Queso with Black Beans and Pickled Vegetables

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Game day is coming up! For those of you not in North America, I am referring to the annual Super Bowl championship football game being played next weekend. The Super Bowl marks the end of the American professional football season and is an excuse for family and friends to get together to eat and watch the game. It’s watched by many Canadians too – did I say watched?

Does anyone actually watch the game?

Well sort of, but we also feast our way through the afternoon while engaging in playful banter over plays, players, bad calls, half-time shows and of course the final score. In fact, last year at about this time, some newspaper (can’t remember which one) stated that we eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year except Thanksgiving. 

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It must be true. In my experience, no one hosts a Super Bowl party without providing tons of food and no one leaves a Super Bowl party feeling hungry. Chilis and guac’s are standard Super Bowl grub but it’s a given that the spread will revolve around classic junk foods. It makes for a tough afternoon if you are dieting are trying to eat healthy.  

So, here’s where I can offer a Super Bowl menu item to help you stick to your healthy food goals and enjoy the game with family and friends at the same time. No Super Bowl spread is complete without a great queso dip as far as I am concerned and this vegan version is just the ticket when surrounded by less-healthy options. It’s pretty quick to throw together using ingredients you most likely have on hand and it’s delicious. In fact, its addictive and I know you’ll make it again and again. And why not? This won’t leave you  feeling stuffed and lethargic – even if you end up indulging a little more than you intend!

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Cheesy flavour is a must in a good vegan queso and so is a little heat from some sort of chilli.  

Queso

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup almonds or cashews, soaked
  • ½ cup sliced pimentos (4 oz. jar, including juice)
  • 1 ½ tbsp. fortified nutritional yeast flakes*
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp. pink Himalayan salt, or Celtic sea salt
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder

Blend the nuts with about ½ cup of the water until completely smooth. This takes about 20-30 seconds in a VitaMix, scraping down the sides once during blending. Add the remaining ingredients and puree another 15-20 seconds. Pour everything into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes until cornstarch is cooked and sauce has thickened. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm.

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Load it up!  The addition of all the ingredients below take this dip to a whole new level!  

  • 1 can cooked black beans, drained and well rinsed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red pepper
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
  • 2-3 tbsp. finely chopped pickled vegetables (I used a few beans from a jar of pickled beans in my fridge but you can use any pickled vegetables you have)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped pickled jalapenos (or finely chopped fresh jalapeno)
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • Sour cream (optional)

Heat an oven dish while prepping the ingredients above. Reserve a few of the beans, chopped tomatoes and cilantro for garnish. Place everything except the sour cream in the hot dish. (For those of you who like a lot of heat, add extra fresh or pickled jalapeños to kick it up a notch). 

Pour queso over top of the beans and pickled vegetables, swirl in a little of the sour cream and serve warm with corn tortilla chips, raw or lightly steamed vegetables. 

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The queso is scrumptious with or without my vegan sour cream but I prefer it with! 

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Leftover queso reheats well in the oven. Just cover the dish with foil and reheat at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture begins bubbling. That means you can make this ahead too. Add the sour cream just before serving, if making ahead. 

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NOTES

*I use nutritional yeast rarely and sparingly because it is a controversial ingredient and frankly I am not crazy about the flavour. It does however, provide a necessary cheesy flavour in this queso recipe and I know of no other substitute for it. You can add up to another 1 1/2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the recipe if you want an even stronger cheesy flavour. 

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