Monthly Archives: April 2012

SunDried Tomato Mac & Cheese

This is a similar dish to the nacho mac and cheese that Brent and I concocted not long ago. This is sundried tomato mac. You’ll need the following:
1 14.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained or 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked
1 lemon
1 pinch chili powder
1/4 cup sundried tomato, minced
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup chopped basil (optional)
8 ounces of vegan cheese (we used Ste. Martaen colby)

I started by sauteing the chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice and chili powder. When the chickpeas started to steam and soften I added the onion, and dry herbs and stirred until the onions became translucent.

Add the cheese and tomato, then stir until it’s melty. When the pasta is ready, stir in the sauce and basil. It’s an incredibly simple meal and delicious.

The tomato gives this dish a richer color than it would have otherwise and it’s flavor is made to match. We love easy, quick decadent dishes like this one after an intense exercise session.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off.

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The Vegan Survival Guide – Chapter 1 : Salvage

While this blog has loads of excellent ideas for meals, snacks, and other nomulous goodies, it doesn’t tell you how to survive when what you make doesn’t exactly look/taste/smell as good as expected. This post is to help you when the situation strikes.

A mantra I live by is ‘Enough hot sauce and anything can taste good’ has helped me recover what would otherwise be a disastrous snack or meal. Here are some of my favorites.

Tapatío

Tapatío is there if you want to make something burny spicy. I’ll be the first to admit that doesn’t sound very nice, but I like burny… most times. It can overcome flavors that are otherwise unpleasant. Whether it’s the sauce laying waste to your taste buds or enhancing the flavor is up for debate. Bottom line : It works.

 

 

Cholula 

This hot sauce is milder than Tapatio, and that’s alright. It adds more flavor as opposed to burning, and that’s pretty badass. It certainly adds spice, don’t get me wrong. But it’s mild enough that it shouldn’t tear your mouth apart when mixing it in with / topping something. Bonus : It also comes in a chipotle variety.
( *m*)

 

Sriracha

Pronounced ‘cock sauce’,* this chili sauce is divine. It really goes on most anything really really well. It works best with rice dishes, in my opinion, but I’ll reiterate that any food will fall before Sriracha.

 

 

Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce

This sauce has become my new mistress of sorts. To me, the balance of spice and flavor is excellent. It adds a little salty flavor (from the vinegar), and a good amount of spice that won’t leave you on the toilet the next morning wondering if you dropped the soap on the show Oz. A special note : Buffalo wing sauces often use butter as an ingredient. Moore’s does not, and uses margarine instead. This is very important to look out for if you want to keep your vegan powers.

Salsa

While not really hot sauce, per se, salsa can be the missing ingredient when salvaging a meal. You’ll be getting additional veggies and salt (depending on how you or the manufacturer prepares it), as well as something to enhance/drown the flavor of your food. Keep some on hand just in case.

As you venture forth into the vegan unknown, there are some tools you will want to keep handy so as to save what you will undoubtedly spend what seems like endless time preparing. Granted, this is true for all culinary learning experiences, not just for vegans. However, as a vegan you may find yourself cooking for yourself more than you ever did before. The take home message here is to not throw it out if it’s gnarly; try using some spicy condiments instead. What are some of your tricks to save meals that don’t quite come out right?

*Not really, but it appeals to my inner 12 year-old

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Fiddleheads and Ramps: Wild Harvest!

Nothing screams spring to me quite like fiddleheads and ramps. Fiddleheads are the newly budding tips of ferns that are common to the Northeast and ramps are wild leeks. The two make a fabulous pair and can make any meal visually stunning and delicious.
Fiddleheads are the easier of the two to recognize. They can be harvested from several different varieties of ferns: cinnamon fern, royal fern, zenmai and vegetable fern. These grow all over the world but aren’t cultivated by farmers. If you decide to harvest your own, the rule is to harvest fewer than half the fiddleheads from any one plant to allow the plant to survive the assault and produce again the next year. Be careful that you know your ferns, some are thought to be carcinogenic; specifically ostrich fern and royal fern. That being said, this isn’t quite as harrowing as hunting wild mushrooms. Note which varieties of ferns grow in a particular area when they develop fully and then you’re set for the next spring when you go fiddlehead hunting! Caveats being made, these vegetables are an incredibly tasty,  nutritious and filling addition to any meal and they also can be stored by freezing.
The flavor in ramps varies from root to tip. The bulbs have an intense and unique flavor that marries the best elements of onion and garlic. The stem is reminiscent of scallions and the leaves remind me of spinach with a touch of asparagus flavor. Subsequently, I advocate using as much of the plant as possible since the entire plant is harvested and the whole thing is delicious.
When I was a kid we would make this dynamic duo into a salad with chicken and toasted nuts. I loved the flavors but was terrified of chicken and egg products that sat at room temperature for hours and hours. Horrifying thoughts aside, Brent and I decided to try it with soy curls instead and were delighted with the result.
To start you’ll want to gather the following ingredients.
1.5 cups dry soy curls
3 cups water
1 cube veggie bouillon
15 ramp bulbs, peeled and ends chopped off
chopped ramp greens
ramp stems, the red sections, chopped
1/2 cup fiddleheads
1/2 cup vegenaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp flake red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup chopped toasted nuts (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
Prepare the water and bouillon in your microwave in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the water at one minute intervals until the bouillon dissolves with light stirring. Add the soy curls. Heat as before until the water is mostly absorbed. Saute with olive oil until lightly browned and crispy. I like to refrigerate this dish in order to cool it, but this salad is also delicious when warm.

Separate the bulbs, stems and greens from the ramps. Saute the bulbs

and fiddleheads until the fiddleheads start to get tender.
Add the greens and stir until they wilt. Refrigerate to cool, if desired.
Combine the soy curls, greens and red stems with the rest of the ingredients. We used Follow Your Heart grapeseed vegenaise. It’s pretty awesome. We also omitted the cranberries. Serve on toasted bread.If you don’t have ramps and fiddleheads, substitute asparagus for the fiddleheads, spinach for the ramp greens, green onion for the ramp stems, and leeks for the ramp bulbs. Wow… that’s way more complicated. If you’re sensitive to soy, seitan or chickpeas would make a great substitute for soy curls. If you’ve got an allergy to pecans, toasted sunflower seeds have a great flavor and crunch.

Really, this stunning and delicious. It was crisp herbal flavors married to the nutty savory soy curls all mellowed out by lemon and vegenaise. We had it with a crisp glass of red wine and savored a lazy Sunday.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!
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Soy Curl-dereta

I decided to add a new item to my Veganized Filipino Dishes collection: Caldereta. I think of caldereta as a Filipino pot roast or beef stew of sorts. The traditional dish is made with goat meat, however, beef is usually used. In general, the meat is cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, peas, and green olives. A lot of people add liver or liver paste, or raisins; my family doesn’t. (Side note: raisins in my food? *gag*)

I was originally going to make the caldereta the usual way but with no meat, but then I remembered that I had a bag of soy curls. This is my first time making anything with (or eating) soy curls, so there was a bit of an unknown here. I’ll admit that I worried that the soy curls would ruin the whole thing, but I decided to take the risk.

Soy Curl Caldereta

1 cup soy curls
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, cut into chunks (or 1 cup whole baby carrots)
1 cup potatoes cut into chunks
1/2 to 1 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup peas
handful green olives (add as little or as many as you’d like)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 packet Mama Sita’s Caldereta Spice Mix (yeah, yeah… I’m lazy)

First, I prepped all my veggies. Then I threw some olive oil into a medium pot, browned the garlic, and then added the water over medium heat. When the water started to boil, I added the potatoes, carrots, and the seasoning and covered until it started to simmer.

I uncovered the pot and added the tomato sauce. I mixed it around a bit and then lowered the heat and covered the pot. While that was simmering, I took my cup of soy curls and rehydrated them in a bowl of water.

By the time the dish was simmering nicely, the soy curls were ready. I don’t know what I was expecting when it came to the soy curls. I knew they would be soft, but I wasn’t prepared for the smell. It was as if I had been instantly transported to a grocery store in Argyle.

After the soy curls were heated, I topped off the pot with the rest of the ingredients, covered the pot, and let it sit over low heat for about 5 minutes. You can leave over the heat for longer; I like wanted my peppers to retain some of their crunch.

Serve the dish over rice. Some things to note:

  • The Mama Sita mix contains garlic powder, onion powder, and other spices; it’s vegan.
  • This turned out very sweet. I”m not sure if it’s because of the tomato sauce, the amount of carrots I used, or what. It’s sweet.
  • Red peppers are usually used. I happened to have green in the fridge.
  • Because the traditional version uses meat, this tends to simmer for much longer with the meat, which I’m sure has a lot to do with the flavoring and the final texture of the dish. I might add some beef broth next time I make this.

This was a fun experiment! –Melissa

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Cuban Inspired Shepherdless Pie

After working with plantains more often, I wanted to try a vegan shepherdless pie using ingredients popular in cuisine from our island neighbor to the South. Cuban food commonly has a lot of interesting vegan elements: plantains, yuca, beans, rice and bananas. I’m a big fan of those things so this dish made sense. This is what we started with for the mashed plantains:
8 plantains (8 fist sized potatoes would work too)
1/4 cup of Diaya cheese
1/2 cup of soy milk (any non-dairy milk will work, almond if you’ve got a soy allergy)
2 tbsp vegan margarine

I peeled the plantains and put them into water to boil. Plantains and potato have similar nutritional profiles except that plantains have a significant amount of vitamin A, where potato has none. They’re both starchy, provide vitamin C, and are free of fat and cholesterol. Getting back to business, while that was happening I prepared the filling with the following ingredients:
1 white onion, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of black beans, soaked overnight or 1 can of beans, partially drained
1 can of diced tomato
10 okra, ends removed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. frozen corn kernels
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and chili powder to taste

I browned the onion, garlic and jalapeño along with the cumin until the onion became translucent. Then we added the okra, tomato, beans, corn and cilantro and stirred until everything was steamy and sticky from the okra.

Brent took the plantains and combined them with the milk, cheese and margarine and mashed them until they were gloriously creamy. They were really dry so you might need to add more soy milk depending on your plantains (or potatoes).Check out that radical dedicated mooshing face.

He also prepared a base layer in our baking dish of tortillas and daiya to aid in scooping but it’s not necessary.

He spread the mashed plantains over the hot veggies and we put it into the oven for 20 minutes at 350C/175F until it was bubbly and delightful.

It was a hearty filling meal, loaded with vegetables and flavors. It made even better leftovers after everything had a night to marinade in it’s own juice.

Next time I might tweak the seasoning but overall it was a success. We ate half the tray and the rest is disappearing fast.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off.

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Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Brent and I were craving comfort food (somehow this happens more often than not). We decided to whip up some tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. For the soup we gathered the following:

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

olive oil

1/4 cup of lightly chopped basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 28 ounce tin of crushed tomato

1/2 cup of almond milk (soy, coconut or rice milk are fine too)

salt and pepper to taste

In a larger pot, I sauteed the onion, garlic and olive oil until the onion began to carmelize. I added the herbs and stirred until it became fragrant. I added the tomato and stirred in the milk. Then I adjusted the salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, Brent sliced the bread and baked it 3 minutes in a 350C/175F oven until it started to get toasty. Then he added a few leaves of spinach and placed a few slices of Follow Your Heart cheese on top. We baked that until the cheese started to melt, another 5-8 minutes.

We’ve been getting good vegan and gluten-free bread from a local lady who is a master baker. To conserve the delicious bread we decided to have open faced sandwiches. We dipped them into the soup and it was pretty awesome. The tart tomato met the creamy cheese, nutty bread and the herbal elements in the spinach and herbs to make a great meal.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Blueberry Banana Smoothies!

It was an uncharacteristically lovely day here in South Florida (and that’s really sayings something) so I decided to whip up some smoothies to enjoy on the balcony while the sun went by. Anyone can do this with a good blender and some fruit, fresh or frozen. I get bananas every week but sometimes they are too ripe for breakfast and then they go into a bag in my freezer. That’s what I used for this recipe.
1.5 frozen bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp carob powder
1 tsp maca powder
1 inch of a bourbon cured vanilla bean
almond milk (use soy milk if you’re sensitive to nuts)
I covered the frozen fruit in almond milk and blended until it was smooth. We ended up with a nutritious frosty treat. I was kind of excited about how well it turned out in terms of flavor and because we had to eat it with a spoon.

Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to extract nutrients from what we eat. While people often supplement their diet with vitamin pills, there’s no substitute for the foods that are the source of those nutrients. This is particularly true of the nutrients that we don’t yet understand (like resveratrol) and those which we aren’t yet aware are important. What I mean to say is, if you need vitamins to attain “complete” nutrition, then there’s something wrong with your diet. We should all get to know our food a little better; it’s really fascinating.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. Bananas are a great source of electrolytes and folate. Almond milk provides a dearth of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and omega fatty acids. Sadly, the calcium and vitamin D in almond milk are added, but almonds themselves are a source of micronutrients that you just can’t get from dairy milk, like choline, omega fatty acids, and iron. Bananas, blueberries and almond milk comprise the bulk of the treat but what about the minor ingredients?

Carob gives a chocolate flavor without the mild stimulant effect of chocolate that comes from an alkyloid called theobromine (the stimulant in tea). I would have used cocoa powder if this was a morning instead of lazy afternoon snack. As far as I’m concerned, cocoa and carob are indispensable ingredients for vegan cooking. Carob and maca are both rich in trace minerals like selenium and magnesium. Maca gives a nutty flavor and combined with vanilla and carob gave the whole thing a richness that I would swear by. Maca contains a notable compound called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate (I know, I know… quit it with the molecule-speak). This particular compound is probably what gives maca it’s reputation as an aphrodisiac and maca is currently being investigated for its apparent effects on mental and reproductive health. Vanilla is exactly that: apparently boring but indispensable as a flavoring. You don’t really notice when it’s there but you definitely know something is wrong when it’s not. Vanilla was the finishing ingredient for marrying the rest of the flavors: fruity, nutty, chocolatey and smoothed them out into something special. 

Thanks for checking out my rant on whole foods and I hope you get to eat something as delicious and nutritious as this in your near future… or at least when it warms up wherever you are.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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A Little Soy on Soy Action

I have made a soy sauce/tofu dish before, the delicious Tofustek! which is a veganized version of a Filipino comfort food. I considered making Tofustek! tonight but wanted something a little more interesting. I contemplated how I could season the tofu differently and came up with something surprisingly sexy. And by ‘sexy,’ I mean ‘pretty damn tasty.’

Melissa’s Sesame Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu, sliced into thin ‘steaks’
2 tablespoons soy sauce or your preferred alternative
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
red pepper flakes (optional)
sesame seeds
green onion, chopped

First, I sliced the tofu and set the slices up to dry. While they were drying, I took my empty and rinsed out tofu container, threw in the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice and red pepper flakes, and mixed them all together. I fired up a frying pan and started heating some safflower oil, just enough to coat the pan. While it was warming up, I sprinkled some sesame seeds onto a plate. I dipped my tofu steaks in the sauce and then dipped them in the sesame seed plate. I only wanted a light sprinkling of sesame seeds, but you can crust it on there if you want (you may then also want to dip your tofu in some flour so the sesame seeds stick better).

As I finished coating each steak, I placed them in the pan. I fried the steaks for awhile — I wanted the tofu to have a sturdy texture. I flipped them every few minutes. When they looked nearly done, I tossed some green onion into the pan and flipped the tofu a couple more times.

I took some leftover rice and fried it up in the pan. It soaked up whatever sauce was still lingering. I still had some sauce and ginger bits left so I threw that in the rice along with some more green onion. I had a side of raw carrots which really complimented the dish. My dessert of fresh papaya made this a dinner to remember.

So easy. So few ingredients. Very flavorful and filling.

Stay sexy, friends! –Melissa

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Where do you get your protein?

I come from a family that loves meat and dairy. Sound familiar?

My dad doesn't really look like this.

My dad is an avid bow hunter. My mother is down with Paula Dean. My brother and I were certainly a product of them. That is, I freaking loved meat and cheese. Upon challenging myself to be vegan, I had to re-educate myself about what food was good for me. Being disgustingly close to a scientist/vegan makes for delicious amounts of good information.

Ultimately the question from my family is always — always — “How do you get your protein?” Without going into an anthropological diatribe reminding you and them how our LCA likely survived best on nuts and plants gathered rather than from the often rotten scavenged meats the males would kill themselves to get, I will throw down a quick list of vegan goodies that are high in protein.

Peas

Peas are the overlooked powerhouse of the western diet. Not only are they jam packed with vitamins and minerals your body craves, but they offer a generous dose of protein to keep you strong like young bull (5.9g/100g).  Protip : Stay away from canned peas… or canned anything for that matter.

Beans

They don’t just make you toot; they make you strong. A cup of cooked beans can yield 12g of protein. That’s pretty gangster if you ask me. I prefer black beans when I get the choice (read : when cooking). I like the flavor more than green beans, and I stay away from refried beans. While that seems limiting, the nutritional benefit is nothing to scoff at and there are loads of ways to prepare them.

Soy Beans

I had to put these separately as they provide such an insane amount of protein. 68g per cup, is what I’m reading. Unreal. I also had to put this separately as I know some folks who are allergic to soy. That really really really sucks.

Lentils

I love lentils. Lentil soup is amazing. Lentils with rice and quinoa is killer. What’s more is how they provide such an unreal amount of nutritional substance. 18g protein per cup? Yes please. Protip : If you sprout lentils before consumption (soak for more than 8 hours) you get all of the essential amino acids. By themselves.

Seeds

Here’s a fun one. Pumpkin seeds can provide 74g protein per cup. Eat them like sunflower seeds and crack the shell. Or eat them whole when cooking them in something. Better still, grind/blend up the seeds and make the pasty substance into something delicious!

Nuts

Nuts are awesome for protein, but the consequence for all that delicious flavor is a lot of extra fat and whatnot (20g protein per cup, but 48.11g fat too). That’s not to say that one should avoid nuts, but if looking for a lean way to get protein, nuts should be used sparingly. Almonds are a solid go-to and are now made into all sorts of goodies.

Asparagus

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have asparagus. Not a lot of fat, but not a whopping amount of protein either (2.95g protein per cup, .16g fat per cup /underwhelmed). But consider that the human body isn’t meant to get 200g protein a day, folks. Rather, the average should be somewhere around 50-60g for men, 40-50g for the ladies. Then again, I’m not a nutritionist, and these numbers vary on height and weight. This should give you a nice jumping off point, though.

Final Thoughts

By being vegan, you don’t have to sacrifice protein. In fact, you shouldn’t. Your body effing needs it. I hope this post helps point you to the threshold of the myriad of options you have as a vegan to get your protein. Protein doesn’t just come from milk, cheese, eggs, meat. Some of the best protein comes from anything but meat and dairy. That said, this is not a comprehensive list by any means. There are loads of other protein sources out there. What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.

Peas out, my vegans.

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The Cheese Post 1.1

This post is all about vegan cheese. Cheese is probably the most difficult to replace of any of the animal products we eat every day so finding good substitutes is very important. Brent and I have been fortunate to try a big variety of vegan cheeses and we’re about to weigh in on what we’ve tried.

Daiya This company makes shreds in three flavors as well as 5 pound blocks. Pepperjack, mozzarella and cheddar shreds are perfect for pizzas, quesadillas, or cheesy potatoes/rice/pasta/etc. Shreds is really the genius of this particular product, making it incredibly user friendly. The texture of the shreds is reminiscent of store bought shredded cheese, the mid-priced kind. The block has an airy texture, also reminiscent of the cheap stuff and a flavor that is distinctly cheesy whether it’s cheddar, mozzarella or pepperjack. This is a great cheese for anything where you’d want melted cheese on top. As much as I love Daiya, I don’t like that it’s both high in calories and highly processed. In sufficient quantities, it also disrupts the digestive bliss I’ve achieved through being vegan and gluten-free and I suspect I’m not alone. That being said, I still use it frequently and have a few bags frozen at all times. It stores well when frozen. Their brand is very recognizable and only makes vegan products, I do like knowing I can grab something without discovering it’s not vegan when I get home. We’ll be trying their new wedges soon so check back with us. It costs $3-4 in stores or $6 online for an 8 ounce package of shreds. The 5 pound block and 5 pound bag of shreds sells for $45. It’s more than reasonable.

Dr. Cow This company makes a variety of macadamia nut and cashew nut cheeses. They’ve got a slightly gritty (to the eye) texture that spreads well at room temperature and slices well when chilled. I like all of the flavors but am a particular fan of the hemp seed and kale flavored varieties. Brent likes the blue green and dulse varieties best. This particular product isn’t cheesy in a traditional sense. It’s not trying to imitate cheese, it’s really a product unto itself, comparable to high priced specialty cheeses. The ingredient list is short and Christie approved: most everything in this cheese is  minimally processed (I consider drying or chopping to be a process… call me picky) and gets it’s delicious flavor from high quality simple raw ingredients. It contains nuts but is free of soy or gluten. I would serve this to friends or even strangers as an appetizer with crackers before a fancy meal. We’ve never tried their spreadable cheeses or granola products but we’ll let you know what we think when we do. Dr. Cow retails for $8-10 for a 2.6 ounce package. It’s worth every penny.

Eat in the Raw This company makes a range of parmesan substitutes made from nuts, nutritional yeast and other minimally processed raw ingredients. The flavors are great, the nutritional value is commendable and they make several varieties of which we have enjoyed Garlicky Green (shown), Chipotle Cayenne, and original. They’re great over pasta, on vegetables, pizza, popcorn or for whatever else you might use parmesan. It is equivalent to mid priced shaved parmesan. This product contains nuts but is free of gluten and soy. This product typically costs $5-6 for a 3 ounce shaker and $8-9 for 7 ounces. The big shaker is a good value.

Follow your Heart We tried the cheddar and mozzarella blocks. The texture was good but the flavor wasn’t quite there. We liked the mozzarella more than the cheddar but that isn’t saying much because mozzarella is Italian butter (according to Brent) and doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor. This cheese melted reasonably well and had fewer calories per ounce than Daiya but was just as highly processed. I would probably buy it again if better options weren’t available but that isn’t saying much. I’m kind of excited to try it on pizza. I’ve paid $4 at the supermarket and $6 online for a 10 ounce package, I think this is a reasonable price if you get it for $4-5.

Galaxy We tried their rice cheddar and found it tastes like Kraft singles. I probably wouldn’t buy it if I didn’t have to. It does melt well and makes kid friendly grilled cheese sandwiches. We weren’t drawn in enough by the taste (reminiscent of cheap store-bought) to be enticed try any other varieties. The ingredients were also highly processed… are you detecting a theme? While a lot of the ingredients were organic, they were also refined from their parent grain or legume. Ew. Let us know if we’re mistaken about this product but I didn’t think the flavor, nutrition and high calorie count were worth the texture. The other issue with their cheeses is that they also sell a  variety of casein based cheeses. Casein is milk protein and isn’t vegan. It’s not a problem with their vegan line, per se but it makes me sad. It’s easy to find their non-vegan cheese in standard supermarkets and rarely the vegan and that’s not helpful. I’m not excited enough about it to seek it out. Their vegan parmasan is very good (like cheap store bought parmesan) but we usually buy Eat in the Raw varieties because I like the ingredients better. It usually costs $4 for 6 ounces. Their parmesan is $5 for 4 ounces. They’re overpriced, in my opinion.

Heidi Ho Organic I’ve only tried the chipotle cheddar variety of this particular brand of cheese. It was definitely chipotle but we couldn’t detect any cheddar flavors in this cheese but definitely an odd garlic flavor, probably most reminiscent of mid-priced cheese. Their product was lower in calories than some and I wasn’t too put off by the ingredients since some of the flavors and textures were still recognizable. Their cheese contains nuts. My big issue (other than the weird taste) was that the texture was also spongy instead of soft or firm like I want cheeses to be in my mind (but not as bad as Ste. Martaen). It melted but not in the traditional sense; it got soft but didn’t lose it’s shape and become stringy. I think it’s fine for cooking but so far other vegan cheeses have won out in that category both in taste and texture. I still want to try their other varieties. You’ll pay $6-8 for an 8 ounce block. I wouldn’t pay more than $4.

Sheese We tried the blue cheese, gouda, mild cheddar and smoked cheddar versions of their block cheeses. We liked the texture and the value but found the flavors odd. I really enjoyed the blue cheese, gouda and smoked cheddar flavors but substitute the blue cheese for feta and gouda for goat when I use it in salads. The texture is harder, like wax but not waxy and slices well. The ingredients were highly processed and includes soy but are free of nuts and gluten. It’s pretty good right out of the box but not all flavors are created equally. We never got to cook with it but if and when we do, I’ll let you know. We also tried their garlic and herb creamy sheese. It wasn’t great but that didn’t stop us from eating it; the soy flavor was very strong. Usually you can find their 8 ounce wheels and tubs for $7. Either you like this product or you don’t, whether or not its worth it is up to the individual.

Ste. Martaen We tried the muenster, pepperjack, olive, colby, and smoked gouda. They all had great flavor but the texture was very off putting. I ended up using this cheese to cook and was pleased that it was low calorie and melted to something creamy and flavorful but this cheese isn’t suitable for eating right out of the container. The texture was spongy and the liquid flavoring oozed out of it when you start to chew it or even if I just squeezed it between my fingers. The ingredients were not objectionable and include algae (very clever) and nuts but not soy or gluten. I’m worried that it got frozen or something and it negatively affected the texture of this product. I can’t imagine people would rave about it the way they do if that wasn’t the case. I’ll certainly buy it again just for the awesome low fat, lower calorie, cholesterol free mac & cheese we’ve made with it. It’s $7 for a 8 ounce block. Since I wouldn’t eat it right out of the package, Teese is a better value for sauces and Daiya is better on pizza.

Teese We tried their cheddar and mozzarella. I am a huge fan of the mozzarella. The cheddar isn’t my favorite but I do buy it from time to time. The mozzarella is great on pizzas, in mac & cheese, or right out of the package. Some of the ingredients were highly processed and therefore objectionable but the end product is not. It’s free of nuts and gluten. It’s got a smooth cheesy texture and even though it has a distinct soy aftertaste, it’s a great mozzarella substitute, cold or hot. It makes a great pizza topping or mozzarella and tomato salad. It’s a really versatile cheese substitute. I’m interested in trying their other varieties. I’ve paid $4-5 for 10 ounces. I think it’s a great value.

Tofutti Tofutti’s cream cheese is the best we’ve tried so far but we’re always searching for better options. The ingredients are pretty typical and it has a strong soy flavor. It’s got a great texture and is spreadable, very reminiscent of dairy cream cheese. I’m looking forward to trying some of their other products. I haven’t paid more than $4 for an 8 ounce tub. It’s a good price but keep in mind we’re planning to review 2 other brands of vegan cream cheese. The opinion may change. Change is good!

That’s it for the cheese post. Check back as we test out more vegan cheese alternatives. As you can see, there are a lot of healthy alternatives including several great ones (Diaya, Eat in the Raw, Dr. Cow and Teese being my favorites) and a lot of good ones (Ste. Martaen, Follow Your Heart, and Sheese). Dairy cheese is 5 cents to 3 dollars for an ounce (Velveeta to fancy manchego). You’ll pay 50 cents to 3 dollars per ounce of vegan cheese with the average being closer to fifty cents. Vegan might seem pricey compared to dairy cheese but if you consider the hidden costs and possible costs to your health, it’s a steal. We’ve always got our eye out for more so check back soon!

In the near future we’re going to try Daiya’s cheese wedges, Punk Rawk Labs nut cheeses, Vegetarian Express Parma Zaan and Wayfare Foods’ We can’t Say it’s Cheese Spreads. Please make any suggestions for vegan cheeses you’d like to see reviewed here.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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