Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

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vromans back

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So – I wanted to make a healthier mac & cheese – less cheese (even less vegan cheese) and less pasta.  I looked in the fridge & my pantry & found these potential ingredients.

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As it turned out – I used all but the vegan cream cheese & the Daiya cheddar shreds.    So – the only actual cheese (vegan cheese) in this recipe is the Field Roast Chao Tomato-Cayenne slices.  If you can’t find these or do not like them (I think the 3 Chao cheeses are the best grocery store vegan cheeses on the market so far) – then use Daiya or any other kind of vegan cheese – or even real cheese (if you are not vegan).

This is a very easy dish to make – though it does have a few steps.  The only special tool you need is a blender (or a food processor).  No need to soak cashews overnight.  And – most importantly – it is VERY convincing!  None of the over-powering flavor of nutritional yeast yet all the wet, creaminess of real mac & cheese.  I swear – non-vegans will not identify this as vegan.  It has the additional benefit of using two full heads of cauliflower – but they blend in and become virtually undetectable – so your veggie hating kiddies will likely eat this with little argument (though you might want to reduce the spiciness for tender palates).

My primary excitement about this recipe is the green enchilada roux.  Traditional roux is made with butter, flour & milk.  I definitely wanted to use the green enchilada sauce but I did not want the dish to be swimming in liquid – as I feared it might be if I made a roux with milk and also added the enchilada sauce.  Happy news!  The enchilada sauce blended & thickened with the butter & flour as easily as milk would have but added SO much more flavor.

Again – while there are a few steps (mainly, boiling & draining to heads of cauliflower & the pasta) – none are difficult & the resulting dish is supremely gratifying!   I hope you try it!

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Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

Serves at least 6

INGREDIENTS

2 heads cauliflower (I used one white & one yellow)

for the roux

4 TBS vegan butter

4 TBS flour

16 oz green enchilada sauce

7 oz vegan cheddar (sliced up or grated)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (SUPER optional – I just had a little left over that I wanted to use up)

for the mac & cheese

1-2 jalapenos – one seeded & diced and one seeded & sliced (optional – depending on your taste for spice)

1 4oz can diced green chilies (I used hot but you could use mild)

2 ears corn – kernels cut from the cob (or about one 14 oz can of corn or 1 cup frozen corn)

1 lb pasta (shape of your choice)

1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I used panko)

Cooking spray

GARNISH: cilantro, avocado, diced tomato, hot sauces, additional fresh jalapeno or canned chilies

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Treat a 9×13 casserole pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to directions (maybe 1 minute less than suggested) – drain & set aside.

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If you are using 2 different colors of cauliflower – you might want to cut each into florets & then boil & drain them each separately.  Or not.  It doesn’t matter much but the yellow cauliflower purees & looks like a cheesier sauce than white cauliflower will.  Still – some cheddar cheeses are white – so – don’t sweat it, whatever you decide.  If you are just using 2 heads of the same color – boil until just tender (5-7 minutes) – drain & set aside.

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If you used one head of yellow cauliflower – put it (with about 1 cup of hot water) into a blender & puree until very smooth.  Only add just as much water as you need to accomplish this – which could be more or less than a cup of water – depending on the size of the head you used.

If you used to heads of the same color – just puree one head worth as described above.  Set aside.

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Melt the butter in a sauce pan & whisk in the flour.  It should thicken & brown a bit very quickly – maybe a minute.  Add the enchilada sauce incrementally – letting it thicken before adding more – until it is all incorporated & rater thick.

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Add the cheese & stir until it melts.

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Add the pureed cauliflower & nutritional yeast (if using), salt & pepper to taste, and then one diced jalapeno, canned chilies & the corn.

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Combine & adjust S&P – if necessary.

Put the sauce in a large bowl & then add the pasta and the remaining cauliflower florets.  Combine.

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Pour the mac & cheese into the casserole dish & top with breadcrumbs & maybe some sliced jalapeno.  Spray with cooking spray – as this helps the breadcrumbs brown (because vegan cheese does not have the animal fat of real cheese – which is what browns in traditional mac & cheese).

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Bake at 400 for about 30-45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned a bit & the cheese sauce is bubbly.

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Let rest for about ten minutes & then serve.  Garnish with avocado, cilantro, diced tomatoes and/or anything else you like.

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