My Squeezy Cheesy Sauce

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Well, I hail from Wisconsin on both sides–Green County–mind you. It’s like the epicenter of cheese curds. My Swiss grandparents ate cheese at every meal, so I’m a girl who likes her cheese. When I fell in love with vegetarianism at 19, I just cleared my plate for more cheese! So when I became a devoted plant-based eater several years ago, the cheese thing was a problem. I dedicated a good part of my early study to cheese alternatives and I love teaching other people how they can choose plant-based alternatives to cheese. My next class, in fact, is at Uptown Kitchen on October 3rd. I hope to see you there!

What follows is my go-to cheese sauce. We put this stuff on everything! including brown rice, veggies and, slivered almonds (shown above); on taco salads; in breakfast burritos with sauteed tofu… the possibilities are endless! You can modify it to your own taste by changing the amounts of ume plum vinegar and lemon juice. Or add more or less squash to make it creamier. Also, if you don’t have a high-speed blender, check out my modification below.

Sue’s Favorite Cheesy Sauce

Ingredients:
2 medium yellow squash (12 oz.)
½ cup cashews soaked in filtered water 4-6 hours
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2T mild miso (I use chickpea, but brown rice is fine)
1-2T ume plum vinegar
1-2T lemon juice
½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
½ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. chili powder

Directions:
Steam the squash for 5-7 minutes, or until firm tender.
Drain the cashews and rinse.
Add cashews and the rest of the ingredients, including the squash, to the blender. Blend until creamy.
Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

If you do not have a high-speed blender, grind the *dry* cashews in a food processor until they are a coarse crumb texture. This can be loud and long, but don’t go too long or you’ll get cashew butter. Then soak for a couple of hours and proceed as directed.

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Here’s Your Super Chili Bowl

Without beans, meat or heat my chili can still beat up your chili! Okay, okay, that’s a juvenile statement and I used black-eyed peas, which are technically legumes, like beans, but they are also known to cause less flatulence than other beans. It’s true! Here’s the controlled study. And for reasons too numerous to mention, in this recipe heat was out, discomfort was out and meat is always out at stirthepot, so it was a bit of a challenge. But nothing is too daunting! My memories of chili are ‘meaty,’ ‘saucy,’ and ‘spicy.’ How could I retain all these good qualities? 

Bulgur wheat, and sautéed ground mushrooms stand in for the ground beef; imperial stout, ground tomatoes and tomato paste supply the base for the saucy; and cumin, coriander and mild ancho chili powder lend a spicy flavor.

To begin, you want four cups of chopped vegetables. Yes, you can use base chop, but make sure the pieces are small. You want them all to mingle. For this chili, I used onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, red pepper, zucchini and corn. I cracked open a bottle of imperial stout and poured few ounces ina rounded sauté pan. According to the internet, stout makes beef taste beefier, so who knows?  Maybe it makes bulgur wheat taste beefier, too.

I sautéed the first four on the list in the stout until soft, then transferred them to the slow cooker. Next I sautéed the red pepper, zucchini and corn in a little more stout and tossed those in the slow cooker. Finally, I sautéed a package of baby Portobello mushrooms. When all the liquid had been absorbed, I put them in my food processor and pulsed maybe 6 or 7 times. This is what they looked like.

They went into the slow cooker, too. I washed and dried the sauté pan and put in 1 ½ T ground cumin and ½ T ground coriander and a tablespoon of mild ancho chili powder. I stirred these over medium heat for a minute before adding 1 cup medium grind bulgur wheat to the pan. This I toasted for about three minutes. You will know when the spices and bulgur are toasted because the pan will begin to smoke and you will smell the difference. The bulgur went in the slow cooker.

Two and a half cups of ground tomatoes, the rest of the stout and one and a half cups of water later, it was beginning to look a lot like chili. (I’m not going to mention the part where I  freaked out because the stout taste was so strong. It does cook off without discernible notice, but consider yourself warned. You can always add more water.) It was time to add a can of black-eyed peas, stir and let the slow cooker do its magic for an hour or two.

After the bulgur had a chance to fully cook, I tasted the chili and decided to add 1 ½ T of tomato paste, ½ tsp. liquid smoke, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. granulated garlic.  In the end, you may choose to add more salt or load on the hot sauce (as I am intending to).  But whatever you do, the result is not only substantial, but delicious and perfect with corn muffins! That’s tomorrow’s post.