The weather in Portland has been quite beautiful lately. The days are filled with plenty of sunshine, blue skies, and streets lined with golden leaves. In order to induce fall weather, I have been sipping mugs of tea in the evening and layering the blankets on my bed. It seems to be working because today was cloudy, rainy, and COLD! It’s about time. I love this time of year for many reasons: cozy knee-high socks, foggy mornings, the sound of rain on my roof, increased energy for baking, and warming, delicious meals are a few examples.
The meal above was created in celebration of finally getting our car repaired. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our finicky 2002 Prius stays out of trouble for a while. Seriously, hybrids are wonderful for fuel efficiency and compactness, but when a part malfunctions, you better think about playing the lottery…
Let’s get back to our lunch! Last week I received two logs of Cheddar Teese Sauce from Chicago Soy Dairy. Since Tim and I rarely buy cheese alternatives, it’s somewhat of a luxury to have some in our refrigerator. I created a quick lunch that was both filling and comforting: Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies. They were the perfect accompaniment for watching episodes of Daria (LOVE this show). The idea behind these lil’ pies was to take the traditional bread crumb topping on baked macaroni and cheese recipes and turn it into the crust for a pie. So essentially, the bread crumb topping is on the bottom! This recipe serves two but you could easily double (or triple and make into a standard-sized pie) the recipe if you are serving a larger group of hungry vegans.
Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies
For the crust:
1 cup dry bread crumbs (use gluten-free bread or crackers to make this recipe gluten-free)
3 Tablespoons melted Earth Balance (or vegan butter of choice, or 2 Tablespoons oil of choice)
For the pasta:
1 cup dry pasta shells (I used brown rice pasta)
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 tube Teese Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1 Tablespoon stoneground mustard (or mustard of choice)
Paprika for sprinkling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter (or oil) and the bread crumbs using your fingers. The mixture is ready when it holds together if you press a clump between your fingers.
3. Distribute the mixture evenly between two 4-inch mini pie pans (about a 1/2 cup per pie pan) and press it firmly onto the bottom and up the sides.
4. Place the pie pans on a baking sheet and bake them for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Don’t turn off the oven.
5. While the crusts are cooling, fill a saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook your pasta according to package directions. Just make sure it is al dente since you will be baking it later.
6. Drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Squeeze about half a tube of the cheese sauce into the saucepan with the pasta. Stir well to distribute and then add in the peas. Stir once more to evenly distribute the peas with the pasta.
7. Divide the pasta mixture between the two pie pans, sprinkle generously with paprika, and salt and pepper as desired.
8. Bake the mini pies for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before devouring with your dining companion(s).
*If you don’t have access to Teese or other commercial vegan cheese sauces, you can use any cheese sauce you prefer for this recipe.
*Try replacing the peas with broccoli, roasted red peppers, or other veggie of choice.
*Sprinkle the tops with homemade cheesy crumbles (I grind equal parts cashews and nutritional yeast in my spice grinder).