26 February, 2011
Mac in springtimePosted in : Fixins, Recipes on by : Lauri
Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and is worth doing well. I prefer the homemade, large-elbow type with a bechamel base and a baked crumb topping. However, the ubiquitous boxes may have their place for fast function, when chosen well and deliciously souped-up. With alternative brands suchas Annie’s becoming more readily available, we’re no longer limited to the dubious choice between freezer burn or chemical enhancement when there isn’t time for homemade.
I probably do this once every couple of months, usually on cold days when I don’t want to think very hard about my food. Albertson’s and its sister stores carry a line called Wild Harvest Organic which includes a wide array of products, including a decent White Cheddar Mac & Cheese package. I rarely make this the same way twice, and never according to package directions — it’s just too easy to make it better and healthier. Here’s today’s version:
- Boil noodles until fairly tender. You should be able to push a noodle against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon and cut it in half quite easily.
- Drain noodles in a colander, shaking off excess water, and dump them back into the saucepan. Reduce stove heat to med-low (about a 4), and return pan to burner.
- Add 1T margarine alternative such as Smart Balance or Earth Balance spread: these have no trans fats and melt well in light cooking such as this.
- Add 1 teaspoon brown or dijon mustard for tanginess.
- Empty packet of cheese sauce into the saucepan. Stir a bit.
- Stir in about 1/4 c milk: there should be enough liquid so the mixture seems a bit too wet, but without puddling in the bottom of the pan. This moisture will help in the next step, and will reduce down (evaporate) as you cook, to make a nice, thick sauce.
- Add 1/2 c frozen peas and 1/2 c shredded carrots: they’re fine from a pre-shredded bag, as I used here, or shred 1 medium-sized carrot into the pan with a hand grater. Mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 more minutes over med-low heat, stirring occasionally.
- When the peas are cooked, the dish is done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, chopped chives or a spinach leaf. This is enough for two people, or two meals: it’s probably too heavy for most people to eat in one sitting. Add a salad, and you’ve got a very fast, satisfying meal.
Prep/cooking time: Ten minutes or so
Calories: About 350 (1/2 recipe)
Cost: Less than $3.50 (total recipe)
Cleanup: One pan, one colander, one serving spoon, two forks, two plates
*Calories calculated with the help of CalorieKing.com‘s simply awesome food database.