Indulgent, creamy, and kinda healthy? Can your mac and cheese do that?
I was craving a macaroni and cheese so cheesy and gooey and bad for me that I’d regret all my decisions in a glorious food coma after indulging in it. But then I remembered I’m vegan and no matter how cheesy and gooey my shiz is, it’ll never be that bad for me because vegan cheese has no cholesterol and no trans fat. Damn. Well if I’m being kinda healthy anyway, I might as well add some cauliflower to this mix for a sneaky dose of fiber and vitamins my non dairy cheese wasn’t packing.
First, let’s review how banging mac and cheese is for the soul: creamy, delicious, gooey, heart warming, song inducing, magical. Excellent. Now let’s review how good cauliflower is for the body: In one whole cup of cauliflower, you’re only taking in 25 calories. How amazing is that? You also get over 3 quarters of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C and 20% of your Vitamin K. AND it’s got plenty of B vitamins (which we vegans gots to gets) folate, fiber, antioxidants, yadda yadda, it’s good for you. Like real good for you. And virtually no carbs. I mean, come on, like stop showing off.
Here’s your ingredients list:
1 cup cauliflower
1 Spanish onion
5-6 cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups non dairy milk
2.5 heaping tablespoons vegan butter – I love Earth Balance brand
1/2 cup vegan cheddar cheese – I used Daiya brand for this, but I’m also a huge fan of Violife, you can’t go wrong with either
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
I also have a recipe I’ll share soon for an entirely veggie based mac, meaning no non-dairy cheese for the purists out there. That one is loaded with butternut squash, carrots, and cashews which makes it even healthier than this one. Au naturale. Dang.
Sidenote: The creamy delicious almond milk for this was hand made using my Ellie’s best nut milk bag. Essentially, you purchase your own almonds, oats, rice, etc., soak, blend, and drain to have the freshest yummiest milk you can imagine. If you want to check out how I did it, you can peep my video here. If you want to head over to Ellie’s Best, you can check out their selection of snacks, super food powders, essential oils, etc. and get 10% off your entire order if you use the code chickpeaandherb. Anyway, back to the MAC.
So first thing’s first, you’ll want to roast the cup of cauliflower. I did this in a toaster oven so I didn’t have to heat up my whole kitchen in the middle of July. Chop up a head of cauliflower, removing the stem in the middle of the head. Cut up the little heads of into 2-3” chunks, plop onto a reusable baking mat, and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Dice your onion and saute with a drizzle of olive oil for 5-8 minutes on medium heat, and add your cauliflower when it’s done baking. This lets it absorb all of that yummy onion caramelization. When this is done, probably another 5 minutes with both ingredients in the pan, toss into a high speed blender or food processor with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/3 cup milk. Let blend for at least five minutes because there is nothing worse than chunky macaroni and cheese. If it still seems chunky, add in a little more of your milk. Everything is eventually going to wind up in the same pot, so you can use as much of your 2 cups as you need here. Creaminess is essential.
While this is blending, bring your pasta to a boil in heavily salted water. You can get started on your sauce now, and even toss a protein into the toaster oven as well if you’d like. I used Beyond’s spicy Italian bratwursts and omg. I’m not even kidding, these babies taste so stinking good, please even meat eaters, and make every single meal taste like your grandma made it for you. Drooooool. From start to finish, your sauce should only take about ten minutes after you’ve roasted the cauliflower, and the brats only take 10-12 minutes in the oven/toaster oven. That’s what I’m talking about. Healthy vegan macaroni and cheese in a flash.
In the same big pot you sauteed your onion/cauliflower mixture in (no need to clean after removing the mixture), saute 5-6 diced cloves of garlic with a tablespoon of olive oil. I always infuse olive oils with ingredients from my garden., so for this meal, I used olive oil that had a few cloves of garlic, turmeric root, parsley, and onion flakes soaking in it for a few weeks. SO delicious. Straight up OG olive oil is totally fine too of course. After your garlic cloves start to brown and caramelize, plop in your butter and your spices. Mix in the remaining milk and cauliflower puree along with your vegan cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. You can thin this out with starchy water from your boiling pasta to find the right consistency if need be. I wound up adding about 3-4 tablespoons of starchy water.
In the last minute or two your pasta is supposed to be boiling, remove and drain. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and let it finish cooking in there. This is soooo delicious because the pasta absorbs some of the creaminess from the butter and milk, and everything is better when your flavors blend. This is perfect as is, but I can’t have macaroni and cheese without some greenery, because as I’m sure you all know, vegans can’t even indulge the right way. We need our veggies. So while my pasta was boiling, I sliced up some red onion, diced about 10-15 brussel sprouts, and cut down a couple king oyster mushrooms. I threw all of this into a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. I basically just sizzled these up to a nice crisp and sprinkled on top of my mac. You can sub in kale, fresh or sun dried tomatoes, or peas if sprouts aren’t your deal.