Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Dairy Free Mac n Cheese from Earth Balance
It makes me so happy when I find my favorite vegan junk foods on sale!!! It seems like people either love or hate the various kinds of vegan cheeses. Well, I am a huge fan of the Cheddar Mac & Cheese from Earth Balance.

Dairy Free Mac n Cheese from Earth Balance
I haven’t actually tried the white cheddar yet, but I bet it will be just as good (since their aged white cheddar popcorn is wonderful, I’ll post that soon).

Dairy Free Mac n Cheese from Earth Balance
I like this boxed mac n cheese firstly for it’s nostalgic value. When I was much younger, I loved a certain macaroni that came in a blue box (and Red Baron pizza!). Similarly, this one comes with a little packet of powdered cheese-type flavoring with an unusual orange hue. Just add it to the cooked pasta along with a couple tablespoons of margarine, and a few tablespoons of your favorite non-dairy milk.

Dairy Free Mac n Cheese from Earth Balance
Nice and creamy. I haven’t had the Blue Box mac n cheese for a very, very, very long time, so I dunno if this really tastes like it or not. But it’s close enough for me!

I’ve had this twice now, and both times I ended up eating the entire thing myself. I’m sure you could fancy it up a little if you wanted to. For example:

-Replace 1 Tbsp of the margarine with Magic Vegan Bacon Grease and add some bacon-flavored bits.

-Substitute pureed pumpkin or vegan yogurt for non-dairy milk to make it extra creamy.

-Place finished product in a greased baking dish. Top with vegan Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs, and brown under the broiler.

-Add other vegan cheeses, such as Daiya Gouda-style, or Mozzarella Teese.

-Sneak in a little nutritional yeast, season with black pepper.

How do you like your mac n cheez?

Cheese Bread: Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo!

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I recently did a spin on a Syrian classic that I haven’t eaten in at least 16 years. Tete’s cheese bread was always a favorite, and I’d been meaning to try a veganized version for a very long time. I’m sure in the future I’ll try just a plain old vegan cheese bread, but sometimes I want to cook things for my friends – and that includes friends who are gluten free, or grain free, or paleo.

This is a very bare bones recipe considering the original version of cheese bread includes eggs and feta mixed into the shredded cheese. Obviously it is not going to taste the same as Tete’s, but if you have an open mind (and mouth), you will be very happy with this little treat.


I stumbled upon a paleo bread recipe that I haven’t been able to find again, it called for chestnut flour (singoda flour = chestnut flour). Be warned – they sell this stuff on Amazon Prime for $10, but I found the exact same amount from the exact same brand for $2.39 at my local Middle Eastern market.

The flour has a unique flavor, almost sweet, with a hint of anise.


For the dough, I used a very simple recipe (below) for a quick bread that requires no rising.


A store bought vegan nut cheese would be paleo, but super expensive. Plus I don’t know of any with a cheddar-type flavor. I used my homemade coconut milk cheese. Traditionally this would be grated and mixed with feta, onions and egg, and lightly seasoned. In this case, the cheese already is already seasoned. I didn’t bother making a vegan feta, and I skipped the eggs completely. And because the cheese was a bit soft, I didn’t even grate it (usually some time in the freezer makes it grate-able).


Anyway. Divide the dough into balls – 16 to 24 depending on how big you want them. I ended up making mine a little smaller and getting around 20 or so. Flatten the dough balls and press them out until they’re about 1/4″ thick.


Add sliced coconut milk cheese.


Add finely chopped onion. Alternatively, you can do very thin slices of onion.


Now switch to the chrome filter so the cheese bread looks like abstract art from the 60s 🙂


In these last couple pictures, this is an oil-free batch I made, replacing the olive oil with a bit of tahini. I also omitted the almond meal because I am cheap 🙂 It worked and tasted just fine, but the dough is a little sturdier with the almond meal.


Paleo Crust, with oil:
2 C chestnut flour
1/2 C almond meal
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 chia eggs
water

Toppings
coconut milk cheese
onions, chopped or sliced.

Preheat oven to 325.
Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add olive oil and chia eggs. Stir to combine, then mix with hands until dough forms. If it’s too dry, add water just a little at a time.
Divide the dough into 16 to 24 equal pieces, depending on what size you want. Roll each piece into a ball, and place them on a parchment lined baking tray. Flatten each ball, then press them out into dough rounds about 1/4″ thick.
Place a slice of coconut cheese on each round. Top with onions.

Bake cheese bread at 325 for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown around the edges.

For an oil free crust, simply substitute tahini for olive oil. You may also choose to use 2 1/2 C chestnut flour and omit the almond meal. This will result in a stickier dough, but it bakes up just fine.

Oat Mozzarella

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So Monday, along with a cheddar-ish coconut milk cheese, I made up a batch of this oatmeal cheese from Big Raw Blog. I have to admit I made some substitutions, and the flavor was a little too light for my tastes. I replaced the tahini with coconut milk because I happened to have it on hand, and I used less nutritional yeast because I happen to be running out. And then what happened? I ended up using it for the dish I’m bringing to the potluck tonight, and I had to add tahini and nutritional yeast back in!

You can slice and spread this cheese, but it doesn’t melt too well and certainly can’t be grated. The best thing about it is the simple ingredients, though, and it’s really just a basic recipe waiting for you to spice it up and turn into somethin’ special. I’m probably going to be messing with this recipe all week.

And tomorrow I’ll show you how I used it in my potluck dish. I actually managed to get everything prepped last night (or this morning, 3am, whatever) so all I have to do today is pop it in…in…in that dreadful commercial convection oven! But I’ll cover it this time, and turn the temp down. I think it’s going to be fine. I hope.

P.S. As is, this recipe is oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day!

Pizza Week 2015, Day 7: Chili Cheese Chick Dog Pizza

Figured I better get caught up and post my last pizza tonight since it will make me incredibly sad to look at pictures of pizza once Lent starts. TOMORROW. Lent. Starts. Tomorrow!

Well, for some of us, anyway. For Sunday dinner the rest of my family decided to have chili cheese dogs. I love chili-cheese-just-about-anything, so why not just replace the bun with a pizza crust?

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So this is just my standard crust, and I used chili for the sauce – nothing fancy, just sauteed onions, refried beans, petite diced tomatoes and some of the juice, and pepper, chili powder, garlic, cumin, and Frank’s Redhot Sauce to taste.

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I wasn’t going to buy anymore cheese after picking up a package of Chao yesterday, but today I grabbed these veggie shreds – the purple bag is vegan! It says so right on the bag (green is just lactose free). Normally I’d go with Daiya cheddar, but the stores that carry it around here were closed…and Veggie Shreds are cheaper.

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Now, this may not look like a layer of hotdogs, and that’s because it’s a layer of CHICK dogs. This is a great filling for hotdog buns, and it worked very well on the pizza, too.

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I like sauerkraut, onions, and mustard on my chili dogs – you can also add pickles!

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And finally, Field Roast Chao slices. This was a real splurge for me, apparently it’s way more expensive in my area, maybe because we just have a couple little health food stores. It was on sale for $5.49, normally $7.39! This is the Coconut Herb flavor with black pepper.

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I baked it at 425 for about 20 minutes, and 450 for another 5 minutes or so. The Chao didn’t really melt, it just got soft and, well, sort of translucent.

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Still, it went very well with the rest of the toppings. I ate half the pizza at dinner time, and now I’m going to try to finish it off!

I’m going to do a separate post on Chao slices, but I will tell you now why I prefer Daiya to Veggie Shreds. The Veggie Shreds melt SO well, just beautifully, and the flavor is pretty good. But when you eat it, it kind of sticks to the back of your teeth and has an odd texture. I find myself wanting to scrape my teeth after each bite. However they are $2 cheaper than Daiya and can be found at Meijer, super convenient. And the negative qualities seem to make it more Lenten somehow 🙂

Anyway, thank you all very much for celebrating Pizza Week with me yet again. And don’t worry, we still have Vegan Pizza Day to look forward to!

Can Cheese Be Cheese Without Dairy??!?

Is it cheese??!??!?!?!???

Is it cheese??!??!?!?!???

Look friends, I read some comments on a recipe posted on a certain vegan cheese brand’s facebook page this morning and it really annoyed me. Why a bunch of non-vegans feel the need to comment in the first place, I don’t know. Get a life. But what bothered me is this idea that “if it doesn’t have dairy, it’s not cheese.” Well, I’m just an uneducated church secretary, so let’s see what Merriam-Webster has to say about it:

1  a : a food consisting of the coagulated, compressed, and usually ripened curd of milk separated from the whey
   b : an often cylindrical cake of this food

2  : something resembling cheese in shape or consistency

Wait, what was that? something resembling cheese in shape or consistency.

And did you know the secondary definition of milk, according to the same dictionary, is “a white liquid produced by a plant”. So, ya know, that could be soy milk, almond milk, quinoa milk, macadamia milk, cashew milk, sesame milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, flax milk. You get the idea (Maybe I’m stretching the definition a little, but it doesn’t say it has to ooze from the plant).

So just to be clear: YES. Cheese can still be cheese without dairy. You might not fool anyone into thinking a vegan cheese is a dairy cheese (although I have, and without even trying, and much to my dismay since I wanted to eat it all myself), but IT IS CHEESE.

Morel Mushrooms with Asparagus and Orzo in Creamy White Sauce

So a couple weeks ago I was at Horrock’s and saw they had fresh morel and chanterelle mushrooms. They were just little guys, and they were SO expensive! But it was just about payday, so I figured I could afford a little grocery splurge. I bagged two dozen small morels and 36 tiny chanterelles. Then I just kind of started throwing stuff into my basket, not quite knowing what it would turn into.

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Some of the things I grabbed – Teeze mozzarella, fresh Michigan asparagus, orzo, organic green onions, and plain unsweetened coconut milk beverage.

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Here are the baby morels. I used about half of them for this recipe. To prep them, I cut them in half and then submerged them in a bowl of cold water in case there was any dirt (or bugs!) tucked away in the little crevices. From what I read, this is the one time you actually want to put your mushrooms in water because morels are really hard to clean. After a short soak, I drained the water and then dried the morels between sheets of paper towel.

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Chanterelles do not need to be soaked, just brush them clean. I used about 15 of these little guys.

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After snapping off the hard ends of the asparagus, I cooked it over low-medium heat in a couple spoonfuls of Magic Vegan Bacon Grease. After a few minutes I added the mushrooms. Now is a good time to get your orzo cooking – 1/2 C dry orzo, cook according to instructions on package.

While the orzo was boiling, I added 4 sliced green onions and a few cloves of minced garlic, to taste. Sprinkle with a little salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally.

Now, we need to make our creamy white sauce.

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For this, I simply melted down a couple chunks of Teeze mozzarella in the plain (unsweetened!) coconut milk beverage. Then I added a touch of salt, a sprinkling of garlic powder, and a few shakes of black pepper. I’m not a huge fan of Teeze – it’s not bad, just not the best – and I sometimes regret cooking savory foods with coconut milk, but in this case it really worked.

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Once the asparagus is a nice, bright green and begins to feel tender, add your cooked and drained orzo.

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Then add the sauce. Gently stir to coat.

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I have to say, I was really pleased with myself when I tasted this. I even got my dad to try it while he was in the midst of making his own very Non-vegan dinner, and he loved it!

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The asparagus is more of a filler in this dish, so if you’re not a fan, you could use some other veggie. Carrots or parsnips would be nice, possibly peas, or you could go with a faux meat. Or just skip all that and have the creamy orzo and mushrooms. I loved the saltiness of the sauce with the earthy flavor of the morels. The chanterelles were good, but had a milder taste that didn’t pop as much. Maybe I’ll have to think of a different way to prepare the rest. Any suggestions?*

*Well, they’re all gone now since I wrote this two weeks ago and forgot to post it until now. I made this same dish again, but I chopped the chanterelles up finely just to make the dish a little meatier. I used carrots and broccoli for the veggies. I went back to the same store this past weekend to look for more morels, but they’re gone 🙁

vegan cheese without borders

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I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to see hundreds of hits from Germany, all for my coconut milk cheese recipe. Special thanks to Hara Nik, who follows me on facebook, for sharing my recipe with her friends and also sharing with us a couple pictures of her final product.

This version was made with a combination of rice & coconut milk, and tapioca starch as well as agar powder.

vegan cheese
Click HERE to see more pictures of Hara’s tasty-looking vegan cooking!

nacho cheezy sandwich

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I had just under 1 C left of my chickpea puree and used it to make another great big batch of nacho cheez.

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but instead of plain old nachos…

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I put everything between two pieces of Ezekiel bread. The veggies are lettuce, onion, tomato, and bell pepper chopped into small pieces, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice to taste.

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It was a lot easier to eat at my desk. I had some leftovers, so I just used the sauce as a dip for my chips. I am love with this sauce, I think I’ll try it with other legumes and beans and see how it goes. Any suggestions?

fermented bean curd pancakes (for ladies only??)

My apologies to a certain bass playing friend of mine for adding another recipe that uses tofu. We just had a discussion about the dangers of men eating soy*, but…well, this was really good. So, I’ll try to stay away from soy for the rest of the month, but for now: Fermented Bean Curd Pancakes.

Not pictured with the ingredients is “Heart Smart” Bisquick. The name might be a little misleading, but it is a very convenient…er…convenience food. However, next time I’ll try making these with plain flour since I ended up adding (towards the end) 1 tsp of baking soda & 2 Tbsp of vinegar anyway to replace the egg. I also added about 1 Tbsp each of the vegenaise (soy-free, guys!) and Russian mustard.
And then there’s the fermented bean curd, otherwise known as Stinky Tofu. I think Stinky Tofu is really supposed to refer to a similar kind made with some sort of fish juice or something, but this kind is really stinky, too. The first time I bought this stuff I threw it out because I thought it was rotten. Just plug your nose when you open the jar, and do NOT eat it plain!!!!!! Unless you’re really hardcore. I am not.

I added two disgusting looking chunks and mixed everything with a fork until it got moist and crumbly.

Then I stirred in some finely chopped onion and red pepper, and added the above mentioned baking soda & vinegar.

I didn’t have a milk substitute, so I used 2/3 cup of water instead. Whisk to incorporate, but it’s okay if there are some lumps.

Pour the batter out onto a hot, greased skillet. I used a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup that was not quite full.

I meant to take more pictures of the finished product, but I accidentally ate them all. The combination of fermented tofu with the sweetness of the Russian mustard gave these a hint of the flavor of aged cheese, perfect with the onions and peppers. I put Smart Balance on them and tried half with syrup, half without. They were good both ways, but for my second helping I put syrup on all of them. I would recommend eating these with a fruit salad, especially if you’re not going to use syrup.

Men, I will try making these again the next time I make a fermented nut cheese. In the meantime, maybe you can try that yourselves and let me know how it turns out. I’d be happy to post your pictures and comments.
*See comments below. Looks like Stinky Tofu is okay for men!

vegan nut cheese, day 1

I started my nut cheese today! I decided to go with the cashews first because that’s the one I’ve been the most hungry for. The process is simple, it’s the waiting that’s hard.

This is another loose recipe, where I just kind of dump things in until it seems about right. You will need:

raw cashews (I used, according to the bag, 0.66 lbs)
fresh lemon juice
salt
some sort of fermenting liquid (optional, you don’t have to ferment)

The sauerkraut juice I’m using to ferment, as I mentioned before, is from my mom. You can also buy raw fermented sauerkraut at some health food stores, and use that liquid. Apparently there are pickles made the same way, but I haven’t tried them yet. Just so you know, most sauerkraut isn’t made by fermenting any more, it just has vinegar in it to give it a fermented flavor. That kind of sauerkraut juice won’t work for fermenting.  I’ve made this “cheese” a bunch of times without actually fermenting it, though, and it’s still good.

So, you can start by soaking your nuts over night. I didn’t do that because I didn’t think ahead! I’ll do it tomorrow with the almonds, though. Last time I soaked mine covered in water with 2 Tbsp of the sauerkraut juice, but plain water is fine, too.

This time, I just put the nuts in the blender right out of the bag, added a few teaspoons of kosher salt, covered them with water and added about 5 or 6 tablespoons of sauerkraut juice and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. I had to add more water a couple times so it could blend properly, I had it on Liquify to get it nice and super smooth.

I think I must’ve added a total of about 1 cup of liquid. Next, get your colander out and sit it on top of a plate. You can line it either with cheese cloth, or with damp paper towel. I used six connected sheets of paper towel folded over three times, so it was two sheets wide. As I am typing this I kind of wish I had only used four sheets, to make sure the excess liquid can get out easily, but we’ll see what happens.
Pour the mixture onto the paper towel. Mine looks extra wet because after I got most of the mix, I added more water to the canister and used the Easy Clean button to get the rest out.


It doesn’t look very pretty…. Then fold the paper towel over the mixture.

Now find something heavy to sit on the mixture, to press the excess liquid out. I think the easiest thing is to put a small plate on top, then sit some soup cans on it, or mason jars filled with water. The liquid will drip out onto the plate below the colander. Find a place for this to sit at least over night. I’m sticking mine in the oven.

I’ll probably leave mine until Wednesday evening when I get home from work. I just checked it and it looks like it’s draining well, but I’ll probably change the paper towels tomorrow at some point anyway, just to keep them fresh.