Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I had my mac and ate it too!

Last night for dinner my husband had decided on some leftover spaghetti and meatballs, which I was totally excited about…because it gave me the opportunity to try out a new recipe!  I couldn’t quite get him on board with the idea of vegan mac ‘n’ cheese so this was my chance to try it for myself, and then tempt him with its creamy deliciousness!

Recently (thanks to Pinterest) I came across a website for Chef Chloe.  She’s an up-and-coming vegan chef and was featured on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.  Her recipes all look amazing and I especially couldn’t wait to make her Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese.

Here’s a link to the original recipe:

And here’s a picture of the yellowy creaminess that kept taunting me all week:

Growing up I was a sort of mac ‘n’ cheese aficionada if you will.  I could make a box of the blue stuff (or similar off-brand) better than the rest of them.  Didn’t follow directions or need measuring cups, I eye-balled it and it always came out perfect!  Well, as perfect as $0.33 mac ‘n’ cheese can taste.

After high school I discovered I was lactose intolerant, but thanks to lactose free milk my mac ‘n’ cheese obsession continued.  It wasn’t until last year that I thought I was completely cut off from my former love.  You see, In September of last year I switched to a plant-based or mostly-vegan diet which meant no dairy (even lactose free dairy), which in turn meant NO MAC ‘N’ CHEESE?!

People ask why I needed to cut out dairy completely.  I just gradually began eating less and less of it the more veggies I ate.  In early December I had gone a good month with no cheese at all, and then one night had a veggie and cheese pizza.  The next two days I was miserable, absolutely the worst abdominal pain I have ever had.  I think my body has become even less accustomed to dairy so now even just a little triggers severe abdominal pain.  From that day I decided to completely swear of cheese and dairy!

So imagine my excitement when I found this recipe that looks very convincingly like the original.  Here’s a break down of the ingredients, which are a lot healthier than the original stuff.  What’s that neon yellow powder made of anyways?!


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or piccolini
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • ¼ cup vegan margarine
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
  • 3 cups soy, almond, or rice milk
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon agave
For some there might be a few too many of those “weird vegan health food” ingredients, but the only things I had to buy at the store last night was the noodles and lemon juice.  Once you start eating vegetarian or vegan you begin to build up a new baking and cooking arsenal.  If you purchase items gradually as you come across them in recipes the price tag doesn’t come as such as shock.  Now if you went to Whole Foods and bought all of the listed ingredients you’d probably be spending $30 on Mac ‘N’ Cheese, but I promise that if you start trying more recipes you will continue to use these ingredients and eventually all you will need is one or two items to complete a meal.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you can gradually make the change, like replacing sticks of real butter with sticks of Earth Balance when you run out (I’m not claiming that Earth Balance is healthy, just a better alternative).

This would be a good go to at the last minute meal.  You could easily have all of these items in your pantry or freezer to be ready at a moments notice!

Freezer Items:
broccoli florets (could use fresh, I had frozen available)

Fridge Items:
Vegan sticks of butter (Earth Balance)
Lemon juice

Pantry Items:
Shelf-stable almond/soy/rice milk
Nutritional yeast
Tomato paste
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Agave nectar (I was out of agave and used honey)

How easy is that to have on hand?!

So it was around 6:30 when I gathered all of my ingredients together, and I was sitting at the table eating by 7:00.  Very easy to make!  Again, refer to Chef Chloe’s site for complete directions (

Just boil the noodles, make a roux, add the remaining ingredients to complete the sauce, mix everything together and there you have it!  Your very own giant bowl of creamy deliciousness.

For a side I had a spinach salad with craisins, sliced almonds, chia seeds, and Trader Joe’s raspberry vinaigrette.  This has become my go to salad, a little sweet, a little tangy, and the perfect side to any dish.

The verdict?

It was yummy!  This definitely satisfied my need for something creamy and warm.  It doesn’t have the knock-your-socks-off sharp cheddar flavor, but the nutritional yeast gives it a nice hint of cheese and the tomato paste offers a great subtle undertone to the sauce.  I think that if you are use to eating the real stuff this might be a little bland, but after having no cheese for a month, and no mac ‘n’ cheese since last summer this definitely fits the bill!

On another note, the leftovers at lunch today reheated well.  It retained a good texture and flavor.  This made a ton of mac so I have enough for me for at least 3 or 4 leftover meals.

What would I change?

I would consider adding some spice, a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper?  A little heat would have added a lot.  Also, I would have loved to have broccoli in every bite, but sadly I didn’t have enough left in the freezer for the whole recipe.

This is definitely going to be a staple in my recipe line-up for those last-minute “I have no idea what to make and I really don’t want to go to the store” meals.  Kind of like what real mac ‘n’ cheese is for, right?


  1. I know you're going dairy-free and I read your blog about why. I think what you're doing is awesome - it amazes me how much the food I eat affects how I feel (actually, reading that blog gave me some insight into potentially why my IBS has been so much better here in Africa). I haven't done any research about health benefits for dairy vs. no dairy, but I have had some experience with lactose-intolerance, so I'm going to throw this out there just in case you want to look into it. Have you considered raw milk? You should be able to digest it because it has the lactase enzyme built in. I have also heard anecdotal stories about people that are severely lactose-intolerant switching to raw milk and over a few months they were able to eat other previously pain-inducing dairy products. The only caveat is that the laws about it are strange so it's hard to get, and you want to make sure that you know where it's coming from to make sure it is clean and won't make you sick. Anyway, your blog is great and your mac and cheese looks yummy - I just might have to try it when I get home!

  2. Kim, that is very interesting! I've never heard of raw milk, but it makes sense since it has lactase in it. Like you said, it might be difficult to get. I was eating yogurt previously, which has little lactose in it since the bacteria breaks it down, and I was able to tolerate that fine. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the tip!