Homemade Mondays: Cashew Cheese With Roasted Pepper and Onion

As we are still mostly dairy free around here, I’m always on the lookout for things that taste creamy. I’ve served this at several events and it’s always a big hit. This is adapted from a recipe from Handmade In the Present Moment, which is a delicious raw food (also sometimes called “sun food”) restaurant near my aunt and uncle’s home in St. Augustine, Florida. Obviously, with the addition of roasted peppers and onions, it becomes no longer raw food. We think that it’s worth it because ROASTED PEPPERS AND ONIONS. Yum. But once you get the basic idea of cashew based cheeses down, there are endless variations and room for creativity to flavor this cheese-like food (but not in a Velveeta, “processed cheese food” sort of way) to suit your taste and serving needs.


Cashew Cheese With Roasted Pepper and Onion


1 pepper, washed, halved, cored and seeded. (red, yellow, or orange…dealer’s choice)

1 medium onion, peeled and halved.

1 1/2 C cashews, soaked for 2 hours in lukewarm water, or overnight in the refrigerator

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp olive, sesame, avocado, or other oil of your choice

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp maple syrup, honey, agave, or other sweetener of your choice

1/2 tbsp lemon or lime juice

salt, to taste

hot sauce, to taste, if desired



Place onion and pepper in a baking dish and roast at around 350 degrees F for half an hour or so, until the edges begin to turn black. After these come out of the oven, place the peppers immediately into an airtight container of some kind, or the whole thing into a paper bag big enough close around the whole dish. Leave it for at least five minutes, to allow the skins to loosen. They should slip off easily, although you might have to peel them a bit in some spots. Discard skins.

After soaking, drain cashews and rinse until the water runs clear.

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for about five minutes until smooth and creamy.


My favorite ways to serve this so far are:

-warm with pieces of bread

-warmed with hot sauce and pieces of chicken, dairy-free buffalo style

-cooked up like grilled cheese on a sandwich- I haven’t tried this yet but I have friends who make cashew cheese and look forward to trying it as we approach soup season here in Cleveland.

-as a serving garnish for pasta or risotto

-cold, on creamy vegetable curry soups

-cold, as a vegan sour cream substitute with other taco toppings on Vegan Taco Soup (or, ahem, chorizo based; make your own food choices and love them, people!)


Homemade Mondays: Blackberry Lemonade and Blackberry Lemon martini

Yes, I know. It’s Thursday, not Monday. It’s almost Mother’s Day. Humor me. Plus, this is really good. And it’s fun to have a grown-up version and a kids’ version.

This is meant to be made up in smaller batches, for just a few people. For party lemonade (or just for less work), here is the recipe for lemonade concentrate to keep on hand.

blackberry lemonade

Blackberry Lemon Martini


1 part lemon juice

3 parts maple syrup

3 parts vodka

a few frozen blackberries, to taste

some ice

some lavender bitters, if you’re feeling extra fancy


Combine the lemon juice, maple syrup, vodka, blackberries, and some ice in a cocktail shaker (a wide mouth mason jar makes an excellent substitute if you don’t have a shaker). The more blackberries you add, and the longer you shake, the darker it will be. Shake for half a minute or so, then taste a bit to see if you need to add more lemon or maple syrup. Adjust amounts and shake again if necessary, or pour into a fun glass and top with lavender bitters if that’s your thing.

Blackberry Lemonade


1 part lemon juice

1 part maple syrup

a few frozen blackberries, to taste

some ice




Combine the lemon juice, maple syrup, blackberries, and some ice in a cocktail shaker (a wide mouth mason jar makes an excellent substitute if you don’t have a shaker). The more blackberries you add, and the longer you shake, the darker it will be. Shake for half a minute or so, then fill the rest of the way with water. Ready to serve! This also works really well with other berries, mint leaves, etc.

Homemade Mondays: Chocolate Syrup Hack

Whether you’re mid-party and someone wants a chocolate drink, or just by yourself and don’t feel like going to the grocery, it’s convenient sometimes to be able to whip up something quickly to add a little extra fun. Some of my favorite homemade staples started to be homemade because one day it seemed like too much work to get to the store. This particular chocolate syrup recipe took me only a few minutes of stirring.

Chocolate Syrup


Hot Cocoa Mix


optional add-ins: vanilla or almond extract, sea salt to taste, other flavors you might like. But the point is to keep this simple, right? Chocolate syrup is painfully simple to make and customize to your own taste.


Pour desired amount of hot cocoa mix into a small saucepan. Add only a little bit of water (enough that you can mix it into a medium-thick paste) and cook over low to medium heat. Stir with a wisk and make sure it doesn’t burn to the sides. It doesn’t take long but you do have to watch it pretty closely. Once all the sugar has dissolved, the syrup is very smooth, slightly thinner than you would like, and has the flavor you prefer (add more sugar if it’s too bitter, or sift in a bit more cocoa powder if it’s not chocolatey enough) remove from the heat. Allow to cool, and use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge.

serving idea: mix in some peanut butter and serve as a fondue with bananas, graham crackers, marshmallows, etc.


Homemade Mondays: Grenadine!

**If you just want the recipe then scroll down a bit. This is a blog, after all, and so it includes my musings.**

So, I have this group of mamas that has started getting together semi-regularly. We call it “the Mama Speakeasy”. The first time we had it, I put a sign on my front door that looked like this:

no admittance

Which was funny and made us feel like we were doing something sneaky and fun. And we were. Ironically, the day of the party this sign did not deter the AT&T guy from accosting J (again! Dear AT&T: PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE. WE DO NOT WANT U-VERSE. Coming to our house several times a week in the summer and sending us things in the mail is not convincing. Furthermore, trying to engage us in long and fruitless conversation with the door open when it’s well below freezing doesn’t help your case.)

But for this month’s Mama Speakeasy, and moving forward, I wanted to find something that reflected what I was trying to accomplish a little more accurately, while still preserving my nerd cred. So we landed here:

speak friend and enter

I want people to be able to speak freely and in safety about their lives in an environment that is nonjudgmental and encouraging. And sometimes involves martinis. (In case you are nerdy too and wondering, I did not actually make people say “mellon” before they could come into my house. I’m not THAT bad.)

Anyhow, in the quest for crunchy or “real food” drink options, a friend and I were looking for grenadine because pink drinks are fun. And the first one I found had these types of ingredients:


Um, no thank you.

We did manage to find one that seemed to contain food, but when I looked at the ingredients I realized it was basically pomegranate simple syrup. Since we were planning for a fancy party, I already had pomegranate juice at home, so I decided to try to figure it out myself. It has to boil down for a while, but there’s very little (read: about 30 seconds) actual work involved in this and it makes an impressive party addition because it’s one of those things not everyone might think to make from scratch.

Homemade Grenadine


2 cups of pomegranate juice

1/4-1/2 cup of real maple syrup

a little splash of lemon juice


Combine pomegranate juice and maple syrup in a wide sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce, stirring periodically, until it reaches your preferred intensity of flavor. If it’s too sweet, add a little juice (pomegranate juice is tart!). If it’s too tart, add some more maple syrup. When you are happy with it (mine reduced over low heat for about an hour), remove from heat, pour into a cute bottle if you have one (or whatever container you have), cover, and use or refrigerate.

You could also make this with regular sugar, or honey, or another natural sweetener. But my maple syrup version was really good. Just saying.

This weekend my kids and I talked about Shirley Temple Black and drank homemade shirley temples. Good times. 


Homemade Mondays: Easy Oven Rice

Some of our Homemade Monday recipes have been a little fancy lately. This one is really simple and really basic, but this trick has saved me from scraping sad burned rice out of the bottom of my pans more times than I’d care to admit. This post could also be called “How to avoid buying yet another appliance that takes up space and only does one thing.”

Easy Oven Rice

Ingredients and supplies:

rice of your choice (also works with several other grains, like quinoa)

water or chicken, vegetable, or other stock

salt (optional)

glass or ceramic casserole dish with a well-fitting glass or ceramic lid

The Method:

Mix one part rice to two parts water (or stock) in the casserole dish. Add salt to taste, if you choose.

Cover and bake for an hour at 350 Degrees. If you oven has a “cook timer” on it, you can even set it to beep when it’s finished, like a rice cooker!

This will work passably well for most rice. I cook both white and brown rice for the same amount of time, although white rice would probably be done a little quicker than an hour.

If you’re interested in doing more research, Alton Brown was the first person I ever saw cook rice in the oven. His recipe is pretty similar but mine is easier and doesn’t use butter. 😉