Go Veggie Lactose-Free Cheese Singles

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I had called off the search for a dairy-free alternative to American cheese after I tried the one made by Follow Your Heart. But the other day when I was shopping at Ralphs — which doesn’t carry as many health foods as Whole Foods or Sprouts — I happened upon Go Veggie Lactose-Free Cheddar Style Singles. Although it says “cheddar” on the package, it’s more like American cheese — exactly like it, in fact. I have to say it’s as good as Follow Your Heart’s, even better in terms of how it melts.

The ultimate test for an American cheese is how it does in a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ll let these photos speak for themselves:

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The cheese melts beautifully and has a smooth, gooey mouthfeel.

I also tried it mixed in with scrambled eggs. Again, the cheese melted perfectly.

Finally, I tried making nachos with it, the kind my brother and I used to make when we were kids. Every day after school, we’d spread a bunch of Doritos on a paper plate, lay a few slices of Kraft American cheese on top, and nuke it until the cheese bubbled. This time I used tortilla chips instead of Doritos, and Go Veggie slices instead of Kraft Singles. Voilá! Transported back to childhood — without the lactose.

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After adding some salsa to this, it was a pretty rad snack.

The only downside to Go Veggie is that it contains a lot more ingredients than Follow Your Heart, some of which sound a little questionable. It also contains soy, which I usually avoid, but I was able to digest this cheese without a problem.

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I also discovered upon researching Go Veggie that they make this cheese in a vegan version and a lactose- and soy-free version. The Ralphs I go to only had the lactose-free. But it’s encouraging to see mainstream grocery stores like Ralphs carrying any dairy-free alternatives.

Hey, in times like these, we’ve got to celebrate the little things.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Thanksgiving is one of those American holidays when it’s almost impossible to avoid dairy if you’re eating a traditional meal. The fact that I do eat butter makes it easier for me. But for those of you who are strictly vegan, I would like to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, adapted from The Peaceful Palate, a classic vegetarian cookbook. Even Tofurkey needs stuffing, right?

If you’re not a vegan, you can make this stuffing with butter instead of (or in addition to) olive oil. And if you’re not a vegetarian, you can use chicken broth instead of vegetable stock. Both of these substitutions will boost the flavor of the dish.

One thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t require fresh herbs, which can be expensive to obtain if you don’t have your own herb garden. But if you do have access to fresh thyme, marjoram, and sage, feel free to use those instead of the dried ones from your spice rack — just double the amounts listed below.

I’ll be making this stuffing on Thursday, but since I don’t have a picture of it yet, I’m going to post this instead because it’s cute.

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Please, Baskin-Robbins, make a dairy-free version of this cake!

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
6 cups cubed day-old sourdough bread
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion for 5 minutes.

Add the sliced mushrooms and celery and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the bread cubes, parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage, black pepper, and salt. Lower the heat and continue cooking for 3 minutes, then stir in the vegetable stock a little at a time until the stuffing obtains desired moistness.

Spread stuffing evenly in the baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer, or until lightly browned. Makes 4 to 6 side servings.

BOLD Organics Dairy-Free Frozen Pizza

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Ever since I tried Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, I’ve been on a dairy-free pizza kick. I got very excited at Ralphs the other day when I saw BOLD Organics Meat Lovers Pizza in the freezer case because it contains real meat and no dairy. Most dairy-free pizzas are vegan and some have “fake meat” made of soy. This annoys me. Not everyone who can’t eat dairy is a vegan!

Unfortunately, all of BOLD’s dairy-free pizzas are also gluten-free. Therein lies the problem.

The sausage and pepperoni on the Meat Lovers Pizza were on par with most frozen pizzas I’ve tried. The vegan cheese was also fine. The deal breaker, though, was the gluten-free crust. It was made from organic brown rice flour, and to be blunt, it was worst crust I’ve ever had. No flavor at all, and the texture was all wrong: dense and grainy.  I could only bring myself to eat one half of my pizza and threw the rest away.

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Looks better than it tastes.

Although I don’t have a problem with gluten, I have tried quite a few gluten-free products out of curiosity. Seems like over the years they’ve improved; I’ve had some excellent gluten-free brownies, cookies, and cupcakes. But I’ve never had a decent gluten-free pizza crust. Is it just impossible to make? I don’t know if I have the patience to find out.

So, even though BOLD Organics had me at real meats, I have to give them a resounding thumbs-down for that inedible crust.

The Joys of Jell-O

Lemon Jell-O

When was the last time you had Jell-O? Visiting my mom in the hospital, I went to the cafeteria for lunch and couldn’t pass up a little cup of lemon Jell-O in the refrigerator case. There’s something about cafeterias that makes me want Jell-O. I love Jell-O because it’s jewel-colored, jiggly, and dairy-free.

Unfortunately, vegans are out of luck since Jell-O contains gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled bones, connective tissue, and other animal products. My husband and I joke that it’s made from “horse hooves.” (This is a myth; it doesn’t contain hooves of any kind.) Gelatin is actually considered good for you, like in bone broth, which is all the rage right now.

Other than the gelatin, though, Jell-O is pretty much devoid of all nutrients. It’s basically just sugar and water. I ate tons of it recently while I was sick with the stomach flu because my digestive system couldn’t handle anything else — besides Saltines, apple juice, rice, bananas, and white bread. (The BRAT diet: it’s all sugar!) But when you’re nauseous, you gotta eat whatever you can keep down.

I have a special fondness for Jell-O because it was the first dish I ever made by myself. (I would say “cooked,” but it really doesn’t require any cooking except boiling water.) I was about ten years old, and I started by simply following the directions on the box. Pretty soon I was making Jell-O molds layered with different flavors, filled with fruit cocktail, and topped with various whipped creams. Just now I Googled and found out that a non-dairy version of Reddi-Wip exists. I need that for my next round of Jell-O!

When you’re lactose-intolerant, lots of desserts are off-limits, so I have a great appreciation for simple sweets like Jell-O. If you haven’t had it in a while, I encourage you to watch it wiggle… see it jiggle… and rediscover the joys of Jell-O.