Butternut Squash Mac & Gruyere; Quick Pickled Carrots

I don’t really like doing this, but my first recipe tonight is going to call for another recipe from a cookbook, which I’m not going to publish. However, I know a lot of you have Artisan Vegan Cheese (which I am loving), and if you don’t, you can just substitute some other cashew-based, creamy “cheese”. This dish was inspired by a couple of butternut squashes I got before the farmers market closed for the season…and the soft “gruyere” from Artisan Vegan Cheese I had to find a use for.

Butternut Squash Mac & Gruyere

10 oz pasta shaped appropriately for macaroni & cheese
1 small butternut squash
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup vegan broth
1/2 cup soft gruyere from Artisan Vegan Cheese, or some other creamy cashew-based “cheese”

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta to al dente, drain, and set aside.

Peel and chop the squash into bite-sized pieces. To peel the squash, chop off a little off both ends, stand it up bulbous side down, and carefully slice in half lengthwise. Remove and reserve the seeds. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the squash. Slice it, then cut into cubes. Toss the pieces with a little olive oil and roast until soft, about half an hour. Remove from oven and set aside. TIP: put the seeds on a small pan, lightly salt them, and roast them as well for about 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned and crunchy. Let cool and eat them up, or reserve for garnishing the mac & gruyere.

Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the flour, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powders, salt, and nutmeg. Cook for a minute or two, then whisk in the broth. Continue whisking as it thickens, then stir in the “gruyere” or other cashew cheese. Stir until well-mixed and thick.

Combine the squash and pasta in a baking dish, then stir in the cheese mixture. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

If desired, sprinkle with the roasted squash seeds. Alternatively, you could top the casserole with bread crumbs before baking. This was creamy and yummy and pairs well with greens and anything that’s smothered in barbecue sauce.

Now, a bonus recipe since I kind of cheated you in that one, although I’ve just stolen this one from David Lebovitz, who got it from Epicurious.

Quick Pickled Carrots

1 lb baby carrots (or regular carrots, peeled and cut into sticks)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 1/2 Tbsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp dill seeds
2 bay leaves

Bring a pot of water to boiling and blanch the carrots by cooking them for one minute, then draining and running cold water over them. Place all of the remaining ingredients into a sauce pot and bring them to a boil, then simmer for a couple of minutes. Place the carrots in a quart canning jar and pour the liquid over them. Let them cool to room temperature, then put a lid on them and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. (If you don’t have a canning jar, cool the carrots in the liquid in the pot before transferring to another container.)

It’s hard to make these look very exciting, but they are fun and tasty. I’ll be having them on the side of most of my dinners for a while.

The weather in Northern Virginia was gorgeous this weekend, so today found me at one of my regular haunts, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think this is a mockingbird, but I’m a little unsure because his wings seem a little too rounded. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

Eastern bluebird:

Cedar waxwing:

Circumhorizon arc in the clouds:

Time to go home!

Comments (2)

Tofutti Ricotta – review + recipe

Today I was definitively diagnosed as suffering from (daily, yay) migraines. I’m not telling you to solicit pity or anything, just to explain tonight’s dinner (although it also sort of explains why I’ve been quiet lately). I met with my doctor this afternoon to go over the results of my MRI, which was composed of images like this:

…which because I LOVE neuroscience, I found fascinating, but which are also creepy because those are MY eyeballs on stalks. However, we also now know that is my very normal brain, which is a good thing.

Is showing you pictures of my brain too intimate? I think it may be, although people are always showing off their sonograms and frankly I find this much more interesting to look at. Sorry, though. Try not to think of Large Marge every time you see me.

Moving on, having ruled out anything terrifying (other than the eyeballs on stalks) like brain tumors, migraines it is. This is bad because migraines are annoying, but it is GOOD to have an explanation for this annoyance, and GOOD to have medicine, which I can start tomorrow. I was resistant earlier to the idea of taking medicine, but after this past week, I’m ready for it.

So I stopped by Wegmans on my way home this afternoon to pick up what I hope is my miracle cure. While waiting for the prescription to be filled, I wandered the aisles, and guess what I found?? Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese! I had no idea this was a new product! As the label says, wow!

I immediately snatched it up in a flurry of excitement. For occasional use, I’m a big fan of Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Sour Cream, so I had high hopes for the ricotta. However, I was slightly hesitant about it because honestly, although I’ve never made a spectacular homemade “cream cheese”, and Tofutti’s sour cream is more realistic than anything I’ve made as well, I’ve never had any problems making tofu “ricotta”, so I wasn’t sure I needed this product. Nonetheless, I bought it…for you! So I could do a taste test and write a review for YOU. Because I care! I’ve been trying to make extra-healthy dinners lately, but I decided that tonight I would splurge and make something easy (because I have a headache), but decadent and fun (to celebrate because I hope to not have a headache tomorrow! Or the next day!). And educational for my readers!

So the “ricotta” went home with me, for the rather outrageous price of I believe $4.39, in addition to some just-as-processed Gardein Beefless Tips, tinned tomatoes, and pasta – WHITE pasta. That’s right, I’m celebrating.

Unfortunately, I was slightly put off when I opened the ricotta.

It just didn’t look…great.

I crumbled it with my hands. It felt distressingly like cold, damp okara. If any of you have followed my depressing okara trials, you’ll know that I am no fan of okara, and let me tell you something: cold, damp okara is the WORST kind of okara. Worse, the ricotta TASTED a bit like cold, damp okara. The photo may make it look as innocuous as a bowl of crumbled tofu, but it’s actually very grainy and disturbing, whereas crumbled tofu is pleasant and fresh. Those of you who don’t make your own tofu or soy milk may be wondering what the heck okara (the ground-up remains of soybeans that is a by-product of the soymilk-making process) looks, feels, and tastes like. Suffice it to say, it’s a grainy, bland mess. Raw Tofutti ricotta tastes a little bit like what I suspect chalk would taste like if you ground it up and added water with a touch of lemon juice. Slightly tangy wet chalk, in other words.

I became alarmed at this point. My celebratory dinner suddenly seemed in danger of being GROSS. So I decided I would make TWO versions of my dinner, one with the now-frightening Tofutti ricotta and one with my own tofu “ricotta”. I didn’t want to “waste” my good “cotton” (i.e., non-silken) tofu on an experiment, so I took a box of firm silken tofu and whizzed it in a blender with a little salt, 2 or 3 tablespoons of Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, and about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

While I was blending up my own “ricotta”, behind my back, Senor Gomez was not nearly as skeptical of the Tofutti stuff as I was!

Hahahahaahahaha!!! Oh man, this hilariated* me. He REALLY liked that stuff.

Anyway, so I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then ground up the Beefless Tips and sauteed them with a small onion and some garlic in a skillet, deglazing with white wine.

I put 28 oz of whole tinned tomatoes into the blender, with a bunch of chopped garlic, frozen basil, and some dried oregano, red chili flakes, and salt, and processed. It’s like a circus in my kitchen at times, by the way.

I also cooked some pasta al dente and drained. I set up two small bakers and put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of each, then topped with some of the pasta.

Then I added the “beef”.

Next up, the “ricotta”, Toffuti on the left, homemade on the right.

Closeup of the Tofutti, looking suspiciously okara-like.

I added more sauce, pasta, another layer of “ricotta”, and the rest of the sauce.

Another close-up of the Tofutti version:

I covered and baked for 45 minutes. After removing, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Here is the dish with MY ricotta:

…and here is the Tofutti ricotta. It MELTED! THANK GOD. Soooo much more appetizing. And actually not gross!

I served myself some of each for a taste comparison. Tofutti on the left, Renae on the right.

The verdict? To my surprise, the Tofutti was okay. Baking it did WONDERS. However, it was just okay. It was not worth anywhere NEAR its $5 retail price (which is absurd). My tofu ricotta cost about $1.75 – and would have been mere pennies had I made the tofu myself – and tasted BETTER than Tofutti. It’s also better for you. To be honest, I had a pretty hard time distinguishing which lump of pasta bake was the Tofutti Ricotta and which was the Renae Ricotta on my plate during the taste test (a.k.a. dinner, which by the way I balanced with a lovely, abundant salad); they tasted and looked similar. Mark said the Tofutti was okay, but when he went back for seconds, he only got more of the Renae Ricotta, which he said was better.

In conclusion, Tofutti ricotta is a useless and extremely over-priced product. I can’t even say it’s a good convenience product because it takes only SECONDS to make a nice, fresh tofu ricotta. You don’t even need the blender: just crumble up some regular tofu with your hands and work in some salt and lemon juice, and nutritional yeast if you want. You also can’t really eat Tofutti ricotta raw, unless you are a glutton for punishment or are a cat.


The reason I find those pictures of Gomez so hilarious is because when I was growing up, I had the Most Awesome Cat in the World, Dracula. Dracula had THE biggest personality you’ll ever find on a cat. I even have a tattoo of him, he was so awesome. Like Gomez, Dracula was all-black. What I find really weird is I actually sometimes CALL Gomez Dracula, which seems so bizarre to me because Dracula died years and years ago and other than their species and color, they have little in common. You’d think I’d accidentally call him Tigger, but I have never done that even once. Anyway, among many, many goofy things Dracula did, if you put a paper lunch bag on the floor, he’d stick his head in it and then walk until he hit a wall. Then he’d back up, change directions, and again walk until he hit a wall. (This makes Dracula sound very stupid, but he wasn’t – he was just…unique.) Evidence:

* a perfectly cromulent word.

Comments (15)

Smoky “Cheese” Sauce and a perfect baked potato

This recipe is more for myself to refer to the next time I want to make something like it than a hard and fast recipe. I was planning to have a baked potato for dinner and wanted a “cheese” sauce to serve over it with steamed veggies, but I also wanted to clear a few things out of the fridge. I’ve just estimated the amounts below as it was a real throw-a-bunch-of-things-in type of deal. Here’s approximately what I came up with:

Smoky “Cheese” Sauce

1/2 cup silken tofu
1 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp tahini-based salad dressing (this was something I wanted to use up, in the future I’d just use 2 Tbsp plain tahini)
3/4 cup water (this I poured into the bottle I had the dressing in and shook it, in order to get the last of the dressing out)
1 small jar (4 oz) pimientos
1 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric (optional, for color)
juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat, stirring often, until bubbly.

For the baked potato, I scrubbed and dried a russet potato, poked it several times with a fork, then poured a little bit of olive oil in my palm and then rubbed my palms together, then rubbed my palms all over the potato to get a thin film all over it. Then I sprinkled some smoked Maldon salt on all sides and put it in the toaster oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

A perfect baked potato.

When it was done, I made a rough seam across it with a fork, then pushed the ends together to make it pop open into a wide boat to receive the veggies and “cheese”.

I steamed broccoli and asparagus together for just a couple of minutes, then topped the potato with the veggies, some “cheese” sauce …

… and some fried onions I found in the cupboard. OK, the fried onions kinda negate the innate healthiness of the meal, but I’ve had a really bad week and damn it, fried onions cheer me up.

Mark and I both had off on Monday for President’s Day, and Mark surprised me immensely by announcing early that day that he was going to Wegman’s to buy stuff for dinner. “Are you making dinner?!” I gasped in surprise. Turns out, yes, yes he was making dinner. He made gumbo and it was darn good! I’ve been eating it for lunch all week. I tried to get him to do a post, but I think that would have overwhelmed him. I did snag a photo, though. I didn’t help at all!

The last post was crazy kitten-heavy and I’m sure I do have readers that aren’t interested in kittens, and I don’t wish to alienate them, so this is a kitten-free* post. I’m sure they’ll have done something ridiculously cute that warrants a picture next time, though.

* It’s not technically kitten-free. If you look carefully at the last picture of the baked potato there is a vaguely kitten-shaped, black blob in the background that is, in fact, Gomez. It’s near impossible to take a kitten-free photo around here.

Comments (9)

Welsh Rarebit

This will be a brief post, like the dinner it was inspired by. No elaborate write-up, just a quick note of what I made tonight. I was planning to serve a bean dish made with Great Northern beans and a green veggie, and was pondering what my third item should be when I saw that I had a small loaf of slightly stale homemade bread. I didn’t think the bread would be spectacular on its own, but toasted and slathered in something, I figured it would be great. So I decided to make Welsh rarebit. I’ve always heard that Welsh rarebit – essentially cheese sauce on toast – is so-called because it was what was served if you went out rabbit hunting and didn’t catch any rabbits, but according to that Wikipedia article that explanation is a slur, implying the Welsh were never successful at killing rabbits. Well, there is a lot of Welsh in my family history and I’m sure my mother would not let me make any slurs against the Welsh (not that I would, I even wear a Welsh dragon necklace), but I’ve always liked the story because I’m for any story that involves rabbits not being killed.

The “cheese” sauce is essentially the Yeast Cheeze from Simply Heavenly! (which is in this post) using beer and non-dairy milk for most of the water. I also added some of the ubiquitous Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese. Here’s pretty much what I did:

Welsh Rarebit

6 Tbsp nutritional yeast
6 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
8 oz (1 cup) beer
8 oz (1 cup) water
4 oz (1/2 cup) non-dairy milk
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp soy margarine

In a saucepan, whisk together the dry ingredients. Whisk in the beer, water, and non-dairy milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking frequently, until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and soy margarine. Set aside.

Slice as many thick slabs of bread as you’d like. Slather with “cheese” sauce. Toast in toaster oven at high temperature (or regular oven at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or broil) until “cheese” is beginning to bubble. Serve with optional hot sauce.

So, you saw Gomez’s Halloween costume in my last post. I wish I had a nice picture of Torticia in her Halloween costume, but I’m afraid she thought her costume was a toy. Since the day I bought it, she’s been dragging it around the house and attacking it. She loves it. She was supposed to be a butterfly. I did manage to get this picture of the headpiece before she completely destroyed it:

But this is what happened when I put the wings on:

Well, she was cute anyway. I couldn’t very well tell her to stop loving her costume so much, right?

Mark and I were Luke and Lanet for Halloween. Luke and Lanet are our good friends and the couple hosting the party we went to. They both have iPads so Mark and I made fake iPads as props. I’m really going to have to get Lanet to do a guest post sometime because she’s a great cook. It’s always a treat to go to their house because she makes sure we vegans are well taken care of. Lanet and I are always talking about food and getting each other hyped up about kitchen appliances.

Who’s who in this crazy picture?!

It’s scary because I’m wearing pink! That only ever happens on Halloween.

Comments (11)

Hot Dog Casserole

I don’t have a shot of the ingredients for this one because even as I had begun to prepare it I still wasn’t sure what direction I was going in with it. All I knew was I had three leftover hot dogs and I wanted to use them up in a non-bun manner. (I don’t know why that was because I now have six un-used hot dog buns I need to find a use for.) This was another throw-whatever’s-in-the-fridge together meal, this time in delicious casserole form!

Hot Dog Casserole

8 oz whole wheat elbows
1 recipe Yeast “Cheese” (from New Farm Cookbook/Simply Heavenly!; scroll down a little bit to see recipe(s)); I used extra mustard
3 vegan hot dogs, sliced into coins
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1-2 cayenne peppers, minced (I used 4 and it was overwhelming; I’d use 2 next time)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (I used orange, which I keep buying at the farmer’s market because they’re awesome)
1 cup to 1 can baked beans*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and set aside. Prepare the “cheese” and set aside.

Mince the chili pepper(s) …

… and chop the other veggies and the hot dogs.

Mark entered the picture this point to steal “free” macaroni and tomatoes. I had to shoo him away.

Saute the onions, bell pepper, and chili pepper for about 5 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients …

… and place in a baking dish.

I topped it with some panko bread crumbs and Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese because it seems like that’s what you do with casseroles.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


* A note about the baked beans: I threw this in because I had them leftover from the other night and I think the flavour is essential to the casserole, however, they need to be more of the “Boston” variety than the British Heinz variety. I only had a bit left over and wanted to try it with more beans, so I removed a little of the casserole and tried adding a bit of a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans (from the British aisle of Wegmans, and which I buy because I like beans on toast because sometimes I think I’m actually British and my parents aren’t telling me something…) but they were too runny and too sweet and just not right. So if you are using canned baked beans, use some brand that is sort of thicker, darker, and has molasses in it. I also described how I cheat and make Boston “baked” beans in this post. (In regards to my Britishness, I’ve also begun subconsciously adding extraneous u’s to words like colour and favourite. I guess it’s both because I read a lot of books that are in British English, and also my laptop seems to think I’m British for some reason and tries to tell me “color” and “favorite” are spelled wrong…and they really do look wrong to me now. I am not, however, phobic about zee/zed and realiZe that no matter what the laptop says, I’m American enough to embrace the zee.)

In other news, I noticed a Vegan Lunch Box display in Wegmans the other day, complete with the cookbook and the laptop lunch boxes that Jennifer uses. How cool is that? I’m not sure why, because I like the website, but I never got around to buying the cookbook, so despite the fact I don’t have room for any more cookbooks, I might buy one anyway just to make sure Wegmans knows I’m happy they promote vegan products. (I actually also bought another vegan cookbook at Wegmans a couple of years ago; they’re well-stocked!) You know, Mark and I have been talking about how much longer we really want to stay in Northern Virginia, as there’s a lot not to love about the area (read: traffic), but there are entire vegan displays, not just in Whole Foods or other natural food stores, but my regular, local, every day grocery store. Anything I need is pretty much available to me within a five mile radius. I’m sure that would also be true if we moved to San Francisco or New York, two of our favourite cities, but here we also live in a house and not a one or zero bedroom, 500-square foot apartment with no parking space, which would likely be the case in the good places. Oh, Northern Virginia, how I both hate and love you.

Speaking of lunch boxes, though, here’s mine!

I take my bento box in sometimes, but most of the time, it’s my trusty Tupperware lunch box, and I love it. I didn’t have one when I was a kid – I had aluminum lunch boxes with Strawberry Shortcake or Smurfs or something on them – but my best friend in elementary school did and I was always fascinated by it and its matching interior containers. And the fact that my friend’s contained a hard boiled egg and a tiny little packet of salt every single day. I had a peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich with a rotation of Hostess snacks every day. Now, I have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner 90% of the time. Anyway, you can find these Tupperware lunch boxes on eBay, and I’ve seen them in thrift stores a couple of times as well. I have Corningware that I transfer contents I want to microwave to at work because I don’t like microwaving plastic. Other than the little extra clean-up I have to do, I find this works very well for me.

Comments (9)

Broccoli “Cheez” Soup

My mother reminded me a couple of years ago that in college I was a big fan of broccoli cheese soup. I recalled that I’d order it for lunch from a restaurant near the record store I worked in and my mother would put cans of the Campbells variety in the care packages she made for me, but my favorite way to enjoy it was in bread bowls at the Renaissance Festival. So I decided to veganize this old favorite, which turned out to be very easy to do and very tasty!

I’ve been making this meal for a couple of years now, but why I chose one of the first days it feels as hot as summer – and Mark’s whining about the heat hasn’t yet turned so insistent that I agree to turn the air conditioning on – to make what is usually cold-weather comfort food, I do not know. But we ate it both Saturday and Sunday for dinner and Mark was disappointed when there were no seconds available on Sunday, so even if you live in a climate that’s currently turning to summer, don’t be disinclined to try it. Even if you want to serve it in bread bowls as I did and baking bread heats up your kitchen to some hellish temperature.

Broccoli Cheez Soup

1 large onion, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or vegan “chicken” broth (I’ve used the “chicken” stock here despite the fact that it used to really piss me off when restaurants would use chicken stock in an otherwise vegetarian soup)
2 small or 1 large head of broccoli
1/2 recipe pimiento cheez

Chop the broccoli, including the stems. You don’t need to be neat about separating the florets because most of them will be pureed. Heat a large pot on medium heat, then warm a little bit of oil and add the onions.

Saute the onions until begining to turn brown.

(Mine look extra brown in places because it was at this time when I discovered I couldn’t reach my server and I was away from the kitchen for longer than I’d anticipated.)

Add the broccoli and the broth or stock.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until broccoli is very soft. Add the cheez.

Heat for 5 more minutes or until cheez is melted.

Puree, making it as smooth or chunky as you like.

As I’ve mentioned before, an immersion blender is great for this type of thing, however, if you are considering buying one, do NOT under any circumstances buy the Cuisinart CSB-77 Smart Stick Hand Blender. I have gone through TWO of them. They both worked for about 3 uses, then the blade stopped turning (the motor sounds fine). I can see what the problem is (two pieces of metal are not making contact as they should), but both of them had the same problem and neither one lasted a month. (If anyone wants to recommend another brand, please do so!)

If you don’t have an immersion blender, like me, suddenly, let the soup cool down before pureeing in batches in a blender or food processor. I know I stress this repeatedly, but do not put hot liquids into a blender, and even when blending warm liquids, fill the blender only half full. I pureed three batches and left a fourth un-pureed so I’d have some bits of broccoli floating around.

Serve in bread bowls.

Note: if you make a full batch of the pimiento cheez, one suggestion I have for the leftover cheez is to use it in a burrito, as I did for lunch today. I mashed up a can of pinto beans, added some of the leftover pimiento cheez and some salsa, and microwaved it for about 3 minutes. Roll up in a tortilla with chopped onions, leftover rice if you have any, and some hot sauce. Super-fast burrito!

Comments (7)

Pimiento Cheez

Being vegan is much easier now than it was just ten years ago. Ten years ago I barely knew how to cook, didn’t know any other vegans, and although I lived near a health food store in Baltimore, I didn’t really know what to do with the stuff I found there. I don’t think food blogs even existed. The internet has been a boon to vegans since then, though: not only are the online resources for vegans themselves immense, but a lot of people who might otherwise never have come across the concept of veganism are exposed to it online, which helps greatly when I, as a vegan, am later exposed to those people. Ten years ago when I told people I was vegan, the response I most often received was, “What’s a vegan?” (followed by an astonished, “But what DO you eat?”) Now I can go into a restaurant and ask if a particular dish is vegan and get an answer – without a puzzled look. A lot of restaurants use the term “vegan” right on their menus these days!

Back in the dark days of my early veganism, the first cookbook I bought was Simply Heavenly!.

As you can see, my copy of this book has been seriously abused. Entire sections of it have come unattached from the spine and there are food and water stains throughout. In particular, the “Dairy Substitutes” chapter is completely removable from the rest of the book due to being opened to that part so frequently, and is also caked in lord only knows what. Although I’ve gone on to purchase countless other vegan cookbooks, I don’t know what my life would have been like if Abbott Burke hadn’t told me early on how to make several varieties of “cheez”, seitan to taste like every meat imaginable, and everything else you can imagine – 1,400 recipes in all. Along the way, I learned to cook. I still consider myself a novice cook, but I’ve certainly progressed from the Spaghetti-Os and cheese sandwiches of my pre-vegan days.

Unfortunately Simply Heavenly! is long out of print – and used copies go for a pretty penny – which is why I will be sharing the following recipe with you. This “cheez” will be used in another recipe I will be providing later today or tomorrow, but I’ll give it its own post. The text below is from the cookbook.

Pimiento Cheez 2

This Cheez should not be grainy from the ground (blended) cashews. If this happens to yours, then you did not blend long enough or your blender lacks the power to do the job. We use a Vita-Mix, and it works perfectly. (Renae’s note: I use a Sumeet Asia Kitchen Machine, my undying love for which I’ll be discussing at some point.)

1/4 cup agar
1 cup water
3/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup pimientos
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
dash garlic powder
dash dill seed
1/2 tsp corn oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Soak the agar in water about 5 minutes …

… and boil gently until clear.

Not yet clear


Place the other ingredients, except the oil and lemon juice, in a blender …

… with the agar and whirl. Slowly add the oil. Add the lemon juice last.

Pour immediately into a mold and set in the refrigerator to cool.

The cookbook doesn’t provide an estimate of how long it will take to firm up, but it doesn’t take long, perhaps as little as 15 minutes. Mine doesn’t look too pretty unmolded because I was planning to just shred it up anyway, so I wasn’t too careful about smoothing it out.

You know it’s good because Tigger only sits on cookbooks of which he approves!

(That’s a total lie. Tigger is completely non-discerning about he sits on.)

Comments (1)

Teese – the melting vegan cheese!

Vegan “cheese” has long been the bane of vegans everywhere. It’s generally nasty, tasteless, non-melting garbage. Considering that statistics show* that pizza is the #1 food that vegans miss from their omnivore or lacto-ovo days, this state of affairs is a sorry mess.

The first problem with vegan cheese is that much of what appears to be vegan cheese is not, in fact, vegan. Most of your “soy cheeses” contain the dreaded casein, a milk protein. This is unfortunate because well-meaning friends and relatives often purchase these soy cheeses thinking they are vegan, and grocery stores stock it, mistakenly believing they are serving the vegan community. The great thing about casein in regards to soy cheese appears to be that casein makes soy cheese melt. Sort of, anyway. I don’t know as I don’t eat casein or casein-containing soy cheeses, but that’s what I’ve heard.

A few years ago, Follow Your Heart came out with their Vegan Gourmet cheese, which for a while was the best we had. It was soft and kinda sorta melted. You could make a “cheese” pizza with it that wouldn’t make you gag, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. Another brand, Vegan Rella, grated well and even melted somewhat well on pizza, but stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Then last year on a trip to London (from our home in the US), my husband and I got to try the much-hyped Cheezly, which I picked up for a couple of pounds at the UK version of Whole Foods, which I call Fresh & Fancy although that isn’t really its name. Cheezly is AMAZING. We ate the mature white cheddar flavor straight up on crackers! No one eats vegan cheese plain like that, because it’s usually disgusting! When we returned home, I immediately began begging all of the Whole Foods in my area to carry Cheezly, but so far I don’t believe they have a regular distributor in the US. The only place to get it that I know of is Vegan Essentials, where it not only costs an arm and a leg, but for best results, you really need to buy a cold pack shipper and pay for 2nd day air (at least if you live on the opposite coast, as I do). I will say, however, that Cheezly is worth all that. The mozzarella makes a perfect vegan cheese pizza, and the cheddar is still good on crackers, and also on pizza. It’s sort of outrageously expensive, but then I saw the price of some real mozzarella, the good stuff, at Wegman’s and realized I’m such a food snob I’d probably be spending the same amount on real cheese if I weren’t vegan.

This post isn’t about the amazing Cheezly, however. (Although maybe I will write one of those later.) This is about a new American vegan cheese that is almost as good: Teese! Teese is brand new and I ordered a sample of it from their website a couple of weeks ago. It arrived last Saturday and I tested it the only proper way I know on Sunday: on pizza. In the very short time since I ordered mine, it seems they’ve stopped processing orders through their website and Teese is now available from the aforementioned Vegan Essentials and Pangea (which is awesome for me because Pangea is driving distance from my home).

Teese has a somewhat different consistency than any other vegan cheese I’ve encountered, in fact, it seems to be a lot like real mozzarella:

Please bear in mind, however, that I have never purchased high quality dairy mozzarella since I’ve been vegan for much longer than I’ve been more affluent than “dirt poor”, so I’m not a good judge of how mozzarella-y this stuff really is.

But therefore, unlike other “cheeses” that I’ve grated, Teese I just sort of crumbled onto my pizza:

I bake my pizzas as hot as my oven will go, 550 F, which means they are only in for about 5 minutes. Some vegan cheeses, if they melt at all, take a lot longer than that to do so. Not Teese! After about 2 minutes, it was clear Teese was very comfortable with high temperatures and fast baking times:

Out of the oven, my Teese pizza looked amazing!

If anything, my husband said it melted too much:

And most importantly, how did it taste? Quite good! The husband and I agreed it was not quite as good as our beloved Cheezly, but if we hadn’t been spoiled by Cheezly, I’d have been doing cartwheels! I don’t know exactly how much the the packages of Teese will weigh when Vegan Essentials gets them in, so I can’t compare it to directly Cheezly, but I usually make about four personal sized pizzas with each $8.49 package of Cheezly, and I’d expect I could make at least twice that with the size package of Teese I got for $7.49. My Teese package wasn’t marked in any way (being a “demo” version) and I didn’t weigh it. But it’s probably a much better buy. Teese only makes a mozzarella-type version right now, but I think they are working on a cheddar variety. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that, and possibly begging my local health food stores to jump on the Teese bandwagon.

* In a survey I conducted in my head.

Comments (4)