The other night I was lusting over my girls' mac and cheese. It was the new hip organic kind out of the box. But, it was cheese. I've stayed away from dairy for over two decades now, well before it was hip to be vegan, plant-based, or whatever folks want to call themselves. I eat non-dairy because if I eat milk and cheese, my stomach starts to hurt. When I stopped eating it regularly I started to feel great, and the rest is history - I even wrote a book about it!
I'm human though, and I miss my creamy, decadent macaroni and cheese. So, I decided to experiment with some cashew cream and a funky little ingredient called nutritional yeast.
Making cashew cream is easy. Just soak 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashews in 1/2 cup of water for 2 hours to overnight. Dump that into your Vita Mix, add 1/2 cup of water and blend until smooth and creamy. It should be like a thin, frothy milkshake. Add more water if needed. I doubled this recipe to keep on hand for later. I will also freeze some in ice cube trays.
Nutritional yeast can be picked up in most health food stores and any specialty store. Check to see if it's sold in the bulk section. It's a deactivated yeast that typically comes flakes, and when sprinkled onto and into things like popcorn and mashed potatoes, mimics the taste of cheese. It's completely vegetarian and vegan and healthy, offering up B1 and B2 vitamins. Don't be scared off by the unappetizing name. And do NOT tell your omnivore of a husband what you are adding to the pasta! (note to self)
1 8 oz. package pasta, cooked (I use gluten-free quinoa pasta or red lentil pasta)
1 ½ cups cashew cream
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon butter alternative
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
In a saucepan (no heat yet) add the cashew cream, nutritional yeast, butter alternative, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric, red chile, and salt. Turn the heat to medium low. With a whisk mix the ingredients for about 2 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Add to your cooked pasta and mix gently. Serve immediately.
For fun, add in a 1/2 cup of peas to the pasta before adding the sauce. Or, swap the Indian spices for Italian oregano, parsley, and thyme. Or for the big game this weekend? Transfer to a casserole dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, gluten-free or otherwise, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until slightly brown. There are so many amazing variations.
The only thing I'd say we should all agree on? The vegan secret stays with us.
If you liked this post, check out this one, where I explain why eating turmeric powder and black pepper together is important.