Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese

If there were a Family Feud category for “comfort foods” (and I’m sure there was at some point), how many people would go with mac and cheese as their first pick? I don’t think I’m alone on this one; mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. In this spirit, I created a mac and cheese that could be made in your slow cooker for those inevitable lazy nights. Only one pot needed — and you don’t even have to cook the pasta!

I know there are many nights that I get home from class and want to take Woodley for a run or run some errands, but looming in the back of my mind is making dinner when I get home. I dread working late into the night just to enjoy a home cooked meal (my college days of cereal and granola bars for dinner, I’m happy to say, are over). With this recipe, you can throw everything into the slow cooker, run some errands, and come back to a warm meal. I must warn, however, that some intermittent stirring is a must with this dish — so make the errands quick. Or even use the time to watch Oprah(ok, so not everyone is the fan I am, but you can feel free to sub in your favorite show here) or take a cat nap. This is supposed to be comfort food, after all. Why not make the rest of your evening comfortable and lazy as well?

Serves: 4-5

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese:

1 8-oz. box gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (uncooked)

florets from 1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped

2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/2 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup water, divided

Directions:

1. Add all above ingredients (only 1 1/2 cups water) to your slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set on a low setting for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

2. After 1 hour has elapsed, add another 1/2 cup water. Stir. After 1 1/2 hours has elapsed, test macaroni for doneness before serving. If needed, you may add an additional 15 minutes to cooking time. Watch closely, though, to make sure pasta does not overcook.

3. If desired, to serve, toast 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes in a saute pan for a few minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle over individual servings.

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Kale Pesto Lasagna

kale pestoMy friend Christian came up with the idea of doing a green lasagna and asked if I could execute it. He gave me liberty with the “green” description — green tomatoes, green pesto, whatever worked. I went into full Top Chef mode thinking about all of the possible “green lasagnas” I could make. After two weeks of deliberation, taken Christian’s request perhaps a bit too seriously (hey, I live for this stuff, what can I say?), I decided to make a lasagna using a kale pesto. The kale is steamed to a bright green color and blended with roasted garlic, lemon zest, a little olive oil and some of the pine nuts lets over from the “ricotta.”

This kale pesto can also be used in a number of other dishes. I’m thinking over chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, or even as a dressing for salad. This lasagna was also created in hopes that people would take some creative liberties with the recipe. For example, I used the same pine nut ricotta that I made for my gluten free, vegan lasagna recipe. But a regular ricotta could easily be used here. I also used some vegan mozarella from Follow Your Heart, but I think a regular, part-skim mozarella would be very delicious here for those who eat dairy. Want some meat? Add an extra layer of cooked ground turkey to the mix. I also added the option of parmesan cheese in the pesto. I didn’t use any and didn’t miss it, but I could imagine some parmesan being really good in there.

kale pesto lasagnaThis dish may require a few steps (fewer if you take the shortcut of using store-bought ricotta), but it’s well worth the effort and healthy to boot! Thanks for the inspiration, Christian!

Kale Pesto:

1 bunch kale, steamed to a bright green

green tops from 2 scallions, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

zest of one lemon

3 cloves garlic, roasted (baked whole in a ramekin, drizzled with olive oil for 15 minutes, cool, then peel)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)

1 tablespoon pine nut ricotta or pine nuts

(2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese)

Other Components:

1 recipe pine nut ricotta or 1 cup ricotta cheese

1 box gluten free lasagna noodles

1 cup (or more) mozarella cheese or vegan mozarella, shredded

(1 lb. cooked ground turkey)

Directions:

1. Prepare pine nut ricotta and set aside.

2. Prepare pesto in same blender (don’t have to clean it out). Add some more olive oil if necessary to blend. Set aside.

3. Prepare lasagna noodles.

4. Preheat oven to 350.

5. Assemble lasagna: place a layer of noodles on the bottom of casserole dish. Spread with 1/3 cup ricotta and about the same amount of pesto. Sprinkle with a thin layer of mozarella cheese. Repeat 2x and top with final layer of noodles and sprinkle top with parmesan. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese on top begins to bubble.

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

Since being diagnosed with food allergies, the one thing I’ve really — I mean really – been missing has been lasagna, which was one of my all-time favorite comfort foods back in the day. This version is not only gluten-free and dairy-free, but also soy free. After coming across a recipe for pine nut ricotta dip in one of my favorite food blogs, Elana’s Pantry, I decided to adapt her dip recipe into a ricotta that could be used in lasagna. The results were out-of-this-world. Now when I’m craving a comforting, decadent one-dish meal, this vegetable lasagna will be my go-to recipe. Serve this meal for friends, but don’t tell them what’s not in it. You’ll fool them every time.

Gluten Free Vegan Lasagna with Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium zucchini, diced

5 button mushrooms, sliced

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon rosemary, minced

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used Tinkyada brand, which is made with brown rice)*

Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 cup raw pine nuts, soaked for 2 hours and drained

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Prepare sauce: In a large sauce pan or Dutch Oven, saute onions and garlic in one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms, plus another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute for another 8 minutes. Add both canned and fresh tomatoes, parsley and rosemary. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When finished, drain any excess liquid. Mixture should be quite thick. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to package directions (I cooked mine for less time than the box called for).

3. Prepare ricotta by blending pine nuts, water, lemon juice and salt in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

4. Assemble lasagna: in a 9×13″ baking dish, start by layering noodles, side-by-side, lengthwise. Spread approximately 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the top of the ricotta mixture. Repeat 3x, then top with a final layer of noodles.

5. Bake, covered in aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. Serve topped with additional parsley.

*You may need 2 boxes to fully complete the layering process. 1 box will usually be sufficient, but if there are broken pieces, one box might not always be enough. I try to keep an extra box on hand just to be on the safe side.

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