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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dairy-free mac and cheese, Take 1

This cheese-free mixture combines with almond milk to make
the mac-sans-cheese sauce
My darling nearly 1-year-old daughter (Miss H) has an apparent dairy protein sensitivity.  It's not a true allergy, thankfully.  She can eat small amounts of "hidden" dairy products (like the amount of milk in a single pancake is OK), but yogurt, cheese, a cup of milk and we are in Digestive Distress Central.  Unfortunately that means that dishes are that are basic food groups at my house are off limits for her :(  Like mac and cheese.

So I am exploring the world of cheese-free mac and cheese.  As best I can tell, dairy-free mac and cheese recipes fall into 4 main categories...those that use processed faux cheese and plant-based milk for the sauce, those that use miso paste and plant-based milk, those that use some kind of nut puree and plant-based milk and those that use a product called nutritional yeast and plant-based milk.

I'm starting with the last one.

You might remember that I said I wasn't going to make a special trip to get nutritional yeast to make this recipe awhile back...I apparently shoulda gone ahead and done it.  So off to my local natural foods store I went.  $4.50 for half a pound and it looks like it might last forever.

I've also had to try plant-based milks...we've settled on almond milk mostly because she doesn't barf it back up and that's good enough for us.  I was surprised to see that most plant milks have added sweetener.  When I compared the nutritional information on these milks with cow's milk though, I realized that without the additional sugar, most of these milks (the ones made from protein sources like nuts anyway) are far lower in calories and natural sugar than cow's milk.  Great for adults who want to cut calories, not so great for growing babies.  There are flavored versions of most non-dairy milks, and those have LOTS more added sugar which we *will* be avoiding.  Just a tidbit for you.  Back to the recipe.

I tried this recipe from the Bad Mama Genny blog.  I liked that it was easy, fast and could sit on the shelf like the boxes of mac and cheese do.  Nice and easy for me or my Dear Husband to throw together for a quick kid-friendly meal.  And it absolutely was.  And Miss H LOVED her cheese-free mac.

Full disclosure...the boys did not like this.  They were 100% rock-solid prepared for Kraft and were disappointed.  I thought it needed a little acidity from, say, some white wine vinegar or tomato paste, but otherwise I'd absolutely eat it again.

Full disclosure...I'll probably make up a few small jars of this mix (as recommended here, though I prefer the sauce-to-pasta proportions of the above-linked version) and make it just for Miss H while continuing to keep the boxed stuff, the "real" stuff for the boys.  And I'll keep trying other recipes too.

Mac Sans Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings

1 lb. pasta
1/2 cup flour
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 cups almond milk (not flavored)
1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Cook 1 minute longer than directions for "al dente".  Drain well and set aside.

Stir together dry ingredients.  In a medium pot, whisk in milk.  Cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, 5-8 minutes.  Stir in vinegar.  Add pasta to sauce and stir well.

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