Since then, I made a heartfelt vow of "no cheese unless it's real". And have been perfectly fine with that.
Last year, I was working on a recipe that needed some cheese love, so I tippy-toed out of my self-made box to make an enthusiastically-described vegan "cheese spread" using nutritional yeast (a standard cheese replacement in much vegan cookery). Nutritional yeast comes in bright orange dehydrated flakes, and is described as having a "cheese-like" taste. I made the sauce, tasted it, then made an unattractive "gack" sound. It was bitter, smelly, and just plain nasty so into the trash it went. Ugh. Back into my non-cheese cave, disappointed yet again.
Then I heard from my allergy pal Alisa at GoDairyFree.com last summer that there was Daiya vegan cheese, which was made from tapioca starch. Hm. Tapioca has a gelatinous texture and a mild taste, so I thought it might actually work. It was delicious! Pre-shredded, Daiya looks, smells and tastes like real mild dairy cheese. At that time it was only available online, and because it required overnight shipping/refrigeration it was PRICEY. It was not available in retail stores yet, so I was waiting for their distribution to improve before posting about it, and now that day is here! Click here Where to enjoy Daiya in the US and Canada! By the way, they don't have retail packaging yet, at least at my Whole Foods they don't, WF is repackaging it in generic, non-descript store containers. Daiya should be near the refrigerated soy and other alternative cheeses.
Daiya vegan cheese is based on tapioca starch and arrowroot, and is FREE of common allergens such as "Soy, Casein, Lactose, Gluten, Egg, Wheat, Barley, Corn, Whey, Rice, and Nuts". Here's the official ingredient list:
Purified water, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and/or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, natural flavors (derived from plants), xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin, vegan enzymes (no animal rennet or animal enzymes), vegan bacterial cultures, citric acid (for flavor), annatto.It tastes great! It melts! It broils! It doesn't have a weird aftertaste! There are two varieties: cheddar and Italian blend which is like mozzarella -- they're both mild in flavor so those of you who love strong, stinky cheeses are out of luck, but these will do for most general cheese uses. My days now have cheese omelets and nachos in them, la! Daiya is also selling their product to the food industry, so there are pizza restaurants using Daiya, and some manufacturers like Amy's Kitchen are making gluten-free dairy-free pizza and mac and cheese with it. Cool.
turkey strips and on top of steamed cauliflower. This cheese sauce can be thinned and also be used to make mac and cheese, folks! This recipe is based on the classic bechamel, or French white sauce. I used tapioca starch instead of flour used in the traditional recipe. Try to use the best butter substitute you can here, it will impact the flavor. Have everything measured out and ready before you start, as this only takes a few minutes to make!
Thick Cheese Sauce
Makes approx 1-1/4 cup
1 Tablespoon best-quality butter substitute of your choice (margarine, Earth Balance, coconut oil, a buttery French or Spanish olive oil, canola oil)
2-1/2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
1 cup milk substitute of your choice (soy, rice, almond, oat)
1/2 cup Daiya cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg
1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the butter substitute (or warm it if it's oil). Sprinkle in the tapioca starch and whisk thoroughly to incorporate and form a paste.
2. Spread out the paste on the bottom of the pan, and cook it for a few minutes so that it bubbles a little, and cooks any raw taste out of the starch.
3. While whisking, pour in milk substitute a little at a time, so that you don't create lumps.
4. When all the milk substitute is incorporated, add in the cheese a little at a time, whisking until melted and smooth.
5. Salt and pepper to taste, finish with a dash of nutmeg. Serve.
When this cools, it will congeal to be pretty thick but it reheats just fine. You can also thin it out with more milk substitute to suit your needs, but remember to correct the seasoning again.
Once you have cheese again in your life after a long absence, it calls for a little happy dance. Go ahead, I won't look.