Striving for zero waste is all about making choices. You could sum up the success of zero waste by simply saying that if it comes in a package you should refuse to buy it. The challenge is satisfying those pesky cravings. Our family has been eating a whole foods plant based diet- a vegan diet for about 6 years. We have found our way through this process with various recipes and replacement ideas that work for us. It has been a process of trial and error. There are many vegan processed and packaged foods, and we try to avoid these packaged food items as often as we can. They are not very healthy and they create a lot of unnecessary waste. But sometimes a craving comes along and we succumb to a packaged food. Admittedly, this happens more with the kids than with myself and Josh. I think that Josh and I would be happy enough to live on local greens, oatmeal, lentils, apples, and peanut butter, but the kids want a little more variety. That is where some research and creativity comes in handy.
One place that requires creativity is in replacing cheese. The most frequent comment I hear from folks thinking about a plant based diet is that cheese is the one very difficult food to give up. It is true. Cheese is actually and truthfully an addictive substance. But we have found our family to be much healthier without it. Our blood pressure is way down, our cholesterol is down, and we tend to have a reduced tendency towards congestion and allergies. Our youngest daughter is allergic to dairy, so we need to be vigilant about keeping dairy out of our diets.
Most cheese replacement items come in a ton of packaging. It is very disappointing as a zero waste vegan family. But, there are other choices. Our most successful cheese replacement is a cashew cheese. Cashews are incredible because just like cheese, they can be a sweet creamy flavor or a savory creamy flavor. Cashews are also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as E, K, B6, copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium. We use cashews in cheesecakes, cheesy fillings, wonton fillings, gravies, and in cashew cheese. You can make cashew cheese with probiotics that mimic a cheese log, or you can make a creamy cashew cheese for noodles. Creamy cashew cheese is one of the easiest foods to make, and it can be made completely zero waste. You will want to slather this cheese on all your veggies and pastas:
Creamy Cashew Cheese
1 Cup soaked Cashews (bulk raw and unsalted are best)
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
1-2 Tbs of fresh squeezed lemon juice (be careful not to let the seeds fall in)
1-2 cloves of garlic (or 1-2 tsp of garlic powder)
salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender, a vitamix is best. Blend for about 45-60 seconds. Use this on noodles for a vegan mac and cheese, or your favorite veggies, or even toast. You can’t go wrong with cashew cheese sauce.