Thursday, September 22, 2011

Truly Vegan Cheese?

I visited our local Whole Foods Market yesterday for two items...Came home with more than I bargained for. I wasn't even hungry while I was shopping! It's just that I saw this great deal on Kidz Clif Bars for Gracie's lunches, and I simply HAD to get some more rye and barley flakes for our hot cereal in the morning...There was the vegetarian beef and chicken flavored broth mix, and finally in the cheese department, this: Monterey Jack Vegan Gourmet Cheese by Follow Your Heart. Usually if a cheese claims to be vegan, it still has casein or whey protein in it. I perused the ingredients ~ WHOA! Completely vegan cheese alternative. Into the cart it went...

So, my impression? While not tasting like traditional cheese (I've yet to find a cheese alternative that actually does), it'll do in a pinch. It has a unique texture due to its tofu base, very moist. It shreds well as you can see from the photo, but I found that it didn't melt when I combined it with vegetables for the Mini Spinach/Broccoli Tarts I made for lunch today. It did add a nice saltiness though, without being overpowering.

Nutritionally, it's lo-cal with 70 calories per 1 oz. serving. There are 7 g. of fat, 0 cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 2 g. carbs, and 1 g. protein. That's in comparison with normal Monterey Jack cheese...105 calories per 1 oz., 8.5 g. fat, 240 mg sodium, and 6.5 g. protein. Don't mean to confuse you with a host of numbers and data, but I had to be fair, right? That's the important stuff.

So, here is how I made the tarts ~

12 small wonton wrappers
two medium broccoli florets, chopped (Just two pieces of the broccoli stalk)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 oz. Shredded Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack cheese
4 fresh basil leaves, julienned (rolled and cut in ribbons)
dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
granulated garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 6-tin muffin pan with food spray. Place two wonton wrappers in each cup, gently pressing down into the base and overlapping the edge of the tin to give a nice tart shape. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lovely golden brown on the edges.

For the filling:
Saute diced onion in a small amount of olive oil. When slightly clarified, add chopped broccoli. Cook until broccoli is crisp tender (maybe 1 1/2 minutes); add handfuls of spinach. Gently toss to combine until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and add a few sprinkles of dried oregano, a sprinkle of granulated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Mix in basil and shredded cheese.

Fill your tartlets with about 2 Tb. of vegetable mixture and put back into oven to heat ingredients all the way through, maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool slightly before enjoying. You'll notice that the bottom of the wonton skin does not stay very crunchy, due to the vegetable juices escaping. But, you could bake them a little longer before filling if you'd like a little more crunch.

Serving size? Probably three....But I ate all six. They were that good! And small, too....Just sayin'.

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