My love of bread is a big nonsurprise. Okay, a huge nonsurprise. The simple fact of the matter is that I love bread. What I have discovered over the past year, though, is that as much as I love eating it, I think it’s the process that I love the most. Which is a good thing since I need to restrict my carbs.
At first, I bought low-carb bread. It didn’t suck, but there wasn’t anything special about it. And it was expensive. Well, compared to how much my homemade bread cost to make. But most important, I missed making bread. So I looked at the ingredients. Of course, there were more than what is in the basic “Enabling’s Bread.” And then it hit me. Okay, I can be a bit slow at times. The primary reason it is low carb is because they are sliced thinner. Well, sheez. I can do that. So I stopped buying it and started making my own again.
This has worked for me and my dietary needs. I don’t know if the same decision will work for you. But that’s not what this blog post is about.
I want you to make bread. I know I’ve said this before. Probably lots of times. But I really want you to try at least once. But first I wonder, Why don’t more people bake bread?
The most common answer is, “I don’t have time.” Okay, I get that. The bread I’ve got rising now takes between 12 and 24 hours from start to finish. And I know breads that take longer. But the truth? Hands-on time is oh, maybe 20 minutes. That includes pulling all the ingredients together.
And then there’s the, “But it’s so complicated.” Well, I can understand that it might seem daunting at first. At least when you look at some of the recipes. But it can be as complex or as simple as you like. Seriously.
So why should you make your own bread? That’s a sensible question, especially since you can pick up a loaf at the grocery store or even some gas stations. I make it because I find it quite therapeutic–even when I don’t have to knead. But then, I’m a process kind of person. Plus, I know how fresh it is without having to decipher a code.
For me, one of the main reasons is because I know what’s in it. There are only four ingredients needed to make bread: flour, water, salt, and yeast. And you have options for those things. There are myriad flours, and I don’t always use water. As for yeast, you can choose commercial or wild. Each have their place in bread making. You can add eggs and fats, if you want, and make an enriched bread, but that decision is up to you.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to focus on flours. Some may be surprised to know there are flours beyond whole wheat, bread, and all-purpose. Flour choice can take your bread from the ordinary to something new. If you’re lucky, you have many choices available on your store shelves. If you’re not, like me, you can take advantage of mail order. I’m a big fan of Breadtopia. I’ve never been disappointed in their products (flours and other supplies), and the videos are very helpful. And, of course, King Arthur Flour also has mail order. Yep, I’ve taken advantage of that, too. (Actually, I even took a day trip to visit and picked up some supplies not long after moving here.)
I hope you’ll follow the next posts as we take a look at flours. Even more, I hope you’ll decide to make your own.
I have always loved cheese (see my previous post should you have doubts), so when I decided to adopt a more plant-based diet, I was concerned about cheese’s role in the change. Some commercial ones were okay. Some were flat-out awful. And selections in my local stores were limited to individually wrapped cheese slices. I was beginning to think that would be the extent of my cheese experience with a plant-based diet.
I was wrong.
I’ve made lots of cheese. Lots and lots. Yes, I’ve been a cheesemaker for a long time. So it was only reasonable to assume I’d go back to those roots and try my hand at nondairy cheese. I’ve posted about some of those efforts previously. They were hit and miss. But I wasn’t ready to give up. Especially if it meant I could have my beloved pepper jack cheese.
Quick Google and YouTube searches will find the name Miyoko Schinner when it comes to vegan cheese. I started my search with her book The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. (By the way, the yogurt recipe is fabulous.) I made her “Oil-Free Melty Pepper Jack” a few times and loved it.
About that title. “Melty” is kind of an overstatement. The texture of this cheese is not like the dairy version. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different. It doesn’t get really hard. In fact, it’s sliceable but still spreadable. When used for a grilled cheese, it softens nicely, but I wouldn’t say it melts like one finds with dairy cheese.
The recipe calls for cashews, rejuvelac, sea salt, roasted jalapenos, water, agar powder, and tapioca starch. Schinner says you can use juice from sauerkraut instead of rejuvelac. Since my experience with rejuvelac is, well, iffy, I opted for the sauerkraut juice the first couple times.
Agar powder might be unfamiliar to you. It’s a thickener made from algae. I couldn’t find it locally, so I ordered it.
That’s the basic ingredient list, and that’s what I used the first few times. With the latest batch, I changed it up a bit. I increased the amount of jalapenos (might not have been a smart move. HOT!) and added chives, turmeric, and nutritional yeast. Oh, and I used the whey from homemade yogurt instead of rejuvelac or sauerkraut juice.
This is a cultured cheese, so it does require some planning ahead. But it’s all easy. Take the cashews, liquid of choice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and salt, and whiz in a blender. Pour into a jar, cover with a lid, and let it sit out for a day or two. It’s cold in my house, so I let it go three days. You’re looking for it to thicken, get air bubbles, and have a tangy smell. Like those pictures up there.
When you think it’s ready to become cheese. it’s time to work with the agar. Not a big deal. Combine the agar and all but 2 tablespoons of the water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer. AND DON’T PEEK. Seriously. Don’t take the cover off for 3 or 4 minutes. It may look like the agar has dissolved and done its thickening thing, but it could be toying with your emotions. Just wait a couple more minutes.
When it’s fully dissolved, add the cheese mixture and stir well. Really well. You want to make sure the mixture is well combined with the agar. As it heats up, make a slurry with the tapioca starch and remaining water. Add to the cheese and stir, stir, stir. And stir some more. You’re looking for something thick, stretchy, and shiny.
When it’s reached the proper consistency, stir in the jalapenos. Pour into a mold. I use a small springform cake pan. Works great.
I let it cool at room temperature before putting in the fridge to cool completely and set, about 4 hours. Then I take it out, unmold it, and let it sit on my drying rack on the counter for at least a day, flipping it regularly. This creates a “rind” that I really like.
Store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or cheese paper for up to 2 weeks, but it doesn’t last that long for me.
As I was licking the left-behinds out of the pot, I was already thinking about my next batch. I need a cashew tree.
Last Sunday morning I talked to my mom, something I do every two weeks. The previous Friday night, my brother and sister-in-law and taken her to the American Legion’s monthly fish fry. Mom doesn’t get out a lot, and she can’t drive at night anymore, so these are special treats. Besides, she says the fish is really good.
Listening to her relate the experience and how much she is looking forward to next month’s it made me ask her, “Do you remember the soup suppers we used to go to when I was a kid? Oh, where have they gone?”
For whatever reason–maybe the cold weather, worrying about the state of organizations that depend a great deal on federal funds, or simply my love of soup–I’ve been thinking a lot about these dinners lately. My family loved them. Soup suppers usually served two kinds of soup, generally a vegetable and perhaps a bean soup. Bread or roll went with them. Chili suppers featured, well, chili. You got a nice hot bowl of chili, on the mild side spice wise, and cornbread. Those were probably my favorite dinners. I am, after all, a huge chili fan who could never understand why lots of restaurants only served it “in season.” I think my dad’s, and probably my brother’s, favorites were the bean suppers. There was always a navy or soup bean soup–seasoned with pieces of ham–available and often a pinto bean. And, of course, a roll or cornbread. As for Mom, I think she liked them all since it meant she didn’t have to cook.
There were also spaghetti suppers, but we didn’t go to those as often. Spaghetti, garlic bread, and sometimes a dessert were featured.
But as Mom and I talked last Sunday, it became clear to me that these suppers were more than an opportunity to get some great food at a reasonable cost. Don’t get me wrong, the fact these suppers were a low-cost way to eat out and get a good, hearty meal was important to my family. We didn’t have the money to eat out often. But there was more. In my hometown, most were held in meeting halls like the American Legion or VFW. We sometimes went to ones held at a church or school, but those were less frequent. I specifically remember having to walk up a really steep set of stairs and turn right to enter one (and you don’t need to know how long ago that was). Long tables were set up, and everyone sat together. And the bowls. No matter what soup was served, it always came in a heavy white bowl; I’d love to get my hands on some of those bowls today.
There were many times when my brother and I were by far the youngest ones there. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was so nice. People brought whatever soup and any sides to you with big smiles on their faces. (Yes, most were women.) There was an almost constant buzz of conversation, occasionally interrupted by laughter, among people, many of whom did not know each other. But it didn’t matter. Food, in this case soup, brought people together. For at least a night, there was no distinction between friends and strangers.
It’s been many years since I’ve attended a soup supper like those of my childhood. I don’t even know if organizations still have them. I know I’ve not seen any listed where I’ve lived since leaving Iowa. That makes me sad. I’m sure there are several reasons why–or more accurately, why not. After all, people are very busy, and many don’t have time to volunteer to help out at these events. I think what makes me saddest of all is that besides great food and atmosphere, people, especially children, will not have the chance to create great memories of the power of food to bring people together for at least an hour or so.
This weekend is the Super Bowl. You know, that football game. Some of us think of it as Puppy Bowl Weekend! But what about next weekend? How do you spend the weekend after the big weekend? Well, this year you can spend it participating in the 6th International Bake Bread Weekend–The Enabling Cook Edition. Yes, February 11-12, 2016, we celebrate bread!
The rules are simple. Actually, there’s only one rule: bake some sort of bread product. A loaf or boule is fine, of course. But so are biscuits, rolls, buns, breadsticks; you get the idea. Gluten or nongluten–your choice. And although it hurts me to say this, yes, you can use a mix.
But before you run for the mix department at your grocery store, let me argue on behalf of making your own. A lot of people go the mix or even frozen loaf route because they think it takes a long time to make bread. Now I’ve described my procedure many times. And if you don’t have a lot of time for hands-on work, it’s a good one for you. It does require planning as it involves a slow fermentation. But your involvement is minimal. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover, place in a warm location, and let it do its bulk fermentation for 12 hours or more. How long it takes depends on the ambient temperature. My house is always cold, which is great to keep summer cooling costs down but not so great in the winter. At times, I use my proofing box to hurry things along a bit, but I let it work on its own for at least 12 hours.
After the initial stage, shape as you like, cover, and let rise. This one is a shorter rise; again it depends partially on temperature. I usually let mine go 2-4 hours. Then bake. See, you really can ignore it during most of the process.
As always, I encourage you to use this upcoming weekend to try something new. I made the above bread from homemilled turkey red wheat and bread flour. But to make it a bit different, I added seeds. I’ve been using flaxseeds and chia seeds a lot, but this time I also used poppy seeds and caraway seeds, too. Yes, it’s a seedy bread. And it’s very good. I’ve not quite decided what I’ll be making next weekend, but I’m keeping my options open. I love pumpernickel, so I’m leaning in that direction. I may try it with sprouted rye. Of course, that means I need to get my rye berries in the sprouter.
I hope you’ll join us this year. Whether it’s loaf 1 or loaf 100, it’s a great way to spend part of the weekend.
Those who know me know how much I love the idea of living in a working grain mill next to a babbling brook. (Stop laughing.) Can you guess I was a huge fan of Apple’s Way? And most of you know I prefer to purchase locally grown/made products, mill my own flours, and even sprout some. So in the interim, I decided I would experiment with flours made from locally grown wheat all over the country. I bake at least one loaf of bread a week, and this experiment would allow me to expand my bread-making adventures. Ideally, I would be able to get some wheat berries, so I can grind my own flour.
I put out some Facebook posts asking for information about small mills. Someone told me about Cortez Mill in New Mexico, and the experiment has begun.
Information I found about this mill and the flour says it’s a favorite of Navajo bakers. It seems to be a favorite for frybread and tortillas. I also found posts talking about how good it is for bread. Well, that grabbed my attention. And the mill was run by members of the Navajo nation. (More about that later.) And it came in a cotton flour bag. Though I usually don’t buy or use bleached flour, I was anxious to try it. I searched for a place from which I could order. I didn’t find a site for the mill where I could place and order. And though some stores, including Walmart, carries it, none of my local stores do. So I ordered from Walmart and spent probably more than I ever have on 5 pounds of flour. Seriously.
Anxious to try it, I searched for a place from which I could order. I didn’t find a site for the mill where I could place and order. And though some stores, including Walmart, carries it, none of my local stores do. So I ordered from Walmart and spent probably more than I ever have on 5 pounds of flour. Seriously. And it took longer to receive it.
After the package came, I realized I should probably have done more research. First, I misread the information about the Navajo connection. Apparently members of that community are consumers, not managers. Oh well.
Then there’s the bread-making issue. According to subsequent research, I learned the protein content is on the low side for bread. And then there’s the bleached thing–though I did k now that before.
As for prices, I’m since found other sites where it can be ordered for a lot less money, including eBay.
While this example may not be exactly what I’m looking for in this experiment, I’ll enjoy the process of using it. Plus, the research has pointed me in the direction of more applicable mills. It’s a chance to learn something new.
If you know of a small mill that grinds locally grown grains into flour, please let me know.
Air fryers have been a hot item for quite a while now. I never felt the need for one. After all, I don’t deep fry, and I seldom fry things. But note I said “felt.” Past tense.
I watched many air fryer presentations on TV and YouTube. I followed posts on FB about the various kinds and the merits of having one–or not. For a long time, I resisted. And then one day, and I don’t know what precipitated the change, I decided I’d like to have one. And since I’m not one of those blogger who have companies send them products to review (and admittedly I’m jealous), I had to buy my own. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money (some are quite pricey), but I wanted to see what they were all about. It was after Christmas, and Walmart was having a pretty good sale on the Farberware Air Fryer, so I decided to give it a shot. Besides, if I didn’t like it, I could easily return it.
This Farberware Air Fryer is pretty basic. It has a nonstick basket that can easily be removed from the basket holder. The top dial controls temperature–175 degrees to 400 degrees. The bottom is time, which goes from 0 minutes to 30. The basket holds up to 2 pounds of food. You can use no oil or just a little. They recommend spraying oil on the food, which is what I usually do if I need to add oil.
A partial bag of french fries had been languishing in my freezer for quite some time, so I decided to start with those. (That’s not my picture up there, so those aren’t my french fries.) I set the temp and time as recommended in the instructions and preheat the unit for just a few minutes. Then I added the fries. During the 15 or so minutes I cooked them, I took the basket out and shook the fries a few time. The fryer stops when you remove the basket and restarts when it’s reinserted. The result? The fries were crispy and tasty. Big win!
Since that initial trial, I have reheated food in my air fryer. It did quite well. And I must say it makes a killer toasted cheese. It also makes better toast than my toaster! And I got a crispy fried chicken with no flour and almost no oil.
One day I wondered if I could use it to roast nuts. I usually buy raw nuts for my nut butters and roast them myself. Though this isn’t one of their products, I contacted the chef who presents air fryers on QVC and has written a cookbook specifically for air fryers. She said sure but reminded me to shake the basket several times in the process. I usually use my counter oven to roast nuts, but stirring them can be problematic. Besides, since I use it for storage, I have to find some place to put the things stored on and inside it. Easier said than done sometimes. Anyway, I tried it with some cashews, and it worked really well. They made a wonderfully tasty cashew butter.
Now I’m wondering if I can use it to roast coffee beans.
Did I need an air fryer? Of course not. Am I glad I got one? Absolutely. If you’re thinking about getting one, a couple of things. Do your homework. Most work about the same but have different features. For example, mine has dials, but I think were I to buy another one, I’d go for a digital one. I sometimes have dexterity issues, and the dial can be a bit difficult to turn at times. They are also available in different sizes. While mine says it holds up to 2 pounds of food, that doesn’t necessarily mean one should cook 2 pounds of food at a time. Overcrowding can prevent airflow and hinder crisping. Just like when frying on the stove or in the oven. And remember that in most cases you’ll need to flip food or shake the basket during the cook time.
No, I’m not sneezing. Just trying to be cute and catchy with the title. I may need to stop that.
I grew up in a nut-loving family. We often went out as a family to collect black walnuts and hickory nuts. Few batches of fudge were made at Christmastime with walnuts added (not my favorite, I must say). Of course, several packages of assorted nuts were purchased at the holidays. Our year-round go-to nut were peanuts–though not really a nut.
My favorite nuts were–and continue to be–cashews. I could eat them by the bucketload. Seriously. I didn’t, of course. Actually, they were a treat in our house. Though they were readily available, they were considerably more expensive than the peanut and, of course, those we could pick for free at certain times of the year. So the cashew was treated with reverence.
In researching nondairy cheeses and other products, I was pleasantly surprised how many called for cashews or listed them as an option. So considering my love for cashews, it was only natural I try them.
My first experiment was cashew cheese. There are several recipes for it and videos available online. Mine is based on Miyoki Schinner’s recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese. Most recipes for vegan cheese, hers included, call for rejuvelac. There’s nothing complicated about it. You sprout wheat berries (others can be used) and let them sit until the water is cloudy and there is a lemony taste. So when you’re making cashew cheese, start that about 3 days ahead.
The night before (or at least 4 hours before) making cashew cheese, soak 2 cups of UNSALTED cashews in filtered water. This plumps them up and softens them for the processing stage. If you have a powerful blender (I have a Vitamix), some say you can skip this stage. I don’t.
When it’s time to make your cheese, put the well-drained nuts into your blender. Then add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of your rejuvelac. Note: if you’ve soaked your cashews, you probably will only need the lesser amount.
SCREECH to a halt.
Okay, that’s what Miyoko’s recipe says, and it was my intention to do so. I even made rejuvelac. Or at least tried to. I followed instructions to the letter, but what resulted smelled like rotting feet. And I can’t say there was much of a lemony taste. I don’t really know how to describe the taste, but let’s say I can’t imagine anyone willingly drinking it, and there are people who swear by its benefits.
But being the stubborn cuss I am, there was no way I was going to just give up on cheese. For crying out loud–we’re talking cheese, here. So I did some research. Okay, there were people who used lemon juice. Hmmm. But then I started thinking about it. The primary role of the rejuvelac, at least from what I could gather, is to act as a culturing agent. Hmm, I have cultured yogurt. With live cultures, even. So I decided to use that.
But how much? Good question. The amount of liquid you add depends on how much is needed to facilitate processing. Err on the side of less. I didn’t. I kept thinking it needed more, so I added more. I don’t recall how much I ended up with, but it was more than what I needed.
After you have the desired consistency, place in a glass bowl and cover to culture. Let sit on the counter until you like the taste. I let mine sit for about 3 days. Then I added a wee bit of salt and some turmeric and put it in a mold to harden in the fridge for a couple of days.
SCREECH to another halt.
Despite what I found online, my cheese didn’t firm up very much. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it was because of my overzealousness with the yogurt. Regardless, it is a very tasty cheese. I used it as a spread and as a pasta sauce (save some of the pasta cooking water). I’m going to try other versions to get the firm cheese I want, but this one is definitely on my “Will make again” list.
Okay, not really, but I couldn’t think of a clever title. I’ve been editing not one but two nasty manuscripts today, and my brain is tired.
Anyway, in my never-ending quest for culinary adventures, I’ve been looking into nondairy yogurts. In my journey, I ordered a vegan yogurt starter kit from Cultures for Health. I’ve ordered several things from them and have always had good luck with one exception. I couldn’t get their rye sourdough starter to work. Although you can order just the starter, I opted for the kit since you can’t find Pomona’s pectin or a nut bag around here. And I can always use another thermometer.
The instructions suggest a variety of milks to use for your yogurt. I knew I could get almond milk at the store, but it says not to use commercial almond milk. Well, I knew I could get coconuts, and I had a can of usable coconut milk. So coconut milk it was. I began by draining the coconut water and scooping out the meat. It and some of the milk went into the Vitamix and went whirring.
Something I didn’t know before I started this adventure was that when using nondairy milk, you need to use a thickener. The kit comes with Pomona’s pectin, but the instructions provide other suggestions. I later found a recipe that uses chia seeds for thickening. If using the pectin, you add the recommended amount, whir, and see if it thickens. Mine did, so I was good to go. If it doesn’t, you simply mix up some of the calcium water, which is included with the pectin, and add it to the mixture.
Strain the mixture and then, like making most yogurts, you heat the mixture and then put it in your yogurt maker. And wait. The waiting process was a bit longer than making dairy yogurt. Instructions warn that it will not thicken until it gets cold, and it seemed to take quite a while.
Was it worth it? Yes. The taste is really good. As you may be able to tell from the photo, I used too much Pomona’s. The instructions say to play around with the amount of thickener, and that is true in my case. So next time, I’ll go with a little less. If you’re not a huge fan of coconut flavor, it seemed pretty subtle. Mine didn’t have the tang I like, but it was fine. I couldn’t help but think how good it would be frozen.
Something to keep in mind. One of the motivators to making your own yogurt is using some of the previous batch to make a new one. According to the instructions that came with the kit from Cultures for Health, that can’t be done with these starters. In doing research, I read that some people do it successfully, but it’s usually not as effective as when using traditional milk.
Go wild. Be adventurous. Try something new.
I eat a lot of peanut butter. A lot of it. I have to eat something with medication in the morning, but I’m not always really hungry or in the mood for a regular breakfast. On those mornings, I usually opt for an apple or maybe an apple with some plain yogurt (my favorite flavor). Many mornings, though, breakfast is a slice of bread (homemade, of course) with some peanut butter.
I’ve made lots of peanut butter. But then I fell into the habit of buying my peanut butter. I know, I know. But I’m guessing most of my readers buy their peanut butter rather than make their own. This post will hopefully make you change your mind and make your own.
My eyes were reopened when I started looking at the ingredients list on jars of peanut butter. Some were immediately eliminated because of things included. Even all-natural peanut butter had things I never put in mine–including salt and sweeteners. I was looking for a peanut butter that was basically a commercial version of mine. The ingredients in my peanut butter? Dry roasted peanuts. That’s it. And I even roast them myself.
I did find a peanut butter that met my requirements and tastes great: Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter. I opted for the unsalted version.
As much as I love that peanut butter, I am striving to become more self-reliant, so I’m back to making my own. And besides, it’s much less expensive.
So what do you need? Peanuts, of course. (Or any nut, really.) You need roasted peanuts, but you don’t have to buy them already roasted. I buy raw, unsalted, shelled (but still in their skins) peanuts. I have to order them to get peanuts in this form. Many grocery stores do sell unsalted, skinned, roasted peanuts in jars, though. Can you use salted roasted nuts? Of course, you can. But I look at it this way. Why let someone else tell you how much salt–if any at all–your peanut butter should have? You can add as much or as little salt, or any other flavoring, as you want.
You’ll also need something to grind the peanuts in. Some mills will do it. I watched a video of a mill with special stones to grind peanut butter. Seemed kind of messy to me. I’ve used food processors (Cuisinart and KitchenAid) but was not pleased with the consistency. I use a Vitamix. Can you use another kind of blender? Probably. I did notice that a lot of homemade peanut butter videos I watched added some peanut oil when using a food processor or a blender that might not be as powerful as a Vitamix or Blendtec. You can give it a shot, though. Just be sure to keep an ear out for signs your blender or processor may be in distress.
If you’re using raw peanuts, they must be roasted first. It’s not difficult. Preheat your oven to 325. Place the shelled peanuts in a thin layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring them frequently to keep from burning. Bake just until you can smell the roasting peanuts–in a good way.
Now, if you’re like me and sometimes get distracted, there may be a time when your peanuts get a bit–shall we say–over-roasted. Don’t despair. My last batch did just that. If they’re really burnt, there’s not much you can do about it. But if they’re not charred, their somewhat smokiness can add a nice depth of flavor.
Then there’s the skin thing. To remove, put the cooled peanuts in a towel and rub. The skins will come off. To be completely honest, though, I don’t stress over it. If some of the peanuts still have their skins on when they go into the Vitamix, I don’t mind.
When the peanuts are ready, place in your appliance of choice. I begin with about a cup at a time. I pulse and then switch to low. Once they are finely chopped, I add more peanuts and do the same. When I have peanut powder, I switch to high. Using my plunger thingy, I push all the powder down so it gets processed into creamy, smooth goodness.
Obviously your peanut butter will go through different stages of “smoothiness.” The first time or so the tendency may be to stop early in the process. If you do, you may be disappointed. The resultant peanut butter may be grainy. Keep going until it is really smooth. Sample! That’s part of the fun of making your own. Store in an airtight container.
Should you refrigerate it? I don’t. The jar of Teddie’s also doesn’t require refrigeration. Oh, and another difference I’ve noticed is that with mine, I don’t get a significant separation of oil if any at all. I do with Teddie’s. Just stir it up if you do.
Prefer chunky? Before processing your peanuts into peanut butter, process a few to the chunkiness you like. Pour into a container and set aside. Once your peanut butter is made, stir in the pieces.
I hope you’ll give homemade peanut butter a try. If you don’t want to roast your own, buy the unsalted ones in your store. Once you make your own, you may find yourself crossing off “peanut butter” on your grocery list.
Apparently one of the hardest things for people looking to become vegetarian or vegan is to give up cheese. I can relate to that. In fact, I’d probably become an ova-lacto vegetarian. But I know many people do give up cheese and become vegans.
Well, let me say they give up the traditional definition of “cheese.” Some don’t have a problem with that. Others–including me–do and would. I can’t imagine a world without cheese. So I started out on my journey of finding a vegan cheese. Oh to be honest, there’s still a dream I’m hoping to fulfill (you might remember–the shop that sells homemade cheeses, breads, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and maybe sausages).
First, a word about the word “cheese.” Many people flat-out get angry when someone uses “cheese” to describe a product that does not include dairy. And by dairy, they mean milk from an animal. I’m not going to get into that argument here. But I do tend to call my cheeses “cheese-ish,” but that’s more for an attempt at comic relief.
As with most projects, I started with a Google search for vegan cheese. In case you have any doubts about whether people are interested in it, have no fear. There are lots of recipes. Most call for nut milk, which I didn’t have and wasn’t inclined to change out of my jammies to go get some. So I searched a little further and found one that called for no soy and no nuts. And I had all the ingredients.
So what’s in it? Water, oatmeal (regular, not the instant), roasted sweet potato, roasted red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, sea salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, and dried chives. In case you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s supposed to provide a cheesy taste.
All of those things I was familiar with and had used. But then there’s the thing that makes the cheese solidify–agar-agar. Agar-agar comes from algae. You may be able to find it in your store, but I had to order. You work with it in a similar way you use gelatin, such as Knox. Bring water to a boil, stir in the agar-agar, and keep stirring until it thickens. Then quickly add to the other ingredients and blend to combine. Chill for at least a couple of hours and then enjoy.
Oh, speaking of blending. When it comes to making vegan cheese, almost every recipe I found noted you need a powerful blender. I can understand the need if using nuts, but I’m not sure why for a cheese like this. Of course, if you have one, you might get a better emulsion. I have a Vitamix, and it worked great. I’ve read that Blendtec also does a great job.
You can mold the cheese in whatever you’d like. Of course, the more flexible, the easier the cheese is to remove. In the photo above, the large wheel (relatively speaking) was molded in a 5-inch, nonstick, springform pan. The smaller ones I molded in a silicone mold.
So the results. https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?resize=1024%2C782 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?w=2000 2000w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />
As it cooled, I noticed there was a slight almost oily feel to it. So I left it out of the fridge for a while to dry it a bit. That took care of the feeling. I’ve been trying to think of how to explain the texture and mouth feel, and I’ve not quite come up with a description that some might find off-putting. The closest I can come is Velveeta, but not quite as firm. Don’t get me wrong. This cheese holds up when sliced; it’s just a more gelatinous feel (see what I mean about off-putting?). Now that could be my noviness with agar-agar coming out. However, it’s not stopped me from eating it!
Now for the two most important issues. Does it melt? Kind of. I found it softens more that actually melts. It didn’t seem to matter how thinly I sliced it. Does it taste good? Oh, yeh. Play with the amount of smoked paprika you use. I love the stuff, but the first time I made the cheese-ish, I went a bit overboard with the paprika. Next time, I’m adding hot pepper flakes.
So, I’ll make it again? Sure. In perhaps a slightly different combination. Here’s the recipe.