Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sometimes I Eat Vegan Junk Food: The Cheese Edition

I can't imagine any of my vegan friends would agree with this, but I occasionally miss the days at the beginning of my vegetarian/vegan journey when we didn't have so much vegan junk food at our disposal.  There were only a couple of vegan cheese options, which were not always easy to find, and not necessarily the most flavorful.  This nostalgia is generally fleeting and I am grateful for all of our options these days, but junk food is junk food and I eat it in moderation.

That being said, a few new cheesy vegan treats hit the market in 2014 and I tried them.
Earth Balance is cranking out veganized versions of childhood favorites this year.  They started with Vegan Cheddar Flavor Squares (image from their website) that look and smell like the cheese crackers I used to find in my grandparents' pantry as a kid.  These are salty and crisp, but don't taste as cheesy as they smell.  I'm glad I tried them, but I can't see myself buying another box.  I found these at the wonderful Republic of V in Berkeley and I believe they are sold at Whole Foods throughout the country. 

Vegan White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and its regular Cheddar counterpart are Earth Balance's answer to the blue box mac and cheese many of us grew up with in the US.  Making this brought me back to a time when I was charged with making the blue box stuff for two kids I was babysitting as a 13-year-old.  I had added the full amount of milk the directions called for and it was a soupy mess.  This time, I added half the almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored!) listed and it was just right.  Creamy and cheesy with the exact same shape and size of pasta, this is a very good vegan replica.  Don't take my word for it, though.  Watch this adorable video of one of the sweet vegan babies I know chowing down on the cheesy pasta.

For a time, Vegan Essentials was selling frozen mozzarella sticks.  Considering my ill-fated attempt at a homemade, baked version many years ago, I added a package to my cart with an order over the summer.  I chose to bake them in the toaster oven rather than fry and they turned out well.  The breading is Italian-spiced and the cheese filling stays put, maintaining their shape.  This was a fun indulgence that reminded me of a 50s-style cafe that existed in my hometown when I was a kid.  We would go as a family and my brother and I would order mozzarella sticks to dip in marinara sauce.  I'm still surprised someone has managed to veganize these.  They were fun to eat, but sadly, it seems that the company is no longer in business.

This concludes our special, cheesy junk food edition.  Now back to reading the cookbooks I received over the holidays...