Sunflower Seed Cheez Whiz

I like to call this recipe Cheez Whiz, ’cause it’s like, “Gee Whiz! That was easy!” Thankfully, my cheesy spread has got a much better texture. And won’t kill you softly (and miserably).

Below is the full list of ingredients in Kraft’s Cheez Whiz. Bonus points if you can pronounce all of them. (And don’t even ask about Cheez Whiz “Light.” The only thing it’ll lighten up is the number of times you’ll get to blow out your birthday candles.)

WHEY, CANOLA OIL, MILK, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MALTODEXTRIN , SODIUM PHOSPHATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SALT, LACTIC ACID, SODIUM ALGINATE, MUSTARD FLOUR, WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE (VINEGAR, MOLASSES, CORN SYRUP, WATER, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, GARLIC POWDER, SUGAR, SPICES, TAMARIND, NATURAL FLAVOR), SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, MILKFAT, CHEESE CULTURE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), NATURAL FLAVOR, ENZYMES.

Doesn’t that just scream “yum!” to you? Denatured, highly processed milk ingredients? I’m sure my childhood obsession with Cheez Whiz slothered on white bagels has nothing to do with this little lactose sensitivity I’ve developed over the years… nothing at all.

So for my own epicly awesome and healthlicious cheesy flavoured spread, I looked to my little friend nutritional yeast (a.k.a. “nooch”). Nutritional yeast is a super, super food lending a cheese-like flavour and texture where it would otherwise be amiss in vegan dishes. It’s chock-full of the B vitamins often elusive to those who follow a plant-based lifestyle, and is a complete protein, meaning that it provides all of the essential amino acids required by your body for proper functioning. I like nutritional yeast on popcorn, as a salad topper, pulsed in a food processor with equal parts pine nuts to create a vegan parmesan, or as below, to give my favorite seed-based spread a new lease on flavour. No unwanted, lactose-induced side effects (read: gas) included.

Sunflower Seed Cheez Whiz (raw, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

Ingredients:

2 cups sunflower seeds, soaked at least 2 hrs, drained, and rinsed (why soak? read up here)

1/2- to 3/4 cup nutritional yeast (depending on how dangerously cheesy you’d like it to be)

3 tbsp tamari (in a pinch you can use soy sauce – just note it contains gluten)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp miso paste (I used red brown rice 5 year aged miso)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tsp sea salt

extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), as needed for desired texture

Directions:

Process all ingredients together until no visible chunks or clumps remain. If you want a smoother texture you can run some EVOO through the mouth of the food processor as it is running. Spread on pizza or crackers, as a paste in nori rolls or to amp up some wraps, or ad by the spoonful to give a salad staying power. Keeps about 5 days in the fridge.

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Crispy Carrot Crust Pizza Part 2: The Best Part

I have a hunch that much of the problem people have with the idea of vegan food is giving up cheese. For me, I can’t fathom the idea of never again having ice cream. That’s really all it comes down to.

Cheese is kinda ubiquitous though, and kinda necessary to make a lot of delicious conventional things. Grilled cheese. Pizza. Double-stack brie-and-avocado sandwiches… or maybe the last one’s just me.

Regardless. This raw vegan cashew “cheese” goes great with the aforementioned crust, just as well on a sandwich, on a bagel, or in some raw lasagna. Cashew cheese is nice and thick and creamy and while it’s not cheese, it’s pretty damn close. And it won’t give you the other not-so-nice side effects that often go alongside dairy digestion.. no details necessary.

This cheese is great because it’s got a healthy dose of probiotics—good to keep your gut flora balanced, especially if you’ve been on antibiotics like I have!

Red Pepper Cashew “Cheese” (raw, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free)

No picture, because it looks like… cream cheese. Adapted from Instructables.

Ingredients:

2 cups cashews
1/2 red pepper
1/2 onion
2 tbsp nutritional yeast/brewer’s yeast or “nooch” (optional)
1 tbsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 capsules probiotic dissolved in 1 cup water (totally optional, adds to the fermented cheese-like texture and taste)

Directions:

Soak the cashews at least 4 hours. Drain cashews and blend separately in a food processor or blender until creamy. Blend in all additional ingredients. Strain mixture into a bowl or mason jar with cheesecloth, a nut mylk bag, or a soup bag and refrigerate for 6-12 hours or until desired firmness (I used about 8 hours).

You can shape and top with ground spices like goat cheese, put in a container and spread like cream cheese, or shape and set overnight in the fridge to act as a harder cheese. Of course, if you want to spread on pizza and top with tomato sauce and veggies, be my guest!

Yields: Deliciousness.