Tag Archives: vegan cheese

Creamy Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

I used to follow football and some how I’ve drifted away from it in recent years. However, I’m still a bandwagon Superbowl enthusiast.  I don’t even need to watch the game, I usually just come for the food.  What can I say, I just love foods that encourage you to eat with your fingers, and Superbowl parties tend to offer that opportunity.

Right now, I’m basically just using this Sunday’s Superbowl 50 game with the Panthers vs the Broncos as an excuse to finally post a new recipe for spinach and artichoke dip.  This is one that I came up with over Christmas. It was a huge hit at a gathering I hosted so I promised that I would share the recipe. Though the party was filled with all vegan guests, every single one of them said that if they didn’t know the dip was vegan they would have seriously questioned it.

While not as healthy as my other spinach and artichoke dip, this one is super satisfying and very reminiscent of classic cheesy dips. It’s the perfect dip to share with your omnivore friends, on special occasions, of course.

This recipe utilizes some of my favorite non-dairy cheese substitutes, but if you can’t find these particular brands, or have your own favorites, feel free to substitute. For mozzarella, I use Follow Your Heart’s soy free Vegan Gourmet Shreds, which can be found at Whole Foods Markets, Follow Your Heart Market in Canoga Park, CA, as well as other natural foods stores. My favorite vegan cream cheese is Kite Hill, which can found exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach artichoke dip
Serves 8 to 12 people
Ingredients
2 bags spinach, chopped and wilted
2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
½ cup Cashews, soaked
½ cup water
4 Oz vegan cream cheese*
3/4 cup vegan mozzarella shreds, divided
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
Dash cayenne, or more to taste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Directions
1. Rinse spinach under cool water, drain, but leave damp. Add to a pan over medium heat, cover until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Squeeze out as much water as possible with the back of a spoon and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Combine 1/2 cup mozzarella shreds, along with remaining ingredients, except spinach and artichoke, in a blender and process until smooth.
3. Pour mixture over the spinach in the mixing bowl. Add in artichokes and remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Stir well to combine.
4. Transfer to a 8 inch casserole dish, or a bread bowl. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Mixture should thicken slightly.

*If you cannot find vegan cream cheese, or prefer not to use it, sub with an extra 1/4 cup of cashews and 2 Tablespoons water or non-dairy milk.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Vegan Bon Appetit: Grilled cheese with apple salad

This edition of Vegan Bon Appetit comes from the magazine’s September 2012 edition.  There was a really simple recipe that appealed to me under RSVP,  a column in which editors pick their favorite most crave worthy dishes from iconic restaurants.

The recipe is for a Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Apple Salad from the L.A. restaurant, Lucques. Thanks to an unexpected delivery from Farm Fresh to You (I forgot my CSA box was getting dropped off today!) and a fresh batch of my favorite cashew cheese spread in the fridge to take the place of the gruyere, I had all the supplies on hand for a tasty and delicious lunch.

Lucques has a specific technique for making the grilled cheese to make the bread as golden and delicious as possible (read: pan fry, then bake).  The result was definitely a perfectly crisp sandwich with a warm and gooey filling (yes, the cashew cheese did seem almost gooey, even though it was not melted like a dairy based cheese). I recommend go heavy on the cashew spread. I went a little lighter handed than I should have and was wishing there was more! For the arugula salad, I opted to lightly saute the greens to cut their bitterness. The Fuji apple made such a great sweet compliment to the bitter greens and paired amazingly well with the cashew cheese in the sandwich.  If you don’t happen to have cashew cheese on hand or time to make it (it does take two days!), your favorite commercial brand vegan cheese would work great, but would definitely be missing some of the tang that the fermented nut cheese provides.

Grilled Cheese with Apple Salad
4 T Earth Balance vegan butter, divided
3/4 C shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 dried
salt and fresh ground pepper
4 slices of thick bread
1/2 C or more cashew cheese, or equal amount favorite vegan cheese
1/2 apple (Pink Lady or Fuji), thinly sliced
1 C fresh wild arugula
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 T butter in a small sauce pan over high heat, until butter begins to bubble. Add shallot, thyme and salt pepper and cook, stirring often until shallots begin to soften and caramelize, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 T butter in the pan and coat well. Add 2 slices of bread tot he pan and cook until golden brown and crisp on the bottom, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet, toasted side down. Repeat with remaining butter and bread. Divide cheese evenly among bread slices and top evenly with shallots.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 5 minutes (or until cheese is melted if using a vegan cheese that melts).

Combine arugula, apple, lemon juice and oil in a large bowl; toss to coat and evenly distribute. Season with salt and pepper.

Press 2 pieces of bread together, cheese side in (Bon Appetit clarifies this in case readers aren’t able to use common sense) to create sandwiches. Cut in half on a diagonal. Serve each sandwich on a plate alongside salad.

Tortilla Tuesday: Veggie Quesadilla with Rudi’s Spinach

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  The day is almost over, but the sentiment of taco or tortilla Tuesday can live on all week.

I’ve always loved anything wrapped in a soft tortilla; I use them for sandwiches, burritos or tacos, and especially quesadillas. When I started cutting down on wheat, I turned to Trader Joe’s brown rice tortillas. I enjoy them well enough, but they just weren’t cutting it. The tortillas are stiff, they’d crack when you wrap them and they would get really chewy when they were toasted too long, or started to cool. I’ve been missing the softness and pliable texture that you get from flour tortillas. I thought I’d never get that consistency back without the gluten so my world was rocked when my friend recently brought over the new gluten free spinach tortillas from Rudi’s Bakery.  

I’m a fan of Rudi’s products. Their spelt bread is my favorite sandwich bread and I appreciate that they have a good selection of vegan and gluten free products. The only catch to Rudi’s products is that the labels always need to be read carefully as some products do contain honey and/or eggs.

The first time I tried the spinach tortillas, I had filled them for tacos, so this time I was eager to give a veggie quesadilla a try.  I made a batch of coconut milk cheddar adapted from the recipe posted by Mary of the blog Sweet Roots . If you haven’t come across this recipe yet, you must try it! I love that there are way fewer ingredients than you’d find in pre-packaged vegan cheeses (you can pronounce all of them!) and that you can play with the seasonings to get different flavors, colors and textures. It’s a great cheese sauce while still warm and a great melting cheese after it’s been refrigerated.

For the perfect gluten free quesadilla, soft taco or burrito, I highly recommend giving a try to the Rudi’s Bakery organic tortillas. Unless you’re making them from scratch, of course!

Parmela: Vegan Parmesan Style Cheese

As a child, one thing that could always be found in my family’s fridge was Kraft (or 4C) parmesan cheese. You know the kind I’m talking about; the one that sat on the shelf at the supermarket and didn’t need to be refrigerated until you opened it. Dairy products like that would always weird me out, yet parmesan was still my absolute favorite condiment. Eventually my family upgraded and started using a block of fresh parm that they would grate themselves, but as I went veg, all forms of parm were off the table for me. And I’ve missed my favorite condiment. A lot.

Since I discovered nutritional yeast, it has been my new go to condiment, but it still hasn’t quite filled the void; nor have the generic soy parmesan cheeses on the market, or even the nut based ones… until now.

I’d heard rumors that there was a new(ish) nut based Parmesan on the scene, called Parmela, but I hadn’t had a chance to try it.  I did get a little sample back during WorldFest, but still hadn’t actually used it at home, until recently. Holy moly is this stuff good! 

Where Parmela stands out against other plant based parmesan substitutes is that it is fermented, like real cheese, to give it an authentic tangy taste. To me, Parmela has a great tang that is reminiscent of that Kraft parmesan I loved so much as a kid. (I mean, I put that stuff on everything! Veggies, pasta, rice, I’d make ramen noodles minus the broth and just load it up with parm. I was obsessed.)

Parmela is made with simple ingredients: raw almonds, cashews, nutritional yeast, fermented soy bean; and, has recently been reformulated to also be gluten free.  Unfortunately, according to Parmela’s creators, a soy free version is not in the cards for the near future, although it is something that they are keeping in mind once the current product gets off the ground.

Since I do limit my soy intake, I haven’t been going to crazy with the stuff, but I have incorporated it into a few meals for myself, like sprinkling it over pasta and in lasagna, served over braised green beans; and even used it in meals for clients. In fact, I used it when I made stuffed portobello mushrooms, which were exclaimed to be “ridiculously good”.

My next step is to incorporate into sauce to see if it helps create an alfredo type taste.

Parmela is available at a limited number of specialty stores right now, but hopefully that list is soon growing; it is also available for purchase online. To find out where you can purchase Parmela near you, visit the link below. If it’s not available in a store near you, ask for it!

http://parmelafoods.com/Where_to_Buy.html

Review: Vegan Cheeze from Heidi Ho Organics

After much anticipation, I was so excited when my delivery of vegan cheeze arrived from Heidi Ho Organics. Immediately, I got the wheels turning, and the stove burning, with what I wanted to do with these beautiful blocks of plant based cheeses.

What I like most about Heidi Ho Organics is that they use ingredients that I can easily find at the grocery store, most of which I already have on hand at home. The ingredients are all pure and natural, with nothing hard to pronounce or indistinguishable like many other alternative cheeses that are on the market. As an added bonus, since they are hazelnut based (with the exception of the soy feta), they are a great option for a higher protein cheese substitute.

Looking at the Heidi Ho Organics website, you can tell how passionate the two ladies who created the company are about their product. Quality ingredients and a healthy, but delicious product are important to Heidi K. Lovig and Lyssa M. Story and they are sure to let that show. The website offers not only a comprehensive ingredient list, and nutrition facts, but also highlights health benefits of the ingredients. There is a link to sample recipes for each of the four flavors of cheeze that they make, for inspiration.

I rounded up a few of my friends for dinner and cheeze tasting so that there was variety of palettes and opinions. (Oddly enough, the vegan invited had to bail at the last minute.) With the omnivores on hand with me for the tasting, the scrutiny was probably a little high, but challenge to prove that vegan cheeze can be delicious was thrilling.

Vegan Cheese Plate

To do the tasting, I set up a cheeze plate to be enjoyed in its pure form right out of the package, along side slices of sourdough bread. Then, I also created simple dishes incorporating the cheezes.

The first cheeze we tried was the Monterey Jack. This was the least favorite of the bunch when tasted on its own. For me, the flavor of lemon and dijon was a bit too prominent (I do not like the taste of mustard!).  When sampled on a slice of bread, we all thought the taste was much more balanced and tasted worlds different.  Once melted over the bread in the toaster oven, the texture took that of a spread, and flavor was even better (although again still a little too mustardy for me.) The omni group all agreed that the seasonings were nice, but they wouldn’t compare the flavor to Jack.

Roasted Beet Salad with Feta Crumbles

Next up was Feta Crumbles. Seeing as I don’t eat much soy, I just took the tiniest nibble of it, but my boyfriend proceeded to eat piece after piece. He said that the flavor gets enhanced in your mouth the more of it you eat.  An interesting note from him was that it tasted a little like olives, even though there are no olives in it. Since our initial tasting, he has been sprinkling the feta crumbles over all his salads. For that evening, I prepared a simple salad of “feta” and roasted beets over red leaf lettuce, drizzled with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I could also see the feta going nicely in a stuffed pasta or lasagna.  The gang would like to see an increase in the saltiness of the feta crumbles.

For our main course, I prepared mac n cheeze with the Smoked Gouda. The gouda had a nice flavor, mild smokiness and made for a good mac n cheeze. I still tasted the dijon a little when it was on it’s own, but it wasn’t anywhere near as prominent so I didn’t mind. For my next round of mac n cheeze, I think I’ll reach vegan cheeze perfection by combining the jack and the gouda. My bechamel was a mix of olive oil, almond milk, spices and garbanzo flour, which added a nice complimentary nuttiness to the gouda.

Last on the tasting board was the Chipotle Cheddar. This one was the universal favorite. Everyone appreciated the smokey, spiciness of the cheddar style cheese, thought it tasted great on bread, and even better warmed. I made a simple broccoli casserole with a bechamel similar to what I used for the mac n cheeze, tossed with shredded Chipotle Cheddar.  This cheezy, saucy, spicy casserole received rave reviews from the group.

Enchilada Pie with Chipotle Cheddar

While I have still not managed to convince the omnivores to give up the dairy, they do have an increased willingness to eat my vegan cheeze creations.  I have been on a never ending search to find a good table cheese, and although Heidi Ho Organics vegan cheezes unfortunately did not satisfy this for me, their products do make for great heated cheese dishes.  I’ve already used it for enchiladas and can’t wait to sprinkle it over pizzas, and try the stuffed chili recipe on the website.

Overall, in relation to all vegan cheezes, not just Heidi Ho, my cheese expert friend feels they would all fare better if they were given their own names.  I understand the marketing value of calling a vegan cheeze by a familiar name, but would find it so cool to one day have our non-dairy products respected by all for their own uniqueness. So come on vegan community, let’s start thinking up some new names for all the awesome cheese products getting put out on the market!