Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mild Vegan White Slicing Cheese

The weather was gorgeous again yesterday. I didn’t realize how much I missed the warmth. It is by no means hot, but upper 60’s and low 70’s feels fabulous after the cold snowy winter we had. I just couldn’t seem to keep myself inside these last few days. The windows were open again yesterday and today and the felines were and are enjoying the fresh air. They are so cute sleeping in the windows in the sun.

Yesterday I was determined to actually plan dinner for a change. Let me tell you, reading books on health doesn’t help with that process. I get so caught up reading and then I don’t spend any time thinking about what we are going to have for dinner. Making dinner was much easier before I started sharing it with everyone. Now I feel a certain amount of internal pressure to make it something that is “blog worthy”. I know this is entirely self-induced and ridiculous but it is just the way it is. So once again at 7pm, I had no idea what I am making for dinner. Some things never change. ;-) Nothing like planning!

For some unknown reason I decided that I wanted to make some sliceable vegan cheese yesterday but wanted to make something different from the cheddar and mozzarella I have made previously. Since I didn’t know what I wanted to make I started with macadamia nuts and kept adding things to the blender until I liked the taste. I also decided to try a different method this time to see what impact that would have on the final product. In the interest of science I skipped the stove and used the microwave instead and cooked the agar for less time. Here is what I did.

Mild Vegan White Slicing Cheese
Makes 16 servings of approximately 2 ounces each


½ cup macadamia nuts, raw
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (or tahini if you don't have a high powered blender)
1 ½ cups water
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard, or to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
5 teaspoons agar powder


Combine everything but the agar in your blender and process until it is completely smooth. This happens in under a minute in the Vitamix. Taste for flavor and adjust before proceeding. Add the agar powder and process quickly to distribute it in the mixture. Allow the agar to stand undisturbed for 5 minutes before proceeding. After 5 minutes process again until it is completely combined. You will need to stop and stir the mixture as it will have begun to set, but it will still be soft.

Pour the mixture into a microwave safe bowl and heat on 60% powder stirring occasionally. You want the mixture to bubble for about a minute to activate the agar. According to Harold McGee in “On Food and Cooking” in order to make agar jelly you need to dissolve the agar in cold water and then bring it to a boil to fully dissolve it. The mixture will begin to jell when it cools to about 110 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Whisk the mixture before pouring it into a pan to set. I use a glass container. In the past I greased the dish but that doesn’t appear to be necessary as I didn’t grease it today and had no problems releasing the cheese. Allow the cheese to cool to room temperature (takes about an hour) before covering and refrigerating until needed. If you cover the hot cheese condensation will form on the top and make an unpleasant texture on the surface. I did that once. Be certain to let it cool before refrigerating. It will firm up considerably as it chills. Cut with a cheese knife or cheese slicer.

Also according to Harold McGee foods made with agar need to reach 185 degree Fahrenheit to melt. You may want to keep this in mind if you are trying to use this on top of pizza or pasta and want it to melt. I tend to use this type of cheese cold on salads.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 132.26
Calories From Fat (24%) - 32.05

Total Fat - 3.83g
Saturated Fat - 0.6g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 150.38mg
Potassium - 372.81mg
Total Carbohydrates - 26.14g
Fiber-  2.9g
Sugar - 1.13g
Protein - 2.48g


I know you are wondering what this tastes like. It is similar to a mild white cheese, like mozzarella or provolone, but it isn’t exactly the same. If you have had dairy recently you will definitely know this isn’t dairy. However, it is good in or on food. It is a perfectly acceptable cheese substitute, in my opinion. I like that it approximates cheese both visually and texturally without the saturated fat with of the dairy original.

Unrelated Notes:

Heather had an interesting post yesterday that touched on blogger honesty. It was very thought provoking so you might want to check it out. I must say there are personal things about health that I don’t post on my blog. I suppose that I think that too many details about health and cancer don’t add to the conversation. When I started the blog I thought long and hard about its purpose. I considered gearing it to cancer patients and survivors but decided that may get too dark, if you know what I mean. I believe that a positive attitude is very important for everyone, but particularly those dealing with any type of health crisis. It is too easy to become defined by your disease. The doctors do this all the time referring to patients by their condition, “the appendectomy in 106B, the hip replacement in 227A”. That always felt so cold, clinical and wrong to me when I worked in healthcare. I think we are all more than the health issues we are trying to overcome.

Why am I mentioning all of this? In the interest of honesty I wanted to acknowledge that cancer is something that is always in the forefront of my mind. I do my best to plan our meals around what will nourish us so that we are in the best position to stay ahead of cancer. But we do not do everything right 100% of the time. We try, but everyone falls down sometimes. However the longer you eat a healthy diet the more it becomes a lifestyle and not something that you need to think about. The types of issues we have are eating too many grains or not making a fresh juice to go with dinner. No terrible problems, just less than ideal.  

If any of you are trying to clean up your diet and want suggestions on how to ease into it please feel free to ask. My hubby and I went from omni to vegan overnight. It was a shock to our taste buds initially and I found some ways to ease into healthy eating that made it easier for us.

Today is going to be a busy day at our house. I have a quick recipe to post from dinner last night. Beyond that I don’t know that I will have time to do much cooking and writing today. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  Talk to you again soon.


  1. I really need to try that cheese recipe!

    I loved you post today. I love reading the whys behind the food choices as well as the recipes. I think of you as a friend and think you're fantastic!!

  2. Heather,

    Agar is much easier to work with that I expected it to be. I buy my agar powder from bulk foods. The container I linked too will last a long time. I still have 3/4 of it from the jug I got a year ago, maybe more.

    Thanks for your kind words. I forget that not everyone knows why we eat this way so your post made me think I should mention it again.

    I think of you as friend too! Also, I appreciate your very thoughtful emails when I need to lift my spirits a little. Thanks for being you. :-)


  3. im with heather, i loved this post today.and, while i love seeing what you do everyday, it is your life and you shouldnt feel pressured. whenever i ask something of you i hope you never feel like you need to, like the thing about the tags. i want you to be happy more that i want tags!! just the other day i was getting upset to my husband about my blog. he wanted to maybe wait till next year to do the quail thing, because we have two trips coming up. but i had posted it already, lol we are on this thing because we enjoy like-minded people, and this blogger thing has the most understanding sweetest people you would ever hope to meet, that thought helps me to "chill"

    i saw agar agar at the health food store,i wasnt sure about buying such a big package, you say you get yours from a bulk bin? maybe ill add that to my list for when i get to go to a "good store"

    ive been cutting out sugar like crazy over here, some articles and things that you have said got through my thick head:) there are so many reasons why i eat the way i do, well im heading over to see Heathers post ttyl!

  4. Michelle,

    So glad you liked this. I know that I shouldn't feel pressured, it is all internal pressure and I realize that is silly. But Dan reminded me that he reaps the benefits (food) so that makes it much better. ;-)

    Walter makes a good point about the quail, and I think you are right everyone will certainly understand.

    I order the agar powder on-line from (not from a bulk bin). I wanted to try powder and the only thing our health food store had was agar flake.

    Congratulations on cutting back your sugar consumption, that is tremendous. I wish I had been smart enough to cut back on it when I was your age. I found that the longer we have been away from sweeteners (sugar and agave) the more acute our taste buds have become. Fresh fruit tastes so sweet to us now, which it never did before. It is amazing how quickly your body will adjust to changes.

    I hope you are having a good day,


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