Feb 23, 2011

polenta with braised squash and porcini

I was intensely craving creamy polenta and porcini mushrooms. I came up with this dish, Polenta with Braised Squash and Porcini, which incorporated both and butternut squash.

Polenta can be cooked so it has a crispy surface (after it has been cooked and cooled), or it can have a very creamy consistency, which is what I was going for here. This is intensely creamy and not at all thick - I used 5 cups of almond milk to 1 cup of polenta.

The squash is braised with porcini mushrooms and a little truffle oil. Truffle oil has a very distinct flavor so use it according to your taste, although using it is totally optional. What is not optional is to make sure your porcini is completely clean of grit after rehydration. There is not much less appealing than having a mouth full of dirt.

This turned out to be a surprisingly delicious meal. 

Cost Breakdown

butternut squash: $2
polenta: $.75
porcini: $2
onion, garlic, spices: $1
truffle oil: $.50
vegan milk: $2
Total to make 5 servings:

Feb 17, 2011

baked mac and cheese

Someone asked me to try my hand at making a really good Macaroni and Cheese. Because there are so many ways to approach making a vegan mac and cheese, I decided to do it one kind of way at a time.  

The most obvious way - and the approach that I took here - was to use vegan cheeses that are available on the market.

While it is delightful to have access to Daiya, it is more important to use at least two different brands of vegan cheese. Why? One brand might have one flavor covered and another will have a different take on what makes a vegan cheese taste good. While vegan cheese has come a long way over the past decade, incorporating as many different kinds as you can (at least two) makes a huge difference in the overall flavor.

This recipe uses a simple bechamel (white) sauce to add body (and not just fat) to the cheese sauce. Then it is tossed with slightly undercooked pasta, topped with bread crumbs and baked.

Because the mac and cheese is baked, it does not have the overtly creaminess that the new Amy's vegan mac and cheese does (which thrilled my youngest daughter) but is still creamy and totally delicious. When baking, the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. If you want to keep it really creamy don't bake it (but make sure to use properly cooked pasta). If you still want the topping, add it and broil it for a few minutes until the bread crumbs are golden.

I used quinoa pasta and Follow Your Heart and Daiya brands of cheese.

This is like what your mom used to make (not from the box, though - that recipe will be coming in the future), just better since it is vegan.

Cost Breakdown

pasta: $3
vegan butter, flour, spices: $.75
nondairy milk: $.75
FYH, Daiya: $7
bread crumbs: $.50
Total to make 5 servings: