Go Dairy Free (& A Recipe for Vegan Baked Feta)

images“Wait. What? I have to give up cheese?”

-Me. (about 50 times in the past two years…pretty much whenever I read anything about nutrition, pH, veganism, health, wellness, animal welfare, etc..)

So, yeah. I get it. I shouldn’t eat cheese. Really, no one should.

I don’t want to preach, but I think that there are some essential yet elementary facts that I would like my loved ones to know about dairy before they decide to eat another grilled cheese sandwich or order an additional cappuccino. There are also things we should know about casein (the protein found in milk) that have been hidden from us for years by varying health administrations and food industries throughout the world.

Here are 10 (…of 12…of hundreds) scary facts about the health effects of dairy (from nutritionstudies.org):

Link to the full article: http://nutritionstudies.org/12-frightening-facts-milk/

  • In observational studies both across countries and within single populations, higher dairy intake has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer
  • Observational cohort studies have shown higher diary intake is linked to higher ovarian cancer risk
  • Cow’s milk protein (casein) may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes through a process called molecular mimicry
  • Across countries, populations that consume more dairy have higher rates of multiple sclerosis
  • In interventional animal experiments and human studies, dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels. Increased levels of IGF-1 has now been implicated in several cancers
  • In interventional animal experiments and human experiments, dairy protein has been shown to promote increased cholesterol levels (in the human studies and animal studies) and atherosclerosis (in the animal studies).
  • The primary milk protein (casein) promotes cancer initiated by a carcinogen in experimental animal studies
  • D-galactose has been found to be pro-inflammatory and actually is given to create animal models of aging
  • Milk is perhaps the most common self-reported food allergen in the world
  • Much of the world’s population cannot adequately digest milk due to lactose intolerance

For further information, and some of the most compelling information that I have come across, here is a list of reference material:

Books:

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
  • Forks over Knives by Gene Stone
  • Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
  • The pH Miracle by Shelley Redford Young and Dr. Robert O. Young

Documentary:

Forks over Knives: (http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-film/)

Sites/Articles:

Furthermore, from a less “scientific” perspective, the concepts that have resonated with me the most regarding why I shouldn’t be putting dairy into my body are simple:

  1. Humans are the only animals on the earth who drink the milk of another species. We don’t see cows drinking goat’s milk, do we? The perfect food for a newborn human baby is it’s mother’s milk…human milk for a human child. Period.
  2. With the dairy industry today, cows are milked so often and forcefully that they get infections. These infections create puss. There is puss in our milk.
  3. Because of the infections, cows are administered antibiotics to heal the infections. There are antibiotics in our milk.
  4. Cows are given hormones in order produce the amount of milk the industry (and consumers: us) require. Therefore, there are hormones in our milk.
  5. After childhood, humans stop producing the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar found in milk. That is where we hear the term “lactose intolerant” so often. I personally think that ALL humans are lactose intolerant in one way or another.
  6. Milk is acidic (with regards to pH- alkalinity and acidity of food). Therefore, when we drink milk, in order to neutralize the acidity in our bodies, we take the calcium from our bones to counteract milk’s internal effect. MILK DEPLETES CALCIUM FROM YOUR BONES. We actually lose calcium by consuming dairy.
  7. And if that didn’t convince you that we don’t need “calcium from milk,” there are studies proving that populations with the highest consumption of calcium intake had more hip fractures than populations with the lowest intake of calcium. (same goes for animal protein vs. vegetable protein).

Sorry for the rant. I’m pretty passionate about this stuff.

IMG_5899But here comes the fun part: uniting my anti-dairy sentiments with a profound love of cheese.

I have recently been experimenting with “vegan cheeses” or “cheese substitutes.”

Some “cheeses” have been total gag-inducing disasters. Others, mediocre. And some? Absolutely life-changing.

Below is the first of many phenomenal vegan cheeses that I will be sharing on the blog.

It is a recipe for “baked feta” made out of almonds. The original recipe can be found on: http://www.maplespice.com

My version of the cheese isn’t white because I left the skins on the almonds, I suppose that blanching the almonds and slipping the skins off will allow for a more “feta-ey” appearance. Despite the brown flakes throughout, the taste was incredible. I’ll make it white the next time.

Enjoy.

Vegan “Baked Feta”

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups ground almonds
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ¼ tsp sea salt

Directions:

  • Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy with a smooth consistency. (scrape down if necessary and continue blending for a few minutes).
  • Place the mixture in a nut milk bag/cheese cloth. Place the bag/cloth in a strainer and set over a bowl (to capture some of the liquid that will be eliminated). Put everything into the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180C and unwrap the dough. Place into a greased baking dish or lined baking sheet. (I made three small cheeses by dividing the dough and putting it into greased muffin tins).
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of the cheese). The dough should be slightly golden, cracking, and firm to the touch when ready.
  • Cool for about 15 minutes and serve. (I initially dressed it with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled fresh thyme and served it with gluten free crackers.)

*Store the leftovers in a glass container in the fridge. I used the cheese for about a week in pasta, on Greek pizza and in a few salads. It was great-every. single. time.

IMG_5900
This is the feta sprinkled on a gluten free  Greek pizza. 
IMG_6072
The baked feta mixed in with buckwheat penne pasta and tomato sauce.

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