My vegan journey started with a horrible collision with macaroni and cheese. Before going vegan I had a tried and true finger lickin' come back for seconds recipe. Never mind the fact that I absolutely loved (like L...O...V....E) baked macaroni and cheese. Creamy on the inside with a protective crust on the outside.
So of course it would be one of the first recipes I attempted to make. Because I was negotiating converting recipes and 16 years ago there were less tasty options for cheese, I opted to try a recipe out of a vegan cookbook I had. I still remember the day I was excited and so was my family. When I went vegan I used it as a means to liberate me from the kitchen. My new rule was "If I don't eat it. I don't cook it." Which meant no more slaving before the sabbath, on Friday, in the kitchen for the 20+ guests we had over for sabbath lunch every Saturday. I used a 9 x 13 casserole tray with expectation that it would go over well with my family.
As I was preparing the dish the batter did not quite taste the way I expected. I convinced myself that once in the oven the eat would somehow magically make it taste Tony the Tiger "GREAT!" You see where this is going, right? So, the timer went off and because I knew how critical my family was when it came to food I decided to taste it. Insert "EWWWW" face. Not only did the chemical reaction I wanted to occur did not happen, I honestly was traumatized. I quickly through it out because I could not risk my family tasting it. When they asked what I happened I shrugged my shoulders and changed the subject. I had resolved that mac 'n cheese was on the list of things I would never have again.
As time passed I had some recipes at restaurants that were okay. Nothing that would inspire me try making it again until last year. My teacher introduced me to a locally made Baked mac n cheese sold at a Whole Foods in Chicago that reminded me of what I loved (grease and all). Then during a trip to SeattIe the mac n cheese at Plum Bistro was out of this world. This two encounters inspired me to give making mac 'n cheese a try. This time just following my intuition. I tried my first batch a few months ago and it went well but the second batch was just right. I had my father taste test it and he started to ask me how to make it. I hope you enjoy it. I am working on allergen free one. This time around this was made with nuts. However it is gluten, soy, and as always dairy free.
1 1/2 cups of raw cashews (soaked overnight or minimum of 2 hours)
3/4 cup distilled water
3 tbl lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 tbl nutritional yeast
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalepeno, deseeded and chopped
3/4 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of plantbased milk
1/8 cup of gluten free flour
1 tbl of gluten free bread crumbs
3 1/2 cup cooked gluten free elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tsp of sea salt or to taste
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp onion powder
non stick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat 1 1/2 quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a blender add cashews, filtered water, bell pepper, nutritional yeast, lemon, jalapeno, and sea salt. Blend until very smooth, set aside.
3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil and one tablespoon of water until bubbling stir in flour, onion and mustard powder. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. (The sauce may lump at this stage). Add milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly. After all milk is added cook until its consistency of thick cream, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 of cashew cheese. Season with salt an pepper.
4. Pour the macaroni into the prepared casserole, top with sauce and toss well. Pour remaining cashew sauce on top followed with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Then broil for 2-4 minutes.
I love baked mac and cheese too! Seeing that I will be giving up meat for lent, I’ll try my hand at this recipe.