Monday, October 6, 2008

VegNews Mac & Cheese

I'm always up for trying different vegan mac and cheese recipes. It's still one of my favorite foods, and it's such a comfort. The VegNews Mac&Cheese recipe has been circulating around the 'net lately, and it was so weird, and with such good reviews, that I had to give it a try!

Most vegan mac & cheese recipes create the "cheese" part in one of two ways: One way is soy cheese or some other manufactured fake cheese. The other is with Nutritional Yeast. This recipe contained neither. In fact, it involved pureed nuts and vegetables. Sounds good to me, really, because fake cheese is really expensive, and a potato, carrot, and shallot are well within my budget! I did have to alter the recipe slightly because it called for some onion, so I added a little more potato and carrot to compensate for the lack of onion (hence the strange "about 3 tbsp" extra measure on those). It definitely didn't seem like anything was missing. If I was going to make it again, I would also trade out the bread crumbs for panko. I didn't like the fresh bread crumbs on it at all!! Maybe it was the bread I used which almost seemed too sweet in contrast with the savory cheese sauce, but I think next time I'll just stick to the neutral crunch of panko. I also added about 2 cups of lightly steamed broccoli because I always slip something green into my mac & cheese. I will definitely make this again. Heck, I'm trying to think of other ways to use the cheese sauce. I licked the blender clean! You'll have to forgive the shoddy quality of the pictures... it's a battle getting my camera to stay on long enough to take a picture!

If anyone is interested in the original recipe, it can be found here:

Mac & Cheese
8 oz pasta (I used whole wheat ziti because it cost 1/2 as much as whole wheat elbows and I try to use whole grains wherever possible! Use whatever you like)
4 slices of bread, torn into pieces (this is where I'd instead use about 1 cup of panko)
2 tbsp + 1/3 cup margarine (earth balance, of course -- the cadillac of vegan margarines)
2 tbsp shallots, diced
1 cup + ~3 tbsp yellow or red potato, diced (I used yellow - didn't peel)
1/2 + ~ 3 tbsp cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1/4 cup cashews (I soaked mine for about an hour in some warm water)
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions

3. If you're going the fresh breadcrumb route, run the bread through the blender or food processor to make crumbs (really though, panko!). Toss with 2 tbsp melted margarine to coat.

4. In a small saucepan, bring the potato, carrot, shallot and water to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the veggies are soft.

5. In a blender or food processor, blend/process until smooth the cashews (drained if you soaked them), 1/3 cup margarine (melted), veggies and their cooking water, spices, mustard, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and silky. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

6. Combine the drained pasta, cheese sauce, broccoli if you're using it, and toss to coat. Pour into a 9X13 inch baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes til the cheese sauce is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden.