Have you ever played the campfire/bar game “I didn’t realize (this) until I was (insert inappropriate age to not know this)”? Everyone confesses their silly secrets to one another about when they learned something of common knowledge or perhaps something they thought was completing different.
Anonymous friend confession: “I thought condominiums were places adults bought to have sex in. I didn’t know that they are just apartments you owned until I was 14.” (Drunken laughter ensues!)
When it came around to me I was almost too embarrassed to confess. I had some really silly ones that I had kept to myself for years but this is the name of the game.
“I thought the phrase was “Worth your wild!” Not “worth your while.” Someone corrected me on this earlier this year. I am 27 years old.
“Until I was 13, I thought Charles Mason was a disowned member of The Beatles since writing and going crazy after Helter Skelter.” My mother corrected me, horrified but laughing.
“Cold-slaw” Which to me still makes sense since it is a cold salad!
“I thought Prince ripped off the song “When Doves Cry” from the Leonardo Dicaprio/Claire Danes version of Romeo and Juliet.” That movie gave me a lot of problems about love when it came to dating as a teenager and how I desperately wanted to meet my true love through a giant glowing fish tank.
Now for the food confession: I don’t know what nutritional yeast is. Well I didn’t know until I wrote this post.
All I knew about it previous to this was: the first time I bought it I thought that they mislabeled fish food, upon first trying it I knew I was hooked and it is insanely good on pretty much everything from pasta, my Ultimate Vegan Nacho Cheese, soups (this one in particular) and sprinkled on roasted potatoes.
So wtf is nutritional yeast?
“Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is sold commercially as a food product,” says Wikipedia. Yeast is part of the Fungi Kingdom so no animals harmed!
Nutritional yeast is a complete protein which means it has all the essential amino acids that we humans must consume since we do not produce it ourselves. It is also sugar, gluten and dairy free. Some brands fortify nutritional yeast with B12, which is a vitamin most vegans are lacking. Read the label carefully to see if your local brand contains this vitamin (you will also notice your urine turning an insanely bright colour…too much information? Mark made the joke….”You might think ur-ine trouble….” How do I date this person?? P.S. we did not meet through a fish tank)
Thankfully going gluten free I did not have to give up one of my favourite pantry staple nor one my fav winter comfort foods: mac and cheese. Developing this recipe took some time as I posted on Instagram so long ago my first round of trials. At first I used my nacho cheese recipe minus the ancho chili and poured it onto some noodles but the sauce was way too rich plus an entire cup of cashews runs a little high with Christmas on its way. Scratch that idea.
I had heard of butternut squash mac and cheese before but squash is Mark’s least favourite vegetable and I have certainly had my fill of it already this season. Thanksgiving for us Canadian seemed so long ago. I knew I didn’t want a sweet mac and cheese like so many squash recipes are- it had to be savoury (added fresh rosemary and raw garlic) and cheesy flavoured thanks to the nutritional yeast.
Four rounds of mac and cheese later, I finally came up with this recipe. Am I sick of mac and cheese yet? Not even a little. I even had Mark’s very meat and potatoes friend test it out and he said he wouldn’t know it was squash based if I haven’t told him.
I poured it over some brown rice macaroni but it would taste good on some roasted vegetables too. Perhaps some wilted greens added to the noodle mix to make this a little more grown up and nutritionally dense.
I hope transitioning to gluten-free continues to go fairly smoothly with the exception of all the bakeries around my house smelling extra tempting. I am currently optimistic but ask me again when all the Christmas cookies start coming out…..
- 1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2-8 hours or quick soaked while the squash is cooking.
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds, you will need 2 cups of squash puree to make the sauce)
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Dash of hot sauce
- Paprika to garnish (optional)
- 454 grams (16 ounces) brown rice macaroni
- Salt for the pasta water
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel, deseed and large dice the squash. Transfer the diced squash to the baking sheet and drizzle on the oil, salt and pepper and coat the squash completely. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender, turning halfway through the roasting time. The squash should be brown in some spots.
- Transfer the squash to a high power blender and blend until the squash is a purée, you will need 2 cups of purée for this recipe. If you have more than 2 cups remove the extra squash and freeze for a later use (or double the batch if you want to freeze the prepared sauce for later*). Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender that now holds 2 cups of purée. Blend on high speed until completely smooth.
- Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Add the noodles, turn down heat to medium and cook the noodles until al dente.** Drain the noodles and in the now empty pot add the squash sauce to warm. Add the noodles to the pot and stir until completely coated.
- Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and extra hot sauce if you desire.
- The sauce (sans noodles) can be frozen for up to 1 month*
- I have found that rice noodles cook a lot faster than wheat based ones so keep an eye on them since they can turn mushy fast**
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