Baked Mac and Cheese with Spinach

Macaroni and Cheese is a traditional staple of childhood. Growing up, my mom would make her version of “grown up” mac and cheese with breadcrumbs, various cheeses, and herbs to take a simple dish and transform it into a comfort food delicacy. As children though, Nikki and I only had eyes for the mac and cheese in the blue box. Despite the warnings that the orange dust may cause us to glow in the dark, it was not until I grew older that I truly appreciated my mom’s variation on the dish.

Now it is my turn to take a simple food and completely change it…I present you with Vegan Mac ‘N Cheese Spinach Muffins! At first glance (ok, after a lot of glances), it may seem that those words not only have no business being next to each other, but make for a culinary disaster. Somehow, this dish came together really nicely!

The recipe was another pinterest find at and looked really intriguing. I had recently stumbled upon Daiya cheddar cheese in publix (veggie, non-soy, non-dairy cheese which used to only be found in specialty stores like Whole Foods). I already had non-dairy butter, and possessed a quart of non-sweetened almond milk. Foraging for the few extra ingredients and I was set to go! I modified the recipe, and have my version below with the vegan substitutes in parentheses. Variations from the original include dijon mustard instead of a secondary cheese, and oregano as a throwback to my mom’s recipe.

Ingredients

4 cups macaroni
1 tbs flour
1 tbs butter (earth balance non-dairy)
1 cup skim milk (non-sweetened almond milk)
1/3 cup cheddar cheese (daiya cheddar)
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 garlic clove
1 egg (used a large tbs of milled flaxseed for both egg products)
1 egg white (see above)
1 10 oz pkg of frozen spinach
a few shakes of oregano
a few shakes of black pepper

Cook the macaroni until tender and set aside. Defrost the spinach in your favorite manor. I used a sauce pan and water…some people prefer to defrost via the microwave. The original recipe also states that you can substitute one cup of fresh spinach (then cooked) in this recipe.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and allow for the mixture to thicken. Add the chopped clove of garlic and milk and mix until thoroughly warmed. Once the concoction is close to boil, add the cheese and whisk until all melted. (the daiya melted really really well!). Add the mustard, oregano, and pepper. Stir really well and remove from heat. Add the eggs or egg substitute and stir until completely mixed. (if using flax seeds, do not add extra water!).

Hopefully by now, the spinach is defrosted (mine took ages!). Rinse the spinach and pat dry. Caution, it will still be really hot. Stir all the ingredients together until the macaroni is completely covered, and the spinach is spread throughout the mixture.

Spoon the macaroni into a greased (or otherwise prepared) muffin tray. Cook at 400 degrees for 10-15 min, wait until the tops are slightly browned. Leave in the tray for five minutes after taking out of the fridge. Serve and enjoy!

I felt that I could have used more pepper…fortunately, it can be added later!

Let me know if you tried this, or the non vegan version. I would love to hear other everyone else’s turned out!

I paired this dish with a cup of tomato soup and a piece of “Italian Five Grain Baguette” from Publix…both also vegan!

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