mac & cheese mondays – cheezish!

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all right, i’ve been foreshadowing for a month, and the big day is finally here: it’s time for cheezish macaroni, the best mac & cheese in the whole galaxy! i have blogged about cheezish before, both here and also here, so if you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you won’t be too surprised by this reveal. but if you’re new around here, welcome! let me tell you about the wonders of gladcow’s cheezish macaroni!

gladcow cheezish

i’ve been making this recipe for nigh on eleventy years now, and it’s just the greatest thing going. my dear friend summer (who wrote this book, and is the gladcow to my bluedawg) is a wizard in the kitchen, and the first time i tried her recipe, i knew i was in love. because of cheezish, i pretty much have roasted red peppers and quick oats in my house at all times. this is my go-to comfort food; my favorite thing to make on lazy teevy days, or when i need a little cheering up. my motto: cheezish makes everything better. here’s a shot of the sauce, as it’s doing its thickening thing:

cheezish stir

and here’s how it looks right as you’re stirring in the pasta (once again, cavatappi ftw!):

cheezish pan

it’s so great, you guys. if you don’t have the glad cow cookbook, you should! it’s full of delicious recipes! but meanwhile, summer has her current version of the recipe posted online, so you can check it out here if you’d like to try cheezish in your very own kitchen. i always use roasted red peppers; typically the 12oz jar so that i can make a triple batch. i usually make enough sauce for three batches; that way i can eat one, and then freeze the other two for later cheezish needs. this method has served me very well — i prepared one of my frozen batches for this very post!

cheezish

as per usual, i was unable to restrain myself, and i ate two pretty gigantic bowls for lunch. erik came home from his run just as i was about to pack it away for future lunches, so he snagged a bowl for himself (i was in a generous mood, har har), but i still have enough leftover for a couple of quick meals this week. yum! i also had enough to share with maia, who is a HUGE fan of cheezish. i think she looks forward to it as much as i do! she follows me around in the kitchen when i’m cooking it, and when i’m eating it she just stares at me from her bed with the cutest hopeful expression. of course, i had to reward her for being adorable:

maia cheezish

bon appétit, everyone! i hope you enjoyed mac & cheese mondays as much as my belly did!

sunday sharing – speculoos frosted cupcakes

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cupcakes! who doesn’t love ‘em? i know they got amazingly popular a few years back, so now they’re probably past their prime or something… but to be honest i still consider them a go-to dessert when i’m feeding other people. they’re delicious, they’re easier to serve than cake, and they’re so adorable! i came into my own as a cupcake-bringer when vegan cupcakes take over the world came out, and i never looked back… so, thanks isa and terry! <3

my most recent batch of cupcakes was a slight twist on a recipe in their book. i made the basic chocolate cupcake, and then used the peanut butter buttercream recipe to make speculoos (aka biscoff, aka cookie butter) buttercream frosting. (in case it’s not obvious: i just substituted speculoos for the peanut butter.) zomg, y’all.

speculoos frosted

i packed these into my double-decker cupcake carrier, took them to a family birthday party, and they went over really well. just looking at the pictures again makes me wish i had more. looking at the pictures also makes me realize that i’ve still never learned to make pretty cupcakes. must learn to use pastry bag and tips, for real.

speculoos frosted

in eight years (i can’t believe it’s been out that long!), i have never had a recipe from VCTOTW go wrong. my all-time personal favorite of theirs is the pumpkin chocolate chip recipe, and i’m extremely stoked that it’s finally pumpkin season again. they will be my next batch of cupcakes, for sure.

throwback thursdays – peppermint chocolate vitasoy

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i toyed with the idea of making the entirety of this post just a gigantic *sob* and just leaving it at that… but then i decided i’d whine a little bit, lucky you!

i found the blog post i wrote when i first discovered that peppermint chocolate vitasoy had been invented, and i also found the blog post i wrote after i first tasted it… ah, 2006. it was a simpler time. i am a huge sucker for chocolate and mint together, and this seasonal soymilk was so, so, so delicious. i looked forward to it all year long, and i hoarded boxes so i could keep drinking it all winter.

then, a few years later, everything changed. rumors swirled about vitasoy no longer carrying the peppermint chocolate in the US, and unfortunately they were true. our canadian besties were still able to indulge, but we were out of luck. cue rending of garments.

at one point i visited some dear friends in the PNW, and they had an extra hoarded box that they were saving Just! For! Me! and i was pretty much beside myself. we had a lovely vacation, we gave the peppermint chocolate vitasoy a place of honor on the mantle, and… then i accidentally left it there. nooooooo!

there have been a couple alternatives (westsoy, silk) on the market since the great crisis, but to be honest i’m not super crazy about either of them. westsoy’s version isn’t bad, but it’s just not the same. i drink it sometimes, and then get sad because it’s not the vitasoy. womp womp.

wanderlust wednesdays – chicago diner flautas

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i liked last week’s exercise for wanderlust wednesdays (if i could be magicked somewhere right now, where would i go and what would i eat?), so i’m doing it again. today i’m picking a closer city — chicago — and a perhaps unconventional dish. i know chicago diner is known for their vegan wings and their vegan reuben and all of that is well and good, but… i am a sucker for their flautas. i’ve had them at least twice, because i’ve photographed them twice… but there might have been a third indulgence somewhere in there. anyhow, i first tried them on an evening trip after spending the day at chicago vegan mania:

chicago diner flautas

and they were insanely good. when i eat flautas, i tend to cut them up and then swirl everything together in a delicious-yet-gross-looking mess, and just go to town. beans and guac and cheesy sauce and crispy flauta shells and a little bit of sour cream? heaven. i was pretty sure they were a “sometimes thing” on the menu, so i kept thinking about how i was going to get back and eat them again, and eventually i got my chance:

chicago diner flautas

and they were as insanely good as i’d remembered! i just looked at their menu, and i’m not seeing flautas anymore, which is pretty sad… and it’s making me want them even more. boo! they do have vegan baja fish tacos on the menu right now, though, so those would probably be a good consolation prize. we definitely need to get back down there; it’s been too long.

hometown tuesdays – ian’s pizza

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okay, so i’ve blogged about ian’s once before, last year during mofo, in an epic post about us eating pizza constantly. but today they’re getting their very own post, so they can shine like the pizza-flavored diamond they are.

ian’s is relatively new in milwaukee (just a few years old), and they have been SO awesome for our vegan pizza scene. they offer “weird” slices (i say that with love) like mac & cheese, lasagna, guacamole burrito… you get the idea. very early on, we learned that they were holding a “vegan night” on tuesdays, and we wandered over to check them out. they have tons of pizzas out, and you just choose the slice(s) you want and they pop it in the oven to finish cooking it… presto! vegan pizza in a snap! here’s their vegan lasagna pizza, from back in the day:

vegan slices at ian's

i was beside myself with excitement upon discovering vegan mac & cheese pizza, and on my one million trips to ian’s, i’ve purchased a slice of mac & cheese about 99% of the time. i can’t help myself; it’s just too good to pass up. my other faaaavorite of theirs is the vegan guacamole burrito slice, which: black beans, guacamole, rice, vegan cheese, red onions, vegan sour cream drizzle. THE BOMB. they don’t offer it all the time, so i have to wait until it’s the slice of the month, and then pounce as many times as possible in that month.

ian's guacamole burrito

anyhow, over time they’ve continued to expand their vegan offerings, and they never disappoint. they have a vegan bbq chik’n slice, a cheesy potato slice, a chorizo sweet potato slice… seriously, so many options! “vegan tuesday nights” have expanded to “vegan all-day tuesdays” at our east side location, plus they added vegan sundays (woo!), and the other location downtown has vegan thursdays. on those days you can wander in and choose from vegan slices at-the-ready, but you can also order a whole vegan pizza any day of the week. and they deliver!

tonight we decided to hit up vegan tuesdays and we swung through for a pile of slices. i got mac & cheese (obvs) and the hurley (so named for andy hurley, of fall out boy, who is vegan and frequents our ian’s location whenever he’s home), which has upton’s sausage and yves pepperoni:

ian's mac + hurley

…and erik got two slices of the hurley, plus one slice of the vegan smokey the bandit (chik’n, bbq sauce, vegan ranch):

ian's smokey + hurley

then we came home and, as is our custom, ate our pizza while watching new girl and the mindy project. so, so good! thanks for being awesome to vegans, ian’s!

mac & cheese mondays – isa does it roasted red pepper mac

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on the very first day of vegan mofo this year, my pal jojo wrote an epic post outlining all of her favorite mac & cheese recipes, and there were so many awesome ones i hadn’t tried that i bookmarked her post with a quickness. one of them stood out right away, though: the roasted red pepper mac & cheese in isa does it. i bought isa’s book the instant it came out (pre-ordered, in fact!), but i have done a terrible job cooking or baking out of it. i need to get serious with the post-its and the planning. anyscoot, i love roasted red peppers in my mac & cheese (stay tuned for more of that next week!), and i adore isa, so giving this recipe a try seemed like a no-brainer.

isa does it rrp book

if you don’t have the book yet, fear not, because isa also posted the recipe for this tasty dish on her blog, and it even includes a friggin’ fantastic video. yay!

i had most of the ingredients on hand already, with the exception of the cashews, so i made sure to grab some of those on my trader joe’s run this weekend. this recipe involves a pretty minimal amount of putzing; you have to chop onions and garlic, and do a little sautéing, but other than that you basically throw everything in the vitamix and let it work its magic.

on a related note: i have never soaked nuts before, but then i learned that if you have a vitamix you can skip that step (woo!), so i decided to throw caution to the wind and not bother with the soaking. i was a little nervous, but i’m happy to report that it worked perfectly well! here’s how the sauce looked post-vitamixing, after it was back on the stove to get thickened up:

isa does it rrp sauce

so velvety! i let the vitamix run for awhile, so it was already probably halfway there by the time i put it back in the pan. once it thickened, i added the pasta (cavatappi ftw!) and got to stirring:

isa does it rrp pot

and then i tried to restrain myself, because it looked so good that i wanted to start eating it right out of the pan. oh! i should mention that this recipe makes A LOT of sauce (isa has said she prefers it ‘saucy’), so although the recipe calls for 8oz of pasta, i made the whole 1lb box. i have never not made an entire 1lb box, so i didn’t really see any reason to break my streak. some helpful little birdies at the ppk let me know that a whole box should be no problem, and they were absolutely right. just look at all that sauce!

isa does it rrp recipe

once i was done taking all my glamour shots, i got down to business and grabbed my fork. i often put fresh-ground pepper on top of my mac & cheese, but for this debut i wanted to eat it plain and really get the full flavor of it. it’s super delicious, you guys. very velvety, and the italian seasonings in the sauce give it a nice savory edge. i really liked it a lot, and so did erik, who wandered downstairs to fix a bowl for himself. hooray for isa!

isa does it rrp bowl

still, as delicious as this recipe is (and it definitely is! i’m excited to have some more for lunch tomorrow), it hasn’t unseated my all-time favorite. i’ll be back next week to wax all poetical and junk.

sunday sharing – GF chocolate chip cookies

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i mentioned last week that on the first day of school, i brought “something else” along with the s’mores cookies for my TAs’ birthday treats. well, i’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seats in the interim, so i’m here to tell you what that something else was: gluten-free chocolate chip cookies! woo!

i’ve had a small team of TAs (usually 6-8 of them each year) since 2007, and i always bring home-baked vegan treats on their birthdays. last year, one of my TAs decided to try eating gluten-free, which threw me into a bit of a tailspin, because while i’m pretty comfortable with baking in general, i am relatively clueless about GF baking. in a word: yikes. anyhow, i’ve tried a couple of different recipes since she made the switch, and so far, so good. this year, i got another TA who eats gluten-free, so: double yikes.

as luck would have it, these two ladies both have birthdays in the first week of the semester, so i needed to be on my game right off the bat. i’d been wanting to try those s’mores cookies, so i used this treat day as an excuse to make them, but i also whipped up some GF cookies for the birthday girls.

i first discovered this recipe, from dreena burton’s vive le vegan, through amey at vegan eats & treats. she said it was her absolute favorite chocolate chip recipe, and that it was a snap to make, and when i saw her post i realized: (a) i had the book downstairs, and (b) i’d never tried that recipe before. so one night i got rambunctious and whipped up a batch, and amey’s right — they’re so great! the recipe makes 8-10 cookies, which is perfect if you don’t need (or want) 3 or 4 dozen cookies laying around, and they’re the perfect size and consistency. A+.

there are also instructions in the sidebar for how to make them gluten-free, and i made a mental note of that for TA treat days, since the original-formula cookies turned out so fantastic. i don’t have all of the exciting flours and xanthan gum and everything that most GF bakers have in their pantry, but i found a flour mix (from arrowhead mills) at the grocery store that you can sub 1:1 for regular flour in GF recipes, so i decided to give that a shot with dreena’s recipe.

the batter is noticeably different from the original recipe, and a little harder to work with — basically, it tries to reject the chocolate chips, pretty much constantly. so you make your clumps the best you can, and then grab some of the chips that are hanging out in the bottom of the bowl, and smush them on top of the cookies once they’re on the baking sheet. easy enough.

GF choc chip

when they’re done, they also look different from the original recipe (like, i’ve made one batch of each at the same time and you can absolutely tell the difference just by looking at them)… they seem a little puffier (and yet more dense) than the standard cookies. regardless, they look like chocolate chip cookies, har har.

GF choc chip

i’ve brought these for my TAs twice now, and both time everyone (not just the GF peeps) has eaten them, and they absolutely love them. one of the GF girlies even said it was her favorite GF cookie she’s ever eaten, so that seems like a pretty good endorsement! these are definitely worth checking out if you need a simple GF chocolate chip cookie in your life. i’ve had great luck with them!