Vegan mac and cheese recipe

Vegan Mac & Cheese|Pamela Salzman

If someone tried to coax me a year ago with a “vegan mac and cheese” recipe, I would have politely said, “no, thank you.”  First of all, I actually don’t really like mac and cheese.  Not the boxed kind and not even the homemade kind.  Weird, I know.  And sad for my husband who looooooves it.  I used to have to make him the famous “Ronald Reagan’s favorite mac and cheese” recipe all the time when we first got married.  Tons of butter, cheddar cheese, milk, stomach ache for me.  Just not my thing.  It’s now the 21st century, and we’re both eating differently and I am open minded to alternative recipes.

potatoes, carrots, shallot, onion cook the veggies in water, but cover them everything into the blender"cheese sauce"

Although open minded or not, I’ve always felt if I’m not going to like the real deal, why would I like something pretending to be the real deal?  And most vegan mac and cheese recipes call for fake processed cheese or nutritional yeast and they’re just not that tasty, in my opinion.  Are you with me?  Well, according to myself and according to Mr. Picky who still doesn’t like cheese except Pecorino Romano in some soups and on pizza crust, this mac and cheese is the bomb.  I think it’s better than mac and cheese and he likes it because he has watched me make it and is confident there is not a morsel of cheese, real or fake, anywhere in this dish.

bread crumbs

 

You may have seen on a month ago a picture I posted of “vegan nachos” I made for the kids.  Here it is below.  That’s the same sauce for this!  You may have also seen a strange looking bowl of yellow stuff on my baked potato bar.  Same vegan cheese sauce!  Do you see the potential here?  What about as a dip for steamed veggies?  I might even make a soup out of this.  We are not just talking about a mac and cheese recipe.  We are talking about a life-changing delicious not-cheese sauce.   This sauce is a miracle.  It is made from potatoes, cashews, carrots, onions and a bunch of other completely natural foods blended into creamy, cheesy deliciousness.  Completely digestible (unless you are nut-free, in which case I am so sorry.  Buggers.)  I know I sound crazy.  I wouldn’t believe me either.

vegan nachos | pamela salzman

vegan mac & cheese|pamela salzman

vegan mac and cheese | pamela salzman

The only trick with this recipe is that you have to follow it exactly!  No eyeballing measurements.  No leaving things out.  Anytime I have guesstimated an amount with this recipe, it hasn’t worked quite as well, especially with ingredients like cayenne, lemon juice (you can leave this out, but just don’t add more than indicated) and garlic.  Some of the images on this post were taken of light spelt macaroni and some of whole spelt macaroni.  My family much prefers the light spelt pasta with this sauce, but you should use whatever suits you.  I have also tried this with brown rice pasta and a corn-quinoa pasta — both super!   Once I threw some small cauliflower florets into the pasta pot two minutes before the pasta was done and made a cauliflower mac and cheese.  (See above.)  I’m sure broccoli and kale would be great, too!  Can you see how much fun we are going to have with this??!!

vegan mac and cheese | pamela salzman

Vegan Mac & Cheese|Pamela Salzman

4.8 from 13 reviews
Vegan Mac and Cheese
Author: 
Serves: 6 as a side dish
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounce package elbow macaroni pasta (I like spelt.)
  • 2 slices bread, torn into large pieces (whole grain works!)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (not vegan) or organic Earth Balance (vegan), divided
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) chopped Yukon gold potatoes (you can leave the peel on)
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots (about 1 small carrot)
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raw cashews (soaked for 1-5 hours and drained if you your blender is weak)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (use 1 ¾ teaspoons if using Earth Balance)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, minced (about 1 medium clove)
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, add the shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, drain and put back into the pot.
  3. Put the bread pieces, 1 Tablespoon of butter and paprika in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until combined to a medium-fine texture, set aside.
  4. Place the cashews, salt, garlic, 5 Tablespoons butter, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne in a blender or food processor. Add the softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender or food processor and process until perfectly smooth.
  5. Pour the “cheese” sauce over the cooked pasta and combine until completely coated. Spread the mixture into an un-greased 11 x 8 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown. If you add veggies (such as 1 or 2 cups of blanched cauliflower or broccoli) to the macaroni, cook in a 13 x 9 dish.
Notes
I actually don't make the vegan version for us because we can eat butter.   But I have made this with Earth Balance (which is vegan) many times and it has always turned out great.  I have never made this without the bread crumbs, though.  I think they provide a nice contrast in texture to the soft and creamy macaroni, but if not everyone will eat the bread crumbs, I am sure you can leave a square of the baking dish free of them.

Spicy honey-lemon green beans recipe

spicy honey lemon green beans | pamela salzman

If you follow me on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably figured out that I am back on Long Island at my parents’ house.  We picked up Daughter #1 on Saturday from her summer program in upstate NY.  I was so beyond excited to see her after 6 weeks, I was afraid I was going to suffocate her when I saw her.  It was great for the five of us to be together again and I couldn’t resist another visit to Stony Brook.  Love that place in the summer.

blanched green beans

We’ve had an amazing few days here — peaceful, not in a rush to do anything, no stress, beautiful.  My father’s garden is bursting.  I lost count of how many basil plants he has this year, perhaps around 40.  I have made pesto every day so far!  But the big fun has come from the new outdoor pizza oven my father had built.  It was a major project when I was here in June, with each of my parents saying to me without the other hearing, “I don’t know what we were thinking.”  But once the dust settled, literally, we have enjoyed the most fantastic pizzas — you know the thin kind with a little char on the crust?  So darn good.  Not fitting in my skinny jeans today, but so. darn. good.

prepping shallots

Sorry this isn’t a post about making your own pizza in a wood-burning oven, but I personally don’t have one nor will I in my current house since my “yard” is a patio!  Figuring most of my readers don’t own one either.  Instead I wanted to share my favorite new green bean recipe.  No yawning!  These are great!  But I know where you’re coming from.  Green beans come into season in the summer and I try really hard to get excited about them, but they have to compete with tomatoes and corn.  Kind of hard to do.  I honestly don’t have too many exciting green bean recipes that I think to myself, “I am soooo craving those such-and-such green beans.”  Until now.

soaking shallots

I taught these honey-lemon green beans last month and I couldn’t wait to eat them after each class and any leftovers for dinner the same night!  The dressing has a bit of mustard too, and a little kick from the cayenne which is always something I love paired with sweet (honey.)  They are seriously addictive.  One of the only cooked vegetables Mr. Picky likes is green beans, but he doesn’t care for vinaigrettes yet.  Except he did love these!  He’s starting to develop a taste for spicy food.  Very exciting!

spicy honey lemon green beans

mix it together

The recipe for the green beans and the dressing is completely straightforward and quick to make.  If you are in a time crunch, just make that and forget about the shallots.  Blanching and quick-pickling the shallots is definitely another step that won’t make or break the recipe, although they are scrumptious.  You can certainly take care of that while the beans are cooking and while you’re setting the table or grilling some fish.  But sometimes when I try and multitask too much, that’s when I forget things -like shallots pickling in apple cider vinegar that I remember when I start washing dishes.

spicy honey-lemon green beans | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Honey-Lemon Green Beans
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • For the Green Beans and Shallots:
  • 3 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ pounds string beans, trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, preferably raw
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • For The Vinaigrette:
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small glove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon mild honey, preferably raw
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Spread a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add kosher salt.
  3. Place the sliced shallots in a bowl and cover with 2 cups of the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Drop the beans in to the remaining boiling water and cook, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain the beans and spread them on the cloth-lined pan.
  5. Drain the shallots and toss them with the vinegar, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  6. To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, salt and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the oil until creamy.
  7. Drain the shallots once again and squeeze dry. Add the shallots and the string beans to the vinaigrette and toss well. Sprinkle with another pinch of sea salt or to taste.
  8. If you have time, let it marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving just to allow the flavors to permeate the beans. If you don't have time, they'll still be great.
Notes
These really aren't that spicy, perhaps a 3 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the hottest.  But you can certainly adjust the level of heat to your liking by increasing or decreasing the cayenne.

 

Chickpea Burger Recipe

If I had to pick one cuisine to stick with for the rest of my life, it would be a tough a call.  But I could easily live off of Mediterranean food every day.  I love the emphasis on fresh vegetables, olive oil, legumes and whole grains, cheeses and fish.  Whether it’s Italian, Greek, or Israeli, this way of eating is definitely my comfort zone.  And living in Southern California makes cooking Mediterranean-style quite easy with an availability of similar varieties of fresh produce, nuts, dates and olives.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite things to do is to take a not-so-healthful food that I love and turn it into something I can enjoy regularly.  Many years ago I decided to try making falafel (the deep-fried Middle Eastern chickpea nuggets) a little less “deep-fried.”  (Ok, not everything Mediterranean is healthful.)  Many iterations later I found myself with a delightful, substantial chickpea burger which in turn began my obsession with veggie burgers.  I don’t love meat and poultry so much, although I think they are excellent sources of protein if you can find organic, pastured varieties.  But I do love hearty, flavorful vegetarian food that makes me feel satisfied, especially anything bean-based which is loaded with low-fat protein and tons of insoluble fiber.  I also like having recipes like this for entertaining when I always like to offer a vegetarian option (you’d be surprised how many people choose not to eat meat these days.)

These chickpea burgers are a favorite of mine and my whole family, even Mr. Picky who I am pleased to announce tried one for the first time last week with ketchup.  Do what you’ve gotta do, friends.  They are definitely a far cry from falafel, though.  In fact, the only ingredients that falafel and these chickpea burgers have in common are chickpeas and cumin.  But if I do it right, they’re crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and with flavors that remind of falafel.  I usually eat veggie burgers sans bun since I find that they are plenty starchy without adding bread.  But when serving them to family and friends, I offer warmed, whole wheat pita halves and an array of yummy toppings including sprouts, avocado, tomato slices, lettuce, cooked onion and most importantly, a creamy and refreshing sauce.  In my opinion, it’s all about the condiments!

Chickpea burgers (and veggie burgers, in general) are fabulous for entertaining and for busy weeknights since they are best formed in advance and refrigerated so they firm up a bit.  Out of the fridge, they cook up in minutes on a hot griddle or skillet.  Once you realize how tasty these are, you’ll make a double batch and freeze half.  If you freeze them, just don’t forget to place a piece of wax or parchment in between each patty so that they don’t stick together (ask me how I know this.)  These burgers may not take you back to your last visit to the Mediterranean, but I hope they’ll keep you from visiting the freezer section of your supermarket!  Enjoy~

5.0 from 4 reviews
Chickpea Burgers
Author: 
Serves: makes 8 patties
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
  • 2 large eggs, preferably free-range
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • zest of 2 small or 1 super big lemon
  • ¼ cup flour (whole grain flour, cornmeal or almond meal all work)
  • 6 Tablespoons (or a heaping ⅓ cup) chopped parsley
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • Oil or ghee for sautéing
  • Yogurt-Tahini Sauce
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt (full fat or low fat)
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1½ Tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped parsley, mint or a combo (my favorite)
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Oil or ghee for sautéing
  • 4 6½ -inch whole wheat pitas, halved and warmed, if desired
  • Suggested accompaniments: sprouts, avocado, tomato, lettuce, grilled onions
Instructions
  1. Place the chickpeas, egg, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne, lemon zest, flour and parsley in food processor. Pulse until a coarse mixture forms that holds together. It should be moist and sticky.
  2. Place chickpea mixture in a bowl and mix in grated carrot and red onion. Take a ½ cup of the mixture and firmly press it into a patty about 3 ½ inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. You can also form these into mini-patties for appetizers. Place on a plate or a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Cover if refrigerating for more than a few hours.
  3. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add patties to the skillet (do this in batches, if necessary) and cook until crisp and golden brown on the underside, about 6 minutes. Carefully turn over and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 3-5 minutes more.
  4. Serve with or without a warmed pita half or a hamburger bun and suggested toppings.

 

Wheat Berry Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing Recipe

In a perfect world we would all be eating mostly whole foods, that is foods that came into this world a certain way and stayed that way.  Whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods are more recognizable by our bodies and better for our health.  Period.  I also talk a lot about limiting gluten, that pesky inflammatory protein found in wheat and to a lesser extent spelt, barley, rye and farro.  One of the problems with our overconsumption of wheat is that 99.9% of the time (I made up that statistic), it is in a processed form such as bread, pasta, baked goods, flour tortillas, pizza, etc.  And in the US, much of the processed wheat is refined too, which means anything good that was in there has been taken out.  Ugh.  I know all those foods are delicious and I am not telling you to never eat them again (although you would be better off), but it’s important to at least acknowledge how much processed wheat you’re eating and try a limit these foods to every once in a while.

So if you buy bread or pasta labeled “whole wheat,”  they are technically made from whole wheat and not actually whole wheat.  If you wanted to actually eat whole wheat, you would eat these little babies right here.  They are called wheat berries which is where wheat flour comes from.  They are a true whole grain because they’re still intact, as are their B vitamins, fiber, protein, even calcium.  Wheat berries remind me a lot of spelt, farro and even short-grain brown rice, but more chewy which makes them perfect in a salad.  My kids love them!  Truthfully you can use wheat berries in any recipe calling for spelt or farro, none of which, however is gluten free.  GF folks can sub brown rice or quinoa very successfully in this recipe.

In as much as I love wheat berries, though, this salad wouldn’t be as delicious without the creamy lemon-tahini dressing which I have been putting on everything lately.  If you have a jar a tahini in the fridge, it is likely because you used it to make hummus, the delicious and popular Middle Eastern chickpea dip.  Tahini is just ground up sesame seeds, plain and simple with lots of good fats, protein and calcium.  If you like hummus, you’ll love this dressing since it contains almost all the same ingredients.  It’s zingy, creamy and a little different from your standard vinaigrette.  I tend to make it a tad on the spicy side, because I love a little kick, but definitely feel free to leave it out if your family prefers things mild.  I took these photos after my class yesterday, when I made the recipe with some thinly sliced radishes, green onions and torn red leaf lettuce, but really the sky’s the limit here.  I have made this salad with blanched asparagus, radishes and spinach — delish!  I have also used cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and parsley.  There’s a picture at the bottom of the post of one version I did with roasted eggplant, red peppers, red onion and parsley, although it vaguely reminded me of that fabulous Ina Garten roasted vegetable orzo dish that I made waaaaay too many times about 10 years ago.  Still great, but in my opinion the richness of the dressing works best with light, fresh vegetables and greens.

If I didn’t just make this salad A LOT this month, I would definitely be including it in the summer entertaining menu rotation.  For you organized, plan-ahead cooks, the day before or morning of I would cook the wheat berries and allow them to cool, prep the vegetables and make the dressing.  I would not, however, dress the salad until the day of otherwise the wheat berries will just soak up all the dressing.  I used wheat berries from Bob’s Red Mill, but I have also seen them in the bulk section of some natural food markets.  Whatever you make this weekend, have fun and keep it real!

Wheat Berry Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups wheat berries -- I used soft white wheat berries (or 1 cup quinoa cooked with 1 ¾ cups water)
  • Dressing:
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or mashed to a paste
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 4 Tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • dash or two of cayenne pepper ( I use ¼ teaspoon to make it a little spicy)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salad: (these are suggestions ~ you can also go with cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, chickpeas, asparagus, peas)
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 radishes, sliced thinly or julienned
  • 2 big handfuls of tender greens (such as spinach, watercress, argula, or red leaf lettuce)
Instructions
  1. Put the wheat berries in a medium saucepan and fill the pan with cold water (as if you were making pasta.) Add a big pinch of salt (kosher is fine.) Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook wheat berries until they are tender, about 50-60 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl to cool slightly.
  2. For the dressing: whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl and season with salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Dip a piece of lettuce in the dressing to taste for seasoning.
  3. Combine green onions, radishes and greens with the wheat berries in the serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat lightly.

Egg Salad Recipe and Other Things You Can Do with Hard Boiled Eggs

I’m thrilled to have my mother and my 4-year-old niece visiting me this week from New York.  We’re having a great time catching up on magazines, tivo’d shows and of course, cooking.  After she read my post the other day about hard boiled eggs, she said, “so I used to overcook my eggs?”  I speak the truth on this blog and I asked my mother if she remembered the telltale green ring around her yolks.  She remembered.  We reminisced about always eating egg salad sandwiches for lunch the day after Easter, and for old times’ sake I thought it would be fun to make them with my mom again.

The two of us had a little egg salad cook-off with my mom making the version I grew up with, which is no more than chopped up hard boiled eggs combined with mayonnaise, relish and a pinch of salt.  Always delicious and that little bit of sweetness from the relish makes this egg salad kid friendly, unless you’re Mr. Picky who thinks egg salad is one of the “scariest” foods out there.  2 plain hard boiled eggs for Mr. Picky, please!  I whipped up my favorite version of egg salad which is loosely based on a recipe from my heroine, Alice Waters and her fabulous book, The Art of Simple Food.  My more grown-up egg salad may taste more sophisticated than the old version, but I assure you it is just as simple, absolutely delicious, and still kid-friendly (for kids that would actually eat egg salad.)  And look, Mom, no green ring!

Hard boiled eggs are rather bland and the texture is soft, so I like balancing all that out with a little salty bite from some capers, some mild onion flavor from either fresh chives, shallots or green onions, and the smallest dash of cayenne for some kick.  I don’t see how people can eat egg salad on squishy, bland white bread, and not just because white bread is tasteless and devoid of nutrients (maybe I should tell you how I really feel.)  Egg salad just pairs so well with some texture and flavor, like from a nice hearty sprouted seed bread or other earthy, flavorful bread — always toasted.  After enjoying this tasty sandwich with my mom the other day, I asked myself why I never make egg salad.  It was such a simple and satisfying lunch with a side green salad.  Daughter #1 gave the egg salad a try and became a convert, although with mouth half-full announced she liked it just fine, but wouldn’t be taking any egg salad too school for lunch — “I don’t want egg aroma in my backpack all day, thanks.”  Whatever.

If you are in Mr. Picky’s camp and think egg salad is too scary or if you went all out, decorated a bazillion eggs and need something more than just an egg salad recipe, here are some other yummy ideas:

  • Sliced on top of toast with smoked salmon or sliced avocado.
  • Deviled eggs — I think this recipe for Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs at Smitten Kitchen looks interesting.
  • Nicoise Salad — a composed salad of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, tuna and hard boiled eggs.
  • Cobb Salad — here’s a more healthful version by Ellie Krieger.
  • In a filling for empanadas.  I love my recipe which uses mixed greens, to which you can add a chopped hard boiled egg or two.
  • Pan Bagnat — a sandwich with sliced hard boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes, onions.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.
  • Chopped over steamed or roasted asparagus.  Then drizzle with one of my favorite everyday salad dressings.

Do you have any great ways to eat hard boiled eggs?  I’d love to know!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Egg Salad
Author: 
Serves: makes enough for 2-3 sandwiches
 
Ingredients
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped chives (my favorite), scallions or shallots
  • tiny pinch of sea salt or to taste
  • a few grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • a dash or two of cayenne pepper (doesn’t make it spicy, just better)
Instructions
  1. Coarsely chop the eggs and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Serve on toasted whole grain bread with greens like watercress or your favorite lettuce. I always love a little avocado, too!
Notes
Other delicious additions to the egg salad: diced celery, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley

My Mom’s Egg Salad

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons sweet relish

pinch of salt



Mix everything to combine well.