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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Caramelized Banana Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Raisins and Cinnamon (Two Steps)

Caramelized Banana Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Raisins and Cinnamon (Two Steps)

I guarantee that you haven’t made oatmeal this way before. Since you’re cooking the raisins and the bananas thoroughly but barely cooking the oats, you’re bringing out and developing the natural sugars of the fruit without letting the texture of the oats get mushy and gruel-like. The result is non-pasty oatmeal that doesn’t even need any sweetener.

This oatmeal is warming, flavorful and will leave you full and powered up until lunchtime. It has come through for me ever since I was a busy and newly vegan undergrad who needed a filling breakfast but had zero dollars. Now that it’s chilly outside again, this is the comforting breakfast that I come back to more than any other. 

If you ever buy bananas and they get overripe before getting eaten, just peel them and throw them in the freezer so that you can take them out whenever you want to make this.

Yield: 3 medium or 2 large portions

  • 2 over-ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk of choice (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 cups old fashioned (not quick) oats*
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter, sunflower butter, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, optional
  • Optional add-ins/garnishes: chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried coconut, berries, chocolate chips, whatever your heart desires

1. With a potato masher, a fork or your hands, mash the banana up in a small pot. Add the raisins, almond milk, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in peanut butter thoroughly. Then stir in old fashioned oats, optional vanilla extract and any desired add-ins. Cook for just about 30 more seconds, or for a few minutes longer if you like the oats softer.

 

*you can make this with steel-cut oats and it’s delicious, but it takes much longer to cook and requires extra almond milk and more stirring to keep from burning

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.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This super-easy weeknight meal is healthy, cheap and filling. Cabbage leaves are boiled until soft and pliable, stuffed with a simple lentil-walnut “ground beef” and rice filling (though there’s a paleo variation, a nut-free variation and an even cheaper variation listed below), rolled up and smothered in tomato sauce, then baked. I ate these all the time while training for the Colfax Marathon because I needed hella nutrients but didn’t have as much time to cook for myself.

Yield: About 8 Servings

  • 1 medium/large head green cabbage, rinsed
  • 1 jar tomato-basil pasta sauce (for this recipe I like Simple Truth, which is Kroger’s generic organic brand*)
  • Roughly 3 cups cooked brown rice (can be leftover)
  • 1 1/4 cup green or brown lentils (or you can use 3 cups leftover cooked lentils)
  • 1 bouillon cube or 2 tsp Better than Bouillon
  • Roughly 1.5 cups walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (the Kroger generic brand is vegan**)
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • Optional: cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes or hot sauce to taste

Note: If you don’t have one or a couple of the seasoning ingredients, it’s not the end of the world. Just season the filling with what you have until it’s nice and savory and you’re happy with it. If you want to use oregano and basil instead of cumin and coriander, it’s your world.

  1. In a small, covered pot, bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil with the lentils and bouillon. Lower heat to medium and cook, covered, until lentils are soft but not mushy (about 20 minutes.) Remove lentils from pot and allow to cool
  2. In a large pot on high heat, boil roughly two quarts of water (or enough to cover the cabbage) with a teaspoon of salt. Cut around the core of the cabbage. You don’t have to cut the core out, but cut around it so that you can easily detach the leaves once they’re soft
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the whole cabbage. As the outer leaves cook and soften, gently detach them so that the leaves underneath can cook too. Once each leaf is soft and pliable, remove it from the water and drain in a colander
  4. Drain and thoroughly rinse the walnuts, then pulse in a food processor until broken into small crumbles. Add the cooled lentils and pulse until crumbly as well
  5. Empty the lentils, walnuts and rice into a large mixing bowl and mix together with all of the seasoning ingredients (chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, pepper and optional hot sauce/red pepper.) Taste and adjust to your liking
  6. Preheat your oven to 350F. Spread a large cabbage leaf out on a cutting board and cut out a triangle of the thick, stem-like piece at the bottom so that it’s easier to roll up. Spoon about three spoonfuls of filling into the middle of the leaf and roll up like a burrito or summer roll, tucking in the sides. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Repeat with each cabbage leaf until your filling is used up
  7. Spread about half the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan. Place each cabbage roll into the pan- it’s fine to get them really crowded. Once your cabbage rolls are all packed into the pan, spread the rest of the tomato sauce on top
  8. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the tops of the rolls are wrinkly

Paleo Version: 

Use cauliflower rice and substitute soaked sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for the lentils. Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce

Nut-Free Version:

Substitute soaked sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for the walnuts

Cheaper Version:

Omit the walnuts and just use all lentils

 

 

 

*if you want to make your tomato sauce from scratch, knock yourself out

**I’m not in any way affiliated with or compensated by Kroger or any affiliated brand, I just recommend some of their products because they’re on the affordable end of the spectrum and fairly widespread across the US.

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!

 

Pastelón de Platano Maduro: Dominican Lasagna

Pastelón de Platano Maduro: Dominican Lasagna

Usually when I think of casseroles, I think of things like tuna, mayonnaise, cream of mushroom/chicken/celery/Satan soup… I can’t say I’ve ever heard the word “casserole” and thought “yum.”

(I probably just offended the entire Midwest and everyone who has ever been to a church picnic- my apologies.)

But every once in a while I’m reminded that there really are delicious dishes out there that are technically casseroles: Palestinian maqloubeh, Ashkenazi kugel, and this beauty known as pastelón. This is essentially Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic’s upgrade of lasagna; with alternating layers of ripe plantain, creamy cashew cheese and a lentil-walnut “ground beef” filling sautéed with onions, garlic and tomato sauce, it’s the ultimate combination of sweet and savory.

pastelon 1

Important note: there are two ways you can prepare the plantains: boiled and mashed or cut into thin strips and pan-fried. The mashed version gets spread into the pan in layers and the pan-fried version gets layered into the pan like lasagna noodles. It’s up to your preference.

Pastelon (Puerto Rican Lasagna)
photo from http://thenoshery.com/pastelon-sweet-plaintain-lasagna/
Masa-para-juju
photo from http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/juju-green-plantain-and-cheese-balls

Yield: 7-9 servings

For the filling:

  • 1.5 cup raw walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight, drained
  • 1.5 cup uncooked green or brown lentils
  • 3 cups water+ bouillon (I highly recommend this stuff and this stuff, both of which you can both find in many grocery stores) or 3 cups veggie broth
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2.5 cups tomato sauce (from a jar is fine)
  • 1/3 cup sliced black olives (optional)

For the cashew cheese*:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight, drained
  • juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the plantains:

  • 6 ripe plantains
  • If pan-frying: Canola, soybean, vegetable or refined coconut oil
  • If mashing: 3 Tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance, Miyoko’s, etc.) or olive oil
  • If mashing: 1 tsp salt for boiling
  • If mashing: Water for boiling

To garnish:

  • Chopped cilantro

 

  1. Cook your lentils. Throw the lentils into a covered pot on high heat with in 3 cups of broth or water with bouillon. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool
  2. If mashing your plantains: peel them, chop them into large chunks and place them into a large pot of boiling water with 1tsp salt. Allow them to boil until they’re very soft and mash-able. Drain, mash in a large bowl with butter and 1tsp salt platano 2
  3. If pan-frying your plantains: Heat a large skillet or a griddle to medium-high. Peel your plantains, slice them in half and then into long, thin strips. Coat your skillet/griddle with a thin layer of oil and fry until they just begin to brown. Flip and repeat on the other side, adding a little more oil if necessary
  4. Make your cashew cheese: blend cashews, salt, water, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or with an immersion blender. If you have a Vitamix, you may not need to add all that water, but if you have a mediocre blender you may need more water in order to get a smooth consistency
  5. In a food processor, pulse your walnuts until broken up into crumbles. Add your lentils and pulse until broken into crumbles as well
  6. Make your filling: Saute your onions like so until they’re golden-brown, then add your garlic. Once your garlic just begins to turn golden, add your bell peppers and saute until soft. Add the lentils, walnuts, tomato sauce, raisins, olives (optional) and mix thoroughly
  7. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish and preheat your oven to 375 (350 if your oven runs hot and/or you’re at lower altitude)
  8. Layer everything: Spread or layer a third of your plantains on the bottom of your pan. Cover with a third of the filling mixture. Spread or layer another third of your plantains on top of the filling, followed by half of your cashew cheese and another layer of filling. Add your final layer of plantains and top with the rest of your cashew cheese. Bake until golden-brown on top
  9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve

*If you want a shortcut, you can use a storebought vegan cheese like Miyoko’s, Treeline, Kite Hill or Chao. Just don’t use Daiya because it will ruin your food.

pastelon 3

Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Some of the best and most historic vegan dishes in the world come from Ethiopian cuisine. Misir wat is a tale as old as time, and it’s one of my all-time favorite classics. It’s simple and inexpensive to make, yet so hearty and healthy and flavorful.

As you can see, the flatbread shown in the photo above is not the traditional injera that should be served with misir wat. Believe me, my stomach and I wish it were, but I would be lying to you if I said that I’ve ever made a good batch of injera in my life. Making decent injera in your standard American kitchen is extremely tricky business, so if you can’t get or make good injera yourself, I recommend that you substitute it with a flatbread of your choice. (For gluten-free folks looking to make some at home, this recipe is wonderful.) You could theoretically serve it over rice as well, but it really makes a big difference to have a good flatbread that you can use to both serve the stew on top of and scoop up bites with. If you want to be that guy trying to eat Ethiopian food with a fork or spoon, that’s on you. We all make our own life choices.

Yield: 8 Cups

  • 2.5 Cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 large yellow onions or roughly 2 cups of shallots, diced
  • 2.5 Tbsp Berbere spice (you can buy it online, at many Afro-centric international markets, at many Whole Foods stores for a trillion dollars, or you can make it yourself)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced- not trash garlic
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Heat a large pot on medium heat, adding no oil
  2. Add your onions and salt to the pan and saute them like so to get them golden-brown and caramelized. (Your olive oil gets added in once the excess water has been sweated out of the onions)
  3. Add your garlic and saute it until it’s also beginning to turn golden-brown
  4. Add your berbere spice and stir it in for about 15 seconds, allowing it to become fragrant
  5. Add your tomatoes, cover your pot and stir occasionally, allowing those tomatoes to really cook down and get saucy
  6. Add your lentils and water and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft throughout. Add more water if needed. If you want to really be a pro, carefully allow the bottom layer of your lentils to start sticking to the pan and scalding, scraping them up and stirring just before they burn. Do this a few times- it will give the lentils a smooth texture and a rich, nutty flavor. Don’t worry about this if it sounds like too much.
  7. Taste and add more salt if desired. If would like to play around with adding more flavors at this point, you can squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos and/or worcestershire sauce, throw in a tablespoon of agave or other sweetener, and/or add in some bouillon. None of these additions are traditional or authentic at all, but they can give your stew a nice boost if you want.
  8. Serve with flatbread (ideally injera.) PSA: This dish keeps well and is great leftover.