Tag Archives: cheese

Review: Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds

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I’ve been obsessed with making little pizzas ever since my visit with Jen. Follow Your Heart shreds are my favorite with Daiya coming in a close second. On a recent run to Trader Joe’s, I decided to pick up some of their branded Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds.

It gives me no pleasure to say that I thought the Trader Joe’s vegan cheese was, well, yucky.

The shreds have gotten favorable reviews. The positives are that the cheese melts well and is inexpensive compared to Daiya. It also has a lot more calcium in it. More than one review called it the opposite of Daiya, and that’s something that I totally agree with.

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The shreds are dry and thin. Upon opening the bag, I took a good whiff and it smelled like cheese. Unlike Daiya and Follow Your Heart, which retain their shape and color, the TJ shreds seemed to ooze into the rest of the ingredients. It definitely melts like real cheese.

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All my pizzas have these base ingredients: Flatout flatbread for the crust (this stuff is so great AND vegan), roasted red pepper, and pizza sauce (I really like the Safeway brand pizza sauce… and I am extremely sad that we will be losing our Dominick’s/Safeway stores in Chicago next month). I constructed the ‘za and baked it.

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I was definitely weirded out by the discoloration of the cheese and also some of the ooze factor. The first bite tasted had a really sharp taste. There’s definitely something in the cheese to give it this effect. Then, I felt like the cheese was sticking to my teeth and it felt very powdery in my mouth. I sometimes feel like Daiya has this sort of synthetic stickyness to it that I find annoying. This was worse.

I forced myself to eat the rest of the pizza, but I really had to force it down. I don’t think I will give Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds another chance. I’m really glad I tried it, but I would rather have a cheeseless pizza than use it again. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! –Melissa

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Epic Vegan Queso

We decided to take queso to the next level. Fortunately the preparation wasn’t epic; it is incredibly simple to make your own awesome queso at home.

You can start with Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso or any other pre-made vegan queso or make your own.

Take your vegan queso and combine it with the following:
1 15 ounce tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced and microwaved until soft
1 15 ounce tin of diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 package of Tofurkey soy Chorizo
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Then we microwave it until it’s hot, stirring every thirty seconds. This is perfect for a gathering with friends, even omnivores!

This is Christie, signing off!

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Tempeh Fajita Wraps

So we’re still on a wrap kick and so Brent decided to marinate some tempeh in some tamari, garlic and flake red pepper.
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I sauteed up with some purple onion, jalapeño, poblano pepper and a bit of corn oil.I like poblanos because they’re lightly spicy and don’t get bitter when cooked like bell peppers do.

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As the onion and pepper began to soften I added in the tempeh and stirred it all up until it was steamy and hot. I added the rest of the marinade too: it helped season the onion and pepper as well as providing some liquid to steam the veggies and keep them from scorching.

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Brent was busy making some saffron rice while I was doing this. We used a store bought baggie of Vigo saffron rice that cost us $1.89. It’s delicious all by itself.

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We chopped up some cilantro, red bell pepper and avocado to decorate our delicious fajitas with and ended up with a highly nutritious meal that was packed with flavor.

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Brent added some Daiya to his and I included some flake red pepper.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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The Cheese Post 6.1: Mac and Cheese

We like cheese but don’t like how it affects cows, the environment or our bodies so we spend a lot of time here at Turning Veganese trying vegan cheeses. Check this link for some of our older reviews.

We’ve been reviewing some mac and cheese varieties for you lovely people. I’ve had mac and cheese of one sort or another 5 times this week so I’m a little beleaguered; bear with me.  They’re all gluten free and vegan and we’re about to weigh in on how delicious they are and if they work well with our favorite addition: chopped tofu pups or tempeh and peas.

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Amy’s This particular variety is frozen, so it’s preparation is slightly less complicated than the others. For me the beauty of boxed mac and cheese is that I can throw it in a bag for vacation and don’t have to worry about it spoiling, obviously this variety didn’t fit that criterion but it’s still mac and cheese that’s gluten-free and vegan so we’re giving it a shot. This particular variety has a whopping 520 calories per serving and didn’t seem like a big serving compared to some of the others we tried. The mac and cheese itself was gooey, cheesy and delicious probably due to Daiya. The dish benefited slightly from adding a touch of hot sauce and black pepper but that’s just how I roll. At $4.89 it is only slightly more expensive than the boxed varieties, but it only feeds one person before or after the addition of peas and tempeh. The serving size, calories, price and perishability didn’t outweigh the flavor, unfortunately.

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Leahey Gardens This is our old favorite and we were pleased that it stood up to the competition. It is remarkably low calorie, 97 calories per serving and there are three in the bag. The sauce is rich and creamy and definitely lightly cheesy. It was well seasoned and all I needed to add was a touch of flake red pepper, some chopped tofu pups and about 1/2 cup of thawed frozen peas. It cost us $3.09 per bag which is more than enough for 2 people or one hungry one.

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Namaste Foods Say Cheez non-dairy seasoned gluten-free pasta requires no non-dairy milk. Only oil and salt are necessary to make this pasta. The whole bag contains 4 servings, clocking in at 270 calories each.  The ingredients are unobjectionable (notably hemp in included) until I get to the bottom of the list and they’ve added silicon dioxide; that’s sand for the less nerdy among us. I suppose I eat a little dirt every day but it seems unnecessary. The preparation is a little simpler – you cook the pasta, drain it and season it. It’s beautiful and smells great, though the sauce wasn’t convincing on its own. When we tasted it we were both a little disappointed: it tasted more like buttered noodles than mac and cheese. It did well with some damage control (the liberal addition of hot sauce of various varieties) but it’s definitely not mac and cheese. It cost $4.60 per package which was reasonable for the amount of food the package makes (almost too much for 2 people), just be warned it’s not what your mouth will be expecting with the advertisement of mac and cheese.

Outdoor Herbivore Quinoa “Cheddar” Mac comes modestly packaged. The ingredients were unobjectionable and the preparation was a cinch: bring water to a boil, add the ingredients and let it sit for 10 minutes. The pasta wasn’t quite al dente after 10 minutes so I brought it back to a simmer and let it sit 3 more minutes. As we ate it I discovered a drawback of the preparation method which was an occasional piece of less than cooked pasta. I do admire the simplicity of the process conceptually, but it didn’t quite work. When it came to the dish itself, we were both disappointed: the sauce tasted like onion powder and nutritional yeast than mac and cheese. I do love those ingredients but it wasn’t mac and cheese and it wasn’t seasoned enough. With the addition of tofu pups, peas, cumin, coriander, paprika, Braag’s aminos, flake red pepper, Tapatio hot sauce and garlic salt it was awesome. It cost $9.99 so it’s as expensive as Amy’s to feed 2 people. It wasn’t really worth tracking down.

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Road’s End Organics We’re trying the alfredo style brown rice pasta dinner first. The whole box, prepared, contains 2 servings at 330 calories each and the ingredients are organic and enriched with some awesome B vitamins from nutritional yeast. The instructions were straightforward and required about 10 minutes cook time. Unadulterated, the pasta was bland and the texture of the sauce was grainy. It is alfredo so I suppose the sauce wasn’t supposed to be a cheesy thrill, but Brent had some choice words about the texture of the sauce. The pasta itself was nothing special but definitely not bad. With the addition of tofu pups and peas that I sauteed in basil canola oil with flake red pepper, paprika and garlic salt… it was awesome. For versatility it’s a “GO!” Next we’re getting into their mac and chreese. This one was also 2 servings at 330 calories each. The nutritional info and preparation are very similar. We liked this one almost as much as Leahey Gardens: it’s creamy, lightly cheesy and the sauce has a nice texture. It’s AWESOME with peas and tofu pups that were sauteed in basil olive oil with flake red pepper. Feeding 2 people or one hungry one at $3.59 made it a decent deal but I don’t think it can replace Leahey Gardens’ mac and cheese in our kitchen.

Most of these brands offer wheat pasta varieties as well which will probably be cheaper than the gluten-free varieties and with the same delightful sauces which is what we’re really concerned about here, AMIRITE!?. Leahey Gardens was by far the cheapest and tastiest so if you come across it (we buy a few bags every time we order from VeganEssentials.com) TRY IT! Our second choice was Road’s End Organics Mac and Chreese, cheddar style… skip the alfredo.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Pasta a la Fauxlognese

As a kid, spaghetti bolognese was a favorite. It’s a rich meaty sauce wth lots of tomato and onion served with whatever pasta you tend to fancy. In this case, we’re using shirataki noodles and no meat. Shirataki noodles are great for those who are concerned about gluten and calories. If you use regular noodles, your fauxlognese will be more attractive than ours but just as tasty. You’ll want the following

1 onion, diced

3.4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp oregano

1 16oz tin of diced tomato

1 cup of TVP (reconstituted with water) or soy crumbles (Marion tofu crumbles work well here), chopped mushrooms can be substituted for those sensitive to soy

1 cube of “beef bouillon”

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and flake red pepper to taste

olive oil

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Add a dash of olive oil and the onion and garlic to your pan and saute until the onion starts to carmelize, stirring occasionally. Add the tofu crumbles or TVP and the dry spices.

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When everything is hot and fragrant, add the tomato. Mix it all up, stirring occasionally until hot and adjust the seasonings to your taste.

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Your sauce should look deceptively meaty. Top with some vegan parmesan, shredded basil or Daiya or just serve as is.

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This is a very kid friendly preparation of vegan fare, tasty and healthy to boot. I hope you get to try it!

This is Christie, signing off!

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The Cheese Post 5.0

We’ve got a lot of experience with vegan cheeses here at Turning Veganese. This is because I compulsively buy vegan cheese. What can I say; I’m vegan and I’m a hedonist.

As far as vegan cheeses go, some are good. Some are awesome. Some are not. Here’s a quick list of all our previous posts on cheeses we’ve tried.
The Cheese Post 1.1 covers some commonly available vegan cheeses.
The Cheese Post 2.0 includes the cream cheese challenge.
The Cheese Post 3.0 reviews some cheeses that are worth seeking out and some that aren’t.
The Cheese Post 4.0 looks at some sour cream and queso alternatives as well as ricotta and mozzarella substitutes.

So why all this emphasis on vegan cheese? It’s one of the hardest things to kick when you go vegan and probably the best source of saturated fat, cholesterol and bovine (goat or sheep) sex hormones that comes to my mind. I can’t have vegetables sauteed in butter without breaking out in acne. It makes me crazy… except that options are out there. We’re talking about some more options today so get your cheese loving muscles ready.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 9.56.13 AM Nutty Cow cheeses come in 3 flavors; garlic herb, maple walnut and ricotta. Before I was vegan I was not a big fan of ricotta and even now “maple walnut” and “cheese” together kind of weirded me out conceptually but the ingredients were unobjectionable (unless you’ve got a nut or soy allergy) and the price was right (free with our regular order from Vegan Essentials) Normally they cost $5.62 for 10 ounces. That’s a big container, for the record and a great price for a vegan cheese. Unfortunately it has a very short shelf life but it does freeze and thaw relatively well (I don’t think this is recommended). The maple pecan was very sweet. It wasn’t what I expected but it’s maple so when I moved on to the garlic herb and ricotta I was surprised to find it was also very sweet. The sweetener in this case is maple sugar which is a personal favorite, just that there was a little too much. It did make a great addition to sauces which was what happened to most of it. It was also somewhat grainy in texture which isn’t a problem for a spread but is a problem for sauces. I’m hoping they reformulate because they’re doing everything else right.

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Parmela is a nut based parmesan that I have to revisit. The first time I reviewed this product, I loved everything about this product except the price EXCEPT that they changed their packaging and reduced the price to about $1.75 per ounce. If you come across it in your search for good vegan cheeses, give this a try. It’s great on pizza, pasta or whatever you’d normally dust with parmesan cheese. There are definitely better values out there but Eat in the Raw parmesan might not convince ardent carnists.

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Pure Market Express has a line of nut cheeses that I got off Vegan Cuts and they were worth E-V-E-R-Y penny. Cheddar, tomato basil, gouda, creamy herb and jalapeño cilantro were all exactly what you’d expect: creamy, cheesy and lightly flavored to mimic (but not ersatz) their intended subject. The texture is prefect for spreading on crackers or toast though the tomato basil was full of welcome pieces of tomato. The ingredients are great (raw, whole foods) and it comes in a  recyclable package. Another bonus is that this product is meant to be stored frozen. I like frozen foods because I don’t feel pressured to eat them before they spoil. On their website you can buy these cheeses at $8 for 8 ounces which is a great value as far as I’m concerned. Ours arrived melted, we refroze it and it thawed creamy and delicious. I recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have a cashew allergy, vegan or not. It was awesome on a teff wrap with spinach, smoky maple tempeh, a touch of mustard and royal gala apple slices.

I’m sad to report that this is all we’ve got for you today. We’re still big on Punk Rawk Labs cheeses for cheese and crackers-type applications, Daiya of all shapes, sizes and flavors for casual cheesiness, Nacho Mom’s Voodoo queso for late night snacking, and a few others including Parmela for our pasta and pizza needs (I got some for cheap on Vegan Cuts; when it runs out I might go back to Eat in the Raw). Pure Market Express might very well replace Punk Rawk Labs (which replaced Dr. Cow’s) given the price and variety of flavors. That about wraps it up.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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NACHOS!

Brent and I like to play video games together. Nothing says “gamer” like junk food so that’s where this is headed. All you really need is tortilla chips and Daiya but crumbled seasoned tofu, olives, chopped jalapeño, diced tomato or onions, salsa, Tofutti sour cream and a lot of other things can help bring your nachos up a notch.

We baked ours in the oven to melt the Daiya after adding seasoned crumbled tofu, salsa, jalapeño, onion and salsa. A little fresh cilantro would have made this unstoppable but its absence didn’t stop us from devouring it.

I le recommend, especially if you’ve got a football game or a video game in your future.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Fajita Pizza

I’ll have to start in advance by thanking the ZenCat Bakery for the pizza crust but the rest was all about what we had in the refrigerator. There wasn’t any traditional pizza or pasta sauce but we did have some salsa so I knew what we had to do.

I started by sauteing a chopped onion with a diced jalapeño, chopped garlic and some flake red pepper. When the onion began to soften I added some soy curls that Brent prepared with some Brag’s amino acids and cayenne pepper.

I sauteed them until the extra liquid from the soy curls was absorbed. I seasoned it with a little additional onion powder, cumin, coriander, a touch of garlic salt and some garlic powder.

I topped the crust with some salsa and then my fajita mix and then some more salsa. We topped it with Daiya mozzarella (though pepper-jack might have been better) and then I baked it according to Zen Cat bakery’s instructions.

It’s good to have frozen pizza crusts around. It’s a great way for us to have whatever veggies in the fridge that need munching and it’s faster than making pasta. This pizza disappeared quickly and Brent’s face lit up at the possibility of doing it again. We will…

 

This is Brent and Christie, signing off.

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The Cheese Post 4.0

Here at Turning Veganese, Brent, Melissa and I can agree that cheese is the hardest habit to kick when transitioning from a carnist to vegan lifestyle. We’ve made 3 previous posts about cheeses we’ve tried and whether or not we liked them, were useful, thought the ingredients and nutritional profile were an improvement and if we thought they were a good value. We’ve managed to track down a few more vegan cheeses and wanted to share them with you.

Better than Ricotta by Tofutti was  stunningly similar to ricotta. The ingredients include soy but it’s free of nuts, dairy and gluten so it’s suitable for people with those sensitivities. It’s pretty high in calories, equal to that of regular cheeses so I’ll probably stick with home-made tofu ricotta which is also considerably cheaper compared to the $5.49 or about 30 cents per ounce.

Better than Sour Cream, also by Tofutti is another product that we liked the flavor but found the nutrition lacking and the ingredients highly processed. It also contains soy but is free of nuts and gluten making it suitable for some common food allergies but not others. Making you own at home is probably more budget friendly but this makes a great taco topping in a pinch. Making your own will be a better bet in terms of nutrition and price. It’s priced at $3.49 for 12 ounces.

We Can’t Say it’s Sour Cream by Wayfare Foods had a great calorie profile at 35 calories per ounce and is free from soy, gluten or nuts (except for coconut). The taste and texture were a little confusing. It tasted kind of like sour cream but more like Tofutti’s Better than Cream cheese. The texture was also more like cream cheese than sour cream, even after we mixed the top layer of liquid into the bulk of the product. It cost us $3.99 for 16 ounces making it a better value than Tofutti but I suspect that a lot of people wouldn’t be convinced by the flavor and texture to really enjoy it.

Free & Easy Cheese Sauce mix is more of a flavoring than a cheese substitute but can help make things that are supposed to be cheesy taste like something approaching white cheddar. The ingredients are pretty processed but mostly inoffensive and are suitable for someone with nut, soy or wheat allergies. The container says there are 12 servings in the can but I don’t think you need as much as they say to get the flavor they’re advertising. You can add this to sauces, nut or lentil pate, soy-curl “chicken” salad and anything else that you’d want to have a cheesy kick. With this product, a little goes a long way so it’s a pretty good deal at $6.95 for a 130 gram container.

Nacheez This particular cheese was low in calories (20 per ounce) and the ingredients were relatively unprocessed and inoffensive, though it does contain nuts. It’s a great source of B vitamins, iron and Vitamin C. The flavor is pretty good, though we had to add cayenne to make the ‘spicy’ version spicy enough for our taste. It microwaved well in its glass container turning into a molten pot of awesomesauce that’s great for dip at a party or pouring over your favorite taco recipe. It was a little pricey at $6.99 or 82 cents per ounce.

Mozzarisella is something I’ve been excited about because I’ve been seeing rave reviews. It comes packaged like Teese and has a softer texture. The ingredients are not particularly objectionable but the cheese has no particular nutritional value. When we actually got to tasting it, I found it had an oddly chemical flavor and Brent’s remark was that it was “like sucking on a garden hose”. We might have gotten a bad batch but I don’t think I’ll be buying it again. Even at a sale price of $7.95 ($2 less than retail) it wasn’t worth it for 7 ounces.

Parmela has a standout list of ingredients and a nutritional profile and flavor to match. I think the packaging is a great addition because it’ll look nice on your table at a fancy party when you’re serving pasta but I think it’s a little pricey at $3.99 or $1.60 per ounce. I’ll probably stick to Parma by Eat in the Raw. Parma also contains nuts so neither is suitable for those with nut allergies.

Vegan Queso by Food for Lovers does not contain nuts like Nacheez but does contain gluten so this is suitable for people with nut allergies but not for those who are sensitive to gluten. It’s very close in flavor, ingredients and nutrition to Nacheez and is similarly great for use as a dip or a topping for enchiladas or your favorite TexMex cuisine. A little cayenne and a microwave is all it needs! It’s sold at $5.99 or 50 cents per ounce which is a better deal as long as you’re not sensitive to gluten.

So we’ve shown you some more of the cheeses we’ve managed to get our hands on and  hope you’ll get to try and decide for yourself. Also let us know your favorites and if we haven’t tried them, we’ll give it a spin.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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Bacon, Peas and Mac & Cheese!

Bacon in macaroni and cheese is something that would never have happened in my house growing up… now that I think about it, mac and cheese wasn’t something that happened in my house growing up… so this was a treat. All we did was grab a bag of Leahey Gardens gluten-free Mac and Cheese (a personal favorite because it’s easy, delicious and low calorie) and prepare the pasta as instructed.

Once that was done we mixed in a diced tomato to keep the pasta from sticking. Meanwhile I started the sauce with some unsweetened plain almond milk, a generous sprinkle of cayenne, a dash of flake red pepper and a cup of frozen peas.

Brent browned some tempeh bacon to perfection!

The peas and mac looked perfectly appetizing to me but we had to take it one step further and add bacon.

I did find it to be a remarkably pleasant adddition: the smoke of the bacon with the salty cheesy sauce and sweet peas was exactly the kind of comfort food we needed that particular evening. Enjoy!

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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