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Mac-&-Cheese

Clean Eaters, Weight Watchers, and Calorie Counters beware: this post is not for you. Other than the calcium you will get from the milk and (copious amounts) of cheese, there is little nutritional value to this dish. Just unadulterated mac and cheese. White pasta, White bread, White full fat cheese. Clean Eaters of the world are cringing as I type. And no, I do not want to hear all the “fun” ways you can make this healthy (“use whole wheat pasta!” “use skim milk cheese!” “use whole grain bread … or no bread at all!”). Please keep your tainted thoughts to yourself, because one change no longer makes this the ooziest, creamiest, most decadent mac-and-cheese you’ve ever tasted. It would just become blah pasta with blah cheese. Keep your blah blahs away.

And I will apologize to all those trying to watch their waistlines…this is too good not to try. But also far too good to be kind to your body afterwards. However, I promise it’s all worth it. We just made the dish last night, and I’m drooling thinking about heating up some more for dinner tonight. My butt will get over the additional weight added by the end of this weekend – one little sacrifice for the taste buds!

This meal (minus some steamed broccoli, to please our bodies a teeny bit) was a combination of two mac-and-cheese recipes. One from Martha Stewart (the bread topped mac) and one from Tyler Florence (pea and bacon topped mac). Basically I just made Martha’s mac-and-cheese and we served it with a side of peas and bacon, instead of putting Tyler’s topping on the mac. As much as I love bacon, I didn’t want to lose any of the crunchy butteriness from the bread “crumb” topping on the pasta. As creamy and cheesy as the macaroni is, one of our favourite parts of the dish was the crispy croutons on top of the pasta. The bacon peas were a great compliment to the mac-and-cheese, but glad we didn’t risk making the bread soggy by adding them on top.

So, as long as you’re not planning on strutting your stuff on sandy white beaches anytime soon, I’d suggest you’d warm up your oven and make this now. PS – I used a 1.5 quart dish for this…it fit all the mac-and-cheese prior to baking, but I was left with a big mess when the cheese sauce boiled over! Definitely make sure you use at least a 2-quart dish.

Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Original Classics

Note: before you bake this, it’s going to look like you have too much cheese sauce. I promise you the macaroni will soak some of it up, and you’ll be left with an oozy baked pasta that is heaven in every bite.

3 slices white bread, crusts removed & diced into 1/4″ cubes
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 3/4 cups milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups (about 9 oz) old white cheddar, grated
1 cup (about 4 oz) gruyere, grated
1/2 lb macaroni

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish, set aside. Place the bread cubes into a small bowl – then melt 1 Tbsp of butter in the microwave, and pour over the bread, stir to combine.

Cook the macaroni for approximately 8 minutes or until slightly underdone (about 2-3 minutes less than the cook-time stated on the box). Drain with a colander.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 Tbsp of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s bubbling, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Continue to stir the milk, cooking it for about 8-10 minutes or until thickened (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Add the salt, nutmeg, peppers, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar, and 3/4 cups of the gruyere to the milk mixture and stir to melt the cheeses. Add the pasta to the cheese and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cheddar and gruyere and then top with the buttered bread crumbs. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.

Serves 6.

Peas with Bacon

Adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into strips
1 small onion, small diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
approx. 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cups frozen peas, thawed in cool water (do not cook!)
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 5-8 minutes to cook the onion and crisp up the bacon. Toss in the peas, and lightly stir to combine. Season the dish with salt and pepper.

Serves 6 – over or with mac-and-cheese.

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