Review: Dairy free cheeses

As many of you know, I am lactose intolerant. I’ve written about it here before. I’m constantly on the hunt for dairy alternatives that taste good. On one of my last trips to Whole Foods, I decided I’d grab a bunch of the different offerings and try them out. I was tired of going without just because of my intolerance.

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Starting in the lower left and going clockwise: Treeline treenut cheese in the scallion flavor, Parma! vegan Parmesan, Lisanatti Ricecheeze cheese alternative sticks, Tesse mozzarella log.

Treeline: Made from cashews, this was a nice soft cheese style, very spreadable. I tried this on some pita chips and the scallion flavor was a bit overpowering to start. I let it sit in the fridge a few days before trying it again, which mellowed it out considerably. It wasn’t a favorite, but I’d consider getting it again. With that in mind, I also tried the garlic and herb flavor. That was amazing! It goes really well on chips like a dip. It also mellowed after a few days, but it wasn’t so overpowering to start like the scallion was. The downside, though, is that it’s a bit of a spendy item.

Parma: Holy dairy-free cow, Batman! This is made with walnuts and nutritional yeast, but it hits all the notes of a good hard Parmesan. I add it to basically any noodle dish and it’s instantly tastier. It happens to be really good on EarthBalance’s dairy free mac and cheese. Like crazy good. I’m on my second bottle, and even my mom has started using it (she notoriously dislikes the faux cheese products I have). I cannot say enough good things about this. I works well in red sauce, as any good parm would, as well as on just plain buttered noodles. I can’t believe I’ve gone without this for so long!

Lisanatti Ricecheeze: This rice based string cheese style cheese stick fooled my mom. She couldn’t tell the difference between it and real string cheese. I have to say that it is hands down the best alternative cheese taste I’ve ever had. And it’s such a handy snack! Highly recommend trying this.

Tesse: I always feel a bit bad giving a negative review, but I have to with this one. I don’t remember what this is made out of, but whatever it is tasted horrible. I bought it hoping to grate it for a pizza, especially since it mentions on the packaging that it melts and stretches. It does melt pretty well, and there’s a decent stretch to it, but it’s got the consistency of some kind of chemical putty. Almost like softened silly putty. Very rubbery, and an awful smell to it. I tried it both fridge fresh and heated, both equally bad.

Overall, it was a good taste test. The Parma and Ricecheeze were resounding successes, and the Treeline, while needing a few tweaks, worked out well too. Has anyone found a good dairy alternative cheese that works well to make pizza?

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Intimidation Level: Macaroons

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I stopped into Whole Foods yesterday, and of course I had to swing by the bakery section to see what they had going on. Usually there are a few vegan options, like the chocolate mousse and parfait I’ve mentioned before. But not this time. Of course I’ve got to get a chocolate fix, and my dad had settled on getting a few tartlets (which had a curd or filling that I couldn’t eat), so this led me to staring down a selection of macaroons.

I’ve tried a few of their flavors before, and I would not repeat most of them. I had a raspberry that was pretty tart, and a vanilla that had a strange flavor I can’t quite describe. But it’s pretty hard to screw up chocolate, so that’s my go to macaroon. They are a bit pricey ($1.99 each where I live), but the two chocolates I got were totally worth it (one of which is pictured above). But as much as they rock, they’re too expensive to get often. Coincidentally, my grandmother bought me a macaroon backing set (silicone mat, recipe book, and piping bag with pieces) for Christmas.

I started looking into making the macaroons myself. I bought the almond flour, some flavorings, and I already have some food coloring. But the recipe book that came with the kit doesn’t make the instructions all that clear. So I started poking around online and found a few places that have videos about making the cookies and how to fill them.

It’s never fun seeing “level: advanced” on a recipe. But I’m determined to actually make some, so I thought I’d ask if any of you have tips or experience making macaroons. Any tips fellow foodies?

Embrace the vegan

I don’t live a vegan life, but I do embrace the vegan cooking I’ve come across. Mostly it’s good because it’s dairy free and whoever’s made it has found a tasty alternative to dairy. Such as this chocolate mousse parfait I picked up from Whole Foods.

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When you think of vegan food, is that what you imagine? You should. This is entirely vegan. It’s chocolate cake, layered first with vanilla cream, then topped with chocolate mousse. There was also a raspberry on top, but I snapped that up before remembering I wanted to share this with you. I picked this up at my local Whole Foods (life savers, they are).

It was incredibly rich, so I spread it out over a few days. It felt a bit like eating an adult-sanctioned mud cup. (If you’re unfamiliar, they are cups filled with chocolate pudding, topped with crushed oreos and a gummy worm or two.) Always a fun way to end the day and satisfy a chocolate craving.

New dairy-free finds

This past week I made my trek out to Whole Foods, and boy, did I ever find some cool dairy-free foods. For whatever reason, desserts are sometimes the hardest foods for me to find. Unlike main courses, cheese is not my enemy here. Cream is. If I were to spontaneously be able to eat dairy again, cheesecake is the first thing I would go for. But in the unlikelihood of that happening, I’ve thankfully got some good options now.

The in-house bakery at the store makes a killer vegan chocolate mouse. It’s smooth, but also very rich. I can only handle a few bites at a time. What I really like about it is that it’s also made with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. They aren’t an overwhelming presence but they add nicely to the flavor profile. My mom, who shies away from most of my dairy alternative foods, even said it tasted great.

My other great find was a carrot cake with a dairy alternative cream cheese frosting. This time I enlisted my grandmother to try the frosting to confirm that I was not crazy to think the frosting was indistinguishable from the real, dairy-full thing. Again, a thumbs up. Yay!

I also got a small stock going to eggnog and mint chocolate milk. Yes, I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Trust me when I say that I am the LAST person you need to remind of that. I regularly refuse to engage in any holiday related things until at least a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But this year I have run into a snag. Usually this time of year I stock up on So Delicious’s Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. It is hands down the most delicious drink (more so than even my beloved Pumpkin Spice Lattes). But for some reason, Whole Foods hasn’t ordered it! I know it’s still being made because it’s still listed on the company’s website. And I know other people are still interested in it because the checker I asked about it said that they had gotten a good number of calls from people looking for it. I have been checking the store every few weeks since mid-September when I make the trek to restock my usual things. There’s no space for it. There are other pumpkin drinks, but they are either dairy or have caffeine (which I can’t have), so I’m left out so far. In its absence, I have turned to the nog and the mint. Don’t judge.

But, dear readers, this may be an opportunity for you to lend a helping hand to a fellow foodie: do you know of any trusty recipe to make a Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk drink? Or do you know of a way to order it online? I would be very, very grateful!