Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)

On savory flavor

There are many foods and food components that make food taste savory – that rich, complex taste that’s independent of salty, and sometimes described as “meaty,” and known as “umami.”  One molecule that contributes to those flavors is glutamate – an amino acid that’s found in meat, cheese, and even vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes.  (Read more here about sensitivity to glutamates, MSG, and the low-glutamate diet for people who are sensitive.)  It’s also found in nutritional yeast, a flaky protein and vitamin-rich product made from yeast cells (I’d write a whole article about its uses, history, and nutritional properties, but this blog post does that quite nicely!).

A word about yeast & yeast extract:

In full disclosure, I was sponsored to help create that video – and I’m grateful to be given a platform for the message!

I was really excited to see my friend Elaine post a recipe that uses nutritional yeast and is both Superbowl friendly and genuinely healthy!  The yeast provides that cheesy flavor, while the creamy texture and cheddar color come from tahini and carrots, respectively.  And it’s nut-free for those concerned about allergies!



picture from EatingByElaine


I decided to do mine with another twist, and sub canned tomatoes and chiles instead of soy milk for a Ro’tel-esque spin.  And let me tell you: this tastes AWESOME.  It even got the boyfriend seal of approval to bring to his friend’s Superbowl party today (which is not a healthy foodie oriented kind of crowd).


Have you used nutritional yeast before?  Any other recipes I should know about?  Without further adieu, here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Vegan queso salsa dip (adapted from EatingbyElaine)


  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh, room temperature tahini (runny is best, Soom brand is excellent)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Garnish: sprinkle of paprika, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add carrots
  2. When carrots are cooked (soft to a fork, ~10 minutes), drain and add them with all other ingredients except tomatoes to a high speed blender and puree until smooth
  3. Fold in tomatoes and chiles with a spatula
  4. Serve warm with chips or veggies and garnish with sliced green onions, paprika and fresh cilantro. You may want to microwave just before serving.


Superbowl Snacks Roundup

Well folks, it’s that time of year again…I am completely ambivalent about the teams playing (as always), but super excited for some eating, drinking, and socializing!  It annoys me that healthy food has a bad rap for parties like this – if you’re doing it right, there is NO sacrifice of flavor, fun, or dramatic presentation.  If you’re doing it wrong…well, you get the sad tray of pre-cut veggies that your supermarket has and call that the “healthy option.”

Do not do that.

Here are some gorgeous and delicious options, rounded up from my food networks, and all fit the bill of being nutrient dense and game-day appropriate.  Enjoy!

baked-buffalo-cauliflower-bites-15 Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Healthier 7-Layer Dip

Pollo Asado Fries

Vegan Warm Nacho Dip (nut-free)

Spicy Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

Pizza hummus 2
Pizza Hummus

Avocado Spinach Dip

Sweet Potato Skins

Spicy Salty Popcorn

Spinach Artichoke Dip

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

Superbowl solved: roasted garlic cheese dip


It’s not a secret

I never, ever care about the outcome of a professional sports game…don’t have a team, don’t love a sport, and truthfully I barely remember which teams are playing, even when a game is on right in front of me.  Just the idea that there has been so much time and attention dedicated to deflated footballs when there’s so much else happening in the world makes my head hurt a little.  But tons of decadent food, high spirits, and socializing all afternoon?  I can get on board with that, big time!  So I’m excited for the Superbowl this Sunday.

For most people, the amount of indulgence that happens while watching the Superbowl is akin to Thanksgiving or Christmas feasting.  If you’re eating a balanced diet and exercising several times a week, there’s no reason not to splurge.  But I’ve entertained a lot, and in my experience people always love to snack on veggies if they’re out, especially if there’s something to dunk them in.  My go-to is my Guilt-free Ranch Dip, but this year I have something new to add to the table, and it ups the ante because there’s a vegetable in  this cheesy spread.

Cauliflower: the most versatile veggie

Cauliflower is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with…it pairs well with any meat or fish, can be thrown into almost any soup, and purees into a creamy addition to potatoes, sauces – or dips!  This recipe combines protein + fiber, a satiating duo, and features Cabot cheddar cheese.  Perfect for dipping veggies like broccoli and carrots in, and it even works well as a sauce for pasta, too (I had some over mushroom ravioli, delicious). So whoever you’re cheering for this weekend – go cheese!

Roasted Garlic Cheese Dip


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz shredded cheddar cheese (I used Cabot Farmhouse cheese)
  • 1/2 c milk (I used whole)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash pepper


In a pan on medium high heat, saute garlic and onion in the oil for 3 minutes.  Add cauliflower florets (break apart from stem) and 1 c water; cover and simmer until cauliflower is soft to a fork touch, about 8-10 minutes.  In a blender or food processor, combine cauliflower mixture, milk, salt and cheese and puree until smooth.  Garnish with pepper.


I received free samples of Cabot Cheese mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe challenge sponsored by Cabot Creamery and am eligible to win prizes. I was not additionally compensated for my time.