I had never paid much attention to cashews until last year. They always seemed boring and tasteless; something I could take or leave. What I didn’t know then, that I know now, is that cashews are an important part of a healthy diet, and a healthy substitute for dairy in many recipes. Studies have shown that they are rich in phytonutrients, lower in fats than most nuts, reduce cancer risk, and support bone health and weight control.
My opinion of cashews changed, when I met a vegetarian chef named Meredith Klein, who “cooks” with raw foods. Meredith changed my life, and my cooking, forever, when she served fresh fruit with raw chocolate cream for dessert. It was divine…I couldn’t believe something so simple and crazy healthy could taste so good.
I asked Meredith how she made it (cashews, raw cacao, coconut water, maple syrup, and salt), and it was the beginning of my love affair with cashew creams. I use cashews all the time now, to make vegan alfredo sauces, whipped creams, mousses, cheescakes and pumpkin pies. I serve them to my kids, and at dinner parties, with great success.
It’s so simple, it’s silly. All you have to do is soak cashews for 2-4 hours first, and process them until they are creamy, in a high powered blender or food processor.
Thanks to Meredith, I’ve fallen hard for cashews, and you might too, if you discover how helpful they can be as a replacement for milk and cream. Below is a recipe for cashew cream that I have modified from Meredith’s original guidance. It’s fabulous, served with strawberries, or Trader Joes’ Gluten-free Ginger Snaps.
Meredith and Amber in the kitchen at Casa Barranca in Ojai, July 2012
Raw Vegan Chocolate Cream, inspired by Meredith Klein
16 oz. raw cashews, soaked in water 2-4 hours
1/4 c. raw cacao (or cocoa powder)
12 oz. coconut water (or more, if needed for consistency)
1 t. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix everything in a food processor until creamy. Add more coconut water to increase sweetness as desired, more cacao to increase chocolate flavor, and more salt if desired. Enjoy with apples, strawberries, or gluten-free ginger snaps!