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  • My Favorite (and flexible!) Sunflower Mac n' Cheeze!

    Here we are! 2017. Highly anticipated. Much looked forward to. Our feet are to the floors, and we are rockin' and rollin'.

    We are looking for meanings. For purpose. For new jobs. We are trying to learn Portuguese, learning to bake better bread at home (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery), and re-learning how to make puff pastry (because WTF Beloit, you need a bakery).

    We are poised for tomorrow, looking ahead. We aren't going for perfection, but satisfaction and happiness. And what is satisfaction and happiness on a cold, cold January day/evening? Carbs. And nourishing, stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-your-arteries sunflower mac and cheeze. Approved by a taste-discerning Brazilian, a family of cheese-lovers, and former dairy mac-and-cheese addict (my hand is raised).The base: soaked raw sunflowers. The cheese-factor: nutritional yeast. The savory and kinda sweet players that enhance the cheese-like goodness: sauteed onions, garlic and carrots; roasted red peppers OR tomato paste OR oil packed sundried tomatoes (one of those is a must here, trust me); tamari or liquid aminos or shoyu; light miso (I like to use chickpea miso from South River; dijon mustard; paprika; sea salt. And finally, the hint of tang: lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.Yep, that list is a little long, BUT so worth it. And odds are, you have most of those things in your pantry right now. I will forgive you if you don't have the miso, but everything else needs to be present, ok?

    Once you remember to soak the sunflower seeds, you are seriously half-way there. And a word on the roasted red pepper/tomato paste/oil packed sundried tomato requirement: this element is, in my opinion, essential. It gives you that naturally sweet, yet tangy and savory, and earthy, quality that I think is present in all mac and cheeze that is worth eating. I have made this sunflower mac with all three, and all three satisfied my aforementioned requirements. So, you pick! And if you need to remember how to roast red peppers, see here or here.

    Bonuses, because we can be flexible AND satisfy our cravings: 

    1) you can prepare a double batch of this sauce, and freeze any portion for a quick meal in the future. Thaw sauce in microwave or in a saucepan over low-medium heat, boil pasta while sauce heats, wilt greens in the same water that the pasta is cooking in (removing once wilted or tender), and then mix the whole works in the same pot, topping with extra 'nooch, sea salt, nutmeg, paprika and lots of toasted pepitas. 

    2) leftover chili, but sick of chili? Make a batch of sun mac sauce, mix several spoonfulls in your chili as you reheat it in a pot. Boil some of you favorite pasta, mix into chili-mac mixture, and boom-chili mac! You can amp-up the spices if you wish, and I usually do so by adding a dash of cumin, chili powder and sprinkle of cayenne. Serve with tortilla chips, avocado, hot sauce and lotsa 'nooch on top for a hearty, satisfying bowl of goodness.

    3) broccoli, kale, hearty greens galore! Need a sauce to amplify your green veggies? Sunflower mac sauce to the rescue. Enough said! A cozy bowl of quinoa, hearty greens and this sauce is perfection on a cold night.

    4) feelin lucky, potluck?: you can easily bake this into a casserole-like situation by mixing the sauce with cooked pasta, and steamed greens, broccoli or peas. You can also sneak in some of your favorie veggie sausages for extra fun, or line the border of the mac with sausage rounds (see picture below; un-solicited veggie sausage recomendation: Tofurkey beer "brats"). Plunk the mixture in your favorite pan, top with toasted pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, 'nooch and paprika for color. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through, in a warmish oven (~350F), a step that could be completed at your potluck destination if needed. I find that you can safely use 1 pound of pasta for one batch of this sauce for a adequate sauce-to-pasta-and-greens ratio, but please feel free to alter this ratio of sauce:pasta to suite your needs and preferences.

    5) got a gluten-free situation on your hands? Easy. I love this sun mac with either gluten-full or gluten-free pasta, just be sure to pay attention and not over cook your pasta in either case, because no one likes a mushy sun mac. My two favorite gluten-free pastas: Ancient Harvest Quinoa & Corn, and Trader Joe's Brown Rice and Quinoa

    Sooo whatcha waiting for? Get at this...and have a happy, healthy carbohydrate-laden new year! Cheers!



    Sunflower Mac and Cheeze // makes about 6 cups of sauce // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free (use gluten-free pasta & tamari); nut-free; soy-free; sugar-free // 

    • 1 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in water overnight
    • 1 TB olive oil 
    • 1 small to medium onion, roughly diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and roughly minced
    • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into ~1/2" rounds
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
    • 3 cups vegetable stock or water, plus more to help thin if desired
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, plus more to taste and for serving
    • 2 tsp tamari, shoyu, soy sauce or liquid aminos
    • 1 tsp light miso paste, such as chickpea miso
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard or mustard powder
    • 2 TB tomato paste, or 2-3 medium to large oil-packed sundried tomatoes, or 1 medium to large roasted red pepper (homemade  or oil-packed roasted red peppers only, please!)
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • optional: freshly grated nutmeg and/or a dash or two of cayenne 
    • for chili mac: you can add a pinch or two more of cumin, chili powder and cayenne if desired
    • for topping: paprika, nutmeg, pepitas, sea salt, black pepper, nutritional yeast
    • for serving/casserole-ing: steamed greens like kale, spinach, broccoli; your favorite veggie sausages cut into rounds
    • your favorite pasta (1 recipe of sunflower mac will accomodate about 1 lb of dry pasta, but please adjust your pasta:sauce ratio as desired)

    1. Soak sunflower seeds overnight. Drain and rinse. Sautee the onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil over medium heat until tender and just starting to brown. Into a blender, add the sunflower seeds, sauteed onions, garlic and carrots, and the remaining ingredients. A high-powered blender, like a Vitamix, will give you the creamiest results, but a conventional blender works, too.

    2. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding extra vegetable stock as needed to puree the mixture. You may need to blend for several minutes to get the sauce smooth. Taste the sauce, and adjust the salt, pepper and seasonings to your tastes, keeping in mind that adding to the pasta will somewhat dilute the flavors (i.e. don't be shy with the seasonings here!).

    3. Prepare pasta, and steam or sautee desired greens. Drain pasta, and mix in desired amount of pasta sauce. Stir in steamed or sauteed greens or broccoli, or frozen peas, and veggie sausage if desired. For extra flavor, you can sautee rounds of veggie sausage in some olive oil in a separate pan until brown. Alternatively, you can mix steamed/sauteed greens, veggie sausage, pasta and sauce together, and then place into a baking dish. Top with pepitas, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika and nutritional yeast. Bake at 350F until warm and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. 

    4. Extra sauce can be refrigeraged for up to 4 days, with liquid separation being totally normal, just stir it back in before use. Alternatively, sauce can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, or gently re-heat in a microwave or in a pan on low-meidum heat. Serve as desired! 



    The goods...creamy, cheeze-y, flavorful and also very nourishing!Prepare as desired. For Christmas, I showed up with a baking dish full of this stuff, and it was a hit. Stirring in a ton of steamed kale, I was a holiday hero. Or at least I thought so! Ha! Enjoy!