I’m happy to report a proud vegan moment! My brother ordered an “herbivore” pizza from Via 313 on Saturday night with VEGAN CHEESE. Unfortunately, the woman who took his order misheard him… he ended up with an “omnivore” with vegan cheese, which includes sausage and pepperoni (who would actually order this?? it makes no sense…). Bless his heart, he picked off all the meat before he brought it into our home, and seemed visibly upset by the mistake. Slowly but surely… 🙂 Cheese has been his last hold out, which is common. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard “I wish I could be vegan, but… cheese!” I used to be the same way. I get it.

It turns out there might be a scientific explanation why everyone’s blood runs cold at the idea of giving up cheese. It might actually be addictive, which explains the fits people seem to find themselves in at the prospect of losing it. Was cheese the hardest thing that I chose to stop eating? Yes, absolutely. Hands down. Before going vegan, I’d literally (not figuratively…) eat whole blocks of cheddar cheese. But I’m here, over 9 months removed from it, to tell you an honest truth: I do not miss it. In fact, dairy cheeses kind of repulse me. When I went grocery shopping on Sunday, I saw a woman buying a 6 pound can of nacho cheese sauce. I didn’t even know they made 6 pound cans of anything, let alone of liquid cheese. I felt sick, and then I felt bad about being feeling sick – who was I to judge this woman? On the other hand, who buys 6 pounds of cheese sauce? What on earth could you possibly need that much for? The last time my brother brought a cheese pizza into our home, the greasy, melt-y smell made me nauseous. I never, ever thought I’d be this person, but here I am: an ex-dairy cheese lover, reformed.

That doesn’t mean I don’t miss the texture it adds to dishes, though. Luckily, there is a solution: vegan cheeses! Omnivores and vegetarians, I can see your lips curling in disgust. I’ll be frank: vegan cheeses do taste great, but you need to give yourself a break from dairy based cheese before you hop right in. About two weeks into my vegan transition, I tried to make a pizza with Daiya. I literally could not eat it. The poor pizza got tossed in the trash, and I ordered a cheese-less pizza from Domino’s instead. Contrast that reaction to the Friday before the 4th of July, when I bought a pizza with Daiya cheese from Wheatsville. I was apprehensive because I remembered how my first Daiya pizza experience went, but this pizza was also topped with their popcorn buffalo tofu. I might be able to say no to cheese, but I am rendered powerless by Wheatsville’s popcorn buffalo tofu. I am a mere mortal, after all.  I decided to give it the pizza a whirl, and I loved it. I ate a whole half of it by myself. Sorry, not sorry.

All I really want cheese to be is a hot, gooey binding for holding various portions a meal together. Pizza toppings to the sauce and crust. Field Roast meat to the sourdough bread on an impromptu grilled sandwich. Vegan cheeses can accomplish this no problem. For example, tonight I made this Lemon Asparagus Mushroom Cheezy Pasta Bake from Happy Healthy Life. The recipe called for anywhere between 1/4 cup to 1 cup of vegan cheese. My gut instinct was to go with 1/4 cup. That way if it tasted odd, it wouldn’t overpower the whole dish. However, I live with a boy who loves vegan cheese. I knew that JB would be disappointed if I didn’t use the full cup, so I went for it. I used Follow Your Heart’s provolone, and combined with the cashew cream, every single bite a hot, velvety, cheesy joy.

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So, what do you do in the meantime during your sabbatical from cheese? That’s simple: make dishes that don’t feature it They exist, I promise. If you find yourself absolutely craving the creamy texture of, say, a macaroni dish, then try a vegan alternative. Just keep in mind that it’s not going to taste exactly the same. Most vegan cheeze sauces are a combination of nutritional yeast and blended cashews. It might sound weird, but the end result is so yummy. The first vegan macaroni and cheese recipe that I made was the BLT Mac & Cheeze from the Post Punk Kitchen. To this day, it is one of my favorite recipes. Another great one is The Ethiopian Mac and Cheesie from Teff Love. Try them both. Seriously, you’re stomach will thank me later.

In all honesty, abstaining from cheese is easy for me because I always keep in mind why I eschewed it in the first place. The dairy industry is exceedingly cruel. All cows born into it end their lives at the slaughterhouse, whether after a few short years of constantly being impregnated and having their babies taken away from them, or after a few short weeks chained in a veal crate so small that they cannot move. Was I the only one who thought dairy cows hormones were manipulated in order for them to keep producing milk? Surprise, it turns out that they only produce milk after pregnancy, just like humans. I feel so silly for not realizing that sooner. When I look at cheese now, I no longer see a delicious thing to eat cubes of with my wine. I see the product of a violent, mechanized system that preys on the reproductive cycle of mothers. As us vegans like to say, “Not your mom, not your milk!”

Okay, I’ll climb down from my soapbox now.

Need some suggestions? My favorite vegan cheeses are:

  • Chao Slices. Holy god. This was the first cheese that made me think I could have a grilled cheese again.
  • Treeline Cheese. These are great spreadable cheeses perfect for parties and get-togethers. I buy them sparingly because I have no self control around them.
  • Daiya and Follow Your Heart make excellent crumbles that are perfect for sprinkling on top of tacos and pizzas. I tend to use these more as enhancements as opposed to making them the focal point of the dish.

I haven’t had the chance to try and of the cheeses from Miyoko’s Kitchen, but they are supposed to be incredible. They look insanely good on her website. I’ve also been eyeing Kite Hill and Heidi-Ho, both of which are sold at Whole Foods. I guess I’ll have to go this weekend and do some research so that I can report back 😉

Hope y’all had a good weekend! Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my mom’s green chili recipe, so be sure to check back!