Sunday, February 26, 2012

Have You Discovered Cashew Cream?

I try to limit my dairy intake. While I enjoy aged cheeses, Greek yogurt, and ice cream too much to give them up completely, I rarely drink dairy milk. When I did use milk, I never went through a full quart before it spoiled and rarely purchased cream, so discovering cashew cream as a cream alternative for creamifying recipes has been kinda life changing. Using thick cashew cream in soups also negates the need for unhealthy roux. Ever since I whipped up my first batch of cashew cream, I've made sure to never run out of raw whole cashews.
Ingredients: Cashews & Water. Supplies: Glass Jar, Strainer, Blender .
I first learned about cashew cream at the Boston Vegetarian Festival when Tal Ronnen demonstrated a few of his delicious vegan recipes from The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. He used cashew cream for his creamy celery root soup and explained that cashews were a relatively flavor-neutral carrier of healthy fat.
Rinse raw cashews. Put in a glass jar, cover with water, seal, and soak. Strain and rinse.
To make Cashew Cream:
Rinse raw whole cashews under cold water. Place cashews in a glass container and cover by at least two inches of (filtered) water. Seal the container and refrigerate it for at least four hours but not more than 2 days. When you're ready to make the cream, strain and rinse the cashews, place them in the blender, and cover with water. How much water depends on how thick you want the cream. If you're not sure, use just enough water to just cover the cashews and blend on high until smooth. You can always add more water to thin the cream depending on your intended use.

Soaked cashews... they're a little slimy and slippery, but pretty yummy.
 How and where to use Cashew Cream:
  • Substitute for heavy cream in creamy soup recipes. 
  • Mix with nutritional yeast and herbs for a cheezy vegan dip, topping, or spread. 
  • Stir it into coffee and tea instead of using half and half. 
  • Whip it with vanilla into a delicious dessert topping. 
Into the Vita-Mix with enough water to cover. 
  Benefits of using Cashew Cream in place of dairy: 
  • If you care about the environment, plants are better for the planet than dairy. The dairy and cattle industry contributes more to environmental problems than transportation.  
  • Nutritionally, cashews are better for your bod t than milk!  (source)
    • 3.3 g fiber per 3.5 oz of cashews (there's no fiber in milk)
    • Cashews have almost 6 times the protein of whole milk!
    • Cashews pack tons of vitamins and minerals:
      • 37% RDA of Thiamine (vit B1)
      • 17% RDA of Pantothenic acid (B5)
      • 32% RDA Vitamin B6
      • 51% RDA Iron
      • 82% RDA Magnesium
      • 79% RDA Manganese
      • 85% RDA Phosphorus
      • 14% RDA Potassium
      • 61% RDA Zinc
  • Most people will find cashews easier to digest than dairy. (source)
The finished product is smooth, creamy, delicious, and  versatile!
Note About Blending:
I had been pining after a Vita-mix for a long time and when Chef Ronnen used it to make the cashew cream and blend the soup into a perfectly smooth puree, I started saving for my most expensive (and most used) small kitchen appliance. Now I make everything from lattes and smoothies to hummus and soup in it and see my Vita-mix as the best $450 I ever spent!  That said, you don't need a Vita-mix to make cashew cream. You can use a standard blender or even a food processor, but you might need to strain your blended cream through a cheese cloth or a metal coffee filter if you want a perfectly smooth finished product.

Like the idea, but don't want to go through the easy peasy steps above? I get it. We're all busy! Try to find cashew butter at your local grocer, but keep in mind that roasting brings out the cashew flavor, which is much milder in raw cashews. Nut butters are typically ground roasted cashews. There's also a nondairy creamer made from almonds and cashews called mimicreme, but it does contain disodium phosphate, a chemical food stabilizer known to cause everything from diarrhea to respiratory irritation.  (source)

Check out these recipes made with my homemade cashew cream: