Healthy Baked Mac and Cheese (DF option)

My father died 2 weeks ago today.

I left my tower on Tuesday morning, knowing I needed to get home to see him. He wasn’t doing well. In fact, he was starting to spiral downwards. He had the advanced stages of dementia.

I did not get there in time.

That part is going to be hard for me.

But I’m back at the cabin/tower now. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful for a series of rainy days. After 10 days of grief, stress, family drama and so much sadness, I am tired. Really tired. Rainy days are exactly what this girl needs. The radios are quiet, there isn’t any yard maintenance projects to do, and with the cabin being replaced next year, there’s not much to do inside either. I can rest.

Now all I need is a steady stream of comfort food. After all, emotional eating is healthy…right?

Right now I don’t care and Baked Mac and Cheese sounds about right.

Healthy baked mac and cheese

I’m glad I froze myself a batch of butternut squash mac and cheese sauce before leaving. Baked mac and cheese is the perfect accompaniment to a sad and rainy day.  This is a healthy version you can feel better about eating. I used elbow rice pasta for a gluten free version and Hemp Seed “Bread Crumbs” for extra nutrients.

Healthy Baked Mac and Cheese Sauce

  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¾  cup water
  • 2 ½ cups cooked butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ cups milk or milk alternative (I used hemp seed milk)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add the cashews and the water. Allow the cashews to soak for 1 hour. In the mean time you can roast the butternut squash. I used 2 small butternut squash to get 2 ½ cups of cooked flesh. Slice the squash in half, place face down on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for 1 hour or until tender.

Place the cashews and the water in a blender. Puree until almost smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree until smooth. It will appear a little runny, that’s ok. It needs to be for the baking process.

Add sauce to cooked pasta of choice. Mix until the pasta is coated. Pour into a baking dish. Top with bread crumbs or Hemp Seed “Bread Crumbs” and bake at 375 F for 10 minutes.

  • Recipe Note: Note that store bought unsweetened almond milk is a little sweeter than hemp milk and you may need to add an extra tsp of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to balance it out.
  • Note: I split the batch in half. Freezing half a batch for latter use. Each half batch is enough sauce for 4 cups of raw pasta (cook the pasta until almost cooked before baking).
  • If using the recipe for Hemp Seed “Bread Crumbs” (at the bottom of the linked post), you’ll want to double the recipe. I make the breadcrumbs while the pasta is cooking.

What’s your favorite healthy comfort food?

Feel free to leave a link or a recipe if you have one. I’m going to need ideas…


30 Responses to Healthy Baked Mac and Cheese (DF option)

  1. Sammi10 June 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Make sure the rice pasta is not GMO!

  2. Tasha June 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Am so sorry to hear about your Dad. Wishing you long life

  3. Heather @Gluten-Free Cat June 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    France, i am really sorry for your loss. Let the rain come, the tears come, and just be, my dear. Prayers for you during this hard time.

    (And wow am I loving that vegan cheese sauce. What a gorgeous picture.)


  4. Koko June 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    France…I am so sorry. My thoughts are with you.

  5. Marianne Kay June 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I’m very sorry for your loss.

  6. inspirededibles June 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    I’m so very sorry for your loss France and grateful for the rain that is permitting you time to rest and grieve. Please know that my thoughts are with you and your family and I do hope that you will take the time you need to heal through the stages. Big hug to you – xo.

  7. inspirededibles June 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    p.s. sending you the link to my pb & banana choco-chip cookies. I know how much you love peanut butter and I think these will fit the comfort food bill nicely – xo

    • beyondthepeel June 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Thanks Kelly. You remembered correctly! Love PB! Thanks for the link. I don’t have chocolate chips but I probably can make them without. What do you think?

      • inspirededibles June 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

        you could absolutely make it without the choco chips but these cookies are pretty light weight so the chocolate does add – if you had any other goodies – dried fruit, etc. – you might want to toss a few in for fun and flavor. (if you had any other type of chocolate, you could simply chunk some off or make chips with coconut oil/cocoa powder… there’s a recipe link on the post under ‘notes’ for homemade chocolate chips 😉 — enjoy!

  8. Tessa@ Tessa the Domestic Diva June 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Hang in there France. Losing someone you love is never easy, feeling my emotions and sharing all my memories about them with others has always helped me move through my grief. I hope you are able to do this, thinking of you!

    Here are a couple of comfort food recipes for you:

    • beyondthepeel June 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      Those are perfect comfort foods. We used to have shepard’s pie often as kids. I love it. The soups are also a great way to have comfort foods that are still healthy. Great ideas. Especially since the high here has been about 10 degrees C.

  9. Eileen @ Phoenix Helix June 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Love coming your way.

  10. Donna Chucka June 11, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    Deepest sympathy on your Dad moving on to great happiness & wonder with the Lord. My heart feels your pain but knowing you are in a wonderful place to heal. To be by yourself when you want to isn’t always possible in this day and age. Enbrace*** and love it. You read my mind with the Mac n, needed this for the grandkids, a “healthy” M & C.

  11. Gina June 12, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    Thank you for all you do Franz, I am soo sorry for you loss. Prayers are coming your way. Just try to take comfort in knowing your Dad is not suffering any more and is in a better place. You will be together again!

  12. Pril June 12, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    Dear France, partings are never easy, but right where you feel the physical loss, there is a gift from God, a spiritual gift sent to comfort you and your Dad. It is called love and it is given unreservedly and generously and stays with you forever.

  13. Sylvie June 12, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Big comforting hugs to you dear France. It’s a hard thing to loose a loved one. God understands. Be gentle with yourself. You are an amazing person, always giving….and full of life.

  14. beyondthepeel June 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you to all of you for all your kind words! I feel so much love from people I have never met in person, but have gotten to know through words. Big virtual hugs to all of you.

  15. Lyn June 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    May this time in God’s creation heal your heart and bring you comfort. Thank you so much for sharing your love of family.

  16. Carol G. June 13, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    Sorry for the pain of your loss. The recipe looks yummy. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  17. Kendra June 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Oh I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you have a quiet place to rest. Pancakes are my go-to comfort food:

    • beyondthepeel June 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Pancakes! Definitely. Tomorrow morning….Scratch that, tonight’s dinner actually.

  18. mjskit June 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m so very sorry to read about your dad. Lots of hugs sent your way Darlin. Nothing more comforting than a delicious bowl of Mac and Cheese. Hoped it helped a little.

  19. Amber H June 15, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Hi France,

    I love this recipe. I can tell you it’s fabulous because I make one very, very similar. But I don’t always use the yeast (I find the cashews are cheesy enough). Love your pictures.

    I made your mushroom Sloppy Joes a few weeks ago girl and OMG!!! The entire family was going crazy. So amazing. I used coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce and it was a great sub. Wow, Love that recipe.


    • beyondthepeel June 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

      Great to know the coconut aminos worked. When I got to the tower, my bottle had mold on the top (wasn’t sure about just scraping it off…so I chucked it) so I subbed in soy sauce. But I wanted to use the aminos. Oh well. Next time.

  20. Janine June 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    I know what you are going through…lost my dad in April of this year. Never easy, always painful..but, time heals does prayer and rest.

    • beyondthepeel June 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi Janine, Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Big hugs.

  21. Shelley Alexander June 22, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    France, I’m so sorry that you lost your dad. I lost my dad many years ago and I really miss him, but thinking about all the wonderful times we shared always makes me feel better. I hope that you take the time you need to heal and rest. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  22. Carolyn January 20, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    you can microwave the squash in no time at all. Poke a couple of knife holes in the squash with a sharp knife. Place in microwave. Piercings up. Set for 10 minutes in microwave. When it comes out, slice in half lengthwise and scoop the “spaghetti”

    If you have a huge spaghetti squash, You can do 12 minutes.

    I’ll be trying your Mac and cheese this week!

  23. Donna March 18, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    I am sorry for your loss also. I was not there when my dad passed, and that has always made me sad. My prayers for comfort are with you. May I ask about the nutritional yeast… what does it “do”? I was thinking instead of pasta, I would put this on roasted cauliflower florets. Thoughts?

    • France Morissette March 22, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

      It would be selfish on roasted cauliflower. It lends a cheesy flavour. My girlfriend loves it on popcorn.

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