As some of you may know, I’m back to my vegan roots and have been kicking the cheese habit – again (15 days, but who’s counting?). Whether you are a vegan, vegan wannabe, vegetarian or are an omnivore and love delicious food, you might appreciate the power of the mighty cashew and it’s amazing versatility.
Did you know these yummy kidney-shaped nuts are actually the seeds of the cashew apple that grow on the cashew tree? The tree is indigenous to coastal Brazil, but of course made its way to Asia and Africa where they are now also cultivated – thanks to some 16th-century Portuguese explorers. While we don’t eat the cashew apple, it is considered a delicacy in Brazil and in some Caribbean island countries.
Cashews are potent little beasts, sometimes referred to as “nature’s vitamin pill.” They are lower in fat than most nuts, but of the monounsaturated fat, it contains oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. Cashews are touted to be very heart-healthy, high in antioxidants, good for weight loss, and can help reduce risk of diabetes. Wow. These things are also supposed to help reduce risk of gallstones and according to OrganicCashewNuts.com, the “chemicals in cashew nuts kill gram positive bacteria, a pervasive mouth affliction that causes tooth decay, acne, tuberculosis and leprosy.” Wow x 2! There’s even more information about the health benefits this website about healthy foods.
Now, I’ve been in love with cashews before ever seeing all this interesting information. One reason is that when I was doing a raw food, vegan type thing back in the 80s, I learned how to make cashew yogurt from my friend Steve Meyerowitz (aka Sproutman). I forgot that we used to make nut cheeses too. So, last week I made a fairly decent nut cheese that was close to what we used to make. The thing I remember from back then, was that you could get pretty creative with flavorings.
So, I decided to focus on cashews last week in the Green Divas Test Kitchen.
Here are four cashew recipes that are tried and GD approved!
Cashew Yogurt - Healthy Creamy Vegan Goodness
This stuff is divine. Can be used in place of yogurt, cream or sour cream with great results in many recipes. My daughter eats it plain and LOVES it. There are a variety of recipes, but this is how I was taught by Sproutman, and it worked, so I’ve stuck with it all these years.
1/4 c. organic millet
2 c. filtered water
1 c. raw organic unsalted cashews (pieces are fine)
Soak the millet in the water (preferably in a glass container w/ a loose lid or cloth covering) for about 8 hours (or until kind of foamy at the top) – should be done in the most humid-place possible (if it isn’t a hot humid day out, I put mine near the washer & dryer). This makes rejuvelac, a grain-based healthy liquid loaded with all kinds of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Rejuvelac can be made from a variety of grains, but I found I liked millet. To test your rejuvelac, according to Anne Wigmores Hippocrates Health Drink recipe, ‘rejuvelac should have a pleasant yeasty smell with a lemon-like flavor’.
Once you’ve achieved rejuvelac, place the cashews in a good blender and fill water to just cover the cashews. blend to a nice smooth, even consistency. Sometimes you have to add either rejuvelac or cashews to get it right. Put early stage cashew yogurt in another glass container with a loose covering – again, humid placement is good. Let stand for at least another 8 hours. It should be a little bubbly when it is done. Put it in the refrigerator – NOTE: I reserve a little for a couple of tablespoons to use as starter for the next batch.
Cashew Cheese - Nutty Cheesy Fun
1 1/2 cups raw organic cashews (pieces are fine)
1/4 cup filtered water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic crushed or finely minced
1/2 teaspoon good sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the cashews in a bowl or container and cover with additional filtered water (not the 1/4 c. filtered water you will use to blend later). Cover and let stand for about 2 hours. Drain and put in food processor or blender and add all the remaining ingredients and blend, scraping sides and adding a little water if necessary. Transfer to container and let stand in a cool place loosely covered for 24 hours. It will firm up a little. After 24 hours, it should go in the refrigerator, where it can live for about 5 days.
Cashew Cheesy Pasta Primavera – I made mine with gluten-free pasta
Olive Oil (for sautéing veggies)
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
half of a sweet onion, finely chopped
Broccoli, trimmed into bite-sized pieces
Your favorite pasta (mine is Tinkyada’s Pasta Joy – made from whole grain brown rice and it is GOOD)
about 1 cup cashew cheese (see recipe above)
You can obviously choose whatever veggies you like or happen to be fresh from the garden or market that week. You can also choose to steam instead of sauté. I prepped and sautéed my veggies, while the pasta water boiled and the pasta was ultimately cooked. Mixed it all together with the cashew cheese and season according to your taste.
Tempeh Stroganoff/Goulash - Non-traditional but delicious
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
tablespoon or two of worcestershire sauce (vegan versions available)
Your favorite tempeh, cut into approx 1-inch cubes
small container of mushrooms, sliced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup red cabbage
1 clove garlic crushed or finely minced
1/2 – 1 cup cashew yogurt (see recipe above)
your favorite pasta or rice
Get the tempeh marinating while you prepare the veggies. Saute veggies starting with onions alone for a minute or two, adding carrots, mushrooms and cabbage, then garlic. Once veggies are cooked, use slotted spoon and scoop marinated tempeh (reserve marinade) out and add to the veggies and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Once everything is cooked, turn off the heat and add the cashew yogurt. Add spoonfuls of marinade and smoked paprika to taste. Serve over your favorite pasta or rice. It’s a family fav. My daughter requests this particular dish frequently.