Veganomicon — Mac ‘n Cheese

2008 04 - VCon Mac n Cheese (1)Smokey Grilled Tempeh and Cheater Baked Beans. The tempeh and baked beans were okay, but we both decided there was no need to make the tempeh again. The beans were tasty, and worthy of a second try (and very easy to boot).

There's so much positive buzz about this cookbook that we figured we'd do well with one of the more popular recipes. Unfortunately, we're now one for three here. The mac 'n cheese just didn't work for us. Though I thought it was alright, I wouldn't ask Jane to make this again. She actually disliked it, so much so that she said she won't eat the leftovers. To put that in perspective for you, we don't typically throw food away in this house. I didn't have that strong an aversion to the dish, but something didn't work for us, perhaps it was the large quantity of nutritional yeast. 2008 04 - VCon Mac n Cheese

I hate to take such a contrarian stance, but so far this cookbook isn't living up to it's hype, for us at least. Last time we posted about the tempeh, everyone who commented said they loved it. So we're left to wonder if our taste buds are out of sync with the rest of the world, or perhaps Jane's having trouble following recipes lately? So far, we're much happier with Vegan Planet and the Real Food Daily cookbooks.

We're not ready to give up on this book just yet. It's a great big cookbook, and you all seem to love it so much. Next, Jane's going to try the Chickpea Cutlets which the authors state is their signature dish. If we dip below the Mendoza Line (one for six), we'll have to hang up our Veganomicon cleats.

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Comments

  1. Ooh no no, the Mac & Cheese has had mixed reviews! The Chickpea Cutlets seem to be most loved when pan fried. I also love the Pumpkin Saag with extra lime juice, the Red lentil Cauliflower curry (although it’s not all that inventive), Pineapple Cashew Quinoa stir fry & a few other dishes that don’t pop in to my mind at the moment.

  2. Oh I was wondering if this was any good. I tried the tempeh baja tacos and they were gross. I have also tried the baby bok choy recipe and the artichoke pasta recipe and loved them.

    Thanks for the review!

  3. My results with Vcon have been mixed, too — I thought maybe it’s because I’m such a newbie to this vegan thing that my tastebuds haven’t caught up yet. The chickpea cutlets I’ve made twice — baked they were OK but kinda dry (I liked them better than my husband did), and panfried they were gross — I think I had the pan too hot and they were mushy in the middle. So I would suggest either baking and serve with a sauce, or panfry on a lower heat than you would expect.

  4. I was not impressed with the smokey tempeh either and I threw out 80% of my pan of mac daddy… I concluded that 1. tempeh is imprevious to marinade and 2. I hate nutritional yeast.

    My favorite Veganomicon recipe is the tomato-rice soup with navy beans. That and the caesar are the only things I’ve made more than once…

  5. The Snobby Joes are awesome

  6. Damn, I’m sorry you’re not having better luck with the Veganomicon. I love it but haven’t made any of the more popular recipes yet (no Mac Daddy or Chickpea Cutlets for me yet).

    Have you and Jane been cooking for a long time? I’d never cooked before six months ago, so the book was a worthwhile investment for me for the How to Prepare a Vegetable, Bean and Grain sections alone. That wouldn’t be impressive if you already know those things, though.

    I’ve made about 20 things from the book and can only think of two I really didn’t like: the seitan cutlets (I messed them up, will try again) and the horseradish dill sour cream (I don’t like horseradish or sour cream, though).

    I think my absolute favorite dishes from the book so far are the Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry and the Cornmeal-Masala Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Spiced Yogurt Sauce.

    Do you like vegan mac ‘n cheeses in general? I tried Shells and Chreese and thought I was going to be sick. I had to throw it out, which is just Not Done around my house. I had better luck with the baked macaroni and cheese from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, but I’m not completely sold on it. I’m trying FatFreeVegan’s recipe this weekend.

  7. I think it’s a little unfair to expect any vegan cookbook to kick ass with every recipe. Also, I rarely stick to the letter with any dish but usually add my own bits and experiment. Some things work, some don’t. But I use Veganomicon, as I used Vegan with a Vengeance as a base to expand my own unique repertoire of vegan recipes.

  8. The Chickpea Cutlets are AWESOME. I have made them so many times now I’ve lost count. In fact – I now quadruple the amount I make in one shot and put the extra in the fridge. I’ve made them both fried and baked – I like them both ways. When baking – be sure to brush both sides with oil so they don’t dry out, and take them out right away so they don’t dry out. When frying, you need to find that perfect heat – make sure the pan isn’t TOO hot, otherwise you’ll sear the bottoms and the inside won’t cook enough. Both ways are delish! I’ve tried adding chili pepper and green onions to the mix and that turn out great too.

  9. A word of advice on the chickpea cutlets – mash the peas *thoroughly*. I also found them a little dry – pan-frying helps.

  10. earthbiscuit says:

    if you like coconut, try the coconut lemon bundt cake… it’s incredible.

  11. If this may be helpful… I made the grilled yuca tortilas from Veganomicon, adding a bit of corn and black olives to the mixture and some guacamole on the side, and served it to five relatives, three of whom were non-vegan, and they all raved about it.

  12. I’m not a big fan of VCon either. I think there’s a lot of value for the “new” cook…

    I much prefer their Vegan w a Vengeance, and Robin Robertson (?) who does Vegan Planet and Quick Fix Vegan.

  13. Forgot to ask — I wonder how many of your readers actually get the baseball reference -Mendoza line?

  14. Hi Everyone, sorry for the delay in responding, we’ve been having a few issues with the blog. Hopefully, we’re back on track now!

    Melisser — Thanks for the heads up about pan frying the cutlets. Jane usually opts for the healthier version when she tries a new recipe. I’ll make sure to pass this along!

    TMB — We will definitely stay away from the Tempeh baja tacos. Thanks! The Mac N Cheese improved slightly with age (leftovers). But Jane still really disliked it, so it will not be making a repeat performance in this house.

    Chris — Our tastebuds are vegan by now (I hope). You scared us about the cutlets though. Jane’s promised to cook them on very low heat. We’ll let you know. I’m wondering if it matters if you use canned chick peas or dry?

    Heather — we both chuckled at your conclusions. Have you tried nutritional yeast in other things? We both think it vastly improves a tofu stir fry (it’s the turmeric in most recipes that we find a little over the top). Will try the tomato soup, thanks.

    Merdeath – Sloppy joe’s are Janes favorite vegan dish at Fattys (local vegan restaurant), so I’m sure she’d like these, but she has a thing about not ordering things she cooks at home… so maybe she’ll not want to make these.

    Seitan — Yes, we’ve both been cooking for awhile, although I’m pretty much relegated to the grill and the waffle maker these days. So, those aspects of the book aren’t really valuable to us. I laughed that you tried the horseradish dill sour cream if you don’t like horseradish and sour cream… This was our first vegan mac n cheese, so maybe they’re all bad. Did you ever try FatFreeVegans? I’d be curious how that tasted (will check your blog later).

    NoRelProf – Agreed, most cookbooks have clunkers, after all, individual preference is subjective (non-vegan as well). If we have the luxury of borrowing a cookbook from the library, we try a few recipes before deciding to buy or not. So far, we’re not encouraged to spend our money on this particular cookbook, but we’re still going to try a few more recipes before we make our decision.

    Thanks for the hints MadCap. I think Jane’s going to try the pan fried version. I’ll blog about it after we’ve tried them.

    Jaime — Ditto. And we’ll be sure to mash well!

    Earthbiscuit — Jane’s been working her way thru the Joy of Vegan Baking, but maybe I can get her to make an exception for the bundt cake.

    Gary – thanks that sounds wonderful. And Jane makes a killer guacamole.

    David – Probably not many, but I included the link to the wikipedia definition for that very reason. And… we prefer Vegan Planet too.

    Thank you everyone for the suggestions. Maybe next time we try a new cookbook I’ll poll you all for your recommendations before we figure out which recipes we’re going to try! :-)

  15. I googled Veganomicon Mac Daddy because I tried it tonight, and I thought it was awful. I was so disappointed, because this is my first recipe with nutritional yeast. I can’t even think about it without getting sick. Is this what a lot of cheese sauces with nutritional yeast taste like?
    I also thought it had too much lemon juice. I’m so sad, because I hate throwing out food, but I’m pretty sure I won’t even be able to look at my leftovers sitting in the fridge without getting queasy. This is my first recipe from this cookbook and it was a gift. I hope the other recipes will be better, or I’ll probably have to take it back.

  16. Hi Candice,
    I’d received some good advice after writing this post. A few people suggested that, as newer vegans, Jane and I shouldn’t attempt to recreate our standard omni meals. To be honest with you, we haven’t attempted a cheesy sauce since this recipe.
    We also threw out our leftovers, something that is very difficult for us to do. But neither one of us could stomach this meal. Some people claim to love it though. Different strokes.
    As I mentioned earlier, this is not our favorite cookbook. However, the chickpea cutlets live up to their hype! Before you return the book, I’d give them a try. The recommendation to mash the chickpeas well is spot on. And they are a little better pan fried, but they’re a whole lot easier to bake!
    Also a few of the people who’ve commented here have suggested recipes that work for them, so be sure to go back and read the comments if you haven’t already done so.
    As for the nutritional yeast. We use it in other things and haven’t had any issues… We sprinkle it on pasta with marinara sauce (it’s reminiscent of grated cheese, but don’t over do it). Jane also sprinkles about 1/4 C into our tofu scrambles and it really helps improve the taste of the tofu. Off the top of my head those are the things I think we use it for most frequently.
    Don’t be too discouraged… there are plenty of really good vegan recipes out there. Try FatFreeVegan.com for a whole slew of free vegan recipes!

  17. I’m sorry this comment is considerably tardy, but I was doing some googling, and I came across this post… Alas, I recently made the Mac Daddy/cheesy sauce number, with a few edits, and I think it went fairly well. I didn’t have (or realize that it would need) lemon juice, so I left that out; and based on the commentary that might be an improvement. I also used some excess cheesy sauce mixed with a bit of salsa for a tasty nacho dip. I’m a newer vegan as well, so I haven’t quite built up high expectations for phenomenal flavor in my home cooking. ;-) Anyway, I hope you have better luck next time!

  18. Hi becca,
    Thanks. Jane hasn’t tried this recipe again. There are so many “new” (to us) recipes out there that it doesn’t make sense to revisit something that turned out so badly for us.
    But, some people really love it…
    As for the phenomenal flavor in your home cooking – keep “practicing” and it will get better. Jane has really gotten into the swing of it and most of our meals are pretty good.

  19. I’m slowly making my way thru the Veganomicon cookbook and thus far, i’m really happy with it. The chickpea cutlets rock. My husband liked them on a bun with toppings like a burger, but not just to eat on their own with a little sauce (carnivore he is, i’m the veghead). I’ve made them several times but never baked them due to fear of drying them out too much. I used canned chickpeas btw.

    I tried the Baja Tempeh Tacos and loved them actually. My husband even loved the flavors of this but he’s anti-tempeh so if i do it again, i’ll have to another ‘meat’ option for him. Today, I just ate those leftovers cold like a salad and it was great.

    I won’t waste my time (or ingredients!)on the mac n cheese because husband hates, i repeat, hates nutritional yeast. i saw the recipe and noted to self – don’t make this ha. the only fake mac n cheese-ish dish i’ve done that he would even eat was the mac n cheese from VegNews. and i didn’t even call it mac n cheese so his expectations weren’t wrong. I just said it was a ‘pasta dish’ ha. This vegan mac n cheese has been the only one we both have really enjoyed so we stick with it and don’t venture outside of that! (BTW, that recipe does NOT have nutritional yeast! you can find it on their website vegnews.com)

    I made the mexican millet a few weeks ago and we both loved the flavors of the dish and the fact it was easy/quick plus tasty! Considering making the couscous dish in the book – can’t remember the exact name of it. I know it has capers in it…

    Tonight I’m going to try making the snobby joes. I hear good things about them. I’m a little worried because husband isn’t so sure he’s ever tried lentils, the main ingredient in this so – fingers crossed! I have a backup amy’s veg lasagna for him in the freezer just in case!

    I’ll try to remember and update if possible.

  20. Hi Elizabeth,
    I can’t say enough good things about the chickpea cutlets. Jane makes them all the time. She always doubles the recipe and we eat the cutlets in sandwiches the next few days. She bakes them and we haven’t had an issue with them being dry. (And we use canned chickpeas too.)
    Good luck with the Snobby Joes. It’s nice that your hubby is willing to eat vegan food, and great that you have a back up in case he doesn’t like what he’s being fed. I always have to eat what Jane makes. I’m allowed to say I don’t want it again, but if she’s cooked it, I eat it. I’m lucky she’s a good cook!

  21. I haven’t tried this recipe from Veganomicon, but I love the cookbook, there’s so many great recipes in there. If you have the patience for multi-step, many used pots and pans recipes, I’d highly recommend the Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream. It’s blogged in step-by-step detail here with pics:
    http://freshcrackedpepper.com/2008/10/13/vegan-moussaka/

    So so yummy and worth all the effort. My dinner guests were very impressed with it and we’ve made it just for ourselves several times too.

    If you haven’t tried the VegNews mac and cheese recipe, you really should, no nutritional yeast and fab!
    http://www.vegnews.com/web/articles/page.do?pageId=40&catId=10

    :-)

  22. Hi Carole,
    Thanks for the links. Next time I have a craving for mac n cheese, Jane’s promised to try one of these.

  23. hey, came across this post after some late night googling. sorry to hear you guys didnt like the mac daddy. i admit it was a little weird the first time we tried it too, but this recipe has totally grown on me since… i actually crave it now if you can believe that. the real reason i decided to comment here, though, was to share a recipe for a killer vegan queso. if you dont like this stuff, then youre not going to like any nooch-cheese sauce. best of luck!

    http://www.postpunkkitchen.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=70450

  24. Hi Lexi,
    Thanks for the link. Jane said she’ll give it a go. But if it’s like mac daddy, it won’t work for us. We both really didn’t like that recipe at all. We actually threw the leftovers away, something we never do in this house.
    Jane’s tried a number of different “cheese” recipes based on cashews. Those are much more palatable to us.
    Interstingly, we like the taste of nutritional yeast. Jane uses it in almost all of her tofu concoctions and we sprinkle it on our pasta…

  25. Not to revive this thread, but I am not a huge fan of this sauce either, however, I find myself making it every once in awhile because my man-friend loves it. It is also easy and cheap, and I always have the ingredients in the house. I feel like it tastes more like a light alfredo sauce at best.

    Almost no cookbook could live up to the hype that V-con got, but I always say that if you get a few recipes that you absolutely LOVE from any cookbook (recipes that you make over and over) then the book was worth it. I like the spaghetti and bean balls recipe (frying them of course) because they don’t taste like fake meat, they just taste good. I think V-con is a good book for those looking for recipes that use relatively easy to find ingredients and/or inexpensive ingredients, and for people unfamiliar with basic cooking techniques. The soups are probably the strongest section in general.

    On an aside note, I subscribed to Vegetarian Times for years and probably only really found five recipes that I’ve made more than three times each. I guess I’m one of those people who is fine eating the same thing over and over.

  26. The Mac Daddy recipe is definitely an acquired taste, a very STRONG taste. I actually like it a lot — I’ve made two batches so far, both times substituting smooshed chickpeas for the tofu, and I found it quite tasty. Just finished off the last square of my latest batch tonight (with a side of garlic bread). In my opinion, it’s a little heavy on the mustard, but otherwise I like it. I’m a fan of nutritional yeast, so the heavy dose of it worked out fine for me.

    The chickpea cutlets are the best though. I moisten them and bounce them around in a baggie with some vegan shake&bake type coating and fry them in olive oil. Is nice.

  27. Follow-up to my previous post: Well I made this using tofu instead of chickpeas last week, and shells instead of elbow macaroni, and it was terrible. The sauce had the consistency of chunky diarrhea, and each bite made me want to vomit. The shells didn’t work for me in this dish either, they seemed to clump together and not hold the sauce properly. Tossed it and made another batch using chickpeas instead, and it’s back to being delicious.

    I veer from the recipe by *not* using freshly-squeezed lemon juice because it’s way too strong for the amounts listed (use the stuff from the little plastic lemon bottle), and I also put an extra 1/4 cup of flour in the broth mix to thicken things up a bit.

  28. We made Mac Daddy tonight & it was phenomenal….Looking at your pic, I wonder if you doubled the Sauce recipe? It makes a huge difference. Also, a smaller noodle might work better. It didn’t taste like Mac & Cheese – more like Chicken casserole. Next time we are going to sautee some celery & onions and mix it in at the tofu prep level, and then add some curry to the sauce, top with some scallions, chopped peanuts & raisins….and I think that might just make up for no chicken curry…Sorry you are having such a hard time. I am loving this cookbook.

  29. Haven’t made the mac daddy recipe yet and after reading this not sure i’m going to try; however most recipes I have tried in this book I have loved. I saw someone mention they thought the strongest section in the book were the soups and actually I found them to be the weakest and while some people have raved about chickpea cutlets, I found them to be far too rich and heavy (just goes to show how subjective tastes are!). I’m not in the US and so there are some recipes I can’t make due to being unable to source the correct ingredients and some where I have to adjust quantities as we don’t have the same sizes of tins as required however my top picks from the book which all my non-vegan friends have been raving about are (Mains) 1. Spinach linguine with cilantro-basil pesto and artichokes (my boyfriend especially loves this one and he is a massive carnivore) 2. Eggplant rollatini -baked version 3. Caesar salad 4. Spaghetti with beanballs 5. Penne vodka 6. Greek-style tomato zucchini fritters – baked version (must have with cashew-cucumber dip recommended) 7. Eggplant-potato moussaka 8. Lasagna marinara 9. Roasted fennel and hazelnut salad 10. Chickpeas romanesco. Also on a side, the sour cilantro cream recipe is amazing if you’re ever having a mexican night and want a vegan sour cream option.

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