For the Love of Vegan Cheese | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Six

VeganMoFo 2017

Week One: Changing Vegan Perspectives
Vegan cheese is “real” cheese! Showcase your best cheesy dish.

Steven and I just returned from an incredible all-vegan vacation (more on that later), and we had the chance to chat with plenty of vegans — many of them newish — about veg products available in the States and abroad (we were in London and Norway). Among the newer vegans, conversation often turned to perhaps the most deeply desired — yet frequently disappointing — food: cheese. As in, which brands are good, which brands are horrible, which products lend themselves well to which application. For the almost-vegans we chatted with, cheese was frequently the sole item they found themselves craving and occasionally indulging in.

I’ve talked about cheese quite a few times on the ol’ blog. In truth, though, after eight years without it, I really don’t miss it. Sure, I’d love a perfect analogue for the sharp, sliceable Vermont cheddar I grew up with, but you know what? I’m not going to spend my time crying about it. Instead, I just enjoy what’s available to me now and rest easy knowing that I’m not contributing to any of the horrors endemic to the dairy industry.

Cow in Olden, Norway

No cows harmed in the making of my cheese.

If you’re a new vegan missing cheese (or a would-be vegan scared about missing it), my best advice is to just stop eating it for three to four weeks. Give it a break. Avoid vegan substitutions. Then, when you’ve lost the taste for it just a bit, dive on in to the myriad substitutes available and enjoy them as they are. They are not identical to their dairy-based counterparts, but many are still damn tasty. From local, small-batch producers (such as our MD-based This is Vegan Foods varieties) to countrywide powerhouses (Miyoko’s!) to big-time international brands (Follow Your Heart!), there are a whole lot of vegan cheesemakers out there. Here are some of my current picks for the best vegan cheeses (barring in mind that I actually don’t buy vegan cheese all that often!).

My favorite store-bought vegan cheeses

  • The best slices for sandwiches or grilled cheese: Field Roast Chao slices, any flavor
  • The best artisanal cheese for a cheese-and-cracker snack plate: Anything from Miyoko’s Kitchen
  • The best shakeable parmesan that reminds you of the cheap stuff you used to dump onto pasta: Go Veggie (or straight-up nooch!)
  • The best cream cheese for bagels: Kite Hill chive (I used to be a diehard Tofutti fangirl, but I tried Kite Hill recently and was smitten!)
  • The best shreds: UNDECIDED! The new Follow Your Heart ones seem pretty promising, but I’m between favorites right now. ;) Violife is new to the U.S. and I’d love to try their offerings!
  • The best queso for nachos, baked potatoes, or even modifying for mac ’n’ cheese: This recipe, which I use frequently — it’s deceptively simple and so satisfying. I use unsweetened almond milk instead of water to make it extra creamy.

I also enjoy making my own cheeses. Anything from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese is bound to be great, but here are a few other recipes I like.

My favorite homemade vegan cheeses

Creamy vegan butternut squash gratin // govegga.comI’m also a big fan of a simple cashew cream when I want something evocative of cheese but not overly flavorful. One of my favorite applications to date was in this butternut squash gratin, which uses both cashew cream and coconut milk to create an ultra luxe sauce. It’s a decadent recipe, perfect for the holidays

What are your favorite cheeses, either store-bought or homemade?

 

 

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My Favorite Cookbook: The Homemade Vegan Pantry

VeganMoFo 2015 banner

Day 12: Tell us about your favourite cookbook!

I’ve been waiting for this prompt all month just so I can rave about Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples! When the book was published and I began reading reviews, I knew I needed it on my shelf. And then, serendipitously, Steven’s mom gave it to him as a birthday gift in August! Needless to say, I quickly appropriated it for my own. (To Steven’s benefit, of course, since he reaps the rewards of my pantry staple-making!) How do I love this book? Let me count the ways.

  1. The design. This is a beautiful cookbook. The layout and photography make me salivate, and not just because all the food is so good. The homey, down-to-earth styling is a perfect fit for the topic of this book. I love the subdued color palette, too.
  2. The concept. I’ve always been enamored with the idea of a home-grown and homemade pantry. Making one’s own staples is budget-friendly, eco-friendly, and downright fun-friendly! Although not everyone might agree, I find it enormously rewarding. Miyoko takes this concept and makes it accessible, which is crucial. The vegan diet is often viewed as one of privilege, and the [arguably unnecessary] act of making one’s own staples smacks of too much empty time and too much money to spend on “weird” ingredients. But Miyoko starts with the basics and builds on them, and for the most part, her recipes don’t require expensive or “weird” ingredients. (With a few exceptions — fermented tofu liquid, I’m lookin’ at you!) She takes pains to make these recipes simple and doable, hitting back at the notion that only obsessive foodies would have the time or the inclination to make basics like soymilk and mustard.
  3. The recipes. The design and the concept would mean nothing if the recipes didn’t stand on their own. Happily, they do!

Schinner Pantry TOC

Truthfully, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the recipes. I have grand dreams of cooking my way through the book, though. And, importantly, just reading through this book has given me more confidence to try my hand at pantry staples I’ve avoided in the past. Here’s what I’ve made so far.

  • Almond Milk, p. 54 (and my own Simple Vanilla Oat Milk)
  • Unpork, p. 116
  • Classic Pancake and Biscuit Mix, p. 158
  • Biscuits from said mix (they were amazing!)
  • Sausage Spice, p. 125
  • Blueberry jam, inspired by her easy cheat method

…okay, it’s a short list. But everything has been excellent. The Unpork is incredibly easy to whip up. It’s just another take on seitan, but the pulling and stretching method gives it a stringiness reminiscent of pork. That evocative name — Unpork, very much not pork — is a great reminder of why I’m vegan. I Instagrammed this photo right after I made it.

Unpork Instagram

I met that big ol’ piggy at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary during their open house last month. A total sweetie!

The recipe yields a fair amount, so I immediately froze six big pieces. A few weeks later, I used them to make a BBQ “pulled pork” sandwich. It was so easy! I just thawed them a bit, sliced it very thin, and heated it up with some BBQ sauce. Yum yum!

BBQ Unpork

I love this cookbook so much that I’ve been known to take it to bed with me, just to flip through it before going to sleep. I’ve taken it on car rides, just to have something to look at. I can’t get enough of it! And I’m excited to start stocking my pantry with even more homemade staples.

If you have this book, what are your favorite recipes?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)