Week 4: Vegan Pumpkin & “Bacon” Mac-N-“Cheese” & Vegan Coconut Cornbread Dressing – A Compassion is the Secret Ingredient Thanksgiving

Week 4 is here and this week is all about transforming recipes that I’ve already shared into new recipes that are absolutely perfect additions to your Thanksgiving table! The first recipe that I’m transforming from “everyday” to “Thanksgiving” is my mac-n-“cheese” which I shared with y’all back in March.

The original recipe is quick, easy, and beloved by all who try it -it’s actually in the top five list of most popular recipes here on the blog! For as popular and great as it is though, it is not exactly a recipe that most would pick for their Thanksgiving menu. To remedy this, because mac-n-“cheese” should never be left out of the fun, I decided kick the original recipe up a notch by adding to it… drum roll, please… pumpkin and “bacon.”

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The pumpkin, of course, makes this dish oh-so-fall but it also adds to it a nice earthy quality to our mac while the “bacon” adds a lot of bold smokiness and a little change in texture.

To get started, we must first get a pot of pasta cooking up. Just like with the original mac recipe that I shared, my pasta preference is a shape that resembles a double elbow or open spiral. (It’s often called either Cavatappi or Cellentani.) Once you’ve got the pasta going, you’ll need to get the “bacon” going as well.

In the pot that you’ll make the “cheese” sauce in, saute up the bacon of your choosing. I love Benevolent Bacon but if you’re looking to decrease the smokiness of your mac then you might want to opt for a different brand. When your “bacon” is done, remove it from the pot and set it aside for use in a moment.

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To the pot that you just plucked the “bacon” from, a little “butter” gets added and melted down. Once melted, an equal amount of flour is added and the mixture get stirred together then cooked until foamy and light brown. Next, unsweetened almond milk joins the party and the whole mixture is brought to a boil and kept boiling until thickened which should only take a minute or so. Now it’s time to reduce the heat and add the “cheese” and pumpkin! Once those have been fully incorporated, the final step to complete the “cheese” sauce for our mac is to add the “bacon” that we cooked earlier along with some seasonings.

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With the “cheese” sauce completed you can now toss in the cooked noodles, give the whole thing a good stir, and then enjoy!

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Vegan Pumpkin & 'Bacon' Mac-N-'Cheese'

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of Cavatappi or Cellentani pasta
  • Oil and salt for pasta water
  • 1 package of your favorite vegan “bacon,” cut into half-inch pieces or smaller
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag of Daiya cheddar-style shreds (about 2 cups)
  • 1-2 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. In a pasta pot, or other large pot, start pasta cooking in accordance with the instructions on the pasta’s packaging for al dente pasta. Be sure to add a little oil to the pasta water (1-2 tablespoons) to help prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cooks and also add a decent amount of salt (2-4 tablespoons) to infuse the pasta with a little flavor as it cooks. In a separate large pot, that you’ll eventually make the “cheese” sauce in, cook the “bacon” in accordance with the instructions on the “bacon’s” packaging. When the “bacon” is done, remove it from the pan and set it aside for a moment.
  2. In the pot that you just removed the bacon from, add the “butter” and allow that to melt completely. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy and very light brown in color -about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and turn the heat up to bring to boil. Boil, while stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to thicken sauce base a little. After 2-3 minutes, reduce heat to medium and add in the “cheese” and canned pumpkin. Stir until they have fully been incorporated into the sauce base -about 2-3 minutes. Add the “bacon” you cooked earlier as well as the nutritional yeast, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika and stir to combine. If your pasta is not ready yet, turn the heat off on the “cheese” sauce until the pasta is ready to be added to it.
  3. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and then add it to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to coat each noodle then serve. Leftovers will keep fresh in an airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days.


Okay, time for the next transformed recipe! This recipe turns my coconut cornbread, shared with y’all back in July, into a dressing. No, not like a salad dressing but like a stuffing dressing. So why call it a “dressing” and not a “stuffing?” Well, frankly, because it is not getting “stuffed” into anything -certainly not the tortured dead body of a sentient being, that’s for damn sure. #GoVegan

It all gets started a day in advance. A day in advance you’re going to want to make the coconut cornbread. The day of, to help the cornbread dry out just a little bit more, you’re going to cut it up into about 1-inch cubes, transfer the cubes (and any crumbs) to a lightly greased sheet pan, and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 20 minutes. Once the cubes have been baked, set them aside for a moment and move on to the next step.

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The next step in our coconut cornbread dressing involves some prep. Half of a large white onion and 2-3 stalks of celery need to be finely diced. You’ll also need to small dice 2 Granny Smith apples which have been peeled and cored. Last but not least, in a small bowl you’re going to whip up substitute for 1 egg using Ener-G egg replacer and the instructions on the Ener-G box.

In a pot or large skillet, 1 stick of vegan “butter” gets melted down and then the onion, celery, and Granny Smith apples that you just prepped get tossed in. Cook these, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. (The shorter time, 10 minutes, will result in these elements keeping their individual textures while the longer time, 15 minutes, will result in each of these things being softer. You do you, boo.) Once those have been cooked, low-sodium vegetable stock gets added along with the egg substitute, some Bragg Sprinkle, agave, salt, and pepper. Everything gets a good stir and then it is time to build our dressing in the baking dish that it will bake in.

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I opted to use an oval baking dish but you can choose whichever shape you want as long as it is on the larger end of medium size. Spray the dish with a little non-stick cooking spray, or grease it with some vegan “butter,” then fill the bottom of the dish with half of the cornbread cubes/crumbs. Layer on half of the onion, celery, and apple mixture then repeat these two steps to complete the layering process. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

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When done, keep the foil on until you’re ready to serve so that the warmth and moisture are not lost in the meantime.

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Vegan Coconut Cornbread Dressing

  • Servings: 6-9
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Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • Non-stick cooking spray or vegan “butter” for pan
  • 1, day-old, coconut cornbread
  • 1/2 of a large white onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, trimmed (ends removed) and finely diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and small diced
  • Ener-G egg replacer for 1 egg (follow instructions on box)
  • 1 stick of vegan “butter”
  • 1 1/2-2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Sprinkle, crushed in palm of hand before use
  • 2 teaspoons agave
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a large sheet pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray or lightly greasing it with “butter.” Cut the day-old coconut cornbread into about 1-inch cubes then transfer the cubes (and any crumbs) to the sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. Once the cubes have been baked, set them aside for a moment. Prep the onion, celery, apples, and Ener-G if you haven’t done so already.
  2. In a pot or large skillet, melt the “butter” down then add in the onion, celery, and Granny Smith apples. Cook these, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. (The shorter time will result in these elements keeping their individual textures while the longer time will result in each of these things being softer.) After 10-15 minutes, add in the vegetable stock, Ener-G, Bragg Sprinkle, agave, salt, and pepper. Whisk or stir this mixture well then turn the heat off.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with vegan “butter,” a baking dish that is on the larger side of medium size. Fill the bottom of the dish with half of the cornbread cubes/crumbs. Layer on half of the onion, celery, and apple mixture then repeat these two steps to complete the layering process. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake for 15 minutes. When done, keep the foil on until you’re ready to serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.


Well, that’s it for week 4, y’all! There are only a couple weeks left and then it’s show time! Remember, if you make any or all of the recipes from my Thanksgiving series be sure to tag photos of your feast on social media using #aCITSIthanksgiving so that they can be found with ease by me and others who did the same. See you next week!

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Vegan Mac-N-“Cheese”

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I grew up, like most children of the 90s, eating that blue box macaroni and cheese sold by a dinosaur -you know the one I’m talking about. I loved that shit but it was indeed shit. Thankfully, I realized this (albeit it took me a little while) and I began to seek out better, tastier, more “grown-up” versions of this comfort food classic. Then, at some point along the way, I got it into my head to start making my very own mac-n-cheese from scratch and, after that, my love for noddley-cheesey goodness knew no bounds. Naturally then, when I went vegan, vegan mac-n-cheese was at the top of my list of foods to try and try I did. I tried the mac-n-cheese at a local vegan restaurant, I tried some frozen varieties, and I even tried the vegan version of the blue box kind but I found that nothing could compare to the homemade stuff that I was enjoying before I went vegan.

Just as I was starting to question if I’d ever find a vegan mac-n-cheese as good as the non-vegan ones, a thought popped into my head: Why am I not trying to make it from scratch? I mean, I had been making it from scratch before I went vegan but then, for some odd reason, when I went vegan I simply wrote off making it from scratch altogether. (Hence my efforts to find one that I liked at a restaurant or grocery store.) I thought about it some more and realized that there was no reason why it couldn’t be done so I decided to give it a go. And now here I am, sharing with all of y’all my recipe for what I’m deeming the best mac-n-cheese I’ve ever had. Why is it the best? Because it is everything a great mac-n-cheese should be. It’s thick, rich, creamy, gooey, cheesy, and flavorful. It’s also super quick (as in just 15 minutes quick) and insanely easy to make despite it being made in a very old-school, traditional way by first making a roux and then transforming said roux into a béchamel sauce. But we’ll get into all of that in a minute.

First, let’s talk pasta. While “mac” (as in macaroni) is in the title of this dish, we’re going to be using cavatappi or cellentani pasta. I find these noodles to be more substantial and easier to eat than traditional macaroni pasta. I also find that they hold more of the “cheese” sauce than traditional macaroni pasta -and who wouldn’t want their noodles to do that?!

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I cook my pasta in accordance with the instructions on the pasta packaging but I make sure to add a little oil and a whole lot of salt to my pasta water. The oil is added to help the pasta not stick together and the salt is added so that the pasta gets a little flavor cooked into it. While the pasta is cooking you can go ahead and make the “cheese” sauce.

For the “cheese” part of my mac-n-“cheese” we are going to first make a roux -a mixture of butter and flour used to thicken gravies and sauces. I toss some vegan butter into my dutch oven and let that melt down. When it’s fully melted I then toss in an equal amount of flour and stir to combine. That mixture gets cooked for a minute or two until it is foamy and very light brown in color.

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Next, some unsweetened almond milk gets added and the heat gets turned up. The addition of almond milk transforms our roux into a Béchamel sauce -one of the 5 “mother sauces.” We want to boil our Béchamel for a few minutes to help it thicken slightly but be sure to stir fairly frequently while it’s boiling.

Once the Béchamel has thickened a little it’s time to reduce the heat and add the “cheese,” or rather the “cheeses,” since we’re using two different kinds. (The addition of the “cheeses” now turns our Béchamel into a Mornay sauce.) The first kind of “cheese” that you’ll be adding is Daiya’s cheddar-style sheds which will give us that classic mac-n-cheese flavor. The other “cheese” you’ll add is Follow Your Heart’s parmesan-style shreds which elevates the flavor a little more and provides a sharper, creamier bite.

Now, I feel like I should just take a moment here to say something to you haters of vegan “cheese” out there. Please, please, please trust me and don’t run from this recipe just yet. I served this recipe to not 1 but 4 non-vegan people who are vegan “cheese” haters (2 were self-proclaimed Daiya haters) and, I kid you not, each one of them said how amazing this mac-n-cheese was. More so than them saying it was good, they showed me that it was good when they came back for 2nd and 3rd servings. So give it a try with the “cheeses” I recommend and I’m sure you too will be comin’ back for more!

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After the “cheeses” are all melted in, in goes the seasonings. We’re adding nutritional yeast (aka nooch) to help boost the cheesy goodness (cause it tastes like cheese in case you didn’t know), and we are also adding salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika.

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Toss those in and then give the whole mixture a good stir.

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The final step is to add in your cooked and drained pasta. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to help the two become best friends and that’s it -it’s ready to serve!

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Vegan Mac-N-'Cheese'

  • Servings: 6-9
  • Print


Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of cavatappi or cellentani pasta
  • Oil and salt for pasta water
  • 3 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/4 cup Daiya cheddar-style shreds (about half the bag)
  • 3/4 cup Follow Your Heart parmesan-style shreds (about half the tub)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. In a pasta pot, or other large pot, start pasta cooking in accordance with the instructions on the pasta’s packaging for al dente pasta. Be sure to add a little oil to the pasta water (1-2 tablespoons) to help prevent the pasta from sticking together as it cooks and also add a decent amount of salt (2-4 tablespoons) to infuse the pasta with a little flavor as it cooks.
  2. While pasta is cooking make the “cheese” sauce. In a dutch oven, or other large pot, melt vegan butter over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy and very light brown in color -about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and turn the heat up to bring to boil. Boil, while stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to thicken sauce base a little. After 2-3 minutes, reduce heat to low and add in the two “cheeses.” Stir until they have fully melted into the sauce base -about 1 minute. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and paprika and stir to combine. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done and ready to be added to the sauce.
  3. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and then add it to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce to coat each noodle then serve. Mac-N-“Cheese” will keep fresh in an airtight container in fridge for 3-4 days.