Winter Wonderland At The Tower and Starting Out With Vegan Cashew Cheese

So…

I’ve arrived. Day three of being at the tower. Good thing they brought in a snow plow to clear the paths to the outhouse, storage sheds and cabin. It would have been days of shoveling. Day 1 of the fire season and I’m starting with a base of 36 cm of snow!

And guess what?

It’s still snowing. I’ve been in a snow cloud now for a solid 24 hours and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s giving me lots of time to “settle” in. Unpack boxes and suitcases. It also provides me lots of time to try and find things like where do they keep batteries, the broom and the mop? This place has been shut up since last October so there’s a bit of cleaning to do. And I have nothing but time.

Lots and lots of time. Especially since the internet (using an Aircard), isn’t nearly as good as I had hoped for. It doesn’t look like I’ll get as much use out of it as I had planned, except for the necessities (incredibly long loading times), like blog posts. That makes me a little sad. But I am in the middle of nowhere and should be grateful, after all, to have it in the first place. So no more complaining from me.

I returned to the same tower I was at 4 and 5 years ago. What are the chances?

There’s some good memories here and I keep finding evidence of my story, here and there. Antique salt and pepper shakers I brought with me the first year that I’d forgotten about. Small delicate glass shakers. So out of place in this rugged isolated place. A beautiful scented candle my best friend gave me years ago for my birthday (mostly used up, but with a little life left in it yet). The scent? Mediterranean Fig. An old apple basket I used to keep my onions and garlic in. Oh! And best of all, the tackiest clock you ever did see. Dusty blue in color, with a floral brocade background. Hideous, yet still hanging in the exact same spot. There’s a fondness for that hideous thing, for some reason or another.

My Kitchen: Yes, the counter tops are pink!

This is an old cabin with plenty of character. Probably from the seventies judging by the cupboards, wood paneling and the state of the floor. I better get my nostalgia in while I can. This ol’ cabin is being ripped out next year and being replaced with a newer, “better” version. I say “better” since the new cabins are supposed to have very little storage in the kitchen and the bedroom closet has been replaced with an indoor shower. The shower sounds promising doesn’t it? But don’t get too excited, there’s still no running water, but it does provide a good place for a shower bag and protection from the bugs (priceless!). However, for a girl who loves food, cooking and clothes, cupboard space and a closet are just as essential. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the whole vegan thing, after 3 days, I feel a little hungry. I won’t lie.

If you’re wondering about a meat lover going vegan, I go into detail about it in this post. But essentially I’m still a meat eater so if anyone wants to come by with some hunted meat or farm fresh eggs, I’m in. But finding sustainably raised meat around here would be next to impossible unless you were in tight with the locals. So I’m putting my values to the test. Can I do it? Probably, if I can figure the hunger part out.

Any insights? Anyone? Why am I so hungry?

Day 1 I just unpacked. On day 2, I made some soft vegan “cheese” made of soaked cashews. Something I’ve been meaning to try. Wish I had done it earlier. Boy was I missing out. I actually have to refrain myself from eating it by the spoonful. I’ve also made some sprouted spelt and sesame bread and a couple extremely delicious meals.

Hunger aside, I invite you to follow my journey over the next 6 months. If you’ve been feeling like you wanted to experiment with eating less meat and more veg, or simple giving up dairy due to allergies, there might be a nugget of helpful information for you. Maybe learn from my mistakes and triumphs? I know I’ll be doing a lot of learning! Who knows maybe you are vegan and looking for some tasty ideas or maybe you can even offer some suggestions.

Even if you still eat meat or have a partner that simply won’t go without, don’t fret. Most of the meals and dishes I’ll be sharing can easily be served with a meat of your choice. I’ll be make pairing suggestions along the way, when they apply.

I used nutritional yeast in this recipe for Cashew Cheese, but it can be omitted. Don’t feel like you need to buy it just to try this out. However, it does add a cheesy goodness to it. If you do decide to buy some, it makes a fabulous popcorn topping. You can source it online, if you live in a small community with no local organic specialty store. In larger cities you may even be able to purchase it at a regular grocery store if it has a specialty isle, but most specialty organic stores will carry it too.

First experiment, Vegan Cashew Cheese. I myself chose to make a herbed version. I used it in a Portobello Steak Sandwich recipe that you see in the photos. The assembly is simple enough. Bake or broil a portobello mushroom drizzled with olive oil for 5-10 minutes. I chose a herb olive oil a friend gave me (thank you Tina, it was delicious) and seasoned it with smoked salt (this gives it a meaty flavor). Serve it on toast, rubbed with fresh garlic, then topped with Herbed Cashew Cheese, sauteed onions and spinach. (Meat lovers can do this with grilled chicken instead of a mushroom).

Creamy Cashew Cheese

Soak the cashews in 1 cup of water for an hour. Drain the cashews. In a blender, add the cashews, lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth adding only enough water to make the cashews creamy but not runny, adding it in 1 Tbsp at a time. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. If using herbs, mix any freshly chopped herbs into the cheese using a spoon. Refrigerate until cool. It will stiffen a bit more once its chilled.

Variations:

Herbed Cashew Cheese

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped

Fold in the herbs, after the first steps are completed.

Truffled Cashew Cheese

  • 1 Tbsp Truffle Oil
  • 1 small garlic clove

Add the truffle oil and the garlic clove to the blender with the other ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding only enough water necessary to blend.

Creamy Dill Dip

  • 1/4 finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon Juice

Add the extra lemon juice and just enough water to get desired consistency and blend until smooth. Fold in the chopped dill.

Maple Fruit Dip

  • Omit Nutrional Yeast and salt and pepper. Add 3 Tbsp of Maple Syrup and a small dash of salt to the blender and blend until smooth. Serve with your favorite sliced fruit.

How would you make this dip? What variation would you use? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. My eCookbook The Whole Food Revelation is 20% off thru April 25, 2013. Just use coupon code APRILSALE at checkout. Click Here.

11 Responses to Winter Wonderland At The Tower and Starting Out With Vegan Cashew Cheese

  1. Eileen @ Phoenix Helix April 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Serendipity! I made a pumpkin cashew cheese today and am actually eating it while reading your post. I usually make it for Thanksgiving but didn’t this year, and I had some leftover pumpkin in the freezer. It turns out it tastes just as good in the Spring (or late Winter by your description). I loved reading that you found little gifts from your past self in that cabin. My your summer there be filled with joy!

  2. Jenn April 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Hmm I also have a yeast allergy so I don’t think I could use nutritional yeast could I?
    But I may try it without. Sounds similar to cashew cream. Good luck without the meat…

    • beyondthepeel April 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Jenn, Not sure if nutritional yeast would cause a problem. It’s deactivated yeast, so maybe check with a naturopath. It’s not mandatory. It’s just as delish without!

  3. Tessa April 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Sounds amazing France! Good luck getting settled, I have beenthinkingpf you!

    • beyondthepeel April 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      I’ve been thinking of you too. I miss your blog posts! I hope you are well. Hugs.

  4. Koko April 24, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    You are so cool! I admire how you are sticking to your whole food lifestyle out there in the boonies! It’s too bad about the internet, but I guess things can always be worse…at least you have internet at all!
    Your cashew cheese looks great, I’m glad you gave it a go and enjoyed it! Hope you adjust to your vegan diet and feel full and satisfied again soon!!

  5. Cindy Holland April 24, 2013 at 2:48 am #

    So good to hear from you at your wilderness outpost France! I really admire your strength and courage for being out there, and I’m going to make this cashew cheese – it looks & sounds really good.

    • beyondthepeel April 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      Hi Cindy, It’s been relaxing and peaceful, but I’m sure missing your wine selection right about now!

  6. Amber H April 24, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Hi France,

    Good to hear from you. Glad you are settling in your cabin. That looks like a very sweet place. You’re so awesome for doing this and taking us along with you. I have to say, I am envious of your time there. Are you like me, type A? Well, it will take you some time to adjust to doing a lot less everyday, right. Do some yoga stretching while your pics are uploading (wink). I enjoyed reading your post. You might be hungry (perhaps) because you are just eating a few fewer calories? What do you think? I am certain your adjust to the new food you’re eating. And yes, cashew cheese is the bomb baby. I like mine with just lemon juice, salt, water, and cashews. Never tried with nutritional yeast. Love all your other add-ins though.

    Okay, you take care. Look forward to your next update.

    xo,
    –Am

    • beyondthepeel April 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

      Maybe it is fewer calories…not sure because I’m not counting but I feel like I’m eating a LOT! anyway. I’m a week in now and feel like maybe it’s balancing out a bit. Definitely less hungry yesterday and today than I was a week ago. It’s always so nice to hear from you Amber. I sure miss everyone’s sites and blog updates. With loading times the way they are up hear I don’t get to see what everyone else is doing. I hope you are well.

  7. mjskit @mjskitchen.com April 26, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    That’s so cool that you are at the same cabin and finding things you brought this first time! Looks like you are all set up and have already starting making some beautiful treats for yourself. You definitely were prepared from the looks of it. I Love everything about this mushroom dish!!! Well, stay warm my dear and looking forward to sharing more of this experience with you.

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