The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Cheese

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

by Danny Cohen and Marc Bernstein

Sure, there are plenty of people who have been vegan longer than we have, and then there are plenty of people who are older than we are and have not been vegan for as long or as much a percentage of their lives. At the time of the writing of this article, I, Danny, have been vegan now for 41% of my life. And, I, Marc, have been vegan for 27% of my life. We are just kids, but are active and committed leaders of Veg Kids. We are both totally vegan and have been for the last number of years. We met each other at Vegan Camp and have been good friends ever since.

The newest thing we have done together is start the Vegan Cheese group on Facebook. We wanted a place where we could share with each other and others about the bountiful new vegan cheese options. While our lives have not been that long yet, we both have been so excited about all of the new vegan cheeses that have recently been coming out. When we first went vegan, we had thought that we were just going to do without anything like the cheeses we had loved. We were willing to give them up, because it was the right thing to do. Now, though, we are just so excited about all of the new vegan cheese choices. Yum!

On the Vegan Cheese group, we have listed the following as the variety of companies making and selling vegan cheeses and we are sorry if there are any that we have missed (but please message us and we will be glad to add them): Avellana, Beyond Better, Blode Kuh, Chao, Cheezly, Daiya, Dr. Cow, Earth Balance, Follow Your Heart, Free and Easy, Galaxy, Go Veggie, Heidi Ho, Johanna’s, Kite Hill, Leahey, Miyoko’s Kitchen, Nacheez, Nacho Mom’s, Nary Dairy, Parma, Parma Zaan, Parmela, Punk Rawk Labs, Road’s End Organics, Sheeze, St. Martaen, Sun Artisan, Teese, Tofutti, Trader Joe’s, Treeline, Veeta, Veg Chefs, Veg Cuisine, Vio Life, Virgin Cheese, Vromage, Vtopian, Wayfare, and Wilmersburger. That’s over forty different vegan cheese companies so far. That’s amazing.

Now, we unfortunately can not claim to have tried every one of them. But, on the vegan cheese group people can talk about all of them. People can share enthusiastically what they like and respectfully what they don’t. They can also share recipes for making their own vegan cheeses.

Some of these companies are actually not even totally unique. Some of them use the same or almost the same cheeses. We don’t know for sure but it seems to us that some of them may have bought Miyoko’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese,” and copied or modified her recipes. How wonderful that she wrote her book and put it out there for others to learn from. We have been told that she is the “Queen of Vegan Cheese.” Her cheeses are pretty amazing. We’ve found that her cheeses are kind of more sophisticated and more to the liking of adults who want wine and cheese kind of parties.

Our favorites are cheeses like those from Chao, Daiya, Follow Your Heart (their newer ones), and Vio Life. But, did you know that Chao, Follow Your Heart, and Vio Life are pretty much all the same as each other? Vio Life is a company from Greece and Chao and Follow Your Heart are getting their new cheese slices from them. They may be using some different flavors and a little different formulas, but they are basically the same and made by Vio Life. It is kind of funny to watch people comment about how they like one and not the other when they are so much the same. We really like all of these cheeses. Their texture and consistency is really good. We do like the flavor of Daiya’s cheddar and provolone better than the others, but their consistency and texture are not as good. We also love that Daiya makes a Swiss which none of the other have yet, but we want more holes!

The whole variety makes us happy in cheese heaven. Our favorite for melting for pizza and other Italian dishes is Daiya. Our favorite for sandwiches is Chao, Follow Your Heart, and Vio Life. Our favorites for crackers are St. Martaen and Daiya. Our favorite macaroni and cheese are the new ones from Daiya. Our favorite cheesecake is from No Udder Desserts vegan bakery in Los Angeles who uses Tofutti cream cheese. Our favorite for nachos is definitely Teese.

And we are not teasing. We are so excited that there are so so many vegan cheeses now. That’s why we started the Vegan Cheese group on Facebook. Anyone on Facebook can join the group and share their vegan cheese favorites, recipes, experiences, etc. We hope we are not being too cheesey, but we want you all to smile and say “cheese” and enjoy these many vegan cheeses.

Danny and Marc are 12 and 11 years old respectively and are active participants and leaders of Veg Kids based in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.


Posted on April 15, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Seek a mature, responsible, healthy, vegan-oriented couple or individual (preferably retired) to exchange Caretaker/Property-Custodian duties for free land rent for their RV or Camper in a pristine outdoor environment close to an interstate, 2 towns and a city plus an international airport.

We offer Caretaker(s) a place to grow an organic garden and set up their own tent, RV or Camper in beautiful, unpolluted surroundings.

For more information see:
Proprietor: Gerry Coffey: or leave message at 256-350-2823.

The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Annual Essay Contest for Kids

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

The deadline for this year’s VRG Essay Contest for Kids is May 1, 2015. For details on the contest and to see previous winning entries go to:

This essay contest is a great way to encourage kids to write about their vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Entrants should base their paper on interviewing, research, and/or personal opinion. You need not be a vegetarian to enter. All essays become the property of The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Don’t Miss The Vegetarian Resource Group’s 1st Annual Online Charity Auction!

Posted on April 10, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

charity auction blog

Get amazing deals on products from your favorite veg-friendly companies and support The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) at the same time at The VRG’s 1st Annual Online Charity Auction!

June 1st through June 15th, 2015, bid on unique gift baskets with vegan goodies from companies like Chicago Vegan Foods and Alternative Baking Company, gift cards from veg-friendly retailers like and, beautiful accommodations in vegan bed & breakfasts like Cherokee Rose Inn (Portland, OR) and Hungry Ghost Guest House (New Paltz, NY) and more!

The auction will be held via Ebay Giving Works where 100% of each item’s final bid price will be donated to The VRG. Funds from this event will be used to help offset the costs of printing and shipping our vegan and vegetarian-based educational materials which we have provided to activists, professionals and organizations around the country, for over 33 years, free of charge!

The link to the auction will be posted when the site goes live at 10am on Monday, June 1st. Until then, click here to RSVP to this event on Facebook. We will be updating this event page with sneak peaks of all of the amazing items that will be featured and you’ll be reminded when the auction goes live. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on these incredible vegan goodies!

If you have any questions about this event or you are a veg-friendly business that would like to donate an item please contact our Outreach Coordinator, Nina, at

We thank you in advance for your support!

The Vegetarian Resource Group

Vegan Restaurants Added to The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Online Restaurant Guide

Posted on April 10, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group maintains an online Guide to Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants in the USA and Canada. Below are some recent additions. The entire guide can be found here:

Champs Diner
197 Meserole St.
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Champs is a vegan twist on an all American idea. The diner serves an impressive variety of foods from delicious breakfast items such as French toast with tofu scramble to sandwiches like a Philly cheese steak made with seitan to desserts such as a warm brownie sundae.

Nourish Café
189 6th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

After wanting healthier restaurant options in San Francisco’s Richmond District, three friends opened this cafe. Their menu is entirely plant-based, organic, and made with ingredients obtained fresh from local farms and purveyors. All sweeteners are natural, such as maple syrup and coconut, as are all alternatives, such as hemp seed oils. They offer smoothies, salads, toast with gluten-free bread, soups, and more.

The Vegan Duchess
2354 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M4P 2E6 Canada

The Vegan Duchess is a raw quick-serve restaurant with many snacks, meals, and desserts to go. Try the Falafel Wrap or the Raw Pesto Pineapple Pizza. For dessert try the Cashew Berry Cheesecake or the Apple Crumble. Be sure to check out the fresh juices and smoothies too. Limited seating available.

14435 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

VeStation calls itself an urban organic kitchen. It’s devoted to providing healthy vegan Asian food, and uses natural and organic elements as often as possible. They combine traditional Asian recipes from Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and more, with exotic, vegan ingredients. You can order online for pickup or delivery.


Posted on April 09, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Earth Day is April 22nd each year. This is the perfect time to promote a veggie lifestyle to friends, family, students, etc. and The Vegetarian Resource Group has many materials on that you can use. Visit:

Here you’ll see Save our Water: The Vegetarian Way (in an English and a Spanish version), which shows that the largest user of fresh water is the livestock industry. There’s even a chart showing you how much water is used to produce various foods.

You will also find many creative lesson plans and handouts to use with students of all ages. Topics include Water Conservation and Dietary Connections for grades 5-8, as well as A Comparative Study of Surface Water Quality with Dietary Connections for Middle/High School students.

Some Sabra Hummus Has Been Recalled

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor


Sabra Dipping Co., LLC announced that it is voluntarily recalling approximately 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This measure is limited to five SKUs of Classic Hummus sold nationwide.

For details on this recall see:


Posted on April 08, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Alternative names: phosphatidylcholine, partially hydrolyzed lecithin, E322

Naturally present in: liver, egg yolks, soybeans, wheat germ

Commercial Source: vegetable (soy, sunflower, canola seeds)

Used in: instant products, beverages, margarine and spreads, baked goods, snacks, salad dressings, chocolate, confections, protein shakes, dietary supplements, pharmaceutical and personal care products

Used as: emulsifier, dispersing agent, surfactant, release agent

Definition: A group of compounds of varying chemical composition depending on the source, lecithin mixes well with a wide variety of other food ingredients thereby serving multiple functions in foods and making it one of the most widely used food ingredients. Dietary lecithin is a primary source of the essential nutrient choline, important for cell membrane integrity and nerve signaling. Lecithin is also important in many industries including paint and plastics.


ADM wrote that “ADM soy lecithin products do not contain animal products or by-products and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans…The process that produces our soy lecithins does not employ enzymes nor cow bone filters.”

American Lecithin Company told us by phone that all of their food-use lecithins are vegetable-derived; “our egg lecithins are used in pharmaceuticals.”

Cargill Foods


Additional Information:

Although the FDA approved krill-derived lecithin for food use, the company which filed the petition told us by phone that they “sell krill oil, not lecithin from krill.” (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4).

Classification: Vegan (for food use)

Entry updated: March 2015

For information on other ingredients, see:

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at:

To Join The Vegetarian Resource Group, go to:

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.


Posted on April 08, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Anna Balfanz

While sixteen-year-old Aviva Lucas forgets many details of her Bat-Mitzvah, she remembers the questions floating around the Kiddush table. As the guests picked up cups, they began muttering to each other, “How are these made of corn?”

Aviva, like many teenagers, knew she wanted` to host a vegan or vegetarian Bat or Bar Mitzvah. A vegetarian since fourth grade, she ensured that as many aspects as possible, from the food to the theme, reflected her devotion to animals and the environment. B’nei and B’not Mitzvah celebrate not only entering into the Jewish adulthood but also cultivating a personal identity within the Jewish community. As a highly personalized event, B’nei and B’not Mitzvah are a time to share your individuality and demonstrate to the community that you’re not simply another member, you’re you. You get to select the theme, color scheme, centerpieces, invitations, gift-bags, mitzvah (service) project and, most importantly, the food.

A vegetarian or vegan Bat or Bar Mitzvah allows you to embrace your passions and share them with others. Helpful businesses and creative ideas make catering a large vegan event completely realistic and non-stressful. From the food to the gift-bags, more ways than ever exist to fully embrace a vegan Simcha (celebration).

Aviva Lucas’s family fully supported her desire for a Bat Mitzvah with the theme of “Growth.” They ordered kippot crafted from recycled material, named the tables after native plants, and then used actual potted native plants as centerpieces for the guests to bring home and plant. To minimize wasting resources, the Lucas family ordered biodegradable dishes, cups, and cutlery made from corn, imported from Eco-Products in Boulder, Colorado. She catered with Catering by Yaffa, who worked with the family to create the perfect menu. Yaffa transcended their usual menu to help the Lucas host an Indian cuisine Kiddush, preparing foods such as a tomato sauce noodle dish and a Lucas family recipe for chana masala. Far from elongating an already lengthy process, Aviva’s family prepared for the Bat Mitzvah in five months.

Rivital Singer, from Baltimore, Maryland, age 17, lives with a vegan mother, vegetarian brother, two meat-eating brothers, and father who eats meat, “Rav Kook style.” Nevertheless, they observe a Kosher home with only one set of dishes, and if anyone in the Singer house wants to eat meat, according to Rivital, “They need to get it elsewhere.” From start to finish, Rivital accomplished her goal for a vegetarian, eco-friendly Bat Mitzvah. In order to conserve paper, Rivital opted for virtual online invitations, which the guests RSVPed to by email. Like Aviva, she only provided corn and sugar dishes to serve food on.

Rivital’s family expertly took the food situation into their own hands. Rather than locate a caterer, Rivital’s mother cooked meals for between fifty and two-hundred guests per each meal. To accomplish this seemingly massive goal, Rivital’s mother, Rivital, and family friends, “Started working on some of it a month or so before and kept it in the freezer.”

“I loved helping my mother cook,” Rivital remembers. Not only B’not Mitzvah celebrate cruelty-free Simchas. Bonnie Sorak hosted vegan B’nei Mitzvah for three of her sons, Jacob, Ryan, and Matthew, and will for her fourth son, Aaron.

Bonnie’s family turned vegan on their oldest son Jacob’s first birthday. By the time his Bar-Mitzvah approached, the only question was how, not whether, to host a vegan celebration. Bonnie figured it out when she curled up with the book Mitzvah Chic by Gail Anthony Greenberg, which states that Bar-Mitzvot should be about two things: the Torah and the child.

Jacob’s Torah portion was the sin of the spies, Numbers 13-14, in which Moses sends spies out to observe Canaan and report back. The spies return with a completely negative report, which the Israelites accept without considering G-d’s hand. For the Soraks, this brought to mind the question, “What would you do in this situation?” and then, simply “What would you do?” In Judaism, Bonnie explains, “We do G-d’s work in our own hands.”

With the theme, “What would you do?” the Soraks wanted every guest to leave the Bar Mitzvah with one achievable environmental challenge. For the centerpieces, they placed magnetic glass stones with environmental messages written on them inside of vases. The stones had challenges such as, “Ride my bike to my friend’s house,” Turn off water when brushing my teeth,” “Turn off lights when leaving the room,” and “Support agriculture.” After the service, each guest brought home their favorite stone message.

Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah offered only vegan food, with an Italian theme. This meant lasagna with marinara sauce, Caesar salad, garlic bread, peanut saute, vegan egg rolls, and a much-desired dark chocolate fountain with fruit.

Her second eldest son, Ryan, also incorporated his Parsha (Torah/Bible reading) into his theme. His portion included the verse, “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the tree of the field a man, to go into the siege before you?” (Deuteronomy 20:19). Reading about the prohibition against destroying fruit trees, Ryan decided to, appropriately, make his entire theme, “Trees.” They named each table after a tree, and gave two plantable bare root hazelnut trees to each guest.

For catering, Ryan’s menu kept the Italian theme, except replaced the dark chocolate fountain with a smoothie bar. His celebration involved activities such as ping-pong and rock climbing, so he and his family rationalized that providing too much food would mean lots of uneaten leftovers. The third son, Matthew, chose a less environmental theme, but that didn’t stop the food from being festive and vegan. His Bar-Mitzvah fell during “Thanksgivikkah,” the overlap between Thanksgiving and Chanukah in 2013. This meant perfect timing for a potato latke bar, vegan sour cream, and more smoothies.

Lastly, along with the food comes the utensils, napkins, and dishes. You can purchase biodegradable options from companies such as Ecoproducts, Green Wear, and the Biodegradable Store for everything from napkins to trash bags.

By interspersing your veganism into your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you’re blending your new responsibly to the Jewish community with your established commitment to animal and environmental welfare. You’re sharing your identity as you blend into the Jewish community, and entering a new phase of your life alongside your previous and ongoing passions. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah represents a blend of endings and beginnings, joyfulness and seriousness, and individuality and togetherness, which incorporating your veganism emphasizes perfectly.

Celebrating a vegan, eco-friendly Bar Mitzvah is easier than ever. From the beginning to the end, there are numerous ways to keep it as eco-friendly as possible. Long before the celebration itself, you need to select invitations to send to your family, friends, and classmates, and may suddenly find yourself using lots of paper and ink. Luckily, there are numerous more eco-friendly, yet still beautiful, options. You can select invitations crafted from recycled paper, plant-able invitations, invitations with soy ink, or even send e-invitations to completely minimize your paper and ink waste. Some great companies include Twisted Limb Paper, Green Field Paper Company, Bella Figura, and Smock Paper for physical invitations, andGreenvelope for virtual ones.

Twisted Limb Paper answers many prayers regarding beautiful, environmental options. They not only provide invitations but also save-the-date cards, thank-you notes, programs, guest books, place cards, and bookmark favors. Twisted Limb Paper handcrafts every item from 100% recycled materials, and adds pressed grass, flowers, and wildflower seeds for a gorgeous, earthy look. While you could purchase all of these from Twisted Limb, you may chose to forgo certain options, such as save-the-date cards. A simple website or email could suffice, which saves money and resources.

During the service, the B’nie and B’not Mitzvah usually provide monogrammed kippot for the guests and synagogue. Rather than simply straying away from suede or leather kippot, you can take the next step and order kippot crafted from recycled cardboard, or plant-able kippot made of biodegradable materials and seeds. KoolKipah offers recycled cardboard kippot which mimic the appearance of suede kippot, Circle of Life provided 100% biodegradable, planta-able kippot and Jessy Judiaca’s provides certified vegan, eco-suede kippot in multiple colors.

Along with kippot, the Bar and Bat Mitzvah usually purchase or inherit their own tallit. In you choose to purchase a new tallit, you can try finding tallit made from organic material and soy ink. Levy Judaica handcrafts offers handcrafted, eco-friendly tallit and tallit bags, as well as kippot. Instructions exist online which explain how to create a kosher tallit out of a scarf, which are easier and cheaper to purchase made from organic materials.

Before a Bat Mitzvah, you may want to treat yourself to hair and make-up. If so, there are countless venues which provide cruelty-free nail, make-up, and hair products that weren’t tested on animals. Either have someone you know or yourself apply these products, or find a professional who’s willing to use the products you provide. PETA provides extensive lists for companies that sell each of these products, giving you countless options for every part of your beauty regiment.

For the centerpieces at Kiddush, Aviva and the Soraks both opted for great alternatives to some more conventional and wasteful options. Besides providing plants for guests to bring home, another idea is having fruit basket centerpieces that you can donate to shelters after the service. To spread the message, you can scatter around colorful bookmarks or easels with vegan food and products for guests to bring home and consider.

The mitzvah project purposely serves as the most personalized aspect of a Bar and Bat Mitzvah. For an animal-friendly project, you could make blankets for animal shelters, collect supplies for shelters, such as towels and buckets (call in advance), volunteer at an animal shelter if age permits, host a sale or event that collects money for local animal welfare charities, or create a website that explains the benefits of veganism. For environmental projects, you can arrange a litter-cleaning or gardening event, volunteer at a farm or animal sanctuary, or start a green campaign around your school.

With all of this established, there’s the final frontier: the food.If you have the ability, time, room, and stamina, then cooking all the food with your own recipes like Rivital’s family can keep it vegan, create memories, and truly make the Simcha your own. However, not everyone has the ability to cook for so many people. Luckily, there are many other options. You could begin by considering ethnic food, such as Israeli, Indian, Italian, or Asian, which offers many vegan options, from falafel to chana masala.

Many caterers and restaurants offer numerous vegan options, even if they aren’t well-advertised. When you scroll through The Black Sheep’s catering websites, the menus seem packed with meat and dairy. Nevertheless, dietitian and lecturer Reed Mangels catered two vegan B’not Mitzvah with this company. By working together to create a menu, they included appetizers such as Seasonal Crudité with tuscan white bean spread, and a meal with quinoa salad, a bagel spread with hummus, baba ganoush, and cucumbers, assorted Baguette Finger Sandwiches, and sesame tofu. Desserts included coconut fruit bars, blueberry streusel bars, and oat chocolate chip cookies.

Catering by Yaffa, the caterers that helped Aviva, situated in Pikesville, Maryland, also cater vegan B’nee and B’not Mitzvah. As a Kosher business that does not mix meat and milk, they already serve no dairy products. Vegan options include, among other options, couscous salad, roasted cauliflower, Portobello napoleon, spinach and potato stuffed with mushroom sauce, apple cobbler without eggs, a rice medley, and a vegetable medley.

In order to locate her caterers, Bonnie Sorak visited a nature center with a list of green caterers. Whether you locate a caterer in this manner or simply contact ones near you, caterers and restaurants will often work with you to provide a fully vegan meal for everyone’s enjoyment.

Lastly, along with the food comes the utensils, napkins, and dishes. You can purchase biodegradable options from companies such as Ecoproducts, Green Wear, and the Biodegradable Store for everything from napkins to trash bags.

By interspersing your veganism into your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you’re blending your new responsibility to the Jewish community with your established commitment to animal and environmental welfare. You’re sharing your identity as you blend into the Jewish community, and entering a new phase of your life alongside your previous and ongoing passions. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah represents a blend of endings and beginnings, joyfulness and seriousness, and individuality and togetherness, which incorporating your veganism emphasizes perfectly.

Anna Balfanz wrote this article while interning with The Vegetarian Resource Group.

For more ideas on how to cater a party, see:

KFC, Taco Bell & Pizza Hut launch New Palm Oil Policy

Posted on April 07, 2015 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Yum! Brands’ New Palm Oil Policy

Greenpeace welcomes Yum! Brands new palm oil procurement policy. Yum! Brands includes KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut under their umbrella. Rolf Skar, Forest Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA responded with the following statement:

“Yum! Brands’ new palm oil policy is a good sign it’s listening to customers around the world who want rainforest destruction taken off the menu.” said Rolf Skar, Forest Campaign Director at Greenpeace USA. “Yum!’s announcement moves the company closer to being deforestation-free, but there’s still room for improvement. Yum! needs to more clearly define terms like ‘high carbon stock forest’ and ‘best management practices’ for peatlands in order to make sure change really happens on the ground.”

“Fast food companies have multiple high-risk commodities like soy, beef and paper in their supply chains. When it comes to social conflict and deforestation, Greenpeace wants to see Yum! Brands and the whole fast food industry address these issues in a comprehensive way–or risk their brands, reputations and bottom lines. In the absence of clear commitments to prevent forest destruction, companies like Burger King and Subway are falling further behind and should work quickly to develop standards for the global commodities they buy.”

Yum! Brands palm oil sourcing policy:

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