Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This for That with Rikki Cupcake: Cheeeeeese

First things first- veganism check in! I'm doin pretty well and honest to God, it's been pretty easy. I don't feel like I'm missing anything at all and I've found that, I don't actually really like cheese (I feel ya Rikki). My friend Kara would be shitting her pants right now but it's true. As a vegetarian, I tended to rely on cheese for like, most meals, not cause I liked it (I've now learned) but because it's convenient. I like having to be thoughtful and creative with my meals.

Anyways, it's time again for some more words of vegan wisdom from the lovely Rikki Cupcake of Seitanic Vegan Heathen. This time she's gonna tell us a little bit about vegan cheese options. Don't forget to check out her first post on vegan milk substitutes here. You'll love it : )

Oh cheese, oh you great wonderfully gooey, sticky, stinky mess of fat. How I miss you sometimes. I miss your greasy puddles on pizza, your comfort and intense aroma...OK who am I kidding, I never really liked you cheese, you made me tummy hurt, you made my butt a little bigger than I would have liked and worst of all you made mediocre foods almost tasty. I can say I am probably one of the few Vegans alive that doesn't crave cheese or desire to have cheese alternatives filling my cupboards, but I will admit there are times when a cheese like substance is absolutely necessary, like cream cheese frosting for my sweet potato cupcakes or ricotta for a delicious lasagna. 

But for those of you out there who are not like me and actually like cheese there are quite a few substitutions out there to satisfy those cravings, but I will warn you, most of them do not taste like cheese, the texture is often "different" and 9 out of 10 of them will not melt. Once you have been Vegan long enough most likely you will have the foggiest idea of what cheese really tastes like and these alternatives will prove to be amazing, but if you have just converted give it a few months before diving into a jar of Vegan nacho cheese or you might find yourself crying somewhere in a corner. I know this sounds extreme but it takes a while for our bodies to adjust to a new diet and it takes our taste buds even longer. If one lives on a salt-free diet their entire lives then tries a Dorito they are most likely going to find it disgusting, and the same goes for switching from a highly salty or fatty diet to a diet of (hopefully) whole foods. After a few months of a cheese-free Vegan diet, I tired the very first Vegan cheese of my life, and it was one made easily at home, tofu ricotta, and this is still easily my favorite cheese. All you need is:

1/2 block tofu

1 T. chopped fresh basil

1 T. lemon juice, fresh squeezed if you can

salt and pepper to taste

Crumble the tofu and toss in the other ingredients and mix with your fingers. I put this on pizza, in lasagna and on top of pasta dishes. It is tangy and tasty and best of all it isn't greasy or fatty. You can add sun dried tomatoes, oregano or red pepper flakes to change the flavor around too. This same cheese is easily made with cashews, almonds and walnuts if you have soy allergies. Just remember to soak the nuts in water for about 8 hours, then strain before putting into a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. If you are not one to make this at home Tofutti is putting a Vegan ricotta on the market in the next few months.

Since we are on the topic of Tofutti, they make a pretty great cream cheese that spreads wonderfully on bagels and as mentioned above I use to make delish cream cheese frostings. 

My only advice is the flavor is a bit odd, so mix in garlic powder or cinnamon to change the taste a bit. Hmmmmm garlic-y bagels. I am making myself hungry as I type this. They have flavored Tofutti but nothing is better than mixing in your own jams, agave, chili pepper or what have you, this way you control the calorie count and flavor profile.

The second cheese I learned to make and to absolutely love was a cheese sauce for mac n cheese, but it also suitable as a nacho cheese. The recipe is from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and is crazy delicious!

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup plain, fat-free soymilk (may use other non-dairy milk)

3/4 cup nutritional yeast

3 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon mellow white miso (or additional salt)

black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until mixed well. Put into a sauce pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. As it heats the sauce will thicken, when it gets to your desired consistency pull off of the stove immediately. Pour over cooked pasta for easy macaroni and cheese or add jalapenos, tomatoes and chili pepper for a great nacho cheese dip, or simply pour in some of your favorite salsa. The recipe calls for nutritional yeast (nooch) and can be found at Sprouts, Whole Foods and Sunflower Market in their bulk sections. Nooch can be sprinkled by itself on top of salads or pizza to add a hint of cheesy flavor. I add nooch to my morning tofu scrambles and to my homemade chili.

If you are interested in making all homemade cheese there is a great book by Joanne Stepaniak called the Uncheese Cookbook and although it is almost twenty years old it is still relevant today, and was most recently reviewed on Bittersweet blog by Hannah Kaminsky, vegan chef extraordinaire.

Now, if you are not one to spend countless hours in the kitchen there are a ton of cheese-alternatives packaged and ready to eat. In my opinion the best are Daiya, Dr. Cow and Follow Your Heart.

These three companies have excelled at the faux cheese and deserve a great big hug from Vegans worldwide. There are a ton of fake cheese out there on the market, but you will never know which ones you love until you give them all a go, and you will have to taste a few duds to find the few that appeal to you the most. If you are looking to make a pizza Daiya or Follow Your Heart, if you are looking to host a wine and cheese tasting go for DR. Cow, and if you are looking to impress your friends, make the Mac N' Cheese recipe from above. The one thing you will discover as you go along in your Vegan journey is the longer you are away from a cheese-filled diet, the less you will miss it. You will discover so many different herbs and spices that a completely cheese-less pizza will be tantalizing, an alfredo sauce made with soymilk will be outstanding and a quesadilla make with yuca will be exquisite!

 If you have any recipe requests or vegan questions send them my way rikkihale@hotmail.com

Rikki Cupcake

Thanks Rikki!! You're the best.

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