Category Archives: Condiments and Sauces

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Vegan spinach artichoke dip and friends (rice crackers and a really yummy beet dip)

In my last post, I claimed that my recipes were going to be healthier, with more of a focus on whole grains, fruits ands vegetables. Still true, I swear! This is a recipe I meant to post a couple weeks ago but never got around to.

I never used to like spinach dip very much because I’ve always had an aversion to mayonnaise. When I was kid, I’d freak out if someone left an open jar on the counter because the smell made me queasy. Yep, it was a pretty intense hatred. As I got older, I slowly started to tolerate mayo in the form of aioli. For some reason, if it was flavoured and not thick and white, I would eat it in small doses.

So, needless to say, I absolutely hated spinach dip with its gobs of the nasty white stuff. Over the Christmas holidays I got a weird craving for spinach dip and decided to make a double batch of it. I took it to a couple holiday gatherings to be sure I’d have something to eat. It ain’t health food, but it certainly is lighter than its mayo-ridden counterpart, thanks to a good dose of white beans!

Without further ado, here’s my vegan take on the ubiquitous potluck hit.

This would be gross if there was mayo in it.


Put into a food processor and process until very smooth:

1 19 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed (I used kidney)

1 tub Tofutti vegan cream cheese

juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cayenne

a few dashes of Tobasco (I added maybe 6? I like a kick.)

a generous amount of freshly ground pepper

Add in and pulse until combined:

1 227g can sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 green onions, sliced

1 box frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out

1 14 oz can whole artichokes, drained

That’s it, that’s all! Serve with accoutrement of choice.



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Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Salads and Sides

A Very Vegan Fiesta Mexicana: Chipotle Queso Dip

Vegan Chipotle Queso Dip: The perfect guilt-free procrasti-snack!

This post is brought to you by procrasti-snacks and my brand new portable photo studio and lighting kit, a birthday present from my thoughtful father! Right now, I am supposed to be working on an actual paid writing gig, but when my gift showed up I knew I just had to try it out.

The chipotle queso dip I made over the weekend turned out too runny to be really dippable, although the flavour was pretty delightful. So, you see, I simply had to make it again and do a little photo shoot as well. Oh, the things I do for you, my gentle readers. Although the fact that I now have a lovely procrasti-snack to keep me occupied from the impending task at hand is a nice little added bonus.

This recipe is based on one that is floating around the world wide web and is easily found if you search for “vegan queso.” I made a few changes, however: I used my own homemade salsa, made it gluten-free and added a hint of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. I mostly based it off this one at Nachos NY, which was inspired by Vegan Explosion’s Queso, which seems to not be posted anymore. Fear not! I tinkered with the ingredient quantities I used on the weekend and today’s chipotle queso is a much thicker, dippable dip. If you want to pour this over tortilla chips, à la movie theatre nachos, increase the water or salsa a little and adjust the salt accordingly.

This vegan chipotle queso dip has a hint of spice and boasts a big cheesy flavour. The best thing about it, though, is that it has very little fat compared to a traditional queso dip. It is also full of B vitamins, thanks to good old nutritional yeast.

The only thing that does not make this a completely ideal procrasti-snack is that it only takes about five minutes or so to make, forcing you to get back to work that much faster. Although, you could always blog about it after.

Insert cheesy joke here.

This dip is best served warm. The following recipe makes enough for a few people to have a snack. Double the recipe for a party!


1/4 cup brown rice flour (regular flour if you are into that kind of thing)

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 cup water

1/3 cup salsa (my recipe here)

1 tbsp vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)

2 tsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (a nice thing to have in the fridge)


Whisk all the dry ingredients in a saucepan.

Whisk in the water.

Turn on the heat to medium or medium low, depending on how hot your stove runs. Mine is super hot, so I lowered the heat.

Keep whisking! Seriously, if you do something else for a minute, you will get lumps.

Once the mixture is thick (this did not take long for me), whisk in Earth Balance until it is melted.

Add salsa and adobo sauce and let the mixture warm up.

Enjoy with some good quality tortilla chips!

Thick and cheesy vegan dip for you!


Filed under Condiments and Sauces

A Very Vegan Fiesta Mexicana: Six Layer Dip

This weekend, I hosted a Mexican themed costume party for my 27th birthday. My original plan was to have a “dress as your favourite celebrity that died at 27” party, thinking there were oodles of them which, happily, there are not. So, Mexican was the next obvious choice. I adore Mexican culture and food. And perhaps I have always wanted to dress as Frida, one of my idols.

Keen Frida.

It was so fun! It was an honour to rub shoulders with skeletons, luchadores and cowboys while dancing to latin tunes and eating veganized Mexican-insired snacks made by yours truly. I also made vegan horchata to wash it all down.

The Spread: Zucchini Guacamole, Six Layer Dip, Vegan Queso, Salsa and Guacamole. Not Shown: Tequila Bar (ugh).

I did not write down the recipe for the zucchini guacamole, as I got the idea from Healthy. Happy. Life.  I didn’t follow Kathy’s recipe, but maybe would not have thought to add lightly sauteed zucchini to traditional guacamole! I think it is a fantastic and delicious way of reducing the fat in typical guac. Not that I really care about that. Anyway, I lightly sauteed the zucchini and tossed it with cubed avocado, minced garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Or, rather, my sister Zoe did as I barked orders at her during my “party starts in one hour and I have yet to draw on my unibrow” freakout. I also made regular guacamole for my six layer dip. Sorry folks, I did not write that one down either! It also happened during the aforementioned meltdown. It is so simple though: just mash as many ripe avocados as you deem necessary and add minced garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Easy peasy lime squeezy!


Anyway, on to the dip. This recipe makes a large (lasagna-sized) pan of delicious dip, suitable for a potluck! Feel free to halve the recipe.

Six Layers of Heaven.


1 large 29 oz. can refried beans (make sure there’s no lard!) or 2 smaller cans.

2 12 oz. tubs Tofutti Sour Supreme vegan sour cream

2 tbsp. taco seasoning (store-bought, or make your own, like I did, using this recipe)

A double recipe of salsa (my recipe here)

Guacamole (I believe I used about 8 small avocados, but kept some guac aside for dipping purposes)

3 green onions, sliced in rounds

Canned sliced black olives


Place salsa in a sieve over a bowl or jar and let as much liquid drain out as possible. This is important, otherwise you will end up with a soggy, watery dip. No bueno.

In a bowl, mix the vegan sour cream with the taco seasoning.

Using a spatula, neatly spread refried beans in a 9″ by 13″ pan.

Rinse the spatula and spread the drained salsa on top.

Follow with the guacamole and finish with the spiced Sour Supreme.

Sprinkle olives and green onions on top.

Serve with good quality tortilla chips and observe the crowd that develops around your potluck contribution!

Yo tengo hambre.

Coming soon: the recipes for vegan horchata and vegan queso dip!

Hasta luego!

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Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Salads and Sides

Vegan Spaghetti Puttanesca

Feed your inner saucy minx with this scandalously delicious puttanesca, sans anchovies.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook (a highly reliable source that has gotten me through many a paper), puttanesca sauce was developed by Italian prostitutes who needed a quick and tasty meal in between clients. Thank you, working gals of Italy! I have no idea if this is actually true, but believing it may add a little mystique to your dinner, so why not?

Savvy Italian prostitutes may not have whipped up this speedy and flavourful sauce, but you certainly should! It is one of the fastest and easiest tomato sauce recipes I know and it packs a punch, thanks to briny olives and capers along with the usual suspects of garlic, basil, tomatoes, onions and wine. I used to make it with anchovies and a wee bit of gorgonzola, but I honestly think it is every bit as good without.

This recipe is another one I honed during my stint living with my Italian second family. It is one of those recipes that isn’t measured and everyone’s version tastes just a bit different. I love how every cook’s food somehow has a distinct flavour, even if the ingredients are the same.

Today, I measured the ingredients as I went but usually I just eyeball it. So please use this as a blueprint and let your inner Italian prostitute guide you.

Vegan puttanesca sauce over brown rice spaghetti. Food styling and photography by Jack.

This sauce doesn’t take much longer to cook than the time it takes to boil your pasta, making it a great weeknight dinner.


2 tbsp olive oil (or less if you’re watching your fat intake)

1 white onion, diced

1/2 a jalapeño, seeded if it is a hot one

1/4 cup red wine

3/4 cup canned sliced black olives, drained

1/4 cup capers, drained

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (optional)

4 cloves garlic, minced

680 mL can Hunt’s plain tomato sauce

28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

Brown rice spaghetti (I use Tinkyada brand)


Heat olive oil on medium-low. Add onion and jalapeño. Fry, stirring, for 15 minutes until softened. Lower the heat if the onions are browning. This should be a gentle process.

When onions are softened, turn heat to high. Add the red wine and stir constantly until the liquid has reduced and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn the heat back to medium-low.

Add the capers, olives and fresh basil. Fry for 5 minutes.

Put your pasta water on and boil the noodles while you do the following steps.

Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add Hunt’s and diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer while your noodles are boiling.

Taste for salt. I did not need to add any, thanks to the saltiness of the capers and olives.

Serve over brown rice pasta and sprinkle with a little nutritional yeast (a delightful and vitamin-packed alternative to parmesan).

Buon Appetito!

Serves 6. Or 2 with leftovers. 


Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner, Pasta

A Tale of Two Dips: Hummus and Salsa

Salsa and Hummus, snug as two bugs.

It has been a very busy and exciting few weeks chez The Keen Kitchen, hence the tragic lack of posts. Meals have been hurried
slapdash  affairs, consisting mostly of brown rice pasta, jarred plain tomato sauce and pesto from the last big batch that I thankfully made a couple weeks ago. Highly un-blogworthy  stuff.

Why so busy? Well, I am pleased to announce that we are moving! Just 2 blocks away, our new place is an adorable top floor suite that has oodles of natural light, partly thanks to a skylight in the kitchen (!). This is good news for The Keen Kitchen as I will no longer have to trudge outside every time I want to take pictures of the finished product. It also means I can blog all winter long!

Anyhow, to make amends for the recent lack of recipes, I offer you two solid dip recipes that are my potluck standbys– hummus and salsa. I am making them for my dear friend Nelinda’s upcoming engagement party, and they are, fittingly, recipes that I learned to make while living with her family and have adapted slightly. They are nothing fancy. You won’t find any trendy specialty ingredients in either dip. Instead, they are delicious classics that you can make using cheap stuff from the pantry and are always crowd-pleasers. They are also somewhat forgiving– I always just eyeball the ingredients but I’ll do my best to measure them today so I can pass them on to you!

Hummus: a creamy, garlic and lemon-infused classic.

This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of hummus. I usually double the recipe, as it disappears suspiciously quickly from the fridge. This time around, I tripled the recipe as there will be 45 people at the engagement party! I think a food processor is crucial when making hummus, although I have made it many times in a blender. The hummus will be creamier and smoother if you use a food processor and you won’t cuss as much throughout the process.

Hummus Ingredients:

1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon, juiced

1 large or 2 smallish cloves garlic

1 heaping tbsp tahini

1/8 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. salt

a generous amount of freshly ground pepper


Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until very smooth, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides if necessary. If you desire a fluffier or runnier hummus, simply add a little more water or olive oil and adjust the salt. The longer you process, the smoother it’ll be!

Best served at room temperature.


Hola, salsa mexicana.

I also tripled this recipe, but I usually just make one can’s worth of salsa for taco night. This salsa is so fresh, easy and yummy, there really is no point in buying the store-bought stuff! This blends up perfectly in any old blender.

Salsa Ingredients:

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, liquid drained out

1/3 cup chopped white onion

1 large garlic clove

1/2 – 1 jalapeño, seeded or not depending on how hot it is. Test it.

1/4 lime, juiced

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 bunch cilantro

freshly ground pepper to taste


Throw everything in the blender. I put the onions, garlic and jalapeño first, then tomatoes, then liquids and seasoning, then cilantro.

Pulse on a low setting, such as “chop” or “mix” until desired consistency. The salsa can be as chunky or blended as you like!

Taste for vinegar and salt, and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that the flavours will intensify as the salsa sits.

Best served at room temperature.

Eat it.


Filed under Condiments and Sauces

Vegan Pasta Primavera with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Pasta Primavera: Because the Italian word for "summer" just didn't sound as good.

Summer finally made an appearance yesterday in Vancouver and my neighbourhood came alive in the way that only Commercial Drive can. While my next-door neighbours were busy hula hooping and juggling to throbbing dance music, I basked in the sun and gorged on the first batch of local strawberries I’ve bought this year. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily wandering to the grocery store, iced soy latte in hand, with the intention of stocking up on some more strawberries. I ended up buying a boatload of fresh basil, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus. Feeling this was a grocery bag worthy of a warm summer day, I returned home with pasta on the brain. Thanks, fresh basil, you get me every time.

I’m not sure why, but I wanted Pasta Primavera. Is this something that turns up on restaurant menus a lot still? Maybe it was a food fad in the 90s, maybe not. The early 90s are but a distant hazy memory now. I ordered it a lot as a vegetarian kid, as often the only meat-free thing on restaurant menus was some sort of pasta dish. In my mind, the 1994 version of Pasta Primavera consists of some sauteed veggies and a creamy rosé sauce. Something vaguely Italian that turned up on menus in non-Italian restaurants. Sort of like the ubiquitous Fettucini Alfredo, my all-time childhood fave.

So, here it is! My memory of Pasta Primavera, veganized and without gluten: Brown rice pasta tossed with garlic and basil-infused spring vegetables and drizzled with a creamy tomato sauce. It was pretty darn yummy.

Now that I think about it, one could make this more 90s-ish by serving it with tricoloured rotini noodles or something. While listening to Ace of Base.

More sauce, please. Thanks.

This is a three pot meal, so it takes a little coordination. Make the vegetables and sauce at the same time, but don’t forget to whisk! Serve it with your favourite pasta, enough for 4 people. I love Tinkyada brown rice pasta.

Tomato Cream Sauce Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. brown rice flour (another flour would be fine, but I like rice flour for its neutral flavour)

2 1/2 cups unsweetened rice milk, or other unsweetened non-dairy milk

3 tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt


splash white wine (optional, but adds depth)

3/4 cup plain Hunt’s tomato sauce

1/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella (optional, but adds more creamy yumminess)


Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add rice flour and whisk. Let cook a minute or so to infuse your roux with a nice toasty flavour.

Whisk in rice milk a little at a time, letting the sauce thicken between additions. Once the sauce has thickened, add nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, dried basil, salt, and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

Add wine, Hunt’s and Daiya, whisking well to melt the Daiya.

Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside, keeping warm while you boil your noodles.

Vegetable Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 small white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces

10 asparagus spears (about half a bunch), cut in 2″ pieces

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste


In a frying pan that has a lid (you’ll need it later), heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add onions and a little salt and cook until softened, around 10 minutes or so.

Add garlic and mushrooms and a little more salt. Turn the heat up to medium and fry until the mushrooms release some liquid.

Add bell pepper and asparagus and cover. Cook until the vegetables are softened.

Remove lid and cook off excess liquid. Stir in chopped basil. Add freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Turn off heat and set aside while you boil your noodles.

To serve: This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so make enough pasta accordingly. For presentation purposes, I plated the pasta, then drizzled some sauce, then added a couple scoops of sauteed vegetables, topped with another drizzle of sauce and garnished with a fresh basil chiffonade.

Bon appetit!

Go ahead, unleash your inner vegan pasta monster!

Serves 4 average appetites. Served 3 in my house, as I was trying to fill up before going to work where I serve real Italian food and am tortured by it for 6 hour stints.


Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner, Pasta

Vegan Black Bean and Yam Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Spicy, cheesy, creamy, rich and saucy enchiladas. Vegan, but you'd never know it!

 Enchiladas, so nice and hot! Enchiladas, I got I got!

When I went to Oaxaca, I ate enchiladas with mole for almost every meal. Not eating meat, I was pretty limited. Nevertheless, I fell in love with those cheesy, saucy morsels. Corn tortillas filled with stringy Oaxaca cheese and slathered with rich, chocolatey, spicy mole made for many a fine meal.

Intimidated by the rather daunting ingredients lists for traditional mole recipes, I never took the plunge and actually made my own. Happily, while perusing the adorable blog, Scissors and Spice, I stumbled across a recipe for easy mole, thus inspiring me to whip up some enchiladas tonight. This sauce comes together using ingredients from your pantry, which is always nice when you find yourself wondering what the heck to make for dinner.

These puppies are vegan and gluten-free, but I am pretty sure you could coax any type of -vore to have them for dinner! They are delicious, and taste even better the next day.


If you or your loved ones are sensitive to spice, reduce the chili powder and red pepper flakes. I found the mole spicy, but not crazy spicy.

Mole Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a small white onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 cup Hunt’s tomato sauce (or other plain tomato sauce)

3/4 cup water

2 tsp. salt

Enchilada Ingredients:

1 large yam

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

1 can black beans (I opened a 19 0z can, but did not use it all)

8 small corn tortillas

1 cup (approximately) of Daiya vegan cheese (I mixed the Mozzarella and Pepperjack flavours)


Make the mole! Heat oil on medium-low in a medium saucepan. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper and fry until the onions are translucent. Add in spices and cocoa powder, frying for a few minutes. Stir in the water and simmer for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is your desired thickness. Blend with an immersion blender, if you wish.

Preheat oven to 350°. While mole is cooking, cook the yam. I find the easiest way is to wash it, poke holes in it with a fork, and put it in a covered bowl or wrap it in paper towel. I then microwave it on high for about 10 minutes, until it is very soft. Let the yam cool, then peel it and mash in a bowl with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Rinse and drain black beans and set aside.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 1 minute, to make them more pliable and cooperative.

Assemble the enchiladas! Spoon a little mole into an 8 x 8 pyrex baking pan. Dip a tortilla in mole and fill it with a smear of yam, a spoonful of black beans, and a sprinkle of Daiya. Roll it up and smush it into the pan. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and are snugly in the pan.

Pour the remaining mole over the enchiladas, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with a little more Daiya. Cover with foil and bake for half an hour.

Serve with guacamole and Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, if desired.

Serves 3. If feeding a family, double it!

Holy mole!

PS. Thanks to Melissa from Swapmeat for pointing out the sizing issue of my images. I tried to fix it this time around, so hopefully these photos don’t appear stretched for anyone!


Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner