Friday, April 6, 2012

Mac n' Cheez Casserole with Chard and Bac'un

Every now and then I muster up the motivation to make a creatively complicated but inspiring dish. It’s usually on days where I’m craving the cooking process as therapy and don’t mind following a bazillion steps to reach a beautiful outcome. Or on occasions and celebrations that call for something out of the ordinary. In this case, it was both. We had cause to celebrate a new and exciting life change in our household this week, and it was a particularly long week at work. So kitchen therapy and a celebration dish were both in order.

Sometimes a celebration calls for something fancy or exotic or challenging. But this instance called for something humble and straightforward. While the long ingredient in this recipe list doesn’t appear to be simple (there are a lot of players in any delicious vegan cheez sauce), the tastes are not complex. They are honest and complimentary, which are two perfect features in this dish. The creamy pasta with mild, barely cooked chard and a pungent, salty bac’un punch together form something pure and comforting for your taste buds. This is the type of dish I wanted to come home to after a soccer practice as a kid. A big heaping scoop of something that tastes like home.

So if you have some patience and the ability to multitask, this recipe doesn’t take that long. Start by marinating the tempeh bac’un. Then cook the pasta while you get the cheese sauce started. The chard and breadcrumbs take about the same cooking time and can be done simultaneously (you have 4 burners on that stove afterall), and finish it off by cooking up the tempeh bits. Layer it up in a dish and plop it in the oven. Viola! The taste of home in an hour-ish. And free therapy to boot!

Mac n Cheez Casserole with Chard and Bac’un
Makes: 4 servings
Cook time: 1 hour

8 oz. macaroni (whole wheat or GF)

1 ½ T. Earth Balance
½ medium onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T. whole wheat or GF flour
1¾ c. almond milk
½ c. nutritional yeast
½ T. miso
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/3 c. pasta cooking water
Salt to taste

1/3 c. reduced fat Veganaise
½ c. Daiya (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped (about 3-4 cups)
1 recipe TempehBac’un*
½ c. panko
2 T. pine nuts
*Add about 1/4-1/3 cup of apple juice to the marinade


Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and reserve pasta cooking water. Set noodles aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a medium sauce pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir until flour starts to brown, about 1 minute. Increase heat and add almond milk, bringing mixture to a boil. Lower heat back to medium when boiling and add the next 5 ingredients, cooking at a slow boil until desired thickness is reached. Add salt to taste.

Combine sauce and noodles. Stir in Veganaise, Daiya (if using) and a small pinch of nutmeg and white pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add chard stems and cook about 2 minutes or until they start to soften.  Add a splash of veggie broth or water to deglaze the pan and add the chard leaves. Cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes and sprinkle with some salt if you wish (optional). Set aside.

Toast the panko and pine nuts together in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn! Cook until panko is browned on all sides, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the tempeh bac’un (recipe here). Instead of cooking strips, crumble the tempeh and soak the smaller pieces in the marinade(remember to add the apple juice!). Cook bits in a skillet and set aside.

To assemble – coat a casserole or baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of the mac n cheez and smooth out into one even layer. Top with a layer of chard and bac’un. Then cover with remaining noodles. Sprinkle breadcrumb/pine nut mixture over the top and bake for about 30 minutes to set.


  1. <3 <3 your blog! Keep it up.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement! Sometimes I feel like Julie in "Julie and Julia" - are you out there anyone? No matter, the cooking goes on!