Healthy and Sane

Cold weather calls for comfort foods (mac & cheese recipe)

December 20th, 2009 · 18 Comments · comfort foods

Well, well, well – looks like winter is HERE. The temperatures have been dropping to single digits over the last few days, and when we woke up this morning, we had about a foot of snow on the ground. Cold weather calls for warm, comforting foods. My usual yogurt parfaits for breakfast and big salads for lunch have not seemed appealing lately. Instead, I’m dreaming of warm muffins, beef stews (weird, since I hardly ever eat red meat and not sure if I’ve ever craved a stew) and mac and cheese. The last one I’m pretty sure is on every American’s comfort food list.

I haven’t gotten to making any muffins or stews yet, but last night the mac and cheese daydream was made a reality. I based it on Alton Brown’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe (found here) but of course lightened it up a bit. Here is my version:


  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I used Barilla brand)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 1.5 cups of skim milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 ounces gruere, shredded
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 15 butter-style round crackers (I used these from Wild Harvest Organic brand)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, whisk in the flour, mustard, stir in the milk, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish (a heart shaped one is optional 😉 ). Top with remaining cheese.

Put the crackers in a ziplock baggie and crush them with your fist (like me, possibly a little ghetto) or a rolling pin (classier). Top the macaroni with the cracker crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

[Makes 4-6 portions]



This was cheesy and indulgent tasting, even without the butter, cream or insane amounts of cheese. The leftovers harden in the fridge, and you can enjoy a mac and cheese pie the next day. Mmm…


In related news (not mac and cheese-related, but cold weather/snow-related 😆 ) I’ve learned something new about my husband today. Apparently on a cold weekend day he cannot sit at home, sip hot chocolate and watch the snow fall while I bake cookies. He insisted that we go outside and take some pictures. So here are some pics… we didn’t make it too far. It was windy!!


Notice how we are the only ones on the street (except for the snow plow guy – he clearly was not out by choice). Yeah, we’re crazy.



My parents in law are driving down to see us today, so we’ll be taking them out for dinner. I think more comfort foods will be enjoyed! What’s your favorite comfort food?

P.S. – Only a few days left to enter the somersaults giveaway (enter here).

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Tiffany

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who likes to be out in falling snow. Thanks, Adam!

    I’m on my way to the grocery store to pick up some cold weather essentials (tea, soup, ect…), and on my list were ingredients for my nana’s homemade baked Mac and Cheese! Great minds think alike, huh? 😉

  • #2 - Lauren

    Mac and cheese definitely tops my list of favorite comfort foods, so I will be trying your lightened version! It looks delicious.

    Stay warm :).

  • #3 - Jenny

    oh, what I wouldn’t give for some homemade mac and cheese right now! I suppose Annie’s will have to suffice. Meh!

  • #4 - Cristina

    I’m up in Manchester, NH this weekend, but I live in the greater Boston area. I know there’s tons of snow everywhere, but up here we barely got snow. I took a photo outside and what blizzard? Blizzard elsewhere.

  • #5 - Katie


    I am ordering Chinese food and watching HPotter in the snow!

  • #6 - Shannon (The Daily Balance)

    you are killing me, Elina!!! yumyumyumyum yummmmm

  • #7 - Caroline

    Yey for a big old snowstorm in Boston and delicious looking comfort food! Soup is probably one my favorite comfort foods, the creamier the better!

  • #8 - Lara (Thinspired)

    You make such a cute little snowbunny!

    I have never made homemade mac and cheese but I have always, always wanted to! Question: does the mustard just add flavor, or are you supposed to really taste it? I ask because I notice it in most mac and cheese recipes but I hate plain mustard. Maybe that’s why I have never made it at home!

  • #9 - sister inna

    it’s nice that adam only wanted to take photos in the snow. Derek FORCED me to go for a run across the williamsburg bridge to “look at the scenery”. weirdo.
    i looove mac and cheese (as you know), and i love alton brown. the mustard question — i am curious about too… i’m so used to making mac and cheese from the box… do all these “weird” ingredients make it taste different?
    btw — looks like you’re putting the casserole dish to good use 😉

  • #10 - RunToTheFinish

    ohh we have been on a mac kick this year, but my favorite thing is to add veggies!! It’s so much fun to feel like I’m eating a meal from my childhood but filled with goodies

  • #11 - Elina

    Tiffany – sounds like a yummy comfort dinner :)

    Lara – I am not sure if you’re supposed to taste the mustard. I think there is a tiny hint of mustard in homemade mac and cheese recipes, but it’s not overwhelmingly mustardy. I think it pulls the other ingredients together, so if you don’t like mustard, I’d just reduce the amount but would not eliminate it all together 😀

    Innz- tell D he’s crazy! 😉 … and yeah, I LOVE the casserole dish. Makes me happy. See you tonight!!!

    RunToTheFinish – We’ll definitely add more veggies next time. I like that they bulk up the dish, make it more exciting AND add nutritional value – a perfect combo in my opinion!

  • #12 - Meredith (Pursuing Balance)

    So right about the cold weather and comfort foods! I’ve been eating soup and grilled cheezes :)

  • #13 - Kelly

    I am so glad I flew out on Thursday. Had I waited until the weekend my flight would have gotten cancelled for sure. I love Alton Brown’s mac & cheese recipe and I would say that my favorite comfort food recipe is anything with pasta.

  • #14 - bhealthier

    what great photos! looks cold and windy but fun! I love homemade mac and cheese now but despised it when I was little- totally craving it after reading this post!

  • #15 - Jesse

    Lasagna is my favorite, or really really rich clam chowder.

    It looked like that here in NYC too! Ewww… and then the streets get all yucky.

  • #16 - Jenna

    yummy homemade mac and cheese!

  • #17 - Kerstin

    That’s so funny, Apolinaras is the exact same way about the snow! He stayed up until 4am on Saturday night so he could get some shots of the undisturbed snow. I went to bed :)

    Yummy mac and cheese and I hope you had fun in NYC!

  • #18 - Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15)

    THAT is some smexy mac n’ cheese! -steals recipe-