As I explained in my previous post, this month I am participating in Post Punk Kitchen's Vegan Mofo III, which affectionately stands for Vegan Month of Food! I will be chronicling delicious vegan dishes and foods every single day of the month. I think what these fabulous people over at PPK have organized is a great thing - by banding all of us bloggers together with the challenge of writing a post every day, they give us the opportunity to find endless ways to get the word out about how awesome vegan food can be. I am honored to be a part of the cause!
I'm also going to try to use this month as a personal challenge to create original recipes for this blog, because it's kind of been a dream of mine to have recipes I could call my own. But wait, there's more! I will also be spending the month talking about foods that were difficult to give up once I went vegan, and what kind of delicious alternatives I've found along the way. Bottom line - I'll be bringing you original ways to come up with yummy dishes that will hopefully both satisfy and enlighten. Cheers!
For today's post, I would love to start with a food that was really difficult to part with at first - cheese. It's easy to stay off of the stuff now that I've educated myself about both the health problems linked to dairy, as well as how damaging and destructive the process of obtaining it is on both the baby cows and mother cows living on dairy farms. In the first few months of going vegan, however, I was definitely having a hard time going without it. But being the determined person I am, I forced myself to: 1) confront what I was really looking for when I ate cheese, and 2) find alternative ways to enjoy those qualities in other foods.
The thing about cheese that I loved was the thickness and creaminess it possessed. Dairy in general supplied that element to a lot of my food, so my initial freak out was mostly because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find vegan foods that could satisfy my craving for all things comfort. Boy was I wrong.
What I ultimately realized was that there was an endless array of creamy vegan foods - I just had to find them!
Here's a list of a few foods I came up with to get you started:
Coconut Milk - this milk can be added to stir fry dishes to make a creamy sauce, or it can be whipped to make cream to top desserts with. It's also my absolute favorite non-dairy milk to make ice cream with (go out right now and buy Purely Decadent's line of Coconut Milk Ice Creams and tell me you don't agree!). Avocado - mash them up and you immediately have a creamy spread for almost anything (or add a little Vegenaise and mix in a food processor to make an awesome sandwich and veggie burger topping). Cashews, almonds, and other nuts - in addition to nut butters, which are always creamy (unless you buy crunchy), you can actually make your own nut cheese, which I've tried and is absolutely delicious! (Dr. Cow's line of nut-based cheeses is especially scrumptious - they're expensive, but worth every penny.) Tofu- you just haven't lived until you have tried my Sweet Tofu Ricotta recipe (which I've included at the bottom of this post). Tofu is a miracle food, because in addition to being an awesome protein source, it can be blended into nearly any dish that requires a creamy, thick texture. I think I'll have to devote a future post to tofu, because it's one of my favorite things in life. Vegan Sour Cream and Cream Cheese - Follow Your Heart makes wonderfully creamy vegan sour cream and cream cheese that you can use in dips, icings ,and desserts. After using them for a while, you won't even notice the difference between these and their dairy counterparts. Flour, Arrowroot Powder, and Corn Starch - I'm sure most of you have used at least one of these powerhouse thickeners before, but I wanted to add them here because they have been my go-to source for adding consistency to sauces and pasta dishes.
Have I missed anything you think is a great alternative to dairy cheese? Please feel free to add a comment on the bottom of the page.
And as promised, my recipe for Sweet Tofu Ricotta:
Sweet Tofu Ricotta
You can add this to any dish that calls for ricotta. My favorite way to use it is to stuff jumbo pasta shells with it, top them with my favorite tomato sauce, and pop the whole thing in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the top is bubbling.
In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients and pulse until thick and smooth. I like to start with 2 tsbp. of oil, and then add more as I go to make it creamier. You can also add more sugar to reach your own desired level of sweetness.