Feta cheese alternative

I have been searching for a dairy free feta cheese recipe for ages. Finally, I made one today and it tastes well, pretty much like the real thing. So I am very happy to be sharing this with you.

Every since I was a little kid, I couldn’t eat or tolerate dairy very well. I learned to love sorbet’s instead of ice cream. I guess it’s not a bad thing, since there is so much information out there about the negatives of dairy products. Although the dairy industry will disagree – they only see the positives when it comes to consumption – which is fair enough. But when it comes to the health of my family, I will make my own decisions, not purely on taste.

So it’s taken me ages to get rid of the ‘chicken skin’ look to disappear from the back of my arms, face and neck; the hubby gets really bad sinusitis from dairy, so we very rarely do consume it. If, we do eat it, I avoid yellow cheese and opt for the white, cultured cheeses and organic if possible.

I do want to get into the habit of making my own from scratch, and a nut based one – much more fibre content (I’m all about fibre). My 2 year old, doesn’t have any allergies, thankfully, so I’m training her tastebuds for non-dairy options.

Anyway this recipe is easy to form into cubes or balls, which could then be drenched with a beautiful and delicious extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh thyme, rosemary etc. I’d bake it just to make a slight crust, so it holds its shape easier. I am making a log version, so I can slice it and add to salads or use to top off bakes and casseroles etc. This feta, crumbles like a ‘Greek’ style type so it’s a perfect addition to a salad. Bake it for longer and you get a thicker crust which makes it easier to slice to top your sandwiches with.

Please give this a go, I hope you enjoy…

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1½ tsp Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt
  • 125mL (½ cup) olive oil
  • 100mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Method

  1. Cover the almonds with filtered water, and leave overnight. The next day, I blanch the almonds and peel the skin off. This is optional – blanched almonds gives the feta a white colour with no specks.
  2. Place almonds and salt into TM bowl and grind speed 9-10, until it’s finely ground. 12-15 seconds. I usually scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and grind down again.
  3. Add the garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, mix till well combined, speed 6-7 for a few seconds. Decrease speed to 4 and in a steady stream, add the olive oil. Once oil is incorporated, increase speed to 9 for a final mix – to ensure smooth consistency is reached (as seen in photo).  
  4. Optional – Sprinkle a baking sheet of paper (big enough to fit into a loaf tin) with your favourite herbs and spices. I used Italian herbs and freshly cracked black pepper.
  5. Empty the contents of the TM bowl onto the baking sheet and form into a log – I use the baking sheet to roll it out – this way my hands stay clean and all the sides get covered with the herbs and spices.
  6. Place into loaf tin and bake in oven at 130°C for 35 minutes. Wait until cheese is cool before slicing it.

bon appetit

 


 

Conventional Method

  1. Cover the almonds with filtered water, and leave overnight. The next day, I blanch the almonds and peel the skin off. This is optional – blanched almonds gives the feta a white colour with no specks.
  2. Place blanched almonds into a food processor and grind down, till very fine.
  3. After the initial grind, add the remaining ingredients and process. Every now and then scrape the sides of the bowl and continue to process. When you are happy with the consistency, as seen in the photo, it will be easy to form into a log, cubes or balls.
  4. Optional – Sprinkle a baking sheet of paper (big enough to fit into a loaf tin) with your favourite herbs and spices. I used Italian herbs and freshly cracked black pepper.
  5. Place cheese onto the baking sheet and form into a log – I use the baking sheet to roll it out – this way my hands stay clean and all the sides get covered with the herbs and spices.
  6. Place into loaf tin and bake in oven at 130°C for 35 minutes. Wait until cheese is cool before slicing it.

Healthy eating is easy. Or is it??

Creating healthy habits takes time, especially when it comes to healthy eating. I found that it all comes down to being organised. In the early days as a first time mum, I thought that I’d have enough energy to just do normal house duties, prepare lunches and dinners for my husband and I, get back to my exercising, blah, blah, blah. I did make a few lasagna’s, meatballs and other meals that I put in my freezer during my last trimester, ready for when time was going to be short. Oh man, was that an eye opening experience! How much energy gets zapped when you are breastfeeding? And all those sleepless nights or very little sleep? I was so glad that I did have frozen meals ready for consumption! But you can imagine how fast they dwindled away.

So now, I really like preparing meals that are healthy but really fast and easy to make. This does require getting organised, especially in the kitchen, including the pantry, fridge and freezer.

First, clear clutter off bench tops. Have a clean slate to begin with. For me, it’s less chaotic, which helps me move around the kitchen faster and think clearer too.
Pantry needs to be stocked with basic staples to help prepare quick meals. For example: dried quinoa, dried apricots, canned chickpeas and vegetable stock are perfect ingredients to make a Moroccan-style tagine in 30 minutes, easy.
Get ahead whenever possible. If you’re into smoothies each morning, pre-cut and clean vegetables and fruits and place in air tight containers in the fridge; this makes mornings that little bit easier, you just dump the ingredients into the blender.
Another way to get ahead is to double up on recipes. You can fridge or freeze the second batch; all you have to do is reheat or steam during the week for a meal in minutes. Great recipes include: soups, stews, beans or even wholegrains that take longer to cook, like barley.
Make meals simple. Eggs, scrambled with tossed greens, sliced avocado and grated raw carrots is perfectly acceptable, yummy and super fast. You get my drift.

If you want to actually START getting into creating healthy eating habits, just remember that consistency is the key. It’s the little things that you do everyday that matter the most. Focus on positive changes; don’t beat yourself up for all that you believe you do wrong in your diet. Focus on ‘adding’ good foods to your meals over ‘foods to avoid’. As humans, if something gets taken away from us, that’s all we think about. We just don’t do well with voids. If we feel a void, that’s when our motivation drops. So this is why we need to shift our focus onto addition; you will not only start to feel good about the healthy changes you are implementing, you’ll be further inspired to do more positive changes and in turn, less of the negative.

On days when I don’t have a lot of time, for example when it’s my turn to have mother’s group at my place, I think up of meals that are quick to prepare. I am going to share today a ricotta gnocchi recipe and my mushroom gravy sauce. When you are starting to eat a little bit more healthy for you and your family, you’re not going to swap all their favourite meals for healthy, weird tasting ones. What I suggest is to add healthy ingredients to favourite recipes. Add finely grated vegetables into bolognese; mix in wholegrain pasta into white pasta; add some quinoa into white rice – they cook the same time. Doing this over a few weeks or months will prepare tastebuds and create a new liking for your new, upgraded family recipes, without any fuss.

So in this case, I’ve opted for a ricotta gnocchi over potato gnocchi a). I prefer ricotta gnocchi over potato gnocchi; b). it’s quicker to make – without having to boil or bake some potatoes in advance; c). I don’t really like potatoes – I’ve really got to be in the mood for them. If you can get your hands onto organic ricotta (or organic dairy in general), it’s always a bonus.  You can even make organic ricotta if you buy some organic milk, that’s a recipe for another time.

I don’t do well on wheat at all, but I have found that I can have a few gluten containing grains a few times a week. I used spelt flour instead – I’m yet to experiment with almond meal, but I’m afraid it won’t have the same consistency as smooth, ricotta gnocchi. Anyway I hope you will try this, please enjoy.

 

Ricotta Gnocchi perfectly serves 4ricotta gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 500g organic ricotta
  • 150g organic white spelt flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • a pinch or 2 freshly ground black pepper
  • 60g organic grated parmesan* – this is optional, but it does just add a beautiful flavour

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into the TM bowl and knead dough until it comes together. Ensure you don’t over work the dough otherwise it will be too dense. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  2. Turn out onto a non-stick silicon mat and divide dough into 4.
  3. Take 1 portion and roll it into a 1.5cm diameter log and using a pastry knife or spatula, cut into 2.5cm pieces. Lightly sprinkle with flour to prevent from sticking. Repeat this step with remaining portions. At this stage you can freeze gnocchi or cook straight away.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Gently place gnocchi into boiling water. When gnocchi is cooked, they float to the top, count to five and take them out with a slotted spoon.

At this stage you can add what ever sauce, pesto, roasted veggies – like pumpkin etc. or place into a frying pan with a little olive oil. I usually reheat the gnocchi the next day on a fry pan, get a little colour on them; that is, if there are any left overs!

My favourite way of serving ricotta gnocchi is in a beautiful mushroom gravy. Here’s my gravy recipe.

Mushroom Gravygnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 20g butter or olive oil
  • 250g mushroom, sliced, you can use a mixture of your favourite varieties Autumn is here so this means pine mushrooms are in season
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 450g chicken stock
  • 100g cream
  • 2-3 teaspoons arrowroot or corn flour
  • ½ bunch continental parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½-1 lemon, juiced

Method

  1.  Place parsley in TM bowl and chop 3-5 seconds, speed 6 and set aside.
  2. Place onion and garlic into TM bowl and chop, 3-5 seconds, speed 7; scrape down sides with spatula.
  3. Add oil or butter and sauté 5 minutes, varoma, speed 1.5.
  4. Next add to TM bowl, mushrooms, bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper and cook 12 minutes, 100ºC, reverse, speed 1.
  5. Dissolve arrowroot into cream and add to TM bowl and continue cooking until sauce has thickened 3-5 minutes, 100ºC, reverse, speed 1.
  6. Add parsley in the last 30 seconds then add lemon juice to taste.ricotta gnocchi w

Bon appetit