Mon 28 May 2012
It’s not exaggeration to say that for the last week or so, Ireland has been a different place all together. For seven days running, we’ve been enjoying cloudless, sunny skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 20s (that would be 69 – 74 F).
The joy at such weather is downright palpable. People are running around in flip-flops and shorts taking full advantage by eating lunch outdoors and soaking in all the Vitamin D goodness. Needless to say, I’ve seen a lot of red skin around town in the last couple of days! Personally the heat and resulting dry air have been downright healing for me as I’m usually plagued with sinus issues and all kinds of upper respiratory problems due to the damp, cold Irish weather.
Most days, my eyes are bloodshot and cheeks blotchy and red from the incessant sneezing, coughing (I’ve had at least 3 chest infections in the last 2 years) and sniffling that afflict me for hours on end. Although I’ve fallen in love with Ireland, my body continues to reject the cold, pollen, viruses, bacteria – everything! My doctor actually said that she’s never heard me NOT sound stuffed-up, and sadly it’s true. But for these last few glorious days, my nose has been clear and my eyes don’t look like those of a heroin addict. I feel like my old self again and it’s been wonderful.
It could be the sun, but I have to give some credit to my new eating regime as well. Out of sheer desperation, I’ve been trying a variety of elimination diets to see if they help with my upper respiratory issues. Recently I cut out dairy (known for causing extra mucus, something I do not need any more of!), wheat and sugar, and though I probably should have cut just one out at a time, I’m feeling a lot better since removing them from my meals. I’m not saying I’ll never have any again (my wedding is in Italy later this year, and our menu includes pasta, cheese and of course a cake!) but I think for now I’ll stick to the 80/20 rule; most of the time I will abstain from these foods and occasionally I will allow them.
It’s not that I’m coeliac, or lactose intolerant; I just feel better not eating dairy and wheat and I like that I no longer crave sugar with my tea or after every meal. At the risk of sounding big-headed, I am a talented enough cook to do without these ingredients and have been eating very well. A typical day includes baked oatmeal with fruit and soy milk for breakfast; a big salad with a side of polenta and pesto for lunch; baked fish with roasted potato and broccoli for dinner. Snacks are always fruit, sometimes nuts or brown rice cakes.
I’m also experimenting with new dishes, something I like to do regardless. As I was in the mood for a salty snack recently, I decided to try a new take on the cashew cheese spread I made a couple of years back and do a solid version of the same vegan favourite. Though the final product looked more like bread than cheese, it was salty and creamy and – though not entirely like cheese – great on top of crackers or crumbled into a salad.
Baked Cashew Cheese
2 cups raw cashews
1 tablespoon of sea salt
Juice from ½ lemon
You’ll also need muslin cloth (cheese cloth)
Put the cashews into a large bowl and cover with water. Add in the sea salt and lemon juice and stir. Let this soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the cashews but save the salt/lemon water. In a food processor, blitz together the cashews with about a ½ cup of the water solution; add more water if necessary but the texture you want will be that of cream cheese (though it won’t be as smooth). This is where I stopped the last time I made cashew cheese, and it works great as a spread. If you prefer a solid cheese, take the next steps:
Spoon the mixture into a muslin cloth and tie tightly at the top, making a little sack. Place in a colander or sieve and place over a bowl – this is so that any excess moisture will drip down into the bowl. Leave overnight. The next day carefully remove the muslin cloth and place the cheese “ball” (mine was more like an oval!) into an oven-proof dish and place into a preheated 200C oven for one hour. Remove and let cool. Slice and serve!