After struggling for many years with a raging sweet tooth and emotionally-driven cravings, author Annie Oliverio began the journey back to a healthy, balanced palate. This is a cookbook focused on plant-based foods that protect, nourish, and heal – yet satisfy “cravings” that can easily trip one up when striving to eat healthier foods or when feeling lonely, stressed or in the need of comfort.
In a past life – oh, about seven years ago – I was an office manager at a small non-profit in Washington, DC. I walked to work and to the grocery store. My running path was the C & O Canal. Occasionally on Saturday mornings I would take the metro to the Mall and take in a museum or two. I wore nice clothes and had more purses and shoes than any one person should. Before living in the Nation’s Capitol, I worked at a well-known law school, at a direct marketing firm, and at a think-tank a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean. I’ve moved from Ohio to California to Colorado, back to California and on to Russia for a stint; then Armenia, Iraq, Massachusetts, and the aforementioned DC.
City life was starting to wear thin, as was packing and moving. My partner (Kel) and I were looking for space – lots of space – and quiet, the Milky Way, coyotes, and the kind of freedom not found on the city streets. So we did what people have been doing for generations. We moved west. To the wilds of Oklahoma.
Now my “nice clothes” hang neglected in the closet. I prefer my Carhartts and boots; I’ve given away most of my shoes and purses. There are no streetlights here or traffic jams; lunch hours, car alarms or…neighbors. There is plenty of time for walking the pastures with our dog, Ike, puttering in the kitchen, and creating greeting cards. I find that I like this life very much.
Some Thoughts About Cheese and A Recipe from Crave Eat Heal
The biggest stumbling block for those contemplating a switch from omnivore to herbivore is without a doubt – cheese. Just think for a minute about the role cheese plays in our lives. It’s everywhere: cheese-topped pizza with cheese-stuffed crust, broccoli cheese soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, spicy queso, gooey cheeseburgers, jalapeno poppers – the list could go on and on! Television commercials make us salivate with close-up shots of dripping, oozing, and stretchy cheese. Americans love their cheese! And what’s not to love? Cheese adds a tang, a sharpness, and of course – a delectable creaminess and richness to everything it tops.
Happily for us vegans (people who neither consume nor use animal products of any kind), we don’t have to give up cheese. Yes, we gave up the dairy part of cheese, but not the flavors or the textures. For just about any popular dairy cheese you can name vegans have a plant-based counterpart. Amazing strides in “artisanal” vegan cheese-making have been made by chefs like Miyoko Schinner and Matthew Kenney, and brands like Daiya, Kite Hill, Heidi Ho, Tofutti, and GO Veggie! have brought plant-based cheeses into the mainstream.
The wonderful thing about plant-based cheeses is – you don’t need fancy equipment, a farm animal, or tricky fermenting to make healthful, delicious, and creamy varieties right in your own home. In my first cookbook, Crave Eat Heal: Plant-Based, Whole Food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite, I share several cheese (or cheez, as I like to spell it) recipes that are all made from simple whole food ingredients. Today on I Am A Reader, I’m sharing one of my most popular recipes: Roasted Garlic & Fresh Herb Cream Cheez. It’s so easy yet so good! This soft, spreadable cheese reminds me of a pre-gan favorite of mine: Boursin.
This cheez is the perfect complement to toasted bagels, raw veggies, whole grain crackers, or on your baked potato. So, get those raw cashews soaking, roast up some garlic and create your own healthy cheese, er, cheez!
Kathy, I am a reader, too – and I thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog and for allowing me share the news of my upcoming cookbook with your followers, fans, and readers!
– Annie Oliverio, An Unrefined Vegan
ROASTED GARLIC & FRESH HERB CREAM CHEEZ (a.k.a. Vegan Boursin)
Makes 2 small rounds
1 small head garlic
4 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, chives, and/or oregano
1 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water 8-10 hours, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup coconut butter or 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, soaked in water for about 15 minutes, drained
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 450-degrees. Cut off the top 1/3 or so of the garlic and wrap the head in foil. Place the garlic in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until fragrant and very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before unwrapping.
Line two 3/4 cup ramekins with cheesecloth. Sprinkle the bottoms of the ramekins with one tablespoon each of the herbs, reserving the remaining herbs.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the cashew pieces, coconut butter or coconut flakes, and salt until fairly smooth. (It will not get completely smooth.) Squeeze the cloves from the roasted garlic and drop into the bowl of the food processor. Add the garlic powder and the lemon juice and process until thoroughly combined.
Divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins, pressing the cheese down into the herbs and cheesecloth. Tap the ramekins on the counter a few times and level the top. Divide the remaining herbs between the two ramekins, gently press them into the cheese and cover with the ends of the cheesecloth. Put one ramekin on top of the other and fill a third ramekin with water and place it on top of both ramekins (you’ll have a “tower” of 3 ramekins). Place them in the refrigerator and let set overnight.
The next day, remove the water-filled ramekin. Gently tug the cheesecloth to remove the cream cheese from the other ramekins and serve with bread or crackers – or place them in an air-tight container for up to one week.
Total time: 48 hours, including soaking, roasting, and setting time
If you use the coconut butter rather than the coconut flakes, you may need to add just a touch of water when processing.
I give a range of garlic powder here because it’s pretty powerful stuff. As the cheese sets, the flavor develops, so err on the side of less garlic powder (or none) if you’re not a big fan.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Ann Oliverio and Front Table Books.