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Vegan Southwest Quesadillas

Gah, I’ve been eating so much cheese lately. My mom would not approve. I grew up primarily vegan, as in my mom would attend my friends’ birthday parties and strip the mozzarella from my pizza. And my dad would eat ice cream labeled off limits, and somehow my inquisitive little self actually wouldn’t ask questions. (Though, rest assured there was usually a bowl of Wildberry Tofutti in front of me during these after-dinner occasions).

I don’t really recall when I started assimilating dairy into my diet. Probably once I hit middle school and wasn’t packing my neon purple lunchbox everyday. But I still try to shy away from eating cheese in excess. Even if it doesn’t give rise to more frequent occurrences of colds and sniffles like my mom would claim, and aside from ethical issues, I’ll never consider cheese to be a healthy item in my diet. Dairy items are generally high in fat and cholesterol, which vegan or not, you can’t argue are prime health promoters.

Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually go back to being vegan, but for now, I’m enjoying everything in moderation (meat excluded). Like the occasional mozzarella on my tomato-basil sandwich. Mmm.

Though, in trying to prevent moderation from becoming a daily occurrence, sometimes I’ll buy cheese substitutes. These are best in moderation too, but flavor-wise, there have definitely been some decent ones placed on the market in recent years. I’ve been a big fan of Daiya from its start, and not long ago they released their newest flavor, Pepperjack.

Pepperjack Daiya has been my quesadilla superstar these past few days. It’s the perfect mom-approved, dairy free, cholesterol free cheesy compliment to sautéed peppers from the garden. I’ve also added a few other veggies to make this whole wheat quesadilla A-list quality. Add some fresh cilantro and salsa, and you’ve got an easy meal for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast.

Click here for recipe…

Vegan Pear Grilled Cheese

I wasn’t brought up on grilled cheese. My mom was the one taking the cheese off my pizza, not melting it on my sandwiches. But as I shifted into grade school, curiosity got the best of my taste-buds, and the ooey gooey sandwich entered my diet. Of course I was in love, and like the rest of my peers, the sandwich represented true comfort food. Tomato soup-dipped grilled cheese was all I wanted on a chilly fall day, stuck inside a school that was hardly ever adequately heated. While I shed the vegan diet, I was still primarily a vegetarian during my grade school years. So come lunch time, I’d often be sifting through all the deli meat sandwiches to find that one remaining gold foil wrapped grilled cheese. There never were enough of those. The gummy orange cheese laid on two slices of soft white bread that never got quite crisped enough was nowhere near gourmet. But, it did the job of fulfilling my 8th grade appetite.

As I grew older, I started shifting back to my vegan childhood and eliminated a considerable amount of dairy out of my diet. I’m not vegan, but I try not to eat cheese on a frequent basis, making it so grilled cheese never truly became a comfort food of mine. However, don’t get me wrong. I still love the warm, cheesy sandwich and am occasionally caught playing with its ingredients in the kitchen. Brie and apple on crusty cinnamon raisin bread? Yes please.

Having a craving for grilled cheese, I decided to return to the classic and give in to my melted desire. However, this time I kept it vegan, swapping the dairy for Daiya. Playing up the flavors of fall, I added sliced pear, along with sweet and acidic, balsamic-glazed onions. This was a match made in heaven. The creamy Daiya with the juicy pear and full-flavored onions made this adult adaptation a (vegan) grilled cheese winner.

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