Monday, February 22, 2016

Currently Eating 2.22.16

Vegan Comfort Food

Food and I have had a very strange relationship over the years, as I lived for most of my life with an undiagnosed digestive disorder that tended to roar up at the most inconvenient times. Since being diagnosed and receiving a list of trigger foods and subsequently cutting all animal products out of my diet, the pain has become considerably more manageable, but it still manages to rear it's ugly head at bizarre times--like last night after I ate a bagel, of all things. While explaining my veganism to people is often awkward, it's an improvement over explaining that I was potentially intolerant of literally any food. (Seriously, even dressing-less salad sometimes...)

Now that I've dragged down the mood, I'm going to introduce you to a truly magical food that has honestly changed my life--Daiya vegan cheese.

Most vegan cheese is exactly as bad as you would expect it to be. It's usually sort of a chalky texture and absolutely does not melt. Daiya, on the other hand, melts and stretches and pretty much acts like cheese. I've only tried the cheddar and mozzarella flavors thus far, but both are delicious. I think they taste like real cheese but I think it's been years since I actually had a real dairy product, so I'm a bad person to ask. Daiya also makes pizzas and cheesecakes that are both non-dairy and gluten-free. The pizzas are as good as any other frozen pizza, and I'm very excited to try the cheesecakes.

I know you're all probably ready to run to the grocery store now and grab some weird vegan 'cheese,' so below is my favorite easy comfort food recipe for everyone Alex to try.

Vegan Mac and Cheese!
I'm in love with this recipe, and it has become my go-to for bad days, lazy days, sick days, really any day. Mac and Cheese has always been one of my favorite foods, and to be able to eat it again after missing it for so long has been divine.

-1 bag Daiya cheddar style shreds*
-1 box pasta (I recommend Rotini)*
-1/4 cup+ non-dairy milk, to taste (unsweetened works best, but I never have that in the house so...)
-1 tbsp non-dairy butter, to taste (I recommend Smart Balance or Earth Balance buttery spread)
-1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast, to taste
Optional: garlic powder, salt and pepper, Adobo, etc.

1. Boil water and cook pasta according to package instructions, or until tender.
2. Drain pasta and return to pot over low/warm heat.
3. Add butter to pasta and stir until coated.
4. Mix in Daiya cheese and milk. The cheese will melt as you stir. I find that it prolongs its solidity for what seems like forever and then melts all at once. It's very strange. Use the milk to moderate the texture of the sauce. If you like it thicker, use less milk.
5. Add Nutritional Yeast and stir. (If you're wondering what Nutritional Yeast is, it's a deactivated yeast that is fortified with B-complex and B-12 vitamins. B-12 is most commonly found in animal products, so it is important for vegans to find other sources. Nutritional Yeast has a nutty and cheesy flavor, and also makes sauces much creamier.  I'm sure 'deactivated nutty yeast' sounds even more appetizing than the fake cheese, but I swear it's really tasty!)
6. Season to taste! I like salt, pepper, and either garlic powder or Adobo, but you can get creative. Some online recipes list things like turmeric or mustard powder. I even put hummus in the sauce once, which tasted fine, but it was sort of a weird texture.
7. Serve immediately!

*If you want smaller portions, just keep in mind that the pasta is in a kind of 1:1 ratio with the cheese. So a quarter box of pasta and a quarter bag of cheese, for example. The other ingredients are mostly to taste, so you can play around with proportions.


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