Winner, Winner….Mac & Cheese Dinner!
First off, let me say that this was a supreme hit with my 12 year old daughter who usually turns her nose up at almost everything I make! As a matter of fact, I hear her in the kitchen right now nibbling on the left overs…this is a good day. We have a winner here…this mac & cheese bake will hit the spot for the kids, just don’t say a word about what’s in it. ;) Now had I added veggies in the bake, it would not have passed which is why this is just a simple recipe. Feel free to add in veggies like broccoli, kale, etc…whatever you may usually add into a mac & cheese bake!
As for myself, I seriously could have sat there and ate this whole thing myself. I haven’t had a mac & cheese bake in I don’t know how long. The cheese is just great! I especially love the bread crumbs and the light dusting of smoked paprika I added on top of my portion. I paired mine with some sauteed Tuscan kale which was terrific!
Why I ♥ this cheese so much is not only does it taste fantastic and its easy to make, but also because not one cow was harmed, or had their baby taken away, or just simply had to live a life of misery in order to satisfy a taste we have come accustomed to without even realizing how these animals are handled, especially through factory farming. That in itself makes all dairy products undesirable to me. I began my vegan journey for health reasons and soon found out just how unpleasant the meat and dairy industry really is. It is not a question of whether it’s wrong or right to consume animals and their products…that depends on your circumstances. But I do believe that in this day and age we live in we simply do not need them to survive, and we definitely do not need to factory farm them the way it is being done.
Veganism for me is liberation for ALL sentient beings! And it most certainly starts with my fork. :)
To find out more about the life of factory farmed animals and animal rights you can visit PETA.org for more information.
VEGAN MAC & CHEESE BAKE
- 16 oz. package pasta of choice (I used rice penne pasta) (works with an 8oz package too)
- paprika, garnish
For the bread crumb topping
- two pieces of bread or 1 cup bread crumbs
- tablespoon olive oil
- twist or two of the salt grinder
- 1 1/2 cup raw cashews, preferably soaked for a 2 -3 hours (aides in digestion)
- 1 3/4 cups water or unsweetened almond milk, or combo like I did
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- juice of one large lemon or 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, to taste*
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- dash of cayenne powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook your noodles al dente and set aside.
While waiting for the water to boil, start with your bread topping first. I toasted two pieces of bread we had on hand really well and processed them in the food processor until crumbly, a high speed blender will work too. Place the crumbs in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil and a twist or two of the salt grinder, mix well and set aside. Quickly rinse the processor/blender bowl and move on to the cheese sauce.
For the cheese sauce: In food processor/blender, combine all of the cheese sauce ingredients except for about 1/2 of the water/milk and blend until creamy. Add remaining water/milk and blend again. Taste for flavor adding anything extra to suit your taste.
Once pasta is cooked and drained. Add pasta back to the pot it was cooked in, add the cheese sauce and combine well. It may seem like too much liquid but the pasta will take care of most of it.
In baking dish, pour mac & cheese and top with bread crumbs. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, check after 15 minutes if crumbs are darkening too much for your liking, cover with foil.
When done, let cool about 10 minutes and serve. The sauce will thicken upon standing.
If you use a smaller baking dish or use ramekins, lessen the cooking time to 10 – 20 minutes depending on the size of dish you use.
The chili pepper adds a really nice flavor without being too powerful. If your worried about the spiciness, especially for the little ones, I would suggest using the smaller amount, taste and add more if desired.