Vegan Mac & 'Cheese' with Butternut Squash PastaBake 8Learning, shaping, molding, adapting, adjusting, observing. Just a few of the things I'm doing while exploring this food blog, photography, and learning to cook. I'm inspired by so many people that have nutrition degrees, what feels like billion-dollar cameras, and a wonderful genuine personality (inspired & jealous!). Cue Sarah B from My New Roots. She always shares her recipes with honesty and ease. I feel like we are friends, especially with the same food cravings. When I saw her photography and recipe for her "Deluxe Macaroni n' Tease", I knew I needed to try it!

A couple of Sundays ago, the stage was set for a perfect friend-family gathering after church. With my best childhood friends' food processor in hand, we got to work and had a blast. In addition to destroying my entire kitchen, Emily & Kyle got to observe how crazy I am when taking pictures hovering over a table standing on a stool. (Thanks for your patience, ya'll)

I followed Sarah's recipe and loved incorporating nutritional yeast for the first time. I found it at Whole Foods. Sarah notes really great information on NY: "... nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B-vitamins, and in many cases B-12... Our bodies need B-vitamins to convert food into energy, keep stress at bay, alleviate insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, PMS, and mood swings (so, kind of important). Nutritional yeast also contains high amounts of protein with 4 grams per tablespoon, and contains 18 amino acids. It is a good source of dietary fiber, folic acid, selenium, and zinc. It is gluten-free and vegan." Sounds like a win to me! PastaBake 2 PastaBake 1While the four of us around the dinner table agreed this didn't 'feel' like a macaroni and cheese substitute, we did all love the nutty combination of roasted butternut squash, butter beans and garlic. The sunflower seed crust and dandelion greens topped it off with five golden stars in my book.

Be sure to view Sarah's advice and exploration of her original recipe over at MyNewRoots!

INGREDIENTS: + 1 large butternut squash + 4 cloves garlic + 1 Tbsp. coconut oil + 1 can cooked butter beans + ¾ cup nutritional yeast flakes + 1 tsp. Dijon mustard + 1 ½ tsp. sea salt + 2 tsp. paprika + 2 Tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar + 2 – 3 cups rice milk + 4 cups macaroni shells

SUNFLOWER TOPPING: + 1 cup sunflower seeds + 1 Tbsp. coconut oil + 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes + ½ tsp. fine grain sea salt + ¼ tsp. garlic powder + ¼ tsp. ground paprika + dandelion leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, place cubed butternut squash, 4 peeled garlic cloves and the coconut oil. Place in the oven, and once the coconut oil melts, stir everything together and place back in the oven (roughly 20 minutes). 2. When the butternut squash is roasting, make the Sunflower Topping. Toast the sunflower seeds over a large, skillet (dry) over  medium heat (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and cool. Then, place them in a food processor with the coconut oil, nutritional yeast flakes, salt, garlic powder and ground paprika. Pulse several times to chop up the seeds. Set aside. 3. Once the squash is done roasting, move everything (small batches at a time) to a blender. Slowly pour in rice milk when the blender is on low. Do this until the consistency is smooth and creamy and all the squash is blended. 4. Boil water and cook pasta, drain, and drizzle with some olive oil. 5. Pour the butternut squash sauce over the pasta in a deep dutch oven. Do this slowly and with a friend. Fold and stir. Repeat. 6. Set the oven back down to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the pasta with your sunflower topping and bake in the oven until warmed and a little golden on top (about 20 minutes). Garnish with dandelion leaves (Sarah B. used parsley). This masterpiece is beautiful and I so appreciate her wisdom in cooking! PastaBake PastaBake PastaBake PastaBake PastaBake PastaBake 7