Vegan Cheese Quesadillas

I had to share this with you!  This was dinner for the boys last night:

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Pretty unremarkable looking, I suppose…until you find out that these quesadillas were made with homemade vegan cheddar that TASTES GOOD!!!

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I cannot.  The brilliant mind behind this is Mary Banducci, over at Sweet Roots.  While I want you to go visit her site and read all her cheese recipes (and look at her other brilliant stuff, too!) this was just too good not to show you how easy it is, and I had to share.  (Mary, if you read this – my family is madly in love with you for giving us back CHEESE! Kisses!)

So, last summer, shortly after Zac was born, I discovered this recipe.  I was so excited I almost hurt myself getting to the kitchen to make it – and it came out divine!  For the first time in his life, Jed got to have bean and cheese burritos, and quesadillas, and I got to eat vegan cheese that didn’t taste like feet.  (Sorry, Daiya – I just can’t stomach you!)

Then, a week later Zac was hospitalized and this whole elimination diet journey began for us and I have not been able to make this cheese for us ever since!

Well, last week we were busy testing out Jed’s reaction to coconut.  The verdict: he doesn’t do well with actual shredded coconut, but he could drink whole milk coconut by the can and it’s just fine on his tummy!  WOOT!

Coconut milk is one thing I really want in my kitchen if we have to be dairy free.  It makes so many gorgeous dairy substitutes, and many of them are tastier than the original! So I was very busy doing a happy dance this week and suddenly remembered this delicious cheese recipe.

Yesterday, while Zac was down for his nap, Jed and I ventured into the kitchen and made some.

KITCHEN TIP: When cooking with toddlers, it makes life a lot easier if you utilize mise en place.  Then you don’t have to worry about having your attention scattered when your little one is near a hot stove; everything is ready to go!

Mise en place ingredients

Mise en place ingredients

First, Mary has you boil two cans of full-fat coconut milk until they are no longer separated.

Coconut milk in the pot, starting to heat up

Coconut milk in the pot, starting to heat up

Jed likes to help stir anything and everything in the kitchen!

He's learning early - taste-testing while cooking is one of the best parts!

He’s learning early – taste-testing while cooking is one of the best parts!

Once it gets to a good, hot temperature, add your vinegar, agar flakes, and salt.

My little helper dumping the ingredients in the pan while I whisk.

My little helper dumping the ingredients in the pan while I whisk.

Whisk constantly and bring that to a boil for 15 minutes.  (I just saw that Mary has updated her recipe to include instructions for using Agar POWDER, which means you can boil for a shorter time.  That is VERY useful for cooking with a toddler!)

At this point, Jed entertained himself playing with the ingredients still in ramekins on the stove top, which lasted about 6 minutes.  Then he played with the can opener for a couple minutes.  Then he wanted to stir for a minute.  Then he started to lose interest.  So, when you reach this sort of long step when cooking with a toddler, make sure to have ‘entertainment’ available so you don’t lose their interest!

After 15 minutes, you add the rest of the ingredients.

Adding the last few ingredients!

Adding the last few ingredients!

You have to WHISK CONSTANTLY at this point!  It quickly starts coagulating and needs constant motion.

So, of course, this was when Zac woke up from his nap!  Obviously!  

I shoved the cheese off the stove, raced in, grabbed him, raced back, and one handed stirred while instructing Jed to drag the bouncy chair in from the dining room.  He did, and I took a quick couple of seconds to unceremoniously shove Zac into the bouncy chair before turning my attention back to the cheese.  Whew!  It wasn’t ruined!

After 5 more minutes of stirring, I took it off the heat and poured it into a greased dish.

AND...we have CHEESE!

AND…we have CHEESE!

Now, something I remembered from the first time I made this is that it is very greasy.  Maybe I’m doing something wrong from her recipe, but this time I made sure to pour off as much of the grease as possible before pouring the cheese part into the dish.  Then, after the cheese was in it’s resting place, I used paper towels to blot the surface of the cheese and remove more excess grease.

I’m glad I did, because it made a HUGE difference!  This was much more like a cheese than the first time I made it!

He's so proud of himself for helping me make cheese!

He’s so proud of himself for helping me make cheese!

Once you’ve got your cheese poured out, it needs to cool.  I put mine in the fridge until I was ready to use it, which was about 6 hours later, but it really only needs an hour or two in the fridge before it is good to go.

After cooling in the fridge for a couple hours...

After cooling in the fridge for a couple hours…

...and a lovely wedge cut out for display!

…and a lovely wedge cut out for display!

Now, Mary says the cheese will get firm enough to grate; mine has never managed that.  It’s more of a soft cheese.  Then again, I never use liquid smoke in the recipe like she says, and I didn’t have smoked paprika, only regular paprika, so maybe that has something to do with it.  It doesn’t matter, though.  Either way, it’s delicious and it melts beautifully!

I’m not going to write the recipe down here, because in this instance I just did exactly what she said (with a couple of omissions but no substitutions or changes).  So if you want to make this – and you SHOULD want to make this – go visit Sweet Roots and come back to thank me for sharing her with you!

Now with all this beautiful cheese, what to make for dinner?  

Quesadillas, of course! 

Since I already had some chicken cooked and shredded, I simply chopped up some bell pepper, mushrooms and onions and tossed them into a pan with olive oil.

Orange bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms softening in the pan

Orange bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms softening in the pan

We’re moving on to trial onions on Jed now, so the next few days will have very onion-y food in our house!

I cut a lime in half and squeezed some lime juice on top of the veggies while they cooked.

I can't help it...limes are just pretty.

I can’t help it…limes are just pretty.

I had planned on using my homemade taco seasoning mix, but we were out!  Ack!  I didn’t have time to make more before the recipe was ready to move on, so I decided to just go simple: lime, salt and pepper.  Turns out?  Good move.  Darrel said it was very flavorful but not overwhelming.

Then I tossed in the chicken to heat up and get some of that yummy flavoring…

Some chopped up chicken warming in the pan...

Some chopped up chicken warming in the pan…

And when that was all heated up I dumped it into a bowl, scraped all the little ‘bits’ out of the inside of the pan and added some more olive oil to heat.  Then I tossed in a corn tortilla to begin warming.  If you can use flour tortillas, feel free, and if you need to make your own homemade quinoa tortillas, those would almost certainly work fine, too.  I just happened to have corn tortillas in the fridge!

I scooped out a couple of heaping spoonfuls of my chicken mixture and threw it on half the tortilla, then sliced a few ‘slices’ of cheese and put those on top.

Ready to fold...

Ready to fold…

Then I folded the corn tortilla over the filling and cooked it for a few minutes on each side until it was crispy good!

I went and dug out some of my homemade, fresh salsa from the fridge, used a pizza rotary cutter to cut the quesadillas into finger food sized pieces for Jed, and dinner was served!

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I’ve already been informed that this needs to be lunch today, too.  

LOVE winning recipes!  

I SO hope Zac passes all of these foods so I can eat them, too.  THIS was a huge temptation for me – I LOVE quesadillas!

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VEGAN CHEESE QUESADILLAS

– 1 bell pepper (we used an orange)
– 1/2 cup mushrooms
– 1/4 cup chopped onion
– juice of half a lime
– about 1-1 1/2 cups pre-cooked, shredded chicken
– olive oil
– corn tortillas (or whatever flour is safe for you)
– 1 recipe of vegan cheddar cheese from Sweet Roots
– 1 cup of fresh salsa (for dipping)

  • Chop up the bell pepper, onion and mushrooms into small pieces.  Toss them in a pan with olive oil on medium heat to begin softening.
  • Squeeze the juice from half a lime on the veggies.
  • Add the chicken to the pan to let it warm.  Add some sea salt and pepper, too.
  • When it is heated all the way through, pour off the chicken mixture into a bowl and scrape out the bottom of the pan.
  • Add more olive oil to heat, and toss in a tortilla.
  • Scoop a few spoonfuls of chicken mixture onto the tortilla, and top with a few small slices of vegan cheddar cheese.
  • Fold the tortilla over the mixture to make a half-moon shape.  Cook for a few minutes, then flip and cook on the other side until crispy and delicious!
  • Serve with Salsa, and enjoy your vegan quesadillas that taste like the real thing!

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Have you made a homemade cheese before?  How about a homemade vegan cheese?  How did they turn out?  What do you put on your quesadillas?

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This post featured by Whole New Mom on  AllergyFreeWednesdays

 

And shared with:

Real Food Wednesdays

Frugal Ways, Sustainable Ways

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15 Responses to Vegan Cheese Quesadillas

  1. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve been looking for a vegan cheese recipe that was also soy-free and nut-free! I excitedly made the cheese last night, but mine tasted too much like coconut. Don’t get me wrong, I love the flavor of coconut, but not in cheese. I’m hoping it’s just the type of coconut milk I used and not the way it’s supposed to taste?? I used a full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk called Aroy-D that I ordered from Amazon. It’s pure 100% coconut milk with absolutely nothing else — i was looking for something no guar gum because I suspect guar gum bothers my legume-allergic son (as guar gum is derived from beans). Did your cheese have a coconutty flavor? What kind of coconut milk did you use (I apologize if you’ve stated somewhere — sleep deprivation + constant worry over my son’s health = loss in brain cells!). Thanks!

    • Carrie says:

      Hi Katherine!

      I use the Thai kitchen brand coconut, mainly because I’m using up what’s left in my cabinet. Since buying it, I’ve become disenchanted with the addition of ‘gums’ in things, so I’m looking for a new brand to use. I don’t know if that made the difference in the cheese flavor; ours wasn’t terribly ‘coconut-y’ in taste, though I didn’t eat it plain when I made it last summer. Maybe the other food flavors masked any coconut taste that remained?

      This really is a good cheese for melt-y type things, so I hope you can find a coconut milk that works for you!

      I don’t actually know about the guar gum/soy protein connection, though I suspect I’ll have to learn from you on this one as Zac begins eating solids. We strongly suspect soy as one of his triggers and this could be something to be aware of. Further, sweet peas are a no-no for Jed’s fructose malabsorption diet, and I’m wondering if the guar gum isn’t connected in some way with that as it seems he’s not handling the recipes I make with coconut milk very well. That could be the coconut, though, so I’m not sure. Strange, since he ate BOWLS of coconut milk ice cream with no symptoms.

      Being a food investigator for a barely verbal child is daunting some days. I totally get the loss in brain cells comment!

      Hope this helps, and let me know if you find a gum free brand that works for you!

      • Katherine says:

        Thank you so much for your reply! I’m optimistic about trying again with a different coconut milk, and so very excited about getting to eat cheese again. 🙂 I realized I used coconut CREAM instead of milk — it’s still totally unsweetened and kind of like a heavy cream vs milk (cow), but I’m guessing (hoping) that the cream has a much more concentrated flavor than the milk. (It did make a to-die-for whipped cream, full of wonderful flavor and fat which my son needs — thanks for that idea, too, by the way!)

        I’m not sure if guar gum has a direct soy protein connection, but I do know that guar gum is derived from a bean, and my son has anaphylaxis to beans, so I’ve been avoiding it. But, the allergist says gums are safe because they have been refined to not have protein in them, like oils are suppose to be free of protein (as is soy lecithin). Though, we know there are many people who can’t have peanut oil or soybean oil or soy lecithin, so I’m not sure how cautious to be. My husband thinks I’m being too cautious avoiding it because not only is it supposed to not have any protein in it, the reason it is used is because it’s a thickening agent with 10 times the thickening power as cornstarch, so, there is very, very little of the guar gum as an ingredient. Still, some kids react to a very, very littl amount, so who knows?

        But for us, we’re avoiding all cans because my son has had severe FPIES-like reaction to soy, and I recently learned that most cans are LINED WITH SOY and the FDA does not need to list it since it’s technically not an ingredient! I heard this from another mama on the FB EoE group whose son is severely allergic to soy. She called various companies and verified the soy linings! She also said many of food packaging are printed with soy ink (a potential problem if you have a toddler like mine who will climb in cabinets and put random things in his mouth)! I have not called the companies myself, so I don’t know if this is true for most canned items or not, but I thought it might be worth mentioning.

        Thanks so much again for your wonderful blog! I enjoy your writing so much — your humor, your writing style, your honesty, how thorough and dedicated you are, and for the fantastic recipes and USEFUL information regarding allergies and FPIES. I’ve been SO frustrated with our doctors (my allergist told me last week not to be paranoid regarding my son’s diet and it was so therapeutic for me to read your similar experience and know that I was not alone in my thoughts and actions and feelings), and reading all the research you’ve done has helped me more than all of the doctors we’ve seen combined! Thank you so much!

  2. Katherine says:

    I remember that the recipe link for the cheese states Thai kitchen brand coconut milk in the cans. Is that what you used, too? Does it not have a coconut taste to it? I’ve seen posts by other moms with kids with legume allergies that say guar gum is safe, that it doesn’t have any protein in it, so maybe I should try it and see if my son reacts. It’s worth a shot for some cheese! Oh, cheese, how I’ve missed you so!

  3. I am going to feature you tomorrow on Allergy Free Wed – this looks great! Nice to “meet” you. Do you have an email subscribe button?

    • Carrie says:

      Wow, thanks, Adrienne! I do have an email subscribe button, on the top right hand side of the page. 🙂 Thanks for hosting Allergy Free Wed, by the way! I’ve gotten some great recipes there.

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  5. Mary says:

    Hi Carrie!
    I am so glad you enjoyed my recipe! It’s a favorite in our house too. Thanks for sharing it!
    Mary from Sweet Roots

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  7. Oh, this is a must try! 🙂 Thanks for sharing at Gluten Free Fridays

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