As a kindergartner, I had some anxiety about being the cheese that stood alone in The Farmer and the Dell - even if it meant I got to be the farmer on the next go-around. But the bigger question in my mind was - Why does the cheese stand alone anyway? Is it stinky? Are the farmer, the wife, and the child lactose intolerant or perhaps have a casein allergy?
The CDC now reports as many as 15 million Americans have some form of food allergy, with the top 8 being milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. While a true allergy can cause a severe reaction and potential anaphylaxis, many more Americans have some form of sensitivity to these foods, resulting in milder symptoms and digestive troubles.
For me, anything that contains casein, the protein found in milk, is considered a dairy item to be avoided. This includes cow's milk, butter, cheeses, and ice cream. This is not to be confused with lactose intolerance, which is an inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not considered dairy. They are often located with other dairy items in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, so people commonly feel they are a dairy item to be avoided as well.
So, what's a non-dairy queen supposed to do for her fix of sharp cheddar or pungent gorgonzola crumbles on a pear and walnut salad? This week's News & Nibbles is devoted to cheese nibbles, and I've got to be honest. There are not acceptable gluten free and dairy free replacements out there yet for the true balls of mozzarella, crumbly blue, or hard hunks of cheddar from my previous life. Please leave a comment here, if you've encountered one!
That being said, there are a variety of "utilitarian" dairy free cheeses, as I will call them. I don't snack on them out of the bag or cut off a hunk as I would dairy cheese, but I've found when added into casseroles, melted on tacos, or mixed into spinach dips they work quite well and give that cheesy texture that I crave.
Here's my homage to non-dairy fromage (all brands listed are also gluten free):
- Cream Cheese: Tofutti and Galaxy brand make several varieties of dairy free, soy imitation cream cheese. I have enjoyed both of these on gluten free bagels and used them in various recipes calling for regular cream cheese with good results. I've made cream cheese frostings, cheesecake, and even tiramisu with both. If you are watching trans fats, be sure to choose the trans-fat free variety of Tofutti cream cheese.
- Shredded Cheddar, Mozzarella: Daiya brand has Mozzarella, Cheddar, and Pepperjack shred varieties. Galaxy recently provided me with free samples of their new Mexican and Mozzarella cheese shred varieties, which are on par with Daiya in terms of meltability. These shreds are also soy free. Their Mozzarella flavor tasted less like Mozzarella and more like Cheddar to me, but was really yummy when mixed into creamy noodle recipes or mac n' cheese.
- Block Cheese: Follow your Heart Vegan cheese blocks melt well, although be prepared for their texture. They are much softer and more rubbery in comparison to traditional cheddar and mozzarella varieties. A thin slice melted on a sandwich is quite good.
- American Slices: Again, Galaxy brand and Tofutti each make both soy and rice cheese slices that work great for a turkey sandwich or melted on top of a burger. Daiya has also just introduced "wedges" - sliced cheese in havarti, jack, and cheddar flavors that I am anxious to try. Depending upon your intolerance to dairy, there are even more options but most contain casein protein.
Ok, so back to The Farmer and the Dell. Could it be the cheese is just waiting for the right wine pairing to come along? Here's a great recipe for Peach Sangria we enjoyed this past weekend that any hunk of cheese would certainly be proud to accompany.
Refreshingly Light Peach Sangria
1 bottle Moscato
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc
1 can 7-up
~12 oz club soda
1 valencia orange juiced
1/4 to 1/2 lemon juiced
2 lemons large slices
3 white peaches sliced into 8-12ths wedges (I've used yellow peaches as well with great results)
2 raspberries per glass
2 sprigs mint
Chill for at least several hours (ideally a day).
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Tags: 7-up, casein free, CDC, cheddar, cheese, cheese stands alone, club soda, common food allergies, dairy free, daiya, follow your heart, food allergies on the rise, Galaxy, Galaxy brand, gladly gluten free, gluten free, gorgonzola, havarti, moscato, mozzarella, non-dairy queen, peach sangria, peaches, pepper jack, raspberries, rice cheese, sauvignon blanc, soy free, the farmer and the dell, tofutti, vegan cheese