The first time I was asked “what do vegans eat?” my response was “fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.” Then the follow-up question came, “yes, but what do they eat?” and I understood. This wasn’t a question about the particular ingredients consumed on a vegan diet but rather about how they come together in satisfying ways. I now respond to that question differently. We eat dishes like pancakes, muffins, stews, casseroles, curries, stir-fries, pastas, risottos, cakes and cookies. The ways in which vegan ingredients can be combined in delicious and nutritious ways are endless. Still, one question inevitably follows, “but how do you live without cheese?”
Well, for a start, this is a valid question. After all, the protein in dairy, casein, is converted to casomorphins by our bodies. The same process occurs in baby calves. Casomorphins have a calming effect and encourage the calf to return to his/her mother to drink more milk. Studies show that something similar occurs when we consume dairy cheese. To read more about the somewhat addictive effect cheese can have on humans read here:
So to answer the question, it is possible, and in fact easy, to live without cheese. Here are five tips to help break the habit and transition away from dairy cheese:
1) Sample the widely available tofu and oil based cheeses found in your local supermarket:
Tofutti (sprinkled with a bit of spicy flavorings) on celery, a cracker or a bagel is a decent alternative to Cream Cheese.
Daiya makes a line of products ranging from pastas to pizzas, spreads to blocks. The shredded cheeses are meltable and can be pleasant on your favorite pizzas or nachos.
2) Treat yourself to an Artisan Nut Based Cheeses:
Treeline makes a variety of delicious tangy cashew-nut based cheeses. They are available in over 600 supermarkets nationwide including many Whole Foods.
Miyoko’s Kitchen, based in California, makes an outstanding vegan cheese. I served this cheese as part of a buffet assortment and a guest commented that it was the best cheese she ever had. Not the best vegan cheese but the best cheese. It is available at a variety of retail locations on the West Coast and by mail order for the rest of us. My daughter introduced this cheese to me on Valentines Day. It was one of the loveliest gifts I’ve ever received.
Kite Hill uses almonds to produce a variety of soft non-dairy cheeses including a truffle, dill and chive cheese as well as a ricotta. Kite Hill is available at Whole Foods stores nationwide.
Ask at your supermarket’s cheese counter whether they have any non-dairy options. Entrepreneurs are hard at work on plant-based food alternatives around the country. You never know what wonderful new product awaits you.
3) Experiment with Nutritional Yeast:
These strongly flavored flakes have a cheesy flavor. They are delicious sprinkled on a baked potato, popcorn, vegan buttered toast, scrambled tofu and roasted vegetables. Some brands provide an excellent source of B12. This can be found in the “natural” section of most supermarkets.
4) Make Your Own:
Simple Cashew Cheese Spread
(adapted from Molly Patrick’s Vegan Cashew Cheese)
Makes 2 cups/ Serves 4-6 people
2 cup raw whole unroasted cashews
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (see photo and discussion above)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
- Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and let soak for an hour or more. Drain and set aside.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Mix until very smooth. Stop the machine frequently to scrape down both the sides and the bottom.
- Add ½ cup of water and process until well combined and very smooth.
- Garnish with fresh chives (optional).
5) Find recipes for Vegan Cheese Dishes either online or in cookbooks:
I recommend these two excellent cookbooks:
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak
Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner
There are loads of vegan recipe sites on-line. For something entertaining, watch one of my favorite vegan chefs, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, prepare Vegan Mac and Cheese.
You can also refer to my recipe here, for a Creamy Pasta Bowl.
Always feel free to contact me with questions or comments. I enjoy hearing from you!
With warmest wishes xoxo,
© 2015 Beantown Kitchen- Reprint only by permission of the author