Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vegan Macaroni and "Cheese" (new Earth Balance brand, including analysis), Smoked Tofu, Reduced Water Tomatoes

My daughter loves vegan macaroni and cheese and I thought that I'd prepare some for her tonight. I like to make my own "cheese sauce" (I described this past April the Food for Life recipe that I use) - even my wife, who never liked cheese, likes it, and it has about 1.8 g of fat per serving, which is reasonable). I also like the convenience of the boxed Road's End Organics macaroni and "chreese". A staple in our house is Earth Balance's spreads, which we use as our non-hydrogenated margarine, and now Earth Balance has a new "cheddar mac and cheese".

At her urging, I bought the new Earth Balance product today and made it for her and me. I cooked it with a little onion and chopped kale, and served it with a little smoked tofu. They had some very tasty tomatoes at Whole Foods today that were made with minimal water to give an undiluted tomato flavor, and I served slices atop mixed greens with some dried oregano.

Dinner was good! I liked the Earth Balance product, but I also like the Road's End and my homemade ones. I am happy that my daughter is not only amenable but actually encouraging of mixing vegetables into the macaroni - I was going to add broccoli ("trees") and onion, but she requested kale instead of broccoli. The tomato was great! My daughter enjoyed dinner and said that this new Earth Balance macaroni product is her favorite boxed one.

I thought that I'd do a little comparison of the three approaches to making vegan macaroni and cheese. First, let's consider nutrition. Here are copies from the respective manufacturer's web sites of nutrition facts and ingredients.

While they are both obviously processed and won't be anything but an occasional treat at our house, they clearly aren't duplicate versions of each other. The chreese, like my homemade product, uses tapioca as a thickener. Tapioca works well, but requires much stirring and cooking down with added liquid. A benefit of the Earth Balance product is the ease of preparation since no tapioca is used - just a few tablespoons of plant milk are added to the cooked pasta (and Earth Balance spread, which I skipped), and then the powder packet is just mixed in.
It's difficult to read the small writing in the chreese nutritional information, but both products are comparable in fat with a surprisingly modest 1.5-2g of fat per serving. They are both significant sources of sodium, especially Earth Balance's product with 550 mg (vs. 390 mg) per serving. The chreese product has a good 7g of fiber per serving, while the Earth Balance has only 2g. The chreese product has about twice as much protein, and has significant amounts of iron, B12, and folate.
The sauce that I make has, per serving, 36 calories, .8 g protein, 4.6 g carbohydrate, 1.8 g fat, .3 g fiber, and 223 mg sodium. I don't have the breakdown of the other nutrients, but, depending on the brand of nutritional yeast used, can be a significant source of B12. Of course, this doesn't take into account the pasta that is used, and the other two analyses do.
None is of course suitable as a staple, but they are all reasonable to enjoy once in a while. All three are surprisingly low in fat. My homemade sauce is the low sodium winner. Chreese, however, is the overall winner with significant fiber, B12, and folate, though, of course, the homemade one can be customized.

Taste Nutrition Convenience Comments
Earth Balance Good Highest in sodium Easiest This will probably be something that I stock because my daughter seems to so like it
Road's End Good Significant fiber, B12, and folate Easy I'll try to get her to enjoy this as well periodically because it is more nutritious
Homemade Perhaps best - creamy Lowest in sodium and can be significant in B12 Not bad It's fun to make this from scratch and I hope that I can engage my daughter by helping to make it


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