability of nuts.  But over the last several months, it has been amazing to see how many other products she can make with them and how she can use these in various recipes.  She probably takes in a thousand times the recommended daily amount of protein for a person her size.  There is no doubt that the recipes are über-healthy as well as tasty.

So next time you go to Whole Foods, if you are startled to see a tiny girl with enormous nut sacks, be sure and thank her for all the delicious recipes.


  1. Love the recipes, but especially love reading Jon's spin on these blog posts! Truly makes me laugh (out loud)!
    But I was also inspired by your nut/dairy post, so the boys & I made a cashew nut cream that they used as a fruit topping. Tayvn plated his strawberries/blueberries & cream just like they had in the picture I printed out. :-) I was truly shocked that they absolutely LOVED the cashew cream and are anxious to make it again.

    1. Yum! Thanks for letting me know about cashew cream - a solution to heavy cream for my dairy-free diet! I still have so much to learn. Those boys always amaze me with what they like... so good to know that they are open to trying new things. I love that Tayvn plated his professionaly - hilarious, but not surprising! :D