feasting at home: Healthy Mac and Cheese

May 9, 2013

Healthy Mac and Cheese


This vegan and gluten-free Mac and Cheese Recipe with Kale and Mushrooms from Alison Collins, chef and owner of Boots Bakery and Lounge, is seriously good. And seriously good for you too. It's packed with protein and vitamins while remaining very low in fat, keeping you fueled and energized all day long. And the best thing is, it can be made in less than 30 minutes. 






Boots is nearing its one year anniversary. About this time last year, Alison and her husband Arden, were still in the thick of it.  Amidst ladders, paint cans, table saws and layers of dust it was hard to imagine a hip urban space, let alone a smoothly running and successful cafe. But that's what it has become. And for the health conscious, vegans and gluten-free folk, it is a dream come true. Boots offers vegan and gluten free fare, scratch-made cocktails, and sweet treats, in a unique and fun environment.  It's not often that restaurant will get it all right. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Spokane, traditionally a meat and potatoes kind of town, has totally embraced it. And according to Alison, it's not just vegans who join them. They have tried to create a place that welcomes all. Alison, Arden and her friendly staff go out of their way to make you feel part of the family. "If you come here once, you are a regular. We don't have customers, we have friends."  states Alison.  And after spending a few minutes with her, you feel as if you've been friends your whole life.





When first planning the menu at Boots, Alison never imagined that her deli case full of savory vegan and gluten free items would become the driving force of her business. Initially, she thought it would be her vegan baked goods and fresh cocktails that would bring people in. But since day one, keeping the savory case stocked and full has been her greatest challenge. People flock in the doors for her latest daily creations, always made from scratch. And not having a set menu allows her the flexibility and freedom to make dishes using what's seasonal and available that day.



Recently,  Alison showed me how to make her very popular, Vegan/Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese. 

It starts with boiling 4 cups of gluten free brown rice noodles, until just al dente, gently stirring them and taking care not to break them. 



She whips up the "cheesy" sauce in a food processor, using a non-GMO organic silken tofu.



She adds a whole cup of nutritional yeast which really boosts the health benefits and gives it a rich cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast, if you are unfamiliar, is packed with protein and vitamins, particularly B vitamins, as well as folic acid, selenium and zinc. It's low in fat and gluten free. A tablespoon or two added to vegan soups or other dishes can add depth, nuttiness, umami and richness, really enhancing the flavor that is already there. And it works great in this Mac and Cheese Recipe.




She adds olive oil, granulated garlic, kosher salt and pepper, scraping the down sides and whips until very smooth.



Once the pasta is done, about 7 minutes later, she very gently strains it.





She adds roasted cremini mushrooms and fresh chopped kale to this Mac and Cheese, but you could add any vegetable you like.

To roast mushrooms, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a sheet pan and roast in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. Or these can just as easily be sauted.





Chop fresh kale and add it to the pasta.




Gently fold in the "cheesy sauce" into the pasta and veggies, and carefully stir, so not to break up the pasta.





Once it's all incorporated, place it in a serving dish and serve immediately. You could also place it in a warm oven, covered, for a few minutes before serving.


It's amazing that something so rich and creamy looking could be so good for you.











photo by Dhillon Photography
photo by Dhillon Photography
Boots is located a 24 W Main St in downtown Spokane. They are open everyday at 6 am.

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Vegan/Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:
4 c. dry brown rice noodles (or other gluten free/vegan noodles)
1pkg (1lb 3oz) Non Gmo Organic Silken Tofu
1 C Nutritional Yeast Flake
1 T. Granulated Garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. coarse black pepper
2 T. olive oil (or your choice)
touch more oil for roasting/sauteeing mushrooms
2-3 C mushrooms roasted or pan sautéed (your choice on variety)
4-5 leaves kale, chopped (or spinach or arugula or collards)

Directions:
Get water boiling. Wash and chop kale. Chop and sauté or roast mushrooms.
Whirl up tofu, yeast flakes, oil, garlic, salt, pepper, oil. At this point, if you are going to eat the macaroni and cheese immediately, warm this cheese sauce on the stove top on LOW, stirring frequently. (Or alternately, you may heat the entire dish in a 350 oven for 15 mins.)
If making ahead for the week, no need to heat.

Boil and drain noodles. Mix with cheese sauce and mushrooms and kale (or greens). Heat in oven, covered, or serve right away.