Eazy Cheezy Sauce

Make cheeze yourself!  With ingredients you (likely) have in your pantry!

I realize I have to share this recipe on my blog because it is so perfect.  Many of the folks who attended the Blog Launch Party back in April 2016 were amazed at the cheesiness of this sauce and I nearly ran out of recipe cards!  I also featured it on a recent post in THE DISH that describes my eating habits for two weeks and made a Instagram story about me cooking it (I do that now!).

Cheese is a constant discussion topic among current and aspiring vegans.  It can very hard to give up cheese as it is a staple of American cuisine and also the primary ingredient in most "vegetarian" foods.  We have all decided that animal-free cheese alternatives can be disappointing at times.  However, there are a few store brands that I like (Miyoko’s, Daiya, Chao, anything by the Herbivorous Butcher) but many cheese alternatives have a lot of strange ingredients, weird textures, and are not particularly nutritious.  The ingredients in this Eazy Cheezy Sauce recipe are real-ass foods that are easy to find and real damn tasty.  Better yet, you can flavor this cheezy sauce to suit all of your cheezy needs.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 1 medium Yukon Gold or other waxy potato, peeled and cut into small dice

  • 1 medium carrot

  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, diced

  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped

  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth

  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned navy beans

  • 1/2 cup cashews (unsoaked is cool)

  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I'm sure you can use less oil if you want)

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

WHAT YOU DO

  1. Place the potato, carrot, onion, garlic, and water/broth in a small stockpot fitted with a lid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer until vegetables are tender - around 10 minutes.

  2. Place cooked vegetables, cooking liquid, and all remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

 

NACHO CHEEZE MODIFICATION

After blending, place the Cheeze Sauce back into the small stock pot, add the ingredients listed below, and heat through.  Adjust for seasonings and keep warm until ready to serve.  Serve by ladling over nachos or add a can of re-fried beans and serve in a crock pot as a bean dip!

  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

  • 1 4 oz can diced green chilies

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)

  • Ultra Easy Version - Substitute a jar of your favorite salsa instead of everything listed above.

  • Chili Cheeze Version - Add about a cup (more or less to your liking) of vegetarian chili to the cheezy sauce! Either store-bought or homemade will do.

 

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Tempeh Reuben

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The Reuben sandwich – a juicy, hot sandwich consisting of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese slathered with thousand island dressing and stuffed between two sliced of toasted rye bread.  It has always been a St. Patrick’s Day treat in the Vaagen household and is consumed annually along with potatoes colcannon and some sock flavored Guiness (have y’all noticed how gross Guiness is?).  The consistent reappearance of The Reuben on the Irish holiday has always led me to believe that it was Irish in origin but a quick google search has its suggested birthplace as Omaha, Nebraska (same as mine…coincidence?  I think not). There are varying and conflicting reports as to the origin of the Reuben and none of them are even slightly Irish in origin.  It appears to be more likely concocted by a German/Jewish person which is not surprising given the ingredients.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter to me.  A dank sandwich is… well… a dank sandwich and I’ve taken to eating Reubens year round and will continue using St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to revel in their glory.  My vegan version is not only way better than the original but it is quite easy to make and serves as an excellent base for your St. Patty’s Day booze guzzling.  Here we substitute tempeh for the corned beef, Chao cheese for the Swiss, and make a simple vegan analogue for the thousand island dressing.

You can decide for yourself how safe the green beer is. 

WHAT YOU NEED 

(makes approx 3 sandwiches per 8oz of tempeh)

  • 1 loaf of your favorite rye break – sliced – I prefer the round and fluffly style like the New York Rye loaves by the Ashland Baking Company.  You get what you like.

  • 1 8oz package tempeh – cut into about 1/4″ slices – the thinner you slice the more sandwiches you’ll get

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic – minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • a splash of tamari – probably about 2 teaspoons if you’re the measuring type

  • a splash of water

  • Sauerkraut – as much as you like – be sure to squeeze out excess liquid before adding to sandwich

  • 1 package Chao cheese – original flavor – you can substitute your fave vegan Swiss here as well


    Thousand Island dressing  (makes about 3/4 cup)

    • 1/2 cup vegan mayo

    • 2 tablespoons ketchup

    • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

    • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 tsp red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

    • 2 green onions white and green parts – chopped

    • salt and pepper to taste

WHAT YOU DO

  1. Mix the Thousand Island dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, garlic, and caraway seeds.

  3. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tempeh slices and cook until lightly brown on both sides – turn the heat down a bit to prevent the garlic from burning.

  4. When the tempeh is lightly browned, add the tamari and water.  Cover and allow to steam for about 2 minutes then turn heat down to low to keep warm.

  5. At this point go ahead and toast your slices of rye bread.

  6. Place the slices of tempeh on what will be the bottom half of the sandwich.

  7. Follow with as much sauerkraut as you think the sandwich can handle, top with cheese to cover and low broil in oven or toaster oven until cheese has melted – about 2-3 minutes.

  8. Slather with Thousand Island dressing and place the other slice of rye bread on top.

  9. Chow Down – be sure to keep the leftover dressing handy for some extra dank dunks!

Super Saag “Paneer”

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Saag it to me baby! (I know… sorry, I couldn’t help it.)  But really, I love making and eating this dish.  Not only is it incredibly delicious, it’s incredibly good for you!  Everywhere you look these days you’ll find someone telling you to eat more greens.  Andddd, they’re right!  Greens, especially deep, hearty greens like kale, collards, and chard are jam packed with nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and a veritable shit ton of vitamins (K.C.E. and some B’s)and don’t even get me started on phytonutrients (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) that protect your eyes and maintain a healthful glow.

“Perhaps the star of these nutrients is Vitamin K. A cup of most cooked greens provides at least nine times the minimum recommended intake of Vitamin K a day. That’s right, just one cup. Even a couple of cups of raw dark salad greens provides the minimum all on their own.

  • Regulates blood clotting

  • Helps protect bones from osteoporosis

  • May help prevent and possibly even reduce atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques

  • May be a key regulator of inflammation and may help protect us from inflammatory diseases including arthritis.”

 Read the entire article about the health benefits of greens at verywell.com.

Anyway, you get the point.  Eating greens is the bomb and my Super Saag recipe is the funnest way to get ’em in.  Paneer is a type of fresh cheese common in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Himalayan cuisine.  Tofu is a great substitute for paneer as they are similar in texture and consistency and you can easily flavor tofu to mimic the tangy cheese by baking it with lemon juice and spices.  This tofu “paneer” pairs perfectly with the Super Saag as the chewy morsels dot the creamy greens giving added protein and substance.

Make this on a grey winter afternoon or whenever you want to trick someone into eating some serious greens.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 2 tablespoons oil – your choice – olive, canola, coconut, etc.

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion

  • 2 tablespoons peeled and grated ginger

  • 6 cloves of garlic – minced

  • 4 roma tomatoes – chopped

  • 2 thai green chilies (or any other green chili) – minced (option: remove the seeds for less spiciness)

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt – plus more to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

  • 12 cups greens of choice (kale, chard, collards, spinach) – rinsed, stemmed, and chopped into small pieces

  • Cilantro – for garnish

  • Lemon wedges – for garnish (optional – I like mine extra lemony)

  • 1 14 or 16 oz block of extra firm tofu (not the silken kind) – cubed

    • Tofu Braise

      • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

      • 2 tablespoons tamari

      • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

      • 1 teaspoon garam masala

      • 1 clove of garlic – pressed or mined finely


WHAT YOU DO

  1. Firstly, preheat the your oven (or toaster oven) to 375. Mix the Tofu Braise ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Place the tofu in a medium sized bowl, pour the braise over the tofu and stir to mix.   Bake the tofu for 15 minutes, flip, and bake for another 15 minutes until.  Set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the cumin and turmeric and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds.

  3. Add the onion and cook until browned, 3-5 min.

  4. Add the ginger root and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

  5. Add the tomatoes, chiles, tomato paste, water, coriander, garam masala, sea salt, and pepper.

  6. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

  7. Add the greens in several batches allowing the first ones to wilt a bit before adding the next – stirring in between additions.

  8. Place a lid on the stockpot and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the greens are very soft and wilted.

  9. Use an immersion blender or transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth.

  10. Add the baked tofu and allow to heat through.

  11. Top with cilantro and serve with lemon wedges, basmati rice, and/or your favorite Indian bread.

Root Vegetable Sambhar

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Soup season is here!  In these winter months nothing is so satisfying as a warm, nourishing soup to heat you from the inside out.   Winter is also a great timealllll to incorporate root vegetables into your diet as they are hearty and full of nutrients to keep you in tip top shape.  I chose to add beets to the Sambhar because of their rich, earthy flavor and powerful detoxifying properties which help offset the booze guzzling that tends to go along with keeping warm during wintertime.  This Sambhar soup may seem complicated but it actually comes together pretty easily and can also be made in the crock pot* so you can have it ready and waiting for you when you get home from the cold, gray snow grind.

Sambhar is a South Indian stew traditionally served with dosas, idlis, and utthapams as a condiment-like stew alongside a coconut chutney.  The key is in the spice mix which you can buy from Asian markets, online, or make yourself (recipe below).  Unfortunately, Duluth, MN is completely void of an Asian market and some of the ingredients are difficult to come by.  But we do what we can and I have included substitutions for the rarer ingredients.  If you would like to have a more authentic flavor I recommend ordering exotic spices online or stocking up at Asian markets whenever you venture out into the modern world.   As far as this recipe goes, you should be able to make due with the substitutions provided.

WHAT YOU NEED

(6-8 servings)

  • 1 cup split and skinned toor dal OR red lentils**, rinsed

  • 1 medium potato – peeled and diced

  • 10 cups of boiling water

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste

  • 1 medium yellow onion – diced

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic – minced

  • 5 cups of your choice of vegetables.  Beets, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, tomatoes – whatever you like – diced or sliced into bite size pieces.

  • 2 heaping teaspoons Sambhar Masala spice powder.  Purchased or home-made (see recipe below)

  • 1 tablespoon oil – canola, sunflower, or peanut work well here.

  • 1 teaspoon asafetida (aka hing) powder – optional but worth locating because of its funky flavor

  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds – yellow is also fine

  • 5-8 whole dried chiles – roughly chopped or broken

  • 8-10 fresh or 12-15 dried curry leaves (Duluth: available at Whole Foods Co-op in bulk spice section)

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

  • 3 teaspoons coarse sea salt

SAMBHAR MASALA SPICE MIX  (makes 1 cup)

This recipe has been adapted from Anupy Singla’s book Vegan Indian Cooking and I have altered to accommodate for the unfortunate lack of Asian food markets in Duluth, MN.  If you live anywhere else in the world or have access to these lentils, substitute 1/4 cup chana dal, 1 tablespoon urad dal, and 1 tablespoon moong dal for the yellow split peas.  Also if you can locate 1 tablespoon of white poppy seeds to add to the mix you will be so authentic.

  • 1/3 cup chana dal OR yellow split peas

  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds

  • 1/2 cup dried red chiles broken into pieces

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh/frozen curry leaves OR 3/4 cup dried.

  • 1 heaping tablespoon cumin seeds

  • 1 heaping tablespoon black mustard seeds

  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds

  • 2 3″ cinnamon sticks – broken into pieces

  • 20 whole black peppercorns

  • 3 tablespoons turmeric powder

  • 2 teaspoons asafetida (hing) powder (if available)

SAMBHAR MASALA INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat a shallow, heavy pan (like a cast iron skillet) over medium heat.

  2. Add all ingredients in order except turmeric and asafetida.

  3. Dry roast the spices while shaking/stirring the pan frequently to prevent burning.  Cook until the lentils brown and the spices smell aromatic (about 5-7 minutes).

  4. Transfer the mixture to plate or bowl and allow to cool completely.

  5. Add the cooled mixture along with the turmeric and asafetida to a spice grinder or powerful blender like a Vitamix.  A coffee grinder also works well here but you will have to grind it in batches.

 Now…… for the soup!

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 WHAT YOU DO

  1. Place the lentils and potato in a large stockpot and cover with 9 cups of boiling water and place on high heat.

  2. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are just tender – 15-20 min.

  3. Meanwhile, mix the tamarind paste with 1 cup boiled water in a measuring cup or small bowl and set aside.

  4. After the lentils and potatoes are cooked, turn heat to medium high and add the onion, garlic and 5 cups of vegetables and cook for 20 minutes.

  5. Add the tamarind and water mixture and cook for another 10 minutes.

  6. For the Tarka,*** In a separate, small pan heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the asafetida and mustard seeds and cook stirring frequently until the mustard seeds begin to pop.

    Tarka

  7. Place a lid on the pan as soon as they start popping to protect yourself and add the red chiles and curry leaves.

  8. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently DO NOT BURN

  9. Drizzle the Tarka over the soup.

  10. Mix in the red chile powder and salt.  Taste and adjust for seasonings and serve warm by itself, over basmati rice, or with your favorite Indian flatbread.

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*For Crock Pot: Place lentils, potatoes, vegetables, and dried chiles into the crock pot and cook on high overnight – about 8 hours.  Once vegetables and lentils are thoroughly cooked, add the tamarind, sambhar spice, and salt and cook for another hour.  Next prepare the Tarka as per instructions above and drizzle over the soup and Voila!
**You can use any kind of cooked bean or lentil and add them after cooking the potato.
***Tarka (aka chownnk or baghar) is an Indian cooking method that involves flash frying spices in oil to extract and intensify their flavors in the dish.  It is done either at the beginning or end of the cooking process.  Pouring the hot, seasoned oil over the dish essentially sears the flavor into the finished product and adds that extra va-va-voom notorious in Indian cuisine.