Monday, January 19, 2015

Meatless Monday: Low Lactose Mac and Cheese

My lovely daughter spent 6 weeks in Southeast Asia last summer. Not a whole lot of dairy in that part of the world. At some point, she was able to get a latte chai. Little light bulb went off - maybe dairy and me don't really get along? She tolerates many cheeses because they are low in lactose. Milk and cream are chock full of the stuff. Sure, there are lactose free milks but they don't taste quite the same. Of course, neither does coconut milk but she really likes coconut milk. So, that's where this recipe came from. Many people have trouble digesting lactose so I offer this recipe to all those lactase-challenged people out there.

When shopping for a low lactose cheese, check the label for sugar. Lactose is the sugar in milk products. Cheeses that are low in sugar have very little lactose. Aged cheeses usually have low levels of lactose so a nice medium cheddar is a good choice here. Don't use processed cheese. They are very high in lactose because whey or milk (both high in lactose) are added during processing. Really, don't use processed cheese even if you can tolerate lactose. That stuff is a poor substitute for cheese, taste-wise.

If you don't have any trouble digesting lactose, you can use cow's milk in this recipe for the sauce. But, give the coconut milk a try and see what you think. Different flavor but still real good comfort food.

Saucy Stovetop Low Lactose Mac and Cheese
(serves 4)

2 cups elbow macaroni
salt for the pasta cooking water
1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
a pinch of powdered garlic, optional
a pinch of powdered onion, optional
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 ¼ cups coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
8 oz. low lactose cheese such as a medium cheddar, grated
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco or other vinegar-based hot sauce
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add about 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular salt). When the water comes to a boil, add the macaroni. Cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain well, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and cook until golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dry mustard. Stir to combine. Whisk in coconut milk. Keep whisking until sauce thickens and the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese a handful at a time, whisking to melt it after each addition. When all the cheese is added and melted, add in black pepper, salt, Tabasco, Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta. Stir to cover all the macaroni with sauce. It will be saucy. Taste, add more black pepper, Tabasco, or salt, if desired. Serve while really hot.

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