Thursday, January 19, 2012

My First Vegan Mac-n-Cheeze

I have resisted making a Vegan Mac-n-cheese for the over two years that I have been cooking the no-oil vegan way.

It's hard to believe, although I came pretty close to making it about a year ago. I got scared off when I read the review's of a very famous blogger's recipe. Let's just say they were very mixed. Some were complaining that it didn't taste at all like classic mac-n-cheese. And I wasn't taking any chances.

Fast forward about a year when I happened upon this recipe from Oh She Glows. I used to read this blog pretty regularly, but the frequency with which Angela posted recipes and photos about food that I have no business eating drove me away (my own personal problem--trigger foods). It's really too bad, because I have a suspicion that she's got some kick butt savory recipes on there.

But somehow a recipe for Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheeze from Oh She Glows crossed my path last week. And this time, I just could't resist. With some adaptions (elimination of the Earth Balance and turning it into a baked casserole), the results were outstanding. Absolutely one of the best casseroles I have ever made, vegan or not.

Does this taste like real mac-n-cheese? No. But who the heck cares with food that tastes this great. I will be honest, this does involve the use of many pots and a casserole dish. And you don't want to make it when you need to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes. But I promise, it's worth all of the dish washing and time!

Cheezy Macaroni Bake with Butternut Squash and Greens
serves 6-8
1 hour 45 minutes

Printable Recipe

1 large butternut squash,* peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups almond or soy milk (or any unsweetened alternative milk that you prefer)
2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 heaping Tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (or not)
pepper to taste
16 ounces brown rice pasta-fusilli or other shape
1 head Swiss chard or other greens, washed, stem removed and rough chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs**

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Spread chopped butternut squash onto tray in one layer and lightly spray with cooking oil. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Roast butternut squash for 45 minutes.

While squash is roasting, set a medium-large pot of water on your stove to boil.

In a sauce pan placed over low heat put cornstarch or arrowroot and almond milk. Whisk until all lumps disappear. Add nutritional yeast, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper and whisk until everything is well combined. Continue to cook over low heat, whisking occassionally, until sauce thickens. Turn heat off.

When you water is boiling, cook pasta according to your package instructions, being careful not to overcook it. After draining your brown rice pasta, run cold water over it to stop the cooking process and to prevent it from becoming one big lump of pasta.

Place a large soup pot over a medium-high flame and cover the base of the pot with low sodium vegetable broth. When broth is bubbling, add swiss chard or greens of choice and saute until greens are cooked but not overdone (they should retain their bright green color). Pour off any excess cooking liquid before going to the next step.

Pour cooked pasta into soup pot with cooked greens and stir.

In a blender or food processor, combine all of the cheeze sauce (the sauce made with the almond milk, nutritional yeast, etc.) and 2 cups of the roasted butternut squash and blend until creamy.

Turn the heat of your oven down to 350 degrees.

Place the remaining roasted butternut squash into the pot with the noodles and greens. Pour the cheeze sauce over the noodles and stir well. Transfer into a 9"x13" casserole dish that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Top with whole wheat breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes.

*I have found that the best way to cut and peel a whole butternut squash is as follows: Poke a bunch of holes in the skin of the squash. Microwave the squash on high for four minutes. Remove your squash from the microwave and proceed, peeling and chopping it.

**I save the ends of loaves of whole wheat bread in a baggie in the freezer. When I have a bagful of ends, I use my food processor to make whole wheat breadcrumbs. To do this, you toast the bread first, then place the toast into the food processor fitted with an s-blade and processor. I store the whole wheat bread crumbs in the freezer until I need them for a recipe.
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