One of my favourite foods from childhood was macaroni cheese. If my mum wanted to get me to do anything I didn't want to do she could always bribe me with this delicious comfort meal.
As a young adult, this phase continued - that creamy bowl of cheesy pasta never failed to cheer me up when I needed a hug from within.
However, after studying Nutritional Medicine, it's suffice to say that my diet has changed enormously. Now almost everything I eat has to have as much nutritional value as possible. Sure I have treats, but even then I'm likely to make them with (or purchase ones made with) as nourishing ingredients as possible. Sweet potato chocolate brownies, cupcakes made from almond flour and sweetened with real fruit.
But one of my real passions, is taking a meal which is normally just a comfort meal, and doing my best to turn it in to a healthy meal - but of course the flavour, and texture, has to stack up. My work being so focused on helping people to heal from food intolerance means that I'm also conscious to attempt alternatives to many classically problematic foods such as gluten, dairy, soy etc.
So today let me introduce my healthy mac and cheese. This was my first attempt at creating a recipe for a dairy free version of this old favourite and I was surprised to find how creamy and delicious it was. You'll be surprised at the amazing creamy and cheesy flavour - no cheese needed, not even vegan cheeze - though these things of course can be added if you prefer.
400g or 1 can cooked chickpeas
2-3 cups nut milk (I used Nutty Bruce Activated Almond Milk for an extra creamy taste).
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 splash tamari
1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Gluten Free Macaroni
Optional: I also sprinkled a little cashew parmesan and coconut bacon from Extraordinary Foods before serving. This was a great boost, however I will say that it tasted delicious before adding these so they aren't a necessary ingredient.
Note: You will need a good blender for this. I thank my trusty Nutribullet for the smooth and creamy sauce. If your blender is a little older you may need to blend for longer and in smaller amounts rather than all together.
Place Macaroni in a pan of boiling water - stir well for the first 1minute to avoid sticking. Most gluten free pastas take around 8 minutes to cook which allows just enough time to make your cheesy sauce.
Place chickpeas, nut milk, garlic, apple cider, tamari and 3tsp of olive oil in the blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Taste the mixture, now add a little salt and pepper and blend again for 20 seconds. Taste the mixture again - add water until reaches desired texture, add salt and pepper until reaches desired taste.
When the macaroni is cooked, lightly drain the water, leaving just enough to keep the pasta hot and wet. Now mix the creamy sauce through, stirring until the macaroni is completely coated.
Serve with a side of steamed asparagus, broccolini and green beans. These can also be chopped and stirred through the mixture of macaroni if desired, they go really well with this creamy sauce.
If you don't tolerate chickpeas, try substituting for 3-4 cups of cooked cauliflower instead. This offers the same creamy taste and texture, with the added benefit of being lower in carbohydrates and higher in nutrients than chickpeas, however is also substantially lower in protein.
If you are able to have dairy, but would like to use this recipe as a healthy alternative to a traditional cheese sauce, you can also top with some parmesan or grated cheese for extra protein and calcium.
I hope you enjoy this delicious healthy twist on an old childhood favourite. Don't forget to tag SydneyCityNutritionist in your re-creations. I want to see you enjoying it.
Until next time, stay deliciously healthy.
Jennifer May BHSc(NutMed).Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.ATMS.MINDD