It happened right before I became Vegan. Literally, just a few months before I committed to a cruelty-free lifestyle. I discovered that I loved spinach artichoke dip.
Tom and I traveled back to Wilmington, North Carolina – the place we eloped to – for our one-year wedding anniversary in 2008. We had become vegetarians the previous summer and in October we were returning to the South but with no BBQ on our itinerary. I did a lot of research before the trip, looking for places where we could shop and eat.
|Benny on Wrightsville Beach|
For shopping, we found two wonderful stores: Lovey’s Natural Foods & Cafe and Tidal Creek Cooperative Market. These two places had everything a vegetarian or Vegan could want. Restaurants were a bit more of a challenge but we managed to find a handful of places: Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn not only offered Mexican vegetarian dishes but they made it clear on the menu that the vegetables were cooked on a separate grill. Double Happiness Restaurant served Chinese food with mock meat and veg dishes. Their menu clearly marked which dishes were vegetarian. The Trolly Stop had tofu hot dogs.
And then there was Fat Tony’s Italian Pub…here we found a dish that I had never had before: Pizza Chip Nachos which are “crisp nachos prepared the Italian way- low fat, baked and then topped with spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic in a rich cheese sauce.” It was incredible and I think we ate it almost every day. I had never had spinach artichoke dip before but I was in love with it from that first day on.
The problem was that I knew I would be transitioning to Vegan very soon. In fact, as we drove from New York to North Carolina, I read aloud from Dr. Neal Barnard’s book “Breaking the Food Seduction.” I continued to read that book and other resources on that anniversary trip. As I learned that the dairy industry was the most cruel of all, I knew that cheese and I had to get divorced.
So we came back home to New York and became Vegan. Woo hoo! It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I’m not going to lie – sometimes I have cravings for things I used to eat, especially when I see or smell them. For instance, Tom and I like to go to Curly’s Vegetarian Lunch in Manhattan where we get delicious Vegan food. Next door is a pizza place that specializes in spinach artichoke pizza. The line is always out the door and down the block and it looks really good – just not good enough to engage in the cruelty that is cheese. NOTHING TASTES THAT GOOD! That just meant that I needed to come up with a Vegan version of spinach artichoke dip so I did.
The version I like best is similar to the one at Fat Tony’s – all mozzarella flavored. The one shown here in the pictures uses cheddar flavored Daiya. Eating food that requires the rape, torture and murder of animals is NOT a personal choice. Whether you want mozzarella or cheddar flavored Vegan cheese – that is completely up to you.
2 -10oz. bags spinach, stemmed (or 2 boxes frozen, thawed)
1 Tbs. Vegan buttery spread (I use Smart Balance Light with flax)
2 Tbs. onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chickpea flour (or your choice of flour)
1 1/2 cups soy milk (or rice, almond, etc.)
1 tsp. Vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup Vegan sour cream
3/4 – 1 cup Vegan cheese, cheddar or mozzarella flavor
1/3 cup artichoke hearts, squeezed dry and chopped
Tortilla chips or crackers for serving
If you are using fresh spinach, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the spinach for about 30 seconds, until it looks bright green. Drain and rinse the spinach under cold water. Squeeze out the water and chop the spinach.
If you are using frozen chopped spinach, thaw the spinach and squeeze out the excess liquid.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the spread. Add the onion, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook about 3 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the flour and cook about 1 minute, stirring. Add the milk and whisk until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, nutritional yeast and sour cream. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the spinach, artichokes and the Vegan cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the dip is thoroughly heated.
If the sauce seems to thin, add more cheese. If it seems too thick, add more milk and/or sour cream.
Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. Spread it on a pizza crust. Thin it out a little and use it for mac n’cheeze.
Those are all great thoughts, Rhea. I really appreciate it. Portion control is a major issue for me, with everything from tofu to brussels sprouts! I’m an overeater no matter what, so I have to be ultra-careful. I will definitely look you up on Facebook, and thank you for the invitation to keep the communication open. I think I’ll take you up on that, over time. 🙂
Marla – thank you 🙂
Molly – hi! Dr. Barnard is great, isn’t he? I first saw him on TV when I watched Christina Cooks and then his book was such an eye-opener for me.
I think I mentioned this in one of the first posts but when I first went veg, I was totally confused about how to fit it into the Weight Watchers (or any diet) plan for just the reasons you mentioned – the calories were higher and the fat seemed higher.
I would go into Whole Foods and now instead of buying fat-free, 100 calorie yogurt, I was looking at soy yogurt that had 150 calories and 3g fat (and higher if it was coconut yogurt). The same was true for cheese – I used to buy all these fat-free and lite things that had less calories. Now the vegan versions looked fattening and I didn’t know what to do. I would literally stop in the middle of the store, so frustrated, not knowing what to do.
After awhile I realized that the higher fat didn’t matter really because there was no saturated fat and never any cholesterol. Plus, any food that is low-fat or fat-free makes up for that by adding tons of sugar. Substituting a soy yogurt for a dairy yogurt wasn’t going to kill my diet plan.
I do use vegan sour cream and cream cheese but I’m careful with serving sizes. I might put a tablespoon of sour cream on something. I do buy light vegan mayo (if there is something that is vegan and lite, I go for it).
When I went veg, weight fell off, then stopped. When I went vegan, more fell off. I’m not active at all because I’ve been sick the past year but my weight still went down (a size since the summer from a 10 to an 8). I make whatever I want but I have to watch how much I eat. Portion control has always been my problem. But many vegan things are more filling anyway because of the soy. You need half the vegan cream cheese to feel as full as you do from the dairy kind. Once you learn that (which takes time), you realize you are eating less than a serving size.
I could go on forever about this. Feel free to email me or chat on FB anytime you want. I’m planning a blog post soon about the cognitive aspects of weight loss.
Take care, Rhea
I’m a recent follower of your blog, and I like it very much. I’m also a huge fan of Dr. Barnard’s – he was instrumental in my conversion to veganism, too, through the 21-day Kickstart. I have a question for you… I noticed that you use Daiya and other higher-fat vegan foods a lot (like sour cream and cream cheese substitutes). How do you work these into your meal plan? For myself, I have found that I can’t afford the calories, so to speak. Are you a very active person, someone who exercises a lot and therefore can eat a lot more calories? I hope that’s not too personal of a question. I’m still kind of learning about some of these substitute/analog products, like Daiya, and I am interested to hear your perspective.
DROOL. This looks amazing, Rhea!