Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cheese Sticks

Someone recently mentioned longing for packaged string cheese as a child, and it got me thinking on coming up with a vegan version. Now I'm positive that prepackaged vegan cheese sticks are either out there somewhere (?) or in the works, but it's still nice to come up with a healthy homemade version (and this one happens to be soy-free to boot). This vegan "cheddar" is a recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan's subscription-only newsletter; it's made from a base of roasted red peppers and tahini, with magical gelling agents agar and carrageenan. I poured the warm mixture into an ice stick tray to create a cheese stick shape. I'm sure you could do the same with any of the vegan block cheese recipes out there, in books like Dairy-Free and Deliciousor The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

Next to the cheese sticks are baby carrots and jicama, a kiwi fruit, and soy crisps. For dessert, two slices of dried mango are resting in a muffin cup next to the crisps.

Verdict: The sticks were softer than regular cheese, but still finger-foodable. These were much, much better than my last block cheese attempt -- more flavorful and without that overwhelming mustard taste, and oddly enough without an overwhelming red pepper flavor, either. Shmoo only ate one, though, and says he still prefers transfat-filled Tofutti slices. He liked the soy crisps, but I wonder what happened to plain old mini-rice cakes -- sometimes even a vegan wants a break from all that soy! 3 stars.

Update: Right after dinner shmoo asked, "Are there more of those cheese sticks?" and then proceeded to eat all the rest. "But I thought you didn't like them?!?" I exclaimed. "No, I decided they were good!" So hey, you just never know!

33 comments:

Twilight said...

Interesting - sounds like an uncheesy good time! :) What already-made and packaged uncheese do you recommend? i haven't seen too much of it around my area... only soy slices (i think that's what they are called,too) and wasn't a fan.

KaiVegan said...

Ice stick tray as mold, how clever!

My oldest always watch out for that hydrogenated stuff in the list of ingredients and doesn't want me to buy anything that contains it, but I still wish she'd eat more veggies. lol

I was reading the list of ingredients in a box of Tofutti Cuties at the store a few days ago and was surprised to find high fructose corn sweetener in it (next only to water and sugar). I took it home, anyway... well, with begging eyes looking at me, but next time we'll just stick with Turtle Mountain products.

College Vegan Athlete said...

I definitely like the idea of vegan string cheese, and I hope that someone starts marketing it soon. In the mean time your cheese sticks look good to me. Even if Shmoo wasn't keen on them I'd give them a try. It really does bother me that Tofuitti uses things like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup (which is why I refuse to buy it). I'm sticking with Follow Your Heart Cheese, especially since I live less than 30 min. from their store and cafe in Woodland Hills.

paula said...

Hi Jennifer! I love your blog! This is my first time posting.
I'm a 25yr old vegan and one day I want to open a restaurant.
I'm sure many of you know this but I just wanted to say that people do need to watch the Tofutti products. It is not a vegan or "natural" foods company. Tofutti is a dairy-free Kosher company that uses a lot of soy, but it also makes products with eggs and one of the cream cheese flavors has salmon. And as was said, they use ingredients such as trans fats and corn syrup. Although, they have put out a trans fat free version of their cream cheese. I think your homemade cheese sounds much better, but I do like Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet for things like pizza and cheese sauce although it is high in fat (like regular cheese, I suppose!). For ice cream, I pass over the Tofutti products and look for Chicago Soydairy Temptations, WholeSoy frozen soy yogurt, Soy Dream, Rice Dream, and Soy Delicious. It seems like we have more options as vegans almost every day! Keep up the awesome work Jennifer!

Tere said...

Hi there,
I've been a little disappointed with vegan "cheese" selection here in Halifax. There are a couple of brands that appear to be completely vegetarian but they're incredibly expensive. The brands I could find that were more affordable actually contained casein, which I believe is milk-based. I don't really understand the point of making "vegetarian" cheese if it has milk in it either. I'm also having difficulty finding egg substitutes at the grocery store--what do you guys use?
Thanks :)
Tere

Jennifershmoo said...

I'm with you on the Tofutti products. Sadly, they're the only vegan cheese available here. I hope Follow Your Heart will make it here one day, I'd love a healthy alternative. I also hear Wildwood and WholeSoy make good vegan cream cheese and sour cream, two more items that Tofutti corners the market on around here.

I wish I had started making my own vegan cheeses long ago so we didn't have to break this unhealthy Tofutti dependence. Homemade vegan cheeses are really pretty simple to make, even the block kind.

>>It seems like we have more options as vegans almost every day!

I agree! I notice new items every time I go to the store. :-)

Abby said...

Our oldest dd had organic kiwi in her lunch today too! That is her "new" favorite thing, and I found it on sale, 12 for $3 last week.

Tonight I made the caramelized tofu. I also threw in some asparagus. This was our family's first time eating tofu. It was yummy.

I thought I'd weigh in on the high fructose corn discussion. Our oldest dd is insensitive and I am as well. With dd, it makes her very hyper, with me, it causes me to have mild daymares. Just for anyone's information. As always, thanks for the inspiration.

ashley said...

Mrs. Shmoo; about the soy vs rice crisps
I've actually seen potato crisps made I think by Genisoy (same brand as a lot of the soy crisp) There really good and lower in calories.

Jane M said...

Haaa...little shmoo always cracks me up! Well he likes the cheese, I quess! As for the string cheese thing...you just love challenges don't you?

sarchan said...

Just wondering if you think the homemade uncheeses tend to be better for plain snacking? I've tried a few of the packaged varieties (Tofutti, Vegan, and For Your Heart) and have to say I really only enjoy them melted. The texture just seems to be wierd and slimy otherwise. And yes, I've seen those soy crisps in the store and have always thought "well, there's one soy product I don't need in my life. . . " Good looking lunch!

Laura said...

So indecisive! haha!! Very creative with the cheese sticks. And the kiwi looks super yummy! x]

peas n onions said...

haha...I'm like that, too. I'll eat something, "not like it", and then try it ten minutes later in hope. :)

Glad they were a success!

Belladonna said...

Leave it to a kid to change their mind! I used to do that all the time.

Katie said...

What an amazing idea! Cheese sticks are one of the "fun" foods that my kids miss. I can't wait to try this.

the vegan vulcan said...

I should have known when I mentioned the string cheese that you could find a way to create it! Your creativity is amazing.

I <3 kiwis, and they are so good for you! This lunch looks really healthy and amazing.

Vegetarian Cooker said...

Che-e-e-se!!! It drives me crazzzzy!
:)
Indian Vegetarian Cheese Cutlets

papericecream said...

I just made a suna melt with some Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheese. I put it in a toaster oven on broil, but could not get it to melt. The suna and the bread became crispy but the "cheese" was still in perfect little slices. Anyone have luck melting this "cheese"?

El Vee said...

With hard to melt cheeses (ie the fat free dairy kind or the soy kind) I have had some luck lightly spraying it with olive oil before putting it in the broiler. Dont know why it works but it does.

greengrammy said...

The Follow Your Heart cheeses melt best if they are covered and at quite high temps. I love your lunches, Jennifer! I don't have any kids at home anymore, so forwarded all the good ideas to my daughter. Hope she can be inspired to raise her little shmoos as vegans, too!

the vegan vulcan said...

Also, w/FYH and other vegan block "cheeses", shredding or chopping up the "cheese" into tiny cubes can greatly add to the melting factor.

harlemgrrl said...

definitely shred the follow your heart cheese and use a high temp. otherwise, in my experience, it just kind of sweats rather than melt.

vegineer said...

every time i use the follow your heart cheese, i do the following:

- shred or grate it
- drizzle with olive oil
- cook in the oven or toaster oven as i normally would, then broil for the last 2-5 minutes.

the cheeze always turns out melted, gooey, and browned on top. every time i make my special saffron-crust pizza w/ follow your heart cheese for omnis, i'm told it's hands-down better than pizza with real cheese.

Taleia said...

OH MY GOSH! OMG. Cheese sticks! Okay, I can go vegan now. I LIVE on these things. Wow... I'm in giddy shock.

appifanie said...

those cheese sticks are creepily realistic looking!! :D

i can't find jicama near me!!

islandgirlshell said...

What I do to melt vegan cheese is preheat in microwave (or non stick pan on stovetop) and then place under broiler. Works pretty good.

We tried Tofutti non-hydrogenated cream cheese - tastes horrible!! Not worth it. Blech.

I don't like store bought vegan cheese as a snack but homemade is yummy! Recently made the Colby Chedda from Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and it's delicious. Doesn't really taste anything like cheese but has a nice taste and creamy mouth feel.

How would one go about getting the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe? Are newsletter back issues available? My kids BEG for string/stick cheese! Thanks!

Jennifershmoo said...

>>How would one go about getting the Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe? Are newsletter back issues available?

Yes, if you subscribe to her newsletter ($17/year) you get access to all the back issues. I'm telling you, there's so much there it will make your head spin.

CrackerLilo said...

Galaxy Foods makes a passable string "cheeze", just to let you know. :-)

Jennifershmoo said...

Aha! See, I knew there had to be one out there on the market somewhere. Thanks!

Mango Lady said...

>>For dessert, two slices of dried mango are resting in a muffin cup next to the crisps.

Yummy! Recently after discovering Phillipines 7D Dried Mango Slices through a friend who is importing them, we started offering by mail. They are incredibly natural. I tried to find an alternative originally but most were "candied". These 7D brand are very natural and tasty. Find them at www.sweetsweetmangos.com

DANMom said...

Hi Everyone - Im as just wondering if there is anyone out there that could help with my little dilema. I am trying to accomodate to my son's school by bringing in items that they serve to the other children, so that he doesnt feel quite left out. One item in particular is a non dairy string cheese. I am not concerned about the soy at this time, as long as it is dairy free and gluten free. Ive read a few comments about making yuor own, but I cant seem to find a recipe. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated

suto2 said...

The recipe for the string cheese is no longer available on the link. Any chance you can share the recipe directly? Thanks!

Jennifershmoo said...

The recipe was never available for free -- you have to subscribe to Bryanna's newsletter, or I suggested using any of the cheese recipes in the two books I listed in the post. Good luck!

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