Super Thick & Cheezy Mac ‘n’ Cheeze

I love mac ‘n’ cheeze. I’ve decided that I would try my hardest in life to avoid any stereotypes about anyone, even the seemingly harmless ones (but, I’m not perfect, so don’t “@” me!). And so, I wasn’t gonna say that I’m pretty much obligated to like this side dish staple because I’m Black– but heck, it’s kinda true. I don’t know a single Black person that doesn’t like mac ‘n’ cheese. But there is one thing that most Black people frown upon in the sacred world of this classic food, and I’ve ventured into that territory with this recipe. Out of a box, stove top mac is a no-no. In fact, it’s almost sacrilege. But, when I can up with this cheeze sauce recipe, I knew I was on to something. Sure, it doesn’t have that baked in the oven taste exactly. And sure, it’s not made with real cheese, or even a vegan cheese substitute. And sure, I threw a bunch of seasonings in the recipe that are not at all reminiscent of traditional African-American mac ‘n’ cheese recipes– okay, I see I’m not really making a strong, positive case for my mac. But regardless, when I tried it, I felt like it tasted like something my family would prefer if they had to have the mac ‘n’ cheese made on the stove in like 15 minutes, instead of baked in the oven. Not only that, I made this with all my fellow humans of all ethnicities and cultures in mind, because who doesn’t love a thick and cheezy sauce? There are a lot of vegan cheeze sauce recipes out there, but mine differs in that the goal is for it to be a thick sauce from the start. It’s best when used right away, in it’s thick form. You’re more than welcome to thin it out by adding more almond milk to the mixture, but that defeats the purpose of this being a “super thick and cheezy” mac ‘n’ cheeze — and I know the point of my recipes is to “make them your own”, but I really like this recipe title, so pretty please keep this sauce thick af.

What You’ll Need:

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (x3) plain, unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)

For the Noods and Mac ‘n’ Cheeze Dish:

  • 4-7 cups cooked small pasta shells*
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • dried parsley (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)

What to Do:

  1. Prepare noodles (boil water, add noodles, return to a rolling boil uncovered. Use approximately 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry pasta shells. Drain shells from boiling water and run cold water over pasta shells for approximately 10 seconds. Drain again).
  2. Place noodles in a large mixing bowl and set aside someplace near the stove to keep them warm.
  3. Heat a medium to large sized skillet over low heat.
  4. Add butter and melt over low heat.
  5. Very slowly, begin to add the flour, about 1/3 of the whole 1/4 cup at a time; Use a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) to stir flour into the butter as you add it to the skillet. Stir continuously until all flour has been thoroughly mixed into butter and the entire 1/4 cup has been added.**
  6. Reduce heat to a very low simmer– as low as you can get the flame without turning it off.
  7. Add the first 1/4 of almond milk and stir slowly into the roux until completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  8. Add the second 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step, stirring slowly until the milk is completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  9. Add the third 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step.
  10. The sauce will start to form now and should be nice and thick.
  11. Return the heat to low.
  12. Add the nutritional yeast and salt and stir into the cheeze sauce until fully blended. Continue stirring sauce for approximately 1 minute, then, remove from heat.***
  13. Add sauce to the bowl of noodles and stir until cheeze sauce is well blended into noodles.
  14. Transfer some of the mac ‘n’ cheeze to a serving dish and garnish with seasonings to taste.

Date Posted on Instagram: 4/28/2019

* 4 cups will yield a ridiculously cheezy mac, and 7 cups will still be very cheezy but maybe more manageable. You can also use any pasta shape or type you’d like, but I don’t know if the “cheeziness” ratio will change. Most likely, it won’t, but try it out on any pasta you want and play around with the amount of pasta that works for the sauce based on your preference.

** This flour and butter mixture is known as a roux, and it’s the basis for many sauces — particularly in French cuisine (which has a lot of sauce-based dishes), but nowadays, in any cuisine.

*** If you don’t use all the sauce, transfer the remaining sauce to an airtight container (preferably glass) and store it in the refrigerator; it will keep for several days but I don’t recommend saving it for more than 5 to 6 days. To reheat: place sauce in a skillet on low heat. Once heat start to melt the sauce, add about 1 to 3 tbsp. of plain, unsweetened almond milk (add the milk one tbsp at a time) to the skillet and stir the sauce with a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) continuously and slowly until sauce becomes “saucy” again. This should return the sauce to it’s thick consistency, but you can add more milk if you want to thin it out even more.

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Lemon Ginger Dressing

As you may all know by now, I love salads. Because of that, you may have also figured out that I love salad dressings. Well, I guess one doesn’t automatically equal the other, but in this case, it’s true. I love salad dressings and all dressings and sauces in general. I feel like they can really make a meal if used correctly (or break a meal if used incorrectly!). During my week on a raw diet, I created a sauce for the first time and it was really fun and exciting knowing I made it entirely from scratch — dressings are actually one of my favorite things to experiment with in the kitchen now. It’s kinda fun putting a bunch of stuff in a blender and seeing how it all turns out, especially when you have certain flavors in mind that you want to achieve. The flavors in this dressing are are inspired by Trader Joe’s Almond Butter Turmeric Salad Dressing. I’ve never tasted the TJ’s version, so the only thing that is spot-on about this recipe is the color, but whether or not it tastes as good as the TJ’s version, it definitely holds its own flavor-wise. Making dressings has also taught me a certain level of discipline– I know it sounds weird, but let me explain. I can be impatient and don’t usually like to wait for things, even when I’m making it– so I had to learn patience when blending ingredients together because creating the flavors forced me to add ingredients in small increments to see if the flavor was there yet and not overdo it; I also had to learn to wait for dressings to settle for a few minutes so the ingredients could “mesh” together–sometimes even waiting overnight for the full flavor profile to develop. So yes, making dressing has taught me patience and understanding. Who needs therapy when you can just cook?

IMG_7907

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice*
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (almond butter can be used instead)

What to Do:

  1. Place about half the lemon juice, turmeric, peanut butter, ginger and black pepper in a blender.
  2. Blend until ingredients are smooth, adding the remainder of the liquid in small increments until all the lemon juice has been added.
  3. If the dressing does not blend fully, stop blending and remove the dressing from the sides of the blender, placing it back in the center using a spatula or similar thin kitchen utensil. Continue to blend until dressing has reached a smooth, creamy consistency.

* The dressing will have a tart lemon flavor with this recipe. I loved it but if you want less of a tart flavor, you can substitute the 1/2 cup lemon juice for 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1/4 cup room temperature water. Or play around with the measurements to reach the desired flavor, but be careful of adding too much liquid or the dressing will be very runny.

Date posted on Instagram: 10/24/18

Spaghetti Bolognese with Pan-Fried Zucchini

This is another classic Italian dish that has been veganized. I was also going to take credit for veggitizing the sauce, until I found out that traditional bolognese sauce already has veggies in it. However, I might be able to take credit for “re-veggitizing” the sauce, because I added my own mix of veggies other than the traditional variety. By veggitizing something, my goal is to add veggies to every meal, even meals that don’t usually have veggies associated with them. This dish may not fall into that category, but give me a meal and I’ll find a way to add veggies to it. Tofu scram? Add veggies. Lasagna? Veggie lasagna. Strawberry shortcake? Strawberry shortcake with broccoli! Okay, this system may not be perfected just yet.

spaghetti bolognese closeup

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 1/2 cups Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles (1 bag)
  • 1 box of spaghetti, use about 1/2 the box of noodles (I used Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Spaghetti)
  • 1 large zucchini squash (I mixed half yellow and half green)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • about 1/2 tsp of additional salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

 

What to Do:

  1. Slice a little more than 1/2 of the zucchini into thin slices. Set aside. Cut the remaining squash into small cubed pieces. This will be used in the sauce. Set aside.
  2. Bring approximately 2-3 cups water to a boil in a medium-sized pot.
  3. Add spaghetti to pot and let boil for several minutes, according to the instructions of the type of pasta you’re using (less time for al dente, more time for softer noodles). Remove noodles from heat, drain and set aside.
  4. In a medium to large-sized skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat.
  5. Once hot, add chopped onion and saute for approximately 1-2 minutes. Add chopped garlic, stir to mix with onion, and continue to saute for another minute or so.
  6. Add entire bag of beefy crumbles and stir into onion and garlic mixture. Heat crumbles for about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Lower heat to a simmer and add sauce to skillet.
  8. Let sauce simmer over low heat for approximately 5-7 minutes, until sauce and beefy crumbles are fully heated through.
  9. Add cubed zucchini, fresh basil and salt to sauce and stir. Let simmer for another minute, then remove from heat.
  10. In a separate skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  11. Once hot, place zucchini slice in oil in one even layer, and pan-fry the slices until they are golden brown on each side (as pictured); approximately 2-4 minutes per side.
  12. Remove the zucchini slices from the oil and place them on a paper towel or cloth to drain excess oil. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
  13. Transfer a serving of pasta to a serving dish and place a serving of the bolognese sauce on top of the pasta.
  14. Add side of zucchini on dish and serve.

 

Date Posted on Instagram: 9/28/18

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto (Raw)

I didn’t think it would happen but I actually created several recipes during my week of eating raw vegan. I was pleasantly surprised at my creativity level during that time. This is one of the recipes I created — a raw, chunky pesto. For this dish, I used it as a sauce but it can certainly be  mixed into zoodles or cooked noodles as a pesto. It has a tangy, flavorful taste with a powerful impact on the taste buds because of the strong flavor coming from the sun-dried tomatoes. I love sun-dried tomatoes — I’ll eat them as a snack if I have them on hand. Because I love pasta so much, this recipe was great because it allowed me to feel as though I was eating spaghetti with a chunky marinara sauce. Anything that makes me feel like I’m eating spaghetti when I’m not actually eating spaghetti is a win as far as I’m concerned.

raw sun dried tomato bsil pesto closeup

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 medium-sized vine tomato, sliced into four pieces
  • 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thickly
  • 1/4 cup Italian green pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

What to Do:

  1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except for the water.
  2. Pulse ingredients for about 5-10 seconds and slowly add water about 2-3 tablespoons at a time.
  3. Continue to pulse the pesto, until ingredients blend together. Continue adding water as necessary.
  4. You want the sauce to be slightly chunky so do not over-process. Also, be careful not to add to much water, as this will thin the sauce out too much.
  5. Serve pesto over zoodles or noodles or mix into them for a true pesto. This pesto tastes great as a raw recipe but can be heated up as well.
  6. Add nooch for some extra flavor!

 

 

Date posted on Instagram: 7/14/18

Mushroom Pâté (Raw)

I’ve never had pâté before, so when I created this, I wasn’t sure exactly how it should taste texture-wise. But I knew that it was pretty close, especially for a raw version of the real deal. It was also spreadable and tasted great as a filling in the peppers, so I was happy with the result. I actually made a few mistakes with this recipe, watering it down too much initially. I can sometimes have “heavy hands” and no patience. But practice makes perfect and the end result was a flavorful, healthy, cruelty-free pâté!

raw mushroom pate

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups of baby bella mushrooms (cremini)
  • 1/8 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped thickly
  • 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup orange carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green zucchini squash, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 teaspoon parsley (fresh can also be used)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (fresh can also be used)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

 

What to Do:

  1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor except for water.
  2. Pulse ingredients for about 5-10 seconds and slowly add water about 2-3 tablespoons at a time.
  3. Continue to pulse the pate, until ingredients blend together. Continue adding water as necessary.
  4. You want the sauce to be smooth but still have some thickness to it. Also, be careful not to add to much water, as this will thin the pate out too much.
  5. Serve as a spread on crackers or bread. Or, stuff some peppers with the pâté as seen in the featured photos! I added a dollop of the sun-dried tomato basil pesto on top of each pepper for more depth in the flavor profile.

 

 

Date posted on Instagram: 7/11/18

Cracked Black Pepper and Mushroom Alfredo Sauce (Raw)

I LOVE alfredo sauce. Unfortunately, the classic and traditional style of this sauce is filled with dairy. However, one of the most beautiful things about my vegan journey has been discovering all the foods I can still eat without dairy or meat in them. This is another recipe I created during my raw vegan week challenge. If I’m being 100% honest, I was kind of surprised at how good it turned out! If you’ve had a chance to read my blog post on my week of eating raw, it was so good that it literally gave me the energy boost I needed to continue with the challenge during mid-week when I was getting a little tired of eating uncooked food and missed all my hot goodies. It truly reminded me of the alfredo sauces I used to eat– rich, creamy, and flavorful. So try it out and don’t say I didn’t warn you — it may very well be addictive!

raw cracked black pepper and mushroom alfredo

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup of your favorite plant-milk (I used almond milk)*
  • 3-4 tablespoons of tahini
  • 3/4 cup unsalted cashews (can be raw but not required)
  • 1/2 cup baby bella mushrooms (cremini)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped thickly
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

 

What to Do:

  1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse sauce in intervals until well blended.
  3. You want the sauce to be smooth and creamy; add more milk if necessary.
  4. Serve over noodles or veggies. Taste great as a raw recipe but can be heated up as well.

 

* I think almond or soy may be the best for this recipe because they are both a little thicker. Oat milk for example, is slightly thinner and the goal is to have a rich sauce. But experiment and see what works best for you and your taste buds!

** this recipe can also be made nut-free by omitting the cashews and replacing them with an additional 1 tbsp. of tahini (so, about 5 tbsp. total) and an additional 1/2 tbsp. of nutritional yeast. Combine all ingredients and blend, as in the original instructions.

 

Date posted on Instagram: 7/17/18

**Updated: June 14, 2019**

Tangy Aioli

Sauces are great. I love fries with ketchup. I love nuggets with BBQ or sweet and sour sauce. I love tofu scram or breakfast potatoes with salsa. The list goes on. I also love a good multi-purpose, tangy sauce. And this aioli is just that. Fun fact: traditionally, an aioli was a mixture of a whole bunch of pounded garlic, mixed into an egg, lemon juice and olive oil concoction. Today, an aioli is pretty much interchangeable with mayo, but, I usually here “aioli” used when referring to more flavorful sauces than your typical, plain mayonnaise. Not only is this aioli just as sandwich-friendly as mayo, it’s anything but plain.

IMG_6472

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Trader Joe’s Vegan Spread and Dressing)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Thai chili sauce (I used a garlic chili pepper sauce by a brand called A Taste of Thai)*
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • the juice of 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to Do:

  1.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix all ingredients together well and adjust seasoning amounts if necessary to suit your taste.

* This sauce is amazing! Since finding it at Whole Foods, I put it on almost everything! It has a very low heat index and focuses more on flavor. It’s SO good! It’s perfect for this aioli, but if you can’t find it at your local Whole Foods Market or are not located near a Whole Foods, simply look for a Thai chili sauce or a chili sauce at any ethnic (Asian or Indian) market, at any big-box store, Target, and of course, check your local supermarkets!

Date posted on Instagram: 8/25/18

(not posted on it’s own but as a drizzled sauce over crab cakes!)