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, Daiya 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 about 3/4 teaspoon vegan no-chicken base. 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. 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.
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 Baked Buffalo Dip
8 ounces vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup Pete’s or Frank’s hot sauce (plus a tablespoon more if you really crave that flavor and heat as I do)
1/2 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 or jack cheese or a combination (I used a Daiya brand combo)
3/4 teaspoon vegan no-chicken base
2 large cloves garlic minced
2-15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 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. Place all ingredients except chickpeas and green onions in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until cheeses melt and the mixture is thick and creamy. Stir in chickpeas and all but about 1/4 of the green onion. 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.
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.
To make these addicting vegan roasted cauliflower nachos, you will need part of a recipe of my amazing Vegan Queso.
I studied a number of recipes, omitting and adding ingredients to suit my palate. I arrived at something so delicious that I think you might use it to replace whatever your current favorite vegan cheese sauce is.
I know that’s a bold statement, and I know everyones’ palates are different, but even my picky omnivorous guy liked it. And him liking it is equivalent to someone else loving it.
Vegetable cooking spray
One head of cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets
2 tablespoons can of chopped green chilies, drained
Assorted toppings: black beans, drained, pico de gallo, sliced green onions, sliced black olives, vegan sour cream, fresh cilantro sprigs, or whatever you love piled on nachos
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a metal baking sheet with vegetable spray and spread cauliflower out on it in one even layer. Spray cauliflower with vegetable spray and sprinkle lightly with sea salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 2 tablespoons chopped green chilies into 1/2 cup vegan queso, or to taste. Remove cauliflower from oven, divide between serving dishes, top with queso, return to oven for two to five minutes, carefully remove, place serving dishes on a plate, and top as desired before presenting.
I used to never be without a crock of my homemade vegan cheese spread in the refrigerator; it was a staple. But then a Whole Foods market opened in our area and I began exploring their prepared cheeses which was a whole new delicious world.
Recently, however, I’ve been interested in making my own vegan queso for nachos, probably over cauliflower chips, but stay tuned for that.
So, as usual, I did some research but really didn’t find what I wanted. There was one promising recipe, but it included potato which sounded starchy and not the right flavor or consistency for a cheese sauce, though folks online seemed enthused.
However, the recipe also called for carrots, and I did include them, but I combined them with cashews, a key ingredient in my cheese spreads. That was the base to which I added pimentos, which I found in another recipe, nutritional yeast, and beer which I consider one of my greatest contributions to the vegan homemade cheese world. Feel free to use non-alcoholic beer if you don’t imbibe.
There are just a few other goodies, as you will see below, so it goes together simply and quickly. It is a beautiful color and an outstanding flavor and consistency. I would suggest that you make it as is the first time, as I worked diligently to achieve just what my palate craved. HOWEVER, food is nothing of not personal (and political), so alter as you see fit if it doesn’t quite suit you.
I’m not going to eat it tonight because I’m not hungry enough to fully enjoy it, but I plan to have nachos one night this week and will certainly share. In the meantime, the darn stuff is quite delicious off the tip of a spoon.
Note: To create a spicy queso for the outrageous Vegan Cauliflower Nachos depicted, simply stir canned chopped green chilies into the queso in whatever ratio you prefer and gently heat.
4 cups water
2 cups raw carrot pieces
2 cups raw cashew piece
3 ounces diced pimentos, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup vegan beer or non-alcoholic beer
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 teaspoons Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, combine water, carrots, and cashew pieces. Bring to a simmer, losely covered, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off, cover tightly, and leave sitting for several hours. Then blend carrot mixture in a food processor with all remaining ingredients, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Heat gently in a saucepan or in the microwave before serving.
Baby, it’s cold outside! At least it is here in Eastern VA where we are expected to experience the southern edge of the winter storm headed for New England. A warning is scheduled from 7 p.m. this evening until 4 p.m. tomorrow. Yippee….Snow Day!
When snow is on it’s way, there is only one thing to do: make sure there is delcious, nutritious, body-and-soul warming food ind the house. And this dip (which is darn tasty in a baked potato) fits that bill.
Inspired by the Super Bowl–you have to have dip during that game of games, no?–and by a bountiful box of GO Veggie! vegan cheeses kindly sent to me to test, I incorporated three kinds of cheesiness to achieve the flavor and texture I was after.
I am a new fan of GO Veggie! cheeses, having only discovered that the company makes vegan products (look for the purple label) when they contacted me recently, as the Kroger where I shop only stocks the vegetarian varieties. With nice mild flavor, texture, and meltability, all they lack is “stretch,” and I can live with that. Find a store near you.
Accompaniments: chips or crackers of your choice (I bought the beet tortilla chips in the photograph in T. J. Maxx–tasty and such a pretty contrast with the green dip!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add, garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and Italian seasoning and stir until melted,lowering heat at any point if necessary. Stir in artichoke hearts followed by greens, one cup at a time, allowing each cup to wilt before adding next cup. Then stir in mushrooms, water chustnuts, mozzarella shreds, and 1/4 cup parmesan topping, stirring until mozzarella is completely melted. Season to taste with additional sea salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper. At this point, you may transfer into a greased casserole dish if you like, but I baked it right in the skillet. Sprinkle the top with remaining parmesan and sliced almonds. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with smoked or plan paprika and serve hot with chips or crackers.
I haven’t used Go Veggie products in years, ever since I discovered that the Go Veggie products sold at the Kroger where I shop are not vegan.
So, I had no idea that the brand produces quite a selection of vegan products, including slices, shreds, and cream cheese in a variety of flavors plus parmesan style sprinkles until they contacted me and asked if I would like to sample some of them. Yes, please!
A big box arrived last week and today, a holiday in honor of MLK Day, I am home from school with a little extra time to experiment. So I did. A girl’s ‘gotta eat, right?
Having seen a couple of different preparations for Mac-n-Cheese on the Food Network this weekend–both made with a broth-based veloute style sauce and only a little dairy–I decided that I would use the Go Veggie Mexican Flavor and Mozzarella-style Shreds for my own rendition using veggie broth and soymilk. That left the Cheddar Flavor Vegan Rice Slices for the Smoky Cheddar Spread I had in mind. I could have used the shreds in my spread and the slices melted into my sauce this evening, but I wanted to see if the slices would shred since I really don’t make sandwiches or other recipes that call for slices of cheese. And they shred nicely…keep reading!
First, I broke off a strip of one of the slices to taste. The mild flavor was very pleasant and the texture quite nice. The slightly damp and slippery exterior was a tiny bit off-putting, but not a big drawback. With the rest of the strip, I performed a quick melt test, simply laying it on a plate and microwaving it. It was beautifully melted in less than 10 seconds. Brilliant!
Next, I fitted my food processor with the grater attachment, stacked the eight unwrapped slices together, folded them in half, fit them down into the feeder tube, flipped the switch, and pressed them down with the plunger. In seconds, I had lovely shreds. The cheese is quite soft, but it didn’t “mash” except at the very end as the last little bit went through the chute. No problem.
I made my Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread by adding chopped smoked almonds, a little bit of vegan mayo, a pinch of garlic and onion powder, and a hint of smoked paprika. But the grated slices would make a beautiful pimento cheese spread as well.
Go Veggie is not paying me to endorse their products(!), but I would definitely purchase and use these Cheddar Flavor Vegan Rice Slices again. Very low in calories and fat, but high in calcium, they are a keeper.
For the vegan versions of Go Veggie products, look for the purple packaging. To find them at a store near you, click HERE.
Stay tuned for more Go Veggie taste tests and recipes. And thanks Go Veggie for enlightening me!
Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread
Yield: 1 1/2 cups spread
8 ounces Go Veggie Cheddar Flavor Vegan Rice Slices, unwrapped, stacked, and grated (I used a food processor with grater attachment)
1/2 cup smoked almonds, finely chopped
Optional: 2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Optional Garnish: whole smoked almonds and a sprinkling of smoked paprika
Lightly combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until completely combined. Serve immediately with crackers or celery sticks or refrigerate in an airtight container until serving time. Garnish if desired with whole smoked almonds and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.
Visits to my family’s home in MS always involve food adventures. Last week, one of them came in the form of a mere description of a sandwich by my good friend since childhood, Margaret Deavours, who had heard about it on, of all places, NPR. This sandwich has become her go-to and I now see why!
Called *Diane’s Dad’s Sandwich, it consists, in part, of summer garden favorites: thinly sliced vidalia or red onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes. These fresh ingredients are “sandwiched” between a top layer of (vegan) cheese ( white cheddar is used in the original recipe) and, believe it or not, a bottom layer of crunchy peanut butter. Stacked high between 2 slices of whole grain bread–untoasted for ease of eating–this sandwich is a winner in more ways than one!! *Be sure to read all about the sandwich by following the link. Recipes entered into the contest had to be accompanied by a story; it is NPR after all!
Margaret made the sandwich sound so intriguing that I created a special Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese just so I could partake because, apparently, the magic of this sandwich is attributed not only to it’s fresh and unusual combination of ingredients–unusual, at least, for a sandwich–but the precise order in which each and every one of them hits one’s palate. That being the case, be sure not to flip the sandwich as you lift it from plate to face!
Margaret’s only addition is, to me, essential because I tried it with and without: fresh basil or cilantro in keeping with the Thai flavor profile (not pictured below, as I added it later and LOVED it). To stay even more true to that profile, I chose Thai basil with it’s hint of anise, and will never make it any other way–wowza! Because fresh herbs are an add-on, I wasn’t sure where to place them in the all-important stacking order, but I chose the middle, between the cucumber and tomato. Other than swapping out the cheese for my delicious vegan version and adding a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, the only other change I made to the directions was to soak the red onion in unsweetened soymilk for a few hours to temper some of that peppery bite and strong aroma.
Don’t be put off by the peanut butter! Besides the synergistic effect of all the ingredients, it is probably the peanut butter that makes this simple sandwich so extra-special!
2 slices whole grain bread, untoasted
1-2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
1 thin slice of vidalia or red onion (to rtemper strong flavor and aroma, soak in soymilk for a few hours, covered in refrigerator)
4 thin slices cucumber
Several fresh Thai basil leaves (you may substitute Italian basil or cilantro)
About a year ago, I purchased Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. Last week, I invited one of my vegetarian foodie friends, Trish Pfeifer, over to try out a couple of recipes…with disappointing results…except for our own Homemade Vegan Ricotta (pictured at right)!
I love the cheeses that I have created both for my blog (search “cheese”) and The Blooming Platter Cookbook, but I was intrigued by the promise of Schinner’s meltable and sliceable cheeses, as I am not a big fan of market varieities, even Daiya. Her photos make the cheese look like the real deal.
My Search for Rejuvelac
Many of the cheeses I was interested in called for “rejuvelac,” a liquid made from sprouted grains. I am busy, like everyone I know, so I knew that the number of times the grains must be rinsed, the water changed, etc., not to mention the days necessary for the grain to sprout, were deal-killers for me. So I thought I would purchase it but, alas, not so much. No one in our area carries it, but I found it online from Herbspro.com. It arrived sometime the week of July 7 while I was away–after ordering it on June 26–and it arrived wrapped in bubble wrap in a brown paper box though it was clearly marked “Perishable–Keep Refrigerated.” Oh, and the shipping for 2 bottles, which together cost $9 and change, was $20! I had decided to splurge for the sake of research.
I emailed the company to ask if the product only needed to be refrigerated after opening. They responded promptly that they “weren’t trained on the products” and provided the manufacturer’s contact information, also in CA. I called and was told that absolutely the product must be refrigerated every moment of its life and that I should throw it out and contact Herbspro for a refund. Easier said than done. I called and had to give my phone number to the person who answered who sent an email to shipping who would be in touch, though they weren’t there at that time (and it was mid-morning even in CA). I told him, after our brief conversation, that I had absolutely no confidence that anyone would call me back, though he assured me. And, guess what? No one did.
So I called back about 4 p.m. PST and got the same man to whom I explained why I was calling. He transferred me to “shipping,” where the phone rang interminably until I hung up. I called back for a third time and this time the phone was answered by a woman who knew exactly what was going on with the product–she knew it should have been shipped in a cold pack–and issued a refund. However, as I explained, they need to ship it with a signature required because I was out of town for a week and, even if it had been shipped cold, it wouldn’t have been when I returned home to open it.
Without any Rejuvelac, I was forced to choose cheeses that didn’t call for it, which limited our options significantly. One also can’t purchase unsweetened plain vegan yogurt here and choosing recipes that didn’t call for it would have, again, limited our options down to almost nothing. The amounts of yogurt called for were small, though, so I bought some plain sweetened yogurt and hoped for the best with Schinner’s Cashew Cream Cheese. I also selected Farmer’s Cheese (really, a ricotta), which only called for soymilk, vinegar and salt. THe latter also involved actual dairy cheese-making methods, which I wanted to try.
Schinners Farmer’s Cheese/Ricotta–A Dud! (my SUCCESSFUL recipe follows at the bottom)
Our first attempt at Schinner’s”Farmer’s Cheese” was a complete flop. We added the vinegar to 200 degree soymilk exactly as instructed and watched as beautiful curds formed and then watched as they just as quickly melted, leaving us with nothing but a pot of warm milk. The problem with this recipe is incomplete instructions. She never says to remove the pot from the heat after the vinegar is added. She just says to add the vinegar and that curds will continue to form over the next 10 minutes. Ten minutes, we assumed, of cooking, since NOWHERE did she say to remove the pot from the burner, nor to turn it off.
I decided to look up homemade dairy ricotta recipes online and both that I consulted said to remove the pot from the heat as soon as the vinegar is added. That worked beautifull and we were thrilled with our results. But, Schinner’s yield says 2 cups and ours was 1. Because both online dairy recipes called for dairy milk and cream, we thought we should perhaps compensate for the lack of cream in some way. So the third time we made it, we reduced the milk by 25% to 6 cups, but kept the amount of vinegar the same at 1/4 cup. We saved milk and got the same beautiful results–a yield of 1 cup–with no vinegary taste. The only other change was not to let the curds form over the course of 10 minutes before pouring the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, but 1, as one of the online dairy recipes instructed.
Schinner’s Cashew Cream Cheese–A Disgusting Dud!
“What could go wrong?,” we thought. Afterall, I have made plenty of nut cheeses. But what I haven’t done is make them with live yogurt cultures AND leave them to cure, ripen, or whatever at room temperature as instructed in the book. The cheese was tasty–albeit not very similar to cream cheese–as soon as we took it out of the food processor. But as it sat for the recommended amout of time, it started becoming a bit foamy–not the consistency of cream cheese at all–and tasting spoiled. Schinner notes that the longer the cheese is left out, the “tangier” or “sharper” it becomes. It was not tangy or even sharp to our palate–as a vegetarian, I loved stinky cheese and Trish still does–rather it began to taste fishy and spoiled.
Because we wanted a firmer product, we weighted ours in a cheesecloth-lined colander and, as instructed, left them out for even more hours, at our respective homes. The results were completely inedible, as in gag-reflex inedible. I even tried salvaging mine with sea salt, pepper and olive oil. But, no good. Plus, I’m not sure if they would have made us sick if we had been able to choke them down. Honestly, they were disgusting and we both, independently, threw them out in our outdoor waste bins.
It appears that we are not the only ones who met with some disappointing results when usuing this book. Though the 4- and 5-star reviews far outweigh the 1-stars, I read some of the latter who share my concerns. My advice would be to 1) make MY version of Vegan Ricotta, and 2) if you are still tempted to purchase the book, read a few reviews, and then do so fully informed. *Evidently, a lot of people are achieving fine results with the recipes in the book. However, this ain’t my first culinary rodeo, I can follow a recipe with the best of ’em, and still didn’t achieve edible cheese. I gave the book to Trish to give to her niece who lives near DC, can hopefully obtain rejuvelac there and, perhaps, have better luck with the rejuvelac-based recipes. I am left believing that there must be something about working with live cultures and probiotics that is far more variable than the level for which this book takes into account.
*Another vegan cookbook author friend reports that the Meltable Mozza from the book is nice. One of the reviews on Amazon, however, reports that it didn’t work. Buyer beware.
The Blooming Platter’s Homemade Vegan Ricotta Cheese
6 cups unsweetened soymilk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Line a strainer or sieve with 2 thicknesses of culinary cheesecloth (not the hardware store variety), available at some grocery stores, at kitchen shops, and online. Place strainer over a deep bowl (I used my Kitchenaide mixing bowl) so that the bottom of the strainer won’t be suspended in the milk as it drains, or you can just pour off the liquid as it collects. In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat milk and salt over medium-high heat to 200 degrees, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar, remove from heat, and very gently stir as big fluffy curds form and separate from the liquid (which would be whey in dairy cheesemaking). After about 1 minute, pour mixture into prepared strainer and allow to drain for one hour. It will be soft at this stage and can be refrigerated and then enjoyed like this. Or you can create a firmer cheese, as we did, by gathering up sides of the cloth, twisting, tying with cord, and hanging from your kitchen faucet or from a wooden spoon set across the top of your deep bowl as I like to do (to keep the dogs out of it!). Let draindrain for about 8 to 12 hours, unrefrigerated. Carefully remove cheese from the cheesecloth, cover, and refrigerate. Note: use the drained off liquid to water your plants!