Vegan Cheese Ball with Chipped “Beef,” Mushrooms, Green Onions and Black Olives–A Great Holiday or Super Bowl Snack

Yield: 1 Cheese Ball

This is one of those treats I remember from childhood. It was always a favorite and it always signaled the Christmas holidays. Of course, I haven’t eaten it in MANY, MANY years, but this Christmas when I was home, we stopped over to visit the Crumbleys, some family friends–our parents have known each other since college–and Ann and her chef son, James, had actually made this particular cheese ball. I was filled with nostalgia and determined to clean it up vegan style. It’s a little late for Christmas, but it’s just in time for the Super Bowl!

1-14 ounce box extra firm tofu, drained
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon Amino Acids
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light miso
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon pickling or “corning” spice (grind or crush if some of the spices are whole)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Season Salt to taste
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
2-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small or medium can mushrooms, drained (ordinarily, I would NEVER use canned mushrooms, but they are a key ingredient)–I prefer the medium size can
1 small or medium can sliced black olives (ditto about the canned product)–I prefer the medium size can

Garnish: 1 small bag pecan chips

Puree first 13 ingredients in food processor until smooth, stopping and scraping down bowl as necessary. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, except pecan chips, by hand.

Line a medium sized bowl–as half-spherical in shape as you can find–with plastic wrap. Spoon and press “cheese” mixture firmly into bowl; smooth top. Fold ends of plastic wrap over to cover. Refrigerate several hours or up to a couple of days to allow “cheese” to set and flavors to marry. Fold plastic wrap back from top surface of “cheese” ball, place a serving platter on top, and invert ball onto platter. You may have to tug gently on corners of plastic wrap to help it release. Remove plastic wrap, gently press pecan chips into the surface, and serve with crackers or small toasts.

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Vegan Queso con Carne Dip (A Super-Healthy Choice for a Super Bowl Snack Supper)

Yield: approximately 4 ½ cups

My “Veggie Table” column in today’s “Flavor” section of the Virginian-Pilot featured Super Bowl snacks that, as the headline read, were “Super Dips without a Super-Size Calorie Count.”

For a lot of folks, the Super Bowl, or “Supper Bowl,” is a New Year’s Resolution buster if you resolved to eat more healthily or lose a few “LBs” in 2010.

But, no worries, you can have your favorite game night dips and eat them too. I’ve cleaned up two all-American favorites: cold spinach dip and hot queso con carne dip. Both are so flavorful and filling—thanks to loads of lean animal-free protein—that you can call them dinner. Plus they are packed with nutrition and are calorie-conscious to boot. In fact, the spinach dip is fat-free.

In this post, I feature my queso dip, the base of which comes from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. I started with her “Warm Cheez Wiz Sauce” recipe and kicked it up. Essentially, her sauce is like a béchamel only with the addition of nutritional yeast (not an active yeast) which imparts a nutty and “cheesy” flavor, miso and a few other ingredients to create a nice flavor and texture. It doesn’t exactly duplicate melted processed cheese, but you might think it’s even better. It’s certainly better for you. To this base, I add sautéed onion, hamburger style soy crumbles, corn, Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilies, a couple of southwestern spices and a few squirts of fresh lime juice. I serve the addicting concoction right in the skillet I make it in for a down-home no-fuss presentation.

For a marriage made in football heaven, serve this dip with my Vegan Fat-Free Spinach-Bean Dip.

Vegan Queso con Carne Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ of a small to medium yellow onion, finely diced
12 ounces Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles (hamburger style soy crumbles) or the equivalent of another brand
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
½ cup flour (any kind, but I used whole wheat)
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups water or plain or unsweetened soy milk (I used 1 cup of each)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon light or chickpea miso
1-10 ounce can Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (I used “mild”)
Juice of ½-1 lime
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
Optional garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat the first tablespoon of olive oil to shimmering. Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened. Add soy crumbles and cook until warm through. Then add corn and do the same. Turn off heat and set mixture aside. Make “cheese” sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine flour, nutritional yeast, and next 6 spices. Gradually whisk in the water and/or milk, olive oil and miso. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a whisk until bubbly, thick and smooth. Return soy crumble mixture to medium heat and pour “cheez” sauce over. Stir to combine. Add tomatoes and lime juice and continue stirring and heating until entire mixture is bubbly and flavors are combined. Check for salt and add if needed. Garnish with cilantro if desired and serve hot with your favorite dippers.

Source for plain “Cheez Wiz” dip base: The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak

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Vegan Fat-Free Spinach-Three Bean Dip (Another Super-Healthy Choice for a Super Bowl Snack Supper)

Yield: approximately 6 cups (easily halves)

As featured in my “Veggie Table” column in today’s edition of the Virginian-Pilot, another Super Dip for the Super Bowl–or rather, “Supper Bowl,” is this Vegan Fat-Free Spinach-Three Bean Dip.

What’s my secret? Non-dairy alternatives to sour cream, mayonnaise and processed cheese. But these dips are so tasty, no one will know the difference unless, of course, they think they are even better than the originals.

In place of the traditional mayo and sour cream in the spinach dip, I could have substituted the prepared vegan versions (and I do include that option). But I wanted to go low-calorie and no-fat. So I substituted tofu for one and white beans for the other, pureeing them together into a smooth base for the dip. The other ingredients—dried vegetable soup and frozen thawed spinach—are the same. However, wanting still more no-fat protein and fiber, not to mention color and flavor, I added both pinto and black beans along with a little cumin. Perfection! The subtle nod to flavors of the Southwest make the spinach dip a nice compliment to my Vegan Queso con Carne Dip, yet without duplicating flavors.

With dip as virtuous as this, you can afford to dig in with a few Fritos (they’re vegan), but be sure to balance them out with some veggie scoopers like baby carrots.

Vegan Spinach-Three Bean Dip (fat-free if made with tofu in place of mayo and white beans in place of vegan sour cream!)

 

1-12 ounce package soft Silken tofu (or 1 1/2 cups of vegan mayonnaise)

1-15.5 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups of vegan sour cream)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 envelopes (1 box) Lipton’s Recipe Secrets dry vegetable soup mix

2-9 or 10 ounce boxes frozen spinach, thawed, and moisture squeezed out

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 can white beans or dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Pinch coarse sea or kosher salt to taste

 

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process first five ingredients. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, combining well with a fork. Be sure to separate strands of spinach with your fingers as you add it. (Or, if using mayo and sour cream, just stir everything together.) Check for salt and add a pinch to bring out flavors if desired. Serve cold with your favorite dippers.  Note: you can use any type of bean you prefer, even all the same type.

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Vegan “Cheese” Ball with Smoked Almonds, Scallions and Olives

Yield: 1 “cheese” ball

Born in Texas, raised in Mississippi, I am a deeply south’ren girl. I subscribe to Southern Living magazine (it’s been updated if you haven’t seen it lately), Magnolias are one of my favorite trees, and Eudora Welty is one of my favorite authors. BUT, I like my collard greens without fat back and my tea without sugar, thank you very much.

For entertaining, we southerners love our cheese balls and we make them a million different ways. However, when I became vegan, I thought I’d tasted my last. Now that the holiday season is here, I found myself craving one in the worst way, both for the taste and the festive appearance. Though there is vegan cream and block cheeses on the market, I wanted one even more low fat. So I decided to limit myself to tofu and see what I could come up with.

If the non-vegan guests at a party I took it to last night are any indication, this is a winner. I think it’s safe to say that it was “set upon.”

Smoked almonds replaced the bacon which I decided to combine with pimento-stuffed green olives both for their briny pungency and their holiday color scheme. Mixed with the sweet scallions and a few other ingredients like nutritional yeast and miso to make the tofu taste “cheesy,” the combination of flavors transported me back to all the best parts of the Deep South.

14 ounces (drained weight) firm tofu (you may use extra firm, if you want the ball stiffer)
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Amino Acids
2 teaspoons mustard
pinch paprika
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup smoked almonds, finely chopped
5 ounce jar of pitted green olives (you could use black if you prefer), drained and finely chopped

Garnish: pecan halves, finely chopped pecans, finely chopped parsley, and/or paprika

Puree first nine ingredients in food processor until smooth, stopping and scraping down bowl as necessary. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and stir in last three ingredients by hand.

Line a medium sized bowl–as half-spherical in shape as you can find–with plastic wrap. Spoon and press “cheese” mixture firmly into bowl; smooth top. Fold ends of plastic wrap over to cover. Refrigerate at least overnight. (I like to refrigerate it for a couple of days to really allow the flavors to marry.) Fold plastic wrap back from top surface of “cheese” ball, place a serving platter on top, and invert ball onto platter. You may have to tug gently on corners of plastic wrap to help it release. Remove plastic wrap, garnish as desired, and serve with crackers or small toasts.

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