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Gluten Free and Dairy Free "Cheese" Option and Gluten Free Lasagna

Posted May 07 2009 9:23pm

As you may recall, a month or so ago I decided to try dairy again in the hope that my now-healed intestine could handle it.  After a week of experimenting, I called it quits on the dairy.  Definitely not worth the pain and suffering it caused. 

Sometimes dead ends just lead us to look in different directions.  

First I tried goat cheese -  I feasted on a GF calzone (recipe to come soon) stuffed with mushrooms, red peppers and goat cheese. 

I know in your mind you are thinking "give up on it lady" and the morning after I ate the goat cheese I wished I had.   Yes, I felt terrible again (why do I do this to myself).  Honestly, just the thought of goat cheese makes me nauseous now.  

Another dead end, another new direction.  

I have heard about nutritional yeast and how you can make a cheese-like option out of it.  Reading the recipe, I had little hope it would work.  I cooked with tofu so it was not totally unfamiliar but " nutritional yeast?"  I went to my local health food store and asked for the nutritional yeast.  Note this is not the same yeast you bake with - as it is deactivated, it will not even make anything rise.  It is purely a nutritional yeast containing B-complex vitamins.  (My I have traveled a long ways from my days of drive through McDonald's).

 I added the ingredients to my food processor, gave it a whirl and tentatively dipped my finger in for a taste -

  The road I had been traveling down straightened out and ran for miles ahead of me - curving through pans of GF lasagna and homemade calzones. 

In other words, it was great!! Really great!!  I am actually making a lasagna with it tonight!

For those of you  who already eat tofu and make smoothies with your soy protein, this recipe will be a piece of cake.

For those of you who get confused between what a vegan and a vegetarian is, have no fear!!  You can do this and you will be so happy with the reward. 

Gluten Free and Dairy Free "Cheese" Option

Dairy free cheese

2 - 3 cloves minced garlic

1 pound medium to firm tofu

3 T good olive oil

3 T ume plum vinegar

4 T nutritional yeast

1/4 t kosher salt

additional optional spices such as rosemary or thyme

Press the water out of the tofu by holding it between two paper towels and pressing it out.

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor except the optional spices.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Add optional herbs and pulse until combined.

Serve as a dip or use as a cheese substitute in lasagna or calzones.  Not sure how cheese alternative will work in baked foods like a scallop potato but we will be trying that next. 

Yields about 2 cups

Gluten Free (adaptable for Casein Free) Lasagna

Lasagna is pretty straight forward, but with all of this talk of a dairy substitute for lasagna, I should add a quick recipe.

2 T olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 minced garlic cloves

1 1/2 pound sausage (you can use turkey, pork or chicken - we like it with a breakfast, which is sweeter, turkey sausage)  Beelers is gluten free

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1 T dried parsley or 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 T basil leaves or 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

optional - 2 cups packed, de-stemmed chopped kale

kosher salt


1 box Tinkyada gluten free lasagna noodles (De Boles makes a no cook gluten free noodle. Using these eliminates the need to cook the noodles first, butI have heard they tend to be a little dry so you'd want to add more tomato sauce.  Add a comment below if you have tried these and how they worked).  They seem to sell Tinkyada everywhere now, but you can also order them from 

15 ounces ricotta cheese

6 ounces Italian blend shredded cheese  use the **dairy free "cheese" option for casein free

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cook noodles until just done according to package directions - do not overcook.  Rinse with cold water and sprinkle with some olive oil to try and keep them from sticking.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink ( 8 to 10 minutes).  If you are going to use the Kale, add it about 5 minutes into cooking the lasagna.  It really does not change the taste of the lasagna, but if your kids will eat something that is "green" this is a great way to sneak in some very healthy veggies. 

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Simmer uncovered over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

***Note - if you want to make this really easy, then replace the tomatoes and spices with a good gluten free spaghetti sauce such as Amy's Roasted Garlic.  Then reduce the simmer time to 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, all but 1/4 cup of the Italian cheese blend, egg, 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 12 inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. 

Next add the layers as follows:

half the pasta (if it is sticking add some olive oil to loosen)

half the cheese mixture, **use 1/2 the dairy free "cheese" option for casein free

one third the sauce,

rest of the pasta,

rest of the cheese mixture, **use 1/2 the dairy free  "cheese" option for casein free

rest of the sauce. 

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend. **for casein free, top with a thin layer of the dairy free "cheese" option.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs if you have them. 

Bake for 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

I made two versions tonight - one with the dairy free "cheese" for me and one with the full mixture of ricotta etc for the rest of the family.  They both turned out beautifully.  The rest of the family taste-tested mine and actually thought it was very good.  The fake cheese had a very creamy texture and great flavor.  Unfortunately, the kids did pick out all of the "green stuff"  aka kale.  Better luck next time on that one!

Update on our Gluten Free Bread Baking Challenge

For those of you who are following our progress, we are still working on a great gluten free bread recipe.  We have had a few total flops, a few okay loaves and one great one.  But we are not ready to share the recipe yet.

I have heard that Annalise Robert's cookbook Gluten-Free Baking Classics is really great so want to try a couple of her recipes before we find a winner.

We also want to try Carol Fenster's recommendation of adding   Expandex  -a modified tapioca starch to our baked goods, so we are waiting for that shipment to arrive.  

Have a great gluten free week and, remember, don't let your dead ends stop you.  Just change directions and see what is over the top of next hill - it might just be a great view.  


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