Testing New Teese on Pizza

Vegan Pizza Night

Our very good friends at Chicago Soydairy were nice enough to send me a sample of their new formula of mozzarella teese for testing.  Having not had any decent vegan pizza since I was in Chicago in February, it was the only thing I could foresee myself making with it.  And making pizza by one’s self is no fun at all, so I got my friends over to my house . . .

Dustin

Tasha

Hugh

These are my good friends from the philosophy department, Dustin, Tasha, and Hugh.  They are all omnis, but due to my superior cooking abilities, they were all willing to test the new teese formula on some mushroom, vegan sausage, and artichoke heart pizza.

In the email sent to notify me that I’d be receiving this sample, Chicago Soydairy noted that all their Teese varieties would soon be undergoing a similar change to their formula.  They promised that Teese would be stretchier, and more solid when melted, as well as having an improved flavor.  I had always been fairly satisfied by Teese.  It has, thus far, always sated my cheese cravings.  The formula I was used to melted well on pizza, but always did have the problem of being too liquidy, and sort of flowing over my pizza rather than holding it’s shape and stretching.  However, it always tasted halfway decent, and as long as there were some toppings on the pizza to hold the teese in place, it worked just fine.

For those of you unacquainted with the world of vegan cheese substitutes, let me tell you, no matter what a package says, vegan cheeses usually don’t melt or stretch like you would expect them to.  And the taste of many vegan cheeses is, well . . . lacking.  That’s the nice way to put it.  After eating them I’ve always been left thinking: In a world with so many chemists and engineers, one would think that SOMEONE could come up with a substance chemically identical to cheese without using any animal in it. Granted, that would probably involve some scary chemicals and processes that would leave the substance devoid of any nutritive value whatsoever . . . but damn it, I’m vegan and sometimes I miss cheese!

Okay . . . so pizza.  I started with some agave-whole wheat crust that I just whipped up in my trusty bread machine.  For those of you who are vegan and don’t own a bread machine, I highly recommend purchasing one.  It will save you so much time and worry at the grocery store when you’d be looking over ingredient labels just praying to find one that you can eat.  Also, you can make pizza crust in like 45 minutes with one.  And other stuff . . . anyway, pizza . . .

I also made some sauce by chopping up half an onion, sauteing it with 3 cloves of garlic, adding basil and oregano, and then pouring in one can of tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes and letting that simmer for around 10 minutes.  It makes a nice, fresh tasting sauce that isn’t too heavy and doesn’t overpower anything else that you want to put on your pizza.

I'm so excited for teese!

When it came time to top the pizza, we sliced up an Italian “smart sausage” from Light Life, some mushrooms, red peppers, and drained a can of artichoke hearts (about half of which ended up in our mouths before even touching the pizza . . . tee hee . . . I ❤ artichoke hearts).

Then it came time for the teese grating.  From previous teese experiences, I knew that it could be a bit sticky and hard to sprinkle on pizza.  However, when we grated this log o’ teese, the shreds were much less sticky and more solid.  This could only be a good sign.

And indeed it was!  The teese sprinkled easily on the sauced and topped pizza.  I didn’t really have to break up too many clumps of sticky shreds or anything.  It found its way onto the pizza very nicely.  It even looked like “real” cheese.  And this was certainly encouraging.

Then into the oven it went!  Now, normally the deal with pizza is you bake it as hot as you think your ingredients can stand it until your crust is done and things are bubbling.  With other vegan cheese alternatives, you have to be very careful, because sometimes things get over melted or they burn or they just don’t do anything, they just sit there, all shredded getting hotter and hotter but not melting.  The instructions that came with the teese sample said go ahead and bake it up at 500 degrees.  I was a little scared to do that on the first pizza, so I baked it at 450 for about 17 minutes.  And this was the result . . .

fresh out of the oven

Crispy crust, hot toppings, melty teese that didn’t look like it was too liquid or buned.  In short . . . it looked perfect.  But was it, indeed, perfect vegan pizza?  Could this be?

The teese did, indeed, stretch and stay more solid than the old formula.  It cut nicely, served, nicely, looked authentic.  I was getting excited.

There would be nothing more awesome in my little vegan life for there to be a convincing cheese substitute.  I mean, we’ve got marshmallows now, meaty things, milky things, eggy things, but no real cheesy things.  No cheese alternative that looks, acts, and tastes even close to dairy cheese. That is, it appears, until now . . .

The taste test . . .

The tasting . . .

It was good.  Very good.  It definately reminded me of mozzarella, if not tasting pretty damn close to it (I scarcely remember what dairy cheese tastes like anymore, but I knew that this stuff was really good).  It had a creamy, delicate taste with that little bit of fatty mouthfeel that one really craves in a cheese.  The only thing that seemed off was the salt level.  The teese didn’t seem salty enough.  Though, I really really like salt.  I mean I REALLY like salt.  So I sprinkled some on top of the pizza.  Problem solved!  My verdict:  This stuff is friggin’ awesome!

The verdict from the omnis was mixed, but still fairly positive.  Tasha noted that the taste was good, but not like mozzarella.  She agreed with me that it needed salt.  And she also thought that the texture was something like “undercooked egg yolk.”  Dustin said roughly that, though it didn’t taste like cheese, it was still pretty good.  Hugh wasn’t very talkative about it,  I remember him saying “yep, it’s good,” and then shoving another piece of pizza in his mouth.  I think he approved.

So general verdict:  Vegans will be very satisfied by this new formula.  Omnis will find it pretty acceptable, too.

In fact, they found it so acceptable that a second pizza had to be made.  Having more confidence in the teese, I baked the second one at 500.  It was even better when it was baked hotter.  The only thing I wish was that the teese would have browned a bit in some spots.  Perhaps next time I acquire some, I’ll try a light misting of oil before it goes into the oven.  So I recommend baking it at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Though, I do wonder what would happen in a commercial pizza oven, baking up at 800.

Just so you folks know, I got hungry while I was writing this, so I went to go make a grilled teese sandwich with the bit of leftover teese I had.  Holy.  Effing.  God.  That was possibly the best vegan grilled cheese I’ve ever had.  Teese makes FANTASTIC grilled cheese sandwiches.  It melts just right and stretches like you want a grilled cheese sandwich to.  I cannot wait until this formulation is on the market.

You win again Chicago Soydairy!  You folks are my favorite vegan food producer.  Next time, how about some temptation vegan ice cream samples?  😉

Pizza cat is pleased with your offering.

Back to basics . . . and childhood.

My parents used to make what they would call a “hamburger hotdish” for dinner a lot of the time while I was growing up.  It was a dish similar to hamburger helper that was made on the stove top in a big ass skillet.  It was pretty simple, ground beef, onions, celery, macaroni and canned tomatoes from my dad’s garden.  We’d eat that with peanut butter and jelly on white bread with big glasses of milk.  It was a pretty standard meal at our house.  I never really used to think about why we’d eat that so often.  I’d just scarf down the hotdish so I could have more peanut butter and jelly.  But now I realize why it was on the stove at least once a week.

It’s cheap.

Dirt.  Frickin’.  Cheap.

Because of several money issues in the last month or so, I’ve been forced to cut my food budget roughly in half.  Which means no more exotic, organic foods from the co op, no more specialty mail-order vegan products for a while either.  I’m back to supermarket veganism . . . well, Target veganism to be more precise.  Problem is . . . I don’t really know how to cook that way.

I’m used to having interesting vegetables, artisan breads, imported pasta, and organic canned goods.  Granted, the generic cheap stuff is still vegan (more or less), I worry about chemicals used during farming and in the processing of the food.  Cest la vie, I guess.  I do still buy and voluntarily eat Oreos from time to time, so I should probably stop bitching.

Anyway.  I didn’t even know where to start with making cheap food.  So I went back to the classic meal I’d seen my parents make hundreds of times: Hamburger Hotdish.

I’ve been toying with “skillet meals” for a while now.  Mostly because I had some weird craving for hamburger helper.  As a freshman at college, during my vegetarian years, I started eating hamburger helper on a regular basis and just subbing out the ground beef for some veggie crumbles.  It was a comfort food.  Warm and salty and squishy.  At first my aim was just to recreate that feeling with my food while keeping everything vegan.  Then I realized what sort of potential skillet meals had.  You can make just about any dish in a vegan skillet version.  Vegan Beef-a-roni, vegan cheesburger helper, vegan chicken ala king, even vegan tuna casserole.  I started making them all the time because they were easy, complete meals, that only used one pan.  It was as if I’d discovered the secret to college cooking.

But now, I see that not only are they fast, easy, tasty, and leave you with less cleaning . . . they’re cheap, as long as you use the right ingredients.  In my original days of coming up with these meals, I’d use expensive, frozen, meat analogues:  Morningstar chik’n strips or boca crumbles or whatever was on sale at the co op.  But as a better, cheaper source of protein, now I’m using tofu.

I recently discovered that in a nonstick skillet, you can treat crumbled tofu sort of like ground beef for these sorts of things.  Just heat the skillet to medium high heat, add about 2 tablespoons of canola oil, crumble in the tofu, let it saute for a minute or two, and then drizzle it all with a healthy amount of soy sauce.  Then you just have to let it fry until it’s starting to brown.  TA DA!  The perfect protein base for skillet meals.  And coming in at about $2 a pound, it’s economical and vegan.

So the next hurdle was making my parents’ hamburger hotdish concept healthy.  I mean, macaroni and meat with some tomato sauce isn’t exactly what I would call good-for-you.  The meat became tofu.  The noodles became whole-grain pasta.  The sauce got some herbs added to it so it wasn’t so damn boring.  And the whole thing got an injection of vegetables for the sake of nutrition.

At the end of it all, I did all the math.  I got three BIG servings out of the recipe for less than $4.  Dinner tonight, and lunch and dinner tomorrow.  SUCCESS!  Just for my serving tonight, I made some toasty crumbles for the top and sprinkled on a little bit of nutritional yeast for flavor.

here's a cruddy picture of it I took with my webcam

A Basic Skillet Meal

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 Pound of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cans of water
  • 1/2 of a 13.5 ounce box of whole grain pene pasta (a generous 2 cups)
  • 1/2 of a 16-ounce bag of frozen, cut green beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Heat a large (12-inch), nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  While that’s heating, wrap the tofu in some paper towels and gently squeeze out some of the water.  Don’t worry about getting it too dry, most of the excess will cook off.  Once hot, put the oil in the skillet and crumble in the tofu.  Fry this for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then gather all the tofu into the middle of the pan and drizzle the soy sauce over it evenly.  I just pour it out of the bottle, so 3 tablespoons is an estimate.  Don’t stir for 2 minutes, just let it sizzle.  The soy sauce is reducing a bit in the pan and that’s what you want.

Now stir the tofu occasionally for the next 5 minutes, or until it starts to get golden brown on the parts that aren’t covered in soy sauce.  Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes.  Just until the onion looks cooked, but the tofu isn’t too browned.  Add the oregano and basil and stir.

Add the tomato sauce.  And then add 1 and 1/2 cans full of water, making sure to get all that good tomato sauce into the pan by swishing it out with the water.  Bring the pan to a boil.  Once boiling, add the pasta.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes (or as long as the pasta calls for), stirring occasionally.  After the 10 minutes is up, check to see if the pasta is cooked.  If it’s a little firm yet, that’s okay.  Add the green beans and bring the pan back to a simmer.  You may need to add a little extra water to loosen things up a bit.  But if it looks like there’s a nice sauce in the pan, you don’t have to.  Simmer the whole concoction for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the green beans are hot.

Put it into a bowl (or on a plate, if you prefer) and eat it on up!

This is a basic outline for skillet meals, using this format, you can make a bunch of different variations.  Judging by my bank account, I’ll probably have the opportunity to post some more in the coming weeks.

Awesome Vegan Product Alert!!!

Hey folks, just a quick note tonight.

So I made this Moroccan-inspired veggie cous cousey thing for dinner tonight out of some leftover cinnamon, raisin, almond cous cous I’d made for breakfast.  I didn’t expect it to be very pretty to look at or anything, so I wasn’t expecting to write about it.  It isn’t . . . BUT for a quick protein source, I used this new thing I found at my co op called Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips.  I really wasn’t expecting much from them when I bought them because I’d tried the “crispy tenders” a couple weeks ago and found them sort of dry and tasteless unfortunately.  However, the Beefless Tips . . . ARE FANTASTIC!  It could be that I just think these taste better because I fried them in coconut oil in stead of baking them like the 7-gain crispy tenders, but eating this bowl of cous cous and beefless tips I am a very satisfied customer.

So, if you see them at your local naturalish food store, try the beefless tips!! They’re GOOD!

K, ’nuff for tonight.  Bye bye!