Sneaking In Healthy Snacks
Remember that time you wasted all of your collective bargaining power arguing with a 4 year old about a piece of broccoli? Years of debate team all summed up into one real time episode of “the biggest loser,” -you. Let this plant based mac and cheese help you amp up your strategy. Vegan, full of flavor, and heart!
All is fair in love and war. Especially when that involves a collective decision on “what’s for dinner.”
Imagine a set of 2-6 independent taste buds sitting around the communal dining space (aka the kitchen table). One’s a veggie lovin’ fool, one thinks all meat matters, and one eats nothin’ but Honey Nut Cheerios.
Lets let choosers be choosers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few tricks to bring to the table as well! Hide your veggies and the absence of cheese in these oodles of noodles combined with vegan goodness! A little farce to keep the table happy, the bellies full, and the bodies nourished? I”m not above it!
What is Plant Based Mac and Cheese Made Out of?
There’s many ways to create the perfect cheesy imposter through plants.
A few ways to make vegan cheese include using ingredients such as:
- Sesame or Sunflower Seeds
- Nutritional Yeast
Depending on the source, the texture and flavor of vegan cheese may vary a bit.
Many vegan cheese combinations also include ingredients such as:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Dijon Mustard
- Potato Starch
- Coconut Oil
Starches allow the cheese alternatives to melt and stretch which makes them ideal for cheesy alternatives. This makes lactose free mac and cheese created with nutritional yeast and cashew a perfect balance!
Fats such as coconut oil give cheese alternatives the consistency people are familiar with. You can find all the ingredients you need to experiment with variations on this plant based shopping list.
Finally, the acidity and lime offers a tangy taste similar to that of our true cheeses!
Does Vegan Cheese Taste like Real Cheese?
I’ll be honest, one of my most difficult obstacles in becoming a full fledged vegan is imagining my abstinence from that yellow block of love teetering on my refrigerator shelf.
Cheese always seemed to promise security of simple snacking and making all mediocre things great.
I couldn’t imagine a veggie cheese, that while full of hype, couldn’t melt on demand or properly fill a quesadilla.
Then I began to ask myself the question-does it really need to?
Veggie cheese isn’t going to be perfect at everything that cheese does. It’s not an replica-it’s a whole new character! This plant based mac and cheese is perfect for vegans, as well as those with intolerances!
The answer to the question of whether or not vegan cheese tastes like real cheese is simple- yes and no.
I can create a damn tasty cheese sauce out of vegan materials and your pallet won’t be able to distinguish the difference. That’s the case with this veggie cheese mac.
However, if you’re looking for something that will remain firm and mushy simultaneously, we’re going to need to work a bit harder. I’ve seen it done with highly processed products- but in my opinion the taste is compromised.
Instead of re-inventing the cheese. I encourage re-inventing the meal! Make it better than the original composer and see how your pallet thanks you.
Is Vegan Cheese Healthy?
There are a few things you will find in veggie cheese that you WONT find in true cheese.
- Fiber-regardless of your ingredients list, pretty much all vegan cheeses are fiber rich. Animal based cheeses will be absent these fine little carbohydrates.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (potentially, depending on source of cheese) found in vegan cheeses! Omega 3’s boost brain health and reduce inflammation.
- B12, an important energy booster and critical for our nervous system.
Like animal based cheeses, most vegan cheeses are a great source of protein and calcium.
Ways to Stock and Chop Your Veggies
Here is where things get real! If you’ve got a real veggie hater, the size of the chop on the veggies might matter!
The good news is, everything is better with cheese. And even if you’ve got a baby Einstein on your hands, they’re probably not going to be able to tell the difference between this cheese like saucy goodness and the real deal!
That, or it’ll just taste so great they won’t give a hoot. Either way, we’re counting this as a team parental win!
Chopping veggies a little smaller, or even blending into cheese sauce can be an easy win for everyone.
If we’ve got mostly adults enjoying, I encourage larger veggie pieces. I also encourage first roasted or sautéed. This really brings our a sweet flavor. If you’ve got picky kiddos, you can chop veggies finely or blend in cheese sauce.
Really any veggies can be used in this dish. As usual, this is just what I found in the back of the fridge! Shrooms and Broccoli for the win today!
Whole Grain Heart-Y balance
I can’t say i’ve eaten a refined grain in… well i’m not even sure how many years. Unless you want to talk about sourdough bread. That’s basically an instant addiction when it walks in the door (you KNOW what i’m talking about!)
Whole grains are good for you heart, keep cholesterol in check, and promote healthy digestion.
If you’re in question about wether or not something is a whole grain, check for whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredients. Look for 3 grams of fiber or more!
Refined grains are typically those that haven been stripped of the bran and germ. They don’t offer as many nutrients and fiber as our whole wheat products.
However, if you’ve got picky eaters i’d encourage just tossing in whatever pasta promises instant admiration and calling it your plan.
In parenting, love can be a battlefield and we need pick and we should pick our battles well. These Vegan cheesy noodles are already so plump full of nutrients. Whole grain or white grain, we can pat ourselves on the back for the night for a job well done.
Coconut Milk for Mac and Cheese Sauce
Coconut milk gives this dish is creamy and savory consistency. However, coconut milk, has a very distinct flavor. As such, I was cautious not to use too much of a good thing!
Coconut milk is rich fiber and many vitamins and minerals. It can promote heart health and reduce inflammation. It can also be beneficial in immune function.
I just have to brag a bit here. My daughter is 14 and hates any type of coconut as well as any type of nut. Since this has both cashews and coconut, and she gobbled it up, I’m feeling like a real jester right now! My 4 nieces and nephews also approved.
Alternatives Ways to Create This Plant Based Mac and Cheese
If I didn’t have tiny taste buds in the house, here are a few things I might alter in this meal.
- More root veggies. Carrots and squash offer an excellent source of sweetness.
- Chop the veggies a bit larger.
- Roasted red pepper or sriracha added to the dish.
- adding truffle oil, if i’m feeling adventurous.
- adding garlic for an added kick of zest.
This plant based mac and cheese has a tint of “tropical” or “sweet” flavor due to the coconut milk. This is quite tasty, but if you want to tone it down, a little spice can help.
Living One Plant Packed Plate at A Time
I LOVE mac and cheese. Which is why when I concocted the perfect plant based Mac and cheese for the first time I knew this vegan noodle madness had to become a reality.
I do want to mention, this meal is a bit versatile. You can make it “saucier” or more like traditional Mac and cheese based on how much time the sauce stays on the heat. I’ve learned nutritional yeast acts as a natural thickening agent, and heat really manipulates the way it’s going to act!
I LOVE sneaking veggies into my kids food. This dish understands that. Mostly because it makes me feel like i’ve had a wee victory in the day, and that i’m a rebellious teenager again simultaneously.
Do you have a favorite comfort food you’d love to see in vegan colors? I want to make that happen for you! Drop your comments below and i’ll give it my best shot!
Plant Based Mac and Cheese
- medium sized pan
Plant Based Cheese Sauce
- 1 cup cashews soaked
- 1 cup nutritional yeast small flakes
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups noodles
- 1 tbsp lime juice fresh squeezed
- 2 tbsp mustard dijon or ground
- 2 cups broccoli chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms chopped
- 4 cups pasta noodles bow tie used here
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground pepper if desired
- 1 tsp Basil garnish
- Combine all sauce ingredients. Blend on high 1-2 minutes in a high powered blender.
- Cook noodles for 10 minutes
- sauté fresh veggies in olive oil. Alternatively, chop veggies small or blend slightly with sauce.
- Heat sauce to achieve desired consistency. Add noodles and roasted veggies. Remember as sauce is heated and cooled will thicken! so enjoy immediately if you like a slightly thinner consistency with sauce.