The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

Daiya shreds? Nah. Tofu? Nope. That “hack” where you boil potatoes, carrots and onions and blend them into a “cheese” sauce? No sweetie, those are vegetables. Cashews? Not this time, actually.

This is another recipe I’ve been working on and perfecting for almost seven years straight. Having lived in the South for three years, I’ve tried my share of vegan mac and cheese recipes. I’m going to put aside any humility I have and be straight with you: this is the best one, and omnivores and vegans alike beg me to make it all the time.

mac cheese

Yield: 12 Servings

  • 1lb pasta, regular or gluten-free (for gluten-free, I recommend Rozoni or Banza)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free

Cheese Sauce:

  • 1.5 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (almond and soy work best here)
  • 1.5 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 cup canola/refined coconut/grapeseed/vegetable oil*
  • 1/3 cup tamari/soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional**
  • 1 Tbsp mellow white miso, optional (Or, if you have it, 1-2 Tbsp of juice from a jar of kimchi or saurkraut. Trust me on this.)

Directions:

  1. Cook the sweet potato until it’s soft and mash-able by boiling or microwaving in water.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.  Boil about 5 cups of water in a big pot and cook pasta to an al dente texture (not fully soft) according to package directions.
  3. Add all of the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth (or use an immersion blender.) Once pasta is cooked, drain and dump it into a 9×13 pan. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix evenly. Top with breadcrumbs.
  4. Bake until the top looks golden and crispy, about 25 minutes.

 

*If you hate the fact that there’s oil in this, I apologize. Mac and cheese has never been known for its health-giving properties. You can try subbing out the oil with cashew cream for a less-processed fat source, you just might need to add a little extra water to the sauce to thin it out.

**If you don’t have smoked paprika, don’t worry about it, but it gives the mac and cheese an incredible bit of smoky depth.

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The Miracle Brownies

The Miracle Brownies

I made these brownies last week for the Creatrix Certification and Training event I catered. The phrase “multiple orgasms” was used more than once to describe the experience of eating them.

 

I feel like these are a little too good to be true because they contain no animal products, no refined sugars, no grains and they’re quick and easy to throw together, and yet they’re by far my favorite brownies of all time. Including all the brownies I ate back in the days before I even knew what the word “vegan” meant.

  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup almond butter (or sunflower seed butter, hazelnut butter, a combination of all of those, etc. You can do up to 1/4 cup of peanut butter and still not have it end up tasting like peanuts)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder or cacao powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks, melted (I melt them in a DIY double boiler, stirring constantly with a little almond milk or coconut oil)
  • Optional: chopped walnuts, coconut, etc. for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper or grease it well
2. Wisk applesauce together with vanilla, melted chocolate, nut/seed butter and maple syrup/agave
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, coconut flour, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
4. Smooth batter into pan and sprinkle on any toppings if desired
5. Bake for 30 minutes (closer to 35 at high altitude), then let cool fully

PRO TIP: if you omit the baking soda and refrigerate these instead of baking them, this recipe makes amazing fudge! I can’t tell if I like the fudge version or the brownie version better.

Pizzapalooza: Buffalo Jackfruit, BBQ and Margherita

Pizzapalooza: Buffalo Jackfruit, BBQ and Margherita

All photos by Samantha Bliss 

 

When was the last time you had pizza that was vegan, gluten-free and actually good? Yeah, me neither. I set out last week to change all that; I wanted some damn pizza, and I wanted it to be good. I mean lord, it was about time.

Of course, this pizza doesn’t have to be gluten-free; if you do well with gluten, please go ahead and make or buy a regular crust. But even the gluten-free version got rave reviews by my very non-vegan, non-gluten-free kickball team who volunteered to taste test.

Bear with me, there are multiple components to these three pizzas. It looks more intimidating than it is. For shortcuts, you can get pre-made versions of many of these components. You can get a good vegan cheese like Miyoko’s, Treeline or Kite Hill (maybe even Chao? Don’t quote me on that.) You can get BBQ sauce from a jar. This only has to be as scratch-made as you want it to be.

Buffalo Chkn (Jackfruit) Pizza

Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • 2.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2.5 tsp mellow white miso
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dill
  • 1-2 Tbsp aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) or water
  • 1/4 cup soaked, drained and rinsed cashews (optional)

1. Blend all of the above together

Buffalo Sauce

  • 2/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (Kroger generic brand is vegan)
  • 1.5 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt, to taste
  1. Simmer all of the above in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally with a whisk

Jackfruit

  • 2 cans young/green (not ripe) jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Drain jackfruit into a colander and with your hands, squeeze out as much excess water as you can
  3. Shred: each piece generally has a top part that’s stringy and easy to separate into shreds, and then a denser bottom part that you can shred with your (clean) fingernails or a knife and fork. There will be little seed pods here and there as well- those are edible and can also be shredded up
  4. Toss jackfruit with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper
  5. Spread jackfruit out onto a baking sheet lined in parchment paper- make sure it’s not too overcrowded
  6. Place baking sheet in pre-heated oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until beginning to get golden and crispy at the edges

Stretchy Cashew Mozzarella– adapted from Carrots and Flowers

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for two hours or overnight
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • tbsp nutritional yeast
  • tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  1. Blend all ingredients together

  2. Cook in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until it becomes a sticky ball in the center of the pan

Crust

Feel free to just buy a pre-made one from the store if you want (there are gluten-free  pre-made versions too.) If you want to make your crust from scratch and have no issues with gluten, this recipe is classic.

If you want to make gluten-free crust from scratch, this flatbread recipe is delicious and works beautifully, albeit it’s a pain to roll out. To make your life much easier, go ahead and roll each crust out directly onto a piece of parchment paper (as thinly as you can) so that you don’t have to transfer it from the table to the parchment and run the risk of it inevitably ripping. One recipe will give you three crusts.

Assemble and Bake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 Fahrenheit (yes that high)
  2. Mix the jackfruit in with the Buffalo sauce. If you have extra Buffalo sauce, drizzle some over your pizza at the end
  3. Spread a thick layer of blue cheese sauce onto your unbaked pizza crust, then sprinkle your Buffalo-sauce-smothered jackfruit on top, then finally spread that stretchy mozzarella on top of all that
  4. Place pizza on parchment paper on a baking sheet or pizza round
  5. Bake for about 7 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is a little golden on top
  6. Serve with some of the extra blue cheese dressing on the side for dipping

 

Barbecue Chkn (Jackfruit) Pizza

bbq

  • Crust (see above)
  • Cashew mozzarella (see above)
  • Roasted shredded jackfruit (see above)
  • BBQ sauce (store-bought OR recipe here)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sliced red onion, optional
  • Chopped curly parsley, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit
  2. Toss jackfruit in BBQ sauce
  3. Brush or drizzle a little olive oil over the crust, then spread your BBQ-sauce-smothered jackfruit on top. Add your cheese, then some slices of red onion if you’re into that
  4. Place pizza on parchment paper on a baking sheet or pizza round
  5. Bake for about 7 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is a little golden on top
  6. Garnish with parsley if desired

Margherita Pizza

margherita

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pizza sauce (you can get it store-bought from a jar or make it from scratch)
  • Salt
  • Fresh basil
  • Cheese (see above)
  • Crust (see above)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit
  2. Brush or drizzle a little olive oil over the unbaked crust, then spread a layer of pizza sauce over that
  3. Spread your cheese over the sauce
  4. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and lightly press some basil leaves into the cheese
  5. Place pizza on parchment paper on a baking sheet or pizza round
  6. Bake for about 7 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is a little golden on top

 

 

Acknowledgements: Major shoutout to all the Buffalo natives and Rochester friends – particularly my friend Alexis Dent– who helped me understand crucial things like 1. buffalo chicken pizza does not have tomato sauce on it and 2. buffalo chicken pizza does not have ranch on it. I would almost definitely have made those mistakes otherwise.

 

Balsamic Marinated Black Bean Salad

Balsamic Marinated Black Bean Salad

Photo by Samantha Bliss of redfollowsbliss.com

This is so easy to make it’s almost embarrassing, but it’s been my favorite summer salad and one of my favorite all-year-round side dishes since I was a kid.

It’s perfect as a picnic side and even more perfect for when you have to throw something together at the last minute. It’s fresh, full-flavored and offers a decent amount of protein, and people always remark about how much they love it.

Yield: 8 Cups

  • 4 cups cooked black beans (or 2 cans, drained and thoroughly rinsed)
  • 2 cups corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • Optional: parsely or cilantro to garnish
  1. Mix all ingredients together, taste, and adjust by adding a little more salt, pepper, olive oil or balsamic vinegar if you like
  2. Let sit for 20 minutes to overnight
  3. Serve cold, garnished with parsley or cilantro if desired

That’s it. Enjoy!

 

One Vegan Burger Recipe to Rule Them All  

One Vegan Burger Recipe to Rule Them All  

I loved me some hamburgers when I was a kid. My mom would always mix ketchup, mustard and other seasonings and spices into the ground beef and I was all about it. But as much as I loved hamburgers, I honestly love these so much more than I ever loved the meat version. The last meat-eater who tried these kept saying “There’s so much flavor in these. I can’t get over how much flavor is in these.”

No joke, it took me eight years to develop a good veggie burger recipe; I was really intimidated by the task and never fully satisfied with my attempts. I tried making black bean and quinoa burgers, broccoli and sweet potato burgers, etc…forget all that.

Originally inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s beet burgers, these also contain beets but not to the point that you can taste them. The lentils, walnuts, almond butter and brown rice give the burgers a lot of protein and heartiness, and the beet color makes them look like meat without trying too hard to look like meat, you know?

Above all, these burgers are pretty easy to make– pulse the base ingredients in a food processor, mix in all the rest, patty ‘em up and throw them on a pan. Nothing has to be perfect or exact. They’re even better leftover, too; I may or may not have eaten one cold for breakfast this morning.

 

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Yield: 10 burgers

  • 1 cup uncooked beets, peeled and shredded/grated (roughly one medium beet)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (can be leftover)
  • 2 cups cooked green or brown lentils (can be leftover)
  • ¾ cup walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours ahead of time
  • 1 cup onion (roughly one small onion), roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free
  • ½ cup almond butter and/or sunflower seed butter
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup mustard
  • 1.5 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 2.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (the generic Kroger brand is vegan, as are several specialty brands)
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, optional
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional
  • ¼ tsp ground fennel seed, optional
  • Olive oil for the pan
  1.  Make sure rice and lentils are fully cooled and drained of any excess liquid. Drain and rinse the walnuts
  2. Pulse garlic in food processor until broken up into tiny pieces, add chopped onion and puree for about 30 seconds
  3. Add the walnuts and pulse until broken up into small crumbles. Dump the contents of the food processor out into a large mixing bowl
  4. Add the rice, lentils and shredded beets into the food processor and pulse until everything is broken up into small pieces. The mixture should start to look like ground beef
  5. Transfer the contents of the food processor to the mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. If your rice and/or lentils were on the mushy side, add about 1/4 cup more breadcrumbs to counterbalance the excess moisture in the mix. Use your hands to mix thoroughly
  6. Place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer. Don’t skip this step or else the burgers won’t hold together as well
  7. Form the mixture into patties. You want each patty to be about ½ cup of mixture.
  8. Preheat a large heavy-duty (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium heat (higher heat will result in them burning on the outsides and undercooking on the insides)
  9. Pour a thin layer of oil into the pan and cook patties for about 8-10 minutes on each side, checking occasionally to make sure they don’t burn on the bottoms. You can drizzle in a little more oil when you flip them to the other side if needed. Cook until the burgers are heated through and have a little char on them
  10. Serve with your favorite burger fixin’s
breakfast of champions

Pulled Jackfruit Barbecue Sandwiches

Pulled Jackfruit Barbecue Sandwiches

Since moving out West, Southern barbecue has been my most-requested meal by far. And since it’s summer and I see no need to mess around, we’re gonna get right to the good stuff.

Before moving to the South, I never knew what real barbecue was. As a Jewish girl from New York, pulled pork wasn’t really on my radar, and I had no idea that different regions of the country have such different approaches to and definitions of barbecue (“You mean not everyone just dumps a bottle of KC Masterpiece on some grilled chicken and calls it a day?”) Then I spent three years in the heart of North Carolina, and as you can imagine, I had to spend all of those years intensively studying BBQ and its very different regional incarnations across the US. After all that research, the question remained of how to make this soulful American legacy vegan without turning it into a national disgrace.

After spending two years recipe-testing everything from barbecued tofu to barbecued pumpkin, I found that by far the most successful vegan barbecue mediums are actually mushrooms and jackfruit. Info on how to do mushroom barbecue will be coming soon, but for today, here’s a run-down of how to make the ultimate jackfruit barbecue sandwich.

Jackfruit barbecue is cheap, easy, shockingly healthy (without tasting healthy), and significantly less time-consuming than any meat-based barbecue. From the look and the texture of the pulled jackfruit, it naturally looks just like pulled pork. Many a meat-eater has fallen in love with these sandwiches, and most of said meat-eaters had a very hard time believing they were vegan.

THE SAUCE

bbq sauce

If you’re a purist partial to any particular regional style, please don’t get mad that this sauce is a hybrid. But the combination of mustard (a la South Carolina), brown sugar and molasses (a la Kansas City), vinegar (a la Memphis), tomato base (a la North Carolina), some optional heat (a la East Texas) and that slight smokiness (a la Central Texas) create a big, bold, balanced flavor profile that gives you the best of everything.

This recipe makes enough sauce for about 10 cans of jackfruit (roughly 15-17 sandwiches) so you can cut it in half if you want a smaller yield, or to make your life easier, make the full batch and freeze the extra for next time.

Can you use store-bought BBQ sauce from a jar if you’re short on time? Absolutely. Have I done it? Yes, no shame. Just open the bottle, taste it and adjust as needed by adding a little Worcestershire sauce, a little mustard or whatever it needs. But barbecue is really all about the sauce, so scratch-made is always best.

  • 1 28oz can tomato puree
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke
  • ½ cup brown sugar (you can sub coconut sugar if you don’t do refined sugar)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Kroger generic brand is vegan)
  • 3 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or liquid aminos (coconut aminos work ok if you do zero soy)
  • 1/2 cup mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2+ Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat a large pot on medium-high, do not add oil
  2. Once the pot is hot, add the onions (without oil) with about half a teaspoon of salt. Stir thoroughly so that the salt coats the onions- the salt will draw out the excess water and allow it to evaporate. This should take about 7 minutes- stir occasionally
  3. Once the water has evaporated and the onions are sticking to the pan, add your olive oil. Keep stirring occasionally and allowing the onions to cook
  4. Only once the onions are pretty golden-brown, add your garlic. Stir and allow the garlic to cook with the onions for about two minutes, or until it starts to get golden-brown too. If your pan is too thin and you get a lot of residue sticking to the bottom that you can’t scrape up, add a little bit of water straight onto the residue to let it de-glaze (those caramelized sugars will just re-coat your onions and make them even more delicious.)

NOTE- do not half-ass the cooking of your onions, take the time to really let them caramelize (more info on this here.) You want them deeply golden-brown, not just flaccid and translucent. Your sautéed onions and garlic are the flavor base of every dish you make with them, so how you cook them will seriously impact the flavor of the dish. I always use this method; it doesn’t necessarily make the total cook time longer because you can use the time the onions are cooking to prep and measure out your other ingredients. I promise, it’s worth it.

  1. Lower the heat to medium and add the tomato puree and the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes
  2. Puree the sauce with a handheld immersion blender or in a heat-safe blender
  3. Taste and adjust the sauce to how you like it

THE JACKFRUIT

While it seems to be the hot new trend in American vegan cooking, jackfruit has actually been used in various South and Southeast Asian culinary traditions for ages. For barbecue, you actually want canned jackfruit rather than fresh. Make sure it’s labeled “young” or “green” jackfruit in brine or water; nothing ripe and nothing in syrup. This unripe jackfruit has a neutral flavor that allows it to be used as a blank canvas. You can find it in most Asian grocery stores and many other international markets as well as Trader Joe’s, and it’s pretty inexpensive; a 20oz can of jackfruit will generally run you about $1.20-2.00.

Two cans will yield enough for about three sandwiches.

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Drain jackfruit into a colander and with your hands, squeeze out as much excess water as you can
  3. Shred: each piece generally has a top part that’s stringy and easy to separate into shreds, and then a denser bottom part that you can shred with your (clean) fingernails or a knife and fork. There will be little seed pods here and there as well- those are edible and can also be shredded up
  4. Toss jackfruit with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper
  5. Spread jackfruit out onto a baking sheet lined in parchment paper- make sure it’s not too overcrowded
  6. Place baking sheet in pre-heated oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until beginning to get golden and crispy at the edges. This removes the excess water, giving the jackfruit a better texture and allowing it to soak up more flavor from the sauce. This is the important step that a lot of chefs leave out, and it’s a game-changer.
  7. Remove jackfruit from oven and mix with BBQ sauce

THE SLAW

  • ½ medium green cabbage, sliced into thin strips
  • ½ red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup vegan mayo
  • ¼ cup mustard
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  1. Whisk together mustard, mayo, dill, salt, pepper and apple cider vinegar
  2. Throw the cabbage, carrots, cilantro and red onion into a large mixing bowl and pour the sauce in, mixing thoroughly

ASSEMBLE

Toast up a bun (gluten-free or regular, or no bun/lettuce wrap if you’re paleo), throw some of the jackfruit on there, top it with some slaw. If you have leftover BBQ jackfruit, you can throw it on nachos, in burrito bowls, or my favorite, on top of burgers.

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