Product Review: Daiya Cheddar Style Wedge

I have tried many vegan cheese products over the past few years and have been let down many times.  None of them have the right flavor for me and most of them have a strange texture.  I am now pleased to say that I have found an amazing vegan cheese!  It melts (like Velveeta) into creamy, cheesy goodness that would be awesome in Rotel dip (Daiya cheddar style wedge + a can of Rotel or salsa), as a fondu dip, or melted on top of veggie burgers, tacos, chili, burritos, nachos, tofu chili dogs, vegan philly cheese steaks, or anything else you want melted cheese on!

Daiya makes three flavors right now, cheddar, pepper jack, and jalapeño garlic havarti.  I’ve only tried the cheddar so far.  I put a big slice between two pieces of bread and put it in a skillet with some melted Earth Balance margarine to make an incredibly yummy vegan grilled cheese.  The cheese does get really melty though, so it dripped out of the sandwich and onto my plate a little while I was eating it, but that was okay with me.  I just wiped it up with my bread and kept eating!  If you wanted it a little less “runny,” you could just not toast the bread until it was practically burnt like I did.

The texture of the block in solid form is slightly soft, but still firm enough to slice and handle.  It’s very similar to the Velveeta product sold in the US in both texture and flavor.  This is the best tasting vegan cheese I’ve ever had.  It has a nice tangy cheddar flavor.  Other reviewers say it’s great eaten “raw,” that is, sliced with crackers or apples or eaten cold on a sandwich.   I personally recommend it for recipes where you want warm, melted cheese.  I don’t know too many non-vegan folks that want to eat Velveeta straight from the package!

Here is the grilled cheese I made (alongside a bowl of Almost Instant Tomato Chickpea Soup from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap).  I tried to get a close up pic as well to show you the creamy texture.

Weekend Munchies (Organic Harvest, Hoover, AL)

My regular readers will know that I’ve written several times about a local restaurant called Organic Harvest, which is located on Montgomery Highway 31 in Hoover, Alabama.  They have the only juice bar in Alabama (that I am aware of) and a cafe where they serve soup, salad, sandwiches, and smoothies, all made from fresh, organic produce.  They also have a great grocery section, which takes up the majority of the store.

I love to eat lunch at Organic Harvest on the weekends and if you live in or near Birmingham or are visiting, you should definitely check them out.  Their Arnold Smoothie is my favorite (pictured below).  It contains your choice of almond butter or peanut butter, rice milk or organic dairy milk, honey or agave nectar, a banana, and cinnamon.  I get mine made with almond butter, rice milk, and agave.  They also add in a scoop of rice protein powder as well.

The sandwich below is called Veggie Salvation and this weekend was my frist time trying it.  I usually go for their ALT (avocado, lettuce, tomato) panini.  The Veggie Salvation has halved cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives, feta cheese (86 this to make it vegan), sprouts, hummus, and their goddess dressing (which has a creamy, tangy flavor – definitely lemon juice and garlic in there).  I got it on a whole wheat wrap, but they also have gluten free and spinach wraps. Your choice of apple slices or potato chips are served on the side. Yummy!

Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes

You take the lime and the coconut…. and put them in a cupcake!!!

I want to be like the woman on the Julie and Julia movie, except I want to cook my way through Isa Moskowitz’s cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  I’ve made the crimson velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, the cookies and cream cupcakes with cookies and cream buttercream frosting, the carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and now these, perhaps my ultimate favorite so far.  The tangy lime butter cream and sweet coconut cake (PACKED with coconut) make a glorious pair.

My tip for this recipe is to use fresh squeezed lime juice.  If you go for that bottled crap, Isa and I will personally arrive at your house to slap your face!  You need limes for the zest anyway, so just hush up and zest/juice 3 limes.

Coconut Lime Cupcakes:
1/3 cup coconut oil (I used canola)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk (I used the light kind in the can)
1/4 cup soy milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tbsp lightly packed, finely grated lime zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.

Melt the coconut oil (if using) in a small saucepan over very low heat until melted.  Mix the oil and sugar in a medium bowl, then add the coconut milk, soy milk, vanilla, coconut extract, and lime zest and mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.  Fold in the coconut flakes and fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full.  (I’ll make a note here: it doesn’t look like you’re going to get a dozen once you start filling the cups.  I actually only filled my cupcake liners 1/2 full and I barely got enough batter to make a dozen.  Trust me, fill all 12 liners evenly and you will get full-sized cupcakes when they are done baking.)

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until the cupcake top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before icing.

Lime Buttercream Frosting:
NOTE: Below is the FULL recipe. I halved this recipe and still had enough to generously pipe frosting onto a dozen cupcakes.  If you make the full recipe you’re going to have a TON of frosting!

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Earth Balance – I beg you, don’t use Crisco!)
1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

You want to make sure the shortening and margarine are softened before you start this, otherwise it’s just going to get stuck in the beaters of your electric mixer and cause you a lot of frustration.  I DO NOT recommend putting them in the microwave or you’re going to end up with a mess.  I slice both into tablespoon-sized blocks (if you buy the margarine and shortening sticks by Earth Balance, the wrappers are marked by tablespoons) and let them set in the bowl on top of the oven (while the cupcakes are baking) and the heat will slowly soften the margarine and shortening.  You want them soft enough to beat, NOT melty.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until combined well and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes (it will get thick, but keep the  mixer going). Add the vanilla and lime juice, beat for another 5 minutes or so until fluffy. Add the zest and mix to distribute. Chill until ready to use.

Now pipe your icing onto the cooled cupcakes and top with lime slices.  So cute!

Vegan Brunch

We celebrated my lovely friend Jeanna’s birthday last weekend.  Some friends came over and I made brunch.  I really love having everyone over and cooking for people I love.  It gets a bit hectic, trying to make sure everything is ready on time and still warm when guests arrive, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it (even with a sink full of dishes!)

I served biscuits and tempeh sausage gravy, roasted rosemary potatoes, and fruit (strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries).  We also had juice and coffee with chocolate hazelnut milk for creamer.  Everything was divine, if I don’t say so myself! 

After we ate, we all went down to the pool to swim and bask in the sunshine (what little there was – it was a bit cloudy).  Later in the day, we had Coconut Lime Cupcakes that I made from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook.  These cupcakes were a huge hit!

BBQ Seitan & Creamy Coleslaw Hoagies

There’s nothing like warm, tangy, sweet barbecue sauce in the same meal as cool, creamy coleslaw.  Barbeque is typical Southern summertime fare at family gatherings and you can absolutely have it without meat and without standing over a hot grill in 95 degree weather!

The seitan (called “wheat meat”) and coleslaw recipes are from Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero.  It may seem like a lot of trouble to make your own seitan but trust me, it’s way cheaper than buying it in the store.  You’ll spend around the same amount and get 4 times as much!

This recipe makes around 6-7 hoagies.

First start the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane grater (or a very fine cheese grater)

Mix vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix the sauce, broth, olive oil, and garlic.  Add wet to dry and stir until mostly combined, then knead with your hands for 3 minutes until elastic.

Now add 4 cups vegetable broth (I used faux chicken stock) + 4 cups water  + another 1/4 cup soy sauce to a large, deep skillet.  Cut the seitan into 3 equal sized pieces, stretch them a bit with your hands, and drop into the broth mix.  Bring just to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer, and cover with the lid slightly tilted.  Let simmer for 1 hour.

While the seitan is cooking, make the coleslaw:
3 cups coleslaw mix (shredded purple and white cabbage and carrots)
1/4 cup vegan mayo
2 tablespoons plain soy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
pinch of dried dill (I used one teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of white pepper (I used black)
pinch of mustard powder

Whisk everything together (except the coleslaw mix) and then pour over the coleslaw  mix and toss to coat.

Once your seitan is done, turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes in the broth.  Then remove from the pan and slice.  Preheat a skillet (iron is best) over medium heat and coat with non-stick spray or put a bit of oil in the bottom.  Cook the seitan strips about 3 minutes on each side, until slightly browned.

Now slice your hoagie rolls in half, top with coleslaw and seitan strips, and drizzle your favorite BBQ sauce over the top (I used Bull’s Eye Original).  They’re messy but yummy!

Meal Idea:  Serve with baked beans, corn on the cob, or collard greens!
P.S. Store leftover seitan in an airtight container with a little of the broth it cooked in.  You can also reserve the leftover broth for your next pot of soup.