Monday, August 15, 2011

No Cheese?!?

"I could never be vegan.  I'd miss cheese too much!"  

Do you know how many times I've heard this?  Countless.  It seems like the biggest obstacle on the road to veganism is hunk of cheddar.  Or mozzarella.  I get that.  I, too, uttered those same words, back when I was vegetarian and a friend had become vegan.  It just seemed like too big of a sacrifice to give up cheese.  Maybe if I hadn't found out I was lactose intolerant it would have been more difficult.  Instead, cheese was the first thing I eliminated from my diet, even before chicken, eggs, and fish.  Did I miss cheese?  That's like asking Weird Al if he misses Spam.  Of course!  (Okay, he's a vegetarian now so maybe he doesn't really miss eating Spam but I'm sure it will always hold a special place in his heart.)

So I gave up cheese.  And I missed it.  At first, I tried anything that might remotely resemble melted cheese.  I bought The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and made my own mozzarella for pizza (not a success).  I made cheese sauce for nachos (successful, though not quite a proper substitute).  Then Teese came out and although it wasn't very good, it pseudo melted so I embraced it.  I could finally have grilled cheese sandwiches again!

Most recently, Daiya came on the scene, and you would have thought that vegan heaven opened it's doors and sent it down on an oozy, melty cloud.  Vegans were storming Whole Foods for it, buying packages at a time, and putting it on anything they could get their hands on.  Is Daiya delicious?  Yes.  Does it melt?  Yes.  Do I eat it?  Not often.  

You see, somewhere over the course of the past few years two things happened.  One, I got used to eating things without cheese.  I love that I can taste the sauce and toppings on a pizza when cheese isn't masking their flavors.  Two, I started really reading the labels on Teese and Daiya and wasn't all that impressed with what I read.  They're processed, have a lot of ingredients I've never heard of, and aren't exactly low in fat.  They go in my "vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy" category.  

Now, don't think that I'm all anti-vegan cheese and have banished it forevermore.  (I have to admit that I am guilty for using Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese on a bagel now and again.  I'm only human!)  No, I think it still has it's place but it's certainly not something I use often.  That being said, I am still intrigued by new vegan cheese products that come out, always curious and hoping that something slightly healthier might come along.  

A little while ago, I bought a vegan cheese sauce called Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso (original flavor).  It has a short ingredient list consisting almost entirely of items I could find in my own kitchen.  The base is nutritional yeast, which is something I use on a regular basis to add a "cheesy" flavor to popcorn, pasta, and kale chips or kale salad.  Along with having normal ingredients, it is also fat-free and very low in calories.  In fact, there are only 160 calories in the entire jar!  (So if you went on a bender and ate it all in one sitting, you wouldn't be doing too bad, even if you were dipping tortilla chips.)

So I ordered it and did what I always do when I get a new product - put it in the pantry and forgot about it until it was just about the expire.  

Last week we had a really good loaf of French bread so Brian and I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches.  I was going to buy some Daiya but then remembered the Nacho Mom's.  It's spicy so while not ideal for grilled cheese, I already had it so I thought why not.  The good thing about it is that it's a sauce, so you don't have to worry about melting.  I put some heirloom tomato slices on the bread, smothered it with Nacho Mom's, and toasted it in a dry pan.  It was very thick, creamy, spicy, and nacho-y.  

I had some left and decided it would be good with quesadillas.  Last night I made the Summer Succotash Quesadillas from the blog Peas and Thank You - with a few slight variations.  (Click on the link to get the recipe.)

  • Instead of covering an entire tortilla with filling and then topping it with a second tortilla, I used one, put the filling on one half, then folded it over and cooked it that way.  It made flipping it much easier.
  • I omitted the Daiya and used Nacho Mom's instead of the Nacho Mmmm Sauce.  (Brian added a non-vegan Mexican cheese blend to his and gave it high marks.  Was I jealous?  A little.)
  • I left out the corn because I didn't have any.
  • Instead of a red pepper I used green and orange, plus half a jalapeno. 

    You can sort of see a little of the Nacho Mom's on top of the squash.  It tasted better than this picture would lead you to believe.

    I liked the recipe because it was easy and you could change up the veggies based on what you happen to have.  

    If you need a recipe for Meatless Monday, this is it!  (Be sure to check out some of the other great "reci-peas" while you're visiting Peas and Thank You.  Don't just skip to the recipes, though.  You've gotta read the posts - they are hilarious!)

    What are you thoughts on vegan cheese?  Do you use it?  Do you have a favorite one?

    1 comment:

    1. Cheese-less pizza does let the flavors of the toppings stand out... Summer succotash quesadillas look great!