Vegan Queso Dip

(Ok you guys, this stuff is good. Like, REALLY GOOD!)

Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I find myself tempted by that luscious, warm, creamy white queso dip. I stand in line at Moe’s, practically drooling, as the person in front of me has ladle-full poured over their nachos. They employees make a huge deal of it too, lifting the ladle way up into the air so that I am tempted even further by a waterfall of cheesy goodness! I hold myself back, but I really just want to request that they pour it over EVERYTHING!

Luckily, thanks to Isa Moscowitz’s new cookbook Isa Does It, I can make my own healthy queso dip at home and it’s delicious! I love that I can actually pour it over my entire plate of veggie nachos without feeling guilty. Of course, you can use it on tacos or burritos, drizzle over chili, use as a condiment on black bean burgers, or as a sauce to pour over chickpea cutlets.

I have modified Isa’s recipe considerably, eliminating the oil, reducing the liquid, and increasing the cashews. Isa’s recipe was just a little too thin for me to call a “dip” and the oil wasn’t necessary. I also used slightly more lemon juice, as I always do in recipes that call for lemon, and I omitted the steps for sautéing the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. I have a Vitamix that heats everything up nicely, so I didn’t see a reason to dirty another dish. I also swapped the vegetable broth for cashew milk, just to keep more of the white color.

Ingredients:
1 cup soaked cashews, soaked overnight
1 tablespoon white miso
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup plant-based milk, unsweetened (I used homemade cashew milk)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
juice of 1 lemon (a little over 2 tablespoons)
2 jalapeños, seeded (if you want a little heat, leave some of the seeds in)
1 small yellow onion

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, make sure you chop everything finely and sauté the veggies first (onions and jalapeños around 5 minutes, then toss in the garlic for about 30 seconds). Then put everything in your blender or food processor and blend as smooth as possible.

If you have a Vitamix, you can throw everything in whole, even the onion (minus the peel, obviously), and blend for about 3-4 minutes until hot and steamy.

PS This would be awesome with a can of rotel dip added in! Dear Lord, where is the nearest bag of chips??!!!!

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Vegan Nacho Dip

Adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Vegan Table. Pour it on everything. Or, mix it with a can or Rotel and then pour it on everything. 🙂

Makes 2 cups
Ingredients:
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
3 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, like Earth Balance

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Lightly toast everything for about a minute while the stove eye heats up and then whisk in the water. You don’t have to whisk constantly, but keep stirring it around every 30 seconds or so while you do other stuff (paint your nails, prep things for dipping, pull the cat of the drapes, etc.)

Once it’s pretty close to starting to simmer, start whisking and keep it up until the mixture gets thick. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts. Taste and adjust any seasonings as needed and serve with chips, over taco salad, on burritos, over a baked potato with steamed broccoli, or whatever your heart desires!

Homemade Cashew Butter & Cashew Milk

I think I need to attend an AA meeting. Almond-holics Annonymous. I’m going to OD if I don’t stop consuming so many of them. I haven’t been able to get enough homemade almond milk. Ever since I started making it fresh in my Vitamix, it’s what I crave when I’m thirsty. Of course, I also eat almonds as snacks and use almond butter in recipes. I decided to give almonds a rest (temporarily) and try recipes with cashews. Consider it my almond probation. Don’t get me wrong; almonds are great for you. I just need more variety.

Until last week, I had no idea how easy it was to make cashew milk, or how refreshing it was. It’s even easier than almond milk because you don’t have to strain it! It’s creamy, completely smooth, has a mild flavor, and works well in any recipe that calls for milk. I’ve used it over cereal, in pancakes, as the base for smoothies, in vegan ranch dressing, and in mushroom gravy so far. All of them turned out great!

All you have to do is soak 1/2 cup raw cashews for a few hours or overnight, drain & rinse, and then blend in a high-powered blender with 2 cups of water until completley smooth. You don’t even have to strain it! I love the pure white bubbles!

cashew milk

cashew milk cereal

Cashew butter (like peanut butter, but with cashews, not like stick butter you bake with) requires you to burn a few calories. Seriously, you’ll build your biceps while making this, but it’s totally worth it!

Add 24 oz of raw cashews to a Vitamix (no promises with other blenders). I know that sounds like a lot, but DON’T try this with 1 or 2 cups of cashews. Once the motor starts chugging, you’ve got to have enough cashews in there for it to “pull.” If you don’t have enough, the blades will just be pulling at air and the motor will overheat in a fruitless attempt to grind the nuts.

Run the Vitamix on high, pushing the nuts into the blades. Here’s where you’re going to get a good workout. Keep pressing. It will take a lot of muscle at first, but it will get easier. Now not to scare you, but if you’ve never made nut butter in your Vitamix before (I hadn’t before I made this), your Vitamix may sound a little like it’s protesting when you make this. It made me a little nervous. The motor will make “chugging” sounds like it’s working really hard to pull the dry nuts into the blades. IT’S TOTALLY FINE! Just keep pressing the mixture into the blades with the tamper and let the Vitamix do its job until the mixture is creamy. Some folks say that the motor noise will change when the mixture is done. I never heard this, but maybe I didn’t go long enough. I just stopped when it looked smooth.

Once the mixture cools (it will be slightly warm and so will you), store in an airtight container in the fridge.

cashew butter

You’ll notice that cashew butter isn’t as oily as other butters. You can take a spoonful and shape it in your hand like Play-Doh. If you want it to be spreadable on bread of crackers, I imagine you could mix in a little coconut oil, although I haven’t tried this.

I personally like the thickness of cashew butter. I’ve found myself standing in front of the fridge, rolling it into little balls in my hands, and eating it like raw cookie dough. It’s SO GOOD! Even though you don’t add any sugar, it has a mildly sweet taste. It’s great for a snack with fruit, by itself, added to smoothies, or as a base for raw cookies or truffles. I imagine it would be great for thickening sauces and gravies as well.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a raw chocolate truffle recipe using homemade cashew butter! 🙂

Cashew Sour Cream (raw, vegan, gluten free)

Last night was taco night (LOVE taco night!) and my partner literally told me that if I never made this sour cream again, she would “die a little inside”!! This stuff is SO good! Use it on tacos, burritos, chili, baked potatoes, in stroganoff, as a base for veggie dips… you get the idea.

Feel free to use your food processor for this. That’s what I’ve used for the past year and it works just fine, but it won’t be completely creamy. You’ll have minuscule bits of cashews (no biggie, trust me), but they’ll be soft from the soaking, so you won’t notice them when you eat it with a meal.

However… I must say that I noticed a big difference this time when I used my Vitamix! It was ultra smooth and creamy, just like when you buy it in the store. I was going to take a picture, it was so pretty and white, but we inhaled the whole batch and didn’t even miss the guacamole I didn’t make!

Ingredients:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight or during the day while you’re at work
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (use raw unless you’re not concerned with that)
1/4 cup fresh water

Drain the soaking water off the cashews and add them, along with the fresh water and the rest of the ingredients to your food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until creamy and store any leftovers in the fridge.

A note for Vitamix users: You will have somewhat luke-warm sour cream when you’re done blending, so plan to make a day ahead and store it in the fridge if you want it to be cold. If you didn’t plan for that and you need sour cream for immediate consumption (like I did!), place in the freezer for 4-5 minutes and then serve. It’ll do.

Vegan Cheese Sauce #2

I posted a cheese sauce recipe from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap previously, but here’s another from Lauren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum.

This has a slightly more complex flavor due to the soy sauce, tahini, and miso.  At first I thought those were weird ingredients to put in something that is supposed to resemble the  flavor of cheese, but I actually love the taste of this sauce and so does my best friend’s 4-year-old son, who is very picky about his mac n cheese!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup non-dairy butter (I always use the Earth Balance brand)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I’ve left this out several times and haven’t noticed a difference)
1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 pinch salt
black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter over medium-low heat and then whisk in the flour, forming a roux.  Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, miso, tahini, and tomato paste and continue stirring until everything is mixed together (it will be thick).  turn up the heat to medium-high and add the non-dairy milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking well each time.  The mixture will start to simmer.  Continue stirring for 2 minutes or so until the mixture is smooth and thick (like you would expect cheese sauce to be).

Remove from the heat and whisk in the nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper.

 

Vegan Cheese Sauce #1

As promised, here is one of my favorite recipes that uses nutritional yeast.  This sauce can be used on tacos, nachos, burritos, mashed potatoes, or anything you would usually add cheese sauce to.

The recipe is from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap.

2/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups non-dairy milk (Robin suggests soy; I use almond)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard

Add the nutritional yeast, cornstarch, salt, and garlic powder to a medium saucepan and whisk in the milk over medium heat.  Continue whisking for about 3 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard.  Serve while it’s still warm or store in the fridge for later use (up to 3 days).

I have also tried freezing and re-heating this sauce before and it worked fine!

A Trio of Gravy Recipes

This past weekend, a friend asked me if vegan gravy was possible.  Of course!  I’ve made brown gravy, mushroom gravy, sawmill gravy, and several others vegan and they were all wonderful!  I decided  to share my 3 favorite gravy recipes with this friend and with you as well.

This first recipe came from the recipe “Braised Seitan Cutlets in Mushroom & Red Wine Sauce” from Vegetarian Time’s cookbook Everything Vegan.

Red Wine Mushroom Gravy (or “sauce”… it walks a fine line)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine (I used burgundy cooking wine)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup vegetable broth

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and mushrooms and saute 7-10 minutes.  Whisk together wine, mustard, and thyme in a small bowl or cup and pour over the mushroom mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Whisk cornstarch into broth in a small bowl or cup and then add to the mushroom mixture.  Simmer 2-3 minutes, until  thickened.

Herb Gravy (makes 2 cups)

This is a gravy I used a lot during the holidays. It’s good on mashed potatoes, dressing, lentil loaf, roasted potatoes,  and  (I imagine) tofurky!

1/3  cup dry white wine (or white cooking wine)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup soymilk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
black pepper

Whisk together cornstarch and broth in a small bowl or cup and set aside.

Mix all other ingredients in a saucepan and pour in the cornstarch mixture.  Heat to a boil, stirring  constantly.  Lower to a simmer, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  (You can also add mushrooms and onions to this recipe.)

Salisbury “Steak” Gravy

This recipe is from My Vegan Cookbook, which is paired with a recipe for vegan salisbury steak that is awesome (I modify by doubling the amount of lentils, wheat gluten and ground flax seed and eliminating the wheat germ).  This gravy is also good on mashed potatoes, vegan hamburger steak, or anything else you’d pour gravy on!  I add sautéed baby bella mushrooms.

1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
pepper and salt to taste

Saute the onion in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat until softened.  Add the other ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake well, and pour into the pan with the onions.  Heat to a simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened (1-2 minutes).