Saturday, January 15, 2011

Slightly Spicy Macadamia Nut Cheeze and Healthy Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Where did the week go? I have no idea how the weekend got here so fast. I guess time flies when you are busy wallowing. However it happened I am very happy to be starting the weekend. As you all know I love my weekends with Dan even when we stay home and hang out together.

I finally got back into the kitchen today and enjoyed relaxing and cooking. Maybe all I needed to get back to myself was time in the kitchen. ;-) I will have to try that next time and see if it works.


For some reason I didn’t sleep well last night. I am not sure why but I got up this morning and was moving more slowly than usual if that is possible.

Breakfast for Dan was his favorite green smoothie: frozen banana, raw kale, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground flaxseeds, water to process. You can add a little stevia to taste if you think it needs to be sweeter.

I wasn’t particularly hungry when I got up so I decided to make a cup of green tea with ginger and peach and work on the last post. Somehow working on that post was a 2 hour project and part of it I had written the prior day. Wow, I had no idea I spent that much time preparing a post. No wonder I always seem to run out of time to get things done, LOL. Any suggestions?

After I got the post up I had a quick orange with two Brazil nuts (for the selenium) and ran out the door to check on my folks so that I could get home and exercise.

Once I was home and ready to do things for us it was noon. Hard to believe that I got up before 7 and still had almost nothing accomplished 5 hours later. *sigh*

For my lunch I had a smallish bowl of the curried lentil soup from Wednesday. This time I topped it with cilantro that I stirred into the soup once I had taken this picture. I love to add fresh herbs to everything. They seem to add a nice brightness to any dish as well as fresh pops of flavor.

After lunch I was back to reading about nutrition. This textbook I am reading is quite good. Though I suspect not all of you would find textbook reading interesting I always have when I enjoyed the subject matter. Back in the day, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I loved school. I would have been a professional student if I could have. ;-)

For my afternoon snack I had few cucumber rounds that I spread with macadamia nut cheeze and sun dried tomato spread. These are the two condiments that I made yesterday. Here are the recipes:

Slightly Spicy Macadamia Nut Cheeze
Serves 12


1 cup of macadamia nuts, soaked in water for at least 4 hours, then drain well
½ lemon zested and juiced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon hot crushed peppers (wet hots), optional but adds a little background zip
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon miso


Combine everything in your food processor and let it run into the “cheeze” is homogenous and smooth. It will be thick like spreadable goat cheese.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 81.58
Calories From Fat (87%) - 71.04

Total Fat - 8.49g
Saturated Fat - 1.35g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 9.5mg
Potassium - 45.8mg
Total Carbohydrates - 1.88g
Fiber - 1.02g
Sugar - 0.6g
Protein - 0.94g


If you are still eating dairy this may feel a little “clean”. Also if you are still using oil this might feel clean. When I first transitioned to vegan food I added olive oil to my nuts cheeses to make them more similar to dairy. However as I have gotten away from oil I have found that nut cheese without oil is not only perfectly fine but feels rich and decadent with just nuts.

This spread has a light spiciness in the background and a hint of complexity from the mustard, garlic and miso. You could also add fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley, cilantro or thyme would be good) if you want to change the taste.

Dan loves the “red stuff” Ian makes at the restaurant. Ian’s version has fabulous flavor but a lot of olive oil and white wine. I finally decided to make a version that I could feel good about Dan eating whenever he wants. Here is my healthy version of Ian’s red stuff:

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Golden Raisins
aka: Ian’s Red Stuff Made Healthy
Serves 12


1 cup dried tomatoes
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup water
½ red onion, peeled and well cooked in some of the soaking water
2 cloves garlic, peeled
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Drain the tomatoes and raisins well and move them to your food processor. Use a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid to water sauté the onions until very soft. Move the drained onions to the food processor. Add raw garlic to the processor and process until all the big chunks are gone. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 32.45
Calories From Fat (4%) - 1.45

Total Fat - 0.17g
Saturated Fat-  0.03g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 95.24mg
Potassium - 201.84mg
Total Carbohydrates - 7.9g
Fiber - 0.9g
Sugar - 5.27g
Protein - 0.93g


This worked out much better than I expected. I used the onions to add creaminess in place of the oil and it worked. This spread is a little sweet but still with a pronounced tomato flavor. Even Dan was happy with how this turned out and he loves Ian’s original version. *pats self on the back*

Dan went out for lunch today with some of the young guys from work and sent me pictures and descriptions of his lunch. They went out for Vietnamese food. Dan ordered spring rolls with peanut butter to which he added sriracha.

He also ordered a pan fried tofu with the same peanut sauce. Of course I would rather he not order pan fried anything but he enjoys hanging out with the kids at work and since he doesn’t get out often I should not be too concerned. ;-)

After I had my afternoon snack I made a batch of soy milk from the beans I soaked overnight. I don’t normally make soy milk now because almond milk is much quicker. However I decided that I want to add soy milk to Dan’s oatmeal and smoothies for additional calories. I will continue to use water in mine since I don’t need the extra calories to burn off.

While I was hulling the soy beans today I stumbled across a trick to speed up the process. When you are rubbing the beans together to release the skin do it in an 8 cup measuring cup. Then add extra water and the skins will float so that you can pour them off. That is much faster than picking them out. I had the beans hulled and in the soy milk maker in less than 20 minutes which is a record for me.

Word of warning on the soy bean hulls and okara if you have cats …. Mr. Binky thinks soy is the bomb and was a serious pest while I was trying to make the soy milk. He tried to eat the soy hulls/skins and tried to eat the okara as the soy milk was draining. Who knew cats liked soy? Since I am not certain if it is bad for them I wouldn’t let him have it. In case you have cats I wanted to you know about the potential problem.

Once I made the soy milk I decided to make okara pate. I didn’t measure the ingredients but I will next time I make it because it turned out really well. I used okara, reduced fat almond butter, raw garlic, raw ginger, and red miso. It is a bit like Asian flavored hummus. I really liked it but was surprised that Dan also thought it was very good. That definitely means I need to come up with exact measures so I can share it with you.

I also finally used the reduced-fat peanut butter idea on almond butter and it works fine. Once again I didn’t measure but just follow the directions for making reduced fat peanut butter. The next time I make it I will measure so that I can figure out what the revised nutritionals are.

Dinner tonight was a very simple affair. Dan started his meal with a bowl of the curried red lentil soup. Then we both had a big salad that consisted of: mesclun greens, salsa, marinated mushrooms, avocado, chickpeas, grape tomatoes and raw pumpkin seeds.

After dinner we relaxed in front of the TV and sipped more green tea. Dan was a little disappointed that there were no frozen bananas in the house since he wanted strawberry banana soft serve for dessert. I guess he will just need to tough it out while the bananas ripen so I can get them into the freezer.

Making Dietary Changes:

Yesterday I received a message from someone who isn’t currently vegan but wants to live a healthier life. I get a message like this at least 5 days a week which always brightens my day. Normally they start by saying that they aren’t vegan and neither are any of their friends but that they want to make some changes. Each time I get a similar message once I finish my happy dance I think about how I can help. Typically I end up regularly emailing with these folks about changes they can make to improve their diet. Since I know many of you read but never comment or email I wanted to add a new section to the blog to give you ideas for little changes you can make. This section will appear periodically, maybe once a week, so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

For the first change I would strongly suggest that you learn to start your day with a healthy breakfast. I have not always been a breakfast eater. This is a habit I started about 20 years ago though it was also the first thing I dropped when I was frantic at work. Needless to say I know that was wrong but at the time I didn’t have the quick ideas that I do now. Giving up breakfast would not happen again in my life. Here are some ideas for a quick and healthy breakfast:

• Oatmeal with frozen berries and nuts
Savory Oatmeal with veggies, ground flaxseeds and nutritional yeast
Green Smoothie or actually any smoothie
Hummus and raw veggies to dip
Okara pate and veggie dippers
Nut based dipping sauce and raw veggies
• Banana and nut butter
• Fruit and nuts of any sort
Flax crackers topped with nut cheese and sun dried marinara
• Dinner leftovers
• Big green salad with cold cooked beans, salsa and chopped veggies

Some of these are not traditional breakfast foods but they are all very quick if you keep intentional leftovers in the refrigerator. One thing I hope you noticed is that all the items contain a little healthy fat as that helps you to stay satiated longer in addition to helping you process the fat soluble vitamins you are ingesting. I prefer the dishes that have veggies because I love to get veggies in every chance I get. However dark berries are also healthy so that works well too. We always keep frozen berries in the freezer to add to smoothies, oatmeal or healthy desserts. The quickest item on the list is the banana and nut butter (or fruit and nut) which makes a fast grab and go item when you are extremely short on time

Why eat a healthy breakfast? First your body has been fasting since dinner and it is hungry. You blood sugar is low and you need food before you get famished. When I start my day with a healthy breakfast it sets me up to make good choices all day. Eating breakfast helps to keep me from eating something that I shouldn’t for lunch. I don’t know what happens to you but when I don’t eat until lunch time sometimes I am tempted to eat things that aren’t the best for me. Having a healthy breakfast helps me to stay on track and make good choices all day long.

If you are new to eating breakfast start with something small like the banana and nut and move up to more substantial meals. I would also suggest that you experiment with different dishes to see what you like better. I was surprised to find that I really like savory oatmeal for breakfast though Dan prefers fruit and nut in his oats. Also you may find that you feel better when breakfast is the largest meal of the day. Try lots of options and see what works best for you.

Happy thoughts:

Friday was a good day but far too busy to actually be as productive as I wanted to be. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• I loved the okara pate I came up with today. Thankfully it was simple so I know I can recreate it even though I didn’t measure today. It is so much fun to come up with recipes from the stuff most people throw away. I have learned to enjoy the okara more than fresh soy milk. To think I used to throw the okara away. Shameful! That won’t be happening ever again. ;-)

• Dan had a good day at work and I am thankful for that. He had a nice lunch out with the boys and doesn’t need to go into the office this weekend. You know having my hubby home all weekend, even if part of it is in his home office, makes me very happy.

• I was also pleased that I was able to reduce the fat in almond butter exactly the same way I do with natural peanut butter. It may be because my tastes have changed but I actually think it tastes better with less oil.

• Dan really likes my version of the healthy red stuff which also makes me happy. I really enjoy taking recipes that I know Dan likes and making them good for him. I suspect this may turn up as often as the strawberry banana soft serve and that is saying something

• I am also happy that Dan worked out with the guys at work before he came home. It makes me so happy that he has gotten on board with regular exercise. *happy dance*

• Friday was a good day because I was able to read more of the nutrition textbook I am trying to finish. I have read almost the entire book in a few days I am enjoying it that much.

• Every day or so I get a message from someone that isn’t vegan but is trying to clean up their diet and add more healthy foods like quinoa, mushrooms or bean dishes. Each time this happens I am thrilled and very grateful that I am making a difference no matter how small. Any time any of you want to ask me any questions feel free to ask. Use email if you would rather not comment.

• I am also thankful for all the very kind words from all of you. Sorry I needed to take most of this last week off to get myself together. I am not normally off my game that long. I think I am definitely improving and should be back to posting daily for the foreseeable future.

Signing out:

It is time to get my Saturday started. As usual we are planning to have my parents over for a late lunch and do a few things around the house.


  1. Ali--You have got to be kidding me...I'm laughing out loud to myself right now because I swear everything you post lately is exactly what I need to use up stuff that I have no ideas this case, cucumbers and macadamia nuts! I can't believe you came to my rescue again without even knowing it : ) What are 'wet hots'? That's so cute the Dan sent you pictures of his food ; ) And last thing, good advice on starting the day out with a healthy breakfast...smoothies for breakfast really changed my whole day, and eventually my whole life! It's a great starting point. --Stephanie

  2. Ali, I haven't ever tried one of the "cheezes," but your version here inspire me to consider it again. I'm thinking a thin spread of that in a wrap with a lot of veggies . . . And the pesto is exciting, because I have several bags of tomatoes I dehydrated this fall from our 300-plus-pounds crop! I've enjoyed experimenting with them in some soup and sauces, but this would make the best use of their sweet-smoky flavor, maybe. Thanks!

  3. Steph,

    LOL, glad I could help. ;-) Wet hots are also called, pickled peppers or sandwich hots. I usually put a link in for that but forgot this morning. I iwll do that now.

    Dan is getting into the spirit of the blog and Michelle scolded him when he didn't take pictures of the food Ian made him for the office Xmas party. LOL

    Smoothies are a great place to start but sometimes people need to get used to eating breakfast first. I know lots of folks that skip breakfast.

    talk to you later,

  4. Cindy,

    Lots of nut cheeze recipes call for added oil to approximate the fattiness of dairy cheese but I leave that out and it tastes fine to me. Nut cheese is higher in calories than most things I make but sometimes you need a little "cheat". Also Dan needs more calories and he will eat most of this.

    We both like this healthy version of the sun dried tomato pesto. To us it is like comfort food since we have been eating Ian's version for the last four years. I hope you enjoy it too.

    have a a great weekend,

  5. I love sundried tomatoes and love the idea of adding in the raisins. Delish. I think it's great that Dan is on board with working out regularly now! Good job ;-)

  6. Heather,

    I think you will like the pesto it is really tasty. The base recipe is all Ian, I just made it healthy. ;-) If you want a version more like his original soak the tomatoes and raisins in white wine and add olive oil when you are processing the ingredients. He also adds fresh rosemary to his.

    Thanks I was very happy that Dan is on the exercise band wagon too. Even doc gave the idea two thumbs up and he is old school.

    Enjoy your time with you sister this weekend,

  7. I'm interested in trying to make your okara pate. I make my own soy milk, used the okara in breads, seitan and cookies. It's great compost for the garden. But new ideas are always welcome. I'm going to try your almond milk recipe. I'm an evolving vegan, started in June 2010. It is a learning curve, but I'm willing and curious.
    Being well into my 50's, having fibomyalgia, nerve damage to my lower back, IBD, mild Cerebral Palsy, lactose intolerant and newly disabled I've got a few challenges, but I'm not quitting.
    Overall I feel some healing with the vegan lifestyle.
    Your blog I check out daily, you have been inspirational with your never quit attitude. Keep up the good work.

  8. Carin,

    I never thought of using the okara in the garden compost that is brilliant. If I ever have too much I will give that a try. Thanks for sharing the idea.

    Normally I use the okara in veggie burgers but it is great as a pate/spread. It does need a spreadable fat like tahini, peanut or almond butter to give it some omph. Other than that it seems to be very versatile probably because it is such a bland canvas.

    I find that adding just 2 tablespoons of dry oats makes a huge difference in the creaminess of all non-dairy milk. Also when I want a sweet version I had either a half or whole date to the mix. The benefit of almond milk is that it is quick and you don't need to hull or peel anything. I will admit sometimes laziness comes into play. ;-)

    Now who is the inspiration? Good for you taking control of your health! I am so happy to hear that you are starting to feel a difference from eating vegan. We were both very surprised by how much better we feel since becoming vegan.

    thank you again for your inspirational comment, :-)

  9. Wow looks really good! I especially love the cucumbers as crackers - too cute. Your marinated mushrooms looks so tasty and just the same as if you did them in oil, which I know you wouldn't ;). I would like to try and make them, but the last time I did it, I found the vinegar taste way too much.
    I'm not much of a breakfast person either as I find I feel sick when I eat too soon after I wake, so I usually have fruit and then later on in the morning, some nuts. I have been making kale/banana/berry/homemade almond milk/hemp heart smoothies now for 3-4 mornings a week and that seems to work!
    Take care!

  10. Possum (N),

    I love to use cucumbers as crackers they are my favorite substitute.

    Regarding the marinated mushrooms since you know you don't like vinegar start with half or 2/3's of the amount any recipe uses. I don't ever measure my water and vinegar mixture only add vinegar until it tastes right to me, though I love vinegar. You can add garlic, olives, capers or fresh herbs to give it more flavor. You are right, BTW, no oil or salt in my mushrooms.

    Your smoothie sounds really tasty. Smoothies are one of my favorites and I love hempseeds those are really good. I need to open the bag I have and start using those more. They are great on salad!

    talk to you later,

  11. I think it is funny your cats "assist" you in the making of your soymilk. Winston runs in the kitchen as soon as he hears my blender, he loves to watch it go around and he loves banana's too

  12. Thanks for the encouragement.
    I want to tell you about a documentary I watched on "The Passionate Eye" a shown on the CBC Network (a Canadian station). It's called "Food Inc." a very disturbing documentary. I hope you can connect-
    It will be posted until the first week in February. My link is-
    I have an overview of the show.

  13. Brandi,

    My cats get involved in everything I do when they are awake. You know I couldn't do anything without their help. LOL

    That is too funny about Winston. Wouldn't you love to know what they are thinking? ;-)


  14. Carin,

    You are an inspiration! I wish everyone had your fighting spirit. :-)

    Thanks for thinking of me regarding "Food, Inc." I have seen it twice. It is good to see, but more than a little disturbing. One of our MD's saw it and now he only buys meat from the organic free range farm in the film which is not too far from here. Our MD doesn't even trust Whole Foods. I wish more people would watch the movie.

    Thanks for the link to your blog. I will check that out tonight when we get home.

    have a great evening,

  15. I just love that Dan thought to photograph his lunch so you could post it! Also love your "Happy Thoughts" section--it's got me doing my gratitude journal again. And as always, your nut cheese sounds great.

  16. Hi, Ali. I am happy to hear you are feeling better emotionally. Just be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel what you feel - which sounds like what you have done....although I missed your daily blogs!!

    I have some good news on my end....this girl joined a gym! Woohoo!! It's a very good but basic gym, close to home, and I actually enjoy it.....who knew? (well, everyone, but this non-exercising gal was dubious..). I just know that my body is craving movement. I am also thinking of starting a yoga program.

    I am really going to have to try the recipes in this post...I love the nut cheese on the cuc rounds....looks absolutely YUMMY!

    Take care, my sweet friend!


  17. Hi Ali, being in the kitchen certainly helps lift moods and I hope you have a great weekend and that being with Dan will continue to brighten things.
    I love the idea of sundried tomato pesto - have you ever had tomato relish? I would think it would be similar but less liquidy.
    Also - my cat is always interested in soy too! The bad little baby always licks the soy butter off of the knife when I use it! I don't often eat soy anymore but I also used to give her the occasional piece of fake meat. I don't think it's bad for cats but I certainly wouldn't advise giving them a lot.

  18. Ricki,

    Dan is getting into the whole blogging thing now. LOL, he likes to joke that it is all about him and should be titled "This is what Dan ate". Only a man right?

    Yay for going back to your gratitude journal. I am so happy I could help. :-)

    Glad you like the sound of the nut cheese.


  19. Lolly,

    Thanks for letting me know you missed my daily posts. If I had felt up to I would have. I am doing a better now.

    Yay for joining a gym *happy dance* and a bigger yay for enjoying it. You go girl. I wish you could see the big smile on my face. Dan is equally impressed, BTW. :-)

    If you haven't tried cucumbers for crackers you should. They are one of favorite things. They are also good with just the "red stuff" and lower in calories and fat.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay warm,

  20. Food Feud (M),

    Cooking did seem to lift my mood considerably. I need to remember that the next time I get bummed.

    I have had tomato relish and that was more juicy than this. My tomato pesto is very thick and dry but I did press most of the liquid out of the tomatoes and raisins.

    Thanks for letting me know it isn't just my cat that likes soy. Binky eats some odd stuff. His absolutely favorite food is roasted cashews which the vet said are fine in moderation, in case your cat likes them too. ;-)

    Enjoy your Sunday,

  21. What nutrition book are you reading? I am glad you are enjoying it so much!


  22. I adore reading your blogs, though I seldom comment - everyone else always says what I want to say!
    Breakfast is so important, I developed a stomach ulcer years ago because all I used to have was black coffee!
    Nowadays I generally start with a fruit smoothie, but never add banana as the make me ill, nor ice, as I prefer them at room temperature:) If it's really cold and miserable, I make porridge (oatmeal). I've eaten it savoury for years, it's brilliant with mushrooms! The Scots eat it traditionally with a little salt, that's all, though I know you wouldn't want that:)


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