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(the BEST) Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

Maybe it’s the sudden change in weather in South Carolina, or maybe I’m missing San Diego, but all week I’ve been craving the opposite of New Year’s resolutions. Comfort food. Last week we made pulled bbq chicken sandwiches and blue cheese coleslaw, spaghetti squash enchiladas, twice baked potatoes and, my favorite recipe that I’m afraid John is going to retire soon, veggie mac ‘n cheese. And then we got pizza on Friday and wings on Saturday. (And I did a few extra  and sit ups in there).

This recipe is directly inspired by Karl Strauss brewery in San Diego. I frequented their restaurant throughout my 20’s and it wasn’t for the beer. They have a whole section of their menu called “mac on tap,” and the Tree Hugger is the BEST, creamiest, most flavorful and satisfying mac ‘n cheese I had up until Crave’s award winning Mac ‘n Cheese in Charleston. (Although I have yet to go to the Mac Off festival, so I should probably keep an open mind).

I’ve tried a lot of different recipes since realizing mac ‘n cheese is my favorite food. I love this healthier Skinnytaste recipe, and this fun take on Annie’s Shells ‘n cheese from Love and Lemons (that I always make on the first day of John’s swing shift because it can be done in spurts between feeding, bathing and entertaining the baby). But this sauce recipe  from Kitchen Treaty has exactly the right ratios of milk and cheese. And, like most of the recipes I make, this is a great way to clean out your vegetable drawer. Or add chicken, bacon, less cheese, different noodles, more cheese–whatever you have in your kitchen or whatever looks good at the grocery store.

Although this isn’t the healthiest meal we make, I did add a few twists to make it more nutrient, protein and vitamin rich. Most white noodles have no nutritional value, so I swap regular noodles with organic quinoa noodles. They taste virtually the same when baked into a casserole, are gluten free, a complete protein and are high in ant-inflammatory nutrients. Instead of butter I use Earth Balance organic. It acts the same as a butter when making a rue but it’s plant based and contains Omega 3’s. And then I add milk and cheese to balance it out. It’s ok to have your mac ‘n cheese and eat it too.

 

Ingredients (use all organic if possible)

  • 8 oz box of quinoa elbow noodles (or your noodle of choice)
  • 2-3 cups chopped veggies (I use whatever we have on hand, usually a mix of broccoli, mushrooms, onion, tomato, spinach, peas, jalapenos)
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 TBS Earth Balance Butter (the sauce recipe calls for 3, I think 2 is fine) plus 1 TBS for sautéing the veggies
  • 1/4 cup white flour (I use slightly less than this)
  • 2.5 cups 1% milk
  • 1 TSP mustard seed powder
  • 1 bag (12 oz) mild white cheddar
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (panko are my favorite)
  • sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper

Directions

Chop the veggies up into bite size pieces. We had leftover broccoli and mushrooms.

Chop the veggies up into bite size pieces. We had unused broccoli and mushrooms.

Melt 1 TBS butter or use 1 TBS grapeseed oil to sauté the garlic. When it's fragrant, add the veggies until their cooked al dente.

Melt 1 TBS butter or use 1 TBS grapeseed oil to sauté the garlic. When it’s fragrant, add the veggies until their cooked al dente.

Melt 1 TBS butter or use 1 TBS grapeseed oil to sauté the garlic. When it's fragrant, add the veggies until their cooked al dente.

Don’t forget the jalapeno.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the directions. Drain and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the directions. Drain and set aside.

I love this 'butter' and substitute it 100% of the time for real butter.

I love this ‘butter’ and substitute it 100% of the time for real butter.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan, add the flour and whisk until it's lumpy. Add the milk slowly and stir until it thickens (about 5 minutes) on medium heat. Take off the heat and add in two cups of cheese until the mix is thick.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan, add the flour and whisk until it’s lumpy. Add the milk slowly and stir until it thickens (about 5 minutes) on medium heat. Take off the heat and add in two cups of cheese, stirring until the mix is thick.

 

 

 

 

I've made mac 'n cheese without it, but mustard seed does something to the flavor of the cheese sauce that makes it more bold. Add it into the milk/cheese mixture. (This is also a good time to salt, pepper and a little cayenne or crp).

Not to be confused with Dijorno, mustard seed does something to the flavor of the cheese sauce that makes it more bold. Add it into the milk/cheese mixture. (This is also a good time to salt, pepper and a little cayenne or crp).

Add the veggies and cheese sauce to the noodles, mix until it looks like mac 'n cheese.

Add the veggies and cheese sauce to the noodles, mix until it looks like mac ‘n cheese.

Add about half the mix, top with the remaining cheese, then add the rest of the noodle mix. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, parm and crp.

Oil your baking dish, then add about half the mix, top with the remaining cheese, then add the rest of the noodle mix. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, parm and crp.

Maybe your husband will do the dishes while it cooks for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Maybe your husband will do the dishes while it cooks for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees?

I usually pair the finished mac 'n cheese with a simple side salad and Goddess dressing. I could eat Goddess dressing with a spoon.

I usually pair the finished mac ‘n cheese with a simple side salad and Goddess dressing. I could eat Goddess dressing for dinner.

Delicious!

Creamy, leafy and delicious!

 

Have a mac ‘n cheese recipe to share? I would love to add to my collection!

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One Response to (the BEST) Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

  1. Hollie January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. Nothing beats a big bowl of melted cheese. This looks great, thanks for sharing!

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