Vegan Ro*tel “Velveeta” Dip or Sauce
The BEST Hot Vegan Cheese Dip or Sauce
Get Your Super Bowl Game On!

This is the old school recipe my way…

And hopefully I am not posting this too late for your Super Bowl festivities.

Recently, a local vegan bakery advertised their vegan “chick-un” nugget platter with “cheese” sauce for the Super Bowl.  I was curious about the sauce because, fairly recently in researching vegan cheese sauces online, there was a baffling array of sauces made with potatoes, eggplant, cashews and more.  But I was highly skeptical and  wondered to myself at the time, “Why not just melt some vegan cheese?”   And I shied away from experimenting.  But, Friday, I purchased some of the advertised sauce on the way to school to enjoy with my lunch at my desk.  It was a nice texture and lovely color, but it tasted oddly of garlic and mustard, ingredients I have used in vegan cheese spreads, but better camouflaged than that. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t taste convincingly like cheese.

So, I looked up the old recipe from my childhood–10 ounces of Ro*tel tomatoes and 1 pound of Velveeta–and purchased some Ro*tel yesterday on my grocery store run.  The cheese I had on hand.  Velveeta is so processed that it always reminded me of what would happen if orange vinyl were sold in blocks, so I figured that vegan cheese would be a shoe-in.  This morning I melted it in the microwave with the So Delicious vegan shredded cheeses I had on hand–both cheddar and cheddar-jack–and I was right!  I needed look no further for my go-to cheese sauce.  And, shamefully, I fantasized almost all the way through my yoga class, buying some jalapeno-lime corn chips on the way home and diving in.

Granted, this is not health food folks.  It is an occasional splurge.  And with the price of vegan cheese, it’s not cheap.  But it is super simple, lightening fast, and delicious.  It contains no nuts as some cheese sauces do, but it does contain soy.  However, soy is not even a whisper of a problem for me and hopefully not for you.

Plus, I can think of a million ways to use it.  It is hard to beat, plain, as a hot dip for chips.  But why not add corn, black beans, green chilies, vegan sausage, cooked diced potato, or some of all and enjoy it as a chunkier dip, as a sauce for nachos, a filling for enchiladas, or even as a base for a casserole, say potato and Poblano?  Or simply kick it up with some cumin, coriander, chili powder, or lime juice?

While your wheels are turning, why not make a batch and munch on it with some crispy chips?

Vegan Ro*tel “Velveeta” Dip

1 10-ounce can Ro*tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, mild or spicy

1 pound shredded vegan cheese (I like So Delicious cheddar and cheddar-jack sold in 8 ounce packages)

Optional garnish: chopped fresh garnish

Place in a microwave safe bowl or a double boiler and heat until melted, stirring frequently, approximately 8 minutes.  Whisk for a smoother finished product.  Serve warm with chips and a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro.

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Vegan 4-Ingredient Thai Chicken and Cream Cheese Roll-ups

These simple retro-contemporary apps are like cute little packages, and they are so quick, easy, and satisfying.  Though they are best warm, they are even delicious cold.  I know because I have brought them to school for lunch 3 days this week and my days don’t leave time to heat my lunch.

I am not sure why I even had Pillsbury Crescent Rolls in the fridge–vegan Pigs-in-a-Blanket?–but I did and I was craving my Vegan Thai Chicken Bites.  However, I had no puff pastry and no cashews.  So, I adapted.  I used the same sesame-garlic Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick’n and a dab of commercial Thai peanut sauce in both, but added a layer of vegan cream cheese to the roll-ups, and omitted the cashews.  Delish.

For presentation at home, I arranged them on a leaf of kale and sprinkled coconut shavings over the top.  But, believe me, they are also irresistible out of a Tupperware carton.

1 can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Approximately 1/3 cup vegan cream cheese, softened

1 box sesame garlic Tofurky Roasted Chick’n

Approximately 3 tablespoons commercial or homemade peanut sauce + extra for dipping

Optional: fresh kale leaves and coconut shavings

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat (silicone baking sheet) or spray with nonstick spray.  Unroll crescent roll dough and separate triangles, laying them a couple of inches apart on baking sheet.  Spread with about 2 teaspoons of vegan cream cheese, top with about 1/8th of the chick’n, drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of peanut sauce, and roll up beginning with wide side of dough triangle opposite point.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool enough to handle and then serve immediately on an optional bed of kale sprinkled with coconut shavings and a dish of extra peanut sauce for dipping.


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Vegan Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Creamy Cheese,
Maple Syrup & Sriracha
4 ingredient, quick & easy, super sexy appetizer

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t enjoy Brussels sprouts for breakfast. However, southeast Virginia, where I live, just experienced “Snowmageddon,” aka The Blizzard of 2018, and the light is absolutely breathtaking.

So I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot this morning to take advantage of the glorious glistening out the window.  And I certainly wasn’t going to allow these beauties to go to waste.

If you are in need of a quick, drop-dead gorgeous, and delicious appetizer–or breakfast (just kidding)–look no further.
Simply top crispy roasted Brussels sprouts halves with a dollop of softened vegan cream cheese or nut cheese, homemade or prepared like Treeline brand, a drizzle of maple syrup from a spoon going in one direction, and a drizzle of sriracha straight from the bottle going in the other direction–almost like handwriting–and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. (Note: I am impatient and like my Brussels sprouts practically charred, so I roast them at 500 degrees with just a hint of nonstick spray or olive oil and coarse sea salt, stir them a couple of times, and watch them carefully.)

Voila! You will impress your guests and satisfy both their eyes and their appetites.

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Vegan Cheesy Garlic and Herb Snack Crackers
quick and easy perfection

Every year of my life, until my mother passed away, I was in my parents home for Christmas. And every night before I was due to fly home, my mother would be up late–me often with her, though I tended to give out earlier than her even more intrepid and tenacious self–in the kitchen making a treat for me to take on the plane. It was either Chex Mix, which she called Texas Trash, or her famous almond butter toffee.

After Mama died, my father and sister were supposed to come to Virginia to celebrate Christmas with me, and both times there plans fell through. The first year, which was 2 years ago, they both got sick. This year, they got snowed in.

But, Tammy Wells, my best friend since 3rd grade, who was, like me, also recently widowed, came on Christmas Day to attend Bob’s and my open house for 35 beloved people in our lives, and spend the week. It has been a glorious will we end up hiking in the freezing cold, happy hours and tea with friends, dinner with Bob’s family, yoga, and more.

She is leaving at 6 this evening, flying back to Mississippi, so I had to uphold the tradition of my dear Mama, whom one of my friends dubbed the Genius of Christmas, and make Tammy  a treat for the plane.

I love Chex Mix and almond butter toffee, but I needed something even quicker. So I devised this tecioe in my mind, whipped it up, and even Bob the Omni who, for the most part, does not care for my food, loved them.

I will be making this quick and easy treat over and I can throughout the holidays and beyond.  Feel free to experiment with different types of dry seasoning mixes and nuts.


1 6-ounce box Earth Balance Cheddar Flavor Squares

1/4 chp roasted and sakted almonds

1/4 cup really good olive oil

.70 to .75 ounce package dried garlic and herb seasoning mix

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a 9 x 13 -nch metal baking pan, combine crackers and almonds. In a small cup or bowl, whisk together olive oil, seasoning mix, and paprika. Drizzle over crackers and almonds, stir gently to combine well, place in oven and bake for 7 minutes.  Stir and bake for 7 more minutes. Let cool and store in airtight containers.

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Vegan Roasted Za’atar Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

If, like me, you find yourself in need of quick, no-fuss holiday gifts from your kitchen, you and your recipients will love my twist on a classic. The Middle Eastern flavor of za’atar curls up next to a hint of smoked paprika, garlic, and tamarind syrup for an intoxicating savory and slightly sweet flavor combination that is tantalizingly exotic, but not odd.

Za’atar is an aromatic Middle Eastern herb blend of earthy-lemony sumac, oregano, thyme, savory, and sesame seeds.

Package these seeds in pretty canisters or jars…or enjoy them warm right off the baking sheet.

Note: adjust spices if necessary to suit your palate.

4 cups raw pumpkin seeds (I purchased sprouted seeds at Whole Foods)

Non-stick spray

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons za’tar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamarind syrup (sold at Middle Eastern markets)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (so that less oil is needed).  Spread seeds out in an even layer. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients except tamarind syrup, and roast for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven, drizzle with tamarind syrup, stir well to distribute evenly, cool on wire rack, and package in airtight containers.

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Vegan Cheesy Baked Buffalo Chickpea Dip
Betsy’s Best!

So sorry I’ve been away for so long…

The start of school–especially a year like this with great kids but a punishing schedule–always creates a bit of a hiatus from The Blooming Platter.  Add to that either food poisoning or a stomach virus the last two days of the first week of school, and food was of little interest to me for quite a while.

However, the first thing I wanted to eat after 2 days of being flat on my back in bed too weak to even feed the dogs–I had to call Bob home from work the first day when I couldn’t rouse myself by about 9 a.m.–was a vegan Buffalo “Chicken” pizza slice from Whole Foods.  It proved to be a bit too much of a good thing and I couldn’t finish it.  But, something about those hot-n-tangy Buffalo flavors still sounded good.  So, the next weekend when I made my regular Whole Foods stop after weekend yoga classes, I plopped some vegan Buffalo seitan bites atop some kale messaged with tahini dressing, and it was a revelation.

Then, yesterday, our generous administration and counseling office at school hosted a “social” during lunch–a lunch teachers can never take–and because they specifically told me they had vegan leftovers, I went down after my last class and enjoyed some veggies, fruit and crackers.  But there on the buffet table was a baked Buffalo dip and I knew I had to recreate it my way.  And soon.

So that’s what I did today after researching some recipes, making some mental changes, stopping at Whole Foods, and testing it out for lunch. Wow!  It is so delicious that I was afraid I might devour half a recipe.  But it is so rich and satisfying that, honestly, just a small serving is perfect. Even Bob had to admit that it was “not bad,” a glowing endorsement from his omnivorous self.

The main recipe I decided to veganize was quite  basic: cream cheese, ranch dressing, grated cheese, hot sauce, and canned chicken.  Another recipe I consulted also called for ranch dressing which I found puzzling since blue cheese dressing is the typical accompaniment to Buffalo wings.  So, I was elated when I found Daiya brand blue cheese dressing and decided to substitute it.

For my version, I also used vegan cream cheese, So Delicious shredded jack and cheddar blend, Pete’s hot sauce (I didn’t have Frank’s on-hand), and chickpeas in place of the chicken.  However, I feel sure that the original protein must add a depth of flavor, so I used 1 vegan no-chicken bouillon cube. It does up the salt level, so if you are hyper-sensitive to salt, you might want to omit.

The rich and creamy mixture was plenty tangy without additional vinegar, but I felt it did need a hint of butter used in standard Buffalo sauce recipes, so I added 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance.

Also, I think everything savory is better with garlic and onion–an opinion Bob and I share–so I added minced garlic and, because he doesn’t care for cooked onion, I used finely sliced green onion both in the dip and over the top when its lusciousness emerged from the oven the first time I prepared it, and immediately after spooning it into the crockpot the second time.

Again, I pronounce the end result perfection scooped up with celery sticks; Bob a “not bad” scooped up with Fritos; and that, friends, means that it is a winner for you and your carnivorous pals.

Vegan Cheesy Baked Buffalo Chickpea Dip

2-8 ounce cartons vegan cream cheese

3/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce

1 cup vegan Blue “Cheese” or Ranch Dressing (I used Daiya brand, but you might try Just brand Ranch if you can’t find Daiya Blue “Cheese”)

1 cup shredded vegan cheddar, jack cheese or a combination (I used the So Delicious brand combo)

1 vegan no-chicken bouillon cube

2 large cloves garlic minced

2-15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup + 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

Accompaniment: fresh celery sticks and/or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil or spray a small baking or au gratin dish with non-stick cooking spray. (If using crockpot, don’t preheat, but do sray removable dish compartment eith nobstick spray.)  Place all ingredients except chickpeas and green onions in a large saucepan over low heat.  Stir frequently until cheeses melt and the mixture is thick and creamy.  Stir in chickpeas and 1 cup of the green onion.  If baking, spoon into prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with reserved green onion, and serve immediately with fresh celery sticks and/or chips.

If using crockpot, spoon mixture into dish compartment of unit, set to medium, sprinkle with reserved green onion, cover, heat until bubbly, and then reduce setting to low.

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Vegan Parmesan Crisps

Yield: 4 crisps (recipe easily multiplies, but they are rich)

Yesterday, I purchased a new carton of Follow Your Heart brand vegan parmesan for a dinner party last night. But about 3 tablespoons remained in the previous carton. Wanting to save room in the fridge, I was about to combine them when the Parmesan Crisp idea struck.

I was afraid of a failed gooey or frizzled up failure, but 3 tablespoons wasn’t a huge gamble.  Wow!  I needn’t have been concerned. The results were company-worthy.

I squirted a little Just brand vegan Ceasar dressing on top and garnished with a sliver of marinated red pepper and a sprig of rosemary, as these are perfectly firm enough to pick up, sturdy enough for a topping, and both crispy and chewy.

They are delightful and deeply satisfying.

Vegan Parmesan Crisps

3/4 cup Follow Your Heart brand Non-Dairy Parmesan Cheese (it is sold shredded)

Toppings and garnishes of choice

Lightly spray a skillet with nonstick spray and place over medium heat. Using 3 tablespoons each of the parmesan cheese, make 4 mounds and then carefully  press them out with your fingers or a fork into a fairly flat pancake shape. Cook a couple of minutes or until cheese melts, holds together in a disk, becomes crispy around edges, and is lightly browned on underside. Flip with a spatula and cook just another 20 or 30 seconds. They should flip very easily. *Adjust temperature as necessary.  You may want to make one test crisp to determine correct time and temo on your range before making a batch.  Top as desired or offer options and let guests top their own.

*Note: I have a very powerful new range and what used to require medium-high heat, now takes medium or even low heat.



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Vegan Carrot Fries
with Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce

Yield: 4 servings (8 carrot sticks each)

True confession: Far from vegan, Bob’s diet leaves much to be desired.  So, in an attempt to help him make somewhat better choices, I have encouraged fish, even fried fish.  (Sorry.)  I don’t partake BUT I do make a kick@$$ batter, if I do say so, and it is delicious on, as I discovered for lunch today, carrot sticks to make “Carrot Fries.”

My presentation is cute as can be don’t you think?  And the Lemon-Basil dipping sauce so summery and lick-your-fingers delish.

Vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-12 ounce (vegan) beer, alcholohic or non-alcoholic ( you won’t need quite all of it)

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard (I use pommery)

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Sriracha)

32 carrot sticks about 3 1/2 inches long (I purchase them already in sticks, but if you prefer, trip and scrape slim carrots, cut them into 3 1/2-inch lengths, and then cut each into quarters lengthwise)

Sea salt

Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches in a large skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees over medium or medium-high heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Gradually whisk in beer until mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.  Whisk in mustard and hot sauce.  (You can taste it, but it will likely not taste especially appealing, though it is delicious after frying.)   Dip carrot sticks into batter, one at a time, to completely coat and immediately transfer to oil.  Fry about 10 to 11 at a time or until golden brown on one side, flip with tongs, and fry on the other side until evenly golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to prepared baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with sea salt, and continue with remaining carrot sticks and batter.  Serve in a martini glass with Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce at the bottom.


Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain vegan yogurt (most of it is too sweet for my palate, so I prefer vegan sour cream)

Zest of 1/2 large lemon (use the whole lemon if you prefer a more pronounced lemon flavor)

1 teaspoon fresh minced basil, or to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.


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Vegan Mini-Tater Tot Waffles
with Savory or Sweet Tot Toppings

Yield: 4 mini-waffles (recipe easily multplies)

[At bottom, I include instructions for one large waffle.]

Last week, eyes wide, a colleague brought down to my classroom a culinary magazine featuring a San Francisco restaurant specializing in Tater Tot Waffles.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Basially, anything is better atop a Tot it seems, so while this chef’s toppers tended to be fish-and meat-centric, I figured a crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potato base would be irresistable with anything–or nothing–on top.  And I was right.

I looked up a recipe pretty sure that Tater Tot Waffles are a thing–and they are–and followed it to the letter using Alexia’s Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper.  I have nothing against good ‘ole Ore-Ida, but I found myself at Whole Foods, and Alexia’s the brand they stock.  But it took almost one bag–or 5ish servings–to make one waffle, which Bob and I split 3/4 to 1/4, and that’s a bit too much of a good thing.

So, tonight, with him out to dinner with his brother and me craving more of this crisp-and-slightly-greasy goodness, but not very hungry, I wondered if I could make Mini-Tater Tot Waffles.  Indeed!  They cook up brilliantly, are easier to remove from the waffle iron, and lend themselves to party fare or to the tapas-style meals I prefer.  Plus, just last night I had sent out invitations to the Starlight Supper Club gathering that Bob and I are hosting on March 4 and included Mini-Thai Tater Tots, so I figured I better make certain the concept actually worked.

Boy does it!  Having gone out for Ethiopian food on Saturday night and brought home leftovers, I decided to top mine with a tiny spoonful of the collard greens and a little piece of cooked tomato with a dab of vegan mayo for color and creamy contrast.  Wow!  But top them with anything you choose, savory or sweet..

Mini-Tater Tot Waffles

16 tater tots (I used Alexia brand Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper)

Nonstick cooking spray

Savory or sweet toppings of choice (vegan greens, cheeses, spreads, salsas, tapenades, syrups, citrus curds, nuts, etc.)

Spray electric waffle iron with nonstick spray and preheat.  Meanwhile, place tater tots in a bowl and place in microwave on full power for a minute to two to thaw.  Place 4 tater tots, 2 sides of each one touching, in 1 layer of each quadrant of the waffle maker.  Close lid, gently press, and cook for about 5 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Carefully remove each waffle to a serving platter or plates, top as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: to make one large waffle, follow directions above except thaw about 4 to 5 servings of Tater Tots and use them to completely cover the surface of the waffle iron.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes.  You can check after about 5 minutes and fill in any holes with additional thawed tater tots if desired.

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