Monday, January 19, 2015

Marvelous Macaroni Casserole and the Idiot Who Made It

One of the blogs I give huge credit to starting me on the road to better eating is called 100 Days of Real Food. She is a mom from South Carolina who started changing her family's eating habits, cutting out processed foods, cooking at home more, eating out less, and blogging about the process. She came out with a fantastic cookbook this fall and I have made many of her recipes and haven't been disappointed with one yet. I was perusing the book on Friday and saw a macaroni casserole recipe that sounded amazing, and slightly different from any homemade macaroni I had ever made before. I have failed a few attempts at homemade macaroni and cheese, mostly in the process of melting the cheese and instead burning it, so I am always hesitant of recipes where whisking milk and melting cheese is required. I decided to give it a chance, only then remembering after I had promised to make it that I in fact couldn't eat it due to my cleanse (On day 8 today, still can't wait for coffee and dark chocolate). I am an idiot because I made it anyway torturing myself in the process, but at least I had something to write about.

This particular recipe is directly from the cookbook and not on her website (which has tons of great recipes too). I take no credit for the recipe or the instructions but I will tell you the slight changes I made to it.

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup diced onion (I used yellow onion)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
2 cups of milk (I used 2%)
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used Colby because it's what I had already shredded)
1 1/2 cups of dry pasta cooked according to package directions (I used elbow macaroni, but any tube type pasta should work)
1 cup add-in veggies (I used leftover ham spiral ham cut in small pieces, but you can use broccoli, peas, carrots, chicken, whatever sounds good to you)
1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used Panko)

1. Preheat the oven to 450F

2. In large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and garlic and whisk continuously until the flour mixture begins to brown. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to boil (This seemed to take awhile for me but I didn't want to turn up the heat for fear of burning it). Lower the heat to light simmer and cook until milk thickens, whisking occasionally,

4. Turn off the heat and whisk in salt, pepper, sour cream, and cheese. Add the noodles (make sure they are cooked, I didn't mess this up but I can see how someone could) and any add ins you've planned to add and stir until well coated. Don't worry if it seems like to much sauce, the noodles will absorb this while it's baking.

5. Transfer the mixture to a 8 or 9 inch baking dish, sprinkle the breadcrumbs, and bake for 14-15 minutes or until bread crumbs are brown on top. Serve warm.
After adding milk and flour

In goes the pasta and the ham

Breadcrumbs added and oven ready

Done and dinner ready
This was delicious! I allowed myself a very small portion so I could try it and it took an amazing amount of self control to stop. It was cheesy, creamy, with just a touch of sour cream flavor. The breadcrumbs gave it a bit of crunch and the ham just tasted fantastic mixed in with all of the cheese flavors. You definitely could add your own flare to this one, adding veggies or hot dogs (I recommend the Applegate Farms ones, no fillers and very few ingredients) or even just changing the type of cheese you use. Everyone in the family loved it, though the 5 year old complained about the onions (but she always does, and you could probably leaves them out). Between everyone, we had about half of this left, which I divided into two lunch portions for the husband and a small lunch portion for my daughter. I will make this again, especially when I can enjoy a slightly larger portion. This dish will make it into my dinner rotation list, though not super often, even though it's all real food ingredients it's still very high in calories (a definite sometimes food).

This cookbook is worth buying, I use it on at least a weekly basis and it has a permanent home in my kitchen. The price varies on but its around $22 ($20.37 right now for a hardback and 14.44 on Kindle). It's an Amazon bestseller and has fantastic Amazon and Goodreads ratings. Real Food can be still be comfort food and this dish definitely qualifies as both. I think you will love this dish and 100 Days of Real Food as well.

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