Sunday, August 5, 2012
Road's End Organics Dairy Free Shells & Cheese
Road's End Organics. (For my gluten intolerant friends, they make two vegan-friendly, gluten free products made with brown rice pasta).
Tonight, I tried the Dairy Free Shells & Chreese Cheddar Style pasta dinner. The "chreese" sauce is made by combining a powder of nutritional yeast and seasonings with either water or a non-dairy milk.
To make the sauce, I used some of the coconut milk I had in the fridge. I also took the box's suggestion to add a teaspoon of buttery spread and added in some soy-free Earth Balance. Since I remember some boxed vegan mac and cheeses not being as creamy and cheesy as I prefer, I also added in a quarter cup of cubed daiya cheddar style wedge.
Making the cheese sauce is a bit more unwieldy than making traditional boxed mac and cheese. After draining the pasta, you take the empty pan off the heat and whisk together the powder, the milk and the butter (and, in my case, the daiya) until the nutritional yeast power has completely dissolved in the milk. You then bring the sauce back to a medium hot burner and stir in the pasta shells until the sauce completely coats it.
I actually thought the taste and texture of this was pretty good, and it hit the spot for me in terms of my mac and cheese craving. Adding the daiya definitely helped give it a little more "cheesiness." I definitely prefer it to the frozen vegan mac and cheese products I've tried before.
So, why might you choose a vegan mac and cheese over a traditional boxed brand? Well, if you're not eating dairy because of ethical reasons or a lactose intolerance, this type of product will be a good fit for you. On the nutrition side of things, it's also a slightly healthier option. Granted, mac and cheese isn't exactly a health food, but let's play "eat this/not that" for a second, and compare the nutritional facts between the Road's End Product and traditional boxed mac & cheese.
Nutritional yeast is a great source of Vitamin B12, and, according to the box, one serving of the Mac & Chreese provides 40-50% of the DV for B12. All humans need B12 to help maintain their metabolism and central nervous system. Because of how sanitized our food system is, it can be difficult for vegans to get enough B12. You don't get B12 from traditional boxed mac & cheese. I'm not advocating for Vitamin Mac and Cheese, but it's nice to know this product has a good source of B12.
Nutritional yeast also is a good source of protein, and thus you get 13g of protein per serving of the mac & chreese, plus additional protein from your non-dairy milk. Traditional boxed mac & cheese has 10g of protein, plus whatever you have in the milk you combine.
Iron, calcium and fat are comparable, with the Road's End product having a slight edge on saturated fat. There's also slightly less sodium in the Road's End product (380 mg vs. 580), and slightly more fiber (4g vs. 1g).
If you're concerned about food additives, the Road's End Organic might be also something you're more comfortable with. It's certified organic, and the color and flavor come from annatto, garlic powder and mustard seed. Unlike traditional boxed mac and cheese, there are no artificial colors.
So, if you've eliminated dairy, or are just cutting back, and craving the occasional mac and cheese, dinner, give this product a try!