Archive for the ‘dips/spreads’ Category

Soy-free vegan sour cream


Sour cream — smetana — is a staple in Russian (and presumably other Eastern European) cuisine.

Tofutti’s vegan version is awesome, but not great for people with soy sensitivities. I also worry about eating processed foods, though you wouldn’t know it based on how often I eat them.

While watching football at the Redwood recently, a friend got a little too liberal with malt vinegar — its flavor on french fries reminded me of dairy sour cream. So, I combined 1 cup cashews (soaked overnight), a couple teaspoons of malt vinegar, a pinch of salt, and about 1/3 cup water in my Vitamix for a creamy, soy-free, no-cow alternative.

It’s okay, though I might just stick with a recipe from the pros.

Vegan 7 layer dip

My formula for which team to root for in any given American professional sporting event is as follows:

  1. A Bay Area sports team, as that is my native turf. In the rare, earthquake-inducing instance of two Bay Area sports team playing one another, the hierarchy is: Oakland for baseball, San Francisco for football. You’re not supposed to “switch sides,” but I prefer the American League (because that’s the league the Red Sox play in– see #3) and the Raiders are terrifying. This rule can be adjusted if a player on the formula-defined opposing team is especially cute. If no Bay Area sports teams are playing in a particular match, then:
  2. A Seattle sports team. This is generally the losing choice for every non-soccer sport, but, if crappy sports are one of the few downsides to living somewhere awesome, so be it. If no Seattle sports teams are playing in a particular match, then:
  3. Any team competing against any New England sports team because Boston fans are obnoxious. If a New England team is not playing in a particular match, then:
  4. The team a friend is rooting for or a team whose win or loss will impact my life (i.e., the Big Boss is in a better mood when the Packers or Cubs win; therefore, I want these teams to win). If two friends are rooting for competing teams, judge based on #’s 5 and 6, or by which is the better friend. If the outcome does not affect my life or a friend’s’ life, then:
  5. The team with the most aesthetically pleasing player. If all players are equally unattractive, then:
  6. The team with the best uniform, colors, mascot, city, QB not being a probable rapist, or some other arbitrary qualification.

I obviously don’t give the proverbial damn about sports, and only watch major athletic events because they’re an excuse to get drunk during the day and nibble on unhealthy foods.

But, with the playoffs upon us (49ers!) and the Super Bowl approaching, I’ve been asking myself, “what can vegans eat while the omnis gnaw on pizza and wings?”

7 layer dip is my favorite for idle game time munching: it’s the ooey-gooey good parts of man’s most perfect food, the burrito, minus the carbs.

My mom always made 7 layer dip for pool parties and gatherings with friends when I was growing up. Hers had refried beans, diced tomatoes and white onions, store-bought guacamole, canned chopped black olives, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

Back then, I used to eat around the guacamole layer — kids are so silly.

This vegan version has vegetarian refried beans, Tofutti non-hydrogenated Sour Supreme, and Wayfare’s We Can’t Say It’s Cheese Cheddar spread; you could sub out the Sour Supreme with cashew sour cream to make this soy-free, and if you can’t find Wayfare at the local veg-friendly store, well, I feel sorry for you. My recipe also calls for salsa instead of fresh tomatoes and onions, purely for ease.

It’s just as cool, creamy, flavorful, and decadent as what Mom used to make, and will turn your living room into a tailgate party in 5 minutes.

Easy vegan 7 layer dip


  • 1 (16 oz) can vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 (4.25 oz) can chopped olives
  • 8 oz (1/2 jar) salsa
  • 2 avocados, mashed with garlic powder, lime or lemon juice, and salt (e.g., easy guac)
  • 2 (8 oz) tubs Wayfare cheddar spread
  • 1 (12 oz) tub vegan sour cream
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped


  1. Layer ingredients in an 8-cup baking dish in the order listed above. Or, in another order of your choosing — layer order will not affect flavor. Hell, put it all in a blender and it will taste just about the same.

Serve with tortilla chips and a healthy dose of willpower, because you’re going to need it. And, seriously: don’t waste your time with Tostitos. Cabo Loco and Juanita’s are the only way to go.

Beet fritters with dilled sour cream

If you’re sick of roasting your favorite ruby root veggies, I suggest you give fritters a try.

Now, grating beets for fritters makes your kitchen look like a butcher shop. You’ll have specks of red all over the countertop, microwave, whatever’s lying nearby, and yourself.

So, wear an apron and prepare for carnage. I know, I know — some of you are so vegan that this will be too much for you.

But, beet butchery has very tasty payoffs. Like pretty much anything else shredded thinly and immersed in hot oil for a certain amount of time, beets are delicious when fried.

Smother them with a thick, cool, creamy, dilly sauce and you’re really talking.

Beet fritters with dilled sour cream

makes 6



  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (3/4 lb) beet, grated
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (really only because I got a microplane grater for Christmas and use it now at every opportunity)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tbs ground flax disolved in 3 tbs warm water
  • oil, for frying

dilled sour cream:

  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh dill
  • 1 TBS lemon juice


  1. Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes; remove from pan.
  2. Combine, onion/garlic, grated beet, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and flax mixture.
  3. Fry patties in 1/2 inch of oil for 5 minutes on each side; remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Combine sour cream, dill, and lemon juice.

Serve fritters topped with dilled sour cream.

Fritters also do well when refrigerated overnight before being fried, so go ahead and make them in advance.

Queso taste test: Food for Lovers, Nacho Mom’s, and Nacheez

vegan quesos

There are quite a few vegan quesos on the market right now, which makes it easier/awesomer than ever to be vegan. I was pleased to see three competing brands in six different flavors at Sidecar for Pig’s Peace over the weekend, and bought three jars:

  1. Food for Lovers’ vegan queso (which VidaVeganCon introduced me to, and I love)
  2. Nacho Mom’s Ultimate Vegan Queso (also in Fire Roasted and Voodoo flavors)
  3. Nacheez vegan nacho sauce, spicy (also in mild)

I learned about 30 minutes later there is a feud going on between a couple of the quesos that extends beyond the grocery shelf.

As I checked Twitter at Chaco Canyon while enjoying a large kombucha and waiting for my sandwich to arrive (after stocking up on queso and other vegan goodies at Sidecar), I saw the following tweet from Quarry Girl:

OH SHIT! SCANDAL! did nacho mom’s@veganqueso totally rip off & steal from@foodforlovers? looks like it: #teamFF<3

If this is true, and there does seem to be quite a bit of evidence to that point, that was a really crappy move on Nacho Mom’s part. Still, I was determined to give each the benefit of the doubt and a fair taste test.

Update: the Facebook post above has been taken down, though is available on Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life. Please also see chef Alana of Nacho Mom’s side of things on her website or in her comment below.

It was a really crappy move on my part to take sides or spread rumors based one account, though I haven’t changed any of the initial wording in this post. I acknowledge my bias, but maintain that the results of my taste test are fair.

To ensure an impartial trial, I pulled in David, who is impervious to vegan drama. And likes nachos. A lot.

And to make it all scientific-like, David closed his eyes and ate a plain chip and drank a sip of water to cleanse his palate between tastings. All were consumed cold.

A: Food for Lovers. B: Nacho Mom’s. C: Nacheez

Food for Lovers

David tried this first and nodded with approval, saying, “Mmm… it’s good.” When pressed for why it’s good, he replied that it was cheezy, with a little spice.

I, too, quite enjoyed this one. It’s creamy without being watery or gelatinous, and is a natural yellow color, with visible chunks of tomato and pepper. It was the spiciest of the bunch, with chili being the dominant flavor, balanced by a mild, savory cheeziness. It’s very fresh and sinus-clearing.

Food for Lovers’ vegan queso is soy-free and nut-free, but does have wheat. The ingredient list is simple and all-natural, and it’s $5.15 for a 12-oz jar, with 20 calories per 2 tbs (12 servings in all).


David’s immediate first reaction to this was of disgust. He described it as having a sweetness that doesn’t taste like queso, and definitely not as spicy or thick as Food for Lovers’ queso. However, he noted that it is edible.

I didn’t pick up the same sweetness (roasted red pepper is the second ingredient, so I can see where it comes from) or disgust, but agree that it’s rather bland — definitely not spicy and without the umami richness of the other two, though I liked the flavor. The texture is a little jiggly. It’s also a day-glo orange color, which turns me off a little, though there is no food coloring added.

Nacheez is free of soy and gluten, but does have cashews. It has the longest list of ingredients of the three, though none are crazy or artificial, and is the priciest: $6.25 for 8.5 oz, with 20 calories per 2 tbs (7 servings in all).

Nacho Mom’s

David found this to be middle of the road: a bit of sweetness, but not as much as Nacheez’s, and also not spicy, but thicker than the others.

Nacho Mom’s really isn’t all that spicy (again, I didn’t taste the sweetness David perceived at all), but has a nice hint of smokiness, probably from paprika — it’s quite tasty. The only downsides are that it’s a little gelatinous if not stirred and is an odd pinkish-orange color, with many big chunks of tomato (the chunks of tomato not being a downside; just an observation)

The ingredient list is straightforward and basic, with tomato as the first ingredient — no surprise there, based on the flavor and appearance. It’s also soy and nut free, but has wheat. At $4.75 for 16 ounces, it’s the most cost-effective. It’s also the most calorie-effective: only 10 calories per ounce, making the whole jar only 160.

L to R: Food for Lovers, Nacho Mom’s, Nacheez

The winner:

Food for Lovers — the spiciness and mellow cheeze flavor make it stand out. David said he would eat this first, with plain chips being his second choice; I would order it Food for Lovers, closely followed by Nacho Mom’s and then Nacheez.

However, I don’t regret having open jars of any of them in the fridge, and will happily eat Nacho Mom’s and Nacheez on baked potatoes and steamed broccoli while David munches on tortilla chips dunked in Food for Lovers. Plus, Nacheez is a great option for the gluten-free vegans out there.

I wanted to hate Nacho Mom’s queso based on what I had read, but really didn’t — the recipe is different enough from Food for Lovers that, even if it is a rip-off, it’s just another option on the market, and it’s pretty tasty. Still, I’ll stick with Food for Lovers queso — it’s delicious, David likes it best, and the founders, a young married couple from Texas, are just too cute.

Bac’un scallion vegan cream cheese

Ah yes, a “Helen recreates Portland” post. Expect many of these during VeganMoFo.

Bethany, Andrea, Andrea’s husband Ken and I broke fast at Sweetpea Baking Company before catching the train back up to Seattle the Monday morning after Vida Vegan Con.

Bethany and I both ordered a bagel with bac’un scallion cream cheeze, and I’ve been pining for this savory spread ever since.

The closest bagel shop to my apartment boils their bagels in honey water, so some mornings I leave home a bit early and bike past my office to Blazing Bagels for a toasted everything bagel with tofutti, tomato, cucumber and capers (always capers).

On my latest visit, I also picked up 1/2 dozen day olds. These bagels whispered softly, “please… smother us in bac’un scallion cream cheeze.”

Now, who am I to say “no” to a baked good?

Out of the many recipes I looked at in my quest to find the perfect base, Go Dairy Free’s vegan cream cheese looked the best. It’s a little soft, so I might use a firmer tofu next time. Tofutti thickens their product with guar gum, so I threw in some of that (yes, I have guar gum just floating around — don’t you?) for good measure.

Bacun scallion cream cheeze

adapted from Go Dairy Free

makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 1 (12.3 oz) package firm silken tofu (i.e. Mori-nu)
  • 2 tbs neutral oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (3 1/2 TBS)
  • 1 tbs agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 3 TBS bac’un bits


  1. Whir tofu, oil, lemon juice, agave, salt and guar gum in a high-powered blender until very smooth.
  2. Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in scallions and bac’un.

Smoky baba ganoush

Some people hate the smell of campfires. Not me.

While others rush to wash their clothes after an evening in front of a roaring flame, I inhale deeply into whatever sweater or jacket kept me warm the previous evening.

I equally adore smoky flavors; smoke adds depth and warmth to otherwise bland foods.

Therefore, I was very excited to pick up a jar of applewood smoked sea salt at the Columbia City farmers market; the same vendor attends the U District farmers market as well. Scott of Seattle Food Geek has a tutorial on how to make your own if you can’t find any or have a smoker/grill and are so inclined.

So, I had a jar of the stuff, but was stumped: what to do with the little grey grains?

Noelle of An Opera Singer in the Kitchen gave me the idea (via Twitter) to do something with eggplant. Of course– baba ganoush!

The already smoky flavor of this spread takes well to being kicked up a notch or two.

Smoky baba ganoush (adapted from David Lebovitz)
makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 eggplants
3 tbs tahini
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp smoked sea salt

  1. Prick the eggplant with a fork and roast in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Let cool.
  2. Split the eggplant in half and spoon the pulp into a blender; discard the skins
  3. Add tahini, olive oil, lemon juice pressed garlic and smoked sea salt; blend.

Serve with pita, chips, crackers, bread, or– my favorite– cucumber slices.

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