Miyoko’s Kitchen: A vegan cheese game-changer

It happened again. I served Miyoko’s Creamery to a vegan friend today and:

“What is this? Where can I get some? Oh wow!”

miyoko's on a cracker

On New Year’s Eve, the same thing happened. I brought a wheel to a party and the omni host declared it the best thing she’s ever eaten. She promptly went in on an order with me.

Let me take a step back. Miyoko Schinner is a gourmet vegan food goddess who literally wrote the book on Vegan Artisan Cheese. People have been making and raving about her delicious vegan cultured nut recipes, but like many good things, they take time to make. Cheese doesn’t age in a day!

Luckily for people like me, who crave instant gratification, Miyoko began selling her creations.

miyoko's creamery

Every time I serve Miyoko’s, people gobble it up. It’s a great way to show non-vegans that vegan food is delectable. The vegans who try it are happy to have a cruelty-free savory cheese in their lives once again. It truly is a game changer.

When I share a wheel of Miyoko’s, I usually pick a spreadable style like Classic Double Cream Chive or Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic. I think these are my favorite. They’re very versatile. In addition to tasting great on a cracker or bagel, they make the best cheesy mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. I used Miyoko’s in the recipe for this dish.

mac n cheese made with miyoko's

Rustic Alpine is a sharp, harder cheese that I ate on crackers and crispy, toasted bread. The Smoked Chive Farmhouse is a smoky hard cheese that, while not bacon-y at all, will get you over any bacon cravings. The satisfaction is in the wood-smoked flavor. French Truffle is a real treat. It’s earth and mushroomy and tasted great spread of a cracker. Or, like I did with half a wheel, make a mushroom stroganoff dish.

pasta with Miyoko's

Those are only five of the flavors you can find on Miyoko’s site. She has others too that I will definitely be trying. Miyoko’s ships throughout the continental US. Orders arrive in two days, icy cold and safe in an insulated box. You can freeze the cheese, which is a great incentive to stock up.

The trouble is, you might eat it all right away!

Vegan mac and cheese

I’ve been to a few potlucks recently and I was running out of ideas for simple, delicious dishes to bring. So I thought about veganizing a traditional baked mac ‘n’ cheese casserole. I started off following the directions on the package of pasta and strayed wildly–with great success!

Ingredients:

16 oz elbow pasta
2 cups vegan cheese*
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 slice of bread
2 tbsp. margarine
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste

Directions:

First, I brought a large pot of water to a boil (4-6 quarts). Then I added an entire box of elbow noodles and cooked them to al dente (firm).

While the pasta was cooking, I turned half a slice of bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread) into bread crumbs in my food processor and set it aside for the topping. Then I crumbled 2 cups of vegan cheeses in the food processor and set it aside too.

food processor

* I combined five types of cheese to create the two cups needed for this recipe: Field Roast Chao Cheese Slices in Coconut Herb; Field Roast Chao Cheese Slices in Tomato Cayenne; Daiya Jalapeno Havarti; Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds; and Sundried Tomato from Miyoko’s Kitchen. Use whatever brands and flavors of vegan cheese you prefer.

In a small pot, I melted 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance margarine and added 2 tbsp. of flour and 2 cups of vegetable broth (I used a bouillon cube to create the broth). I added chili powder, turmeric, and black pepper, set the element to low, and whisked the mixture until it thickened.

The blend of spices and spicy cheeses gave this dish a nice kick. If you don’t like a lot of spice, you can use plain cheeses and less pepper.

broth and spices

When the pasta was ready, I drained it into a colander and poured the broth mixture into the big pot where the pasta was. I added the cheeses and stirred until it was mostly melted. Then I added the pasta back into the post and mixed it up well.

Finally, I scooped the whole thing into a 9′ x 9′ glass casserole dish, sprinkled the bread crumbs over the top, and baked it uncovered on 450 F for 10 minutes.

vegan mac n cheese

I let it cool a bit, covered it up, and took it to Christmas dinner with friends. Everyone loved it–even the non-vegans. One omni even said she would have been fooled if I hadn’t told her it was vegan. A compliment for sure!

Kite Hill Cheese

Another nail in the coffin of dairy.

Kite Hill vegan brie

I recently tried a vegan brie–yes, brie–by California-based company, Kite Hill. Kite Hill specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal, nut-based cheeses.

When you read that description, you might think “pricy,” but you can’t put a price on compassion. The wheel of brie was about $12 at Whole Foods–and worth every penny. Cruelty-free, rich and smooth. Just like “real” cheese. Because it is real! It’s made with macadamia nuts.

And, with such a rich product, a little goes a long way. I served the brie with crackers and apples. I went through about a third of it so I saved the rest for two other occasions. Wine and cheese nights are always fun to have and with this brie, everyone is happy.

I hope you get to try Kite Hill cheese. So many people tell me that their love of cheese is what prevents them from going vegan. With Kite Hill, you’ll know that no cows were harmed. No calves were denied a mother.

You can have your cheese and be vegan too!

Nacho time!

Why haven’t I made vegan nachos before? This meal wasn’t even planned, but you can bet I’ll make it again.

I had company last weekend and was left with an abundance of tortilla chips. I “lamented” to a coworker today that I had too many chips. He said, “why not make nachos?” Best idea ever!

vegan nachos

And by a stroke of luck, I had all the ingredients I needed for my 8-layer nachos:

  • Tortilla chips
  • Pico de gallo salsa (mine was store-bought but you can make your own)
  • Daiya vegan cheese shreds
  • Vegan ground “beef” (I used Tofurky Chorizo style)
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1 tomato, diced

Place a layer of tortillas on a plate, sprinkle tomatoes over them. Add a layer of ground “beef” and top with Daiya shreds. Add another layer of chips, sprinkle with salsa or pico de gallo, add a layer of ground “beef” and top with Daiya.

Microwave for 1.5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Use avocado as a dip.

I made individual portions, but you could make one platter and serve as a side dish. You could also stick a load of these in the oven and bake them. They’d be perfect for book club or watching the game.

This would be great with other things on it as well, like green peppers or black olives. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream would be a nice, cool dip.

You can’t go wrong with nachos. Super easy and delicious!

nachos for dinner

Simple tabouli and grilled cheese lunch

Mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated. I don’t always have time to make an elaborate meal–and sometimes I don’t even want one. Simple comfort foods are always welcome.

tabouli and grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. I hadn’t had grilled cheese for several years after going vegan. Then I found vegan slices. Perfect for melting. More recently, I discovered Daiya vegan cheese. It melts really well and is delicious too.

I like my grilled cheese on whole grain–I’m not a carbophobe, but I do value complex, carbs over simple ones. Whole grains have B vitamins, protein, fiber and are really healthy.

In addition to the sandwich, I nibbled on grapes and a hearty tabouli salad. Tabouli is a bulgar and is high in protein and fiber. This one was from a box, complete with parsley and seasonings. I added beans to it for flavor and nutrition.

A meal like this provides a variety of flavors and health benefits and can be made in under 15 minutes.

Do you have any quick and easy vegan meal ideas?

Vegan wine and cheese party

Moo-ve over dairy, there’s a new kid in town.

Last night I had the most amazing time at a vegan wine and cheese party that NARN put on at Ltd Art Gallery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The event was a fundraiser for Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, WA. We were really lucky to have Ralph and Caryl Turner, the sanctuary founders, at the event.

Ltd Gallery

We were treated to an array of non-dairy cheeses. I’m not talking about weak substitutes; I’m talking creamy, rich, tangy, flavorful spreads and slices that hold their own. I’ve already written about what’s wrong with dairy, so you know I was thrilled to taste cruelty-free cheeses. No cows harmed. For a lot of people, cheese is one of the hardest things to give up, and with options like these, you don’t have to.

The generous companies that donated cheese for the event included Wayfare, Treeline, Punk Rawk Labs and Field Roast. Additionally, Joyce Huesemann made several delicious spreads. Thank you all!

So what’s vegan cheese made from? Lots of things. It was a diverse grouping of cheese with ingredients like cashews, nutritional yeast, tofu, garlic, herbs, oatmeal, sesame seeds and macadamia nuts.

food collageAs for wine, it’s a much subtler offender. All wine is technically vegan–it’s grapes! However, many wineries use animal products like egg albumen (from egg whites), gelatin (from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (from fish bladder membranes) in the refining process. But there are vegan alternatives. Until recently, I hadn’t paid much attention to whether or not wine was vegan, but I like to vote with my dollars and choose companies who are striving for a better world.

That’s why I was happy to taste the delicious selections from The Vegan Vine and Frey Wine. These two vegan wine companies generously donated wine to the event. They had a delicious selection–from sangiovese to chardonnay. Perhaps I woke up without a headache today because these companies are organic and don’t add sulfites to their products.

And of course (probably because the organizers knew I was coming), there were other vegan wines too. You can use Barnivore to find out which of your favorite wines (and beer and spirits) are vegan.

DJ and raffle queen collage

The best part of the evening was spending time with like-minded people and catching up with friends. We listened to swingin’ tunes by DJ Dubonnet and took in art by Siolo Thompson. The event was a hit–tickets went on sale in August and sold out in less than two days! I hope that means there will be more vegan wine and cheese events in my future. After all, the future is vegan!

Jean in Lois Eastlund dress

Visiting Vaute Couture

One of the highlights of my New York trip was visiting Vaute Couture, a vegan-owned, compassionate clothier in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Fellow blogger Jesse Anne O lives in Brooklyn, and although it was a hike from her neck of the woods, she met my mom, dad and I at Food Swings, near Vaute. My mom is a blogger too, so it was great for the three of us to compare notes while my dad, patient as always, enjoyed his coffee.

We loved the vegan fast food at Food Swings. It’s a great diner-style establishment with a terrific brunch menu. We chose from sandwiches, burritos and scrambles. They use Daiya vegan cheese in their recipes too. Yum!

Walking from Food Swings to Vaute Couture, we passed Skinny Skinny, an organic, sustainable bath and body store, and Bliss, a vegetarian restaurant down the street. It’s a veg-friendly ‘hood!

brooklyn collage

Seeing Vaute’s flagship store was a thrill! I’ve been a fan for a while and I finally got to be a customer. Owner Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is a passionate animal advocate and she’s put her heart and soul into creating sustainable, eco-friendly, made-in-New-York clothes that are free of animal products and oh-so stylish. I didn’t buy my wool-free coat this particular day, but I did jump online a week later for the Fall 2013 presale.

I got a Friends not Fashion tank top and a Vaute necklace. Jesse picked up a dress she had preordered. And of course we had to do the obligatory “blogger pose” on our way out. Sure was nice to have our own personal photographer on hand!

three bloggers

Next door to Vaute Couture is Eco Closet, another sustainable shop. I found a gray and black tunic there. and I’ll be blogging about that on my style blog soon.

The four of us enjoyed walking through Williamsburg. We ended up at a flea market, but that’s a story for another day.

walking through Williamsburg

What’s wrong with dairy?

“I could never live without cheese.”

That’s what a lot of people tell me when they find out I’m vegan. I used to feel the same way. Today, cheese has a different connotation for me and I not only don’t miss it, I loathe it.

For 18 years I was a vegetarian. If people asked me if I ate cheese and drank milk I answered, “yes, because the cows don’t get killed.” I was ignorant and completely clueless to reality. I wish someone had told me the truth.

I don’t eat dairy now because cows DO suffer and die and also because it’s disgusting and unhealthy. Here’s what the dairy industry doesn’t want you to know:

Cows need to be pregnant before they lactate

Just like a human female, cows don’t “give milk” until after they have a baby. And the dairy corporation can’t have all those babies drinking their profits. That milk is for people! In order to keep milk in production, cows are kept pregnant.

Norman was rescued from the veal industry and lives at Farm Sanctuary

Norman was rescued from the veal industry and lives at Farm Sanctuary

Calves are stolen away from their mothers

Cows don’t give us their milk. We take it away from them. Just like we take away their babies. Normally a calf nurses for up to a year, but usually within a day, calves are either killed or auctioned off for veal (if they’re “useless” males), or separated into pens where they can grow up into milk producers to replace their mothers.

Dairy cows are sold for meat

After four or so years of constantly being pregnant and lactating, a cow’s milk production goes down. She isn’t profitable anymore. She is “spent.” Dairy cows are auctioned off and turned into cheap, ground beef. They’re normal lifespans are closer to 20 years.

dairy cow

Fanny, a “spent” milker, was rescued by Farm Sanctuary too

Milk doesn’t do a body good

Milk will turn a small calf into a 1000-pound cow. It does the job well, but I don’t want to grow that big. I don’t want to drink hormones and antibiotics. I don’t want to fuel disease. Milk has too much protein, and we excrete the excess–along with calcium from our bones! It taxes our kidneys, and increases our risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke. I get calcium just like cows do: from dark leafy greens. Milk doesn’t have fiber, but it is full of cholesterol and fat. Who needs it (well, besides cows)?

It doesn’t matter if milk comes from a small, organic dairy farm or a large corporation. These things remain constant:

  • Cows are kept constantly pregnant;
  • Calves are taken from their mothers, killed, sold for veal, or raised to be milkers;
  • “Spent” dairy cows end up as hamburgers.

I wouldn’t drink milk from a dog or a monkey so why drink milk from a cow? After infancy, no other animal even drinks milk at all–not even from their own species!

So next time you think about life without dairy, think about the animals who suffer for our taste buds.

Alternatives

With a plethora of dairy-free alternatives, you won’t miss milk. We have choices like dark chocolate, coconut yogurt, hemp, oat, soy, almond and rice milk, non-dairy creamer, sorbet and soy or coconut ice cream, and delicious vegan cheeses from companies like Daiya and Tofutti.

Daiya

Dump dairy and ditch cruelty!

Making a vegan Egg McMuffin

Da da da da da… I’m lovin’ it!

I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s for eons, but I admit I used to have a weakness for their egg McMuffin. Even after I went vegetarian, I’d order one now and then (and remove the slice of ham).

They might be yummy, but all that ham, cheese and egg is neither cruelty-free nor healthy. So after a bit of Internet research (most of the credit goes to Vegangela), I embarked on a vegan version and look how it turned out:

McMuffin

It was delicious and easy to make. Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients:

  • Whole grain English muffins
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • Tumeric
  • Black pepper
  • Black salt (also called Kala Namak)
  • Daiya vegan cheese
  • Upton Naturals seitan bacon

First, drain the tofu and cut it into slices, about half an inch thick. Use a glass and a knife to cut the slices into a circle (I used the leftovers in a stir fry).

tofu circles

Mix together a bit of turmeric, black salt, and black pepper (I didn’t measure, but you won’t need much–a pinch of each for color and flavor). The black salt has a slightly sulpheric smell, and gives food an eggy flavor. You can find it in Indian grocery stores or online. Rub the mixture on both sides of the tofu.

spicing up the egg

Fry up the “eggs” until warmed.

eggs

Fry up the “bacon” while you toast the muffins. Upton’s makes fantastic seitan bacon–my favorite–but you can use another brand of veggie bacon if you can’t find Upton’s. Or Canadian veggie bacon if you’d like to be more authentic.

Upton's bacon

Slice up the Daiya and assemble the delicious goodness that is the vegan McMuffin.

Daiya

I served mine with a side of home fries and fresh strawberries for a meal even a non-vegan would love!

the final product

Craving grilled cheese

There’s a saying, “Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan.”

I like that expression. It shows that vegan eating doesn’t equal deprivation. It’s also a fun challenge. Case in point: grilled cheese. Cheese is probably the hardest thing to give up–at least it was for me. But you don’t have to give up anything. Well, you might still be addicted to casomorphins, but you won’t be missing comfort foods like grilled cheese sandwiches!

I recently made a deliciously melty grilled cheese using a cheddar-style wedge of Daiya. You can also buy cheddar-style slices if you prefer.

Daiya

I used a hearty bread by Dave’s Killer Bread, and “buttered” it with Earth Balance vegan margarine. Grill it up like you would with regular grilled cheese. Daiya melts like real cheese and is a delicious gooey treat. It’s gluten-free and soy-free so it’s a great choice for people with common allergies.

grilled cheese

Slice and serve with your favorite soup. I made butternut squash but it would be equally delicious with minestrone or tomato. Yum! It’s a great lunch for kids and adults alike.

soup and a sandwich