I got to work creating what I do best, delicious plant-based dishes, with a goal of showing vegans and non-vegans alike that a dairy free mac ‘n cheese can be as satisfying as its counterpart. My entry was not only 100% plant-based, but also gluten-free–emulating the classic American macaroni and cheese many of us grew up on. I drew inspiration from my grandmother’s Greek pastitsio, a noodle and cheese dish, which I frequently enjoyed during childhood visits to her home.
The recipe includes some ancient whole grains (quinoa, teff and amaranth), cashews, almonds and extra virgin olive oil–all healthy and energizing ingredients. This dish feels and tastes like the traditional mac ‘n cheese, without the simple carbohydrates or cholesterol laden fats. It thrives on the synergy between flavor, texture, healthy ingredients and comfort. The coup d’etat is my chive and extra virgin olive oil puree, which adds a zesty “zing”–mostly appreciated by us grown up kids.
Although my entry did not win the competition, it was the surprise of the event. After the blind tasting, many were asked if they knew one of the dishes was vegan and gluten-free. Most tasters had no idea and were pleasantly surprised! Proving that this dish can stand on its own in flavor and texture no matter what one’s dietary preference is.
The Macdown was a huge success. Not only was it a great time with music and song–but it sold-out! Justin’s Vision not only gained a lot of recognition and press through this fundraiser, but it raised enough funds to send a family to the Give Kids The World Village and helped to pave the way for the next exciting fundraiser!
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large saucepan, bring water, ½ teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil to a boil. Add macaroni and stir to remove clumping. Cook until the pasta is tender around the edges, but firmer than Al Dente. Strain, rinse with cool water, drain well and place in a bowl with ½ teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix well and reserve.
½ cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 ½ cups soy milk or other non-dairy milk
Puree all ingredients in a blender until very smooth and transfer to a bowl. Reserve.
Lightly oil a 6×9 baking dish, set aside. In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, slowly cook the onions until clear around the edges, then add the garlic, teff and amaranth. After 1 minute, add the almond flour, black pepper, smoked paprika, sea salt and turmeric. After another minute, stir in soy milk and the remaining Blend A. Simmer and stir until a thick gravy consistency, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in water, lemon juice and Blend B. Transfer to baking dish and fold in the noodles and ½ cup Daiya. Spread out evenly.