I’ve had a craving for warm creamy food.
Usually when it starts to get chilly outside, the comfort food cravings kick in. Creamy comfort in the past had been pasta with sauce, enchiladas, lasagna, scalloped potatoes. You get what I’m talking about, right?
When I was a kid, my favorite Mac n Cheese was the Velveeta Brand. My mom would never buy that for our house so it was when I visited friends that I got to taste it. I thought their family was rich because I was eating the Kraft variety with the powered cheese.
Later, when I started to cook, I was elated when I learned how to make a Bechamel cheese sauce. So good going down but my stomach was not happy. Creamy goodness with a high health price tag.
I’ve managed to change up some of the favorites in the past but I miss cheese.
Lo’ and behold, when I started researching, I found people have been so creative and incredible when feeding themselves through different challenges and changes in their lives. There are a number of varying recipes for “cheese” sauce.
Here are the basics:
Step 1: Pour cashews into a bowl and cover with boiling water for 1 hour.
Step 2: Boil some water and cook your pasta until al dente. Drain and put back in the pot.
Step 3: Dice up some potatoes, carrots, and shallots. Add water. Boil until soft. Drain.
Step 4: Add seasonings, butter, cashews, and veg to a blender. Blend until smooth.
Step 5: (Optional) Pour the cheese sauce in with the cooked pasta and put in a 13 x 9 baking dish.
Step 6: (Optional) If you want to add meat or veg, now is the time.
Step 7: (Optional) Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
How to get the ‘creamy’:
The creaminess of this sauce comes from the cashews, the potatoes, and the butter.
If you haven’t tried any kind cashew sauce, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. When making this, be sure to get raw cashews. It will still taste fine if you use roasted and salted. Just omit the salt called for later in the recipe. Most instructions say to soak the nuts in hot water over night. Personally I don’t like to wait that long so I boil water in my tea kettle and soak them for an hour. No problem. The cashews are like mushrooms or cauliflower in that they don’t have much flavor on their own but take on the flavors of everything you mix with them. No cashews? Almonds work too.
Oh-the-butter, how I miss your flavor. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use regular butter or vegan butter. I use the Earth Balance brand or Spectrum. Both are good alternatives.
How to get the flavor:
There are several flavoring options. The recipe I started with called for onions. They were really strong even though I used the amount called for, the onion flavor stood out with the finished sauce. I’ve switched to shallots as they have a mild taste. Some people omit both and use onion and garlic powder instead.
My family tends to love a sharp cheddar flavor. The ingredients that give the tang to the sauce are the mustard, lemon juice, and (optionally) Nutritional Yeast Flakes.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes? What the heck are Nutritional Yeast Flakes? Susan Voisen, over at Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen explains it. Doesn’t sound very appealing, I know, but, they add that extra “cheese” flavor that puts this sauce over the top. It is optional however. You be the judge.
Some friends turned me on the flakes when they served it with popcorn. Pretty good and no pain afterward. Hoorah! If you want to try it, I suggest going to your local health food store (Whole Foods) and buying roughly a ½ cup in the bulk section, or if you know you like them, click on my link here.
I have to say that my husband and my son LOVED this recipe. We ate it two nights in a row and I doubled the batch of sauce both times.
The great thing about this healthy Mac n Cheese recipe is that you can dress it up for a special occasion by adding breadcrumbs and baking it. You could add seafood, chicken, or green veg to make it special. Or for family weeknights, you can eat it like I did when I was little, with canned tuna or just plain. Whatever your budget, this meal works.
Happy Days. Mac n Cheese, Scalloped potatoes, and nachos, are back on the menu. All healthy versions, of course.
Adapted from Pamela Salzman’s Kitchen Matters & Recipes
See the original here.