Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mac 'n "Cheese" with Spinach and Sausage: Delicious Comfort Food That Just Happens to Be Vegan

I woke up stuffed up, achy and with a massive headache yesterday. Not sure why. Maybe seasonal weather changes? Payback from my body for a long stressful week? The big drag of the headache was that it hurt to do anything, thus sharply limiting my productivity. Reading and answering emails--ouch! Crafting an outline to send to the coordinator for a presentation I'm giving--double ouch! Work was out. It also knocked out any desirable non-work pursuits like blogging, reading and commenting on blogs, reading in general. That left me with sleep, laundry, and making vegan mac 'n "cheese" for lunch.


Why vegan macaroni and cheese? Well, first off I wanted comfort food and mac 'n cheese fit the bill. Besides supporting my goal of reducing the overall meat and dairy I am consuming and eating more plant-based foods, a stuffy sinus area didn't exactly need the mass quantities of cheese, milk and butter found in regular mac 'n cheese.

My original intent was to make a basic pasta in creamy sauce style, but the big container of baby spinach in my fridge "suggested" that I should probably get something green into the mix, and then there was a beckoning from a package of Field Roast Grain Meat Company Italian sausages. (My new favorite sausage replacement--tasty, with a non-scary ingredient list.) Does the food in your refrigerator call to you too? No? ...OK, maybe it was the headache talking.


I had found this recipe for "Quick & Dirty 5-Ingredient Vegan Cheeze Sauce" from the blog Oh She Glows, a great site for tasty vegan food, and since I had all of the ingredients called for (almond milk, flour, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance butter, and salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder--apparently all the spices are counted as one to make it "5-Ingredient?), so I used it as my base.

While the pasta cooked (I used about 1/2 package of Barilla mini rotini), I crumbled and browned one sausage in a large sauce pan and stacked and thinly sliced about 3 cups of the baby spinach. I removed the sausage from the pan and set it aside, then I used the pan to make the cheeze sauce. Once the sauce thickened, I stirred in the spinach and browned veggie sausage and heated it through, then drained the pasta and mixed it into the pan with the sauce.

About 20 minutes from boiling the pasta water, I was sitting cross-legged on the couch with a bowl of creamy pasta goodness on my lap listening to the DVR'd latest episode of The Great Food Truck Race. (It still hurt to actually watch it). So maybe it didn't cure the headache, it hit the spot--creamy, "cheesish" pasta that tasted great with the strips of tender spinach and crispy sausage bits, and with a lot less saturated fat.


Notes/Results: Am I here to tell you that this is a exact replacement for the famous gooey macaroni and cheese recipe that has been handed down for generations in your family, or the 4 cheese lobster mac from your favorite restaurant? No, it isn't an exact replacement, but it is darn good, fulfills a craving, and it is packed with some great nutrients from the nutritional yeast flakes and the spinach with lots of fiber from the pasta which has 6 grams per serving. At first I wished I had doubled the sauce to make it gooier, and I could have easily made another quick batch, but as I ate it I found that it was actually just creamy enough to feel indulgent without overkill--every noodle was covered in the tasty sauce.

As a quick-to-prepare, semi-homemade convenience-style food, it sure beats the unnamed blue box in both flavor and nutrition--although if you prefer looking the noxious orange color you may want to add some red food coloring to the sauce! Delicious, and I will make it again.

P.S. My head is MUCH better today and the mac 'n "cheese" still tastes great. ;-)


Pasta this tasty belongs at Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Honeybunch at The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. Check out her post on Friday for a round up of some great pasta dishes.

Aloha,

8 comments:

ARLENE said...

I can't promise to make it vegan, but your combination of spinach and sausage in the mac n' cheese I am definitely going to try. Glad your headache is better.

K and S said...

sounds delicious and I hope you feel better soon!

Joanne said...

I don't care what kind of "cheese" this has, as long as it hits that comfort food spot! I love that it's WAY better for you and uses my favorite milk! Oy, I'm sorry about your headache...I hate it when I feel one coming on because then I know the rest of my day is shot! I wonder where I could find that sausage...

Anne said...

Looks yummy!

Foodycat said...

I love the idea of spinach and sausage in mac & cheese. It won't be vegan though!

girlichef said...

I'm with Arlene and FC...this sounds like something I need to make. Love the cheese & sausage combo, but won't be vegan. I'd gladly eat a bowlful of yours, though if you set it front of me ;) Headaches are one of the things that plague me most often. No fun! Hope it stays away...

alohaappetite said...

I have been waiting to taste Angela's cheeze sauce. I wonder if I can fool my husband with it...

Deb in Hawaii said...

Arlene--thanks! I am sure it will be delightful not-vegan too. ;-)

Kat--thank you! ;-) You too.

Joanne--I got them at Whole Foods--they are really good for a vegan sausage and made with simple, whole ingredients.

Anne--thank you! ;-)

Foodycat & girlichef--chickens! ;-)
just kidding--the combination is good vegan or not. ;-)

alohaappetite--it's very good but you probably won't fool him. ;-)