Even though I’ve been vegetarian for over 12 years, dairy has always been a staple in my diet. Greek yogurt in the morning, a slice of Swiss cheese with my veggie burger, shaved Parmesan on my salad, and melted mozzarella on my favorite veggie pizza.
It wasn’t until last year that I started to question more about the dairy industry and did some personal research to figure things out for myself. I know that everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to food production so I won’t tell you what I discovered, I can only tell you that I didn’t like it. Plus I always knew that cheese wasn’t exactly a health food. Between both of those realizations I decided it was time to start experimenting with dairy-free options.
I can admit that it feels daunting at first because dairy is everywhere in our traditions and culture. It’s hard to get away from it sometimes. But when it comes to eating at home, it’s not only easy to replace, but incredibly delicious too.
Not only are there amazing dairy-free yogurts and cheeses on the market now, there are also great replacements that are easy to make yourself at home. For example, cashew cream. If I ever see a recipe that calls for a heavy cream, my mind instantly goes to cashews now. To make it, you simply soak raw cashews in hot water for about 30 minutes, drain and rinse, add them to a high speed blender (or a NutriBullet) with seasonings, then puree until a silky cream forms before your eyes.
For this Cajun pasta recipe, we’re using cashew cream in place of the traditional cream sauce, along with hearty shiitake mushrooms tossed in Cajun seasoning to replace the meat. Between the mushrooms and the cashews this dish offers a good deal of protein, but I like to use whole grain pasta to bump it up a little more.
If you don’t have Cajun seasoning on hand I listed an easy DIY version in the notes. It calls for common pantry ingredients and is super simple to make. There’s a good chance that once you try it you may never buy Cajun seasoning again.
*Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water by a few inches. Soak for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. For a faster option, bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the cashews. Soak for at least 30 minutes. **To make your own cajun seasoning, combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon paprika (or smoked paprika) and a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional) in a small bowl and stir to mix.
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