Posted in Cheese, Grains, International vegan cuisine, Pasta, Plant Based, Sauces & Creams, Travel, Vegan

Garlicky Vegan Mac & Not Cheese

I LOVE mac & cheese…at least I used to love it.

Then I went vegan and stopped eating cheese and an odd thing happened; I stopped putting cheese on EVERYTHING. And what’s crazier is that I stopped adding a sprinkle of cheese here and there because I no longer craved it. So began a year of experimenting with pizza and mac without using cheese. I tried all the #veganhacks that included using sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower…all of it. They were okay but none of them made mac & cheese a crave-able dish for me anymore.

Oh, the dismay.

So I did a deep dive into it and there’s a good reason I stopped needing cheese on dishes when I got off animal cheese. In a word, casomorphin. It’s what makes cheese so addictive, but don’t just take my word for it. Wikipedia explains it here.  If you want the TLDR version, here ya go:

Source, Forbes 2017

Once I had that information, I didn’t feel like a bad vegan for disliking most vegan cheese options available to me in Germany and then Romania. So I decided to get creative about it.

Rather than using vegan cheese whenever I got a craving, I would go for other things like tapenade, pesto or romesco because they are flavorful, vegan and way more calorie friendly than any type of cheese, and my primary focus initially was weight loss, so calories mattered too.

Then I discovered a way to make a cheese-like sauce that was still vegan and calorie friendly, and it satisfied my need for mac & cheese, which let’s be honest was really a craving for carbs drenched in sauce…right?

All you need is: plant milk, turmeric (if you find it raw, grate it straight into the sauce), nutritional yeast, garlic granules, smoky paprika, mustard (optional), salt & pepper.

I employ the ‘low & slow’ method, which means it takes about 10 minutes (maybe longer if you’re using a lot of milk) to get the not cheese sauce nice and thick so it’ll stick to your pasta of choice.

Add the nutritional yeast one tablespoon at a time, letting it simmer and dissolve before adding more, and be sure to taste it in between just to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. Set a timer for 10 minutes and keep going until you get the thickness you prefer.

For this particular dish, I kept it pretty simple with pasta, 30 grams of sauteed garlic, and soy pieces. Add not-cheese and stir. If you’re feeling extra, pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to get a little bit of crust on top but it’s totally not necessary because this vegan mac stands on its own.

vegan alternative to mac & cheese

Just a quick note here: turmeric doesn’t just add the color of American cheese to this dish, it also comes with plenty of health benefits that include anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which is a nice change for cheese, don’tcha think?

Let me know if you decide to make your own version…what do you put in it?

Posted in Cheese, Dips, Plant Based, Potatoes, Sauces & Creams, Vegan

A Vegan Twist on Twice Baked Potatoes & Cheesy Broccoli

People always ask me if I feel like I’m missing on out something because I don’t eat or use any products derived from animals. It’s as if they think Beyond Burger doesn’t exist, or tofu or seitan or tempeh. Or vegetables and grains, beans…legumes.

I think I’ve made my point here, right?

The truth is that trying to lose weight can often be super restrictive, but not on a #vegan diet. You see, I can request that the Hubs whip up twice baked potatoes and feel confident that he can bring the meal in under 600 calories because there is no animal cheese, no bacon, no butter…no dairy to increase my inflammation and my butt size.

Now if you’re a particularly determined vegan, then yeah, you can make this as calorie crazy as the animal eaters. But why would you want to?

The best thing about a recipe like this is that it is incredibly easy to customize. Rather than going for vegan bacon, we opted for sauteed onions de-glazed with balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of smoky paprika and you’ll get that smoky flavor you think you need with bacon, vegan or otherwise.

For the broccoli, just steam or boil for 3 to 5 minutes and then give an ice bath to keep it bright green and beautiful. The cheese is a simple almond milk, corn starch, mustard, nutritional yeast and vegan cheese sauce. It’s quick thanks to the cornstarch, which is also why you don’t need to had several fist fulls of cheese. I learned my lesson from this calorie bomb masquerading as #vegan mac & cheese.

As you can see, the plate was a lot lighter than it usually is which is how he managed to make it tasty and calorie friendly.

This is one of the key points we all need to remember when we enjoy indulgent meals like this, the best way to not go overboard is to make sure you adhere to serving sizes. I would have loved a bigger portion of this, but the medium dress I just bought reminds me why I skip it!

Here’s my tip for enjoying this cheesy vegan dish: eat it on your workout day!

Any vegan cheese recommendations? I’m always in search of something new so tell me, what’s new in your part of the vegan world?

Posted in Cheese, Grains, International vegan cuisine, Pasta, Plant Based, Sauces & Creams, Vegan

Cheesy Vegan Broccoli Mac

During these endless days when one calendar day turns into the next, sometimes you get the urge to enjoy some comfort food. But you’re also an adult which means you have to eat your greens and your veggies.

So, what do you do?

One of my personal favorites is mac & cheese. Now it’s true that I’m not a huge fan of the vegan cheese options currently available to me but I am a huge fan of vegan béchamel sauce with just a pinch of cheese, and it turns out it was just what my mac & cheese dishes were missing to satisfy that craving.

Just like the mac & cheese you used to eat as a child, this dish is easy and (relatively) quick to make.

This was my third or fourth attempt to perfect my béchamel sauce, alternating between Alpro almond and soya milks in search of a slightly higher fat content to get that thick creaminess I was in search of. The unsweetened soya is better than the almond in terms of fat but not necessarily taste, at least to me.

The ingredient list for this dish is pretty simple:

Pasta (I prefer whole wheat, choose what you like)

Broccoli

Mushrooms

Garlic

Soy milk

Nutritional Yeast

Vegan butter (I used olive oil)

Flour

Water

Make the pasta according to the instructions but if you prefer to bake your pasta before you serve it, cook it a minute or two shy if your preferred doneness. Steam the broccoli and set aside.

For the mushrooms you can saute them on a high heat on top of the stove or season them and bake’em until the moisture is gone. The choice is yours since it’s your time, after all.

The sauce is the most time consuming part and if you want it really thick and flavorful, take your time here. Add fat (vegan butter or oil) and flour. I added a few cloves of minced garlic to the oil and let it cook until fragrant before adding the flour. Once the flour and fat mix starts to brown you can go straight for the liquid (water or milk) or you can do like I did and get fancy with it!

Before adding the liquid, I added a teaspoon (or more) of the following: mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and Sriracha. It’ll get good and sizzle-y and then its time to add the liquid. Note: You can alternate water and milk if you need a bigger batch of sauce without all the calories, but if you take it easy on the vegan cheese you’ll find the soy milk is pretty calorie friendly.

Once the liquid is in, keep a steady stir over a low heat, adding vegan cheese and nutritional yeast in alternating spoonfuls. A little bubbling is good but if it’s too much, turn down the heat. Add turmeric for that yellow American cheese color and smoky paprika for that smoky, grown up cheesy flavor!

If you choose, pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes, then cool and serve.

With a blackberry & mint margarita!

Cheers and pofta buna and please, pretty please…stay safe!!!