Gee, I wonder why so many people loved this recipe when I first put it up on Instagram a few weeks ago. This recipe is quite dear to my heart because, probably like many of you, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese was one of the only things I would eat when I was a little kid. In fact, I was so picky about my Mac n Cheese I didn’t even like the fun cartoon shapes they came in. I was all about the original super cheesy processed tubey noodles.
Aside from the fact that this particular brand of boxed cheesiness is currently undergoing scrutiny by many health advocates for artificial food dyes that have been associated with hyperactivity, allergies and even cancer, the original Mac n Cheese never even agreed with my stomach! So even before I became vegan I stopped eating this stuff long ago. Aka it was about time to come up with a good recipe for a healthier alternative.
If you’re still a processed foods junkie, I know what you’re thinking… Kraft is a multi-million dollar company that has been around for a long time, there’s no way they wouldn’t be following the FDA’s regulations on food dye. Well, here’s the scary thing: the FDA’s website states that, “Without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn’t be green. Color additives are now recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat.” Really? That’s what processed foods in the US have come down to? Simply accepting the fakeness that is put into our food products even though it has been proven to have unhealthy and even freaky side effects?!
Here’s the thing: I totally get it. People eat processed foods because it’s all they know. As I mentioned, I grew up eating macaroni like it was crack cocaine. But, with a little research and some extra effort, I’ve learned that I can eat yummy foods and know that they are not hurting my body. In fact… they are doing the opposite! They are actually doing GREAT things for my body.
This may not be your typical straight-outta-the-box Mac n Cheese, but this is a pretty wonderful alternative. Especially for us vegans, who rarely experience the cheesy nutty taste of comfort foods that we occasionally miss.
Let’s take a look at the main ingredients in this dish:
- Quinoa: Dubbed “the Supergrain of the future” by Forbes, it is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. It contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. (Fun fact: the fiber in the enriched wheat flour in Kraft? Next to nothing.) On top of that, quinoa contains iron, magnesium, and B2 among other great vitamins and minerals.
- Sweet Potato: First of all, sweet potatoes have got to be the tastiest and most satisfying vegetable on the planet. Second of all, they are bursting with vitamins B6, C, & D as well as iron and magnesium – great for anti-stress, heart health, bones, nerves, skin and teeth! All this for only 180 calories. Boom.
- Nutritional Yeast: This yummy bundle of nutrients puts the “cheese” in this Mac n Cheese dish. It is one of the few non-animal sources of B-12 that exists, so it is great for us vegans and vegetarians. Only 1 tbsp gives us the amount of B-12 we need in an entire day! It is also a great source of protein, iron, magnesium and zinc to name a few.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Not only does this ingredient give a zesty and tangy flavor to this dish, but it is known to help reduce stomach problems (score!), cure hiccups, prevent indigestion, clear a stuffy nose, beat exhaustion, and whiten teeth!
I don’t even need to compare this to the nutritional benefits (or lack there of) in regular macaroni and cheese. AND it’s delicious!!! Excuse my rant about processed foods, but I feel it is very important to get that information out there. Especially because they are SO easy to avoid if you have good alternatives. Starting with this lovely recipe:
– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 cups water
– ½ cup broccoli
– ½ cup cauliflower florets
– ½ cup unsalted kidney beans
– a bit of chopped garlic for the veggies
– 1 large sweet potato
– 2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast
– 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
- Start with the sweet potato, because it takes the longest. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and stick it on there on a baking sheet for about an hour – or until soft and very easy to cut through.
- Now onto the broccoli and cauliflower. I like to bake them for this dish to make them nice and soft. Chop them up into small florets, and sprinkle some chopped garlic over them. Stick them on a baking sheet and bake them along with the sweet potato for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown at the edges.
- While those are in the oven, you can start making the quinoa. Boil the quinoa in 2 cups of water on a medium-low heat – this should take about 10-15 minutes depending on your stovetop.
- If you’re into multitasking, you can start on the sauce while the quinoa is boiling (make sure you have it on low so it doesn’t overflow)! Chop the sweet potato up into smaller pieces and blend it with the nutritional yeast and apple cider vinegar. You can use any type of blender or food processer here, but the more high-speed the better so it can turn into a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Once the quinoa is boiled and the veggies are baked, serve the quinoa into two bowls and stir in the vegetables and kidney beans. Then pour the sauce over everything and mix well.
Drool, serve, ENJOY.