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Did someone take a bite out of my garden spade? | Artisan Cheese | Vashon Island

Posted Aug 30 2012 11:39pm
It's been a crazy summer. July was spent at our house in Madison (where we used to live but now rent out because we can't yet bear to sell it and admit we live in Seattle) doing upkeep on the house and hanging out with friends. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the "upkeep" was a little more stressful than usual because there was a lot of unexpected damage to the house and to our possessions. Some of the repairs we did were expensive, and some damaged items were just losses. The spade pictured here represents the peculiar nature of some of the smaller ruined items, like smashed tin watering cans, missing planters, knocked over sculptures, flattened downspouts, bent curtain rods, etc., etc. I won't bore you with all the details, but we were busy repairing what we could, and hiring people to repair what we couldn't. In addition to endless cleaning, fixing and repairing, we also enjoyed good times with friends, and a prodigal number of restaurant meals. I may still do a post about the trip there and back, and all the fun and food we enjoyed in July. But not today. I've got the present to consider, and a post I'd like to do on the subject of Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Shinner. But first a little explanation of where I've been in August.

I did a couple of August posts, then we went to the Oregon coast to meet-up with Madison friends. We had a great, relaxing vacation which we really needed after the stress of July. After a wonderful week, we came back to Seattle to find my computer wouldn't boot up. After being on the phone with Apple, and back and forth to the store to meet with a Mac genius, it was determined that the hard drive was dead. The good news was there were 11 days left on my warranty, and the hard drive was replaced for free. The bad news wasn't as bad as it might have been, though having a computer hard drive bite the dust is never fun. I had most of my files backed up and, though it took a while to get it all straight, nearly everything is now back in place. Not everything, but that's the way it goes. I now have a new, bigger external hard drive, and time machine is running. My fonts are a little screwed up but hopefully I'll be able to work that out over time, and the bookmarks and some other things are gone, but it could be worse. Anyway, back to the cheese.


In the latest issue of VegNews, Miyoko Shinner shares some of the recipes from her latest cookbook. (There are also a number of her recipes you can try on Amazon.) In the book, she has assembled, all in one place, a collection of  vegan cheeses that can be made at home and that rival traditional dairy cheese. From fast preparations to culturing and aging, she shows you how to create your favorite gourmet cheeses at home. I'm reviewing my experience with just one of the cheeses, not the whole book.

I made Philadelphia cream cheese because I had all the ingredients, it was fast and easy and it didn't need any "additives." (I'll get to that later.) The directions said to blend or food process the mixture of cashews, yogurt and salt, then let it ferment on the counter for 24 to 48 hours. I tried both the Vitamix and the food processor, and found the food processor was the superior option for getting the cashew mixture smooth. It was too thick to blend well and very hard to remove from the blender jar. Use a processor if you have one.

I divided the mixture into two portions so I could use one batch for a company dinner after a 24 hour ferment, and let the second batch ferment another day. I added roasted red peppers and green onions to the first batch, and served it to accompany crusty bread and soup. It was great, and tasted a lot like cream cheese — maybe even better than cream cheese, in my opinion. Let's just say it was hard to stop eating.

The second batch, after fermenting for the full 48 hours, tasted exactly like I remember cream cheese tasting. I added roasted peppers, chives and kalamata olives, and, well, what can I say. You'll just have to make some to see how good it is. I'd show you a photo but it didn't last long enough to get one. (You can see what Kittee, at Cakemaker to the Stars, has made from the recipes here. ) And you can check Miyoko's blog for helpful cheese-making hints and recipes.

Now I have a question for you. Many of the recipes in Vegan Artisan Cheese use carrageenan. (Many recipes do not use this ingredient.) In the "olden days," when I was starting to eat healthier food, one of the ingredients on the avoid-list was carrageenan. I know it comes from seaweed, and thus is considered "natural" by some, but many unnatural ingredients get their start as a natural product. Back in the 70s, natural foods companies were making products without carrageenan because it was considered dangerous, while mainstream food processors included it, as they did many other suspect additives. Now that so many of the small independent natural foods companies have been bought up by large food conglomerates, I see that carrageenan has become a common additive in non-dairy milks, yogurt, and ice cream, and it's hard to avoid it. It even shows up in fruit juice. It's easy to think you are only consuming a small amount until you look at all the products it appears in. It's on the FDA GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list and many people consider it perfectly OK. I'm personally not inclined to add more of it to food I make at home, and was surprised to see it in the cheese recipes, though I understand its usefulness. Miyoko addresses the issue in her book, having done her research into the matter, and concluding carrageenan is safe, but I'm still leery. I've included a few links to articles by others who have concerns about carrageenan. What do you think? Am I being over-cautious? In any case, I would still want this book!

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA44833

http://www.notmilk.com/carageenan.html

http://blog.healthkismet.com/carrageenan-cancer-health-inflammation

http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/05/shopping-guide-to-avoiding-organic-foods-with-carrageenan/

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Day trip to Vashon Island
Yesterday we hopped a ferry for a day trip to Vashon Island. The ferry ride is very short (and expensive, I think) but not because the ferry is fast. I could barely detect movement on the boat but it must have been moving because we did indeed end up on the Island. We headed to Fisher Pond Preserve for a lovely walk on the Fisher Pond trail. The forest was a soothing, magical place that I wish were closer to home — I'd be there every day.


We also visited Maury Island Marine Park for a walk but I didn't take photos.

I had a list of Island thrift shops I wanted to stalk but the one I most hoped to visit, Granny's Attic, turned out to be closed. It's only open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, so I must have misread the information online. This means, of course, that we'll have to return to Vashon. I also want to visit the quilt shop on our next visit.

All the walking and stalking made us hungry so we stopped in the town center for a late lunch at Pure, a vegan cafe that reminded me of what vegan food was like before it became more mainstream and complicated. I had a beans-and-rice bowl and my husband had a raw arugula and basil pizza.

The food was basic and filling. The small restaurant didn't give the impression of being particularly clean, but maybe I'm being too picky. Also, my tahini sauce was kind of curdled-looking — no matter how much I stirred it, it wouldn't come together. I think it was mostly oil. Would I go there again? Oh, probably, but first I want to try the other vegetarian restaurant on the island, though Pure is vegan and the other one isn't.



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It won't be a bumper crop This is our first picking of tomatoes from our two tomato plants. Apparently the climate here is not tomato-friendly, so I guess we'll be enjoying just a few. But they are good ones!


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