Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mac 'n' Cheeeeeese. Oh yeah.

Puck is all about mac 'n' cheese.  He used to call it "mackywack 'n' cheeeeese".  So very cute.  But the thing was, he was a stickler for the "orange stuff" from the "blue box."  You know which one I'm talking about.  And he wouldn't have it any other way.  I always made sure I had a box or two in the cabinet.

I came across an article in my EatingWell magazine all about the harmful effects of all those little colors in our processed foods.  You know, yellow#5, blue#1, red#3 and on and on.  I just hadn't thought much about it before, so I started looking through my cupboard and fridge.  Fortunately, most of our food didn't have any of the colors with the big exception of the "orange stuff" from the "blue box."  This should have come as no surprise to me.  (Note: not all of the "healthy" cereals are color-free, too.  FYI.)

Thus began my quest for a good homemade mac'n'cheese recipe.  Um, that sounded really dumb when I reread it.....

SO.  Anyway.

I made my own, used Puck as a sous-chef (which is the key to getting your kids to try anything new), and now thought I'd share with you.  This is crazy easy and you'll find multiple recipes just like it online.
So I thought I'd add another.

What you need
flour
butter
milk
pasta
cheese
optional: breadcrumbs

What you do
First, get your pasta water going in a big pan.  (Salt the water after it's boiling so you don't damage your pan.)  After the water gets boiling, dump in your pasta and cook according to directions.  I use about one pound for the amount of cheese sauce I'm making here.

Next, if you're lucky enough to have a cute little sous-chef at your house, have him (or her!) grate about a cup of cheese.

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It's important to puff out your lips a bit when doing this step.  It really helps with the grating.

While the grating is going on, melt about 3-4 Tbs. butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Get it bubbly, then throw in about the same amount of flour.  Whisk while it bubbles for about a minute or two.
Picnik collage

Add about 1-2 cups milk.  At this point,  your cheese should be grated....
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.....or maybe that's still going on.  That's ok.  

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You'll want about 1 cup of cheese, give or take some, depends on how cheesy you want it.
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Whisk your milk mixture often until it thickens up.  
And add that cheese once it's grated.
Whisk together, it will look something like this:
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This is where you add some salt and pepper to taste.  If the sauce tastes a little too salty, that's where you want it because you'll add in the pasta and it will be all good.
So, add the pasta.
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Now, you can stop here and serve it up like this.
OR, you can go one step further and make it baked macaroni and cheese.  It's up to you.  But if you want to go on, follow me.
Pour it into a greased dish.
Picnik collage
Feel free to make your own breadcrumbs. (I almost always have to since I can never find them in my store when I even remember to put them on my list.)  Just toss some dry-ish bread in your food processor and pulse away.
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Again, this is something your little helper can do for you.  With assistance, of course.

Mix the crumbs with about a tablespoon of melted butter (you could add some Parmesan cheese also) and sprinkle over the pasta.
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Bake in a high-heat oven (~400 degrees) for 5-10 minutes, but watch so the top doesn't burn.

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Be sure and sit down with your little sous-chef to enjoy the cheesy-goodness!

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