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Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

April 24, 2014 Print this page

I wanted to have macaroni and cheese, but I wanted it to be filled with healthy, wholesome ingredients and not leave me feeling groggy, icky, or guilty. This was no easy task, but I think I have accomplished it.

Ingredients

Prep Time 15 min
Cooking Time 15 min
Total Time 30 min
Yield 4 servings

1 cup of raw cashews, soaked overnight

5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast

1 heaping tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon of red palm oil (or 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric + 1 tablespoon of coconut oil)

1 cup of vegetable broth (preferably homemade)

1 roasted red pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

The juice of 1/2 of a small lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

The equivalent to 4 servings of gluten-free pasta (I used this one), spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles

Directions

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Don’t look at it much: remember, a watched pot doesn’t boil!

Soak the cashews in a warm water bath overnight, then strain and put in the blender with the nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, red palm oil, vegetable broth, roasted red pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, salt, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes, then taste and adjust.

Once the ingredients are all blended up, pour the cashew-cheese-like mixture into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to simmer just to keep warm, and give the sauce a good whisk frequently to prevent it from sticking.

Meanwhile, your water should be boiling. It’s time to add your pasta!

Cook the pasta according to the box’s instructions, then strain in a colander. If you’re using veggies instead, well, let your veggies do their thing.

Toss with the sauce and eat immediately. I’d recommend a side of roasted brussel sprouts or cauliflower.

Oh, one more thing: if you’d like, you can bake your macaroni and cheese, too! Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for half an hour, and sprinkle the top with some almond flour or ground walnuts for extra crunch.


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Macaroni and Cheese (vegan + gluten-free!)

April 24, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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If you had approached me on the street ten, five, even two years ago and asked me what my favorite food was, I would have immediately replied, “Macaroni and cheese.”

And no, not especially the 10,000-cheese-and-truffle-oil macaroni and cheese from fancy restaurants. I was more a fan of the stuff in the blue box.

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It was one of the first things I learned how to “cook,” too, and I do believe I tried next to every shape that was available. Even when I was thirteen, my favorite kind was still the Scooby Doo shapes, perhaps because I ate it nearly every weekend throughout my childhood.

I was a really weird kid–I was obsessed with the presidents, viruses, and outer space, hated anything that involved running, and watched Nova and documentaries on the History Channel (back when it was good) instead of Disney. Naturally, social interactions with peers were difficult, but I somehow managed to always have friends. (I still don’t really know why I have friends now, haha.) But when I would have a friend over for a playdate, my mom would make us macaroni and cheese, slice up some apples and grape tomatoes, and read us a book while we ate our food.

Even though I’ll be turning sixteen in less than a month (!!!!!!!!!!), those are still some of my fondest memories. Even though they’re, er, cheesey, they revolve around happiness.

And macaroni and cheese.

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The blue boxes were some of the first processed food to go after I decided to clean up my eating habits. Into the cupboard and garbage they went, along with the microwave popcorn and frozen Mystic pizzas I enjoyed frequently noshing on.

Fast-forward about two years later, and I can’t remember the last time I ate macaroni and cheese. Even though I wouldn’t deem the stuff in the blue box “enriching” in a million years, it is kinda sad. It was my favorite food for more than a decade, and I don’t think anyone should have to completely give up his or her favorite foods just to be “healthy.”

Physical health is important, but what many nutritionists and experts often glaze over is that eating (and enjoying) food is also a very emotional experience, and what we eat has other outlets besides our internal and external physique.

So, what was a girl to do? I wanted to have macaroni and cheese, but I wanted it to be filled with healthy, wholesome ingredients and not leave me feeling groggy, icky, or guilty. This was no easy task, but I think I have accomplished it.

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While I do enjoy cheese and yogurt on a somewhat-regular basis, I’ve found that I don’t tolerate heavy, dairy-laden foods very well. A little goat cheese with breakfast or in a salad or a small bowl of yogurt is usually fine, but rich cream sauces tend to sit around in my stomach and disrupt traffic. I don’t like that very much.

Thankfully, I love cashews, and they make a wonderful substitute for dairy in everything from ice cream to smoothies. (I tried making cashew yogurt, too, but it was pretty gross. I’ll have to keep working on that.) When soaked overnight, this wonderful nut becomes very soft and blends up into a wonderfully thick, luscious cream that’s just rich enough to be decadent but not heavy enough to be overly-indulgent.

Paired with nutritional yeast, homemade stock, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, cashew cream goes from boring to BAM! The created sauce also keeps well in the fridge, so feel free to double the batch and keep a container around for a quick weeknight dinner.

Ready to see how amazing vegan macaroni and cheese can be? Good. Let’s go.

Adapted slightly from THIS recipe.

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Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Don’t look at it much: remember, a watched pot doesn’t boil!

Soak 1 cup of cashews in a warm water bath overnight, then strain and put in the blender with 5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1 heaping tablespoon of arrowroot powder, 1 tablespoon of red palm oil, 1 cup of vegetable broth (preferably homemade), 1 roasted red pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the juice of 1/2 of a small lemon (about 1 tablespoon). Blend until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes, then taste and adjust.

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A word about red palm oil: no, it does not come from red palm trees. It’s simply less-processed palm oil, and full of Vitamins A and E. Unfortunately, palm oil in general is not very sustainable, so make sure you purchase a brand that sources from small farms and makes an effort to support the environment and avoid deforestation. (I really like Nutiva.)

No red palm oil available? No problem: use 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil instead. I used turmeric with my initial recipe, but I prefer the red palm oil instead for its more neutral taste.

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Once the ingredients are all blended up, pour the cashew-cheese-like mixture into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to simmer just to keep warm, and give the sauce a good whisk frequently to prevent it from sticking.

Meanwhile, your water should be boiling. It’s time to add your pasta!

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While I don’t advocate having noodles–even gluten-free ones–every night, I think they’re fine once in a while, especially when balanced out with other healthful foods like fresh vegetables, pasture-raised meat, and good fats for added nutrients.

I used gluten-free elbows made from organic corn and quinoa flour. It’s pretty tasty, but you can definitely tell that it’s not wheat flour. (I don’t mind that, though.) You can also use brown rice pasta, sprouted wheat pasta (if you aren’t eating gluten-free), zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash–be sure to let me know how it turns out if you give any of them a try!

Cook the pasta according to the box’s instructions, then strain in a colander. If you’re using veggies instead, well, let your veggies do their thing.

There’s enough sauce to coat 4 servings of pasta, so either add your 4 servings to the pan with the sauce or pour half of the sauce over 2 servings of noodles, a fourth over 1 serving, and so on and so forth. Sorry, I’m not good at explaining these things. I try.

Eat immediately. I’d recommend a side of roasted brussel sprouts or cauliflower, as my friends in the cabbage family happen to taste amazing with mac and cheese.

Oh, one more thing: if you’d like, you can bake your macaroni and cheese, too! Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for half an hour, and sprinkle the top with some almond flour or ground walnuts for extra crunch. I loved how it tasted after some time in the oven, but the pictures were er, not pretty, so I used the ones I took for the stove-top version instead.

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Om nom nom nom nom nom…

What was your favorite meal or dish as a child? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Poussin Bonaparte

February 24, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Just admit it: this is the cutest, goofiest chicken you have ever seen in your entire life.

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I mean, just look at it! It has a BACON. SASH. This is one classy bird, folks.

When I’m at the butcher, I’m always on the prowl for something new, something intimidating. I love to challenge myself with unfamiliar ingredients and go foraging through books and the internet in attempts to figure out how to cook them. You could call it a bit of an obsession of mine.

Crispy sweet breads. Pig tails. Goose. I’ve tried a lot of “unusual” cuts and animals over the course of the past year. While peeling the membranes off of the sweet breads was far from appealing and removing the entire breast from my goose had me groaning in frustration, almost all of my attempts have turned out deliciously. (Unfortunately, my mom is still a little squeamish about lamb kidneys. I’ll work on her. One day.)

Out of all of the oddies I’ve tried, poussin has to be one of my and my family’s favorites. It’s a rarity at the butcher, but when I see little packages about as big as my hand in the freezer, I snag ’em. Even though poussin are really, yes, just young chicken, they are so freaking adorable that I can never resist the temptation.

Sadly, there aren’t many recipes for poussin online, but if you google recipes for the tiny bird, something called Poussin Bonaparte will pop up right away.  Basically, it’s a poussin, roasted upright with a root vegetable up its posterior and a strip of bacon around its chest. What could be bad?

If you’re a little scared to try preparing a chicken this tiny, don’t be! My recipe is a piece of cake to put together and requires only a handful of ingredients, so you’ll be on your way to a fun, tasty dinner in no time. Just remember, when in doubt, use a thermometer and common sense. They are two of a cook’s best tools.

Ready to give poussin a try? Good. Let’s get started.

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About an hour before you want to eat, take your poussin out of the fridge and pat each one dry with a paper towel. Rub salt all over their skins and in their cavities and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. (This will really help the flavors develop and tenderize the meat!)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large roasting pan with a little coconut oil or ghee. Set aside.

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Take out two big, fat, chunky carrots. (They need to be tough to be able to hold up the poussin!) Cut off either end of both and slice in half width-wise, leaving you with four fairly strong pieces of carrot. Set aside.

Get your four salted-and-at-room-temperature poussin ready. Mount each bird on top of each piece of carrot, trimming off an inch or so at the bottom of the carrot until the poussin can stand up on its own. Place all four in the large roasting pan you already greased, and smear them all with 2 tablespoons of melted ghee, butter, or coconut oil.

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If you’re feeling fancy, wrap a strip of bacon from one of the poussin’s shoulders to its opposite hip. This will give each of your birds a little “sash!”

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Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a thermometer in the breast reaches 165 degrees and thigh reaches 175 degrees. The skin (or at least the top half) should be crisped at this point.

Let the poussin cool for at least five minutes before removing the carrots and serving. (You can eat the carrots, too–they’ll have amazing flavor!)

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What is your favorite kind of poultry? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Poussin Bonaparte

February 23, 2014 Print this page

Just admit it: this is the cutest, goofiest chicken you have ever seen in your entire life. I mean, just look at it! It has a BACON. SASH. This is one classy bird, folks. And it’s SO easy to make.

Ingredients

Prep Time 1 hr
Cooking Time 45 min
Total Time 1 hr 45 min
Yield 8 servings

4 poussin (figure 1/2 a poussin per person)

Salt

2 big, fat, chunky carrots

2 tablespoons of melted ghee, butter, or coconut oil

4 strips of bacon

Directions

About an hour before you want to eat, take your poussin out of the fridge and pat each one dry with a paper towel. Rub salt all over their skins and in their cavities and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. (This will really help the flavors develop and tenderize the meat!)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large roasting pan with a little coconut oil or ghee. Set aside.

Take out the big, fat, chunky carrots. (They need to be tough to be able to hold up the poussin!) Cut off either end of both and slice in half width-wise, leaving you with four fairly strong pieces of carrot. Set aside.

Get your four salted-and-at-room-temperature poussin ready. Mount each bird on top of each piece of carrot, trimming off an inch or so at the bottom of the carrot until the poussin can stand up on its own. Place all four in the large roasting pan you already greased.

If you’re feeling fancy, wrap a strip of bacon from one of the poussin’s shoulders to its opposite hip. This will give each of your birds a little “sash!”

Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a thermometer in the breast reaches 165 degrees and thigh reaches 175 degrees. The skin (or at least the top half) should be crisped at this point.

Let the poussin cool for at least five minutes before removing the carrots and serving. (You can eat the carrots, too–they’ll have amazing flavor!)


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Rutabaga Fries and Healthier Hasselback Potatoes

February 10, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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So, as you may or may not know, I work at a farmer’s market. A winter farmer’s market.

And you know what that means? Roots. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of roots.

When the market began back in November, there was kale. Fresh baby spinach. Brussel sprouts. Salad greens. But as November turned to December and fall turned to winter, the amount of green slowly diminished. People began arriving early so they could buy up anything that wasn’t brown or white before everybody else. I soon found myself with a serious problem. Friends, family, readers: I developed VEGETABLE HOARDING.

A few weeks ago, the vendor that sold her produce next to me had kale. KALE. Just a few precious bags of leafy, crunchy goodness. It was a little hard-hit from the snow and extremely cold weather, but it was green, and I wanted it. BAD. I proceeded to immediately reserve four bags for myself, then laughed with relish at my success. (It was incredibly delicious, by the way.)

Right now, in the heart of February, only the toughest of the veggies have lingered on at the farmer’s market. Sweet potatoes. Gnarly celeriacs. Fat, twisted carrots. Baby beets that definitely need a cuddle instantaneously upon purchase. While they may not be beauty pageant winners, I love them all the same, and I’ll always work with what I’ve got.

Let’s start with rutabaga.

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Everyone, this is a rutabaga.

Hi, rutabaga!

He (or she?) is very hearty in appearance, with a bulbous middle and slightly stringy top. Upon sniffing this magnificent creature, you’ll detect almost cabbage-like notes. You know why? It’s because both plants belong to the Brassica family, which also includes cauliflower, collard greens, and broccoli. This means your kitchen will be a little stinky, too, but no need to fear–rutabaga tastes awesome. Especially when paired with some spices for flavor and color.

Usually, when I’m working with a new vegetable, I cube it and roast it in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then taste and determine what it needs for next time to enhance its flavor.  I didn’t do that with rutabaga–I went straight to matchstick mode to make oven-baked fries.

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Crunchy on the outside and just a bit creamy on the inside, these fries are a wonderful change of pace from your typical vegetable side dish. I like them plain, but I bet they’d also be super tasty with Citrus-Infused Mayo on the side.

First things first: preheat the oven to 450 degrees and take out two medium rimmed baking sheets.

If you’d like, peel the skin off of your rutabaga–it’s not absolutely necessary–and slice it into thick matchsticks. Want to make cutting a little easier? Cut off the rutabaga’s bottom so it can stand up on its own on your cutting board!

Once properly cut, put the rutabaga matchsticks in a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1-2 teaspoons of paprika (depending on how spicy you want them), 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. When all are evenly coated, divide the matchsticks evenly among the two baking sheets.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure that both sides get properly crisped. Serve immediately with your favorite meat, poultry, or white fish. (May I recommend the Crispy Sweetbreads?)

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Onto our next installment of winter vegetable madness: HASSELBACK POTATOES.

OK, so unless you’ve been living under a foodie boulder for the past, er, year, you’ve probably seen countless of pictures of hasselback potatoes floating around the internet. Unfortunately, all of these recipes are LOADED with butter and cheese…and while I have a problem with neither in moderation, I don’t think that a vegetable side dish should contain an entire stick of butter and up to a cup of cheese. That basically defeats the purpose of a vegetable, don’t you think?

Then, one day, I was hanging out in the kitchen watching Barefoot Contessa, because I was bored and my T.V. channels are pretty much exclusively the Food Network, the Weather Channel, and Kids 13 when Arthur is on. (I am not a tasteful T.V. watcher, mind you.) I was about to turn it off when Ina started talking about potatoes. Immediately, a picture of mini hasselback potatoes popped up on the screen, and I darted downstairs to look  up the recipe.

I was so excited. Hasselback potatoes. Without any butter and cheese. And mini-sized. Yes.

My recipe is slightly adapted from Ina’s; I also used a combination of baby golden and purple potatoes for color and variety. These are so pretty and so tasty…I could eat the entire batch, if you wanted me to. Really.

Just like the rutabaga fries, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Get out the biggest rimmed baking sheet you have–you’ll need lots of space for these potatoes!

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Unless you’re a knife pro, you’re going to need some help cutting up the potatoes. (FYI, I used about 1 lb.) Here’s a great trick: use a spoon that’s about the same size as the potato you’re using! Every 1/4-inch or so, cut down until you hit the spoon. Repeat until you reach the end of the potato, and here’s what it should look like…

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It holds together, but you still have the cuts you want for crispy hasselback potatoes!

Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and transfer them all to a big bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, and a good crack of black pepper.

Pour the coated potatoes on the baking sheet, and bake until tender on the center and crispy all over, about 40 to 45 minutes. Give the pan a shake every 15 minutes to make sure the potatoes don’t stick!

Serve immediately with your favorite main dish: I’d recommend either Spatchcocked Chicken or the Easiest Roast Pork Ever.

My dad thought they looked like armadillos. What do you think?

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And there you have it! Two tasty vegetable sides that are actually in season.

What’s your favorite winter vegetable? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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