I have a confession to make.
Vegan cooking scares me.
Well, maybe I should say that it intimidates me. Yes, that sounds better. Less cowardly. I’m not sure exactly what it is (the blenders, long lists of unusual ingredients, food processors, raw cashews…), but something about a gourmet vegan recipe fills me with childlike terror.
Then, miracle of miracles, I saw the following recipe on Oh She Glows and to be honest, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Not only had I been craving mac n’ cheese for DAYS (and couldn’t stop talking about it – sorry Sean), but I also had a butternut squash sitting in my produce bowl, lonely and desperate to feel useful in life.
So in an uncharacteristically brave move, I put on my big-girl pants, shooed the cat off the counter and dove right in.
Below are the ingredients as recommended by Angela on her lovely website, Oh She Glows:
- 1/2 Butternut squash (peeled & chopped)
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup of non-dairy milk (and as needed for getting your desired consistency)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or as needed)
- 6-7 tbsp nooch (nutritional yeast)
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp or more Italian seasonings
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Turmeric (optional)
- Pepper to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Paprika (or as needed)
- Pasta of choice
I made a few small tweaks to the above list, based on my personal preferences and what I had available in my pantry. I used unsweetened almond milk rather than soy milk, and I must say that I was really thrilled with the end result consistency-wise. I also skipped the pepper, used Spike rather than Italian seasoning and added quite a bit of turmeric.
* Side Note: The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin (this is what gives turmeric its bright hue) and this highly beneficial spice has been shown to be a natural anti-inflamatory, a good source of antioxidants and has been found useful in the treatment of a host of diseases and ailments, including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, colds, the flu and diabetes. I really enjoy cooking with turmeric and include it whenever possible, so if you haven’t given this beautiful spice a chance I highly suggest that you do!
I added a little bite to the dish with ground chili pepper and cayenne powder, and finally, in order to make this delicious dish gluten-free as well as vegan, I used brown rice pasta in lieu of whole wheat.
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet. In a bowl, season chopped squash with some oil (I used coconut) and kosher salt, lay on baking sheet and roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes.
2. Assemble the ingredients for the cheese sauce (cashews, non-dairy milk, garlic, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, pepper, mustard, seasonings). Add the cashews to food processor & blend until fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth (I added the almond milk slowly throughout the blending process). Leave the sauce in the processor as you will be adding the squash.
3. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
4. After 40 minutes of roasting add the squash to the food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust spices to taste and add additional almond milk to get desired thickness.
5. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water and mix pasta with cheese sauce.
The sauce is gooey, cheese-y and has a great consistency, thickening as it cools. As someone who lives alone and frequently cooks for one, my leftovers are very important to me, and I must say this tasted even better the next day!
If vegan cooking intimidates you as well or if the idea of vegan “cheese” is off-putting, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try and expanding your culinary horizons as I did.
I found that this was something of a therapy session for me and I can genuinely say that I’m less daunted by vegan cooking than I was a week ago. So hopefully this will be just the first of many recipes that I’ll be trying out and sharing with you.