If you ask a vegan what was the hardest part of going plant based, what he/she found the most difficult to give up, 90% of them will answer the same way: Cheese. We love it. We crave it. I daresay, we are addicted to it. And there are scientific reasons for that, something called casomorphins. Dr. Neal Barnard of PCRM explains it much better than I can in this Youtube video, take a look/listen when you have time.
There’s lots more info out there if you’re interested, but suffice it to say: we humans have a soft spot for cheese, and though we know the reasons for avoiding and would never go back to consuming it, most vegans miss it. To fill this void, there are many veg-friendly substitutes for the stuff, but most of it is highly processed and not very good for us. Those of us who follow a whole-foods-plant-based-no-oil diet tend to eschew it completely, having learned that it’s better to live without it. I agree, for the most part. I’m not perfect and I’m not a purist, so there are times when I give in to the craving, when I want something ooey and gooey and warm and comforting and nothing does that better than cheese. Many of the substitutions out there just don’t cut it for me, I don’t like the texture or the aftertaste, something is always just a little bit “off.” However, I found one product that meets my standards, that is so close to the real deal that I have to double-check the ingredients to assure myself that it’s not dairy: Chao. Made by the Field Roast company, these slices are the bomb! They make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich or, my favorite, a “toasted cheese,” basically toasted Ezekiel bread with a smear of Veganaise, slice or two of Chao, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Yum! I am really glad that the one distributor in my area prices them so high that I can’t afford to indulge very often, because otherwise I could get into a lot of trouble.
Of course, you can also make your own as Miyoko Schinner has done in her popular book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, but I have yet to try it.
So, bottom line: I avoid cheesy-type meals most of the time but when the craving hits hard and I decide to indulge, I go for it in a big way. This past week I did so with this Chili Fiesta Mac ‘n Cheese recipe by Vegan Yack Attack.
Cook’s Note: As usual, I eliminated the coconut oil and used vegetable broth for sauteeing. I figured there was quite enough fat in this dish, no need to add more.
Approximately 4 large Servings – Nutritional info (provided by Mastercook) per serving: 569 Calories; 21g Fat (32.4% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1069mg Sodium
The Verdict: Follow Your Heart shreds are good on tacos, but I have never tried to melt them. I had misgivings, but wanted to follow the recipe as written, so I did just that. Once again, there was a strange aftertaste, and though it was okay, I wouldn’t use this product again for mac ‘n cheese. The chili, however, was delicious! I doled out portions for my kids and advised them to use a box of Earth Balance as a base instead. As for myself, this is way too high in fat & calories, yikes! I decided to have just the chili served over rice, with a little avocado on top, and enjoyed that much more!
Look at the difference in nutrition: Per Serving: 259 Calories; 2g Fat (6.6% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 316mg Sodium. And that is why I don’t suggest eating cheese on a regular basis! For a healthier version of Chili Mac, I recommend FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s wonderful recipe.
Today I’ll be making a Chipotle Corn Chowder, can’t wait to try it!
Have a wonderful day!