As you’ve probably come to know, we try to avoid most processed, pre-packaged foods, favoring instead fresh local foods, when possible. Orange juice and soy creamer have largely been our worst repeat offenders. Until the advent of Daiya ™, that is.
(pictured: quesadillas + baked mac & cheese)
I swear, we were happily off the cheese for years and years. Nu yeast had nestled cozily into the space of that craving nicely. None of the vegan cheeses were really any good, though in those early days we appreciated them immensely (thank you Tofutti ™ and Follow Your Heart ™!), even if they didn’t melt.
Then, a few years back, a local pizzeria started carrying vegan cheese and pepperoni. The idea of being able to order a true vegan pizza (not just the cheeseless variety we’ve resorted to in a social pinch [you know, when everyone’s ordering pizza and you’re at someone else’s house and don’t want to make a huge deal about your diet]), was too much. We had to try it. Vegan pizza! This is a guilty pleasure, of course, and not something we indulge in often. But it was enough to re-introduce vegan cheese into our diet.
Initially, it was Follow Your Heart. Then it was Teese ™ for a while, but the majority of Ypsilanti vegans revolted (Teese is awesome on nachos, but not great on pizzas). When, after about a year, they switched to Daiya, it was a revelation. Even then, though, we relegated fake cheese to something we only had on our pizza, not something we purchased on its own.
I don’t recall what compelled me to pick up that first bag at the coop several months ago, but it’s been a guilty pleasure since. I see it, right next to the orange juice and soy creamer (I kid you not, it’s like they know our darkest culinary sins, and bundle them up for a quick and easy bout of soul-crushing deliciousness), and a voice (usually Amy’s) says, “buy it! buy it!” Usually, I deny this voice.
But sometimes, quesadillas:
These are about as simple as they come. We whipped up a batch of taco tempeh, tore open a bag of mozzarella-style Daiya and went to town.
Toss a flour tortilla in a lightly-greased pan, cooking over medium heat. Sprinkle generously with faux cheese and taco tempeh (or taco-style seitan chik’n), then cover with another tortilla. When the bottom tortilla has browned, use two spatulas to flip it. It’s done when both sides are brown (and hopefully, the faux cheese is gooey).
Cut into triangles and serve with homemade refried beans and avocado slices.
And other times, Baked Mac & Cheese
Great vegan mac & cheese recipes abound (Vegan Yum Yum’s, Jo Stepaniak’s, and the Veganomicon’s, to name a few). These recipes almost invariably involve nu yeast, ground cashews, or both. And they’re great. But the cashew varieties don’t quite scratch the mac & cheese itch. And nu yeast, well a person can get a little burnt out on nu yeast, believe it or not. After you’ve been using it long enough, you have to make a choice: is nu yeast an ingredient to be used in larger dishes, or is it essentially faux cheese. Since we like to cook with nu yeast, but not overuse it, a recipe that calls for nu yeast as the main flavor seems a little over-the-top sometimes. If we base a mac & cheese around it, then we don’t want to cook with it; if we cook with it, we don’t want to base a mac & cheese around it.
So, to further weigh down the ol’ culinary conscience, the other night we made a Daiya version of mac & cheese. I wouldn’t even really call this cooking, as it was about like making a box of the stuff from your childhood (well, in my childhood the cheese would have been made of powder, and probably less like real cheese than Daiya…less like real cheese than a shoe, probably). Boil some noodles, then drain them. In an oven-safe pot (ideally the one you boiled them in, unless you like doing dishes), mix in a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance ™ and then pour in the Daiya, stirring until the noodles are well coated. Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350 until the top just starts to brown (about 15 – 20 minutes, probably).
And no, we’re not on Daiya’s payroll. Hell, we encourage you not to eat it.
But sometimes a quesadilla…
** Amy here, jumping in to add more info on the m&c (I thought having this info in the comments was not enough in case folks don’t check those out and want to try it):
That mac & cheese also had a bit of white pepper, one diced white onion (key in my book), lightly sauteed, about a teaspoon of mustard powder, and plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. Better than the box to be sure. We also added unsweetened almond milk to creamify it.**