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

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:

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

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]

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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…

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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!!

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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.

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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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