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DSC_9309(small)One of the monthly cooking groups I’m in, the 5 Star Makeover group, has had a bit of a makeover itself and is now the Creative Cooking Crew of 24 talented bloggers, hosted by Laz of Lazaro Cooks and Joan of Foodalogue. Group member Trix from Tasty Trix chose the theme for our first month: “Choose one of your favorite rich, heavy, fatty animal-protein-based meals and give it a healthy VEGAN spin.”  It’s a theme I was pretty happy with, as I’m no stranger to developing vegan recipes (Refried Lentils, Spinach & Bulgur Wheat Stuffed Red Peppers, and Pumpkin Chickpea Curry have been a few favorites in my house). Thinking it would be fun and easy, I was pleased with this theme.

But when it came time to actually choose something to make it was a bit harder than I expected.

CCC-ChallengeI thought of Chicken Pad Thai, but realized that was too easy (just omit the chicken and use tofu instead, which is how I often order this dish when eating out anyway). I thought about Chicken Parmesan, but Eggplant Parm is just too common. Yes, I could use something else, but it’s still not much of a challenge. Boeuf Bourguignon came to mind. I could easily omit the beef, and instead “beef it up” (so to speak) with mushrooms, potato, and green peas…but I realized, then it just becomes another veggie stew-like dish.

Cannellini Bean Caccitore? Nope. Black Bean Burgers. Although I love them, I wasn’t feeling it. Sigh…harder than I thought.

Then I started thinking about all the vegan meat products available on the market…replacements for chicken breast, beef burgers, prawns, sliced deli meat, sausage, pepperoni, to name a few. But I didn’t want to use those. (Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with those products; I haven’t tried many of them, but I happen to love Tofurky. I just wanted to go another route with this challenge.)

I wanted a dish that has enough protein to make it a meal, but doesn’t use a meat “replacement”. Or beans as a meat replacement. Or tofu.

I was thinking about classic chicken dishes, and suddenly Chicken Divan popped into my head. (I have no idea why. I actually can’t remember ever eating it, although I am familiar with the dish.) Making this, I could omit the chicken altogether and get the protein from the sauce instead. No beans, no tofu, no masquerading “meat” products. Interesting.

DSC_9275(small)My Vegan Pimento “Cheese” Spread came to mind; needing just a few small tweaks, it became creamy cheeze sauce perfection (just try not to eat it all with a spoon or with carrot sticks as dippers). This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce, which I’m sure you can think of about 100 different uses for in addition to Broccoli Divan. Even just broccoli and cheeze sauce is delicious.

Broccoli Divan {Vegan; Grain-Free; Gluten-Free}
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 servings
Cheddar-Inspired Cheeze Sauce:
  • ¼ cup (30 g) raw, unsalted cashews
  • ½ cup (120 ml) boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon tamari
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup (12 g) nutritional yeast
  • Vegan “butter”, to grease the gratin dishes
  • 3 cups (275 g) broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 375F; lightly grease 2 small (8 oz capacity) gratin dishes with vegan “butter”.
  2. For the cheeze sauce, add the cashews to a blender and pour the boiling water on top; let the nuts soak while you cook the onion for the sauce.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown in places, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the onion/garlic mixture to the blender along with the cashews and water, along with the lemon juice, tamari, salt, turmeric, and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil; salt the water, then add the broccoli and cook 90 seconds. Drain the broccoli and transfer it to a bowl filled with ice water to immediately stop the cooking process; drain very well.
  6. Add the almond meal and olive oil to a small bowl and use a fork to combine, adding a pinch of black pepper if desired.
  7. Divide the broccoli between the 2 gratin dishes, and pour the cheeze sauce on top. Sprinkle on the almond meal/olive oil mixture and bake until browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Blender: You absolutely do NOT need a fancy high-powered blender to make this cheeze sauce.

Tamari Substitution: Although both tamari and soy sauces are vegan, I used tamari instead of soy to keep this dish gluten-free. If keeping it gluten-free isn't an issue for you, feel free to use soy sauce instead.

DSC_9297(small)Broccoli + Cheeze Sauce. There’s nothing wrong with skipping the “bread” crumbs and bake time for Broccoli Divan, and serving it like this.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. I am dying to try this out. I am not a big fan of nutritional yeast but I keep having hope that it’ll work for me in some dish. This looks so yummy. Hopefully it will be the one.

  2. Cheese is up there on the list of things I would have a hard time living without if I were ever to think about going vegan all the way…maybe once I try this cheese sauce I will change my mind!

  3. Beautiful Broccoli, Faith! I thought it was really fun creating a vegan dish for this challenge. Enjoyed reading your thought process. I didn’t want to purchase a sausage product, and in the end found it was easy and tasty to make my own. I’ve made many sauces with cashew cream over the past few years. It rocks. I imagine your Broccoli Divan to be heavenly.

  4. aah, wonderful!! this is actually what i was trying to do as well, but mine didn’t turn out well :( i’ll have to try this one!!

  5. VEGAN cheese sauce?


    You are a genius Faith!

  6. This looks amazing,Faith! The sauce looks so creamy….What a wonderful vegan cheese sauce!

  7. Wow, this looks great. It actually looks like cheese sauce even though I know it’s not. I’m sure this dish would satisfy a meat-lover :)

  8. Sounds delicious! I love how you created a vegan “cheese” sauce. Who would have thought? Great job!

  9. I’m not vegetarian/vegan but I love the idea of dairy-free alternatives – especially something like this scrumptious looking cheese sauce. Broccoli is a favorite at our house. Let’s see if the kids like this when it’s served up!

  10. I typically do not do any meat replacements in my and since I am not vegan, I do love my cheese. But the sound and look of your cheese inspired sauce has me wanting to try it! Beautifully done sweetie…hugs

  11. I love this cheesy vegan sauce! It could go on so many dishes.

  12. I thought of a lot of things before I decided on mine too. Cheese/dairy was the hardest thing for me to get over – so kudos on a good makeover of a cheese sauce. Looks like the ‘real’ thing.

  13. I don’t have a clue what I will do. My brain is swimming in duck fat and butter these days… I never do vegan, although often do vegetarian so this is quite a challenge for me.

    You rose to it beautifully. It’s a perfect dish (love cashews).

  14. Hi Faith!!! This just looks insanely “realistic” and of course, tasty. I love any sort of spread and love the way you used creamy cashews – great idea. Great creation for the theme!

  15. Love the idea of developing vegan recipes! I’m not vegan, but I do love good clean recipes to throw into the mix for adding nutrients to the diet. This dish looks fabulous!

  16. Faith you are so smart! I have been wanting to come up with a vegan “cheese sauce” and you’ve done it for me. I am soooo trying this out!

  17. i’ve been on a broccoli kick lately! i’m dying to dig right into this dish! looks and sounds AMAZING Faith!

  18. This looks very healthy and delicious. Would make a lovely lunch….mmmm

  19. That cheese sauce sounds crazy-good!!! I would definitely be the one to just spoon it into my mouth, tablespoons at a time. ;-)

  20. I love this Faith! I just posted something similar last week – it is one of my go-to meals right now (over a baked potato!)

  21. What a great creation Faith. Love the cheese inspired sauce with lots of nuts in their for protein. I dish I know too but don’t remember eating and would not be at the top of my head, great challenge.

  22. Great job Faith. Love the insight to your creative process. Also love the word “tofurky” makes me smile everytime I see it in the store.

  23. …and broccoli has a good amount of protein as well! (can you tell I am versed in answering the “where do you get your protein” question?) ;)

    I remember this dish from a friend in college making it often; I would eat everything but the chicken back then, and now I cannot wait to try your version! great job!

    1. Kristina, Yup, broccoli is one of my fav high-protein veggies, along with spinach, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms! Hope you enjoy this if you try it – it was delish! :)

  24. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    Grea way to dress up a that wonderful veggie…

  25. I have been making a red pepper “cheese” sauce and sometimes subbing anaheim pepper with a bit of jalapeno for a “mex-cheese” sauce or dip.

    Next up will be your combo of spices – turmeric is a favorite of mine.

  26. I want this for lunch. Will you come make it for me ;)

  27. I like the idea of a vegan cheese a lot. Since I’m not eating dairy, cheerless sauce is great substitute! :)

  28. Scrumptious! I love nutritional yeast.



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