How to Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese

My mom has made the same macaroni and cheese since my siblings and I were little kids. Macaroni and cheese night was the best night. Looking back on it now, macaroni and cheese night was probably a "stretch the pay cheque until grocery day" meal or a "I cannot give a single more eff" meal for my mom but to us kids it was a special treat. I will never forget the day my dad tried to make mom's macaroni and cheese. My mom was in the hospital giving birth to either my little sister or brother so my dad was taking care of me and my older sister. He made my mom's macaroni and cheese but decided to give it a little flair in the form of onions, green peppers, black pepper, and olives. Have mercy. I'm still not over it.

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

3 cups dry elbow macaroni pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 heaped tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I use whole milk because I am sinful but you can use 2% if you want a lighter sauce. If you use skim milk I will give you side eye so hard.)
1 teaspoon mustard (pro tip: don't use grainy mustard if you plan to serve this to a picky child or they will ask you why you put "nuts" in the cheesy pasta and you will die a little inside.)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional but it really enhances the cheesiness so I don't recommend skipping it unless you've got vegetarian concerns.)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I use old cheddar and it is decadent but regular cheddar is fine too.)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare macaroni per "al dente" instructions on the bag. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in medium-sized saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and flour are combined well and the mixture has begun to smell a bit nutty, about 90 seconds - two minutes. If the roux starts to darken, turn down the heat.

Add the milk slowly, whisking vigorously. I usually add the milk cup by cup, taking time to whisk and thicken the sauce between cups. Cook until sauce is thickened to the consistency of runny yogurt. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

Now! This is important. If your sauce came anywhere close to a boil, it is too hot to stir in your cheese right now. Your cheese sauce will curdle. You will cry. Your macaroni and cheese will not be as good as my mom's macaroni and cheese. It is worth your time to sit and wait and be patient for five minutes. Go make a cup of tea. Take a few deep breaths. Come back in five minutes.

Right! We're back. Stir grated cheese into your sauce, reserving about 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top. Taste and season with salt and (white) pepper. Mix sauce into pasta, spread into a casserole dish, top with grated cheese, and bake for 15 - 25 minutes until bubbly. Enjoy!

If you're not serving a toddler and want to fancy things up a bit, skip the melted cheese on top and make a nice crunchy topping from a couple tablespoons of melted butter and about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs. If you want to get really decadent, you could also mix some crispy fried bacon bits and green onions into the panko mixture. Just don't bring that nonsense around me or my older sister.

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Instead of reheating the leftovers in the oven, I like to scoop the mac and cheese into a saucepan and reheat on the stove with a bit of extra milk to prevent the pasta from drying out.

Banana Bran Muffins

Grady is having a bit of a problem. The kind of problem that occurs when one eats only white pasta and cheese and refuses to eat fruits or veg. Things were getting pretty desperate (and ugly, oh, so ugly) so I decided to use his love for baked goods against him. I modified my banana muffin recipe to boost the fibre content and without going into too much detail (you're welcome) he's a lot happier now. 

These muffins aren't too dense or heavy, and the topping provides a nice, sweet crunch, perfect for luring in unsuspecting toddlers. 

Transient

Ingredients

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

4 bananas, mashed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.  

In large bowl, combine flours, bran, wheat germ, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt. 

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In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, egg, melted butter, and vanilla. 

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Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until combined. Spoon into prepared muffin pan.

Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  

Makes 12 muffins.  

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

I love fresh blueberries. BC grows beautiful, plump blueberries and every summer I stock my fridge. I always overestimate how many fresh blueberries we can eat, though, so I end up with blueberries that are just on the verge of going bad and need to be eaten pronto. These muffins are perfect for using up the tail end of your blueberry bounty.

I started with this blueberry muffin recipe and made a few changes to suit my taste. The spices aren't overpowering at all, they just add a little warmth to the berries - a hint of "get ready for pumpkin spice season, bitches!"

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups blueberries
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon white sugar (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 375F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease well.

Mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and lemon zest in large bowl. Mix in blueberries.

In medium bowl, mix together egg, yogurt, oil, and vanilla.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar if you want a nice crunch.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.

Transient

Toddler-friendly Carrot Soup

Grady has big feelings about a lot of things but the thing we consistently do battle over is food. When I find a (healthy) food that he'll happily eat, I'm all over it, even if it means feeding him soup every day in the dead of summer. This soup is fast and easy (and can easily be made adult-friendly too.) 

Ingredients

4 heaping cups of chopped vegetables (I used just under three cups of carrots, about half a cup of celery, and about three quarters of a cup of onion.)  

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 cups of water or stock (I used 4 cups of water and 1 Tbsp of Better than Bouillon vegetable base) 

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Method

Heat oil in pan.

Cook vegetables over high heat, stirring often, for 7 - 10 minutes, until softened.  

Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (15 - 25 minutes depending on how big / thick they are.)  

Buzz with an immersion blender until smooth.  

That's it. Seriously. So easy. Grady loves this soup and eats it every damn day (even though it is so hot out, you guys. So hot.)  

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Variations

Add a few cloves of minced garlic when you cook the veg. Or some fresh ginger (chopped so that it will soften and can be blended.) Some dried ground cumin is also nice. Or cinnamon if you're feeling nostalgic. Add a can of coconut milk when you buzz it up for a smoother, creamier soup. There are so many different variations you can try (unless you're feeding a tiny dictator. Then I'd recommend sticking to a few flavours as possible.)