The Ultimate Comfort Food: Mac and Cheese!

Homemade MACARONI & CHEESE, served with steamed broccoli and roasted carrots.

Homemade MACARONI & CHEESE, served with steamed broccoli and roasted carrots.

Much to my children’s amazement, I was once a child myself.  So I know first-hand that kids are creatures of habit. Example: If you give a child a cookie after dinner as a treat “just this once”, they will translate that to mean they will get a cookie after dinner “forever”. The battling will begin, and logic will never prevail because in their minds, they ALWAYS get a cookie after dinner.

When I embarked on motherhood I was determined to make it as easy on myself as possible. So I made everything from scratch – baby food, bread, pasta, yogurt, soups, and macaroni & cheese.

What’s that you say? Cooking from scratch doesn’t sound easy to you? First of all, it’s easier than you think – it just takes practice. Second of all, I would rather spend a few extra minutes preparing healthy food so my kids (aka, creatures of habit)  were used to what ‘the real thing’ tastes like. I knew in time they’d eat packaged and fast foods, but I was hoping that by then they would find those foods (laden with sugar, salt, preservatives, and additives) abhorrent.

I wish I could report that things went according to plan. Well, you can’t fight city hall, nor the big food companies.  These people know what they’re doing. My children loved all the junk foods the minute they tried them. And what’s not to like? The sole purpose of these foods is to taste good, thereby ensuring repeat business. (Walking down the chips aisle in the supermarket is the ultimate test of my will-power.)

Macaroni and cheese is standard fare to serve children.  Sadly, most kids only know the boxed kind, with its fake, orange colored cheese.  That’s all I knew growing up – my mother gravitated like a magnet to boxed, canned, and frozen foods. While she enjoyed good food, preparing it held little interest to her.

If your history with macaroni and cheese is with the boxed kind, you may feel like homemade is missing something…and it is. Check out the ingredients list on the package and you’ll see what – and they’re all unpronounceable. Stick with it and you’ll learn to appreciate homemade macaroni and cheese.  To cop the slogan from the old Coke commercial:  it’s the real thing!

NOTE: You can toss in cashews, cauliflower, peas, chopped spinach, etc.  This is a great (sneaky) way to add vegetables to the little ones’ diets. Also, change the cheese to suit your taste.  Try a jalapeño jack to spice things up. Or use up those odd bits of cheese you have in the fridge that you can’t bear to throw out because they’re still perfectly good. (Waste not, want not!!!)

MACARONI AND CHEESE

  • 6 oz dried elbow macaroni pasta (I use the large size)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 T water
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 3½ cups cheese, shredded (I use medium cheddar)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 egg, beaten

Boil the pasta until it’s almost soft – it will continue to cook in the oven with the other ingredients.

While the pasta is cooking put all but ½ cup of the shredded cheese in a bowl.  Stir the water, salt, and dry mustard together in a small bowl, then pour over cheese. Add in the milk and stir together. (I ‘rinse’ the mustard liquid bowl with the milk into the cheese so I can get every bit.)

When pasta is done, drain and return it to the cooking pot.  Blend in the butter and egg – do this on a cool surface (you don’t want to cook the egg). Transfer the pasta into a buttered 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Pour the milky cheese over the pasta, then sprinkle the reserved ½ cup cheese on top.

Bake uncovered at 350º Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, until browned.

 

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