The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (my future place of learning for 11 months) has been very keen about incorporating at least one day a week where you don’t eat meat. While meat is very tasty, it definitely is not that good for you. In order to encourage more vegetables and grains in your life, Johns Hopkins started “Meatless Monday”, a way for people to really dedicate their lives better one baby step at a time.
The one thing worse than meat is dairy. Ask any vegan and they will tell you about the harmful properties of it. In addition, we are the only animal that drinks another animals milk…doesn’t that seem strange? People are under the misconception that dairy is the only way to get calcium and certain vitamins. This is entirely untrue. In fact dark leafy vegetables have more calcium than a serving of milk. Now, I am not hating on dairy. I do love cheese and ice cream, but I recognize that it is important to eat it in lower quantities (or avoid it all together). With that said, I try hard to eat more veggies and less dairy and meat.
For this reason, I am always on the quest for a way to make a favorite dish in a healthier way. One such dish is mac and cheese. I love it! But I recognize that all of that dairy in one portion isn’t good for me. I spent last week searching for vegan alternatives to mac and cheese and I stumbled across an interested recipe for Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze on the blog, Oh She Glows. I figured, why not try it? So I purchased all of the ingredients and make it yesterday afternoon. The recipe uses nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy flavor) and ground cashews and a few other ingredients to make a “cheese” like sauce. With any substitution, you will not get something that tastes exactly like cheese, but it definitely comes close. I added some peas to mine to get some more veggies in.
It will be my lunch for this week. Here’s my result:
Click here for the recipe on the blog and more pics. You can also find the recipe below. Happy Cooking and Eating:)
Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze: Two Ways
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped (yields: 3.5 cups raw)
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened + unflavored soy milk), or more to thin out
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- 6-7 tbsp Nutritional yeast(provides the cheesy consistency)
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp or a bit more of dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Tumeric powder, optional (gives the orangey color)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Paprika + more to season
- Your pasta of choice (I used ~450 grams/4.5 cups dry penne for the casserole) + mix-ins
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet. In a bowl, season chopped squash with some oil (~1 tsp) and kosher salt (couple pinches) and stir. Add to baking sheet and roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping once half way through baking.
2. If making the baked casserole: Process 1 slice of bread + 1 tbsp Earth balance until crumbs form in a food processor. Set aside. If you plan on enjoying it straight from the pot you can skip this step.
3. Assemble your cheeze sauce ingredients (cashews, non-dairy milk, garlic, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, pepper, mustard, seasonings) and add just the cashews to food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Now add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Leave the sauce in the processor as you will be adding the squash.
4. Cook your pasta according to package directions. When squash is finished roasting, add it to the food processor and blend it with the cheese sauce until smooth. Adjust to taste. The sauce will thicken up with time. If at any point the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a bit of milk to thin it out.
5. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water. Now add the pasta back into the same pot and add your desired amount of cheeze sauce on top. Stir well. Add in any desired mix-ins like peas or broccoli. You can either heat this up in the pot, or pour it into a casserole dish (I used a 4 cup dish), sprinkle on breadcrumbs + paprika, and bake it at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. The casserole will serve about 4 people if you use 450 grams dry macaroni or penne. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge and use within a few days.