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Saturday, October 31, 2009

E-Z P-Z Homemade Mac and Chee-Z With a Bonus

This is simple to make and tastes a lot like the greatness that is Kraft Mac and Cheese in the blue box. While the blue box stuff is one of my guilty pleasures, we really prefer to prepare and serve food that's homemade and contains no additives or preservatives or any other stuff with names we can't pronounce.

This recipe is picky-eater-tested-and-approved. My two sweet stepdaughters are probably the pickiest eaters I've ever known and they both give this recipe a thumbs-up.

This recipe has a great bonus, too. It makes 1 cup more cheese sauce than you need for the mac and cheese. The cheese sauce can be used to make another great sauce for veggies or eggs. That recipe follows the mac and cheese recipe. If you don't want to make the second sauce, you can prepare 3 cups of elbow macaroni instead of 2 and use all the cheese sauce on the macaroni.

If you want to make a jazzed-up version of the mac and cheese, cook the elbow macaroni noodles slightly al dente, mix in the cheese sauce, put in an oven-safe casserole dish, top with buttery bread crumbs, and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

E-Z P-Z Homemade Mac and Chee-Z

2 cups elbow macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
4 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

In a 4 to 6 quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water with 3 or 4 healthy pinches of salt to a boil.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, start preparing the cheese sauce. In a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, melt the 4 tablespoons butter. Slowly whisk in the 4 tablespoons flour. Mix well and continue whisking for 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly incorporate milk, either pouring and whisking at the same time or pouring a small amount of milk in, then whisking until blended and repeating until enough milk is added to make a velvety, medium-thick cream gravy. Add the salt, pepper, mustard powder, ground turmeric, and nutmeg and/or cayenne if you wish. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cheddar cheese 1 handful at a time, stirring to mix it into the sauce. As each addition melts into the sauce, add the next handful until you have added all the cheese to the sauce.

When the water comes to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions, tasting an elbow or two every few minutes to test for doneness. When macaroni is done, either fully cooked to serve immediately or al dente to bake, drain it in a colander, then transfer into a serving bowl.

Reserve 1 cup of cheese sauce. Pour the remaining cheese sauce over macaroni and mix well, folding gently so that noodles remain intact.

Bonus Cheese Sauce for Veggies and Eggs

1 cup macaroni cheese sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and serve warm over steamed or roasted veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower, or over eggs.

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