Tomato Nut-“Cheese” Spread

Happy Thursday!

First of all, I’m sorry for being M.I.A the past few days… I’ve been having some trouble dealing with the combination of stresses going on in my life. A lot of it is my own fault to begin with, but this “quarter-life crisis” has knocked me for a loop. Let me preface this by saying that I am not putting this all out here to complain and get pity, but rather as a tool for myself to sort out all of my ideas and figure out where to go from here.

I have a lot going on right now. My grandfather (who lived with my family) recently passed away, and my family as a whole, but particularly my mother, have been struggling with this for a few weeks now. I’ve been staying at my parents house since I got back from London, keeping an eye on everyone and trying to alleviate some of the stress in the house. Unfortunately, this has resulted in me constantly worrying about my family– it’s really hard to watch my mom be sad. And I’m not saying that in a selfish way, I just think I need to remove myself a little bit from the situation, because my nature is to sort of absorb the emotions of others.

On top of this, Mark is (still) in Rome. For some reason, I’ve been having a really difficult time not having him around lately, more-so than usual. He is the one person who I feel comfortable and confident enough around to confide in completely, and not having the stress-relief of him being by my side makes everything I’m dealing with seem one-thousand times harder.

The biggest thing that I think has caused my “crisis” is that I’ve realized I’m unhappy with engineering. It’s completely terrifying to me that my plans for the future are about to change– and not just a little. This is a completely life-altering decision, and I’m not sure if I have the strength or the confidence in myself to make it. I haven’t even thought about telling my parents (you know, those people who just wasted tons of money on two years of engineering school) yet, because I don’t quite have a plan, and I want to be able to go to them knowing exactly what my new plan of action is for my career.

It’s also difficult to hear them be so proud of my accomplishments in engineering– it seems like almost every day, my dad has some new trivia about how low the unemployment rate for engineers just out of college is, or how much money I could make as a consultant.  I used to be excited about those things, but I truly believe that it is more important for me to do something that I absolutely love than it is for me to be be wealthy.

So that’s it. I’m bogged down with finishing my last week and a half at an internship for a career that I no longer want to pursue. I need to figure out what in the world I do want to do, and how to go about getting there. I need to figure out if I can stay at Drexel, if what I want to do will cost more money, if any of my credits will transfer, if I will still graduate on time…  I have a lot on my plate. And on top of it all, I’ve been terrible at getting myself to the gym– there goes any chance of some sort of stress relief. So yesterday, I completely lost it. I was just waaaaay too overwhelmed.

But today I’m feeling a little bit better, and ready to face the world just a little bit more. Oh, and to cook. 🙂

Tomato Nut-“Cheese” Spread

my first attempt at vegan nut-cheese… yummy spread on your “vehicle” of choice with some sliced avocado on top!

To Soak Almonds:

1 C Raw Almonds

2 C Water

For Nut Cheese:

Soaked Almonds

1/2 C Roasted Tomatoes

2 Cloves Garlic

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Soak the almonds overnight (at least eight hours!) and once soaked, skin them. This process is painstaking– I found it was easiest to just peel each one individually by hand. The skins do come right off, though.  Peel the garlic and toss all ingredients into a food processor.

Process until completely smooth and combined– this will take a little time.

Place a strainer over a dish or pot and line it with a cheesecloth.

Pour the almond mixture over the cheesecloth and refrigerate overnight or for at least ten hours.

Once set, remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and shape however you desire. To get mine into a “wedge” shape, I packed it into a lightly greased bowl and flipped it onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Turn your oven to the lowest setting– I set mine to Warm. Place the baking sheet with the cheese on it into the oven and leave cracked. If you have a dehydrator, you can use that instead. You want to leave the cheese to dehydrate in the oven for around three hours, until it forms sort of a rind.

I would think it would take twice as long (at least) in a dehydrator.

This cheese was perfect for a first attempt. It has a definite “almond cheese” texture– it’s a little gritty, but perfect to spread onto a sandwich or wrap.

Look out for many more nut cheese recipes from my kitchen– I’m hooked!

Creamy Guacamole with a Kick

This past week has been pretty rough on me. About two weeks ago, I got home from London and the next day my grandfather passed away. Because of all of the commotion surrounding his death, I didn’t have time or room in my head to miss Mark or think about the fact that I just had to say goodbye to him yet again. This week though, it crept up on me. I thought that I was doing fine and that I just went straight back to how I had been right before I left for London– immune and almost happy. However, I realize now that that is definitely not the case. I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness from not only missing Mark, but also missing my grandfather. The combination of these two blows to the heart has taken a toll on me both emotionally and physically. I haven’t had much of an appetite, and I when I do, I eat everything in sight (as long as it’s vegan!) But I also am just feeling really down. I know that all I need to do is get my tush to spinning and everything will get sorted out, but I’m struggling to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get myself out of the house and all the way to the gym 😉

The one thing that has helped me keep my head above water is my drive home from work every day. This week, we have had beautiful 75 degree weather in Philly. I roll my windows down, open my sunroof, and blast feel-good music. Having the warm wind on my face is, oddly enough, what’s been getting me through this. I’ve been working on starting my gratitude lists again, and every day this week I mention the weather and driving with my windows down. For some reason, that’s what helps. Speaking of beautiful weather…

To me, nothing says summer quite like avocado and tomato. When the sun gets hot and the days are long, I find myself snacking on this combination almost every day. So when I saw that the forecast for this week was full of sun and 70 degree weather… I knew what I had to do.

Guacamole is one of the easiest dishes to whip up, with only a few ingredients and many of them household staples.

Creamy Guacamole with a Kick

Ingredients:

3 Avocados

1 Large Tomato

A 1″ Thick Slice of Red Onion

1 tsp Lime Juice

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Begin by prepping your vegetables– slice the avocados, dice the tomato, and chop the onion.

In a mixing bowl, mash avocado with a fork, leaving a few chunks. Add onion, tomato lime juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and mix until combined.

The red onion adds beautiful color and a kick of flavor that compliments the avocado well.

Gaucamole is an extremely versatile dish and can be served many ways (my favorite of which is straight from a spoon.)

Try it spread on bread or scooped up with chips and salsa.

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White Bean Hummus with Rosemary & Oregano

Today at work, one of my co-workers admitted to me that she has never had hummus. I didn’t know there was anyone who has never had hummus.

Last week at Trader Joes, they had a few new products– including a White Bean Basil Hummus. While I have had hummus (about a million times) before, I’d never thought of making hummus using anything other than chick peas– and what makes this dip a “hummus” rather than just white bean dip is the addition of tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds that’s indicative of hummus.

So, when I found a can of White Cannellini Beans in my cabinet, I whipped out my food processor and got to work.

White Bean Hummus with Rosemary & Oregano

Inspired by Trader Joe’s White Bean Basil Hummus

Ingredients:

1 Can Cannellini Beans

1/4 C Tahini

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Clove Garlic

2 Tbsp Dried Rosemary

1 tsp Oregano

Drain and rinse cannelini beans.

Add the beans and tahini to a food processor and blend until smooth. Mince the garlic and add it to the mixture along with the olive oil, rosemary, and oregano.

Blend until well combined and warmed.

This hummus is great spread on warm bread.

The rosemary and oregano combine with the olive oil for an amazing “hummus experience.” I added a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little kick.