Creamy Gluten and Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

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It’s cheesy. It’s creamy. And, for most people (my sister, cough cough), Mac and cheese is certainly dreamy. Even before my celiac diagnosis, however, I wasn’t a huge pasta junkie. So, for nearly two years, mac and cheese left my plate and my mind. Until a cold windy night a few weeks ago when the idea of a dairy and gluten-free mac and cheese transformed into a craving. And then a reality.

Like a modern Frankenstein, I researched several recipes, picking apart aspects and combining them until I created the ultimate cheesy treat. The creamy sauce melts on the ingredients (and your taste buds). The recipe is easily adaptable (being Paleo, vegan and low fodmap friendly!) and quick to prepare ahead and whip up after a busy day of work or college classes. And, unlike Mom’s traditional mac, mine is packed with multiple servings of vegetables to create a healthy splurge!

Further Food Nutritionist Commentary:

While pesto is quite high in fat and calories, at 1/4 cup serving, commercial pesto provides 15% of day's recommended vitamin A, 6% for vitamin C, 20% for calcium and 4% for iron. Vitamin A supports vision health, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and tissue builder, iron supports healthy red blood cells and calcium is essential to strong bones. Lastly, each serving contains ~6 g of protein. Albeit small, pumpkin seeds are nutrition powerhouses, providing manganese, copper, protein and zinc to one's meals. They also contain phytosterols, plant compounds and free radical scavenging antioxidants.

By Nikki Nies, MS, Nutritionist

Creamy Gluten and Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Servings: 2

Ingredients

For the “Pasta”:
1/2 cup of pre-cooked gluten free pasta (for Paleo, replace pasta with more zoodles)
1-2 cups of vegetables (sliced lengthwise into thin strips – I typically use lots of zoodles/zucchini) squash, green beans, snow peas, and carrots (strips)
handful or two of kale/spinach/greens of choice
cooking oil or vegetable/chicken stock
precooked meat/fish/protein of choice (optional)
pesto
pumpkin seeds (optional, may be replaced by other seeds/nuts)

For the Cheese:
few handfuls of Daiya mozzarella cheese shreds
1/4 cup of dairy free milk (I use rice)
1 tablespoon of flour (I use a homemade mix of buckwheat, millet, rice and tapioca but any earthy tasting one should work fine)
spices of choice (I like thyme, oregano, mustard and turmeric)

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Prepare pasta of choice and  protein, if desired or not already cooked.
3. Cut your preferred vegetables into thin strips.*
4. Throw veggies in a medium sized pot to saute.**
5. Lower the heat to medium/low and add your greens, putting on the pot lid so the ingredients can steam/saute.

6.When the vegetables become tender, turn off the heat and set the pot aside.
7. Prepare your cheese sauce by adding your milk, spices and flour to the pot, keeping the heat on high until the mix boils.***
8. Toss in a handful of Daiya cheese shreds and lower the heat to medium. Stir continuously as you add the cheese in order to properly incorporate all the ingredients.****
7. Add optional pasta and your cheese to your vegetables. (Add the cheese sauce gradually, mixing everything together and test tasting versus dumping the entire sauce in.)
8. Pop your cheesy treats into the oven, and bake until the cheese starts bubbling and a crust forms (usually 15-30 minutes).
9. To finish off the baked mac and cheese, though, I’ll top it with a dab of pesto, a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and, if I have it handle, a leftover fillet of fish (salmon is especially delicious)! Then, all you have to do is grab a fork and dig in!

*I prefer a 3:1 vegetable to pasta ratio, but you can adjust your veggie amounts according to how much pasta you like or how many servings you want to make

**Sometimes I use oil to cook them, but recently I’ve used double the amount of chicken stock instead. Not only does the lower the oil, but it also punches up the flavor.) Either way, add your liquid and cook your vegetables on high heat for a few minutes

***You are welcome to substitute Daiya for your favorite dairy free cheese, or the sauce for your own recipe altogether, but this is the one that’s won over my taste buds.

****The Daiya shreds may resist melting into a smooth sauce initially, but keep mixing and add more shreds until you obtain a thick, creamy sauce.
Note: I like to prepare a lemon side salad to accompany. It’s as simple as throwing mixed greens on a plate and, once the main course is ready, tossing them in a few squeezes of fresh lemon and drizzles of apple cider vinegar. Even more vegetable goodness!

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 2. Prepare pasta of choice and  protein, if desired or not already cooked. 3. Cut your preferred vegetables into thin strips.* 4. Throw veggies in a medium sized pot to saute.** 5. Lower the heat to medium/low and add your greens, putting on the pot lid so the ingredients can steam/saute. 6.When the vegetables become tender, turn off the heat and set the pot aside. 7. Prepare your cheese sauce by adding your milk, spices and flour to the pot, keeping the heat on high until the mix boils.*** 8. Toss in a handful of Daiya cheese shreds and lower the heat to medium. Stir continuously as you add the cheese in order to properly incorporate all the ingredients.**** 7. Add optional pasta and your cheese to your vegetables. (Add the cheese sauce gradually, mixing everything together and test tasting versus dumping the entire sauce in.) 8. Pop your cheesy treats into the oven, and bake until the cheese starts bubbling and a crust forms (usually 15-30 minutes). 9. To finish off the baked mac and cheese, though, I’ll top it with a dab of pesto, a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and, if I have it handle, a leftover fillet of fish (salmon is especially delicious)! Then, all you have to do is grab a fork and dig in! *I prefer a 3:1 vegetable to pasta ratio, but you can adjust your veggie amounts according to how much pasta you like or how many servings you want to make **Sometimes I use oil to cook them, but recently I’ve used double the amount of chicken stock instead. Not only does the lower the oil, but it also punches up the flavor.) Either way, add your liquid and cook your vegetables on high heat for a few minutes ***You are welcome to substitute Daiya for your favorite dairy free cheese, or the sauce for your own recipe altogether, but this is the one that’s won over my taste buds. ****The Daiya shreds may resist melting into a smooth sauce initially, but keep mixing and add more shreds until you obtain a thick, creamy sauce. Note: I like to prepare a lemon side salad to accompany. It’s as simple as throwing mixed greens on a plate and, once the main course is ready, tossing them in a few squeezes of fresh lemon and drizzles of apple cider vinegar. Even more vegetable goodness!

Nutrition Information

Per Serving:  Calories: 445; Total Fat: 22 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 861 mg; Potassium: 154 mg; Carbohydrate: 51g; Fiber:5 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 7g

Nutrition Bonus:   Vit A: 99%; Vit C: 65%; Calcium: 13%;  Iron:13%

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