- Standing at the edge of a craggy and yawning chasm (as small rocks tumble down into the dark).
- Spelunking (bats! blind, albino spiders! drooling monsters!).
- Snorkeling and being left behind. Just me, the vast, roiling salty sea…and a few hungry sharks.
And public speaking. A few weeks ago I tackled one of my deepest fears. For some reason still unknown to myself, back in the innocence of spring, I volunteered to teach a vegan cheese class under the auspices of the Vegetarian Society of Tulsa. When I volunteered, it was months and months away and I promptly put it out of my mind. But as the time crept nearer, my stomach increasingly tied itself in nauseating knots. The last time I’d spoken in front of a large group of people was in 7th grade speech class. I distinctly remembering blushing profusely and swaying from side to side as I stuttered out a poorly-researched report on the Galapagos. I think I earned a C. And that was generous.
But…the day came, as the day always does. I couldn’t push it off into the deep recesses of my mind any longer. Somehow, from somewhere deep inside (the part of me that long, long ago wanted to be an actress) and with the help of two lovely, animal-loving vegan ladies, I pulled it off. I actually spoke and cooked in front of a large group of people. And it was damn fun. Will I do it again? Possibly. But for now, I’m enjoying the afterglow of the accomplishment and have scurried back to my remote prairie home for my introverted self to recharge.
So apparently I make funny faces when I cook:
Now for this class, I chose two recipes because of their simplicity and versatility. I didn’t want to get into fermenting (the class is only 1 hour long and all prep/cooking has to be done on site) or intimidating ingredients. The point was to introduce people to the world of plant-based cheeses and inspire them to do some exploring on their own.
The recipe for my versatile Creamy Chia Cheddar Sauce was inspired by the incredible Heidi Ho cheese sauce (reviewed here). The Whole Foods in Tulsa can’t seem to keep Heidi Ho cheeses on the shelf (I both love that and hate it) so I had to resort to making my own version. I jotted down the ingredients on the back of the label and went to work. This makes a great nacho sauce or swirl it into cooked noodles as I’ve done below. Of course, you can also just dip tortilla chips or fresh veggies in there, too.
- 2 medium-sized yellow potatoes, peeled & cut into small chunks
- 1 large carrot, peeled & cut into small chunks
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- sprinkle of ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked for a few hours & drained
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds, ground
- 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds, ground
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
- dash cayenne pepper
- dash sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 450-degrees F. Pour the oil into a 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan and add the potatoes, carrot, bell pepper, garlic cloves, and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until veggies are soft and beginning to brown. Set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Grind the chia seeds and mustard seeds in the spice grinder. In a high-speed blender, add the water, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, chia and mustard seeds, spices and salt. Scrape in the roasted vegetables and process the mixture until very smooth. Add water a little at a time to keep the mixture moving. You will need to scrape down the sides a few times during blending.
- When the cheese is very smooth, scrape it into container for storage in the refrigerator - or use immediately (it will be the perfect temperature for dipping!). This cheese will last for about 1 week and will firm up slightly as it cools.
- You can make this oil-free by roasting the vegetables in splashes of water or vegetable broth.
It was many years before I even thought about making a vegan version – but when I finally decided to try I saw that there were many, many versions out there. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, folks, just a simple, quick recipe that yields a satisfying cheese that can be used on top of salads, in green rice, in wraps, or sprinkled over pizza crust along with fresh tomatoes, basil, and black olives. It’s just a great item to have on hand in your ‘frige.
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and drained again
- 2 1/2 - 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt (or use 1/4 tsp. white miso paste and adjust to your tastes)
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- dash red pepper flakes
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, sea salt (or miso paste), black pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Crumble the tofu into the bowl and gently stir to thoroughly combine the ingredients. You want to get the marinade incorporated throughout the tofu. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
On a completely different note, please check out the list of 15 fine vegan blogs “on the rise” as determined by KptnCook (a 30-minutes-or-less recipe app that showcases ingredients available from Whole Foods & Safeway). Much appreciation for including my blog in the list.