Is there anyone in this world that doesn’t love mac n’ cheese? Seriously though…anyone?
I didn’t think so.
I like to think back on the different phases of mac n’ cheese in my life. Phase 1: Kraft mac n’ cheese. Like most of my generation, I grew up eating that stuff. Everyone else loved the fun shapes (like Ninja Turtles and Scooby Doo) but the spirals were my favorite. I remember one day my mom made baked mac n’ cheese for dinner. I was disappointed because I wanted “real” mac n’ cheese…you know, the stuff from a box. Oy vey…
Phase 2: Finally appreciating baked mac n’ cheese. Before being diagnosed with IBS, I had a rather unhealthy obsession with cheese. I remember requesting that my mom throw every kind of cheese we had into that baking dish. From American slices, to squeeze cheese, to velveeta…it was one gooey collaboration.
Phase 3: Mourning the loss of mac n’ cheese. After being diagnosed with IBS and eventually going vegan, I took one for the team and accepted that it would be a thing of the past. On the plus side, after going without dairy for so long, the thought of chewing and swallowing food so drenched in fatty fermented breast milk from another species actually became rather nauseating.
Phase 4: Vegan mac n’ cheese! After being vegan for about a year, I set out on a quest to perfect vegan mac n’ cheese. And by perfect, I don’t mean make it taste exactly identical to its dairy original. I mean bake a cheesy macy meal that is so to die for that I would have to sing from the mountain tops and give thanks to the casserole gods that blessed me with such a divine intuition that resulted in the most heavenly of meals! ….
You know what? I’m pretty darn close. I’ve come up with a few mac n’ cheese recipes that I’m rather pleased with. The one that I’m sharing with you today is the least original of those recipes, but it is easy and well liked. This recipe is an adaptation of Zsu Dever’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese from her book Everyday Vegan Eats. I became familiar with this recipe after seeing it shared on Cadry’s Kitchen. Zsu has a vegan recipe blog called Zsu’s Vegan Pantry. This is a fun and easy to follow blog with some seriously good food photography, and recipes and ideas for vegan meal planning. When I first tried this recipe, my thoughts were that it was so close to what I wanted it to be, that I immediately made another batch with a few changes. The use of jarred pimentos gives the cheese sauce a sharp and briney flavor, and vegan cream cheese makes it creamy and slightly rich. (Pimentos are a type of sweet red pepper that are often sold diced and jarred near the pickles at the grocery store.)
Happy Memorial Day!
Baked Mac Cheese and Spinach
- 8 ounces pasta
- 3 cups torn spinach leaves
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened non dairy milk (quinoa milk works great in this recipe!), divided
- 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon diced jarred pimientos
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- dash turmeric
- 2 tablespoons earth balance margarine
- 5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce