Ultra Cheddar Vegan Nut Cheese

Sometimes I want a mild, delicate cheese with a creamy texture that politely compliments its surroundings. However, other times I want a bold, robust cheese that stands on its own and happily becomes the life of the party.

I was really inspired by the flavors my son prefers.  As a little boy he wants the mac n’ cheese, quesadillas and pizza everyone else his age enjoys.  But as a mom, I know he will grow to be a gentleman who will want a spicy cheese to crumble on top of his chili, melt over his nachos or dip with his friends in a savory fondue.  And let’s face it, the only reason I ever started making vegan cheese was this little boy child of mine that I love to smithereens. It makes sense that he gets the number one vote on how tasty a cheese is.

With that in mind I created an Ultra cheddar that’s delicious, great with mix-ins and super extra cheesy.  Perfect for now and adaptable for a life time of dairy free cheese enjoyment.

Most of all, my kiddo loves it!

Let’s begin with the following ingredients:

1 ½ c water
5 T agar agar flakes

3 c soaked cashews
2 – 3 cloves garlic

3 T lemon juice
2 T tahini
2 T chick pea miso (soy miso if tolerated)

1 c nutritional yeast flakes
2 t granulated onion
1 T paprika
½ t dry mustard
¼ t kosher salt (optional)

Oiled cheese container with lid

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All the parts for making cheese.

Let’s get to it:

1) In a sauce pan combine water and agar agar. Mix and let bloom while the other steps are completed.

2) Add cashews and garlic in food processor or blender and wiz into small pieces.

3) Add lemon juice, tahini, miso, nutritional yeast flakes, granulated onion, paprika, dry mustard and kosher salt. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse peanut butter.

4) Bring the bloomed agar agar mixture to a boil. Whisk continuously as you bring the temp to medium.  Continue to whisk and simmer until the liquid forms glossy bubbles and turns a light golden brown color.

5) Pour the agar agar into the processor and blend with the nut mixture until smooth. Be sure to scrape down sides to ensure all is incorporated.

6) Pour the cheese mixture into the pre oiled container. Work quickly as the agar agar will begin to set right away.

7) Cheese stays happily in the frig for a week and a half in a covered container.  Ours is consumed pretty quickly so I can’t vouch for longer than that.

*I have made two loaves at the same time.  One to use and one for the freezer.  This cheese is easier to grate when partially frozen.  Once defrosted it slices and behaves normally.  I should do myself a favor and make two more often; it was nice to have a back up ready to go.*

Voila!  Deliciousness accomplished.
Voila! Deliciousness accomplished.

Some fun add ins to this ultra cheddar nut cheese are:

2 T chili powder = nacho cheese flavor
2 T Italian seasoning = cheese pizza flavor
1 T pepper flakes = zesty cheese flavor

Happy cheese making.

Gallbladder Surgery

The last couple of days I’ve been busy with surgery pre prep. This includes doing things like packing my hospital bag (Packing Video)

Prepping a week of outfits for my children.

Clothes for the week for the kiddos.
Clothes for the week for my kiddos. The littles wake up and put the clothes on their sleepy little bodies. Less morning stress for everyone = Win!

Thinking ahead about little lunches to pack.

Fruit cups to make lunches and snacks for the week a snap.
Fruit cups to make lunches and snacks for the week a snap.

And in the past I have even done this.

Food to eat while I'm away?  Check!
Food to eat while I’m away? Check!

And tidying my bathroom and closet/dresser. (Which happens to be nervous cleaning with the benefit of coming home to a clutter free, stress free environment.) And just making sure everything is set to go smoothly while I am away for a couple days.  Aka paying just arrived bills, make sure my volunteer time at the school is covered, make sure drop off and pick up times are written down for my hubby, practice speech with the little guy so it’s easier for when he practices with his Daddy, etc etc.
You get the drift.

The surgery that I am having is a gallbladder removal. My gallbladder has been a quiet offender for the last nine years.  It was hiding as mysterious pain that I passed off as overexerting myself or being a weekend warrior and unexplained increased liver levels resulting in unfavorably high numbers that over time magically resolved.  What finally helped us put it together was this last December I passed a gallstone which landed me in the ER. Yow, that was exciting!

Gallstone ER visit.
Gallstone ER visit.

So the deal with gallbladders is they help aid digestion by storing bile created by the liver, then releasing that bile, aka gall, into the digestive tract which helps break down and emulsify fats to help digest your food. Yay!

However, when your gallbladder gets cranky and inflamed or maybe tossing stones, is when things start going sideways. Stones can back up into the liver causing liver issues, which is something I am dealing with. And sometimes stones can back up into the pancreas and cause issues there as well. Also, as in my case, once stones start moving through, a bunch get together and decide to work their way out which is painful as can be. So that’s why I’m going in.

Much of the time gallbladders can be removed laparoscopically. Which sounds terrific. There’s less down time and a smaller incision. Very good things. But, if you’re like me, and you’ve had a couple too many abdominal surgeries, there is a higher opportunity for scar tissue which makes the laparoscoping (<—-Yes, I made that word up) harder than it has to be. In essence, it makes the surgeons job tricky in that scar tissue creates an obscured environment for her/him to see and maneuver to do the job.

So I’m having a standard incision below the ribs right above the gallbladder. This will make a straight shot in for surgeon to clearly see the offending area and do his/her job.

Laparoscopic versus open procedure.
Laparoscopic versus open procedure.  Photo credit: Surgeryinfo.org

This plan of action is good for a couple of reasons.

1) Scar tissue is a beast and I am Fantastic at growing scar tissue. I’ve even had surgery in the past to remove scar tissue. So I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch in there. I don’t want my surgeon to go in laparoscopically and then have to turn around and require standard entry. *Zero hitches in the plan!*

2) If the ducts that lead to the liver and pancreas need to be flushed, Voila!, there’s plenty of room to do that.

3) Another scar to rock on the beach! No, not really. But yes, really. For the damage this little gallbladder time bomb is turning out to be, removing it will be worth the battle scar. And let’s be real. I play organ favorites. I just like my liver and pancreas WAY more than a sputtering, malfunctioning gallbladder. So there!

4) The bile produced by the liver to aid in digestion will still happen. Instead of going through the gallbladder, it will empty into the small bowel to begin its digestive aiding job there. (Whew! Thank goodness I still have that part.) If I had a colon still, I may experience looser stools. As an Ileostomate, this is already the case, so less of an issue for me.  Score for being an Ileostomate!

Things I am going to keep in mind moving forward is diet. I am already an infrequent fatty food enjoyer. That’s one point for me. Plus we officially live 1000 miles away from my very favorite corn dog stand located in Otis Oregon. So in that regard I’m safe. But it’s those festival, Oktoberfest, onion ring, occasional joyful moments that I will have to be more mindful of. *Gasp! * Don’t forget ~ SUPERBOWL!! Well, it must be time to perfect those boneless hot wings. <—-See? I love food. And I will continue to do so thoughtfully.

In the end I am grateful that I am not having a bowel surgery. For ONCE I’m not going in for IBD. I am grateful that being an Ostomate is actually sort of helpful in this case. I am grateful that the surgeon doing my procedure is also top notch in Ostomates of all sorts. (Which is a BIG deal to me.) I look forward to improved liver function and no more painful stones passing. I am glad to be having this done at a time when the rest of my world is relatively calm. I am super grateful that my husband is able to take time away from work to care for our children.

Most of all I look forward to getting back to regular life. I have plans in action that I want to see through and a life that needs living with me at my best.

All For One


Gluten Free Dairy Free Dinner Rolls.

In a previous post I mentioned that we are largely Gluten Free and Dairy Free.  But we are also Casein Free and Soy Free as well.  For now we are all doing this together. Its an All For One mentality in supporting the positive changes and creating good eating habits for his future. As he gets older, we will equip him to pick safe choices for himself in group or party atmospheres to stay on a path that works best for his own health. Which works out well as we all need to be able to resist certain foods and drinks from time to time.

The diet change has been remarkable for my son.  Under his doctors direction and my careful research we are achieving small wins all the time. With each new little success, I am encouraged to continue trying new recipes and re working old recipes to suit my little guys needs and tastes.

His physical consequences to certain foods are abating. Digestive distress, skin rashes, ability to sleep more restfully and wake happy, and the general irritability that would naturally happen with a person experiencing all of the above are improving. I’m seeing sides to my little guy that I have not before. More comfortable, he is able to explore and express himself in ways he was unable to. It’s not a miracle, it’s work. The replicable, rewarding kind that matters to his future.

To that end, I am going to share my Gluten Free, Dairy Free Successes with you. In addition to my regular posts, I will post what foods I have been making for my son.

To start, I will go over some of the basics.

Apple Cider is your friend.  It is in many baked breads and yeast raised confections.  Get the good stuff as it will impart flavor and function to your creations.

Xanthan Gum helps with consistency and is used in many of your baked items.

A good gluten free flour mix is a must.  You can buy it pre packaged at the store, (I like Bob’s Red Mill) however, I make my own mixture.  Making your own ensures you know what is really in there and you are able to alter for taste.

Here is my base flour mix:
3c. brown or white rice flour
3c. corn starch or arrow root
2c. sorghum
1c. masa flour
From this mix I make most of the goodies I create for my little boy.
I make different variations of this depending on what I’m making using the same ratio.

Almond or rice milk is a must for those avoiding milk.  I get mine at Costco.  It is organic and GMO free.

Rice based, (or nut based) casein free cheese.  I get mine in the vegan isle at my local grocery store.  I generally choose pre shredded but it comes in bricks as well.  If you choose to get a brick, chill in the freezer before shredding for use on pizza or in a pasta salad and such.  I have made nut based cheese with great success in the past. It is tasty, melts and is rich in protein. Be careful to read ingredients. Some cheeses have ingredients you may be avoiding in the small print.

Gluten Free Pasta.  It comes in all the regular shapes and sizes.  It is generally made of white rice, brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa and cooks just like regular pasta.

Gluten Free/ Dairy Free breads and bread substitutes.  Pre packaged GF/DF breads are readily available at most grocery stores and markets. I prefer to purchase mine in bulk at Costco because they freeze well, the price point is reasonable and it’s nice to pull out what I need from the freezer for on hand meals versus running out of necessities for my little guy. I have discovered bread machine recipes which turn out to be a tasty, fun activity with great success.

Alternate ingredients can brighten your day and add to nutrition.  Buckwheat, Sorghum, Brown rice, Quinoa, Millet, Coconut, Chick Pea, Certified GF Oats (like from Bobs Red Mill) and Nut Flours are all alternatives to regular flour and great additions to your GF flour.

Consider making your own condiments.  The most basic items such as ketchup, relish, kimchi, sauerkraut and even mustard and salad dressing have hidden gluten, dairy and other allergen irritators.  Looking at labels is worth the time. However, easy to make recipes are all over the internet and easy to customize to need and taste preference.

Steady as she goes towards food goals and a healthier and happier little boy.

In whatever your goals are, I wish you the very best.

Help A Friend Out with a Casserole

Hummus for my neighbor, casserole for my mom, casserole for my friend.

This week after feeling much better after my last Crohn’s flare I saw that someone I know was in need.  Her husband just had surgery.  As a wife and mother the kindest thing you can do for me is to give kindness to my husband and children.  And that is what I did.  I made her a casserole.

A casserole.  Not rocket science, easy to do.  A trip to the dollar tree (where would I be without the dollar tree?) and I had the tin serving dish and was ready to go. With ingredients I already had on hand I made beautiful food to share.  But it is more than that.  Helping each other out when you can does many things.

1) It makes me feel good to be well enough to help someone else.  I am not 100% yet but I am getting there and helping others is building my spirit back up.

2) It helps her.  She is a mom and wife just like me.  Her husband just went through surgery.  The last thing she needs to be worrying about is dinner.

3) It is an example to my children about real ways to help out and be a good citizen.  You don’t have to be rich or super influential to make a difference in others lives.

I helped a friend out and hopefully made her day better.  If you know someone who needs help, just do it.  Helping when we are able is part of what makes us special.  It is love in a casserole dish.