7-Layer Dip with Butternut Squash Taco Cheese

Football season has arrived!  While I am not a huge fan of watching football, I can't think of anything better than getting together with friends or family and chowing down on yummy food.  I am always the person hovering around the food table stuffing my face, and I'm totally cool with that.  However, now that I have a tiny tot in tow, I'm always trying to think of ways to sneak veggies into his very meat packed diet.

The awesome people over at SILK have challenged me to create a fun football-friendly tailgating recipe that is both meat and diary free.  Considering how much meat we consume, this challenge couldn't come at a more perfect time.

I accepted. obviously.

One of my all time favorite tailgating appetizers are 7-layer dips.  They're my fav.  It's like eating nachos, but the chips don't get soggy after 15 minutes.  In other words, I can keep eating for two straight hours.  So even if my team isn't winning, at least my stomach will be happy.

I've wanted to make vegan cheese for years.  But, I'm not vegan and never really had a need for so much vegan cheese.  Plus, laziness may have played a tiny roll.  Besides, I always assumed vegan cheese was made entirely out of cashews.  If I'm going to eat so many nuts, I would rather eat peanut butter.  Just sayin'.

Then, one afternoon, I opened my refrigerator and saw the leftover butternut squash I pureed the day before.  I started to think...it's a yellow, cheesy color, has a mild flavor and purees beautifully.  What if I made a butternut squash taco cheese?

So, that's what I did and after some experimenting, butternut squash taco cheese was born.  I knew it would be the perfect cheese for the plant based 7-layer dip I was planning to make.  Now, the real question was, will my meat and dairy loving toddler eat it?

You guys.  He inhaled the stuff.  I gave him a bowl with beans and cheese and a couple chips and expected him to just eat the chips.  I have never been so wrong.  Seeing that he was using the chips as a spoon, I finally just gave him a spoon.  We refilled his bowl three times.  I would never let him shovel processed nacho cheese into his mouth, but I actually encouraged him to eat as much of my plant based nacho cheese that he wanted.  And he did.  My husband and I enjoyed 10 whole minutes of silence as he sat and shoveled.

As soon as you can tear yourself away from the delicious cheesy goodness, quicky prepare your guacamole and start layering. Beans, cheese, guac, corn, red onion, chopped tomato, bell pepper, black olives, cilantro and green onion.  I chose to omit sour cream and I didn't even know it was missing (and I love sour cream).  However, I do know you can make vegan sour cream from tofu, so I'm thinking I need to try that one day. 

You guys, that's it.  It's that easy.  Not only is it a piece of cake to prepare, it's also a equally impressive.  Best part, it's completely plant based and tastes delicious!  Thanks to this meatless Monday night challenge created by Silk, I'm thinking I need to make it a regular thing and keep Monday meat-free!

If you want to join in on the fun, head over to SILK for more awesome recipes and inspiration.  It's amazing what you can make with all plant-based ingredients.  Silk also offers a wide range of plant based products to help make your meatless Monday nights even more amazing.  Check out their dairy free Almond Milk, Soy Milk, Cashew Milk and Coconut Milk.  They also offer dairy free yogurt alternatives in a variety of flavors. Yum!  Find a store near you.

Vegan 7-layer Dip with Butternut Squash Taco Cheese

Prep Time:  30 minutes (plus 2 hours to soak cashews)  /  Cook Time:  5 minutes  /  Total Time:  35 minutes (approx)
note:  You will need pureed butternut squash.  You can roast and puree your own (super easy!) or buy it canned from the store.


Ingredients

Butternut Squash Taco Cheese:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least two hours
1 cup butternut squash puree, (recipe here)
1.5 tsp taco seasoning of choice
1 cup unsweetened SILK almond milk 
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (or more to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayanne powder (optional)

Guacamole:
2 large avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/4 cup SO Delicious dairy free almond milk plain yogurt
Juice of one large lime
salt to taste
note: I kept this guacamole as simple as possible since there are so many other yummy things going into this dip.  You can mix in chopped red onion, cilantro or chopped tomato to jazz it up a bit.

Other:
1 can vegan refried black beans
1/4 cup cooked corn
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp black olives, sliced or cut in half
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp green onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
Chips
 

Method:

Butternut Squash Taco Cheese:
Place pre-soaked cashews, pureed butternut squash, 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, taco seasoning, salt and nutritional yeast to the bowl of a large food processor.  Pulse until roughly blended.  Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup almond milk until you reach desired cheesy consistency.  It should be thick and gooey, not runny.  Transfer to a small pot and heat over medium-low heat until heated through.  No need to boil.

Guacamole:
In a medium mixing bowl roughly mix together the avocado, yogurt, lime and salt.  Set aside.

Preparing the Layers:
I prepared my 7-layer dip in a cast iron skillet.  This is not necessary.  You can use any casserole or glass dish.

  1. Heat your skillet over medium heat.  Coat with a thin later of olive oil.  
  2. Once hot, add refried black beans and spread evenly over the bottom of the dish.  Turn off heat.
  3. Slowly pour warm nacho cheese over the re-fried black beans.  Using a spoon, made into an even layer.
  4. Repeat the same process with the guacamole.
  5. Dump on the veggies.  I went from corn to bell pepper to red onion to tomatoes to olives.  I topped it off with cilantro and green onions.
  6. Grab some chips and dig in!

Enjoy!

Proof...

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

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