Good morning and Happy Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, but he’s usually wrong… so there’s probably actually six more weeks of winter. Which if you’re in the middle of the polar vortex is not something you want to hear. This Queso is here to save the day.

Who doesn’t want to dive into that bowl of creamy cheesy goodness. Whether you’re looking to fire up your game day or Maroon 5 concert spread, or just warm the heck up, these recipes for vegan queso, spicy buffalo cauliflower bites, and whole30 approved baked chicken dippers don’t disappoint.  So get a pen and paper ready to make a grocery list, you’re not going to want to miss this!

Creamy Cashew Queso Dip

This creamy, spicy, vegetable packed dip, is so good no one will miss the dairy! Serve with plantain chips, or veggies for a whole30 (ish), paleo, vegan and gluten free treat. 
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: gluten free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup salsa (medium to spicy)
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or water

Instructions

  • Soak cashews in boiling water, covered for 30 minutes or overnight. Drain and rinse.  
  • Preheat oven to 375° F.  Place carrots in a sauce pan and cover with water. Cook on med-medium high heat covered for approximately 5 minutes until very soft. Drain. Add to a large blender with the spices, nutritional yeast,  juice of 1 lemon, and soaked and drained cashews. 
  • Blend on low, adding a little almond milk or water and gradually increasing speed, until very smooth. You want it pretty thick, as it will thin out a bit when baked. 
  • Line an 8x8 baking with parchment or aluminum foil and grease lightly. Add the salsa, onions and spinach. Stir to combine. Stir in the "cheese" mixture, until well combined. Adjust seasoning adding more spice if desired. Top with crushed plantain chips if desired and bake for 25-30 minutes. Best served warm, can be reheated in microwave if needed. 

 

Vegan Nacho "Cheese"

This cheesy sauce is the perfect thing to make a big plate of paleo nachos or to dip fresh veggies in. Lower in fat than most "cheese" replacements, packed with some sneaky veggies, and 100 percent delicious. 
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: dairy free, gluten free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, whole30
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yukon gold potato peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1/2 - 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup diced green chilis optional or in place of jalapeno
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  • Soak cashews for 30 minutes in boiling water or overnight. Drain and rinse cashews. 
  • While cashews soak, add carrots and potato to a small saucepan. Cover with water and cook on medium high, covered until very soft. Drain. 
  • Add to potatoes, carrots, and cashews to a high speed blender with 1/4 cup almond milk, 1/4 of the jalapeno and the remaining ingredients. Blend on high, adding more almond milk or water until very smooth and the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more jalapeno and cayenne for a spicier sauce. You'll want more milk for a thinner drizzling sauce for nachos, or thicker for dipping. Serve warm, topped with green chilis and cilantro if desired.  

 

Baked Buffalo Cauliflower

Crispy and spicy this cauliflower isn't messing around. Serve with vegan ranch for a vegan friendly alternative to wings. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: paleo, vegan, vegetarian, whole30
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 package cauliflower florets fresh or frozen

Buffalo Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Hot Sauce (I used Chalula)
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder

Ranch Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup primal kitchen mayo or vegan mayo
  • 1/2 cup primal kitchen vegan ranch

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425° F. In a small bowl whisk together buffalo sauce ingredients. Set aside. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and lightly grease with olive or coconut oil. Add cauliflower to sheet, fresh will get crispiest and frozen will need a little extra cooking time. Toss cauliflower with 2/3rds of the buffalo sauce. Bake for 15 minutes ((Frozen takes 25-30 minutes), stirring halfway through or until desired crispness. I like mine almost burnt, and cook it for about 20 minutes, but all ovens differ so check often. Remove from oven, transfer to serving dish if desired and drizzle with remaining buffalo sauce. Serve immediately. 
  • For Ranch dipping sauce, whisk ranch slowly into mayo until well combined and smooth. 

 

Crispy Baked Whole30 Buffalo Chicken Bites

Crispy Baked chicken bites perfect for game day dipping. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten free, paleo, whole30
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts cubed
  • 1/2 c almond flour
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Buffalo Sauce

  • 1/3 cup hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil melted
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Paleo Ranch Dip

  • 1/2 cup paleo mayo
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Add almond meal, paprika, garlic powder and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper to a large resealable bag. 
  • Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment. Grease with olive oil. For crispiest results top foil lined sheets with oven safe cooling rack, place chicken on top of cooling rack and bake. 
  • Cube chicken into bite size pieces, or have your butcher do it for you. Add 1/3 of the chicken to the bag with almond flour and spices. Seal and toss to coat. Transfer chicken to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining chicken until all chicken is coated. Do not crowd chicken on sheet or it won't get as crispy. 
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on size of bites and desired crispness until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165° F. 
  • While chicken cooks, whisk together buffalo sauce ingredients until well combined. Set aside. 
  • Whisk together ranch dressing dip ingredients in a bowl or large mason jar and set in fridge, covered until ready to eat. 
  • Let cool for a few minutes, transfer to serving platter if desired and drizzle with buffalo sauce. Serve immediately with ranch for dipping. 

I love setting out a tray of chopped fresh veggies for dipping: celery, carrots, baby pell peppers, jicama, and sliced cucumbers in addition to chips. A bowl of fresh guacamole would round out this menu nicely! What do you have planned for the big day? I’m just there for the snacks, and Adam Levine.