Vegan, Gluten Free Baked Mac & Cheeze

I love, love, love macaroni and cheese. It is one of those childhood meals that I still love and crave, but now with a much more sophisticated palate. I have searched the land of gluten free and vegan recipes for "Meghan-friendly" versions of the creamy goodness, but for one reason or another, I just haven't found the perfect recipe. Most recipes I have found contain rice flour and nutritional yeast, which are great for making a cheesy-like sauce, but sometimes I just can't get past the flavor of nutritional yeast.

So, after some tinkering, I have come up with a solution. My secret? Using veggies and cashews to create that creamy goodness. In my opinion, it has the best taste and is a healthy alternative to actual cheese sauce. You'll see that cayenne pepper is an optional ingredient. When included, it adds a little bit of a kick to the dish and a slight spicy heat, which is quite yummy.

I really dig this stuff. It is sooo creamy and delicious. It doesn't try to be some sort of imitation cheesy mac, instead it has its own flavor and appeal, but for me it's the closest thing I have found to the classic. I think anyone would love it, whether your gluten free and vegan or you digest dairy. I could eat it every week, but I look at it as a treat, saving it for special occasions or as a surprise dinner for Andrew, because it's just that good.

Baked Macaroni & Cheeze

16 oz gluten free pasta (I use Trader Joe's organic brown rice penne pasta)

2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

2/3 cup white onion, diced

2 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup raw cashews

2/3 cup olive or canola oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp marjarom

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Paprika for sprinkling

Gluten free breadcrumbs (optional)


Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare pasta al dente (still a little firm to the bite), drain and rinse with cold water (prevents it from sticking together) and set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the potato, carrots and onion and reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes or until veggies are tender. *The smaller the diced veggies, the faster the cooking time.

Combine cashews, oil, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, salt, black pepper, mustard, cayenne pepper, cooked veggies and water in a blender. Process for a few minutes until the mixture is a creamy, smooth sauce.

Place pasta in a 3 quart casserole dish and pour the sauce over it, gently mixing until evenly coated, wiping down the side of the casserole dish if necessary. Sprinkle with paprika.

If desired, top the dish with bread crumbs. (I use this easy and delicious recipe from my absolute, hands-down, favorite food blog: Gluten-Free Goddess)

Bake for 30 minutes.


Vegan, Gluten Free Portland Restaurant Review: ¿Por Que No?

If Andrew had to pick his favorite cuisine, he'd probably say Mexican food. So naturally he loves any place that serves anything resembling a burrito. I love it too, but I think his love is far more persistent (Meghan: "What do you want to eat for dinner?", Andrew: "Oh, I dunno, burritos? Tacos? Mexican food?"). Needless to say, taco night is a huge smash in our household. Even more needless to say; we jumped at the chance to try ¿Por Que No?.

This bumbling little taqueria has always caught my eye. The brightly colored building and large open windows stand out on Hawthorne (but so can the occasional line out the door). I tend to wait until the last moment before deciding where and when to eat, which results in a sudden drop in blood sugar and a very unpleasant mood (which I refer to as "fading"). So when we finally planned to try this place, line and all, I was very excited!

Now, I am going to be upfront and get my critiques out of the way first. Yes, the line can be long at times and seating can be sparse (you should wait until ordering to grab a seat and you might have to share a table with others). You also order at the counter and clear your own table. However, the line doesn't take too long and the food is usually out fairly soon.

Overall, I also thought some of the food was a little pricey, given the portion sizes and [lack of] service you get. I am all for clearing my own table and self-ordering, but I think that the price of the food should reflect that (and the individual tacos do not). Andrew has tried their "Verdura Tacos" (veggie) and ordered three at $2.75 each. They were delicious, but weren't very big and did not fill him up. For $8.25, it was small dinner. However, they came on their house-made corn tortillas which are the best I have ever tasted! We also ordered chips and salsa and happily snacked away on the excessive amount of chips, only to run out of the salsa. It wasn't a large helping at all, so we thought we'd get some more, only to find out they charge $2 for a refill! That really irritated me - so savor your salsa, because the chips and salsa are still worth getting!

I ordered the "Bryan Bowl" with veggies and without the crema and queso fresco. I have checked with the restaurant and that does make it gluten free and vegan. I think this is the best option available to a vegan/gluten free girl (or boy). After multiple visits, Andrew and I have decided that we will probably never try anything else. For $6.75 you get a bowl full of veggies, beans, rice, guacamole, salsa and cilantro. They also place a little radish slice and lime wedge on the top, which makes me love it even more. You also get to decide whether you want chips or 3 corn tortillas with it. The first time I ordered the tortillas, which are amazing and a must-try. However, I think I prefer the house-made chips with the bowl. You get much more and these chips are my absolute favorite ever! They are so thick and warm! I know some people prefer thin, crispy chips, but not me! I love the thick and crunchy ones and these hit the spot!

The critiques are forgivable, especially considering our favorite item is cheap and muy deliciouso. Andrew and I love this place. The atmosphere at ¿Por Que No? is fun and we enjoy it. The taqueria is festive and bright and has a great ambiance. They also have a happy hour everyday from 3-6pm, where they offer $1 off their chips and salsa (or guac) and $.50 off their tacos. They also offer $.50 off their tacos until close on Tuesdays. While there is not a large selection of gluten free/vegan options, I think this is the perfect place if you want to enjoy happy hour with some friends, and sip their famous margaritas or agua frescas with dinner. I recommend taking a look at their menu and giving this place a try (they have 2 locations to choose from: Hawthorne or Mississippi)!

Sorry for the phone picture, but here is the Bryan bowl:


Vegan Almond Milk

There is something so satisfying about making your own milk! Sure there are tons of options at the store, as well as plenty of flavors, but even with all those options, I have always wanted to try making my own milk. I finally got the courage and realized just how easy and fun it is!

So far I have only ventured into making almond milk, but I have been really happy with it. I bought a bulk bag of raw almonds at Costco, found a nut milk bag at a local Farmer's Market and happily pour this stuff on my cereal and into recipes. While it does seem much thinner compared to store bought milks, it is so pure and healthy. I know exactly what goes into it and am happy with the results.

You will need a blender and a nut bag or cheesecloth to make this milk, or I think a very fine strainer or sieve could possibly work (though it might not be as easy). I also use a large mixing bowl with a spout to drain my milk into, which makes it much easier to pour into a bottle or container when finished. The first time I made this I ended up with more milk on the counter than in my designated milk bottle - which is why I offer the above^ advice.

Almond Milk

1 cup raw almonds (unsalted, not roasted)
4 cups water
3 tbs agave nectar (or omit for unsweetened milk)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Soak the almonds overnight in a bowl. Place enough water in the bowl to cover the almonds by an inch or two.

2. In the morning or after soaking for at least 8 hours, drain and rinse the almonds.

3. Pour the almonds, 4 cups of water, agave nectar and vanilla into a blender. Blend on high for a couple of minutes, until the almonds are well blended.

4. Pour the mixture into a nut bag placed over a large [mixing] bowl and let the milk drain through the bag into the bowl, while the pulp remains in the bag. Gently squeeze to get all the milk out (OR place a cheesecloth over a wire colander and place in a large bowl. Pour the mixture through that, pressing to squeeze all milk through).

5. Pour into a container and refrigerate. I find that mine stays tasting it's best for 3-5 days and that it needs to be shaken up a little before using.

My favorite part: the beautiful foam!