Let’s chat vegan cheese for a minute.
When you start to cook plant-based foods for your family, it’s easy to nix the meat and rely heavily on cheese. Cheese is good. It’s rich. It’s creamy. And it’s NOT plant based. (Not to mention the fact that it’s also–quite literally–addictive). So, if you’re going to start focusing on truly plant-based eating, you’ve got to nix the traditional cheese and give vegan cheese a once-over.
At my house, the term “vegan cheese” was met with the same excitement as bed making and fingernail clipping. Which is to say, not so much. In fact, my picky-pants twelve year old quickly discovered the habit of snubbing her nose at any vegan imitation of “the real thing.” Is this vegan milk? Ewww. I don’t eat that. Is this vegan pancake batter? Ewwww. I don’t eat that. Is this vegan cheese? No.way.at.all.will.I.put.that.in.my.mouth.
In my experience with our family, baby stepping them into alternative food options has been mandatory to making our plant-based diet successful. And when it comes to vegan cheese, which definitely comes in good and less-good versions, tossing a whole homemade pizza on the table was not in the cards. You gotta ease into the flavor of most vegan cheeses, which tend to be soy-based, rather than cow, goat, or sheep milk based.
During my last trip to Whole Foods, I discovered an almond-milk based cheese, flavored with garlic and herbs. The block of cheese cost about $5, and I’ve kept it in the fridge, grating it in small amounts and tossing it over pasta, serving thin slices on crackers. A little here, a little there. It doesn’t melt like a dream, but the cheese tastes remarkably good, without any strangely sour aftertastes.
With about a third of the cheese left tonight, I found myself harried and needed to rush like bananas to get dinner on the table. Those nights happen from time to time (read: always), don’t they?
I nabbed a tube of Pillsbury Simply French Bread and called the kids in to make mini pizzas.
Secret: Pillsbury Simply is one of those quick premade food items I’ll grab at the store and toss in my fridge for nights such as these.
Here’s a quick snap of the ingredient list on the Simply bread. Definitely processed, so we don’t lean on it as a dinnertime staple, but gosh it’s nice to have for insane dinner nights. BTW…see that term “glucono delta lactone”? The “lact” part of the name made me wonder if it contained milk. It doesn’t. It’s a plant-based yeast additive, so supportive of a plant-based diet. Yay. In the meantime, I’ve discovered reading labels and being on the “hunt” for animal-based products to be surprisingly fun. I’m like the freakin’ Charlie’s Angels. Join me! Be a vegan crime-solver and get in the habit of checking your labels to make sure you’re eating the best food for your body.
Okay, we’re just full of secrets today. But, here’s one more.
A few weeks ago, the hubs and I ate at Settebello SLC. While there, the owner and I struck up a convo about his fabulously authentic Napoleta pizza and he toured me around the restaurant. Pizza made in Napoli is baked at absurdly high temperatures in special brick ovens which heat to thousands of degrees and bake the pizza in about 60-90 seconds. That’s how you get that gorgeously crisp, thin crust. Another fabulous learn: no special “sauce” is required. Just San Marzano crushed tomatoes and a bit of sea salt. How easy is that?
Whilst making our pizzas, we decided to quasi-authentic and used MY fave crushed tomatoes for sauce. Muir Glen, I heart you.
The smell of the heating oven lured this favorite person into the kitchen, where she quite generously offered to help prep the pizza…
I totally own that child. She’s totally, deliciously mine. Yummy cat.
Here’s the super quick and easy 4-1-1 on how we made our pizzas.
Or, let your little people take ownership of their vegan cheese and make funky faces with olives, pimentos, and jalapenos (or whatever veggie concoction they desire).
See? Who said vegan fast food can’t be vegan fun food?!
10-Minute Vegan Mini Pizzas
1 tube Pillsbury Simply French Bread
1 cup Muir Glen crushed tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
3/4 cup almond-milk based vegan cheese (grab an herb and garlic flavored cheese if you can find it!)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Open the tube of Pillsbury Simply bread. Thinly slice the dough with a very sharp, serrated knife (about 1/4-1/2"). I mean, like super thin. Then flatten them down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drain the crushed tomatoes slightly. Spread a small amount over the crust. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place a small amount of vegan cheese on top of each round. Bake in an oven preheated to 500 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.