Best Mac and Cheese

I made a new, very terrible macaroni and cheese recipe last night.  In honor of its colossal failure as a dish, I thought I’d post my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.  To give credit where credit is due, this is adapted from a recipe that was clipped some time ago from an issue of Everyday With Rachel Ray (say what you will about the woman, but her recipes are genius).

You’ll notice quickly that the mac and cheese sets on a bed of broccoli, which is incredible and a really great way to eat it, but I have been known on a decadent day or two to leave it out.  Also, it says serves 4, but I think it’s more like 6 or 8, so feel free to half the recipe if there’s just a few of you eating it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheddar

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite size florets (stems cubed)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1/2 cup cream (optional, you can use more milk instead)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

12 ounces cheddar, shredded or cubed

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the broccoli. Bring to a boil, add the broccoli, cook for 1 minute and drain. Rinse with cold water. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and add the broccoli in an even layer. Use the pot again to cook the macaroni. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in the flour for 1 minute.

Whisk in 1 cup of milk until it gets thick, then whisk in 1 cup more. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup of milk and ½ cup of cream and then whisk that mixture into the pot. Simmer until the mixture thickens, just a few minutes.

Lower the heat and add the cheddar and parmesan, stir until the cheese melts. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta. Spoon this mixture over the broccoli.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Junior Gourmet

I make my own baby food. There, I said it. I never talk about it because A) it almost never comes up in conversation and B) who cares??? But lately, I can’t pull up a parenting blog or pick up a parenting magazine without some woman getting all snarky about people who make their own baby food. Or even my circle of mom friends. We’ll just be hanging out at the park, one of them gets a jar of baby food and starts to feed their kid lunch and then someone says, “Can you BELIEVE people MAKE their own BABY FOOD?!”

Um, yes I can. Because I do. But I just sit there with a sheepish grin on my face. I mean, if I was doing it just so I could say I was doing it, it wouldn’t have lasted this long. I don’t do it because I was told to by some parenting “expert”. The idea actually came to me mid-pregnancy. I was thinking of how much money we were going to save by breastfeeding, and I wondered if the same savings could be achieved with food. Eureka! I’ll make my own! It can’t be that hard. Took me about 10 seconds on Amazon to find a few good sources, and the rest is history.

I do it first and foremost because it’s cheap. A few dollars worth of produce and I have at least a week’s worth of food. I’ve heard the argument that it’s really not cheap because “my time is worth more”. In my opinion, being a mom is a non-profit organization. I’m volunteering my time for a cause I believe in. I would have no idea where to start putting a dollar value on the “work” I do as a mother. Everyday with Rachel Ray recently ran a good article on this theme. I’ll paraphrase: Medical Diagnosis: $150 each, Birthday Cakes: $35 each, Career Counseling: $85/hour, Cooking: $65/hour, Cleaning: $30/hour…

The point is moms do A LOT. If they got paid for it, it would be the highest paying job ever, and everyone would want to be a mom. And not only that, but making baby food doesn’t take anywhere near the “all day” time frame most people think. An hour, tops, on a Saturday afternoon, and we’re set for 7 to 10 days. So, yeah, let’s put a dollar value on your time, and then we’ll give you what you’re owed for an hour. And I’m betting it’s still cheaper than paying $0.85 a jar for 10 days worth of food.

That was a bit of a tangent, sorry. Like I was saying, the first reason I do it is monetary, but the second reason is that my in-laws are major foodies. And they’ve turned me into a bit of a foodie too. And I want my son to be as adventurous with food as a kid can be. I know there will be those years where he’ll eat only PB&J or mac & cheese, but I hope I’m instilling a love of adventurous eating [knock on wood].

So there you have it folks. You can say I’m a snob. You can say I’m idealistic. You can say I’ve got too much time on my hands and just wait until #2 comes along. I don’t care. I like making baby food, my baby likes eating it, simple as that. Next time you want to say something about it though, try to remember the mom sitting next to you just might make her own baby food.