Have you ever needed to remove a food from your diet for a season or forever? If you have, I'm guessing you went through a process similar to me: initially you felt overwhelmed & the diet change felt all-consuming, then you started to get your groove with some days that were easy/some were hard. At some point, this change started to become your new norm, but every now and then (or sometimes every day) you miss the food(s) that you no longer could eat. Sound familiar?
Yesterday marks two years since I needed to remove gluten from my diet as a result of a diagnosis of an auto-immune disease. I remember that meal planning felt all-consuming to me those first few days/weeks/months that I started the gluten-free diet. It was hard to imagine at that time that I would ever figure out this diet change. Fast-forward two years and eating gluten-free is no longer stressful or consuming; instead, I'm celebrating that it feels normal. I'm celebrating that eating gluten-free no longer feels like something has been ripped away from me and left stress in its place.
Yes, I still crave the flaky goodness of a pot pie crust or doughy pizza crust...I'm salivating thinking about them. I miss these foods every single day. The ache that I feel for those foods though has empowered me to search high and low for alternatives. Never in my life would I wish a gluten allergy/intolerance or Celiac disease on someone; however, I have learned that being on this journey is not just one of losses. This journey has allowed me to speak hope into others' health journey, inspired me to get creative with my cooking, and empowered me to once again assess what I'm putting in my mouth. Those are all very good things that God allowed to come out of something that I initially viewed as bad.
Alrighty. Let's go over a quick disclaimer and then get on to talking about how this recipe came about.
Disclaimer: Am I recommending that you go gluten-free? The quick answer is no. This is a decision that is not to be made without great thought, research, consultation, and prayer. Talk with your health professional before making a diet change. For those of you that are reading this and your body can process gluten without adverse side-effects, praise the Lord for your body's ability! Although I have not tried this recipe with gluten-containing pasta, I believe you could easily swap the lentil pasta for a different type of pasta. I do caution you though to consider: could you try this recipe with lentil pasta to experience the healthful benefits of lentils (awesome source of protein, folate, manganese, iron, and phosphorus--read more here)?
You may be wondering: How did I come up with this recipe? It was a loooong process.
My toddler son and I both need to eat a gluten-free diet while my husband processes gluten without any observable issues. I grew up loving boxed Mac & Cheese and just felt this was a staple of typical American childhood--whether that's a good staple is debatable but nonetheless it felt like a staple. I knew that because of our health choices, my son would grow up with a much different diet than I experienced which is not at all a bad thing. For some reason though, I had this ache to figure out a way he could grow up eating Mac & Cheese. Now that I've share this recipe with others with similar diet needs to me, it has become very clear that this ache was the Holy Spirit directing my creative talent to craft a recipe for others.
We tried a variety of store-bought gluten-free Mac & Cheeses, but the wimpy-dissolve-in-the-pan rice noodles were less than desirable. Another issue I ran into with gluten-free products was that I was typically forced to choose between eating an organic option OR a gluten-free option. Organic and gluten-free products are becoming less of a unicorn at the grocery store, but two years ago this was not the case.
I experimented with a variety of pastas and landed on lentil pasta for the health benefits and overall my stomach felt better after eating lentils vs a grain. The next hurdle was figuring out the cheese/sauce magic. My then one-going-on-full-toddler-year-old refused to eat the macaroni when I added shredded cheese because the cheese would become stringy. So back to the drawing board I went. I then discovered the magical powers of nutritional yeast. This dried product contained no cheese yet tricked my toddler's brain into thinking he was eating cheese sauce--voila! Adding nutritional yeast also makes this recipe almost vegan for those of you with this type of diet. I haven't tried alternatives to the small amount of butter the recipe calls for, but I think you could easily swap that out for another healthy fat.
Nutritional yeast is used in many vegan dishes to provide a cheesy taste and also provides some great health benefits. I prefer to purchase nutritional yeast that is not fortified with artificial vitamins/minerals such as this kind, but there are many options out there. Nutritional yeast is not the only secret to this recipe. The other secret ingredient is onion powder. Onion powder combines forces with nutritional yeast to form this amazing cheesy goodness that elevates your palate and you may just hear an angelic choir commence as you eat it (no guarantee though).
Is your mouth watering yet? If not, it will be when you read this recipe. Enjoy!!!
"Cheesy" Lentil Macaroni
By Caitlyn J. Hanson. Serves 2 adults or 3 children.
- 1- 6oz. box Lentil Pasta, Shells or Elbow Macaroni (I prefer this brand)
- 2 tbsp. butter or ghee (if you're dairy free, you could try substituting coconut, olive, or avocado oil)
- 1/4 c. vegetable stock or bone broth + a splash more
- 2-3 tbsp. nutritional yeast (we prefer this kind)
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (we love getting spices here)
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. fine ground sea salt (we prefer Celtic Sea Salt)
- Follow directions on box to cook pasta in a large saucepan. Watch these closely to avoid water boiling over which is common with lentil pasta.
- While draining the pasta, melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add pasta to saucepan and stir coating the pasta in butter.
- Add 1/4c. stock. Next add all seasoning and then nutritional yeast. Stir well.
- Add more seasoning to taste if needed. The nutritional yeast absorbs a lot of the moisture, so you may need to add a splash of stock to created a cheesy sauce.
Note: If rewarming leftovers, melt a small pat of butter first, add leftovers, and sprinkle with up to a tablespoon more nutritional yeast.
One last thought: Please don't read this post or any gluten-free recipe as me trying to push a gluten-free lifestyle on you. See my above disclaimer for more information. It grieves me that eating gluten-free has become a fad-diet to so many. This has caused many people to become insensitive to those like me who need to keep gluten out of their diet for health reasons. Living Wellness desires to support you on your health journey with nourishing recipes and other health strategies, regardless of your diet limitations, so that you can become more in-tune with your body's needs and honor God with your choices. This recipe can easily be adapted by swapping the lentil pasta with whole-wheat pasta.
I would love it if you would leave a comment below letting me know how this recipe turned out for you! Please also comment what recipes you'd love to see in the future.
You are worth more than mediocre. You are worth exceptional health!
Caitlyn J. Hanson
© 2017 Living Wellness, LLC Revolutionizing health, one community at a time.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.