Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mac and Almost Cheese

Our oldest grandson is allergic to dairy products.  Before we knew that we called him "mouse" because he loved cheese.  It took time to connect his illnesses with with his love of cheese.  Poor kid was covered in sores and blotches by the time someone said "Hey, let's try taking him off milk products!"

No so long ago a dairy allergy meant that anything that even approached the taste and mouth feel of real cheese was impossible.  Several new products have changed that.  We really like the Daiya brand shreds for their melt-ability and taste.   We also like So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer instead of milk in this recipe.

For the Pasta, we like whole wheat medium shells.  We just like whole wheat pasta, but the important thing is not to overcook the noodles.
For those wanting to make a full dairy version, no changes are necessary. This recipe works either way. 
Basic Mac and “Cheese”
  • 6 – 8 ounces Pasta, prepared
  • 2 Tablespoons Fat (margarine, butter, oil, bacon fat, etc.)
  • 2 Tablespoons All purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups “Milk” or “Cream
  • 3 cups shredded “Cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons grated Onion
  • 1 clove grated Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • dash + cayenne
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded “Cheese” for topping
  • preheat oven to 350 F
  • Spray 13 X 9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Melt fat over medium heat in large heavy skillet or saucepan.
  • Sweat onions and garlic in fat. Season with pepper. Stir occasionally. (You don't want browning just softening.) About 3 minutes.
  • Add spices and toss to “toast” a bit. One minute.
  • Sprinkle the flour over everything in pan and scrape and stir until all the fat and flour are combined and everything else is coated with fatty flour. Cook and stir once in a while watching carefully that it doesn't darken. (If it starts to turn dark brown remove it from the heat.) It needs to cook to the color of cheese, kinda. (medium blond)
  • Remove from heat. Whisk in the “milk” slowly. Return to medium high heat. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches the boiling point.
  • Remove from heat. Turn off burner. Slowly stir or whisk in cheese. Keep stirring until cheese is melted.
  • Add pasta to cheese sauce. Stir gently to coat. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  • Top with 1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 30 – 45 minutes until center reaches 145 F
Variations & Notes:
  • NOTE: I do NOT measure exactly except for the white sauce base – fat, flour, and milk – use the middle amount to be safe.
  • PASTA PREPARATION: Shorten the boiling time by at least one minute two minutes is better for smaller noodles. Rinse the pasta to stop cooking.
  • Suggested Not-Cheeses: Daiya Shreds in any combination.
  • Suggested Cheeses: CoJack, Sharp Cheddar
  • Suggested Not-Milk: So Delicious Coconut Creamer, Almond Breeze Original
  • Suggested Milk: Half and Half, 2% milk
  • Meat and vegetables may be added with the pasta. Use cooked meat and dice it about 1/2 inch. Vegetables should be fresh or thawed and also diced about 1/2 inch. Ham, meatballs, hot dogs, pepperoni, even chicken are good meats. Broccoli, corn, zucchini, cauliflower, spinach, almost any vegetables would be good.

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