Often non-vegans say something to me like: You made a choice to go vegan, why are you trying to make vegan foods that are like non-vegan foods (like cheese, burgers, etc.)? My reply is always that I did not lose my taste for foods like mac-n-cheese, I lost my taste for cruelty. I love recreating the flavors and textures I grew up with, and I've adopted a lot of new flavors and textures too. Being vegan isn't about deprivation, feeling like you have to give up a pleasure. Instead, it's about re-inventing how you experience a flavor or texture, so that the delight of your palate doesn't take away the life or freedom of another living creature.
I recently ventured into the world of making vegan cheeses, and I must say, my first attempts turned out great! I've explored recipes from several sources, and now I am ready to start exploring a little on my own. I took some of what I had learned about vegan cheese flavor and textures, and put it to the test making a baked macaroni and cheese dish. Much to my delight, it turned out deliciously!
Feel free to take your own experimental journey with this recipe. I have made several versions (ok, about a dozen or so!), all yummy in their own way, and this is the one I landed on as my favorite for texture, flavor, and satisfaction all around.
My partner, John, and I are doing lots more experiments with vegan macaroni and cheese, and we will share them with you in future posts! He made one a few days ago that was so velvety and creamy that I practically licked the plate clean (imagine a vegan and far healthier and tastier version of "Velveeta").
1 cup raw cashews or 1/2 cup cashew butter
1 1/4 cups water
3 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained (optional)
1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 can full fat coconut milk (canned, not the stuff in the carton or low fat)
8 ounces quinoa macaroni or spiral noodles, uncooked
For extra YUM factor, feel free to add any other veggies like kale or spinach (wilt first), peas, onions, or sautéed mushrooms just before baking.
In a food processor, process raw cashews until it forms into nut butter texture (skip this step if using pre-made cashew butter, just place the butter in your food processor). Add water and process until cashew butter is dissolved in the water and it VERY smooth (you may need to scrape the processor bowl a few times). Add the next 10 ingredients and process until the tomatoes are fully incorporated. Add the coconut milk and process another minute or so to combine.
Poor the cashew cheese mixture over uncooked noodles placed in a 11x7 casserole dish. Bake at 450˚ F for 20-25 minutes or until noodles are al dente (liquid will completely absorb into the noodles and leave behind a cheesy, baked macaroni texture).
This dish is very flavorful and quite rich! Delicious served with freshly ground black peppercorns on top. Serves 2 for a full meal, serves 4 as a side dish.
*gluten-free and soy free