Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mac 'n' "Cheese"

I've been looking for a good vegan Mac 'n' Cheese recipe because it's one of the only things I can almost always get my 3-year-old to eat. My Mac 'n' Cheese search has been all about making him happy. It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that my husband and I love Mac 'n' Cheese.



Most of the recipes I've come across have called for copious amounts of nutritional yeast, which until yesterday, I had never even seen. I finally found it, by the way, at my local Sprouts store, by the bulk bins. But, by the time I'd found the nutritional yeast, I'd already seen and shopped for the Mac 'n' Cheese recipe in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of VegNews Magazine.

This recipe, which was part of their Veganize It! column, was created by Allison Rivers Samson, owner of Allison's Gourmet. Her online shop offers a tempting array of vegan confections including organic fudge, chocolates, caramels, cups (yes ... they have peanut butter cups), and barks. Just in time for Vegan Valentine's Day sweets for my sweetie. Okay, okay ... and probably something for myself, too. But, back to the Mac 'n' Cheese...

The recipe is available as a pdf on the VegNews website, so I won't bother re-posting it. Here is my fabulous result:

The "cheese sauce" for this dish is amazing. The color is the same as dairy cheese but the taste is better. You read that right ... it tastes better than real cheese! The seasonings give it a subtle spicy kick and the flavors blend into a perfectly rich, damn tasty dish. I can totally see myself making the "cheese sauce" just to top some steamed veggies so my 3-year-old will eat something green. Trickery? Sure. I'm not ashamed. No mother should be. Feeding little ones anything other than highly-processed crap packaged with obnoxious cartoon characters is much like all-out war. It requires some serious strategery, if I may be so bold as to use a Bushism.

Now for some notes on this recipe...

It calls for 8 ounces macaroni but I could only find elbow pasta in 16 ounce bags so I split my bag. However, it also indicated a 9 x 12 baking dish, and I only have 9 x 13 baking dishes. There was plenty of room left in the baking dish and I think next time, I'll just use the whole 16 ounce bag of pasta, doubling everything but the topping. Which brings me to bread crumbs.

The recipe calls for 4 slices of bread to make bread crumbs, but I didn't have any sliced bread. I used bread crumbs (panko, to be exact) instead. I wasn't sure how much bread crumbs would be equivalent to 4 slices of bread, so I had to guess. I used 2 cups and I think it was probably too much. The sauce, which was delicious enough for my husband to "clean" it out of the blender with his finger before it went into the sink for washing, was nearly gone by the time the dish was finished baking. I think the bread crumbs absorbed it. The flavor was still there, but the creamy goodness had gone. Next time, I'll either use 4 slices of bread, as the recipe indicates, or reduce the amount of bread crumbs I use.

Despite that, however, my husband and I loved this dish. We both thought it was soft, rich, well-seasoned, comfort food. I'll definitely be making this one again. I may even try freezing and vacuum-packing some because spring semester starts next week.

:::duhn duhn duuuuuuuhn:::

Oh yeah ... my son liked it, too.

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