Tuesday, October 30, 2012


DIY CHALLENGE: Having recently purchased some ungodly expensive (but fantastically delicious) "gourmet mac" in Brooklyn, I took it upon myself to revive the DIY Challenge.  In case you've never heard about this particular challenge before, the rules are simple.  I buy something at a restaurant that is just as expensive as it is delicious and then try to recreate it (and enhance it) in my home for approximately the same cost.  Traditionally, this has left me with anywhere from 2-6 servings of the original meal... which is a mind-blowing inspiration for me to cook at home instead of ordering out.  This challenge is to recreate my $9+ meal of Vegan Mac & Cheese w/Broccoli from Brooklyn Mac and turn it into a quick and easy homemade meal.  After a grand total of two tries, I have found great success in this recreation, although the less expensive of the two options is veggie, not vegan... but that's okay with me.

THE ORIGINAL: Macaroni with Vegan Cheddar Cheese and Broccoli from Brooklyn Mac in Greenpoint.  Prices range from $4-6 for basic mac... but if you have any sort of food restriction, add on $1 to make it vegan, and $1.50 to make it gluten free.  Oh I'm sorry, you wanted vegan cheddar?  Then add on another $1.75-3.00 for that (depending on the size of your order) and prepare to empty your wallet a bit more if you're like any sort of ACTUAL topping.  Want veggies? Add between 50 cents and $1 each.  Sheesh!  Then, take a look at the change you get back from your $10 and listen to it clink in your pocket as you carry home your 5-6 bites of "gourmet mac."  Yeah, it's good... really, good... but what normal person can afford this version of a cheap childhood favorite?

DIY VEGAN OPTION:  Elbow Macaroni, Cheddar Veggie Shreds (b/c daiya is hard to find in NJ), Mozzarella Veggie Shreds, Broccoli, Garlic, Carrots, Soy Milk, Veggie Spread (or other vegan butter substitute), EVOO, Salt, Pepper... all baked to perfection, similar to the original which reminds me of a casserole of sorts.

STEP 1:  Chop up your carrots, garlic, and broccoli into small pieces... small enough that they will mix well with the elbow macaroni and not overwhelm it.  This is MAC & CHEEZ WITH VEGGIES after all, not VEGGIEZ AND MAC.  You want to manage a nice mix of noodles and veggies on your fork with each and every bite!

STEP 2: Cover the bottom of a pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and place on low heat.  Then, throw your freshly chopped garlic into the oil for about 20-30 seconds, stir, and add in your veggies.  Toss the veggies in the EVOO, adding more if necessary, cover and allow to simmer.  Stir occasionally while you cook your elbow macaroni separately in a pot on another burner.  Add fresh ground sea salt and black pepper to your veggies and stir a bit more, then add a tablespoon of Country Crock (Earth Balance or other Butter Substitute) and stir, covering the veggies again and allowing them to simmer on low heat until the macaroni has finished cooking.  If you time it out properly and always remember to stir, nothing will burn.

STEP 3: Your macs should be done by now, so drain them and grab a handful or so of vegan cheddar, toss it on top, add some Country Crock (or vegan butter substitute), and a little bit of soy milk, turn your burner back on low heat and stir until mixed.  Feel free to add freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and perhaps powdered or fresh garlic as you stir and then eventually take your veggies and start adding them to the mix, gently folding them into the noodles.  Then, scoop a generous portion of vegan veggie mac into a bake-safe container and prepare to add your final touches!

STEP 4:  So, you've cooked your macs, you've cooked your veggies, and you've combined the two to perfection... well then, you're ready to top it off with a healthy layer of vegan cheddar, sprinkling vegan mozzarella across the top of that and adding a little ground black pepper for good form.  Finally, cover your creation in tin foil and pop it in the oven for anywhere from 10-20 minutes on oh... around 350-375F.  Feel it out... when the vegan cheddar melts down you're good to go.  Just be careful removing it from the oven... it will absolutely be hot!  Keep your mitts handy!



DIY VEGGIE OPTION: 1-2 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Fresh Parmesan Cheese, Broccoli, Garlic, Sweet Potato, Soy Milk, Veggie Spread (or other vegan butter substitute), EVOO, Salt, Pepper... straight-up, no bake.  Just as delicious.

VEGGIE-FRIENDLY PREP: Prep is quick and easy... just follow the directions on the box of Kraft Mac & Cheese.  If you're making two boxes at once, double it.  Double the soy milk, double the country crock, use both packets of cheese.  Simple.  For the veggies, it's pretty much the same as the directions above... coat a pan with EVOO, add in some fresh chopped garlic, fresh broccoli, and (here's the different part) a sweet potato (peeled and chopped up into cubes), stir and let simmer.  Salt and pepper your veggies, adding a bit of butter substitute and extra EVOO as needed... then add them all into the finished Mac 'n Cheese, gently folding the veggies in until nicely mixed... maybe top with some fresh parmesan cheese... and that's all.  Presto.  Done.  Delicious.  If you're weird like me, feel to serve as a generous helping with a nice glass of pulpless orange juice (mixed with hemp protein powder)... or simply enjoy with a beverage of your choice.  Cheers!



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