I haven’t been able to eat dairy for a few years now, it all started when I was working in a bakery and on my breaks I would treat myself to a hot chocolate made completely with milk and my face would go bright red, I’d get really hot and stuffy and my stomach would gurgle like crazy. It took me quite a while to realise the link and so I started drinking herbal tea instead and slowly over the years, using trial and error methods, I have worked out what I can eat and what I can’t.
I don’t like to consume too many processed alternatives in my diet such as soya cheeses however I know for convenience or for the odd treat they can be great. I think it depends why you have chosen to be a vegetarian/ vegan, for me it was more a case that it didn’t feel right to eat meat any more, I didn’t agree with the poor quality of meat being shipped over because of the demand for cheap readily available cuts in the super market. For others it is down to environmental issues, personal health or animal cruelty. Whatever your reason it is completely down to you how far you take it, as far as I’m concerned “every little helps” and that’s why I like the idea of Meat Free Monday. But when it comes to the cheese alternatives you can buy, they still have certain health issues due to the amount of oil used (it’s ALOT of oil) and environmental issues of ingredients such as palm oil (look out for sustainably sourced palm oil) cropping up!
Why not look to nature to see what could replace cheese in your diet! Here are a few things I have begun to experiment with and some ideas on non cheese alternatives to cheese – (Warning! If you simply love the taste of cheese this is not for you!)
Cauliflower- Say what!!! But yes I love a good blended cauliflower in my lasagne as it becomes a great base flavour and thickener for a vegan bechamel sauce. Steam or roast the cauliflower first so it is nice and soft then add to a blender with some stock, seasoning and dried herbs such as basil; make sure you blend well to avoid lumps. Layer your lasanga fillings, pasta and cauliflower sauce in a baking dish to create a delicious savoury creamy lasagna. This would be great stirred into macaroni with some tomatoes and chilli flakes too!
White Beans – I’ve had various levels of success using butter beans in a cheese styled sauce however once you get it right it’s delicious. They can be a little bland so add some dried garlic, herbs and seasoning when pureeing. Add stock or non dairy milk to the pureed beans to create a creamy sauce! This counts as some protein too which is double bonus.
Here is my recipe for bean and pea puree which is great as a base to a pie as a creamy layer or to replace the cream and eggs in a quiche:
For the bean and pea puree:
1 can Cannellini beans (235g drained)
90-100g Frozen peas (defrosted, cooked and cooled)
1 Lemon – Juice only
10 Mint Leaves
3 Spring Onions
1 Large Garlic Clove
Potato – This would be more for a pizza topping, thin slices of pre cooked potato become soft and creamy when layered on to a pie or pizza! You can get purple potatoes too which I think is abit nicer than just a beige pizza.
Hummous – Hummus, Houmous etc I don’t think I’ve ever spelt it the same way twice! This is great in sandwiches instead of cheese, make it plain or add flavourings such as garlic, sundried tomato or chilli!
Cashew Nuts – You can make nut milks so why not a nut “cream cheese”. Blend soaked cashew nuts with a dash of water untill you reach a creamy consistency. You can again add things like nutritional yeast, garlic powder, herbs, seasoning. This is great on toast, in a sarnie, on a pizza etc. Look at this amazing raw pizza with rosemary cashew cheese recipe by “Choosing Raw”
Tofu - There are many different flavours of tofu that you can buy such as chilli, smoked or basil infused so thin slices of this could replace a cheese on a pizza. I also found this fantastic recipe for Tofu Ricotta from The Whole Foods Market website which would be great on a pizza, in a lasagna/ canelloni or even just with pasta. I think tofu would be the best thing to replace a slice of cheese in a sandwich. Then of course the classic cheesecake can easily be made with tofu instead, like this raspberry tofu cheesecake from Cauldron
Or you could just have no cheese!! Here are a few recipes which I have made taking usually cheesy dishes and replacing it with herbs or vegetables for even better flavour: