Culture

The Hipster’s Cookbook: Veganuary

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Each week in The Hipster’s Cookbook, Meghan Bongartz shows you how to make delicious food for not a lot of money.

We’re a week into the new year, and that means one thing: everyone and their mom (okay, especially the moms) is working on a resolution to be healthier. The gyms are packed, people are lacing up their running shoes despite the gelid Chicago winter and spinach sales are at their annual high. A friend greeted me on New Year’s Day by asking whether I planned to do Veganuary, which was incredibly confusing for me because I hadn’t heard of it, and also because it sounds like the weird female version of No-Shave November. I don’t know who came up with Veganuary, but that name is all kinds of unfortunate.

Regardless, I’m not participating. I won’t argue that detoxing a little after the holidays is a bad thing, and I firmly believe that most people could stand to have more vegetables and less meat in their diets; I just don’t think that resolutions and forced dieting are a very good way of going about it. Both of these concepts are focused on becoming a better person by eating “better” food, and both of them tell you that you’ve failed if you just really need to have a bowl of ice cream for dinner one day. Do meat and sugar and dairy really make us bad people? I’d like to say that the answer is an obvious no (and I believe that the answer is an obvious no), but it seems like society is telling us otherwise a lot of the time.

I’d like to get away from attaching the labels of “good” and “bad” to food. All food fuels our bodies – and hopefully makes our mouths happy in the process – and it does not carry an inherent morality or emotional load while it does that. Some food is more efficient fuel or more powerful fuel, and if you want your mind and body to work well, these are things to think about. If you want to eat low impact food because you care about the environment, that’s awesome, too. But please, please don’t start thinking that eating nothing but kale makes you more virtuous than the person next to you, and, more importantly, don’t get down on yourself if you opt to eat something that isn’t kale. Trying to eat the “best” food is a futile endeavor because everyone has a slightly different opinion on what is healthy.

Eat what you’re comfortable with, what tastes good to you, what makes you feel healthy, and what makes you happy. For me, this is frequently vegetarian food, but not always. I love fruits and vegetables and will happily eat an entire bag of spinach in one sitting, but I have completely zero desire to eliminate cheese and eggs – or even meat – from my diet. And sometimes I want to eat a block of cheese disguised as a meal with other ingredients, and I defy anyone to tell me that there’s a problem with that.

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

2 ¾ cups dry elbow macaroni

½ cup butter

1/3 cup flour

4 ½ cups milk

½ tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

24 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1) Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until it is cooked through but still firm. Drain and set aside. Once pasta is cooked, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In the base of a large saucepan, melt ¼ cup of the butter at high heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine, cooking until thick and pale brown in color (called a roux).

3) Add milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cheese to roux, stirring constantly until the cheese is melted and the entire mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.

5) Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese mixture and stir to coat. Pour into an ungreased 9×13” baking pan.

6) Melt the remaining ¼ cup of butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan and combine with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cheese and pasta mixture.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.