recipes

Comfort food

“Ice cream was reliable. Young men were not.” Kerry Greenwood, “Murder in the Dark”

Which of these things does not belong? Birds singing, daffodils blooming, sandals, snow, frost on the garage roof, salt spray on the car, thick sweaters. Today, if you live in much of the U.S., it would be the sandals. It’s literally freezing outside in spite of the fact we’re well into April.

We are far enough south that the first day of April is usually the day I haul the houseplants out to the front porch. Not so this year. I believe it has snowed every day this month, including yesterday, which caused the cancelling of a track meet.

Not particularly sorry to not be sitting on icy metal bleachers — I decided to cheer up my young runner with cold-day comfort food. Chicken alfredo, in this case. I didn’t actually know we had a familial comfort food — other than dark chocolate — until last year, when my mild lactose intolerance turned severe seemingly overnight.

I can do without the milk. I can do without the ice cream. But, I soon learned I can’t do without the cheese sauces. Neither, apparently, can my family. I continued making pestos, mac and cheeses, lasagnas and the like for them, staring longingly at their dinners while I ate duded-up veggie burgers.

Bizarrely, it was fiction that brought us back together. The book manuscript I was working on at the time included a vegan character I needed to flesh out. (Pun fully intended.) Research led me to whole tomes on vegan “cheese.” Some recipes were gacky, some were insanely labor intensive, but one simple method turned out to be a great base for everything from potato soup to alfredo sauce.

Ah, the comfort of cheese, back in my kitchen! The God of all comfort has blessed again and, today, I share that joy with any of you who might also need it.

Al-faux-do Sauce

1 1/2 cups unsalted cashews, water, 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast*

Put the cashews in a blender. Just barely cover with water and let soak for at least one hour. Just before serving, add the nutritional yeast and blend at high speed until thick and creamy.

Use it anywhere you need heavy cream or a cheesy sauce. Throw in a whole bunch of basil before blending and you’ve got yourself a tasty pesto.

  • Nutritional yeast can be found in most grocery stores’ health food section. It is a cheesy-tasting supplement vegans use to get certain vitamins into their diet. In spite of looking exactly like fish food, it’s also great on popcorn or anywhere you would normally use parmesan.

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