A very dear friend of mine recently made the transition from vegetarian to vegan. 😀 Even though she’d been a long-term vegetarian, she still felt stumped over the question of…cheese. (But of course.) She tried the various vegan options that I pointed to–and found them lacking. For instance, why were they mostly fat and not more protein-rich? Why do some brands contain casein, a milk protein?
For veteran vegans, these questions are no-brainers (eat sparingly; check the label). But I still remember the very first time I bought vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart Cheddar), and cut a piece of the squishy thing and ate it with a slice of apple with great anticipation. If you are not smiling knowingly right now–it was a complete and utter heartbreak.
The thing is, vegan cheese tastes wonderful but it’s not the same thing as dairy cheese. Certain brands don’t taste great on its own, or uncooked; most brands are processed (there are a few “raw” nut-based cheeses in the market, however); and they do have high fat content. I don’t rely on vegan cheese often but appreciate using them in a few, homey-dishes, like this Brown Rice “Sunshine” Veggie Loaf. It’s delicious and wholesome without any vegan cheese, but even better if you decide to go for it! I like to make these in mini loaf pans for individual serving.
Brown Rice “Sunshine” Veggie Loaf
1 regular loaf or 2 mini loaves
1 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground fine
3 tbsp water
1 small onion, chopped fine
2-3 small carrots, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
4-5 leaves kale, de-stalked and chopped fine
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
5-6 kalamata or green olives, chopped fine
1/2 cup vegan cheese, “shredded” (optional, but delicious; I recommend either Follow Your Heart or Tofutti brand)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste (I use the extra strong kind in a tube)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garam marsala
salt and pepper
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground chia seeds and water. Let sit.
3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. When it starts to bubble a bit, add onions and let cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots, garlic, and tomato paste. Stir for a few more minutes, then add walnuts and kale. Salt and pepper lightly and take off the heat.
4. In a large bowl, combine the brown rice, sauteed veggies, olives, nutritional yeast, bread crumbs, and garam marsala. Taste and adjust salt accordingly. Add the chia seed mixture and vegan cheese shreds.
5. Add the mixture to a loaf pan, making sure to press down firmly. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes (for regular loaf; cut bake time by half for mini loaves). These loaves continue to set as they cool. For best cutting, put it let it cool completely and put in the fridge for a few hours. If you can’t wait that long, it tastes just as good warm, although a bit crumbly. 🙂
Also see: French Lentil Ratatouille
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling