Saturday was a big game for my husband’s high school baseball team. I told him as I kissed him goodbye “We”ll be there, look for us in the stands.” Of course, Jackson’s afternoon nap fell at exactly the start of the game. I’ve been trying to keep him on a good sleep schedule during the day as it seems to translate to better sleep at night, so I waited until he woke up. Finally, after sleeping an hour and a half, I quickly loaded him in the car to try and make it to the game before it ended. I tuned into the local radio station airing the game and crossed my fingers that the innings would slow down (the ONLY time I’ve ever wished for baseball to slow down!) We rushed into the stadium as the seventh inning began, our team down three runs.
I sat in the stands next to another coaches’ wife. We both cheered loud when our husbands’ team tied up the game, sending us into extra innings. It was a nail biter of a game!
Sadly, the other team scored the winning run knocking our boys out of their first place spot in district.
“I don’t think I’m going to wait around for them to finish talking to the boys.” I told the other coach’s wife. “I think I’ll head to the store for a few things instead. There’s nothing like Mexican food to cheer Jared up.”
“Yep, I have a pint of Blue Bell in the freezer for occasions just like this,” she nodded.
So I whipped up a mexican casserole, cashew cheese dip, rice, salsa, and gaucamole. Then popped open a couple of Coronas with a twist of lime. Boy was my kitchen a mess, but my husband was feeling like a winner again!
Due to that whole baby sleep schedule mentioned above, it was dark by the time we actually sat down to eat, so pics of the Mexican Fiesta were quite meh. Yeah, meh is a word. So I made a plate of leftovers on Sunday for lunch to get better pictures. Leftovers = equally delicious.
Mexican Comfort Casserole with Cashew Queso
2 1/2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped peppers (any color or kind — I used green bell and poblano)
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 c. (or 2 16 oz cans) of refried or mashed pinto beans
~12 corn tortillas
Cashew Queso (see below)
Optional garnish: lettuce, tomato, avocado
Preheat oven to 350.
Saute onions on medium to med-high heat with a little oil and salt for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and continue sauteing for 10 more minutes. In the last couple of minutes add the garlic.
In a separate pan, saute zucchini and squash on med-high heat with a little oil and salt & pepper until they just start to brown but are still firm.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Pour mixture into a bowl large enough to dip a corn tortilla in.
Now begin layering in a casserole dish (I used two round ones, but you could use one 8 x10 or whatever you have on hand). This recipe is super flexible. If you end up with extra ingredients, just add another layer.
Layer 1: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Layer 2: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce (tear tortillas in half to border edges if needed)
Layer 3: 2 cups of beans
Layer 4: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 5: zucchini and squash
Layer 6: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 7: 2 cups of beans
Layer 8: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with cashew queso, lettuce tomato, and avocado.
Note: this is not my recipe. I got it from a friend and I’m unsure of the source.
1 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 orange roasted bell pepper* (red or yellow will work too, but orange gives the most cheese-like color)
2 c. water
1 tsp lemon juice
In a food processor, blend cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt,and onion powder into a fine dust. Add about 1/2 a cup of the water and the roasted bell pepper and blend again. Add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Transfer mixture to a pot and heat on medium heat, stirring pretty often until it has thickened to the consistency you like. If it gets too thick, just add a little more water.
*Making your own roasted peppers is easy. Just placing them directly on on a gas burner flame rotating it a few times (like this) or on a pan under the broiler until charred. Then put it in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap for a about five minutes. Rub off most of the skin with a damp paper towel. Voila, roasted peppers!
Yesterday was our Vegan Anniversary! We celebrated by making this baked macaroni with cashew cheese, a version of one of our favorite go-to vegan dishes.
Two years ago Jared and I were on a Spring Break vacation at our favorite little island in Florida. Want to see how we celebrated back then? Jared is going to kill me for posting this.
Oh yes, that’s how we rolled! I believe that is a plate of barbeque pork nachos bigger than Jared’s head, a grouper sandwich hanging from his mouth, some grilled shrimp, a side of onion rings, and I don’t think that green St. Patty’s Day beverage is a tall glass of wheatgrass. Though we don’t have a photo to prove it (thank goodness!), I too helped devour this heart attack waiting to happen. Little did we know, this was one of our last meaty meals. We certainly went out with a bang didn’t we!?
On our drive back from Florida to Texas, we listened to some books on CD that I had randomly grabbed from our local library’s limited selection. One of them shared some pretty compelling information from The China Study that had us thinking twice about the dairy and meat in those nachos we’d devoured the week before. As we finished up the book, Jared proposed a challenge.
“Let’s try it. Let’s go vegan for a month and see how we feel,” he said.
A challenge I’d wanted to make myself, but would never have dreamed of proposing to my meat, cheese, and potatoes eating manly man of a man.
“Let’s do it,” I agreed!
And 24 months later, here we are with no plans of turning back.
Jared has even become quite the little vegan chef. He found the original recipe for the macaroni and cashew cheese and made it for us the first time. It was so good I asked him to make it again for both of our family’s Christmas dinners. To our surprise, even his teenage brother, the guy who has to have Kraft shells & cheese at every family gathering, liked it. We made it for my mom and Greg when they visited a few weeks ago and Greg announced “This is better than real mac and cheese.” I like the original a lot, but decided to make some tweaks to it to shake things up a bit.
Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese
Inspired by Epicurean Vegan
Serves: 6-8 people
16oz small whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente (shells, rotini, elbow macaroni, or penne are all great)
1-1/4 C raw cashews
1/2 C nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
2 Tbs EVOO
4 C unsweetened nondairy milk (I used almond)
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 C canola oil
3 Tbs Earth Balance (vegan butter)
1/8 C barley miso (any miso would probably work fine, the original recipe called for light miso)
1 cup dairy free sour cream
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp Tabasco (optional)
Panko break crumbs
Smoked Paprika (optional)
Italian Seasoning (optional)
Start by boiling your pasta water and preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large saucepan saute garlic & onions in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt over medium heat for five minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large food processor bowl finely grind the cashews, but don’t let them turn to a paste (or you’ll end up with cashew butter–not a bad result, but not what you’re looking for here.) Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper. Pulse a few more times until it looks like a fine powder.
Add the onions and garlic to the food processor bowl and pulse a few times.
If the pasta water is boiling, go ahead and drop the pasta and set your timer for 2-3 minutes less than the package recommends. You want to pull out your pasta when it is al dente because it will continue cooking in the oven.
In the same large saucepan as you used for the onions and garlic combine one cup of milk and the cornstarch on high heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until the cornstarch dissolves. Gradually add the rest of the milk, stirring as you go. Finally add canola oil and Earth Balance. Bring the mixture to a simmer then decrease heat to low-medium, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Turn off the burner, add miso and sour cream and stir until incorporated.
With the food processor running, gradually add the wet ingredients to the work bowl. Blend for about 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Next blend in the lemon juice and tabasco (optional).
In a large casserole dish, pour the cashew sauce over the pasta. You want to have a lot of liquid because it will reduce as it bakes.
Cover the top of the dish with a thin layer of panko bread crumbs. I like to add a sprinkle of smoked paprika and Italian seasoning, but it would be just fine without it if you don’t have it. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees or until the bread crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.
Notes: If you have leftover cheese sauce, save it and use it on the leftovers since the sauce tends to thicken over time. Add a pat of Earth Balance and a drizzle of nondairy milk to your leftovers before reheating to keep it nice and creamy. I’ve also added chickpeas and veggies to this dish before baking to up the nutritional profile and it was really tasty. It’s a very versatile casserole and hard to mess up. Though I’ve never used dairy milk, butter, and sour cream, I imagine it would work great in this too if that’s what you have on hand.
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The Title: Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese
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