Vegan Cheesy Buffalo Chickpea-Tater Tot Casserole

Bob and I hosted our 2nd Annual Christmas Day open house again this year. It is amazing how many people are available on Christmas afternoon. We started at 3:30 and went on for hours. 35 people graced our home with their love, laughter, and warmth, creating such a special holiday.

Oh, and they also graced it with lovely and delicious vegan food. Last year, because we were hosting Christmas dinner for Bob’s family afterwards, I just did sweets and cider. This year, generous guests wanted to bring much more food and I didn’t turn them down on their gracious offers.

Our good friend, Juan Gelpi, loves my hot buffalo chickpea dip, so I made some in my never before used deluxe stainless steel Crock-Pot, and I will definitely do that again.

With some leftovers and a house guest for the week who we ended up taking out for most every finner, I didn’t want any spoilage and waste, so I decided to make Juan and his wife, Barbara, both excellent vegan cooks, a casserole out of the leftover dip.

Let’s just say that these two serious foodies gave it a big thumbs up.  And I hope you do too. Honestly, there i nothing not to like about this intensely comforting and satisfying casserole.

1-20 ounce package white or sweet potato tater tots, baked according to package directions ( I used Alexia brand Sweet Potato Puffs)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cup celery, diced

3/4 + 1/4 cup cup sliced green onions

3 cups Vegan Cheesy Baked Buffalo Chickpea Dip, at room temperature

(http://www.thebloomingplatter.com/vegan-appetizers/vegan-baked-buffalo-dipbetsys-best)

1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese or cheddar cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and saute, stirring frequently, until softened. Add 3/4 cup green onions and continue sauteing a couple of minutes just until slightly wilted. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine sauteed vegetables, baked tater tots, and dip.  Spoon into a greased casserole dish, sprinkle with grated cheddar and remaining 1/4 cup green onions. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

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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
Yes!

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 Cauliflower Nachos with Best Vegan Queso

­Yield: 2 servings

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

Sea salt to taste

Ground cumin to taste

Smoked paprika to taste

About 1/2 cup my Vegan Queso

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.

 

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Betsy’s Best Vegan Queso

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.

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Blooming Platter Recipes Posted On GO Veggie! Website: Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread and Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese!

GO Veggie! recently posted to their website two of my newest recipes made with their delicious vegan cheese products. Check out the cheesy goodness:

Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread

Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese

Go Veggie Smoky Cheddar Spread

 

Southwestern Mac-n-Cheese--horizontal

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Vegan Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms, and Water Chestnuts (made with GO Veggie! cheeses)

Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms and Water ChestuntsYield: approximately 6 cups

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.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced (or 1/2 medium onion)

Sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1-8 ounce carton GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Chive and Garlic  Cream Cheese

1/2  to 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or dried oregano)

2-14 ounce cans artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained well, and chopped

3 cups coarsely chopped and lightly packed fresh mustard greens (feel free to use the greens of your choice, e.g. kale, spinach, Swiss Chard, etc.)

1-7 to 8 ounce cansliced  mushrooms, drained (I almost always use fresh everything, but canned are perfect for this)

1-8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained

1-8 ounce package GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Mozzarella Shreds

1/2 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping, divided

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Garnish: smoked or plain paprika

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.

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Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread–Ultra Quick and Easy (Made with Go Veggie Cheddar Flavor Vegan Rice Slices)

Go Veggie Smoky Cheddar SpreadI 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.

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Veganized!: Diane’s Dad’s Sandwich, a Winner in NPR’s “Taste of Summer” Contest (in Honor of August, National Sandwich Month)

Diane's Dad's Sandwich--stackedYield: 1 sandwich (easily mulitplies)

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)

2 thin slices tomato

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons Vegan Sharp Cheddar Spread (recipe follows)

Spread 1 piece of bread with peanut butter and then layer on ingredients in the order given.  A note to you sandwich flippers: be sure to eat the sandwich with the peanut butter on the bottom!

 

Vegan Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread

2 cups raw cashews, covered in 2 cups water and soaked overnight

1/2 cup white miso (which is actually golden; this amount is needed for that “sharpness” unique to cheddar)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon turmeric (for color; I decided to go for a yellow cheddar for more color)

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1/3 cup dry champagne, prosecco, white wine or beer (a non-alcoholic wine or beer may be substituted)

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process several minutes or until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Diane's Dad's Sandwich--open

 

 

 

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