Mac and cheese is an all-American favorite. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember a family get-together/meal where either my Mom, Grandmother or one of my aunts didn’t bring a giant foil pan full of the stuff.
The mac and cheese we always had was baked (not prepared on the top of the stove), layered with three types of cheese that were melted and gooey throughout, nice and spicy with plenty of black pepper. Then it was topped with butter and a crunchy cracker crust.
OMG! That stuff was ridiculously good.
Alas, we are past the days of eating that high calorie, high cholesterol, high saturated fat cow milk goo. I can no longer in good conscience participate in a lifestyle dependent upon innocent female cows being forced into pregnancy to give milk for humans to make cheese out of.
Not only that, the images of clogged arteries on the web, the strokes and heart attacks friends and family have suffered from eating massive amounts of foods high in saturated fat made me lose interest in all that kind of food. I’m really not trying to have a stroke.
So yeah, I’ve happily moved on from animal cheese munching to the cruelty free lifestyle. However, that doesn’t mean I have given up on eating mac and cheese for the rest of my life! And you don’t have to either.
Just this week an online acquaintance forwarded me a recipe to try in The Test Kitchen for mac and cheese that she found online at Vegan Yumminess. The sender was raving about the fabulousness of this mac and cheese, which I have to admit got my attention.
She reported having tried a dozen or more different recipes, and reported liking this one the best. High praise, indeed. Plus, I have to admit the title of the blog sounded promising, so I agreed to run it through The Test Kitchen this week. Find the original recipe here.
Since this mac and cheese is prepared on the stove top, it’s super simple and quick to make (20 minutes).
Using a mixture of spices and vegetables, including onion, carrot and potato, this mac and cheese did have more substance and of course nutrition than one might expect. I liked that, especially for children and adults who hate vegetables. Always want to sneak in as many veggies as you can when they aren’t looking!
Everything looked great until I scanned the list of ingredients and saw coconut milk. Huh? To me coconut milk has a distinctly “island” flavor (at least that is what I think of when I drink it – something either Asian or Caribbean) – not a flavor that blends well with mac & cheese, based upon an American classic dish.
And I was right. The coconut milk was overwhelming to my taste buds. Though the texture of the cheese sauce was smooth, the potato and cashews adding creaminess, and the carrot and nutritional yeast an appetizing color, I just couldn’t get past the coconutty taste.
Perhaps a different brand of coconut milk would have worked better? Since I make a lot of curries, Indian and Asian dishes, I shop at the Asian markets in my area and usually buy the brand of coconut milk pictured. Hmmm, maybe using the refrigerated grocery store aisle coconut milk (which has less of a coconut flavor and is more watery) might be better?
Not sure what to tell you there, all I know is that I’d prefer a more neutral flavored milk so that the cheese flavor and macaroni shined through without conflict. I’d also like a bit of a buttery taste which would also provide the fat which would make the sauce adhere to the pasta.
I’m just not down with this low- and no-fat cooking everyone does lately, especially for a vegan remake of a dish that is SUPPOSED TO BE super fatty. How about a compromise?
Test Kitchen Recipe Ranking
- Cook the vegetables in vegetable stock or Not-Chicken stock, not just plain water.
- When you get to the stage where you add the vegetables to the blender, throw in a tablespoon or two of vegan butter.
- If you don’t have a super powerful blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec, the author suggests that you pre-soak your cashews for at least 30 minutes to plump them up and soften them. I say soak them for at least an hour, preferable two or three. The more water your cashews absorb before blending with the other ingredients, the smoother and creamier your mac and cheese will be.
- Use a more neutral tasting plant milk like almond milk, rice milk or soy milk instead of coconut milk.
- Try using garlic or seasoned salt instead of plain salt. Add a few shakes of white or black pepper too.
Get exciting new soul food, Cajun/Creole and classic American recipes done vegan! Check out WHY VEGAN IS THE NEW BLACK: More than 100 Meat and Dairy Free Meal Ideas Your Whole Family Will Love.
Category: The Test Kitchen