With the start of Lent this week, please consider some fresh alternatives to time-honored meatless family favorites.
Come on, who hasn’t resorted to Mac ‘n Cheese as an easy meatless meal on a whole lot of Lenten Fridays?
Last night, I came up with a better, super easy version that packs in healthy veggies that your unsuspecting family won’t even realize are there.
I choose cauliflower* since it is easily camouflaged in the no-cook sour cream-based sauce. I’ve added red onions, finely minced red, yellow, and orange organic mini sweet peppers, and chives to break up the monotony, and add a little more sophistication to the taste. Because there’s no need to make a traditional béchamel (white sauce), this dish comes together quickly, and just needs a brief stint under the broiler to brown the panko and parmesan topping. (We like our Mac ‘n Cheese crusty in our home!)
And, in keeping with my Fool a Carnivore theme, I finely minced a package of Upton’s Bacon Seitan, which added 37.5 grams of protein to the dish, and gave it a subtle bacon-y taste.
Although it might be possible to “veganize” this dish using non-dairy sour cream and cheese products, I didn’t test out that variation. If you decide to re-create this recipe for your vegan table, please share what products you used so we can all benefit from your innovation!
- Although I usually purchase mostly organic produce, cauliflower is one of the 15 veggies and fruits that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. So, while organic cauliflower is wonderful, this is one conventionally grown veggie you can safely eat. For the other 14, check out this link.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted organic butter
- 1 medium red onion, minced
- 5-6 organic mini sweet peppers (yellow, orange, and red)
- 1 5-ounce package Upton's Naturals Bacon Seitan, finely minced
- 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small flowerettes
- 1 lb. organic Earth Fare conchigle (or shells)
- 1½ cups reduced fat sour cream
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce*
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar (Cabot's Seriously Sharp is my favorite), grated
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2-3 tablespoons minced chives (if fresh chives aren't available, try Frontier Co-op Freeze-Dried Chive Rings)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- ¾ cup Panko (Ian's Whole Wheat Panko is great)
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, cut into small "dots"
- * Since Worcestershire sauce has anchovies, if that bothers you, try Annie's Natural Organic Worcestershire Sauce.
- Grease an 11" x 13" Pyrex pan.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Sauté the red onion, followed by the minced mini sweet peppers. Turn off the heat and stir in the minced Seitan Bacon (no need to cook it).
- While the onions and peppers are sautéing, cook the cauliflower and the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water for about 9-10 minutes. Taste, and make sure that the pasta is al dente and the cauliflower is cooked enough for your taste. Reserve a cup of the hot pasta water, and drain the pasta and cauliflower in a colander, and then put it back in your still warm pasta pot.
- Mix the sour cream, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix the sour cream sauce with the cauliflower and pasta, add the cheddar and parmesan cheeses, and about ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin it a bit. Add the chives, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pot to keep everything warm.
- Preheat the broiler while you mix together the panko, parmesan, and Old Bay in a small bowl.
- Put your still warm and sauced pasta and cauliflower into the prepared 11" x 13" Pyrex pan. Top with the panko/parm mixture, and lightly dot with butter.
- Broil on low for about 5 minutes until the top is golden brown.
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