Week 32 – Vegan

We’ve got a bit of a treat for you this week, dinner & dessert!

Down below, you’ll find a vegan brownie recipe from me.  The other comes from a new guest blogger, Caroline!

Caroline is sister to Liz, who attended law school with Janine & Lisa (Liz’s brownies have appeared on the blog before).  Caroline is a traveler, friend of the blog, and excellent vegan cook!

This week, Caroline volunteered to cook vegan mac & cheese at Liz’s apartment, and whip up  little blog post about vegan cooking.

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Caroline’s Vegan Mac and Cheeze

What can I say about vegan mac and cheeze? Zany vegan food kind of speaks for itself. Vegan cooking blogs are inundated with vegan versions of “normal” food. Vital wheat gluten instead of beef? Yes. Chia seeds coagulated in water instead of pudding? Yes. Yeast instead of cheese? Oh yes. Reading these recipes as a new vegan, I was naturally a little skeptical. Why try endlessly to recreate non-vegan food? If you want it so badly, why not just eat it? Be happy with your vegetables, that’s why you signed up for this!

But then I got on board. What really got me was how creative and scientific this type of cooking is. In order to make vegan mac and cheese, someone figured out that when you pulverize cashews and add a bunch of nutritional yeast, it tastes nutty, savory and fatty, just like cheese. All while being better for you and the environment. Genius.

I made this mac and cheeze recipe regularly a few years ago during my two-years of vegan eating. I haven’t made it since. Now that real, delicious cheese is back in my diet, I was wondering if vegan mac and cheeze would pale in comparison. Vegan blogs are always boasting about recipes “so good your non-vegan friends won’t know it’s vegan!” But I had to wonder. If you’re eating this and expecting real mac and cheese, maybe your taste buds would get confused and freak out. But after making and eating this dish recently, I’ve decided that delicious food is just delicious food, vegan or not.

Also to its credit, the ingredients in this recipe won’t require 45 minutes wandering around in a co-op looking for specialty (bizarre and expensive) vegan items, which is often the case with from-scratch vegan cooking.  The only ingredient that wouldn’t show up in the average non-vegan pantry is nutritional yeast. And let me tell you, when it comes to nutritional yeast, the non-vegans are missing out. Why this stuff isn’t more widely used is beyond me.  True, eating yeast sounds gross, but it’s super high in protein (8 grams in one heaping tablespoon!), it’s a great source of B-complex vitamins, something that’s missing from your diet if you don’t eat animal products, and it’s nutty, creamy, and, well, cheesy.

So let’s talk cooking.

This vegan mac and cheeze recipe could not be easier. Maybe it’s not Kraft easy, but it’s not far off. Two steps: pulverize all the ingredients in a food processor. Pour over cooked macaroni. Then enjoy some delicious comfort food that you can feel good about.

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(Cashews, garlic, salt, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, turmeric ready to be pulverized)

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(Add in some almond milk and smoked paprika)

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(Squeeze in some lemon)

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(Pulverize until creamy & then pour over coked pasta)

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Who knows, maybe this recipe will surprise you. Or maybe it’ll totally gross you out. Either way, it’s a novel and quirky recipe that will, at the very least, make for some interesting water cooler chit-chat the next day.

Cheeze sauce

  • 3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 7 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper

This will make enough to coat your standard size box of macaroni.

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies
Okay, I’m back (Janine, duh).

A few months back a friend of mine was having some dietary issues while breastfeeding her new baby.  She cut a lot of things out of her diet, so I used it as an opportunity to try out some more ‘alternative baking styles.’  I made this recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, but I never had the chance to try them.  This time I did.

The first time I made them, I paid super close attention to the ingredients of the individual components, making sure they didn’t have anything that my friend was trying to avoid in her diet. This time, I was less concerned.  I didn’t use vegan chocolate chips, or really get too concerned about the applesauce or cocoa powder.

For me, vegan baking is learning how to work with the ingredients when you’re missing those tell-tale signs you’re used to: the rise, the texture, the crumb, etc.  Those things all come about from the interaction of the egg, butter, flour, sugar and your leavening agent.

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We’ve got all natural peanut butter, salt, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, applesauce, & chocolate chips.

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Cream together the peanut butter, honey, applesauce, and vanilla.

Then toss in the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and salt (if you’d like) and mix until smooth.

Pour into your baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or so.

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They look a little underdone, but they’re fully cooked.  The first time I made them, this was what really threw me, how to tell if they’re finished.  The advantage is the lack of eggs, so you won’t poison anyone if they’re underdone.  And under cooking these isn’t the worst thing, as they have a good fudge-like consistency.  They are very peanut-buttery, so use a peanut butter that you like.

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Things I learned:

  • Vegan macaroni & cheese is pretty delicious, and definitely a decent substitute for regular mac & cheese.
  • I’m very sensitive to salt – I knew this, but I especially realized it with the brownies.  If I use the Old Home all natural peanut butter, which is very salty, then I probably don’t need to add in the extra 1/8 tsp of salt.
  • Vegan baking & cooking is intimidating, but can be awesome, and much easier than you expect.

Thank you to Caroline for guest blogging & the delicious meal!

Come back next week, Lisa is going to take on TV-Show Inspired!!

 

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