It’s finally here… Guest Post Number 2! Today we have Kristen Powell, a friend and veteran vegan from New York, who is here to give some insight on the healthy, meat (and dairy) – free lifestyle. Given my recent curiosity regarding vegetarianism and veganism I thought it would only be fitting that we have an expert chime in on some of her favorite vegan-friendly restaurants, offer up some great cooking tips, and to answer the all-important question, “What do vegans do when it comes to cheese cravings?!?”
Hi I’m Kristen! I’ve been a vegetarian for thirteen years, and a vegan for almost three. My friend Jillian, whom I met in college, recently transitioned from an omnivorous diet herself; opting for a plant-based one after reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet and realizing there is a bounty of delicious foods one can eat that are more considerate of animals, of the planet, and of human health.
When I, a former cheese-addict, first transitioned to a life without cheese, I spent a lot of time experimenting with cheese-alternatives….to no avail. They smelled like feet (and not in the way that a fancy, gourmet cheese should smell like feet,) they tasted like plastic, and they didn’t even melt?! But when Jillian became a vegan with a vengeance, she made it her mission to cook delicious alternatives to what she was used to eating without compromising taste.
This ultimately lead us to discover some great non-dairy cheese alternatives and the major strides they had made in the industry. They’ve become a totally satisfying alternative for those looking to reduce or maintain cholesterol, for lactose-intolerant or food-allergic cheese-lovers, and for those who are simply intrigued by new, delicious foods. We’ve both been having a lot of fun experimenting with all the alternatives and the thousands of recipes available.
Although there are numerous non-dairy cheeses on the market today (which we’ve included in a mini guide at the end of this post) we’re giving Daiya cheese the limelight for its versatility and taste! The name Daiya, which is pronounced ‘day-a’, arose from both a play on the word “dairy” and the Sanskrit definition for the word meaning “loving, kindness and compassion.” Not only is Daiya cheese free of casein, lactose, soy, peanuts and tree nuts, eggs, and gluten but it’s also INCREDIBLY melty and easy to cook with (a quality most vegan cheeses lack!)
Since its discovery, Daiya has become a staple in numerous vegan restaurants, including Foodswings (which I tend to frequent) in Brooklyn, New York. There’s also Peace o’ Pie, the gourmet vegan pizza place in Allston that serves specialty pizzas, pizza by the slice, cheesy bread, calzones and more.
Whether you are vegan or not, love dairy or prefer the alternative, Foodswings has created amazingly yummy classic home favorites. We love this little spot on Grand Street and so do our non-vegan family and friends, including some of our pickiest critics! Some of our Foodswings favorites include chick’n parmigiana, creamy mac n’ cheese, and of course the Daiya mozzarella sticks.
We heard that Just Add Cheese’s readers love to cook at home, so we’ve included our favorite Daiya recipe below. It’s quick, tasty, healthy, low-fat and (most importantly) CHEESY!!!
Quick and Cheesy Quesadillas (makes one serving)
- 1/2 ripe avocado (sliced thin)
- 2 organic whole wheat tortillas (we like Whole Foods 365 brand – 7″ diameter)
- 1/2 large tomato (sliced thin)
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 1 cup Daiya cheddar cheese (feel free to mix in some Daiya mozzarella too)
Turn stove on low heat. In medium sized non-stick pan lay one tortilla flat (no spray needed). Sprinkle about 3/4 of the Daiya cheese on the tortilla. Keep an eye on the cheese as it will soon start to melt, this should take approximately 7 – 10 minutes. Add beans, avocado slices, tomato slices, and whatever else you would like (cooked or raw left over veggies make for great quesadillas – peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.)
Wait about one minute then sprinkle on the rest of the Daiya cheese. Finally, top with the second tortilla. Then for the fun part – flip! Keep tortilla on low heat for another 5 – 7 minutes, and voila! Your one of a kind, very yummy and quite cheesy, quick and easy quesadilla!
*This recipe also tastes great with Follow Your Heart sour cream alternative and homemade guacamole or salsa!
And now, for your Vegan Cheese Encyclopedia! We sat down with Hope, one of the owners of Foodswings, to learn more on what she knows about cooking with the variety of cheese alternatives available today. She was kind enough to share her experience and to give us her opinion on which to use and when. Here’s what she had to say:
- Daiya: “Pretty much blew everything out of the water,” according to Hope. Daiya is free of typical known allergens, hormones, antibiotics, animal products, artifical ingredients, and preservatives. Every ingredient is easy to pronounce, and comes from a natural, plant-based source. It tastes great, and when it melts it has that gooey stretchiness that previous products didn’t have. Food not being solely about taste, but visual as well, Daiya made traditional style pizza and staples like grilled cheese sandwiches a vegan reality. Several Boston retailers and Whole Foods stores everywhere carry Daiya cheese!
- Follow Your Heart: Hope gives these cheeses two thumbs up. Follow Your Heart is great for making cheese sauce for nachos. The mozzarella version is very close in taste to dairy mozzarella, mild with a slight creaminess.
- Sheese: This company makes a great hard cheese in a few different varieties. Until recently you could only get some by mail order, but Whole Foods now carries it on a regular basis. Great for a cheese and cracker appetizer, served with olives, figs and dates. We recommend trying Sheese‘s Smoky Cheddar!
- Tofutti:Toffuti’s sliced cheese tends to taste a bit processed when alone, but when melted and mixed with other ingredients it works great. We also love their line of cream cheeses, especially vegetable!
- Dr. Cow: Moooove over, gourmet dairy cheeses! Dr. Cow gives even the finest dairy-based cheese a run for its money. The Williamsburg, BK creators of Dr. Cow use home-made acidophilus and a small amount of pink Himalayan salt to create their line of 100% raw, organic tree nut cheeses, aged and fermented to perfection, without adding preservatives, stabilizers, artificial ingredients, or additives of any kind. Dr. Cow comes in a variety of flavors and textures, with a rind and without, including Aged Macadamia Nut, Aged Cashew and Brazil Nut, Cashew Nut Cream Cheese, Aged Cashew and Hemp Seed, and others. Serve it at your next wine and “cheese” party to see if your guests can decipher the difference. When the party is over, Dr. Cow’s corn container packaging is compostable!
Additionally, for those in a rush or on the go, Daiya has partnered with other great companies to create healthier frozen food options that make less impact on the environment.
Consciously choosing to eat veg*n (vegan/vegetarian) doesn’t have to become an overhaul of all foods familiar or a daily commitment. Each meal you choose to eat veg*n, whether it’s once a week or once a year, helps to save animals and the planet. Choosing a plant-based meal is also one of the most powerful ways you can use your consumer power to shift the culture of food to one that is more local, sustainable, and humane. So get to your local Whole Foods or natural foods store and give it a taste! We promise your taste buds will not regret it. Please feel free to email us for additional vegan-friendly recipes and other tips – askKandJ@gmail.com