Friday, March 5, 2010

Vegan Mac N Cheese and Pot Roast: Sailing solo in Baltimore and learning the dark side of tofu

The hubby had to work out of town the this week, leaving me to feed and fend for myself for an evening. Now, I'm a grown woman. I've lived and traveled abroad on my own. I can drive s stick shift (albeit poorly). I even have a few Judo lessons under my belt. But take away my husband for an evening and suddenly I can't sleep alone in the bedroom.

It's not romance driving my insomnia so much as total cowardice. When forced to fly solo for a night, Baltimore suddenly seems like the most dangerous city in America. It doesn't help that whenever I mention that I actually live in B'more, most people give pause and then utter, "Have you seen The Wire??" with more than a little concern in their voice.

Given that I had an entire evening to myself (indoors), I decided to try some new recipes. First off: Creamy Vegan Mac n' Cheese. I came across this recipe on I've had all the components of the recipe separately at one time or another (soy milk lattes, NP popcorn and pasta, chick pea salad with tahini dressing, etc.). So, I thought the recipe itself could prove palatable. Besides, I'd get to use my crock pot - yet another in the long line of kitchen appliances I don't use nearly often enough.

The ingredients.

Lina checking out the goods.

An hour and a half later I had my first taste of gluten-free vegan pasta.

It was awful.

I love me some tofu/edamame/vegan cuisine, but lord above I could barely get past the smell of the dish, let alone the taste. I'm not sure if the culinary misfire is my doing (my pasta was made from quinoa and kumquat, and I didn't use the same brand of vegan cream cheese) or just do to the fact that you can't make soy taste like Kraft processed goods, but either way the end product ended up in the garbage. Oh well! Can't win them all. I'm posting the recipe at the end of this entry just in case anyone else would like to have a go at it.

I ate some of my Gourmet Spicy Ramen instead and cleaned out the crock pot for a second attempt at cooking dinner. Since the vegan thing hadn't panned out so well, I went straight to the other end of the chef spectrum and made something a little meatier: Pot Roast with Veggies.

Tony loooooooooves Pot Roast, but given the amount of cooking time required (and the fact that it is a crap-load of red meat), we have it only a few times a year. Plus, I'm forever trying out different versions of the basic roast recipe. (The current family favorite being the Cooks Illustrated March 2002 take on the dish.)

This particular recipe called for 8hrs of low heat stewing. Since I had a sleepless night ahead of me anyway, I just chopped, seasoned, and piled everything into my crock pot and then settled on the couch with the cats.

The goods (Take 2).

Come the next morning, I had a pretty decent dinner ready to go. I let the carafe cool down and then popped the whole thing in the fridge. After I returned from work, I drummed up a quick gravy to go with the dish. The recipe didn't call for butter, but I thought it would be a nice flavor addition that would add some silkiness to the gravy's texture. And I was RIGHT.

While the CI version remains the house favorite, this recipe still turned out a tasty platter. And it makes leftovers for friggin' days.

So what's your biggest culinary misstep? Or, your favorite vegan dish? Feel free to share the recipe~ I'm not giving up on vegan cooking just yet...

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese:

1 8-oz. box gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (uncooked)

florets from 1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped

2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/2 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup water, divided


1. Add all above ingredients (only 1 1/2 cups water) to your slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set on a low setting for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

2. After 1 hour has elapsed, add another 1/2 cup water. Stir. After 1 1/2 hours has elapsed, test macaroni for doneness before serving. If needed, you may add an additional 15 minutes to cooking time. Watch closely, though, to make sure pasta does not overcook.

3. If desired, to serve, toast 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes in a saute pan for a few minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle over individual servings.


Beef Pot Roast with Veggies


3 lbs beef chuck roast

3 cups beef broth

6 oz tomato paste

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp allspice

1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 Tbsp dry)

1 lb carrots

2 small onions

6 small red new potatoes

8 oz. button mushrooms
(I personally cannot stand button mushrooms, so I substituted some baby bellas)

6 cloves garlic


2 Tbsp cooking oil

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups juice from cooked roast

STEP 1: In your slow cooker, combine the beef broth, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, allspice, rosemary and garlic cloves (whole). Stir or whisk until everything is evenly incorporated.

STEP 2: Wash/cut/peel the vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms). Leave the vegetables in fairly large chunks because they will be cooking for hours and smaller pieces will disintegrate. Put half of the veggies in the slow cooker with the broth.

STEP 3: Place the chuck roast on top of the veggies and broth then top with the second half of the vegetables. Secure the lid on the slow cooker and set to low heat. Let cook on low for 8 hours (perfect for while you are at work -- or skipping on sleep on the couch).

STEP 4: After 8 hours, begin to cook the rice. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and slice or shred the meat (your preference). Remove the vegetables from the broth with a slotted spoon. Either use the remaining liquid as an au jus or continue to the next step to make a beef gravy.

STEP 5: For the gravy, heat 2 Tbsp of cooking oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 Tbsp of all-purpose flour and continue to stir and cook for about 2-3 minutes (this toasts the flour particles and prevents a floury taste). Whisk in 2-3 cups of the juice from the cooked pot roast. Let the mixture simmer until thickened (should only take 1-2 minutes). Pour the gravy over top of the roast and veggies. Serve over noodles or rice.

P.S. A buddy of mine expressed surprise at how long I've been blogging, so for the sake of review, I'm linking to the blog I kept while I lived in New Zealand. Enjoy!


Celeste said...

I wish you'd posted pics of the vegan mac n' cheese - even if it was awful!

Adj said...

Trust me, it did NOT look appetizing!