Tag Archives: cheese

Bumpy Road

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It’s no secret: veganism can be a tough lifestyle to stick to. Recently I have been suffering from a lot of desire for things that I shouldn’t have: going out to pizza with the roommates and having to opt for a cheeseless version as they enjoy their gooey, cheesy pies; walking into our apartment with the smell of fresh-baked, non-vegan cookies thick in the air; wishing for a veggie and egg scramble topped with cheddar on buttered toast instead of my normal oatmeal or brown rice cereal. Let’s face it, non-vegan food is freakin delicious! And sometimes I do give in as I snag a fresh baked cookie off the cooling rack, but I have to remind myself that it is just a little bump in the road.

To cure myself of this bumpy road of vegan depression, I turned to my new vegan bible, The Plantpower Way, hoping they would have a section that would give me a little hope for my future. And they did! First, they have a great section on the protein dilemma that everyone seems to drill vegans with. Where do we get our protein? I have to say I started having my own doubts, thinking that I should perhaps reinstate eggs into my diet so I can get higher levels of protein. But really, there are so many extremely fit people, even international athletes, who eat a plant-based diet with no protein deficiencies. In the book, they claim that only about 10% of your daily calories should be protein to maintain a healthy body, which is pretty easy to accomplish without even focusing on your protein intake. Of course, eating a variety of grains, beans, nuts, veggies, and fruits is the key to maintaining balance, but the point is that protein isn’t really that big of a deal.

Second, one of the authors wrote a great section on how the transition to veganism is really tough, but we need to switch our perception of veganism from one of deprivation to thinking of all of the great culinary opportunities the plant-based diet provides. It is so easy, as I have done myself many a time, to think of all of the things I can’t have: no ice cream, no scrambled eggs, no gourmet cheeses. But it is time to focus on all of the things I get to have: coconut cream ice cream, tofu scrambles and superfood vegan pancakes for breakfast, gourmet nut cheeses that I never would have tried if I still was eating regular parmesan. I am opening doors to a new world of wonderful, nourishing foods that will support my body and help me to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

So yeah, this journey hasn’t been easy. But I guess no journey that is actually worthwhile is ever easy. And I still feel very passionately that it is my duty, as an individual who enjoys so many things that our beautiful planet has to offer, to help protect and conserve the health of our only home.

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Vegan Mac n Cheese Round 2

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Vegan Mac n Cheese Round 2

The last time I posted about mac n cheese I swore it was probably the last time I would ever pursue a vegan mac n cheese. However, tonight I made mac n cheese from scratch, with a significantly more positive outcome!

My lovely friend Bridger, who is currently pursuing a mostly vegan diet (aside from eggs), decided it was time to whip up a batch and experience the novelty, and I just so happened to have a brand new bag of nutritional yeast on hand, so we teamed up for this culinary adventure. We used the recipe from Vegan Yumminess, which was the first thing that came up with a Google search. It has a 4.9 star rating, so it must be good right?

Vegan Mac n Cheese:
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces dried macaroni (or about 2⅔ cups)
  • 1 cup peeled/diced yellow potatoes (or russets)
  • ¼ cup peeled/diced carrots
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup water (preferably use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 pinch paprika
Instructions
  1. Cook macaroni al dente, according to package instructions (usually requires boiling for 6-8 minutes in salted water), drain, and set aside.
  2. Bring several cups of water to boil in a small pot. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, and onion in the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft enough to blend. Cooking time will vary slightly, based on how small you have chopped your veggies.
  3. When veggies are soft enough to blend, use a slotted spoon to remove them from cooking water, and place them in your blender. Add ¾ cup of that cooking water to your blender, along with your remaining ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour sauce over your cooked macaroni noodles in a dish of your choice, taste for salt, and serve immediately.

For our dish, we used whole wheat shell pasta. Also, it is important to note that we used the thick, fully creamy coconut milk, not the thin coconut milk that comes in cartons to put over your cereal.IMG_20150314_185006_836

At first, I was pretty skeptical of the whole thing. Who would blend up carrots to make a cheese-like sauce?? Yet, the final product was weirdly cheesy. I was almost scared to try it, since it didn’t make sense for those ingredients to be able to come together to make a cheese substitute, but it smelled so yummy that I was ultimately tempted. The mac n cheese, while not exactly a rich cheesy taste, was very pleasantly creamy and savory. It had the same comforting effect that normal mac and cheese used to have on me. Moral of the story? Skip the boxed mac n cheese! Make your own! Homemade vegan mac n cheese is a treat every vegan should experience.

Seitan! (Dun, Dun, Duuunnn)

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This past weekend was extremely busy and stressful for me on the academic front, yet I somehow managed to squeeze in my first Seitan-making experiment on Sunday (I mostly used it as a break from writing my seemingly endless analysis of Paradise Lost). It turns out, Seitan is incredibly easy to make on your own!

I followed A Vegan with a Plan’s recipe (look her up, she is awesome!), which used vegan bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, and nutritional yeast to season it. I didn’t have any nutritional yeast however, so I just left it out, and instead of using bouillon cubes, I used the vegetable Better Than Bouillon, which worked perfectly. However, there are tons of seitan recipes out there on the internet, and the basic process is pretty much the same. The only major difference is how you choose to cook the seitan. I wanted to try A Vegan with a Plan’s method of cooking the seitan in the oven on a rack above a pan of water, but I don’t have a rack that can sit in a baking pan, so I had to browse the web for another option. In the end, I simply rolled my seitan log in aluminum foil and stuck it directly on the oven rack. I baked the seitan at 325 degrees for 90 minutes total, turning the log over once half way through. Pretty darn simple.

My seitan turned out with a firm yet very bite-able texture, and it was not super chewy (which I was worried about, because the seitan at Shaw is incredibly chewy). The shape is a little freaky though; we all decided it looks like brains that have been mashed up and put in a log shape, but I try not to think about that too much. Otherwise, the seitan is fabulous! Right now it is sitting in the fridge for sandwiches or whatever, but I can’t wait to start actually making meals with it. I’ve seen some really cool things that people do with seitan, from buffalo wings to fried “chicken” to sloppy Joe’s. Really stoked to try them out!

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I also would like to congratulate my darling parents for their recent vegan culinary endeavor: last night they made vegan mac-n-not-cheese from scratch! After my poor experience with boxed vegan mac ‘n cheese, I was prepared to bid farewell to the dish forever, but my parents reported that their homemade version was a total hit. They used cashews as a cream base and added yummy stuff like mushrooms and sautéd garlic. You can find the recipe they used at http://detoxinista.com/2011/01/move-over-kraft/ Here’s a few lovely photos of their culinary adventure, including one of my dad, who is a professional model as you can tell.

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Triumphs and Failures

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Let’s start with the failure first: Protein Oatmeal

This morning I woke up ready for a hot bowl of oatmeal. I haven’t had oatmeal for a week or so, and I was really excited for a warm, hearty breakfast this morning. I also really wanted to try my latest food experiment: adding protein powder to oatmeal. Before I was vegan, when I was eating clean, I had oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast so that I could get both protein and carbs in my meal. So I figured, wouldn’t it be great if I could slip some protein into my morning oatmeal? Then I could maintain that nice carb-protein balance for breakfast without eating eggs or whipping up a tofu scramble all the time. Unfortunately, the experiment was a dud. I used the RAW brand of vanilla protein powder (which I LOOOVE in smoothies, thanks Auntie Katherine for hooking me up with it), and I just dumped in a scoop right after adding my oats to the pot of boiling water. I also added 1/2c of frozen blueberries and a handful of cashews. I thought that since the protein powder is so good mixed in smoothies, it should be fine in oatmeal too. Nope. The powder didn’t really dissolve well and therefore made the whole thing really gritty. Also, the flavor was kind of chalky and almost bitter unless I got a blueberry in each bite. I wonder if this flavor problem is a product of cooking the protein, since normally it is meant to be consumed in cold water/smoothies. The whole thing could have been improved with some agave I bet, but I really hate adding sugars into my food when I should just tough it out and accept a less sweet taste. If you do decide to try adding protein to oatmeal, try it with maple syrup or agave! (and let me know how it turns out, or if a different protein brand worked better).

On a different front, I did have an exciting vegan success today: Vegan Cream Cheese!!

Audrey and I have been craving bagels lately, and with every good bagel comes some schmearing of cream cheese. This becomes an obvious predicament for vegans, so Audrey sucked it up and bought us some bagels (from Trader Joe’s) and vegan cream cheese (from Whole Foods) so we could satisfy our craving at last. The cream cheese she bought was the plain kind from Go Veggie. And it was surprisingly delicious! We had tried a vegan cheddar cheese the other day by the same company and it was awful. My friend Bridger, who also tried it, described it as being in a junk yard with a bunch of tires, starving, and having to eat the tires as a last resort. Not good. However, the cream cheese from Go Veggie was a triumph today. In fact, having a toasty, crunchy bagel with a salty schmear of creamy goodness was probably the highlight of my day. (Shocking, I know, that a breakfast food was my high point today). Next up: making my own cashew cream cheese! From what I’ve seen, most recipes are pretty simple and college-dorm-kitchen-friendly. I cannot wait to try it!

P.S. Here is a picture of my breakfast from Sunday, my last meal of my fabulous, gluttonous weekend with my parents. We went to the Blue Plate Diner, which was PACKED. They serve both nonvegan and vegan foods, and it seems like they are pretty well known for both varieties. I got the vegan pancakes and added banana and coconut. Dad got the tofu breakfast burrito. Mom got the tofu scramble, which was cooked in a soy-saucy asian style that I must try at home.

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The Dairy Talk

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On the vegan front, not a lot of extremely exciting things have happened today or yesterday, so I think it is an excellent time for The Dairy Talk. If you are not sold on going dairy-free, perhaps I can sway you with some ideas that don’t even have to do with my normal “save the environment” mantra (although it still 100% applies).

If you pause to think about it, the fact that we drink the milk of a cow (or any lactating animal) is really odd. When we are babies, we drink our mother’s milk because it is extremely nutrient rich and provides our young bodies with a power-packed growth solution. The same thing goes for cows. A cow produces milk for her calf that will provide the calf everything it needs to quickly grow into a big, strong, healthy cow (or bull). But, last time I checked, humans aren’t cows, and we aren’t even that closely related. So does it really make sense to drink a calf’s growth-fluid as humans, and especially as adult humans? We stop drinking our own mother’s milk at a certain age for a reason, so why do we continue to drink a very large animal’s milk throughout our maturity? And, though a lot of evolution has occurred that helps humans digest milk better, lactose is not naturally easily digestible by humans after infancy. Many people in the world cease to produce lactase, the lactose digestive enzyme, past their childhood, creating lactose-intolerance. We have somewhat adapted to this issue, but still, it is clearly not natural to be drinking milk all the time.

Another issue is that our government is the big dairy pusher. ChooseMyPlate.gov is now the government nutrition program that has evolved from the classic food pyramid that many people are familiar with. On this website they recommend 3 cups of dairy per day in order to get good calcium. But isn’t it fishy that the US Department of Agriculture is the creator of this program? All of the huge agricultural corporations pour tons of money and time into lobbying the Agricultural Committees in Congress, and their efforts are reflected directly by the USDA. So who is really preaching that we need 3 cups of milk per day? Independent, unbiased nutritionists? Or people with direct ties to the dairy industry and a big profit? In addition, there are many many many other ways to get a daily dose of calcium aside from milk. And there is even some research showing that people in countries that do not have frequent dairy access have lower rates of osteoporosis development, suggesting that milk may not be the osteoporosis inhibitor that we are taught to think it is.

However, if you still are very attached to your milk and yogurt and cheese, I do recommend going with full-fat options as opposed to low-fat and non-fat. Logically, it seems like non-fat will be healthier since fat is “bad.” But that’s just the thing, fats from the right sources can be quite good for you. By drinking a glass of whole milk, you ingest a nice balance of all three macronutrients: fats, protein, and carbs. This balance is better for your body and helps make you feel more satiated so you don’t end up gulping down a lot of unnecessary lactose (carbs). If you go with non-fat, you end up with mostly lactose and some protein in your system, and you then search for other sources of fatty acids that you need. A full-fat, raw milk is ideal from the health perspective, even though I discourage milk drinking since it is both unnecessary and harmful to our planet.

Vegan Valentines

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I did not have a traditional Valentine’s Day today, but I definitely had a great day anyway. Part of the greatness of my day is due to vegan pizza from The Pie, which is one of the most famous pizza places in Salt Lake, especially for the college crowd. Part of being a true college student is eating some really really really good thick pizza every once in a while, and normally, going vegan would really hinder that. But not at The Pie! Audrey and I ordered a vegan veggie delight pizza, which consisted of marinara, vegan cheez, and a pile of yummy veggies. This was my first experience with melty vegan cheez, and it was pretty positive! The taste is quite comparable, but the texture is a little interesting. When melted, it reminds me a bit of cheese sauce out of a can (which could be further proof of how unreal that cheese sauce stuff is), except that it definitely is shredded cheez, not sauce, before baking. But when combined with a bunch of other toppings, the cheez texture is hardly noticeable and the pizza is still on a godly level of deliciousness.

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Another highlight of my day was completing my first ever lead climb. I know this is un-vegan, but it is also a huge milestone for me, so I think it is totally worth reporting. For those non-climbers out there, lead climbing is when you climb up a rock trailing the rope, and you clip the rope in as you go. This is as opposed to top-rope climbing, where the rope is already anchored at the top of the rock before you climb. Lead climbing results in a lot more responsibility safety-wise for the climber, and falling can be a lot more serious (although you still won’t die or get too injured hopefully). Anyway, I lead a 5.8 climb up Big Cottonwood canyon this morning with my friend and climbing partner Charlie. I was so stoked!! The goal is to climb Cathedral Peak this June with my parents, so today I made one huge step towards that goal.

All in all, between climbing achievements and heavenly slices of vegan pizza, my Valentine’s Day was a success! And it just goes to show that there are so many ways to find happiness when you are surrounded by good friends, food, and mountains; you don’t need a bouquet of roses to be content.

Say Goodbye to Mac ‘n Cheese

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Tonight I arrived back in Salt Lake around 7, and unfortunately, Shaw closes at 7 on the weekends. I asked my roommate what vegan things we had on hand, and she excitedly announced she had purchased some vegan mac ‘n cheese that we needed to try.

We pulled out the box of Earth Balance white cheddar vegan mac ‘n cheese and started a pot of water on the stove. I looked over the ingredients and determined that this experiment could end up quite poorly, because once again we have run into the issue of removing a crucial ingredient from a dish while still trying to imitate the same ooey gooey creamy cheesy taste. Upon trying the vegan mac ‘n cheese, I confirmed my doubtful hypothesis, deciding that it mostly tasted like weird olive-oil-noodle-cardboard-salt stuff. In other words, it wasn’t good.

Now I do have to add a small disclaimer here that we did not have the Earth Balance vegan butter stuff on hand, so we used olive oil (hence the strong olive oil taste?) instead. Also, and this could have been pretty critical, the only milk we had on hand was vanilla unsweetened almond milk or regular sweetened vanilla soy milk. We decided that unsweetened was probably our best shot out of the two, but there was still a definite hint of vanilla somewhere in there that was not okay.

Conclusion: perhaps in giving up dairy, I should also give up pursuing vegan versions of all foods whose main ingredient is dairy. Goodbye mac ‘n cheese, we had a good 19 years together. You will be sorely missed and always remembered with true love in my heart.