Say Cheese! Celebrating Today’s Launch of Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “I’d go vegan, but I could never give up cheese.” There’s something about cheese, that’s for sure. And it’s true that many of the commercially available vegan alternatives fall far short of the real thing. But is there any hope out there for the would-be vegan cheese-lover?

We think so! Search the food blogosphere and you’ll find all kinds of varieties of vegan cheeses, most often based on cashews or other nuts or seeds. From tofu ricotta to almond Parmesan to cashew queso, valiant vegan cooks have definitely risen to the cheese challenge. Now, with our very own vegan comfort food extraordinaire Alicia C. Simpson’s newest book Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food launching today, we took it upon ourselves to taste-test two unique cheesy sauce recipes of her own.

We tried both Alicia’s Classic Cheese Sauce (based on the standard cashews and, to add more creaminess with less fat, a Yukon gold potato) and Chickpea Cheese (which relies on tahini and nutritional yeast to pack a powerful vegan umami punch). We liked that only one of the recipes requires nutritional yeast, which is a beloved vegan add-in but not especially familiar to most (there’s a great post on “What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast?” on FatFree Vegan Kitchen, if you’re curious). And we also liked that both recipes really lived up to their “quick and easy” moniker. These “throw everything in a food processor and blend” recipes came together in minutes and produced thick, hearty sauces.

To go with our cheese, we whipped up a batch of low-cal oven-baked French fries (also featured in the book) right here in the office kitchen, and they proved to be the perfect vehicle–though we all agreed that these sauces would also be great on crudités, with chips or crackers, or of course as ingredients in some of Alicia’s other hearty but healthy dishes, like Chili Cheese Dogs or Seitan Cheesesteak.

Here are Karen and me enjoying our cheese fries:

Check out this sneak peek at Alicia’s Chickpea Cheese recipe, and try it for yourself!

Chickpea Cheese

Makes 1¾ cups, or 7 servings

Alicia’s notes: The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak was one of my first go-to books as a new vegan trying to figure out the world of vegan cheeses. As any vegan can tell you, there is a lot of trial and error involved in finding the flavor and texture that you like. With its smooth texture and slightly sharp taste, Chickpea Cheese is the one for me. This recipe started with Jo’s idea of using chickpeas as a base for cheese spreads, and over the years it has morphed into the recipe you see before you, a low-cal, high-protein dip or spread that I hope you’ll love as much as I do. Try it in Chorizo Breakfast Quesadillas or simply spread on crackers as a snack.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄8 teaspoon dry mustard

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. Store, tightly covered, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Per serving (¼ cup): 109 Calories | 7 g Protein | 5 g Total fat | 1 g Saturated fat |0 g Monounsaturated fat | 16 g Carbohydrates | 5 g Fiber | 3 g Sugar | 37 mg Calcium | 2 mg Iron | 344 mg Sodium

Want to get that recipe for Chorizo Breakfast Quesadillas, or try out the Classic Cheese Sauce instead? Pick up your copy of Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food today, and let us know what you think!