Take that, Kraft Dinner! Vegan & Gluten Free Mac N' Cheese

Well, the Raincoast Crisps started it off and soon the weekend became all about me vs. the brands. This recipe rip-off exercise began with a not-so-subtle note that was left for me in the kitchen drawer:

The catch is that D, the note's author, is lactose-intolerant which makes the entire concept of KD a bit hard to swallow. (Pun intended!) But I was up for the challenge. After some googling and some experimentation, we managed to craft a mac n' cheese dish that is, even for a fan of the fromage like me, pretty great in its own right. And for my dairy deprived boyfriend, it was just like being 15 again.

Creamy Vegan and Gluten Free Mac N' Cheese
(adapted from the Epicurean Vegan)

1-1/4 C raw cashews
1/2 C nutritional yeast
(most web searches recommend Bob's Red Mills as GF)
2 tsp onion powder
1 to 2 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp white pepper
3-1/2 C nondairy milk
( I recommend only using 2 1/2 c. if you want to eat this dish non-baked, aka "KD Style")
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 C canola oil
1/4 C  miso 
(lighter color blends in better, but any is fine taste-wise)
2 Tbs lemon juice
12-16oz Rice Pasta macaroni, cooked and drained

1. Place cashews in a large-sized bowl of the food processor (I really think you need one. A blender just won't cut it) and finely grind–just don’t let the cashews turn to a paste. Add nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper. Pulse three more times to blend in spices.

2. In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch and oil(s). Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease heat to low-medium, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, or until cornstarch dissolves.
At this point, I found it easiest to blend the miso with the lemon juice in a bowl first, so that you get a nice creamy liquid. It make sit easier to add to the food processor later.
With the food processor running, gradually add milk/oil mixture to cashew/nutritional yeast mixture. Blend for 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Next blend in miso and lemon juice.

3. Combine cashew cheese with macaroni noodles and serve. If you want to eat it "KD Style" without baking, I don't recommend pouring in all the sauce you've made at first. If you have extra, save it for broccoli or something later. The sauce can be a bit soupy on its own, but really gets nice and thick and creamy in the baking process. For an old-school twist, add chopped veggie dogs and ketchup! 

You may also bake it: Preheat oven to 325 and place macaroni mixture in a 8 or 9″ square baking dish (I recommend a 9″x13″ one). It is always nice to add cherry tomatoes or spinach leaves, unless you are a Mac n' Cheese purist. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with 1/2 cup GF bread crumbs mixed with dried basil, oregano, dry mustard, nutmeg--whatever suits your fancy.. Continue baking, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes until topping is golden brown.

I swear you will not miss the cheese

*Oh and now for a little white lie: I actually added cut BBQ'd sausage for D since he isn't a vegetarian like I am. And we used regular bread crumbs because I didn't have any GF ones. You'll be happy to know that I didn't put any real cheese on my helping. I thought I might, but honestly, when I tasted it, I didn't need to. Cashews will never replace the taste of cheese for me, but this was a pretty damn good guilt-free substiute. Take that, KD!

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