In addition to the inevitable (& irritating) protein question, I am also often asked “how do you live without cheese?” To be honest, used to adore cheese – from a basic sharp cheddar to a stinky parisian fromage – I would’ve gladly lived on cheese alone. Like that bad-boy boyfriend you know is all wrong for you, but you just can’t resist, it took me a long time to break up with cheese. It was a weaning process & understandably so. You really can “get addicted” to cheese & here’s why: cheese contains trace amounts of morphine. Seriously. Crazy, right?
Morphine is found in cow & human milk, & ensures offspring will bond very strongly with their mothers & get all the nutrients they need to grow. Researchers also discovered the protein casein, which breaks into casomorphins when it is digested & also produces opiate effects. In cheese, casein is concentrated, & so is the level of casomorphins, so the pleasurable effect is greater. Neal Barnard, MD said, “Since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.”
Yep. I was “cracked-out ” on cheese for a long time. With time, patience & effort, I eventually kicked cheese to the curb. Not without taking it back, from time to time. While I gave cheese the cold shoulder, it desperately tried to rekindle the flame. Eventually, I said my final goodbye, once & for all. Like the ever wise Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a former self-described cheese addict said, “You need to give yourself a couple of months without cheese, some time to let your taste buds catch up with your ethics. It might sound like deprivation at first, but your body will adjust.” This is why she is the vegan goddess – she is so right on. I started “weaning” – testing out the vegan substitutions (thank you Daiya), ordering cheese-less pizzas, & experimenting with homemade nut cheeses. Eventually, I really did lose my taste for cheese. I no longer crave it. I no longer weep over the cheese platter at parties. It’s dead to me. Now I crave this:
My go-to recipe is this “Peppered Cashew Goat Cheese” from C’est La Vegan. After making it several times now I think I have the process down just right. I follow the recipe to the letter, but reduce the salt. I also really take my time making sure it is throughly mixed, drained & chilled before baking. It’s laborious, but worth it. I’ve taken it to a few holidays & parties & it’s always the first to go, leaving the dairy cheese in the dust.
The last time I made a log of the cashew goat cheese, I had an idea. I’ll forever crave a particular salad that I had in Paris. It was the first meal after a long flight, missing luggage, & a white knuckle taxi ride. Desheveled & frazzled, with growling tummies & a separate need for an 11 am glass of wine (whatever, it’s Paris!), my Mom & I stumbled into Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler.
Both strict vegetarian at the time, there was little we could eat on the menu. We played it safe by ordering a salad. Go figure. I’ve forgotten most of the salad’s components, but the one thing I will never forget nestled among the greens & other veggies – fried goat cheese medallions. While the best thing I ate in Paris was a falafel from L’As Du, that salad took a close second & it was all because of that goat cheese.
While I won’t be seeking out that salad next time visit Paris, I can enjoy my own vegan version here at home anytime I want thanks to my trusty cashew “goat cheese” log. While I didn’t “fry” the medallions for this salad, you better believe I’m gonna give that a shot soon.
This salad was comprised of seasonal CSA & farmers’ market finds. I tossed peppery arugula, sweet roasted beets, crunchy walnuts, & chunks of creamy avocado with my favorite simple “Green Salad Viniagrette” from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris, then topped it off with slices of peppered cashew goat cheese. Add some sliced baguette, a glass of crisp white wine, listen to the crooning sounds of Edith Piaf, & imagine you’re sitting in a charming Parisian bistro. It worked for me.
So next time you have a hankering for cheese, try this cashew based version. Trust me on this. Talk about addictive. It’s inspired me to experiment with other nut based cheeses. Check out my “vegan cheeze board” on Pinterest for inspiration. If I can get it together, I just might have a vegan wine & cheese party in honor of Bastille Day this summer. Wouldn’t that be fun?