Sunday, May 08, 2011

AiS: Easy Peasy Mac n' Cheesy

Do your kids beg you for macaroni and cheese on a daily basis? Do you hate going to the blue box with its list of ingredients fit for a chemistry experiment rather than lunch?

Do you want a healthy macaroni and cheese recipe?

Um, wait. This recipe has chicken base (a bouillion-type product) and butter. Really, these days, who knows what "healthy" actually is.

Do you want a recipe for this kiddie crack that will save you money?

Oh, nevermind. This probably costs more, what with the mound of real cheese in it.

Okay, so it's not exactly healthy nor is it inexpensive. What can I say about this recipe that my husband developed and I've been making for the kids for a few months now?

It is easy, sort of. You do have to collect more ingredients than you would with the blue box version.

But it can be done all in one pan. No need to drain the macaroni into a colander. I always hate dragging out the colander and transferring boiling hot water from the stove to the sink with children under foot. I think of this and shudder every time I drain pasta. The only other kitchenware you'll need is a small bowl, a measuring spoon (unless you're an eyeballer like me) and a utensil to stir the macaroni.

Here's what you need: 

1 cup of elbow macaroni (I usually use whole wheat macaroni but white macaroni is what I had on hand.)
2 cups of boiling water (I start with boiling water from my Insta-hot. This literally cuts the cooking time in half.)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of cheese
1 teaspoon of chicken base (You could probably use a chicken boullion cube.)
About a tablespoon of corn starch
About a tablespoon of cold water
About a tablespoon of butter (my husband doesn't use butter. something about cholesterol. whatever.)

Bring 2 cups of water plus the tablespoon of chicken base (or boullion cube) to a steamy, rolling boil. Add the macaroni. Do not lower the heat. Keep it boiling and stir it. This will make the water reduce down so that it looks like this:

Next you make what's called a corn starch slurry -- essentially equal parts corn starch and cold water. Always mix the corn starch with cold water and then add it to the simmering water (you cannot cheat on this part ... it's the key to the whole recipe, if you ask me). This thickens the remaining water in the pan. Add butter and cheese and stir. It should look like this: 

Creamy, cheesy deliciousness. This makes enough to feed three children (under the age of 4) and mommy. If you have older, more ravenous children, you may want to double the recipe.

The way I see it, when the kids ask for mac and cheese, I don't have to say no just because there aren't any blue boxes in the house. And who would want that anyway with its soupy, gritty texture, questionable color and subpar macaroni?

Certainly not me.


Jax and company said...

I'm going to try this with gluten free pasta, which leeches so much starch into the water anyway that I may be able to dispense with the corn starch altogether.

Monica said...

oh, thank you. i, too, HATE the blue box. i am writing this down now and putting it on the menu for next week.