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, 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.