Zucchini Cheese

As a child of the 80’s not once did I question where my cheese came from. My taste buds were having too much fun with the latest pizza as advertised on TV, cheese crackers, cheese strings, and cheese burgers, to name a few. This foodie fun never lasted for long. Instead my love for dairy foods resulted in many fearful wheezing episodes and visits to the Emergency room. I was eventually diagnosed with asthma. The cause, as my concerned parents and I found out, was rooted in a number of intrinsic and extrinsic triggers — dairy products including cheese was one of them. Dairy, would keep me up at night with ear infections as a child, and would result in intestinal pain, asthma attacks, along with sinus infections. As an advocate for my health and well-being, somewhere along the way I started to question.

The Evolution of Cheese
The story of cheese is one that starts with the domestication of milk-producing animals and the accidental fermentation of stored milk, however its specific true origins are unknown. What we do know is that cheese making is an art and has been a diversely valued process throughout Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years. Its craft and variety’s became a source of trade and was introduced to North and South America by European emigrants.

From cheese making within the family, to small-scale farm production, today’s best selling cheese in America is far from its authentic origins. From cheddar to marble, zero fat to low-fat, to cheese slices and strings, the making of cheese includes heat, processing, and chemicals, which alters the whole foods molecular body and spirit in less than desirable ways.

The evolutionary nature of cheese has largely morphed into a machine-made product. Food coloring is added for an orange glow (“Cheese isn’t naturally orange?!”), fat is replaced with increased amounts of whey, casein, and lactose, and heat is used for pasteurization in lieu of valuable enzymes. This along with increased cheese consumption in general may very well be why one may suffer from gastro-intestinal symptoms after eating cheese.

Dairy Allergy Vs. Dairy Sensitivity
According to allopathic and complementary medicine, dairy products are one of the most common food sensitivities today. A true dairy allergy is associated with a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system to dairy proteins such as casein and/or whey, whereas intolerant individuals often lack the ability to produce lactase, which is required for lactose digestion. Dairy intolerance is often more common within certain ethnicities and for those with gluten intolerance since dairy proteins are strong cross-reactors.

Symptoms associated with dairy consumption include:

  • Ear infections
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal and/or musculoskeletal pain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gas
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Water retention
  • Eczema
  • Skin conditions
  • Sinus inflammation
  • Anemia
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Baby colic
  • Fatigue
  • Altered brain chemistry
  • Hyperactivity

Inflammatory Constituents in Dairy:

  • Casein proteins
  • Enzyme inhibitors (protease inhibitors)
  • Gluten cross-reactors
  • Histamine containing
  • Insulinogenic 
  • Lactose
  • Lectins
  • Lysinoalanine
  • Mailard reaction products
  • Mucous producing
  • Natural growth factors (IGF-1)
  • Artificial growth hormones
  • Peptite opiods
  • Pre-hormone 5-alpha-pregnanedione
  • Whey proteins

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Life With Cheese
Symptoms as listed above are to be aware of, however it is possible that cheese can be a healthful part of your primal lifestyle. Although dairy including cheese isn’t considered ‘paleo’ it is seen in a positive light through traditional dietary research as gathered from the renowned Weston A. Price Foundation who promotes the consumption of raw milk and raw cheese as a part of an overall healthy diet. Mark Sisson, who developed the Primal diet, too includes dairy products such as plain yogurt, cheese, and butter.

Benefits of pastured (grass fed) and raw dairy:

  • Raw dairy is a whole food and contains lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose.
  • Homemade yogurt and kefir are rich in gut-friendly bacteria, which feed on the dairy sugar molecule lactose. Lactose is then converted to lactic acid, making the food more digestible and giving the product a ‘tangy’ taste.
  • An excellent source of calcium.
  • A source of CLA, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A, Beta Carotene, and butyric acid (in pastured ghee).
  • Promotes bone and teeth health.
  • Pastured, happy animals and happy farms means the animals are less likely to carry disease.
  • Antibiotic, hormone, and mailard reaction product-free.

Elimination-Reintroduction Protocol
Through tracking unpleasant signs and symptoms one may wish to investigate further to rule out suspected food triggers. If you suffer from a severe allergic reaction to dairy this may mean eliminating dairy foods from your diet for life, whereas if you discover that you’re lactose intolerant you may be able to re-introduce certain types, for example probiotic rich home-made yogurt or kefir, after a period of avoidance. Dairy sensitivity co-insides with gut inflammation or leaky gut and imbalanced flora. Avoidance of this food completely is necessary to heal gastrointestinal tissue and to re-build healthy flora. Working with a skilled practitioner can help guide you through an elimination-re-introduction protocol with goals of discovering dietary causes related to your physiological symptoms. Suspected food triggers are commonly eliminated for 4 – 12 weeks following re-introduction of foods and symptom tracking.

Dairy Free Cheese
Never did I wonder what life without cheese would be like. I was worried that I would not get my calcium intake, which I now know is plentiful in whole foods such as sardines, canned salmon with bones, and leafy greens. When I first eliminated cheese I would rely on dairy-free products, listing to a total of 18 ingredients, and which would cause just as intense symptoms within my body as real cheese produced. Nevertheless, my creative spirit and joy for cooking inspired this dairy-free cheese recipe made out of five simple ingredients. Known on instagram as #zucchinicheese, I hope you can find pleasure as I have in the making, eating, and sharing of this nutrient-dense cheese alternative. Please comment in my comment box below to let me know if you try my recipe!

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Recipe

If you are dairy-free, have a big ‘ol garden zucchini, or are working to include vegetable diversity into your meals, then this recipe is for you. Simple and nutritious, ingredients list to a total of five to eight whole foods. Creamy with a hint of ‘mozza cheese’, zucchini cheese may very well become your favorite new healthy staple as a snack, topper, or side. If you desire thin squares you can set the following recipe in a parchment paper lined large baking pan.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 – 8 minutes
Setting time: 20 – 90 minutes
Yields: Desired amount of squares, as set in pan as directed below

Ingredients

Cheddar Cheese Block – to fill approximately half of a bread pan

  • 3/4 cup carrot or butternut squash, fine diced (used for ‘cheddar’ color)
  • 3 cups zucchini or summer squash, about 3 small-medium zucchini, peeled and sliced or diced, or cauliflower florets
  • ¾ cup water, for steaming and to drain afterwards
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or ghee
  • 3 – 4 tsp. lemon juice or acv
  • 1 – 1 ½ tsp. sea salt, or to taste
  • 6 – 7  tbsp. Vital Proteins Gelatin or Great Lakes gelatin (red can)
  • 1 garlic clove, optional
  • 1 dairy-free probiotic capsule, optional

 

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Directions

  • Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add diced carrot or squash and top with the peeled zucchini or cauliflower (or for non-cheddar, use solely zucchini or cauliflower). Cover and simmer on medium low heat for 5 – 8 minutes.
  • Drain off the water completely.
  • Add your steamed vegetables to a blender then add the oil, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, optional nutritional yeast, garlic, and sea salt. Blend on high speed.
  • With your blender set on low speed, sprinkle the gelatin into the mixture. Blend on high for one last whizz until smooth.
  • If you want to add probiotics to your ‘cheese’ wait for the mixture to cool so that it is no longer hot to touch in the blender. Add the probiotics and blend on low.
  • Pour into your pan and refrigerate over night or for at least three hours to set. Alternatively to speed things up you can freeze to set for 20 minutes before refrigerating.
  • Cut into squares, cheese slice, dice, melt, or grate. Use on protein patty’s, with veggies, in salads, and use incorporated into snack plates.
  • Wrap and refrigerate, or store slices in an airtight container. For best flavor, consume within 7 days. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • Optional additions: 1 – 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, fresh chopped basil, and other favorite herbs or spices. Add fresh herbs and mix on low.
  • For a low fodmap omit garlic, cauliflower, and onion. Enjoy 1/2 cup per serving.
  •  Zucchini cheese as a snack: this recipe makes the perfect sweet-free and satiating snack for adults and kids. Set the ‘cheese’ in fun molds to add to your child’s lunch box for nutritious variety throughout the week.

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FAQ

Does it actually taste like cheese? Some people love it, whereas some need to tweak the seasoning and/or vegetable to adjust to personal preference. The most popular variety is made with cauliflower, carrot, garlic, and basil or onion.

Zucchini cheese variations:
Cauliflower cheese
Garlic dilly zucchini cheese
Garlic-chive zucchini cheese
Zucchini cheese with fresh parsley
Nacho zucchini cheese
Agar set cauliflower-coconut cheese

Does it actually melt? The cheese will melt if it is accompanied with a warm meal or if you grate the block ‘cheese’ onto vegetables or onto a ‘meatza’ in the last few minutes of baking. Warning: Over-melting occurs if your food is too hot or if you leave it in the oven for too long, which results in cheese sauce.

Can you use other vegetables? You can use vegetables as mentioned, along with parsnip, turnip, or any root vegetable. You may want to experiment with different vegetables to see what you prefer most.

What is gelatin?
Gelatin is the purified protein derived by the selective hydrolysis of collagen form the skin, the connective tissue and/or bones of animals. Great Lakes Gelatin provides you with the highest types of grass-fed derived edible gelatins. It is a good source of protein, assists in healing the gut, promotes healthy skin, joints, hair and nails. This recipe calls for the type of gelatin that comes in the red can.

What is a good gelatin substitute
? Agar can be used for a vegetarian and vegan substitute, and for those who prefer not to use gelatin. The texture is not the same and I personally prefer to set the veggie cheese with gelatin. Use 1/3 – ½ of the called for amount of gelatin for an agar powder equivalent and add this to the water while the veggies are steaming. Do not drain, add to the blender, and proceed with directions.

Would nutritional yeast add to the flavor? What is it? You do not have to use nutritional yeast though it does enhance the flavor since it naturally has a cheese-like taste. Nutritional Yeast is produced by culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for several days. The primary ingredient in the growth medium is glucose, usually sourced from sugarcane or beet molasses. I have learned that since nutritional yeast is deactivated, it is not a problem for those who are experiencing candida overgrowth. Furthermore, this food is very nutrient rich: it is often fortified with B12 and iron, and is a source of fiber, amino acids, B vitamins, selenium, and potassium. Nutritional yeast is not autoimmune-protocol friendly.

What do I do with the zucchini peels? Use to produce a ‘green cheese’ or cut them into small pieces to be incorporated into vegetable meals or soups.

Does it freeze well? Although I have not tried this I’ve heard that it freezes well from others who have done so.

 

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References

  • Brief History of Cheese. Retrieved August 18th, 2014, from http://www.nationalhistoriccheesemakingcenter.org/cheesemaking-history.aspx
  • Bateson-Koch, Carolee, DC ND. Allergies: Disease in Disguise. Summertown, TN: Books Alive, 1994.
  • Malterre, Tom, MS CN and Segersten, Alissa. The Elimination Diet: Discover The Foods That Are Making You Sick And Tired – And Feel Better Fast. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2015.
40 Comments
  • Amanda
    Posted at 04:42h, 06 May Reply

    Your zucchini cheese is sooooo amazing! So delicious with endless possibilities of flavor combinations. I love the simplicity of this recipe. But the joy that it brings me is so amazing, its so.lovely to have cheese when its something you have been missing for so long. Thank you for this awesome recipe I have made it many times

    • webmasterHS
      Posted at 01:19h, 07 May Reply

      This put a HUGE smile on my face! Thank you so much. . Happy to hear that you enjoy it, and more than once — awesome 🙂

  • Garlic Dilly Zucchini Cheese – Cavegirl Warrior
    Posted at 17:16h, 06 May Reply

    […] Zucchini Cheese has been popping up all over the Instagram.  I’ve been a little late at giving it a try and I am so sad this hasn’t been in my life earlier.  The genius behind the recipe is @hayleyziegler.  This gal is legit.  Check out Hayley’s new website here. […]

    • webmasterHS
      Posted at 01:21h, 07 May Reply

      Thanks Mel for linking me to your variation!

  • Real Food with Dana
    Posted at 02:23h, 08 May Reply

    Yesssss Hayley I’m SO excited for you that you finally have your site up!! Looks fantastic 🙂 And as always, LOVE the zucchini cheese recipe and all the variations!!

    • Hayley
      Posted at 22:19h, 10 May Reply

      Thank you so much Dana!! And thanks for linking me to your recipe. Love the new look of your website BTW! I really enjoyed reading your post on adrenal fatigue and as always, your food looks delicious!

  • :Linda Stobbs
    Posted at 02:09h, 09 May Reply

    LUV your zucchini cheese, Hayl! Delicious!! Great photos, etc. SO excited for you & your beautiful website! You have such a wealth of nutritional knowledge & so creative with cooking/baking!! 🙂

    • Hayley
      Posted at 22:19h, 10 May Reply

      Thanks mom for being my #1 fan! Love you!

  • Louise
    Posted at 14:44h, 17 May Reply

    Wow!
    I am in awe, who knew you could do this!!! Certainly not me!

    These cheeses look amazing!!! I want to try them all!

    We have recently started a food sharing site and have nothing like this on there! this is just a=out of this world cool!!!
    Please think about coming over and submitting this (and other recipes) I am so excited but them and I am sure others will be too!!!

    • Hayley
      Posted at 02:37h, 20 May Reply

      Thanks so much Louise!! That sounds interesting I will definitely stop by to submit. All the best with your site! 🙂

    • Hayley
      Posted at 02:39h, 20 May Reply

      And what is the name of your website?

  • AIP / Paleo Zucchini "Cheese" with Fresh Parsley (Nut-Free & Dairy-Free)
    Posted at 00:59h, 02 June Reply

    […] required and it is done in less than 15 minutes!  The original recipe comes from Hayley at I Eat real Food.  The recipe became very popular on Instagram and everybody started making zucchini cheese, adding […]

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    Posted at 12:22h, 04 July Reply

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  • Anonymous
    Posted at 06:14h, 24 July Reply

    Can you freeze it?

  • Hanna Rosenthal
    Posted at 06:15h, 24 July Reply

    Can you freeze zucchini cheese?

    • Hayley
      Posted at 01:56h, 25 July Reply

      Yes you can!

  • I Eat Real Food | Summer Lovin’ Gummies
    Posted at 05:17h, 02 August Reply

    […] the moment, try the following gummy recipes. They are low in carbohydrates and sugars, and contain gelatin, a healing source of amino acids that assist digestive and connective tissue […]

  • Juju
    Posted at 02:20h, 08 January Reply

    Cannot wait to try this!! Thanks!

    • Hayley
      Posted at 19:04h, 08 January Reply

      I hope you like it! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  • Lunch Chronicles: Sunday 17th January 2016 | A Shared Reality
    Posted at 01:17h, 18 January Reply

    […] yet, you MUST!) My mother put my onto it as she had a multitude of cucumbers and slightly edited Hayley Stobbs Zucchini Cheese recipe to use cucumbers instead (as they so similar in substance) I have to say it was delicious and i’m […]

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 17:48h, 22 January Reply

    Will my Knox brand gelatin work in place of your gelatin? I know it’s not as good in quality, but it’s all I have right now.

    • Hayley
      Posted at 19:30h, 28 January Reply

      I haven’t tried it however I’m sure it will be fine!

      • Jennifer
        Posted at 20:56h, 29 February Reply

        Well, I tried it and I’m not sure what happened but it is gooey. Not sure but maybe I added the gelatin while the blender was too hot. Or maybe I have to adjust the amount of gelatin. I put in 6T of Knox. I’m thinking of using it as cheese sauce and a soup addition. I will try this recipe again though–I am really anxious to eat something that looks like what is in your pictures! 🙂

        • Hayley
          Posted at 20:00h, 02 March Reply

          Oh no! I’m not sure. . It could have been adding it while too hot or perhaps knox doesn’t gelatinize as well as vital proteins and you may have to add more. I hope it turns out for you next time. Let me know! 🙂

  • Sierra
    Posted at 13:58h, 31 March Reply

    what ‘bread’ is that pictured with the sandwich of lettuce and radish?

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  • Vinna cook
    Posted at 00:20h, 02 August Reply

    If I add nutritional yeast how much do I add?

    • Hayley
      Posted at 17:56h, 07 August Reply

      I would try 1 Tbsp. to start, then taste and adjust as needed 🙂

  • jen
    Posted at 16:30h, 14 August Reply

    Can I omit gelatin and probiotic?

    • Hayley
      Posted at 19:40h, 14 August Reply

      You can definitely omit the probiotic. The gelatin sets the zucchini and gives it texture. Without it the recipe would be zucchini soup. You can try with agar powder if you prefer not to use gelatin. I have the directions below, I think in the FAQ section. It’s an okay substitute though it still doesn’t give the same texture as the gelatin.

  • Elena
    Posted at 21:41h, 25 August Reply

    Looks nice! How many gelatin sheets can I use if I don’t have gelatin powder?

  • Dorkal
    Posted at 12:20h, 28 August Reply

    Very excited to see a “cheese” that contains ingredients I already have in the pantry! Cannot wait to try making this for a friend who recently has developed an allergy to dairy. Thank you!

    • Hayley
      Posted at 16:23h, 26 February Reply

      Yay! I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Paula
    Posted at 02:47h, 13 November Reply

    Turmeric could be a good shout for colour too! 🙂

    • Hayley
      Posted at 16:22h, 26 February Reply

      Turmeric doesn’t taste great in the recipe unfortunately, but I agree — the colour is gorgeous

  • Andrea
    Posted at 01:48h, 01 January Reply

    I’m avoiding citrus and vinegar due to heartburn. Is this chemically necessary?

    • Hayley
      Posted at 16:20h, 26 February Reply

      Hi Andrea! It isn’t chemically necessary, although it does lend to a nicer flavour.

  • Mischa Brown
    Posted at 12:49h, 04 March Reply

    Wow! I just learned about this and CAN’T WAIT to try it! Thank you for such wonderful creativity!

    • Hayley
      Posted at 19:50h, 06 March Reply

      I’m excited for you! Thank you so much Mischa and let me know how it goes!

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