Monday, March 5, 2012

Plant Infused Macaroni and Cheese (& Grilled Cheese!)

This recipe is the result of a perfect marriage...the marriage of two recipes.

This is "SS Mac."

This is "BB Mac."

SS Mac, meet BB Mac.

Love at first bite.

I know I am supposed to be posting whole grains and lasagna recipes. But I was so excited to share this vegan perfection that I couldn't help myself!!

We've tried at least ten different mac n' cheese recipes since having gone vegan. Each of them were acceptable. They were okay. But there was always some strange after taste, or a side tang that was generally just weird.

Kids don't want weird. They don't eat weird. This macaroni and cheese is not weird.

No side tang, no after taste, no strange concoctions or thoughts of, "What is this that I am tasting that is off???"

These two mac and cheese recipes were the favorite of all the ones that we tried. I was feeling sorry for myself that neither one really met the cheese need, and then the idea struck me. Why not take what aspects we love from each recipe and have a wedding?

Vegans everywhere should be hurling $20 bills at my house; this recipe is THAT good. But I'll settle for a hallelujah chorus. As you can tell, I am feeling a little possessive over it.

That's how confident I am in this perfect vegan mac n' cheese. But pretty, pretty please, if you share it with others...please credit me for it. I am so proud of my recipe!

BB & SS Mac's extra left-over cheese sauce made the most incredible grilled cheese.

(Paul likes his grilled cheese with tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.)

Just add an extra heaping teaspoon of corn starch to every one cup of the cold sauce, and thicken it on the stove top. Proceed to make your grilled cheese sandwich however which way you like it, spreading the thick sauce on the bread as the cheese.

For the Macaroni and Cheese you will need some important, high-quality ingredients:

Make sure you have high quality pasta. I chose an organic pasta from Costco, and yes, it is white pasta. I wanted a truly authentic taste for my kids cuz they've been burned too many times by bad pasta recipes. I wanted to "wow" them. I believe that quinoa pasta would accomplish the same good results. It can be found at most health food stores. I do not recommend whole wheat pasta, as it is too dense and chewy for this recipe, especially if you are transitioning. We are aiming for a creamy, light pasta.

Then, you need 12 oz. of pre-cut butternut squash. It's about 1 and 1/4-1/2 cups of butternut squash, steamed. This is what gives the sauce it's yellow color, and also adds amazing creaminess. Your kids will have no idea they are eating squash.

Last, you need a good vegetable your kids LOVE (that generally goes well with cheese). We chose petite peas because we all love them. About 3-5 cups of it depending on what vegetable you choose. If it is something like broccoli or cauliflower, then chop it up fine because kids don't do well with large chunks.

Paul suggested that putting the macaroni and cheese in a 13X9 pan, covering it with bread crumbs, and then placing it under the broiler (500 degrees) for about 5 to 10 minutes. This would make for a great toasted, crunchy mac N' cheese that would be more suited for adults.

Side Note: This recipe is not a weight loss recipe. It is really good for vegan kids who need more calories, however. Because I lack self-control once something delicious has entered my kitchen I then chose to eat the Mac N Cheese with large portions of quinoa and spinach salad (pictured at the top). This way I consumed more raw greens and cooked grains, but still enjoyed the creamy delicious pasta without having to have crazy amounts of self-control.

Plant Infused Macaroni and Cheese
By Ashlee Crozier

Helpful Hint: Butternut squash not in season? Look for it in the frozen vegetable section of almost any grocery store; pre-cut!

Serves 6-8


4 cups dry, high quality pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 and 1/2 pounds frozen, high quality petite peas (about 3-5 cups cooked) or your favorite steamed vegetable

Basic Cheese Sauce:

My kids prefer this version:

Kids care very much about the shape of their pasta. Try to pick something fun like shells, "farm animals," elbows, or wheels. It makes a difference.

1 can coconut milk (not light!)
2 cups water
1/4 heaping cup nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons celtic sea salt
3/4 heaping cup raw cashews (or 1 scant cup)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 12 ounce package pre-cut butternut squash cubes, about 1 and 1/4 - 1/2 cups, cooked in water on stovetop until tender, or according to package directions. (I used my pressure cooker and cooked it for 3-4 minutes.)

And I like this version:

1 cup coconut milk (not light!)
2 cups water
1/4 heaping cup nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons celtic sea salt
3/4 heaping cup raw cashews (or 1 scant cup)
1/2 roasted red bell pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 12 ounce package pre-cut butternut squash cubes, about 1 and 1/4 - 1/2 cups, cooked in water on stovetop until tender, or according to package directions. (I used my pressure cooker and cooked it for 3-4 minutes.)


1.) Cook macaroni, or whatever pasta type you have chosen, according to package directions.

2.) Meanwhile, steam your pre-cut butternut squash in a separate pot until tender or according to package directions. Drain, and place in your blender.

3.) Steam your chosen, chopped vegetable that you will add to finished Macaroni and Cheese until tender. Drain, and set aside.

4.) Add remaining basic cheese sauce ingredients to your blender, and blend until very smooth, about 1 or 2 minutes. You don't want any chunks, but a very smooth cream sauce.

3.) Drain cooked pasta and return to stockpot. Pour desired amount of blended mixture into hot, drained macaroni and cook together until thick, stirring gently and constantly. Extra cheese sauce can be stored in glass jars and used for grilled cheese sandwiches or for cheese-y recipes later.

4.) When the sauce has thickened, add your cooked, chosen vegetable and fold in gently.

5.) Serve warm, or put in an oiled casserole dish, cover with basic or seasoned bread crumbs, and bake under broiler (500 degrees) for 5 to 10 minutes, watching carefully not to burn.

Tip: If made ahead and heated the next day, or if you have leftovers, stir in some water before re-heating; it tends to be dry if it sits.

PLEASE give me feedback and let me know if this recipe worked for your family. I would love to know!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crispy Breaded Tofu Strips

All pictures from

[UPDATE 10/11/2012: I no longer use this recipe. It is too time consuming and my children prefer to eat Fried Tofu. You may try this if you wish, but it is not one of our favorites.]

There is a myth among regular folk that vegans don't like meat. We don't like cheese. And therefore we don't eat it.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Most of us make this decision for health reasons; which explains why things like Daiya cheese and tempeh are so popular.

Recently I have been totally craving chewy, warm, meaty textures. In my next post I'll be discussing a way to meet those needs by consuming cooked, whole grains and incorporating them into salads, stews, etc. But for now I am totally stoked (and in love!) with these "chicken-like" strips.

Kids love'em. Mine did, but wanted them a little thicker so they could taste the "chicken." Cutting them thicker would be my one suggestion because they tend to shrink down a bit with the water loss from being baked in the oven.

Also, if you have cookie cutters you could slice the tofu and then cut it out into shapes of stars, etc. Kids LOVE fun shapes, and I am going to do this the next time I make these.

And since we've just had an inspiring discussion on the soy debate, we can move forward confidently knowing that these, basically ground-up beans, are good for you.

I am totally lazy so I am just stealing all this stuff from, where I found the recipe.

First, press your tofu to get all the water out.

Angela Liddon just wrapped her tofu in towels, then piled a bunch of heavy books on top of them for at least 20 minutes. I copied her exactly, with great results.

Then slice your tofu. Dip it in the corn starch/nondairy milk mixture. Then dip it in your breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture. Placing it on the pan, it shouldn't need oil at all.

Bake for 18 minutes the first side, then 10-13 minutes the second side, and voila!! "Chickenless" nuggets!! Great lunch, or a great dinner served with potato fries, ketchup, and salad. Dipping these in ketchup and mustard will totally take your taste buds to the next nugget level!

We ate these for lunch today with ketchup and cut fruit; it was thoroughly enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Have fun!

Crispy Breaded Tofu Strips

Yield: 2-3 servings

Inspired by cornmeal tofu in Veganomicon


1 package firm or extra firm tofu (I use organic, non-GMO, about 350 grams)
1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if necessary)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne powder (for a kick of heat)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 large sweet potato + 1 tsp oil + 1/2 tsp cinnamon + pinch salt + 1/4 tsp cumin

1. Press tofu: Rinse the tofu with water and place a couple kitchen towels on the counter. Wrap the tofu with another towel, place another towel on top, and finally several heavy cookbooks on top. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to soak out the water.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and cornstarch in a shallow dish. In another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, and spices. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400F and grease 2 baking sheets with oil. Slice the potato into fries and then coat with 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cumin, and a couple pinches of salt. Lay out on greased baking sheet.

3. Slice tofu into 8-9 strips, lengthwise, depending on how thick you want it. With one hand dip the tofu strip into the milk mixture and then into the cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture. Use other hand to sprinkle dry mixture all over the tofu. Coat both sides entirely and then place on baking sheet. Repeat with the rest.

4. Bake tofu on middle rack and fries on bottom rack at 400F. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip the tofu and fries, and then bake for another 15-20 minutes until crispy. Remove tofu and broil the fries for a few minutes, watching carefully, until golden and charred in some spots. Remove and serve with ketchup!