Beer-Infused "Cheese" Ball

I've never been a cheese person.

Growing up, I ate it on things, but I rarely would seek it out.  My brother was/is the opposite; he will pile cheese on things that don't even need cheese.  I joke with him that his diet consists of mainly bacon, cheese, and soda.  (Consequently, he's often sick and not feeling well.  SHOCKER.)  Both my mom and brother have digestion issues with lactose.  

Recipes like today's are important for at least two reasons.  One, recipes like this are important because they let people know that there are options out there if they have allergies or digestive issues.  You can still savor the same delicious party foods with some adjustments.  It just takes slightly more prep time, and you have to be okay with that.  Secondly, people need to know that we don't need to rely on animal-based products to eat fantastic foods.  Because of the questionable ingredients out there, plus the mistreatment of animals, these are just two reasons to branch out and try different things.

Faux-cheese like ingredients can be used in cheesecakes, like my Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Drizzle.  You won't miss the dairy.  I promise.  Sometimes you just have to retrain your taste buds to enjoy whole foods.

This recipe is yummy.  I make my own roasted red pepper hummus that is delicious; this recipe is actually pretty similar, using cashews instead of chickpeas.  Although I used my blender, I highly recommend making this in your food processor.  My blender seemed to be struggling a bit.  Unless you have a fancy one...then blend away!

The two things that might not be in your pantry are nutritional yeast and tahini - but I suggest that you get both of them.  Nutritional yeast is often a vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese; it has a cheesy/nutty flavor, which is perfect for this cheese ball.  Tahini is an ingredient often found in hummus.  It's just ground up sesame seeds and it's very good for you.

My favorite thing about this recipe is how it looks like a legit cheese ball.  The roasted red pepper, turmeric, and paprika give it a bright color.  By wrapping it up in some plastic wrap, you can give it the round, ball-like shape.  I've also seen it in log form.  That would be super cute too.

Ingredients:
Lightly adapted from Vedged Out

1 1/2 c. raw cashews, soaked in beer for at least 2 hours (reserve some of that beer for the cheese ball!)
1/4 c.  nutritional yeast
splash of reserved beer, from the cashew soaking
1 large roasted red pepper
1 T. tahini
1 T. vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika - a secret weapon!
1/4 tsp. turmeric, optional
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 c. coconut oil, softened
liced almonds or sunflower seeds, for rolling

Directions:
Two hours prior to assembly, soak your cashews in about a cup or so of beer.

When you're ready, drain the cashews, but leave a little beer in there to use in the cheese ball mixture.

Next, add all of the ingredients to the food processor - it's that easy!  (Don't add the decorative almonds or seeds.)  Process the items until you reach your desired level of smoothness.

Prepare a sheet of plastic wrap over two small bowls - you should be able to get two decently sized cheese balls from this recipe.  Scoop the cheese batter into the bowl and wrap the plastic wrap around it, making it circular.  I tied mine off with a twisty-tie and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours to harden.

For serving, take the ball out of the fridge and mush it around to better make a sphere.  (Mush it around with the plastic wrap on.  You'll be happy you did this, haha.)  Roll it in your desired topping and it's ready to go!  That's it.

Like I said, this recipe makes two decently-sized cheese balls.  If you want, you can freeze the other ball for another occasion.  I wouldn't roll it in the topping yet; just stick in the freezer in the plastic wrap and twisty tie.  Thaw it out overnight in the fridge before serving it.

Enjoy this fancy-looking cheese ball with your favorite crackers and veggies!

Cheers,
-Aileen