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Easy Cheesy Mac & Cheese October 7, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, Freezer Meals.
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Back in the days when  Surly Boy used to bring his friends by the house, there was one thing that struck me as enormously sad.

Few, if any, of those friends regularly had dinner at a table with a family.  Given that I grew up with the “family dinner” every single night, and to my knowledge, everyone I know did, too, and I brought up my son the same way, this was inconceivable to me.

I mean, it’s not like cooking a hot, reasonably healthy dinner is all that challenging, is it?  I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager, after all.  (My mother spent several weeks in the hospital when I was 14, and, what with my father being pretty, well, hapless in the kitchen and all, the bulk of the cooking and cleaning duties feel on the oldest – me.)

Well, it turns out that it is, in fact, that challenging.  My observations led to research which indicated that families were far less likely to gather around the dinner table for dinner than I had ever imagined.  Moms are working, kids have after school activities, and people have neither the time nor the inclination to figure out, let alone cook, a decent meal.

Then I happened upon just the thing – the meal prep industry.  And sure enough, Rochester was lacking in such a resource for busy parents.

So a few years ago, Peeps and I scraped together virtually every available dime we had, along with every nickel we could beg, borrow or steal (except the stealing part – that would be wrong), and we opened our own meal-prep business.

Unfortunately, this was a completely foreign concept here in upstate New York, and it took a while to get the word out.  By the time we were just starting to break even, financially, the economy started going sour, and the people who really hadn’t had the time to get comfortable with the idea in the first place were less and less inclined to spend the money on what they perceived as a luxury . . . and to make a long story short (if it’s not already too late for that!), we lost our shirts.  Well, not our shirts, exactly, but our savings.  And our credit.  And a good chunk of our pride.

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, while we ran this business, we collected a lot of recipes.  I’m talking dozens hundreds – all developed to be assembled and frozen, to be cooked when needed.    And it occurs to me that surely, we must have a reader or two who could use a helping hand when it comes to getting dinner on the table!

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So how about a nice pot of macaroni and cheese for a chilly autumn evening?  You can either cook it now, or the component parts can be frozen and cooked at your convenience.  And it’s so simple!

For a pound of elbows, we start with 4-5 cups of shredded cheese – that’s about a pound to a pound and a quarter.  I used 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar, 8 ounces of colby jack, and a couple of ounces of just sharp cheddar.

If you’re playing the freezer game, go ahead and stick the cheese in a freezer bag and freeze it separately.

Meanwhile, you’re going to whisk together one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, 4 eggs, a teaspoon of hot sauce (Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot) a teaspoon and a half each of kosher salt and dry mustard, and a healthy pinch of black pepper.

PhotobucketAgain, if you’re freezing this, just dump it into a freezer bag and freeze it, too.  Take the bag of cheese and the bag of liquid and stick them in a gallon bag – that will keep them all together in the freezer!  Be sure to label the bag, otherwise you’ll wonder what the heck it is when you find it squished in the bottom of the freezer!

PhotobucketWhen you’re ready to serve, cook a pound of macaroni until just al dente – maybe a minute short of actually being done, then add a half stick (4 Tablespoons) of butter and stir until melted.

Over a very low heat, slowly stir in the evaporated milk-egg mixture.

Then stir in your cheese, a handful at a time, waiting until the previous handful is mostly melted before adding more.   Just keep stirring – it doesn’t take long!

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Before you know it, you’ve got a wonderfully rich and cheesy bowl full of mac & cheese, one that didn’t take any longer than the boxed stuff – well, not much longer, anyway.

And hey, at least you know what’s in this!

By the way, you can also use lower fat cheese and evaporated milk, as well as add in some tomatoes or hot dogs or spinach or whatever your little heart desires – and it’s always going to taste better than anything that comes from a mix!

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Comments

1. sjbraun - October 7, 2009

I love eating as a family too. Funny story – the other night, my middle daughter asked if we were eating all together that night. I said yes, and she said, “Awww, I like it better when we just all eat on our own.” Kids …
Thanks for the homemade mac n cheese tips – I just know it would be tons better than the box kind (with which I’m quite familiar 🙂

– I know what you mean – sometimes there just no figuring out these kids, is there? Surly Boy’s friends used to love having dinner at our house – we actually cooked. Him – he’d have rather just had ramen noodles out of the pan. 🙄

2. kathleen - October 7, 2009

Oh my goodness, yes, please.

That looks amazing, and I can’t tell you how much I value a good freeze ahead plan. Next fall I’ll be going (back!) to school full time while trying to work at least part time, so it looks like Sundays will be my cook and freeze day. I’m working on trying out recipes before the madness begins – this is definitely on the list!

As for eating as a family, we ate together about half the time, less than that as we got older. So it’s amazing to watch my sister make sitting down with her family a priority. It seems to create an ease with spending time together. I wish we had eaten together more!

-k

– Kathleen, congratulations on going back to school! I did the same thing when I went back, balanced full-time classes, part-time job, and a home and family – you’ll have your hands full!

Be sure to stop back again – I’m going to work on expanding the “Freezer Cooking” category – hopefully you’ll find some recipes you can use!


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