Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wine and Cheese

Ah, cheese. You're creamy, tangy, salty, melty, and stretchy all at the same time. You make everything delicious. But you also come out of a cow's boob. It will never cease to amaze me that so many people get super freaked out by the thought of drinking human breast milk, but cow breast milk is A-OK. When people are confused about veganism, I tell them I'm a vegetarian who prefers not to eat anything that came out of another animal's boob or vag.

Ah, vegan cheese. You can be chalky, waxy, bland, and gritty all at the same time. Sometimes you smell like crayons. Or vomit. Sometimes you don't melt, and sometimes you melt too well, forming a pool of molten-hot liquid that slides right off my pizza. You're expensive and full of preservatives. But you don't come out of a cow's boob, and sometimes you're creamy, tangy, salty, and (maybe a little bit) melty and stretchy.

I have a love-hate relationship with vegan cheese. I kind of miss real cheese, but only as a cultural thing. After three years as a vegan, I can't even remember what cheese tastes like, and I never crave it. But what about pizza parties? Fondue parties? Wine & cheese parties? Fortunately, there are vegan cheeses (store-bought and homemade) that are up to these tasks.

Last night I tried out a few homemade cheeses, and we had a little wine and cheese party. Check it out.

This is the macadamia nut brie from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions. No, it doesn't taste like brie, but it's creamy, slightly sweet, and delicious.

This is another macadamia nut cheese from The Conscious Cook. It's suppose to get tangy and cheesy from a one-night stand with some probiotics. Unfortunately, I think I killed my probiotics by overheating them in the Vitamix. Drat! Still good, though.

This is a garlic and herb cream cheese dip partially based on the macadamia brie recipe. Blend 12 oz extra firm silken tofu with 3 oz cashews in a Vitamix (or other hardcore blender) until smooth. If you don't have a hardcore blender, start by soaking the cashews overnight. Add 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp italian herbs, and 2 cloves garlic (use a microplane grater or mince). In the back you can see sweet basil pesto tapenade from Veganomicon.

Slow-roasted tomatoes to go with all the cheesy goodness. This is my mother-in-law's recipe (loosely), and I'm not sure where she got it. Take 4 lbs roma tomatoes (12-15), slice in half, and place cut side up on a cookie sheet. Drown them in olive oil, sprinkle with plenty of garlic (5-6 cloves), oregano, salt, and sugar (you need a couple of big pinches for each tomato half, though this will depend on how sweet your tomatoes are). Cook at 300 degrees for three to five hours.

We served everything up with rosemary crackers, toasted and untoasted bread, red peppers, and blueberries.


Friday, March 11, 2011


Lately, I've been craving baking. Not baked goods per se, but just the experience and joy of baking. I find baking very soothing: you measure, you mix, you put the whole thing in the oven and forget about it, delicious smells fill your house, and, in no time at all, homemade vegan baked goods are yours!

These are white Russian cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I scored at a Borders closing. Coffee, Kahlua, and chocolate in one cookie? Yes, please.

I made these cupcakes for my inner five-year-old girly girl. She thinks things like, "Coffee in cookies? Ewww!" and "Mommy, I want fluffy, pink frosting, and I want it now!" The recipes for golden vanilla cupcakes and raspberry buttercream come from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vegans in Love

Valentine's Day is traditionally a go-out-for-dinner holiday. This gives everyone a break from the (sometimes daunting) experience of home cooking: forgotten ingredients, food that doesn't turn out the way you planned, piles of dirty dishes, companion animals that whine incessantly at your feet, and the haunting feeling that something is about to burn, melt, explode, or bleed. Cooking is not for the faint of heart! And it may not be something you want to do on a holiday.

On the flip side, it can also be fun to skip the crowded restaurants and experiment with fancy-pants vegan cooking. In the rural Midwest, it can be challenging to find a nice restaurant that serves vegan grub (unless you want to pay $20 for a plate of pasta that you could have made at home for $1.50). So this year I broke out the good china and whipped up our own romantic Valentine's Day feast: Gardein Piccata, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts in garlic butter, and, for dessert, baked lemon cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

The piccata recipe came from Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook (he's that guy from Oprah). I never had piccata in my pregan days, and it had a stronger flavor than I was expecting, but it grew on me. Try to use a nice, dry wine with a flavor you know you like.

The Brussels sprouts with garlic butter and the roasted garlic mashed potatoes were delish, but maybe not the best choices for a romantic evening, unless you want your partner to taste like garlic (and, let's be honest, I do). I usually roast my sprouts, but this recipe directs you to sauté smashed garlic in (vegan) butter before adding the halved sprouts cut side down to cook until they brown. Pretty great cooking method, if you ask me.

Dessert trumped everything. Initially, I worried that this baked lemon cheesecake would taste like sweetened soy because it's made with silken tofu and Tofutti cream cheese. But even though this cheesecake is almost pure soy, it doesn't taste like it. I baked ours in a graham cracker pie crust and served it with a raspberry sauce. It's the best vegan cheesecake I've had anywhere other than Sublime.

Happy Valentine's Day!