Valentine’s Day feels like one of those holidays that comes with a lot of pressure for perfection.
I remember having such high expectations in my twenties about how perfect the day should be—the mood, what we chose to do, the meal(s), the music—everything.
It can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly.
Flash forward about 15 years and now, I just expect to feel something nice after the day is said and done. I just want to feel cared for and loved.
I realize all the other expectations are really under the umbrella of that same notion, but it’s not very realistic. I just like to know that someone wants to spend some time with me and let me know they care.
I’m definitely more of the “it’s the little things” kind of gal now.
One of the best ways to make someone feel loved is to cook for him or her—to share a meal with someone, because often enough there is a lovely memory to go along with the meal. It might be the conversation you have, or just looking at the other person and realizing why they are the one sitting across from you.
And this isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. I have found myself sitting across from a friend many times and was reminded of how grateful I am to have that person in my life!
Breaking bread together has always been a way in our culture to find common ground and bond. Valentine’s Day is no different.
I am choosing to focus mostly on my husband, Demond, for this meal, while keeping Jude (our toddler tot) in the back of my mind.
Her palate has a tendency to dictate a lot of meals, since I refuse to make different things for each of us (Plus, I try my hardest to reintroduce her to the things I think she’s just being stubborn about and doesn’t actually hate.).
A little background food info on my husband might provide some understanding as to why I chose this dish to prepare:
In our house, we call Demond “The Sauce King.”
We call him this because he is what I like to call “extra,” when it comes to condiments or sauces that are served with food. For example, when we have our Beyond Meat burgers, he puts vegan mayo, BBQ sauce, and ketchup on them—along with whatever toppings are served. If we eat out, he always orders extra sauce on the side of whatever he orders.
See, that’s why I call him “extra.”
Demond is also a lover of avocado. So I thought to myself, why not marry the two—sauce and avocado?
I came across this recipe for avocado mac and cheese that I thought could easily be vegan-ized with a little twist—so it would be tailor-made just for Demond!
It turned out perfect—super creamy, saucy, decadent and, delicious. I love that it was something different and encompassed a lot of his favorite foods (I may just pat myself on the back here, thank you)!
The recipe and notes are below. Hope you enjoy and have a LOVE-filled holiday!
Here are my ten ingredients:
4. Lime juice
7. Non-dairy milk
8. Smoked sundried tomatoes (gives it a flavor like bacon crumbles would)
9. Vegan cheese
10. A bottle of wine for toasting...and for the love of wine!
Sea salt, pepper + vegan butter ("free" ingredients)
Vegan Avocado Mac + Cheese
servings: makes 7 cups
- 10 ounces dry cavatappi, or elbow macaroni pasta (you can sub in gluten-free, if desired)
- 3 ripe avocados, pitted + peeled, half of one reserved for a garnish
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon reserved for a garnish
- Juice of 1 medium lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten free works here too)
- 1¼ to 1⅓ non-dairy milk, divided (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 2 cups vegan cheese (I used Daiya Mozzarella-Style Shreds—see note #1 below)
- ¼ to ⅓ cup julienned smoked sundried tomatoes
- Cilantro, for a garnish (optional)
- Cubed avocado, for a garnish (optional)
- Shredded cheese, for a garnish (optional)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the pasta. Stir and cook according to the package directions until al dente—7 minutes. Drain and set aside, covering if necessary to keep from drying out.
- While the pasta cooks, make the avocado sauce. To the bowl of a food processor, add the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend the sauce until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, then set aside.
- Next make the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Next, slowly whisk in 1 cup of the milk until the mixture is smooth again. Allow to simmer and slightly thicken, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
- Add the cheese shreds, stirring continuously until the sauce is completely melted and blended. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved milk a couple of tablespoons at a time until the sauce is creamy and thick, but pourable (see note #2 below), then remove from the heat.
- To a large bowl, add the pasta and the avocado sauce, stirring together until the noodles are completely coated. Then add the cheese sauce to the pasta mixture and stir until it is completely incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed (I added ½ teaspoon more of salt and ¼ teaspoon more of pepper to finish). Sprinkle with the smoked sundried tomatoes and any other garnishes you choose. Serve immediately (see note #3 below).
- I used the Daiya mozz shreds here because my store was out of our true favorite, Daiya pepper jack. I would have preferred it, but the mozz still has great flavor. I like the light spicy kick of the pepper jack. The pepper jack only comes in a block, so you will need to grate, or cut into small cubes before adding to the warm milk mixture.
- I added the full 1⅓ cups of milk; it made this very saucy (which was my intent), but not runny. Depending on how saucy you want this, you may want to stick to the 1 cup of milk or slightly over.
- Although the lime juice helps keep the avocado from browning some, it is best served immediately, or the same day. The second day may show a little browning, but the pasta will still be good to eat (reheat at a low temp).
- If you want to add protein to this dish, serve with a side, or top with black beans. Vegan grilled chicken strips, tempeh bacon, or cumin-spiced chickpeas would all be great with this! It’s very versatile!