I am back! My name is Vanessa Goldberg and I am the Practice Manager of Oubre Medical and have now been quarantined for 35 days due to COVID-19. I am going crazy and really miss going out to eat, hanging out with my friends, going to the movie theater, going to concerts… all of the fun stuff that my city (Austin, Texas) has to offer. I will still stay home though, because COVID-19 is not a joke, and seeing people say it is a hoax is very heartbreaking. People are sick and not getting better.

On to a happier topic though, because if you are doing the right thing and staying home, and you are anything like me, you are probably getting a little sick of the food you have been cooking. It is so easy to fall into the same routine and cook basically the same meal again and again. So my boyfriend and I decided to try to make something new that I had been dying to try for a while now – cashew ricotta. My favorite food in the world growing up was lasagna, and my mom made the BEST lasagna. Her secret was to use so much ricotta is was basically a noodle and tomato sauce ricotta cheesecake. I have been totally gluten free and dairy free for sometime now, but I really, really miss that lasagna.

SO! We made zucchini cannelloni with cashew ricotta and it was incredible. To make the cashew ricotta, take 2-3 cups raw cashews and soak them in hot water for at least 5 minutes, but the longer the better. I soaked mine for about 20 minutes. Then in a blender, blend the soaked cashews and just enough water to submerge all of the nuts until you have a semi-smooth nut paste and cashew milk – you will then drain the “cashew milk” (save it! with some vanilla it is really tasty) and put the nut paste back into the blender. Add about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice), a splash of water, garlic, paprika, a TON of salt, black pepper, and if you have it, nutritional yeast. Blend all these seasonings into the nut paste until you have something resembling ricotta. It should be wet, but not swimming in liquid, so if you have a pool of liquid, strain that out. It should be very finely gritty, so if there are still chunks of cashews, blend longer. You are looking for a creamy end product.

Once you have the nut cheese completed, and seasoned to your taste (add all the seasonings you like!), it is time to put it to use. I personally made a really delicious marinara sauce, tiny meatballs, and made zucchini ribbons with a peeler to a zucchini. I took the zucchini ribbons, put a dollop of the “cheese” in the center, put a tiny meatball on top of the “cheese” and then rolled it up, and set it in a casserole dish of the marinara sauce, vertically. Once all rolled, I baked the little rolls at 350F for 30 minutes and they were INCREDIBLE. Did it taste like lasagna? Not really. Was is tasty and satisfied my craving for cheesy Italian food? YES! It was decadent, filling, and so rich.

What else could you do with this nut cheese? I am going to use the left over “cheese” to make “quesadillas” – another food I have been missing since going gluten free and dairy free. I will use grain free tortillas (my favorite is Siete brand), smear a healthy amount of the nut cheese on one side of a toasted tortilla, and add other left overs from my fridge. I might add some left over chicken, or some sliced tomato. I know I have some sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge, why not put those in there? Half the battle of making good, not-boring food is being creative! Use what you have in your fridge and make something you would not usually make!

We are living in a crazy time, but focusing on what you are able to control makes things feel a little less tumultuous. You can control your own actions, so stay home, stay safe, and cook something tasty.

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