Mexican Birthday Feast and Vegan Nacho Kale Chips

What’s pictured below is actually the leftovers from the Mexican birthday feast. This is because I will nearly always, without fail, prepare an epic feast, artfully plated, and then forget to take photos. I like to think it is because I am just so living life that I don’t think to take them, but it’s not great for this blog.

Mexican feast bowl

This feast was prepared for my partner on their 40th birthday, so it had to be over-the-top. Mexican is a favorite, and with a large crowd, gourmet taco bar was a good call. Offerings included: pork carnitas, crispy chorizo sausage, roasted mushrooms and onions, tofu-sesame-carrot taco filling, roasted tomatillo salsa, pineapple-ghost chili salsa, chipotle pico de gallo, fermented jalapeño apple hot sauce, pickled onions, cilantro, cabbage salad, queso fresco, crema and vegan crema, vegan habanero nacho cheese, tostones, and Mexican arancini stuffed with cheddar.

Some friends generously brought drinks and dessert including: jalapeño margaritas with sea salt foam, boozy horchata, salted caramel ice cream and a Mexican sugar cookie ice cream. I make a few toppings for a DIY sundae bar: toasted coconut, burnt pineapple compote, gluten-free citrus pound cake “croutons,” and some whipped mascarpone. No pictures of any of that sadly, but I promise it was all amazing.

The surprise leftover that really wowed me though were these kale chips that I made using the vegan nacho cheese dip. I stemmed, washed and dried one bunch of dino kale (the flat, dark green, oval-shaped kale) and then massaged it in a big bowl with about 1/4 cup of the cheese dip. Lay the kale out flat on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and bake at 250 for about 40-60 minutes. The first time you do this, you may have to check on them a lot, you want them to be totally dry and crispy but not brown too much. They can get a bitter flavor if they burn.

Here’s the recipe for the nacho cheese – which is also fantastic on celery sticks or tortilla chips.

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight, drained
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I used a homemade fermented habanero sauce, very spicy, but use what you like)
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar (or to taste, I like it tangy)
1 teaspoon agar powder dissolved in the vinegar plus a little water (you’ll need to heat and stir to dissolve)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until the consistency is totally smooth. You could use a food processor or regular blender, but the texture will be more grainy. Taste and add more seasoning as you see fit – I often find that I want it to be more tangy and saltier. You can add more vinegar or a dash of lemon for tang and you can add more miso or plain salt to make it saltier. You could also stir in chopped chives or pickled jalapeños at the end.

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