Thursday, August 7, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese No More: Getting Good Nutrition into Vegan Children with Nooch and Noodles

Vegan, Vegan Austin, Nooch and Noodles, Vegan Mac and Cheese
One thing that I like about vegan mac and (no) cheese is that when you make the sauce, you can incorporate extra nutrition. Very often, my children, one 20 months and the other 4 years old, reject whole chunks of vegetables, although I'm sure they are better than most. They will eat broccoli on most days, which I consider a major victory. Neither one will eat sweet potato chunks or eggplant or onions (if they are cut too big). They are iffy with carrots, sometimes yes, sometimes no. It is definitely a challenge getting good nutrition into their bodies. That brings me back to making a macaroni and (no) cheese sauce. For vegans, the traditional sauce is oily and heavy with nutritional yeast. Newer recipes feature cashews and a lot less oil. I like to boil potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots into the sauce with cashews, garlic, lots of nutritional yeast, some Earth Balance margarine, and salt. I do not use a recipe when I cook, but I got inspired by this recipe from VegNews years ago. I like to put broccoli with the cooked whole wheat noodles and sauce, but you can put other things into it, such as whole corn or even Brussels sprouts. So, on a nutritional level, this meal is a definite winner for my children, and I do not feel guilty about giving them this. As a vegan parent raising vegan children, I worry about sending my children mixed messages. Despite feeling uncomfortable about it, I have always called the meal I just described as macaroni and cheese. To someone not raised a vegan, I can totally understand why calling a vegan dish macaroni and cheese would be comforting, but a child raised vegan does not have the same type of nostalgia about a lifestyle he or she is unfamiliar with. Even though my four year old is down with being vegan as far as he can understand it, what happens when he goes to school or some social event, and they are serving what they call macaroni and cheese? Despite all of my precautions with his school (they do not serve meals there, thank goodness) and everything my wife and I have told him, he may get confused and eat what is offered him, not realizing it is not vegan. To resolve this problem, I have experimented with other names, but nothing has had that satisfying verbal quality to it as the simple macaroni and cheese or mac and cheese. Macaroni and cashew sauce? Please. Yesterday, as I was making this meal, an even better name occurred to me: nooch and noodles. It has nice alliteration. I think this could work. Now, we just need to learn this name as a family, and I hope we can avoid such name confusion with other meals in the future.

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