So this week's challenge was to put some well-known mac & cheese to the test so that I wouldn't be tempted anymore. Get ready for a mac & cheese taste-off!
Veggie Grill: I like this place because they use quinoa pasta, which admittedly doesn't taste too different from regular pasta, but psychologically, I like knowing that it has more nutrition than regular pasta. They also sprinkle the top with toasted garlic bread crumbs so that it appears more like a baked pasta dish. They have multiple locations around Los Angeles and Orange County, and hopefully will continue to grow. My only complaint would be that the cheese does taste different so you get the feeling you're not eating the real deal.
But what my friend and I actually got was this.
The cheese was rubbery and would not separate from the big clump, so there was no way this was going to be a cheesy delight. It was more like a plain pasta with a huge hunk of cheese. And for $7, it was not worth it. Makes me sad because I would have liked something quick and convenient when I didn't have time to grab something at lunch or make it homemade.
Which brings me to... VegNews Bucket List #35: Make the VegNews Mac & Cheese. It changes lives. I wholeheartedly agree.
I was BLOWN AWAY by how this combination of vegetables, spices and condiments could not only look like cheese, but taste like it as well, without a smidgen of daily or even nutritional yeast (as a lot of vegan recipes are based). I was certainly skeptical as I blended the cashews, butter and spices. I was having trouble because the butter was pretty solid and would not blend the ingredients together. I pretty much had a block of butter spinning around with cashew pieces stuck to the outside. But after adding the softened vegetables and cooking water, it became this smooth, perfect yellow-orange color that tasted, in a word, cheesy. I mixed it with the pasta, tossed in some Smart Bacon bits, and popped it in the oven. What I like best about this recipe was that I didn't have to follow it to a T. I guestimated on some of the condiment measurements, used more more potatoes and carrots, used ready-made breadcrumbs (because I didn't want to buy a whole loaf of bread) and added extras like bacon (next time I make this, I'm going to add peas!)
Next time I make this, I would do a few things differently. First would be timing. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, this is when I should have been cutting the veggies. I waited to do this until after my pasta was cooked and then saw that I had to cook the vegetables til they were soft. So then my pasta had to sit out. (Yeah, yeah, I probably should have read the recipe in it's entirety and then plotted my course, but I was just so excited that I did it step by step in order.) Next, I would actually invest in that loaf of bread because I didn't know how much breadcrumbs 4 slices a bread would yield, so I went a little overboard and my mac & cheese was breadier than I had envisioned. Last, I want to find the quinoa pasta! I didn't see any at the store, so I settled with whole wheat. I chose a medium-sized shell shape. The shape doesn't matter much, whether you use shells or spirals or elbows, but the size actually is quite important. The smaller the better.
After making this though, I am being completely honest when I saw that if I were to see mac & cheese on a menu, it won't make me weak in the knees because I seriously found THE ONE. It is well worth the hour in the kitchen to make something delicious (that incidentally tastes like the real thing) and compassionate.