Mac and Cheese

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When I finally conceded defeat to dairy at the start of the year, I thought I would never have a mac and cheese I was satisfied with. I find most commercial non-dairy cheeses to be strange so I don’t eat them. A good friend had brought me a pretty awesome dairy free mac and cheese, but it used white miso paste as a base and that’s a little bit too specialized for me. Out of frustration, I created this version using two simple recipes to create a creamy, rich sauce. I may have used a whole very ripe jalapeno in the tester version, making it a bit too spicy for most people. Oops. Sadly, that means more for me!

Mac and Cheese

Motivation rating: Love for mac and cheese is a really good motivator, no matter how crappy you’re feeling.
Planning rating: Soak cashews overnight. Or if the craving suddenly strikes, boil them instead and you’re on your way.
Salt rating: It’s mac and cheese. Need I say more?

Ingredients:

The cashew sauce base of chip dip (minus onion soup mix and onion powder)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground dry mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 medium Yukon gold potato
1 large carrot, peeled
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 Tbsp tapioca starch (can also use cornstarch, but tapioca gives a bit more stretch)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
Noodles (I used gluten free elbow noodles)

Optional:
1 jalapeno
Breadcrumbs

 
Step 1: Prepare the cashew sauce base of chip dip, but no need to refrigerate it. I love versatile recipes and finding new uses for things I already make because it allows me to be that much lazier when it comes to food prep. Put a small saucepan with water on to boil, a medium saucepan with water for the noodles on to boil, and preheat oven to 350F. (Quick version: Use the same saucepan you boil the carrot and potato in for the noodles, and skip cooking in the oven as the noodles are ready to eat with the sauce)

Step 2: Mix the dry spices (onion through pepper) into the cashew sauce.

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Spiced cashew sauce

Step 3: Make sauce #2! Give the potato a wash and cut into chunks, no need to peel the skin off. Cut the peeled carrots into chunks roughly the size of the potato chunks. Toss them both into the boiling water until a fork pierces through them easily.

Step 4: Drain the carrot and potato pot, and dump into a blender. Add the milk, lemon juice, tomato paste, starch, yeast, and salt into the blender and mix on medium until smooth. (Optional: cut up the jalapeno and add to blender if you like it spicy)

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Small, personal blenders are a great size for the sauces

Step 5: Mix the two sauces!

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It’s like latte art but more delicious. Plus there’s no caffeine to mess you up.

 

Step 6: Cook the noodles according to the package. Dig the package out of the recycling to make sure it you actually read the cook time right. (Repeat as many times as necessary, until noodles are al dente) 

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Step 6.5: Admire your cheese sauce

Step 7: Mix the noodles and sauce. If you want, eat it right away. If you’re a mac and cheese snob like me, go to step 8.

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Step 8: Put in oven safe-pan and top with breadcrumbs, more seasoning of choice (mine is paprika), and salt. Bake at 350F until top is golden brown (about 30 minutes).

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Growing up, fried green tomatoes had somewhat of a mystical quality to them. It seemed to take ages to transform the firm, just picked tomatoes into the tangy, salty, crispy discs.

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Farmer’s market BLT Salad with peaches

We were out at a farmer’s market the other weekend and were able to snag some great green tomatoes, peaches, onions, heirloom tomatoes, and corn. What do you make with all of that? A massive BLT salad of course, with some horseradish dressing. Along the way I learned there’s a pretty easy trick to making the coating: 1/3.

1/3 flour, 1/3 cornmeal, 1/3 breadcrumbs

It doesn’t matter how much breading you’re making up as long as you keep the ratio of equal parts flour, cornmeal, and breadcrumbs. It makes it pretty hard to screw up if you know that magic ratio. It also helps alleviate that panicked moment when you realize you haven’t made enough coating for the number of tomato slices you have.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Motivation rating: Medium-high. Grab a friend and make a project out of it, the reward is worth it.
Planning rating: The hardest part is finding green tomatoes. If you find them anywhere grab them, you’ll thank me later.
Salt rating: There’s multiple layers of salt here, and all condensed in a delicious tomato slice.

Ingredients:
Green tomatoes (I used 2 large ones and had plenty of leftovers)
1 large egg or egg replacement
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp pepper + a pinch
1 tsp Old Bay or Cajun seasoning
Salt
Pinch of sugar

Step 1: Wash tomatoes and slice them to your desired thickness (Usually between 1/4 and 1/2 inch). Lay them out on a plate or flat surface. Sprinkle with salt, a bit of pepper, and the sugar. The sugar helps to balance the flavor so you don’t end up with overly tart tomatoes at the end.

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First salting: table salt, second salting: Hawaiian red salt

Step 2: Mix up your egg and milk in a bowl that you can dip the slices in later. I use VeganEgg and unflavored almond milk. I find that the VeganEgg (Made by Follow Your Heart) produces the best result for coating and frying or baking. I’ve heard that some people like scrambling it as well because it gives a more egg like experience than tofu.

Step 3: Combine remaining ingredients in a second bowl, also the proper dimensions for dipping.

Step 4: Heat a pan on medium with a bit of oil that doesn’t have a low smoke point. The key here is consistent heat.

Step 5: Dip tomato in wet batter, then dry and plop in the pan. There shouldn’t be too many tomatoes in your pan at once- if they touch they won’t cook properly. Once they’re browned on one side, flip and cook the other.

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Getting ready to be moved and cooled

Step 6: Take the tomatoes out of the pan with a slotted spatula and place on a paper towel covered plate. If you can, move them to a wire cooling rack after they’ve drained for a minute. This helps to keep them extra crispy. If you start to stack them or cover them once they’ve come out of the pan, they’ll lose their crispness and get weird and soggy. No one likes soggy tomatoes, and you’ll feel terrible about putting all of that work into making them.

Step 7: Salt and serve.

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Fried green tomato sandwich with pickles and pickled onions. A POTS dream come true.

These also freeze well once they’ve completely cooled. I like to make a big batch, freeze them, and reheat in a pan or the oven.

Onion Noodles, AKA Why I Always Bring Onion Soup Mix

So I’ve been off traveling for almost a week in a new city. It’s difficult to always find food with enough salt content, plus I get bored with eating out all of the time so I try to bring things I can make on the road. I knew I would be making a stop at a relative’s house, so I brought a few key supplies with me. You know how it’s important in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to always have a towel? That’s how I feel about onion soup mix, and here’s why:

It’s portable. It’s loaded with salt. It’s already a bunch of seasoning mixed together. It makes you 100% seem more prepared.

So on this trip I took two vegetables that travel well (carrots and onions), a box of dried pasta, and a packet of onion soup mix and made it dinner.

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Onion Noodles

Motivation rating: If you have a chair in the kitchen it’s a great opportunity to get some reading done.
Planning rating: What’s ‘planning’?
Salt rating: One onion soup mix packet has about 100% of an average person’s daily sodium.

Ingredients:
Baby/regular carrots
1/2 an onion
1/2 a box of pasta
1 packet onion soup mix
Pepper and additional salt to taste

Step 1: Get water boiling for the pasta.

Step 2: Based on a sliding scale of motivation, cut the carrots and onion. I was feeling ambitious and did nice even cuts of quartered baby carrots and onion wedges.

Step 3: Saute the vegetables in a bit of oil with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Pull out a book or cell phone and wait. Possibly play the neighbor game with someone. (Who would you rather have as a neighbor… Lady Gaga or Madonna? Someone who has an extensive clown decor collection or someone who thinks they’re a real life 1800s cowboy?)

Step 5: Cook noodles according to directions and give the vegetables an occasional stir. Drain the noodles and add to the vegetable pan.

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Ready and waiting for onion soup mix.

Step 6: Once the noodles and veg are more integrated and the noodles have a bit of oily coating, add the onion mix and stir. I used two forks to make integrating the mix easier.

Carrot Puppies

I’ve been off traveling and looking for housing in a new state so I’ve been too busy to cook. However, before I left I made a road snack of marinated carrots. Some people think they taste like hot dogs, but carrot dog doesn’t seem to have a good ring to it and marinated carrots seems boring. Hence, carrot puppies.

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I threw some smoked tempeh in with it, but you can top with whatever you want

Carrot Puppies

Motivation rating: You don’t need to measure anything if you don’t want to.
Planning rating: The day before.
Salt rating: It’s a tamari party.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tamari/soy sauce/liquid aminos
Splash of rice vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or diced garlic)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
dash of liquid smoke (optional)
Red pepper flakes/spicy pepper (optional)

4-6 carrots, peeled with the ends cut off. If you want to make more, scale the marinade.

Step 1: Mix up everything except for the carrots.

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I love this recipe because you honestly don’t need to measure if you don’t want to.

Step 2: Bring water to a boil, and drop in the peeled carrots (with ends cut off). This step really depends on the size of the carrots, so sit nearby and occasionally poke them with a fork. When the fork easily goes into them they’re done.

Step 3: Drain the carrots and put them on a plate to cool for a few minutes.

Step 4: Put carrots in a bag or container. Dump in marinade. Shake whatever vessel you’re using. This step is also pretty cathartic.

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Step 5: Refrigerate for 24+ hours. When they’re done refrigerating you can grill them, or cook in a skillet. What I prefer doing is dumping everything from the bag (marinade and all) in a pan, let the marinade cook off, then turn the carrot to cook the other sides.

Serve it like a hot dog in a bun, serve it on a plate, eat it as finger food. Carrots are a wonderfully versatile thing.

Polenta Bake

I had never heard of polenta until I moved halfway across the country in my 20s. Down south we had grits, none of this polenta stuff. It took a while for me to trust the kind of squishy tubes of prepared cornmeal, but now it’s one of my go-to dinners when I don’t have much energy because of how long tubes of polenta can stay good in the pantry and how simple this recipe is.

Polenta Bake

Motivation rating: Low. Slice one soft thing, poke some holes in tomatoes and you’re good to go. 
Planning rating: My #1 low energy go-to dinner
Salt rating: Salted tomatoes + salted polenta (You add a lot of salt throughout)

Ingredients:
1 tube prepared polenta
1 pint small tomatoes (cherry, grape, multi colored, whatever you want)
Salt
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil for drizzling
Basil (optional)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F and dig out either two pie pans, or a sheet pan with a lip all the way around. As you may remember, I keep forgetting and buying pie tins so I prepare this in those. It usually works out well because I get one tin to myself while my partner gets the other- no dividing up servings and an easy clean up.

Step 2: Cut open the roll of polenta (or, if you’re like me wash the plastic wrapper then slice through it with a clean knife because I don’t have the energy to deal with scissors). Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Wash the tomatoes and poke a small hole in each tomato with the tip of the knife. This keeps them from popping or exploding in the oven, and helps get the tomato juice to flavor the polenta.

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The store had basil and garlic flavored polenta this week.

Step 3: Sprinkle some salt over the tomatoes to help bring out the flavor and let sit for a minute. The salt will get inside through the hole you poked. I don’t need an excuse to salt anything, but if you’re curious why salting tomatoes helps them taste better check it out here. (Via Serious Eats)

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Step 4: Lay out the polenta flat on the tin, and along the sides if you have extra. Add tomatoes in the gap areas to help distribute the flavor. Top with nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and a healthy sprinkle of salt. I added table salt and a bit of coarse ground sea salt. Then drizzle with olive oil. If you want, you can also add balsamic vinegar at this step.

Step 5: Put in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then check to see when edges are golden brown to your liking. If you let it go too long the polenta can be a bit hard, so what we’re aiming for here is crispy outside and soft inside.

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This is a rare moment, we usually eat it straight out of the pie tin.

Step 6: If you feel like, top with basil and salt to taste.

POTSie Pairings

IMG_20170701_115607767People with POTS will get this: I drink a lot of Propel. I keep buying cases of it and it somehow disappears, but I guess that’s what happens when you drink two liters of it a day. Personally, I prefer it to other electrolyte drinks because of the fact that it has no sugar or calories. As thrilling as a lifetime of drinking Propel sounds, I couldn’t picture myself at a barbecue or at a friend’s house for a dinner party drinking a bottle of Propel while everyone else had something more festive. Like many people with POTS, I find it difficult to drink even small amounts of alcohol without feeling way worse.

The second part of this comes in with my discovery of Fre wine (now owned by Sutter Home Winery). What they do is make real wine, from real wine grapes, and use science magic (AKA spinning cone technology) to remove the alcohol but preserve the aroma and flavors of the wine. Seriously, it tastes like real wine and not juice. I first found it on a grocery store shelf when I was a teenager and brought it home to confuse my parents as to how 1. a teenager bought wine and 2. how I got wine in a grocery store. I grew up in a place where you can only buy alcohol at specially designated liquor stores.

So then I started to think…I have to consume a ton of electrolyte drinks to stay somewhat functional, but I also have a wine brand I can now drink. Why not combine them into something resembling a wine spritzer? I can stay hydrated and have a fun drink to carry around at a party. So let’s raise a glass to the first POTSie Pairings.

Moody Merlot

Ingredients:
Fre Merlot
Propel Black Cherry
Lime (juice + for garnish)
Sparkling water for fizz

For my first trial run, I used this ratio:
1/4 Merlot
1/2 Propel
1/4 Sparkling water
Lime juice to taste

I’m a big fan of lime, and found lime flavored sparkling Perrier water on sale (a liter bottle for a dollar) at the grocery store. The drink was fresh, and the black cherry flavors in the Propel highlighted the depth in the wine. As weird as this sounds as a combination, I would absolutely make this again.

Pair with: Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday so you can commiserate about being a POTSie princess (or prince) stuck in their palace. Also goes well with cheese and crackers or looking moody and cool while lounging at the poolside.