The Reluctant Vegan and Cashew Cream

Now that our son has moved into his own apartment, our household is down to three.   Two of us left are vegan, and one of those is the cook.  The third, my husband, has made it clear that he has no desire to become a vegan, yet each meal I place in front of him is a vegan meal.  Fortunately for me (and for him), he is open-minded to whatever shows up on his plate; he likes what I prepare in our kitchen each day.  He never complains about dinner— except on pizza night.   Without cheese, the layer of toppings on our pizza tends to fall off of the crust.  Eating pizza with a fork and knife kind of takes the pizza-ness out of our Friday night dinners.

I do most of the marketing, but once in a while, my husband and I shop together.  He never tosses chicken or steak into the cart, bless him.  We fill the cart with produce, then breeze right past the meat and dairy sections of the store and head to the “natural foods” section.  While we make our way there, I wonder— why do the grocery stores call it the “natural foods” section?   Is the other food unnatural?  We peruse the organic cereals and grains, the canned soups and cookies, searching out the ones that are animal and animal-product free.  There are limited choices in contrast to the rest of the store, but I can always count on the freezer section of that aisle for a sorbet or frozen soy cream, and sometimes a quick entree that looks good for an emergency lunch or dinner.

Last week while we were in Stop and Shop, my husband discovered Amy’s Indian Samosa Wraps.  When I told him I was going to write about him and my vegan cooking, he sent me an email with the link, saying to tell my readers how much he liked his lunch that day.  He also dove right into the pomegranate chocolate chip coconut-instead-of-cream ice cream.  (It’s gone, I didn’t finish it, so I can’t even tell you what company makes it.  It was sooooo good!  Next time I buy it I will share the details.)   So I guess he’s on board, if a bit reluctantly.  He does surprise me once in a while…

Another day, he decided to have lunch out while in the city.  Chili Duck , an amazing Thai restaurant right near his office, serves a vast assortment of delicious appetizers and entrees.  Their soups are outstanding.  I figured he would take the opportunity to eat something with meat or seafood in it, but when he came home, he bashfully confessed to having ordered and enjoyed a curry with tofu.  I could hardly believe my ears.  I’m not trying to convert him; it would just be nice to serve dinner without wondering if he is really missing the way we used to eat.  I try to cook as many delicious meals as I can where he won’t notice the absence of flesh or cheese on his plate.  I look upon the tofu curry as a positive sign.

I have found a solution for pizza night.  I learned to make cashew cream. It’s  yummy, thick and  easy-to-make.  When spooned over hot pizza, cashew cream helps the tomatoes, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and whatever else makes it way onto the crust— stick quite nicely.  Mashing half of a ripe avocado into half a cup of cashew cream makes it even richer and more flavorful.  We are back to eating with our fingers on Friday nights,  happy to revert to the primitive and now decadent choice of forgoing flatware at the table.  There has been no mention of cheese, or its absence, since.

Cashew cream has found a permanent place in our daily diet.  It’s great on pasta with roasted vegetables, incredible on warm cupcakes and muffins, spreads nicely on toast or a bagel, and helps turn stir-fried vegetables into the kind of curry I have only ever tasted the likes of in the best of Indian restaurants.  It is a perfect substitute for cream, adding the same thick, rich body to soups and chowders.  Cream of broccoli soup and corn chowder will remain winter staples with this simple switch.

While visiting friends a few weeks ago, they served a lovely smoked black cod appetizer with crackers.  I took the cashew cream and the vegan pesto I had brought along for dinner and spread them on the crackers instead.  In moments, our hosts were following suit, the fish pushed aside for a little while as everyone stuffed the creamy basil and garlic covered bites into their mouths.  I ate some of the perfect, bright orange bell peppers from our host’s garden, crunching the sweet slices and watching all those non-vegans dreamily chomping on the treat I had made to share.  I did notice that my husband enjoyed the fish as much as our hosts enjoyed the cashew cream and pesto.

There are dozens of recipes for cashew cream on the internet and in cookbooks.  I read so many of them my head spun!  Some recipes required soaking the cashews overnight, and I understand that soaking them may aid in digestion.  That’s fine if you want to do that, but I decided to go with the easiest one I could find.

Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

1 c raw cashews

1 cup water

Method:

350° oven.  Spread raw cashews on a dry cookie sheet, place cookie sheet on center rack of oven and toast for 6 minutes.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow cashews to cool for about 5 minutes.

Pour the water into a blender. Add cashews.  Place cover tightly on blender and blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes.  Turn off blender and dip a spoon into the cream.  Taste.  The consistency should be similar to plain yogurt or very thick cream.  If the cream has a grainy consistency, cover blender again and blend for another 2 minutes.  Check again, and repeat until cream is smooth.

I double this recipe all the time.  It keeps in the refrigerator for about 5 days, and freezes very well.  When I freeze my cashew cream, I use 1/2 cup containers so they defrost at room temperature quickly.  Sometimes we have an urgent need for cashew cream, so it’s nice to have some made up ahead of time!

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7 Comments on “The Reluctant Vegan and Cashew Cream”

  1. Craig Says:

    I SWEAR I did not eat all the pomegranate chocolate chip ice coconut! I think that might have been our son, home for the weekend.

    And I actually was not bashful about telling you I had ordered the vegan Hot Basil Tofu dish at Chilli Duck, I was surprised and proud that you had somehow made that become my first choice when looking at the menu. Hooray for you.

    I am now just a little reluctant.


  2. […] Trader Joe’s, I eye the stack of local produce in the entrance way.  I think of cashew cream, and know exactly what to do.  I buy the squash and make a vegan Indian yellow curry with […]

  3. Daniel Says:

    great post, thanks for sharing

  4. Lesli Says:

    I found your blog when searching for “Can I freeze cashew cream”….your story made me smile, thank you! Just back from two months travel in the UK I was thrilled by the response of friends and family to my being vegan. Everyone tried the food and even cooked vegan meals for everyone while I was there although I had told them that they didn’t have to.
    Craig sounds like a loving partner for you too! How wonderful that he seems so be discovering the joys of a plant based diet.
    Good luck to you both and happy eating!

  5. URL Says:

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  6. Jill Aaron Says:

    Hi! I loved your blog entry, especially the way your personality shines through. I want to share a vegan mozzarella recipe that I just found, though I may be late about finding one. http://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/2015/01/23/melty-stretchy-gooey-vegan-mozarella/
    I haven’t tried it, yet, but the ingredients look promising.


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