Mac-and-Cheese Monday: Slow Cooked Mac and Cheesy

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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This week’s mac & cheese is a bit of a departure from the norm, since it’s slow cooked. The afternoon that I made it the thermometer topped 90F, so it was rather refreshing not to have to stand over the stove for an hour plus. Just ten minutes to cook the broth and taters and that was it. Shiny!

Aside from last year’s Christmas pizza, we really haven’t had a ton of luck with our slow cooker. To be fair, we haven’t done very much experimenting with it, either. Can you say “vicious circle”? I even own a copy of Robin Robertson’s Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker – it was a x-mas present to myself, actually! – but it hasn’t provided the motivation I’d banked on. Slow cookers require so much advance planning, yo! So not my forte.

Luckily, the Mac and Cheesy recipe is easy peasy, at least as far as crockpot dishes go. It takes maybe a half hour to set up, and then just 2 1/2 hours to cook. Technically you’re supposed to soak the cashews overnight – ugh, there go the preparations, getting away from me again! – but I let them sit for a mere hour and it worked well enough.

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Veggie broth, cashews, and boiled potatoes form the base of the cheese sauce, which is further seasoned with nooch, mustard, miso, lemon juice, onions, garlic powder, and pimientos (or roasted red peppers! I used a combo and it was mmm, mmm good!). Additional Daiya (or whatever) cheese shreds are optional, but after two hours of cooking, the cheese sauce was so thick and creamy that I didn’t think them necessary. (Ugh I know, what’s wrong with me!? Someone rush me to the doctor stat!)

The finished dish is tasty, but of course not as deliciously junky as one made with 100% procressed vegan cheeses. I used gemelli in place of the traditional elbows or (for me) shells, on accounta I wanted to add some variety to the pictures. As it turns out, the sauce is so thick than you can barely see the shape of the pasta under all the saucy goodness. Shane thought it was fusilli! Ah well.

The recipe only makes eight ounces of pasta, but I was able to double it without trouble. (Though I did have to process the cheese sauce in two batches. My slow cooker may be big enough to handle a double batch; my blender, not so much.) Don’t try this at home unless you have at least an 8-quart slow cooker, as the original recipe calls for a minimum of four!

Mac-and-Cheese Monday - Mac and Cheesy [Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker] (0003)

 
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Vegan Slow Cooker Greek Frittata – and a Tofu Scramble Recipe!

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

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Even though I’ve owned it for a few months now (Shane and I bought it as an early x-mas present to ourselves!), I haven’t had much occasion to use Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker. Some of the recipes look quite appetizing, but most of ’em require so much advanced planning! I know, I know – that’s kind of the point of crockpots: slow cooking and all. But the plan ahead type, I am not.

So yada yada yada, I decided to give the Greek Frittata a try since I had some tofu that needed eating and the whole process is relatively short, at just two hours of cook time. Plus I loved Isa’s Curried Cauliflower Frittata and wanted to see how a slow cooker version would measure up. Turns out that frittatas? Are better baked in the oven.

The Greek Frittata is tasty enough – I love the combination of spices and veggies, minus the overcooked spinach (but then again we all know how fussy I am when it comes to cooked greens!) – problem is, it didn’t quite bake all the way through. While the edges crisped up nicely, the middle portion remained soft and mushy (kind of similar to the cheesy tofu layer in this Spaghetti Pie). Removing it from the slow cooker – mine’s a deep one – was a straight-up hot mess.

Overall, it was edible, though nothing to write mom about.

Still craving a Greek Frittata, I decided to try combining Robin’s recipe with Isa’s, i.e.: Robin’s ingredients + Isa’s cooking method. Then I realized that I’d have to chop the peppers and olives super-small so that the frittata would hold together, and quickly nixed the idea. Instead, a Greek Tofu Scramble, complete with big, meaty chunks of veggies. And spinach! I even kept the spinach! But I added it in the last minute of cooking so that it doesn’t get overdone.

The result? νόστιμα! (That’s Greek for delicious.)

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(More below the fold…)

The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2012 edition!

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

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A basket of chai cookies, oatmeal cream pies, and eggnog cookies for our neighbors.
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You guys, I did so much baking this holiday season! Instead of buying my family the customary vegan treats from etsy, I had the bright idea to make everything my own bad self. (“Make everyone’s presents by hand, she said. It’ll be fun, she said.” reads a mid-December entry in my journal.) Several weeks and a dozen or so batches of cookies later, and I am wiped out. Good thing I have extra cookies to keep me going, eh?

Many of the recipes are from Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I’m quickly growing to love. My mom gave it to me a Christmas or two ago, but given my awful track record with cookies and other baked sweets, I hadn’t gotten much use out of it. (Until now!)

Much to my surprise, everything came out wonderfully! Not a single burned cookie in the bunch. I think the secret is in the parchment paper. I’ve been resistant to using the stuff in the past, because it feels like I’m wasting paper or something. But it really works! Pro tip: as long as they haven’t picked up any cookie residue, you can reuse sheets of parchment paper several times to save money and resources. This is especially helpful if you’re baking multiple batches of cookies in a single day.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of all the holiday goodies to pass through my kitchen (and gullet! yay the imagery!) this month. Mostly cookies, but also fancy nuts, truffles, ice cream, pizza, and pasta!

 

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Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (page 228) – Mine didn’t come out quite as plump and chewy as the ones pictured in the book, but I think that’s because I made the cookies a little smaller than suggested.

Actually, that was a trend pretty much across the board – I ended up with more, slightly smaller cookies vs. fewer, larger cookies (the latter being the norm for me). It was all good though, because the smaller cookies were a better fit for the tupperware I used to pack and ship them. Score!

Chewy or not, these were still super-delish, though not nearly as nommy as some of the other cookies I tried.

(More below the fold…)