Food, food, food! Do I seem obsessed to you? I truly believe that getting dinner on the table Every Single Night is one of the great challenges of rookie-mom-dom. We welcome our good friend, Karen, to share another easy peasy recipe with our readers: Quick (and healthier) Mac and Cheese good enough for kids and adults.
I admit I’m a sucker for that bacon trick. Oh, and the breadcrumb trick. Yummmy!
I am going to tell you a dirty little secret about myself: I like Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. It might be because I ate it so much as a kid that I have some sort of Stockholm syndrome thing going on with it, or it might be that I am just not all that refined. I only occasionally eat it at home, and when I do it’s totally on the down-low and I shamefully hide all the evidence afterward. In case you’re not disillusioned enough by my bad habits yet, let me also reveal that I put soy sauce on it. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it: the soy sauce actually makes the orange chemical cheese-like product taste more like, well, cheese. Strange, I know.
Of course, the sad thing about that Kraft box is the questionable ingredient list. Aside from the unnatural Doritos-colored cheese powder, did you know that one of the main preservatives in boxed Mac and Cheese is a common ingredient in laundry detergent? Ick.
The good news is that contrary to popular belief, macaroni and cheese is really easy to make from scratch, and offers a lot of room for customization. All you have to do is make a white sauce with milk, flour, and butter, then add cheese. No laundry detergent required! I like to serve it with broccoli and mix it all together on my plate. Pork-o-philes can cook up a few slices of bacon crumble on top. And I know it’s a lot of carbs, but it’s great with toasty garlic bread too!
Recipe: Quick Mac and Cheese Without The Box
- 1 lb. macaroni (or penne, campanelle, or other short pasta shape of choice)
- 3 Tblsp butter
- 3 Tblsp flour
- 1 ½ cups milk (nonfat won’t work- whole or 2% will work best)
- 1-2 cups grated cheese of your choice (I like the cheddar/jack mix with a little parmesan. if it’s just for grown-ups, I’ll add some gorgonzola too)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Turn off heat and stir in flour with a whisk. Return to medium low heat and add milk, stirring. Cook stirring constantly until thickened and smooth, about 5-10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese. Cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes. Mix with pasta and serve.
- Feed the baby: Mush up some cheesy noodles with a bit of small cooked broccoli pieces.
- Lower the calories: Mac and cheese is definitely not a diet food, but you can at least use low-fat cheese. I recommend the shredded “Mexican” blend you see in the butter aisle of the supermarket because a lot of low fat cheese is a little funky in the texture department.
- Make it fancy: Put the mac into a buttered casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake in a 400 degree oven to toast the breadcrumbs. You can also do this with tater tots but I’m not sure that qualifies as “fancy”, per se.
- Leftovers? In my house there is never leftover mac and cheese, but if you find yourself in this situation, this sounds like a good idea.
- Take a shortcut: We talked about the pros and cons of the box already, right?