Tag Archives: mozzarella

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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Italian Wraps!

We had some awesome looking sausage from Pure Market Express and we decided to make something simple with it so we could really appreciate the flavor.
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This was crazy easy, all we did was pile up some Muir Glen fire-roasted tomato, black olives, and sausage on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and topped it with some oregano and some Follow Your Heart mozzarella. I toasted it under our broiler until the cheese was melty and bubbly and then we scooped it onto a spinach lined wrap. I added some extra oregano and some flake red pepper. Brent added some vegan parmesan.

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It was as tasty as it looks. The sausage was a little sweet but I think I can balance it in the future with some garlic salt. This might make a better sub sandwich if you’re not sensitive to gluten or have easy access to gluten-free rolls but we’re using wraps since it’s what we’ve got.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Vegan Pasta Bake

This was an uncharacteristically un-lazy dish for me to make. It turned out pretty good considering that I was winging it from start to finish.

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You may not be able to easily make out the veggies in the bake from the photo above, but I assure you that they’re there. The veggies used can vary, depending on what you have in your fridge or what you’re simply in the mood to eat. I went with zucchini and carrots. Everything from the pasta to the sauce to the ‘cheese’ that you use can be varied. Below are the ingredients that I used.

Vegan Pasta Bake

8oz penne pasta
2 cans tomato sauce (you can use 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce)
1 block firm tofu, pressed and crumbled
1 pack Teese mozzarella vegan cheese
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 medium onion, minced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian herbs
salt and pepper

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While the water for the pasta was boiling and the oven was preheating to 350 degrees, I mixed my tofu crumbles with the spices and olive oil, and cut up the veggies, onion, and garlic.

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After the pasta was cooked and drained, I started placing the ingredients in a casserole dish. I tried to do it in layers: pasta, onions and garlic, tofu, veggies, teese. After all the veggies and pasta were in the dish, I poured the sauce over everything. I should have layered in the sauce as well. Duh. But it still turned out okay, so, yay!

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I was only about 95% happy with how this turned out, but I learned a lot of lessons making it. I hope to try it again with other veggies like spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, squash… and I’ll plan to have more veggies than pasta in it next time. –Melissa

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Speaking of Shrimp…

After posting about lobster mushrooms I did get a hankering for shrimp. So these exist…

I know, right? They look vaguely like the real thing and I’m here to tell you about it.I was excited that they’re gluten-free and soy-free. The ingredients are pretty good, mostly starch and flavorings. They’re low calorie and non-GMO. I thought they were a little expensive at $8 per package, particularly considering the ingredients, but I also don’t know how to make pseudo-shrimp at home.

I decided to cook them like any self respecting lover of shrimp would; I heated up a pan with copious amounts of Earth Balance butter and garlic.

They smelled divine, not fishy. Shrimp shouldn’t smell particularly fishy anyways as long as they’re fresh.

Sauteeing them I got a better idea of their texture. They’re slightly rubbery, like shrimp that you’re likely to find at most restaurants. I personally like the texture a lot.

After adding some pasta, sun dried tomato and Teese mozzarella to the mix, things were starting to look delicious.

We topped it with some fresh basil. It was a welcome change so far as dinner goes. I think they’d be great in stir fry or in gumbo but I’m not sure about as a shrimp cocktail. I’d buy these again. Let me know what you think if you get to try them!

 

This is Christie, signing off!

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Spicy Cheesy Toasty Toast!

I was serving some soup and was going to serve just plain old cheesy bread but decided to spice it up a little. I combined the following:

1/2 onion, diced

1 smaller tomato, diced

1 jalapeño, minced

1/4 cup TVP

I mixed these all together, adding the TVP until most of the moisture from the tomato was absorbed. I didn’t want soggy bread, don’t judge me.

I spooned the mix onto my bread (this is gluten-free and vegan made by a local lady), added a few slices of Follow Your Heart mozzarella and baked it up near the broiler so it would get toasty and delightful. It was at 400C/200F and for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully.

When I took it out, it was indeed toasty and delightful.

I’d do this again because it was quick, easy and delicious and had lots of veggies in it for something that barely took 15 minutes to make. I hope you get to try it!
This is Christie, signing off!

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Eggplant Parmesan for Dummies

My sister and I decided to have another one of our cooking challenges where we take a dish and make traditional and vegan versions of it. Our next dish was eggplant parmesan. I looked at several vegan recipes and decided that I was going to follow this one from Oh She Glows. It was a good plan until I botched a critical step (thus the ‘dummies’ part of the title). It doesn’t matter because I ended up with a great version of vegan eggplant parmesan anyway!

Vegan (and Soy-Free) Eggplant Parmesan

1 fat eggplant (I paid an arm and a leg for an eggplant from a place that rhymes with Shmole Broods and then saw prettier looking ones for $2 at a farmers market the next day. BLAST!)
1 c unsweetened and unflavored almond milk
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour (use a gluten-free flour for a GF version)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 c breadcrumbs
1 jar pasta sauce (I used Organicville Italian Herb pasta sauce)
1 pkg Daiya shredded mozzarella or other vegan mozzarella cheese

I cut my eggplant into 1cm slices and ended up with 14 slices. I then sprinkled some salt on the slices to draw out some of the water –I’m afraid I may have drawn out some of the flavor as well– and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Okay, now here’s where I screwed things up. While the eggplant was chilling out, I was supposed to mix together the milk, flour, vinegar, and spices. Instead, I mixed all that and the bread crumbs. Um. Yeah. Dummy. Oh She Glows calls for the eggplant slices to be dipped in the batter and then coated with the bread crumbs. There was no turning back once I added the bread crumbs, but I will say that it all smelled very good and mixed together nicely.

I had to get over my mentally challenged moment and work with what I had (big thanks to my sis for calming me down). First, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. Then, I grabbed a deep roasting pan, sprinkled the bottom with the bread crumb mixture, laid the eggplant on the crumbs, and then topped it off with the rest of the bread crumbs. I stuck it in the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I put a pot on the stove to cook pasta to go with the eggplant parmesan, cursing myself the entire time for being unable to follow a brilliant and simple recipe. I chose this spinach spaghetti from Shmole Broods. I tossed it in olive oil and freshly minced garlic.

After the eggplant had been baking for 20 minutes, I poured the entire jar of pasta sauce into the pan, sprinkled some more Italian seasoning on top, and baked for another 15 minutes. Then, I topped it off with the shredded Daiya (I didn’t use the entire package but you can) and baked for another 5 minutes.

It tastes as good as it looks, and I hope it looks good to you. Wondering how the traditional version turned out? We didn’t make one — this version worked for everyone, including my Italian brother-in-law.

I can now say that I’m pleasantly happy with how this turned out. I undoubtedly would have found a way to screw up the breading of the eggplant, and I probably would have ended up with a lot of unused breadcrumbs. This worked out quite well and is how I plan to make this dish in the future. –Melissa

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French Onion Soup Au Gratin, VEGAN style.

French onion soup is caramelized onions in beef broth along with bread (read: eggs, butter and milk) and cheese. Comfort food… are you surprised? This was a favorite of mine as a kid so Brent and I decided to make it ourselves. The only thing you might have to search for is “beef” bouillon and some good vegan cheese. I’m a big fan of Massel bouillon but most any wort will do.

We assembled the following:

4 onions, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp herbes de provence

juice from 1 lime

“beef” bouillon (I used Massel)

1/4 cup of red wine (optional)

salt to taste

You’ll also need bread and some sort of vegan cheese. We used some gluten-free bread we bought at a local market and Follow Your Heart Gourmet mozzarella. We just baked it in the oven on a tinfoil lined sheet for 10 minutes at 350F/175C until the cheese was melty and bubbly and the bread was toasty. The soup is only slightly more complicated.

In a medium put I sauteed the onion in lime juice and olive oil until the onions were lightly caramelized. Don’t stir them too much while waiting for them to caramelize or you’ll end up with a sticky mess.

When you find the amount of caramelization suits your taste, add about 1 liter of water, herbes, the bouillon and the red wine. Simmer 15 minutes, up to 45 if your guests are late… or you want to watch fireworks on your balcony. Salt to taste.

We put the melty cheesy bread into the onion soup and devoured it. This would make a great appetizer for a dinner party, especially if you put the bread into the bowl and bake it in ramekins so the cheese bubbles down the sides like it does in restaurants. For easier clean-up… do what we did. Happy comfort food that’s surprisingly good for you!

This is Christie and Brent, 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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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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