Cheese for the Cheeseless

It was a very bad day. One of those days that forever changes you. A day that delineates a definite "Before" and "After." The life-altering occurrence? My husband found out he was lactose intolerant. And, no, not just the "take a Lactaid pill and have some cheesecake anyway" kind of lactose intolerant, but the kind where it's inadvisable to partake of butter, fresh cheeses or any product containing milk without risking...ahem...shall we say "explosive repercussions."

In my usual state of denial, I suggested trying different cheeses and dairy products to see which, if any, his system could tolerate. But, considering the discomfort involved, he declined to let me use his digestive system as a science lab for my experiments (sheesh!). So we adjusted, switching to a more Mediterranean diet, using margarine instead of butter in desserts and becoming vigilant label-readers at the grocery store. A friend even dubbed certain foods "Dave-safe" to give us a heads-up about what was okay to eat.

After doing some reading and consulting with other families making this adjustment, we found that aged cheeses like extra sharp cheddar and parmesan or romano were acceptable, as were some substitute products like tofu cream cheese and sour cream (see note, below). So when he was craving a creamy-cheesy fix, I figured out a recipe for macaroni and cheese that came close to replicating the super-rich pasta dish that had been removed from our table on that fateful day. And for those of you who may have a use for something like this, here's the recipe:

Dave-Safe Mac'n'Cheese

1 lb. dried pasta
4 Tbsp. lactose-free butter or margarine (see note, below)
4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. lactose-free whole milk
3/4 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. lactose-free cream cheese (see note, below)
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil large pot of water. While water is heating, melt butter in medium-sized saucepan. Remove from burner and add flour, stirring to combine. Place back on burner and cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and stir until it thickened, then add cheese in handfuls until melted. Add cream cheese and stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add hot sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook till al dente. Drain and put in casserole dish, pour cheese sauce over top and stir gently to combine. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes.

NOTE: In the interim since this post was originally written, a new line of products has come on the market that has changed everything. Green Valley Organic Lactose-Free butter, cream cheese and sour cream are now on our go-to list. If you have access to them, give them a try in this recipe! (BTW, we're not thrilled with their plain yogurt at this point, but it's fine in recipes like Chicken Tikka Masala.)