Healthy and Sane

Weeknight light mac & cheese

November 9th, 2011 · 17 Comments · comfort foods, pasta, quick, The Best Light Recipe cookbook

I’ve had 3 days without a full time job now. People keep telling me to have fun “doing nothing” all day, but if you know me at all, you know that’s just not how I roll.  For months (years?) I’ve had a million things I was hoping I’d have time or energy to do but never did. And now I feel like it’s my chance. I’ve been cleaning, scrubbing, planning, shopping, blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing (and apparently making up words)… and learning. I’m learning that there is a whole other world out there during the 9-5 time slot. A world where people move a lot slower, A LOT slower. Where housewives like telling you (a complete stranger!) all about how much money they spent decorating their house while trying to bargain with the sales clerk on the price of a picture frame (she didn’t budge). And where between traffic and “story telling” all of this results in your errands taking over 6 hours (!!) and that’s without a trip to the gym, a stop for lunch (some pretzels, an apple and an Ikea soft serve count as lunch, right?) or a minute of tv watching. Forget about your dreams of having an elaborate dinner ready for Adam every night when he gets home.

A recipe for a quick and light mac & cheese to the rescue!


I wouldn’t have it any other way! Smile

Weeknight light mac & cheese

Largely based on Cook’s Illustratt ed The Best Light Recipe

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 8 oz dry macaroni
  • 12 oz can of reduced fat evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 8 oz 50% light cheddar cheese, such as Cabot – shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 slices bacon (I used fresh bacon from Stillman’s which tasted more like pork tenderloin than smoky bacon… I think real cured bacon would be really nice here)


  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
  • Fry bacon, then pat dry between paper towels and dice. Discard bacon fat.
  • Bring a mixture of evaporated milk, 1/2 cup milk, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  • Add in frozen peas.
  • Whisk cornstarch with the remainder of milk. Add to the evaporated milk + peas mixture.
  • Continue whisking until the sauce is thickened. Take off heat.
  • Whisk in shredded cheddar cheese, then macaroni.
  • Let the mac & cheese rest for about 5 minutes so the sauce is absorbed into the macaroni.
  • Stir in bacon. Adjust for seasoning, if needed.
  • Enjoy! Open-mouthed smile


I was impatient so my first serving was a bit runny but still creamy and definitely plenty cheesy. The sauce really thickened up overnight so the leftovers were spot on.

What are you latest favorite recipes for busy nights?

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Megan

    Mac and cheese is definitely one of my go-tos on a busy night. We also went through a phase of making lots of pizzas on Flatout Breads. Really quick and easy.

  • #2 - Michelle

    I know that I had a hard time enjoying doing nothing….which is why I’m going to tell you do enjoy doing it! :-)

  • #3 - Lauren at Keep It Sweet

    Isn’t it amazing how busy you can be even without working?! This looks perfect for one of those days!

  • #4 - Renee {Eat.Live.Blog}

    I am all over this recipe! Thanks!

    When I worked from home, my schedule consisted of 7am gym, 9am work for 2 hours, Noon find a new restaurant to try for lunch,1pm Shopping, 3pm cooking & some more work. It was awesome. :)

  • #5 - inna

    i must have some amazing ESP. Was totally craving mac n cheese yesterday morning 😀 YUM

  • #6 - nicole

    oh I wish I had the chance to go. Very jealous. awesome book in your swag bag. I have it and it is so awesome for inspiring for fun parties.

  • #7 - nicole

    oops… previous msg for a different blog… too many windows = mass confusion! ha.

    Love your mac and cheese recipe.

  • #8 - Kelly

    When nights get busy I tend to either throw things together for random pasta dishes or I make pressed/panini sandwiches. Often those sandwiches, at least this time of year, involve things that I’ve roasted when I have more time and sliced so all I have to do when things get busy is assemble.

    This beet sandwich is a recent favorite:

    As is this sandwich I made last year around this time:

    I remember reading your initial post about leaving your job and I’m curious what you hope to do next. I hope this doesn’t come off wrong (i.e. the equivalent of when you’re graduating from college and everyone asks you what you’re going to do next and it stresses you out because you’re still figuring it out), but I’m curious whether you were leaning toward getting another job in your field, blogging full-time, going back to school, or something completely different. Or perhaps still figuring it out, which is completely fine and reasonable.

    Whichever, I think a break between jobs is a must. I took 2 weeks between my current job and my last and it was nice just to get in a happier frame of mind and get things in order.

    • #9 - Elina

      Kelly – I’m super excited for the link to the ricotta + roasted beef sandwich because I just made fresh ricotta!! [Post coming up tomorrow.] As far as the job situation goes, I’m taking time off to figure things out. Right now I’m so burnt out that I don’t think another job in finance will make me happy but I need this time off to really be able to say this for sure (who knows, maybe I’ll crave it in a month!). So no plan so far – just get all these errands/ projects out of my system, cook up a storm, volunteer, try some things… and then we’ll see where that takes me.

      • #10 - Kelly

        Glad to hear that the ricotta went well! That used to be one of my favorites to make. Not to be completely random, but if you ever want to start with raw milk when doing so there is a GREAT farm I used to love. I don’t remember the name offhand but if you’re interested shoot me an email and I’ll look for the info. Essentially it’s this lady’s small farm and the milk was great – very creamy and rich tasting. I know raw milk freaks some people out but for cheesemaking I found it MUCH more reliable to work with than a lot of store-bought milks (especially since so many are ultra pasteurized).

        I figured as much re: the job situation and am so happy for you that you’re able to do this. I think sometimes a little time away helps your perspective immensely. It sounds like you’re really planning on taking advantage of the time to do things you might not otherwise get to do while working.

  • #11 - Tara

    Oooh I haven’t had mac and cheese in ages!! That must have been a nice treat to come home to. My favorite “recipe” for busy nights is stir fry. I just through some veggies, some protein, a grain, and some sauce in a pan and mix it all up. It’s easy to change up too so I never get bored with it!

  • #12 - Hogger & Co.

    YES, to mac n’ cheese – hubby and I had it yesterday! haha – yours looks far more elaborate, though.

  • #13 - Lara

    Between working from home and moving around so much in the last few years, I’ve had a lot of time spent at home. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be a lot of the time…because everyone else is working! However, like you, I’ve been able to attack a lot of projects around the house. Everything has its pros and cons, right?!

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m ALWAYS looking for a lighter mac and cheese recipe to try :)

  • #14 - Meghan@travelwinedine

    Looks so yummy, and I love your pictures. It is hard adjusting to life away from the rat race. Take it from me, enjoy it while you can, you will get busy again!

  • #15 - Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo)

    Yum, next time I make M&C, I’m coming back here for the recipe- I didn’t know about the evap. milk trick.

    I’m not going to tell you to enjoy your time ‘doing nothing.’ As I read the words “It took 6 hrs to do errands” or something like that, I nodded my head in agreement. I haven’t worked in 2 or 3 yrs and quite frankly there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to do. And that includes having no time to read blogs and barely write my own! I think that if you’re like me you’ll find a zillion ways to keep busy and never, ever be bored.

    • #16 - Elina

      Yup. Exactly :) How did I do all of this with a full time job? Oh yeah… I went crazy 😉

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