Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Back in the day KD was my favorite thing. I'd come home from school, whip up a box in the microwave and then pretty much eat the whole thing in a sitting. I've got so many childhood memories centered around KD, eating it at a friend's birthday for the first time. At a friend's for breakfast after a sleepover. At a cracked and weathered picnic table at a cottage on Saltspring Island. I love how so many memories can be tied to a food, or a smell or a song.

After going vegan I pretty much stopped eating it(obviously), and from before I had all these weird food hangups about pasta and not eating it. Gradually over the past little while I have been trying to revisit 'fear' foods. Things that I crossed off my mental checklist of things I could never consume, cause one glance would make me fat. It's amazing how some mental patterns can become so ingrained into your brain. Trying these foods now is interesting. Some of them I eat them and realize I don't really care for them, it's just more of that 'you can't have it so you want it' thing.

While I'm still steering clear of wheat pasta, quinoa pasta is totally a go. My stomach seems to figure it's fall now and is looking for all kinds of hearty, comforting, tasty foods. Yesterday I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt some vegan mac and cheese.

I also tried a new health food store yesterday. The Big Carrot, on the Danforth, a neighbourhood I don't visit too much since it's out of the way. Visiting new health food stores is a favorite hobby of mine however, so I went to check it out. I love how big it is, and it has an adjoining juice bar and wholisitc wellness shop beside it. It's got a large beauty section, bakery, bulk section, a vegetarian cafe, and carries most of the usual suspects of products on the shelves. It's priced fairly well, a bit cheaper than Whole Foods(my measuring stick for all health food stores!). It's still not as affordable as Herbs and Nutrition though, which is quickly becoming my favorite place I've ever been. I visited the Juice store after and got a huge wheatgrass/beet/carrot mix which was delicious.

Something I hear a lot is that health food stores can be intimidating. And I guess they can, but I generally tackle it like I would any other store. I walk all the way around it and down all the aisles, just to see what they have. Then I usually make another round and pick up the things I'm looking for. Produce and other perishables, like milk, tofu, meat etc. are always around the outside. The inside shelves are sundries and whatever else doesn't go bad quickly. And I totally know that healthy food can be expensive. I'm not going to deny it, but shopping around a lot helps. Seeing all your options and knowing where you can get products for their best value makes it much more affordable. If a certain store carries something you use lots of for cheap, stock up on it! Freeze it, if possible. Healthy eating is an investment on your health, and if you don't invest in it now you'll most likely be paying for it later!

I'd seen a couple recipes for vegan cheese sauce incorporating sweet potato, so I decided to give this a shot. That paired with lots of Nooch and cashew milk it turned out super tasty! You could use whatever non-dairy milk you like, I just love the creamy flavor cashew gives.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Cheese Sauce:
1 Sweet Potato
1/2 cup cashew pieces
1 cup water
7 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon Earth Balance, melted
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp mustard
pinch of cayenne(optional)
salt and pepper to taste

8 oz Macaroni shells

1. Cook Macaroni shells according to package.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prick sweet potato all over with a fork, then wrap in tin foil and bake for 35-40 minutes(until soft).

3. In a blender, blend water and cashews together til smooth.

4. Add in nutritional yeast, garlic, apple cider vinegar, Earth Balance, curry powder, parsley, mustard, and cayenne. Blend until smooth.

5. Scoop sweet potato out of skin, measure 2 cups and add to blender. Blend until smooth.

6. Mix into pasta, serve!

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