Monday, November 25, 2013

RECIPE TIME: Vegan Mac 'n Cheese Casserole (with Greens!)

A cold front hit the city on Saturday and like clockwork, my body sent me a request - mac 'n cheese, please! (when it gets cold, I crave soul food - the kind that's warm, hearty and chock full of full of fat and calories!). But of course, I just happened to have my gluten and dairy-intolerant friend coming over for dinner, and I figured she wouldn't appreciate my complete lack of regard for her dietary needs.

So I took to the web and a little hunting turned up the perfect substitute - The Detoxinista's Vegan Mac 'n Cheese. When you Google 'dairy-free, gluten-free mac 'n cheese', you find lots and lots of recipes with fake cheese, of which I am NOT a fan. The great thing about this recipe is that it uses cashews to create that creamy consistency that every good mac 'n cheese needs! It's a nod to the whole foods movement (for the record, you don't need 'fake' anything to make a good vegan look-alike!).

Ready to make some mac 'n cheese? Maybe for Thanksgiving?  Let's do this thing!

This step is optional but makes it so much better! Preheat the oven to 350F. Chop a few handfuls of broccoli into small pieces (I used about 3 handfuls of Trader Joe's pre-washed florets).
Grab your seasoning: crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt and pepper.
On a large baking tray lined with parchment paper, combine a light sprinkle of your seasoning with 3-4 Tbs. coconut oil (or other high-heat oil) and mix to coat the broccoli well.
Roast for approximately 20-25 minutes - until the broccoli starts to brown slightly. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook 8 oz. of pasta according to the package directions (To make this dish gluten-free, I used Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Pasta Fusilli. You can also use quinoa pasta).
Now you'll need 1 1/2 cups of the secret ingredient - raw whole cashews.
Pulse them in a food processor or other high powered blender until they are finely chopped.
Now grab your other 'cheese ingredients': 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (approx. 1 small lemon), 3/4 cup water, 1/2 clove garlic smashed, 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (I use Bragg's brand), 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard, a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of cayenne pepper...
...and combine with the chopped cashews in the food processor. Process until smooth and creamy.
Look at that delicious sauce! Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and return it to the pot you cooked it in. Add the roasted broccoli and pour the 'cheese' on top to mix. At this point, you can serve it as mac 'n cheese (the more creamy route) OR pour it into an 8x8 square baking dish, sprinkle with paprika and black pepper and bake at 350F for 30 minutes (for the casserole route).
Now take a bite and tell me you don't miss the dairy and gluten! (NOTE: this recipe serves 4 - as a side).
My dinner companions seemed to like it, and for the record, I had seconds! So there's no reason to fear this vegan substitute! It's finger-lickin' delicious AND so simple to make!

Tomorrow, guest blogger Sara Warner of Pidge's Pantry shares her favorite pumpkin-inspired recipes! Stay tuned (and stay warm!).

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