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Thai-Centric Mac and Cheese

       Dynise Balcavage  

 

Thai-Centric Mac and Cheese
Warning: this is not your grandma’s mac and cheese, although it’s every bit as comforting and decadent. This version is infused with extremely subtle Thai influences: it’s creaminess comes thanks to smooth and silky coconut oil and coconut creamer (Don’t worry! It’s much more figure-friendly than traditional mac and cheese.) And a sprinkle of red pepper flakes infuses the sauce with an assertive bit of heat, which balances beautifully against the sweetness. You can use any brand of regular or whole grain elbow macaroni, but I prefer Barilla’s; each piece has little ridges to help the sauce stick to the pasta. This recipe is easily doubled or even tripled.

4 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 organic red pepper, roughly chopped
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
2 T coconut oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
4 T coconut creamer (or coconut milk)
1 cup hemp, soy or rice milk (In order of preference)
1 cup nutritional yeast
¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste

Serves 8

Cook macaroni according to package directions, but make sure it is staunchly al dente. It should remain slightly chewy. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, whiz together red pepper, sweet onion and carrot until it almost forms a paste.
In a large sauce or soup pan, heat coconut oil over medium low. Toss in red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute or so to infuse the oil. Toss in the veggie paste and cook until fragrant and soft, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the milk and the coconut creamer, then whisk in the nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until it thickens slightly (If you prefer a thicker sauce, simmer slightly longer. If you prefer a thinner sauce, reduce simmer time.)
Add drained pasta to the sauce. Toss to coat and add salt.

Variations: Add 2 cups  of any of the following during step 5: steamed broccoli or cauliflower, peas or corn, edamame, or chopped organic spinach.