Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Else?

      Some may wonder what else I spend my time on other than food.

      If I could spend all day around awesome ingredients and amazing food I would be the happiest piggie in town, but I'm not writing a book and I'm not a chef – I don't even work in a restaurant. It's not something that is appealing to me when I break out in hives at the touch of gluten or milk. I don't think I would last very long. While all things food do take up a small portion of my daily life, there is plenty of time left in the day for me to do other things and live a non-food obsessed life.

      I work. Imagine that!? I have a shitty job in a shitty location downtown Austin. When I mention the word downtown before I tell people where I work, they assume something glamorous or at least something that pays well. Oh, how wrong they are! There are bums and while I do not think I could ever get paid enough to deal with bums, I still don't get paid what I would like. Who does? I like being downtown because it's an easy bike ride or right on the bus line, whatever I'm feeling for the day. The bike is dangerous and the things people do to bikers would really shock an average person (I hope) who has a shred of sense in them. As bad as some of this may sound, it keeps my day interesting and I really would not change it right now.

      I learn. I'm an accounting major going at an incredibly slow pace. College is expensive and I go when I can afford it. I'm hoping this will pay off more than most college educations and I might actually be able to use it in the “real world”. I really hate that saying.

      I knit. Knitting is not for your grandma anymore. I could make a sweater that would put your grannie's to shame. While I'm pretty much a vegan in what I eat (minus those eggs and honey), I do not abide by the vegan laws when it comes to knitting. Bring on the silk, Alpaca and sheep's wool, baby! I never really understood the vegan point on wool anyway – it's a 100% renewable resource each year. They get sheared anyway to help with the heat in summer, so why not use it instead of throw it out? Some silk harvesting can be damaging to or kill the worms, so I suppose I could understand that point, but there are programs that have no cruelty silk.
      I also sell my knitting on a great site www.Etsy.com. It's a wonderful place for crafties, such as myself. Go support someone there! I've got a little banner up on the left with my shop items, but there pretty much anything you can think of there. Great for Christmas gifts! I know that I've already got my eye on a few things from a local clay artist for my kitchen!

      I read. In my living room you will not find a television, you will find bookcases. Same goes for the bedroom. We read around here – lots. Mountains of books. We've gotten rid of hundreds of books, too, enough to fill small dumpsters and we've still got enough to last us through the next nuclear winter. Well, almost. Books are a vital point for us. We're always pulling something off the shelf to reference or share with someone or just to browse. The goat and I have fairly similar tastes and so everything of ours is just kind of thrown together.

      I ride. I love my bike! It's hard to want to go places in the winter, but its still so much fun. My back tire is bent from a silly bike accident and that needs to be repaired before next spring. Nothing major, but it rubs my breaks when it turns so it's like driving with your emergency brake on. I've been hit by cars, but thankfully nothing bad enough to knock me out or land me in the road. It's illegal to ride on the sidewalks here, but I'd rather do that than ride in the street.
      I understand that it is much more dangerous for a bike when you ride on the sidewalk because cars do not see you there for some reason, but I'd rather stop on the sidewalk before they hit me than not be able to stop in the road and get creamed. Austin is a major city for bike activists – it's one of the worst cities for bikers and we're everywhere here. Our Critical Mass events draw close to 300 bicyclists regularly. The sad part is, with as much awareness as we try to raise bike cops still get hit on their bikes and regular riders still get harassed by the cops in cars for silly things. People tell me regularly how much they hate bicyclists and how we need to watch out for the cars on the road. Pedestrians even tell me to get in the road when there is no bike lane. Please remember that we all carry bike locks and chains and are pretty much guaranteed to be in better shape than you. An ass beating is not out of my league and it's happened before.

      I like to think I'm a pretty typical 20-something, but I don't really know if that exists. For now I'm happy with where I'm at sharing my ½ food obsessed life with the goat and riding the Town Lake Ladybird Trail with him. Maybe one day I'll have a less shitty job that pays more in the accounting field. Until then, I'll keep knitting.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Casein Free Milk and Butter

     Casein, from Latin caseus meaning cheese, has a pretty interesting history. Since ancient times casein, as an individual milk protein, has been well known among humans, with artists being recorded using casein paints since at least ancient Egypt. Industrial uses for casein are found within the plastic and fiber industries to provide structural support to their products.

      In a more familiar setting, casein is often found in protein supplements such as bars, drinks, and powders. It is known for a slow release of protein due to the clot it forms in the stomach and intestine when ingested in high volumes. 

     Casein is also responsible for coagulation during butter and cheese making, providing structure to the delicious end products. This binding and structural support is the key issue here. The casein molecule is very similar to the gluten molecule in structure – one of the many reasons they work so well together in baked goods.

     This similarity, however, can cause havoc for some individuals with Celiac. Ingesting casein will often cause a reaction similar to ingesting gluten as the body cannot tell the two proteins apart, for a very simple explanation. This is not just for newly diagnosed patients with a healing small intestine either, as many lifelong Celiac patients cannot tolerate casein.

     So now that the why part of the question is out of the way, we can get down to what the hell we’re going to do about eating without casein.

Substitutes and Pinch Hitters
     Dairy products from all animals fall into one of three categories: cheese, milk, and butter, and all dairy products have casein in them including skim milks and 0% milks. Many products that are marketed as “dairy-free” will contain high levels of casein as they put additional quantities in their products to enhance flavor and texture.

     Those of us following a casein-free diet are on the hunt for reliable replacements for these items to make our food tasty and our life easier.

First, let’s talk about casein-free cheese…
     Casein is found in mammal milk, so consequently all cheese – which is made from mammal milk – is out of the question on a casein-free diet. There are a few substitutes available for this dilemma, however. Daiya, a casein-free cheese, is a relative newcomer to the game and seems to have staked out a place to stay in the last five years or so. I’m happy with that as their products are gooey, melty, pure deliciousness. They are also a splurge at upwards of $6.00 per bag of shredded cheese that covers just one family meal.

     Beyond fake cheese products, using other ingredients to mimic the umami flavor that many cheese and dairy products provide is a good way to satisfy any cravings. Nutritional yeast is a traditional substitute for vegans and vegetarians in pseudo-cheese sauces and popcorn toppings. I find it fairly cheap in the bulk section at my local grocery store and use anywhere from a couple tablespoons to cover popcorn to 1/3 cup in soups or stews.

My butter and milk of choice
Casein-free milk options…
     For everyday use I turn to plain, unsweetened soy milk. We use it for coffee in the morning, cooking in the evening, and cookie-dunking before bed. If you are able to purchase good quality soy milk then do so – it will usually taste better than the store brand available.

     Beyond soy, many people use almond or rice milk. Hemp milk also works well in most recipes. Mass marketing has allowed many of these niche markets to develop and no longer will you find the dull, chalky consistency of the 1990s.

Casein-free butter…
     Normal butter derived from cow’s milk is also chalk full of casein, making it another ingredient we need a substitute for. I know what folks say about margarine and hydrogenated oils, so when I was no longer able to use my beloved butter I was a bit heartbroken.

     Olive oil is the natural choice we can turn to here. It’s a great substitute in cakes and brownies, but not so great for pie crusts or biscuits. When I really want a flaky crust or want to give my potato soup a more satisfying, home-cooking flavor I opt for Earth Balance Original Spread. It has no hydrogenated oils, it is vegan, gluten free, and has no casein. I use it all the time and enjoy it on pancakes, in pie crusts, biscuits, and toasted sandwiches.

A Glimmer of Hope?
     There is one true dairy product I know of that is, in theory, casein-free. However, this comes with a huge warning about cross contamination, so proceed with caution.

     Ghee is going to be the only true dairy product those following a casein-free diet will be able to tolerate. However, even this comes with a risk of containing casein as ghee is made by removing the solidified milk proteins and residual proteins is a possibility for the finished product.

     I hope this has cleared up a few questions you might have had. I know I was pretty disappointed when I finally realized the full extent of the casein in the average diet. It gets easier, as all things do, with time, so keep up the dedication and browse around here for some casein-free recipes and meal ideas.

- Patricia
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trial Run

      This will be my first major holiday being gluten-free, so I wanted to practice a dish or two before hand so I fudge as little as possible when it comes down to the line. I want to avoid any last minute scrambles if at all possible. Our grocery stores here are always crowded and busy no matter what time of the day. It is one of the only 24 hour grocery stores in the area so shopping at night is fun and much less busy, but it also increases the chances of getting hit by a car on the bike. I got side swiped in a parking lot just yesterday in broad daylight by someone not paying attention – I was on my way to the grocery store, too.

      Last night I decided to try my hand at gluten-free green bean casserole and it came out pretty good. I was quite intimidated at first that I was not able to use any pre-made ingredients, but it was so easy that I might throw it into the normal rotation of random meals we eat.

      Here's the best part: it's vegan without being weird. Some dishes that you make with milk or butter can turn gross when you try to make them vegan, but this just happened to come out vegan and taste awesome!

Tasty Vegan Green Bean Casserole

1 lb green beans
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 or 3 white button mushrooms
1 ½ C soy milk
2 tbs butter
Dried basil and dill
Salt & pepper
2 heaping tsp gluten free flour blend
½ C water
Olive oil

      Wash green beans, cut both ends off and cut to bite size pieces. Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove most of the dirt and grime, remove center stalk (unless you like that part) and cut into small pieces.

      Heat skillet over medium heat and add oil and onions when hot. Cook until browned and softened and add garlic, mushrooms, green beans and spices to taste. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes mixing well. Add milk and butter and bring to a slow simmer. Place flour blend in a cup and add water, stir until dissolved. While green beans are simmering, pour the flour mix into pan and turn off heat. Stir well and add water or milk if you need to thin things out. Pour into a pie plate and bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes or so. This will result in the green beans being still crunchy so if you want them soft, boil them for a while before you add them to the pan or just used canned.

      I served this on the side last night with quinoa stuffed herbed tomatoes. The tomatoes were a no-brainer and were done, start to finish, while the casseroles were in the oven. I hollowed out the tomatoes and sprinkled olive oil, salt, basil and pepper on each and stuck them under the broiler for about 10 minutes before I pulled them out. Added the quinoa and served! Tasty, yum and fast.

      This whole meal came together so fast and easy – I enjoy cooking so much when things just work like that. The goat is always in and out of the kitchen checking in on things and offering to help chop or peel something. Cooking is more than just making something for dinner. It's a process of love that you have to want. Many pregnant women talk about the joys and feelings of sustaining life within them and how much of a miracle the whole process is. I do not have kids and they are not in my foreseen future, but I can relate to this same intimate level when I cook. I sustain not only my life, but the life of those I share the final resulting meal. Each cut of the knife and stir of the pan gives way to warm lingering smells that make their way into each meal that I share with those near and dear to me.

      The miracle of vegetables, grains, fruits and fungus coming together to make a life sustaining experience is a miracle in itself. Sharing it with someone else is like no other feeling in the world.

      How do you share you meals?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Garlic Haters, Repent!

      Yesterday was a very mellow day here in Austin; lots of rain, the goat was home sick from work and temperatures hit the 70s and 80s when the sun finally came out for a brief bit before being swallowed back up by storm clouds. I had to be downtown for an interview at 8am so we were still up at our normal time – no sleeping in to be found around here. (yeah, right.)

      I kicked myself for not bringing my camera with me. The city was gorgeous with all the rain-wet buildings and freshly filled streams. I made it to 2nd and Congress around 8am or so and hoofed it the rest of the way – it's usually faster than the bus and I only had a couple blocks to walk. Did the interview and was headed to the grocery store on 5th and Lamar at about 8:30 or so. The walk was great despite the light rain and horrible humidity.

      I love the grocery store that time of morning. Everyone is busy doing their part be it stocking up produce, making the fresh to-go salads for the day, getting the bulk bins refilled, all the fresh bread is warm and fresh and smells amazing. I picked up an Ancient Grain loaf for the goat. He still needs his gluten fix and I'm okay with that. I also picked up some canned Indian food, on sale for that matter, carrots, onions and some toothpaste. I also came across something new: Elephant Garlic. It looks like normal garlic only four times the size. I was quite impressed and intrigued having never seen or heard of this before. I grabbed a bulb for $2.56 and headed to the checkout.

      I surprised the goat with the still warm bread. Our usual time for the grocery store is after dark so we can ride and avoid most traffic on the roads. As a result of this, the bread is usually picked ove
r and just starting to get a little hard from sitting out all day. I showed him the elephant garlic and we had some fun with a little photo shoot. I was pretty excited to start cooking, but it was hardly 11 so I decided to relax for a while and start after noon. I threw together some lentil soup out of what I just bought and some basics I had on hand. Here's the outline for the recipe:

1 chopped onion
garlic, chopped, smashed, or destroyed to taste
2 carrots
2 handfuls each green and yellow lentils
¼ c Canadian wild rice
salt & pepper

      Canned tomatoes and various left overs go well in this soup. I sautee the onion and garlic in the bottom of the soup pot in olive oil until barely soft and remove them until the very end. This helps give them a slightly crunchier texture than the rest of the soup and keeps them from being too soggy by the time the soup is done. After the onions are out of the pot throw in the lentils, rice and water up to near the top of the pot. Simmer with lid on (you can keep the temperature lower if you use a lid) until tender or 45 minutes. Add the carrots for the last 15 minutes of simmering and add the onions right before serving.

      If you decide to try some Elephant Garlic make
sure you do not over cook it as it will go bitter. The garlic, which is not really garlic but a member of the leek family, is almost woody in texture and holds a very delicate garlic flavor. It's great raw for garlic bread or in salads. It gives the hint of garlic without burning your mouth. Elephant Garlic has been known as garlic for garlic haters.

      All you garlic haters can repent now, we forgive you.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Agony of Breakfast

      I love breakfast! I love everything about it. Cooking breakfast in the morning with pajamas and bare feet on the cool kitchen floor. Smells of biscuits and gravy, eggs, coffee and waffles filling the house. Warm oatmeal with blackberries and honey. Eating breakfast on the back porch, listening to the birds singing the sun out of bed and hearing the rustle of squirrels burring treasures for the coming winter and spring. The crunch of granola in icy-cold milk followed by warm coffee. Everything about that time of day is warming to the soul and such a wonderful way to start the day. Breakfast is truly my favorite time of my day.

      Unfortunately, back in reality-land, I have a little less than an hour to share with The Goat before he heads off to work in the morning and he is really not as big on breakfast as I am. On the weekends we have sleepy mornings together - padding back and forth from the bedroom to the kitchen checking on the stove and getting refills on coffee. I love those weekend mornings.

      During the week, I'm not up for making breakfast for one (it's not the same) or I'm rushing around trying to write or do something or going to work. Before being diagnosed at the beginning of this year I would happily munch on cereal or stick something in the toaster for a quick breakfast, but now I find myself extremely limited on breakfast choices.

      There are plenty of standard breakfast foods available like eggs, pancakes, waffles, muffins, cornbread and cereals, but I find them either inconvenient or unpalatable after a while. I have desperately tried to keep my love affair with granola alive and well despite our differences, but I cannot find a good gluten-free alternative. I tried Enjoy Life's Very Berry Crunch Granola to teeth breaking disappointment. It is nut and gluten free so I could understand if you are allergic to both and really really really wanted a granola, but stay away otherwise. It had a funky chalky after taste to it that went along well with the gritty, sand-paper like texture.

      On the other hand, I have found EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs to be wonderful. They don't get soggy in milk and taste like regular peanut butter cereal. Also, The Silly Yak Bakery has gluten-free toaster pastries if you need that fix. They also ship directly to your door step or offer a pick up if you live close to them. The Silly Yak has all kinds of gluten-free goodies to stock up on. I cannot go to their site very often or I find myself filling the shopping cart...

      So what is an average breakfast for me? This morning I had Central Market's Blueberry Buckwheat waffles - very tasty - gluten AND casein free. Buckwheat is a favorite of mine from childhood. My step-dad would get food gifts quite often from his kids and buckwheat pancake mix was one of the regulars. It was so good that I fell in love for life. The waffles are great in the toaster, but I've put some frozen berries on them and popped them in the oven for a while, too. I eat a lot of bars when I have the money to spend on them. I realize they are generally between $1 and $2 each, but they pack so much into a bar that it truly is a great way to start the day with a bottle of juice to accompany. Toast with hot tea is popular for me in the mornings, as well.

      With a new day and another sun rise, I feel the urge to fill my day with life and what better way to do so than with a great (quick!) meal to start your day? Plenty of energy, better metabolism, spring in your step and no grumpy attitude over being hungry and dissatisfied. Breakfast really helps get you going in the morning - what is your typical breakfast during the week or weekend?

      I also wanted to quickly share with you a little tid-bit about the picture at the top of this post. The picture is of Lake Whitney, Texas where I was raised. The first professional bass fishing tournament ever was held here in the 1950's. I learned to fish on this lake, we had camp outs here ( I lived less than 1/2 mile from the lake ), I went cliff jumping for my sister's high school graduation and learned how to swim here. It will forever hold a piece of my heart.
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

On Halloween and Label Reading

      With Halloween fast approaching many parents, and kids for that matter, are worried about having a gluten-free ghoul-fest. The good news is that there are many ways to find out what you can have this holiday. There are a cornucopia of lists about gluten-free candy, some are even season specific and post information about those candy hearts at Valentine's Day or the Peeps Ghosts at Halloween time. Good stuff, really.
      Here are a couple to help you start things out: This link from About.com will help you get a good foot hold on the basics of gluten-free candy. It's not my favorite list being outdated by nearly 8 years in some places, but the information is still relevant for the most part. Celiac Central also has a great list of gluten-free Halloween treats that was updated just last year.

      Both of these are great resources, but I still feel like they leave you feeling as empty as bad rice bread. The problem that I see many people running into is that there is usually more than one ingredient or allergen they are looking for on a label. This leads to three lists loaded in your browser, clicking between tabs trying to cross compare lists and still getting that headache you were trying to avoid.
I am on the bandwagon that proper prior planning is key to any successful situation, but ther
e are some real life solutions to this holiday that just might work out better than what you have planned.

1. Let the kid do it.
      Kids know what candies they can have from experience given they are old enough to have that experience and many houses let you grab what candies you want out of a bowl or similar set up making it easy to pick and choose what you want. With this, however, comes the lesson of don't be ugly about it (that goes for parents, too!). It is sad to point this out, but let your kids know that some people will not understand their request to different candy for a food allergy and that is okay. In cases like that, take what they give you and sort it out later.
A food allergy button from CafePress and a couple rehearsed sentences for your kid explaining their situation should help out nicely.

2. Sort it out.

      Someone is bound to make homemade cookies for the monsters out that night and you will more than likely end up with a house that only has cookies. So you can do one of two things, walk away empty handed or take it and sort it out later. Some might consider this stingy or greedy, but part of the fun of Halloween that we all remember was how full you could get your pillow case. If there are foods you steer away from sort them out when you get home and donate them. There are county foster homes, homeless shelters for women and children, nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, soldiers overseas and the struggling family on your street. Do not forget about others on this day that might not have the opportunity to get any candy at all.

3. Exchange it.
      Talk with your allergy support groups or friends to see about hosting a candy exchange. This is a great way to hold a fun and safe after trick or treating get together and the parents or kids without food allergies will be more than happy to participate in all the glutenous fun that some cannot.

4. Learn to read labels.
      Talk about taking your life in your hands! Reading labels is the key to having a successful diet fr
ee of accidental ingestion of your allergen. Do not deal with companies that cannot or will not give you a straight answer. Read, reread and pass it off to someone else to double check and make it a habit! If you rely on someone else to compile all the safe foods you can eat, you will miss out on so much. Lists are only so helpful and then you have to wonder about that candy bar that did not make the list. Did they forget about it? Is it unsafe? Does the company even have an allergen statement? Learn to read a label correctly avoiding things like natural flavoring (natural what?), seasonings and other vague ingredients and teach your children to do the same. They might not know what it all means, but they can and should be able to recognize the shape and spelling of some 'unsafe' words.

      Halloween will probably be one of the lower-stress holidays of the year without too much family to deal with. There is not much cooking or baking to be done this time of year, except for a school party or bakesale. No large meals to prepare for and no family members telling you the mashed potatoes they just dumped an entire family-sized can of cream of chicken into is vegetarian. Take a few minutes to enjoy this joy-filled holiday with your family and remember how much fun this time of year can really be for everyone!

      Don't blink, Thanksgiving is only seven weeks away!
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

About Those Cookies...

      Whole Foods has a great way of setting up their pre-baked, ready to eat gluten-free cookie section. They have the regular brands that we are all familiar with on their gluten-free isle and a few mixed in with the regular cookies, but if you ever wander beyond their chocolate kiosk and glutenous bakery displays you will find a small shelf of various gluten-free goodies calling your name. I was looking for a good lemon cookie when I found these and I am not one to pass up bittersweet chocolate covered anything, much less vanilla sandwich cookies.

      The best part? They're gluten AND casein free, so I can eat them with no guilt or reactions to breaking my diet for a cookie. I've had many friends excitedly bring me a gluten-free brownie or cookie they found at a local coffee shop only to find milk in it.

      When I bought these I did not realize they were sandwich cookies, I was just glad to find some awesome looking cookies to munch on. The top is drizzled with dark chocolate and the icing in the middle reminds me of classic royal icing - only without the headache it gives me from the flavor. The cookies are very tasty - they do not crumble excessively but do go very well with some milk, but then again don't all cookies go good with milk?

      Jo-Sef Glutin Fre-ee sells these cookies as Fancy Vanilla Cookies from www.josefsglutenfree.com for $5.39 or you could pick them up at one of their retailers. I think I paid around $4.69 for these at Whole Foods so you might be able to find them cheeper in your area than they are online.

      Overall, I am extreemly happy with these cookies! They will become a regular purchase for me at the grocery store and I will share them with friends just to show them that gluten-free can really taste great!

      Touching back on the last post about the soy cheese I tried - I have done some more experimenting with it and have the results:

      In the Grilled Cheese 500, Vegan Gourmet came out dead last. I really wanted this one to work - it should have worked. The gluten-free bread I use takes forever to brown in a pan and being one that likes a near burned grilled cheese, I figured there would be plenty of time for the cheese to 'melt'.

      Oh, how wrong I was.

      The slices that I cut were thin, but just not thin enough to melt or do anything close to that. I left the sandwich in the pan for a good ten minutes and nothing but warm soy cheese slices. Just as good as it sounds. I added some mustard to the sandwich to keep the texture bearable. I really do not care for the texture of this cheese when it's solid. Enough of that.

      In the Mac&Cheese Derby, Vegan Gourmet turned heads with an astonishing third place victory. Melted the cheese by itself for a while, but added the milk and butter anyway just to bulk it up a little. I really enjoyed this meal. Added some smoked salt and black pepper to the top and I got a great bowl of mac and cheese out of the deal. I still have my complaint that it gets grainy or gritty when it starts to cool down. I think it would be good for fondues or other continuously hot dishes. Still want to try the mozzarella flavor before I write this one off though.

      Briefly, here is a few things on my agenda for this month: updating the website to my own designs, figuring out Thanksgiving dinner, writing articles for the site and here, apartment and job hunting. What's on your agenda for the month?
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Gluten & Casein Free Cheese

     Went for a ride to the grocery store downtown yesterday evening and came home with a few new gluten and casein free products to try out. It was a nice ride there - about 75 outside and early enough into the Friday night activities downtown that we missed most of the traffic. The ride home was nice as well, we actually stopped at the park on the way home to try some new cookies out I - well worth it, might I add. More about those later, for the moment I want to focus on this discovery:

      Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative. I was actually a little intimidated to try this. I really had a hard time getting over the fake thing. Fake ice cream is good and I can really enjoy that, but some imitation products can just be really unappealing. Beer and cheese are two main ones for me. I loved the slightly darker beers so much before I went gluten-free and now the options just are not up to par for me, they all seem to be too light and funny tasting for my preference. Most cheeses have casein or other milk byproducts in the ingredients and so I haven't really worried about buying them.
      Recently, however, I've been having some serious cheese cravings. Mac & cheese, lasagna, cheesy garlic bread, enchiladas, cheese and hummus sandwiches, the list of my favorite cheese dishes goes on. I will admit to eating the real thing at times - the reaction is not as strong as gluten, but the more I eat it the worse it seems to get for me. This has prompted me to dive head first and try the 'fake stuff'.
      So how was it?
      It was good while it was hot. I melted some in small pot like it says and added some milk and margarine to hopefully make it more smooth in the end. I bought some Tinkyada's linguine and had it with that. It was a little hard to get it all to melt but I was not expecting perfection from this, so I was happy with how it was. I will say that as it started to cool off it started to get grainy, but it might stay better if the milk and margarine was not added (maybe made it separate?) or if I had kept it warm.
      Overall, I was pleased with this product. I would not cut it up and eat it on crackers or bread by itself, but I do plan on trying the mozzarella flavor and using this in some future dishes. I want to try some baked mac and cheese or some enchiladas to test this out more.
      The one thing I was really happy about and focused on when I was no longer able to eat gluten, was at least it's not milk. I could still eat all the vanilla ice cream, aged cheddar and parmigiana I could hold. A few months later I found out about the casein sensitivity and all that went down the drain. Since then, even from the beginning, I have gradually adopted vegan alternatives and found some to be really outstanding while others are less than appetizing. One rule of thumb I've found is that it is all about how you use it in a meal - I just try to think of rice and tofu - no one really likes to eat them alone, but they have wonderful flavors in a dish.
      Do you have any tips for using cheese alternatives in recipes? Are there any brands that you care for above others? What are some favorite recipes that you use cheese in? I try to make most of my cooking is pretty modifiable so that I can add cheese or other ingredients for other people and leave it out for my portion, but with products like this I might just be able to get my cheese fix anyway.
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