Saturday, April 14, 2012
Creamy Vegan Mac 'n' Cheeze
Ever since I saw this post over at Eat Me Delicious, I've wanted to make vegan cheeze sauce. The vegan pumpkin macaroni and cheeze didn't make the cut for blog posting -- it just wasn't enjoyed enough my Ashley. But it looked sooooo delicious.
I've been on a vegan kick lately. I don't know if it's our latest addiction to vegan burritos (or in my case, burrito rice bowls!) or what... but I've been exploring vegan cooking and baking a lot more. During March break, I made a list of things I wanted to cook before the summer, and first on the list was vegan mac 'n' cheeze. I was never a child that grew up on boxed Kraft dinner -- it was a rare, rare sight growing up in my parents' home. It was Chinese home cooked dinners pretty much every night, and I have a Mom who hates cheese, so KD is not a childhood memory of mine.
I have made macaroni and cheese before -- and it was lovely. Creamy, and cheesy and comforting. But would a vegan version be the same? I did a little internet research and found that recipes for vegan cheese sauces could really be categorized into three categories: heavy on the nutritional yeast (like 1/2 cups worth) and thickened with cornstarch, sometimes helped with the addition of miso, squash-based sauces like the one Ashely tried, and nut or seed-based sauces (I'm not counting the ones that call for vegan daiya cheese -- that's pretty much a straight substitution). The recipes that I found the most interesting were over the Post Punk Kitchen, where Isa makes Mac and Shews (that cashews!) and Sunflower Mac. Both lovely-sounding but I didn't have enough sunflower seeds or any nuts and I kind of wanted a lower fat version.
Instead, I took the Sunflower Mac recipe and tweaked it, replacing the blended, soaked sunflower seeds with cooked red lentils. It worked quite nicely. Red lentils are so quick cooking, and if you add a little extra water and cook it an extra few minutes, they melt down into nothing, leaving a nice creamy sauce-like texture. Perfect! I got help from an immersion blender, some smoked paprika, a splash of soy sauce and a good helping of nutritional yeast. It was creamy and comforting and perfect served with macaroni and greens. Next time, I'll add a little bit of mustard or a squeeze of lemon juice to perk it up a bit and give it a "cheesy" tang.
I'm definitely making this again, and you should too! It's relatively quick, and the only special ingredient is the nutritional yeast, which is easy to find in health food and bulk stores. Does it taste like cheese? No. I don't think anything tastes quite like cheese, but it's good in its own right. Go try! Happy veganing!
Creamy Vegan Macaroni with Greens
inspired by Post Punk Kitchen
2 cups of dried pasta
1 bunch of greens -- any kind you like; I used kale
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup of red lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of light soy sauce
lots of fresh cracked black pepper
1. Cook your pasta according to the package directions. When it's almost done, throw in your greens and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. In a medium sized pots, heat the olive oil, and add in the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes or until things get translucent and fragrant. Add in the paprika, lentils and water. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, covered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils and broken down. Check every so often, and add water if necessary.
3. When the lentils are creamy and saucy, turn off the heat and add the vegetable broth. Blend using an immersion blender until you get a nice sauce-like consistency. Turn the heat back on to medium.
4. Dissolve the cornstarch in a little water or broth and add to the sauce. Also add in your nutritional yeast and soy sauce. Bring the sauce back up to a boil and cook for a minute to allow the cornstarch to thicken it a little.
5. Add your pasta and greens to the sauce and mix well. Add in the pepper. Serve immediately.