Shredding the Competition

For all the progress made in creating better tasting, readily available, and even more affordable vegan cheeses, it’s surprising that one company still has a near monopoly on the meltable “cheese” market. The greatest test of any cheesy substitute, it’s a true feat of food engineering that not many achieve with flying colors. Happily, that doesn’t mean that all the other players are out of the game- Far from it, as evidenced by Galaxy Foods‘ latest bold entry to the arena, Vegan Shreds. Proclaiming that it “Melts and Stretches” right on the package in no uncertain terms, highlighted in red for maximum impact, such a statement clearly issues a challenge to consumers, daring them to try for themselves. Putting these new shreds to the test, I was more than willing to take on that challenge.

Far from new to the field, Galaxy has been pumping out the cheesy imposters for decades, ranging from blocks to slices to “Parmesan” sprinkles, but the shreds are their most noteworthy creation yet. No bones about it, I was not impressed by previous product lines. Though slowly improving throughout the years, I couldn’t shake a certain waxy aftertaste that seemed to plague every sliceable or pre-sliced option. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the two new available flavors: Mozzarella and Mexican-Style Shreds.

Classic French onion soup made an ideal canvas to test both flavor and true meltability of the Mozzarella shreds. Popping the “cheese”-covered wedges of baguette under the broiler, it was a true delight to see pale beige ribbons effortlessly collapse into a bubbling layer of molten lava-like goo. No careful cajoling necessary to prevent premature burns, it behaved admirably and lived up to its lofty assertions of melting with ease. Providing genuinely cheesy flavor, it deserves high marks for the actual taste as well, but I could hardly suggest that it would fool a true dairy devotee.

Cheddar is usually the second standard, but much to my surprise, Galaxy threw a true curve ball for their next move. Submitting a Mexican-Style shred instead, there’s nothing else on the market that attempts to fill such a void. Blending brighter orange-tinted strips into the mix, it’s a pleasing color combination on top of any food, such as my Cincinnati-style chili*, but I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t detect much difference in flavor from the Mozzarella shreds. If eaten carefully, piece by piece, the orange shreds might have a slightly sharper taste, almost like a mild cheddar… But who really eats their food like that? It would take hours to get through a meal if we were all separating the tiny pieces of “cheese” on top of a dish.

Though I can’t necessarily recommend one flavor over the other, I can enthusiastically recommend the Vegan Shreds on the whole. Performing just as promised, it’s an excellent alternative to Daiya, which is a very welcome change of pace. I can’t declare a winner to this battle just yet, but it’s good to see them both on a level playing ground at last.

With a good amount of extra cheese leftover from this trial run, I knew immediately what to do with it. A comforting indulgence that I’ve been making for myself for years now, it’s finally become something worthy of serving to others, now that these shreds no longer scream “fake vegan substitute!” from the rooftops. Filed under my favorite recipe digital folder, “Junky Eats,” this Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus truthfully isn’t deserving of such categorization, but it certainly tastes suitably indulgent. Pure comfort food, I love eating it warm with toasty pitas, but it also makes an ideal party dip, chilled and ready to please for summer soirees. Chill and serve it on ice- the cheesy shreds won’t seize or become gritty once blended, leaving the texture lusciously smooth. Plus, you get to painlessly sneak another green vegetable into your daily diet.

*By no means would I ever claim my rendition is authentic Cincinnati chili, as true Ohio natives often shun the inclusion of beans. Also, note that the chili was almost completely cool by the time I took the picture, and thus the shreds didn’t have enough heat to melt and this is the correct look for classic Cincinnati chili regardless.

Yield: 3 - 4 Cups; 8 - 16 Servings

Broccoli and Cheese Hummus

Broccoli and Cheese Hummus

A comforting mashup of broccoli-cheese soup with hummus, this combination works both warm served with toasty pitas, but it also makes an ideal party dip, chilled and ready to please for summer soirees.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 2 1/2 Cups Frozen Broccoli
  • 2.5 Ounces Vegan Mexican-Style Shreds, or Any Vegan Cheddar-Style “Cheese”
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 15-Ounce Can Chickpeas, Drained
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Broth Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Place the frozen broccoli in a microwave-safe dish, and drizzle in the tablespoon of water to allow it to steam properly. Sprinkle the “cheese” shreds evenly over the veggies, and lightly cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper. Heat at full power for 2 – 3 minutes, until the broccoli has thawed and cheese melted. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, in your food processor. Pulse to combine, and with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil to incorporate and emulsify. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically, to ensure there are no tricky chickpeas or pockets of seasoning escaping the blades. Puree thoroughly, until completely smooth. For the best texture, you really can’t cut any corners here: It may take as long as 10 minutes of straight blending until the mixture is perfectly silky. Just keep a close eye on it, and stop when you’re satisfied.
  3. Scrape all of the cooked broccoli and melted “cheese” into the food processor, and pulse lightly to incorporate. You don’t want to completely blend it in, but have small chunks of broccoli for texture. Eat right away, or store in an air-tight container for up to a week.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 98mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 5g

Curry in a Hurry

Few fast-casual eateries can lay claim to formulating their own signature curry powder, creating a distinctive blend of both warming and sharp spices unique to the establishment. Naturally, Health in a Hurry is no typical grab-and-go place, despite having all the speed and ease of ordering there. Though far from the only spice blend that we utilize in the kitchen, it has captivated me with its subtle sweetness and mellow heat; an incredibly flavorful mixture without the harsh bite of more potent chilies. It’s what keeps our signature Lemon Curry Rice on the menu year round, and a perpetual best-seller, too. With so much spicy potential right within arm’s reach every time I came in to work, I couldn’t leave this one alone. Pinching off a small container of the powder with permission from the wonderful chef and owner, Sue Cadwell, I took to my own home kitchen and began to play.

Keeping it simple was the best course of action to allow the delicate balance of ingredients to really shine. Hummus, that perfect blank canvas and familiar friend, is an ideal way to showcase such an ingredient. Gentle enough to embrace the most timid of palates, a similarly sweet curry powder is key here. Though I can’t divulge the secret formula of spices ground and mixed in-house, there are plans in the works to make bottles of the finished blend available for purchase online. For the time being, go with your favorite homemade blend, or Madras curry powder.

Yield: 2 Cups; 4 - 8 Servings

Curry in a Hurry Hummus

Curry in a Hurry Hummus

Give your average hummus a kick with curry!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15.5 Ounce) Can Chickpeas, Rinsed and Drained
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Sweet Curry Powder, such as Madras
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Tahini
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, Chopped

Instructions

  1. Measure out and reserve a tablespoon or two of the drained chickpeas for topping. Take the rest of the beans, along with the garlic, curry powder, and 2 tablespoons of the oil, and combine them in your food processor. Pulse until the beans are mostly broken down. Add in the lemon juice, tahini, 1 tablespoon of the water, and salt as needed.
  2. Puree thoroughly, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure everything is getting incorporated, until completely silky-smooth. To achieve the best texture, have patience; this could take 5 – 8 minutes. Add in the remaining tablespoon of water if the mixture seems too thick for your taste.
  3. Transfer the creamy puree to a serving bowl, and top with the reserved chickpeas, remaining tablespoon of oil, and chopped herbs. Finish with an additional light sprinkle of curry powder if desired.

Notes

Though best when allowed to sit and chill for at least 24 hours, the hummus is still quite delicious if served immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 104Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 154mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

Hummus Lovin’

The internet needs another hummus recipe like I need another final exam to cap off this grueling school semester, and yet, like a moth drawn to the light, I simply can’t help myself. Enlivened with fresh veggies, roasted gently to reveal their natural sweetness, that humble bean dip has reinvented itself and squeezed its way back into my chickpea-loving heart. It’s like a familiar tune played on a new instrument; comforting, beckoning, yet altogether novel once again.

After the sparks had waned and the romance dwindled over a frigid winter season, it only makes sense that the love affair should resume alongside spring fever. Warm weather calls for cold food, plus the call for potlucks and outdoor dining demand an agreeable staple that needs little fussing over in advance, and so returns hummus, with a vengeance. I have yet to meet a more perfect spring or summer party companion than well-chilled hummus.

Just like a proper primavera, what’s so endearing about this little number is that nearly any fresh, seasonal veggies that are ripe and ready are ideal for swapping in. Think asparagus, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, even fresh peas! My only advice is to keep the shiitake, onion, and garlic constant, and they make up the backbone of this flavor profile, quietly hinting of umami in the background.

Yield: About 4 Cups; 16 - 32 Servings

Hummus Primavera

Hummus Primavera

Just like a proper primavera, what’s so endearing about this little number is that nearly any fresh, seasonal veggies that are ripe and ready are ideal for swapping in. Think asparagus, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, even fresh peas! My only advice is to keep the shiitake, onion, and garlic constant, and they make up the backbone of this flavor profile, quietly hinting of umami in the background.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Medium Zucchini
  • 1 Medium Carrot, Peeled
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion
  • 4 Fresh Shiitake Mushroom Caps
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 14-Ounce Can Chickpeas, Drained and Rinsed
  • 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Water (If Needed)
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Roughly chop the zucchini, carrot, and onion, and place in a large bowl. Add in the mushroom caps, whole, peeled garlic cloves, and toss with the oil to coat. Spread all of the veggies out in one even layer on your prepared baking sheet, and roast for approximately 30 minutes; until the vegetables are all fork-tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, place the chickpeas in your food processor along with the lemon juice, tomato paste, salt, and spices. Blend to combine, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. The mixture should be somewhat dry at this point, as the veggies will add a lot of moisture. Introduce about half of the roasted vegetables to the food processor, and thoroughly puree, until super smooth. Have patience, because depending on your machine, this may take up to 5 minutes.
  4. Once silky-smooth (or as smooth as you can get the consistency), add in the remaining roasted vegetables, and pulse to incorporate. I like to leave it a bit chunky so that you actually know what you’re eating here, and to give it a bit more color and texture. Add more water only if needed, along with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and parsley to taste. Transfer to an air-tight container, and thoroughly chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

32

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 35Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 88mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g