Monday, March 4, 2013

Mac and Cheese Florentine

I don't know what my deal with Mac and Cheese is, but for the past couple years, I just can't get enough of it.  Maybe it's because I finally figured out dairy-free ways to make this ultimate comfort food, because before the first time I made the vegan version about two years ago, I literally hadn't had Mac and Cheese since I was a kid.

This is actually a recipe from my vegetarian slow cooker book, but I made it in a regular casserole dish and baked it in the oven.

I'll go ahead and just put the original slow cooker recipe and directions in here, but these are my modifications:

I used whole wheat elbow pasta
I used fresh spinach instead of frozen (mainly because Sprouts didn't have ANY frozen spinach?!  I found that a little odd.)
I added four chopped and sauteed mushrooms.
I added 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and 1/2 cup vegan Daiya cheddar

Everything else is the same!

(Courtesy Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

8 ounces elbow macaroni
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, cooked according to package, well drained and set aside
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1 3/4 cups water
One 15.5 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon white miso paste (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1.  Cook the macaroni in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add the spinach and toss to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

3.  Ground the cashews to a powder in a blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of the water and blend until smooth.  Add the onion, beans, miso paste, if using, the remaining 3/4 cup water, the lemon juice, mustard, cayenne, and nutmeg and season with salt.  (The amount of salt you need depends on whether or not you use the miso paste, which tends to be salty.)  Blend until smooth, then taste to adjust the seasonings.  Pour the sauce over the macaroni and spinach and mix well.

4.  Transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled 4-quart slow cooker.  Cove and cook on low for 3 hours.

5.  Close to serving time, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the bread crums, stirring to coat them with the oil.  Cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  When ready to serve, sprinkle the roasted crumbs on top of the casserole.

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