I swear I took a picture of a plate filled with mac and cheese - sigh - I will get one this afternoon and post it, I promise. At least I have a "cheesy" picture to go along with this post!
Yesterday was an exciting day (sarcasm)... I woke to a yard slightly dusted with snow, some of which remains mostly along the treeline, but also in the shady areas of the lawn and part of the deck. We are supposed to get 2-4 inches over the next 48 hours. I drove up to Hendersonville to have lunch with my friend Kim. We haven't seen each other in quite a while. We met at Mimi's Cafe. I am not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, Mimi's was NOT it... sorry, Mimi. It just solidifies my resolve to steer clear of "chain" restaurants. There is just no personality in the food and I like my food to say something, to tell me that it was loved during the preparation process, not hauled out of a freezer, put together following some step-by-step directions on a package or corporate recipe card, or made by someone who would rather be drinking a beer with his friends. Also, the menu should not be more than 2 pages long. There is no way a "chef" can prepare food from a menu longer than that! I guess my first clue should have been the fact that on a Saturday afternoon at lunch time at one of the hottest shopping spots in Middle Tennessee I got a parking space in front, had no wait and the dining room was at least half empty. The optimist in me was going to say "half full" but it wasn't even that! At least the conversation was good!
Ali remained at home battling the flu. She had requested juice and macaroni and cheese for dinner, so I headed to the store - again breaking one of my Saturday rules - Thou shalt NOT grocery shop on a Saturday. But when your kiddo is sick, you tend to break a rule or two in the life-lesson book. Plus, with the threat of more snow on the horizon I figured I better be a good southerner, even if I am a transplant, and buy bread and milk. When I got home I hung out with her and we watched some TV and chatted a bit. She was feeling better, but still had a low-grade fever. This flu is no fun!! About 5:00 I decided to get the macaroni and cheese going so the pot hit the stove full of water with the macaroni standing by and I grated the cheese, Cabot Extra-Sharp White Cheddar, Jarlsberg and Gruyere. I make this dish with any variety of cheeses, cheddar, jack, Colby, provolone, Parmesan, Havarti.... they have all been used. Mozzarella doesn't work so well because it gets too stringy. This time I made it a little extra special since she is a "sicky" and I wanted her to feel better :) See... put a little love into your food. Whatever you make, make it FOR someone, thinking of what would make them happy. When you do that, the food always tastes better!
MACARONI AND CHEESE
1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1/2 c. flour
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. granulated garlic
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
3 c. milk
3/4 lb. grated cheese - any combination of your favorites
1/2 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
2 T. melted butter
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Combine the flour and seasonings and add to the butter, mixing well with a wire whisk. Try to get all of the lumps out by letting it cook for a minute or two and whisking it constantly. When it is combined, add in the milk, again whisking constantly until it comes to a low boil. Mix in the cheeses until they are melted and then pour over the cooked and drained macaroni.
When I get to this point, I usually stop because the kids like it "creamy". David likes his baked, so if he is home, I will put some in a small casserole dish and top it with crushed crackers and a little extra cheese and pop it into a hot oven for about 10-15 minutes to get the top crispy, which is how he likes it. Mix those crackers and cheese with lots of love!! :)
It really does not take much longer to make this than that stuff in the blue box and your family will love you! If they have to have their cheese orange, use cheddar and Colby! Expand their horizons and you will never go back. Without the cheese, dry mustard and cayenne, you have a white sauce (or Bechamel, if you want to be all fancy). You can cut the butter/flour to 1/4 cup and the milk to 2 cups, use some salt and pepper. Master a few simple sauces like this and you will have the beginnings of some great meals!
Stay warm and loved, my friends!