Plant Powered Living was recently introduced to Reenie Vincent, a local artisan making what she refers to as PeaceCheese. An alternative cheese completely plant based, so tasty, and good for you, too! Please read through the interview below to find out more about Reenie and her amazing cheese.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Peace Cheese began.
I’m originally from Boston, but I’ve been following my heart around the world since I was 19; living, studying and loving beautiful people and places. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, and over the years I’ve learned how to make yummy meals that nourish the body and are satisfying and comforting, too. I also love cooking for others. Of all the places I’ve lived, France and Greece have inspired my cooking the most with their love of cheese, sauces and spreads.
I’ve had so much fun recreating these traditional recipes; making them just as rich and satisfying with plant-based foods, and then watching my friends’ surprised and confused expressions at how good they were.
In 2005, I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand to learn Thai Massage, but loved it so much that I decided to stay. I also fell in love and that is a wonderful reason to be anywhere. So we loved a lot and opened a business together in Chiang Mai. I wanted to do something unique and creative with vegan food. He’d studied music his whole life and wanted to open a music venue. So we opened something of a vegan cheese bar called “Zoe In Yellow.” I sold my homemade vegan cheese “PeaceCheese” platters and he organized nightly Dj sets and bands. It’s still the busiest night spot in Chiang Mai.
Eventually I began selling PeaceCheese at local festivals and events as well as to health food stores and cafes in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is a very creative town and often it feels like anything can happen there and for anyone– A magical vortex of creation. I am so thankful for its influence on me and the birth of PeaceCheese. After 5 ½ years of living in Chiang Mai, I decided it was time for me to return to the States and re-connect with family and friends I’ve missed here. So I am now recreating PeaceCheese in San Diego, with the experience, wisdom and heart of a truly unforgettable and life-changing 5 ½ years in the “land of smiles” that is Thailand.
What’s your vision for your company?
My vision for PeaceCheese is to delight, surprise, and energize people with plant-based cheese. Not just vegetarians or vegans, but people of all backgrounds, habits, and lifestyles. With joy and imagination, PeaceCheese transforms simple plant-based foods like cashews and pumpkin into something so magical and surprisingly delicious that people do not feel they are giving up anything for this pleasure, not even their health. That is the kind of success I envision for PeaceCheese.
What makes Peace Cheese so special compared to other dairy- free cheeses?
PeaceCheese is delicious all on its own, without anything else. It’s delicious not in only a substitute or alternative kind of way like many other dairy-free cheeses. Some PeaceCheese customers who are are not dairy free actually prefer PeaceCheese to regular cheese simply because they love the taste. It’s that good. It’s also easy to build an entire meal around PeaceCheese.
It’s flavorful and hearty enough to hold its own and also transform something simple into something gourmet.
What makes PeaceCheese so special is that people seem to choose it for the simple fact that they love it, and that it’s 100% plant-based is an added bonus.
What’s your favorite flavor?
At the moment, my favorite is Pumpkin Sun. I’m addicted to it right now. I put it on everything from quesadillas to nori rolls or simply wrapping it up in kale leaves.
If someone was interested in making their own plant powered cheese, what tips and suggestions would you give them.
Choose your base (cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.) and practice with that one ingredient to start. Work the recipe over and over, cataloging whatever additions or adjustments you make each time, and play with that for a while until you feel you’ve mastered a taste and texture you love. It’s a very particular process and you’ll find that each ingredient has it’s own personality and quirks, so getting intimate with your main ingredient in the recipe is foremost.
You must have done a lot of trial and error with your cheese making process. What was the worst outcome you had when trying out a new batch of cheese?
Honestly, I really haven’t had a worst outcome. I think somehow I was destined to make PeaceCheese. All of the recipes were created in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the first was Cashew Glow. I created and recreated my recipe almost everyday in my tiny Thai kitchen, cataloging all my changes along the way. That took about four months. This next part may sound a bit fantastical but the remaining recipes came to me in my dreams and sometimes in the middle of the day in a kind of awake dream.
I remember my first recipe after Cashew Glow appeared in a dream written in pencil on a small piece of spiral bound notebook paper.
Unlike other dreams, this dream was perfectly clear and I could recall every ingredient and measurement in detail. Some of the ingredients I’d never even heard of. As you can imagine I was super curious, so I went to the market and bought all the ingredients on the list and followed the recipe to the 1/32nd of a teaspoon and the result was perfection. I haven’t changed a thing since.
Where can someone purchase Peace Cheese?
If you live in San Diego, just visit my website www.ILovePeaceCheese.com and check out my varieties and feel free to call me to order. If you live outside of San Diego and you’d like it shipped, visit the Shop page on my website www.ILovePeaceCheese.com and place a secure order through PayPal.
Are you plant powered (vegan)? If so, when did you choose a plant-powered lifestyle, and what was your motivation?
I am plant-powered and I chose that lifestyle around 2002 or so.
I have found a plant-based diet to be best for me, but still in each moment I listen to what my body wants and give it the power to choose.
My motivation to live a plant-powered lifestyle was really two-fold: One, my body never really tolerated dairy and the indulgence was not worth the discomfort. Two, I am an over-the-top animal lover. I don’t like to think of them not living free and joyfully and most dairy factory farming practices are not run that way.
Please share your favorite simple plant powered recipe using your delicious cheese?
Since Pumpkin Sun is my current addiction, I’ll share my favorite Pumpkin Sun Quesadilla Recipe:
This is so simple:
½ cup Shredded Pumpkin Sun
2 Tortillas (Flour or Gluten Free)
¼ cup sliced Crimini Mushrooms
¼ cup Sliced Red Bell Pepper
¼ cup Sliced Onion (Red or Yellow)
¼ cup cup Spinach
*Optional: ⅛ cup Pre-Cooked Black or Vegetarian Refried Beans
Lightly saute the red bell pepper and onions, adding the mushrooms a few minutes in so they don’t get too soft and soggy. I use about 1-2 TB Safflower oil.
Heat your pan or skillet and brush lightly with oil. Place a flour or gluten-free tortilla on the pan. Add Shredded Pumpkin Sun, all Veggies including Spinach and Pre-Cooked Black or Refried Beans (if you desire).
Top with a second tortilla. After a few minutes carefully flip the quesadilla. Use a nice flat spatula if you have one. As you flip with the spatula, cradle the other side with your hand for an easier flip and so none of the goodness slips out.
Is there anything else you feel people should know or you’d like to share?
I’ve managed to build PeaceCheese on a skinny shoestring and a lot of faith in both myself and my products. Money definitely makes things easier sometimes, and can move things along quicker. But if you have a dream, don’t feel you have to wait for investment capital to start. Faith is the real magical ingredient. It’s what keeps your dream alive and growing when other resources may be lacking. If you have faith in yourself and your creation, there’s no limit to the resources you can manifest for yourself and your business. PeaceCheese and I are growing little by little and we still have a long way to go, but we’ve accomplished a lot over the 5 years we’ve been going at it together and I feel so blessed to be right here where we are.
Photography by Lisa Nesser