Beefy Mac and Cheese

Beefy Mac and Cheese

Beefy Mac and Cheese

Don’t you think it’s about time we get down to the real thing?….We’ve roasted vegetables, cut up pumpkin,  and peeled apples.  Now let’s eat some mac and cheese.   Here we are into November and we have every right to put apples in our pancakes, chicken in our pot pies, and chili beef in our Mac and Cheese.  We have every right to all the comfort foods we can possibly eat.

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Routines are comforting don’t you think?   I have my routines.   I get my oil changed every 3000 miles, I get my hair cut every 6 weeks, I drag myself out of bed every morning and back into it every night somewhere between 11 and 12m.  It all feels good, and right.   In the catalog of sometimes mundane routines is this Mac and Cheese recipe.

About three times a year I over-indulge and make this dish and wonder why I don’t make it a part of my more pressing monthly routine.   Then I remember the calories, making the roux, assembling it all and baking it.  Its worth it though, but still it remains my every-once-in-a-while dish.  Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much when I do make it.  Something about absence making the heart grow fonder?

My variation:  the recipe calls for 8 oz. ground beef, but I like the dish heartier, so I use 1 pound of beef and double up on the tomato paste and chili powder.  This makes a thicker layer of chili beef under the mac and cheese, and you get more in every bite.  Use either half or a whole pound of beef, it’s up to you, and either way it’ll be delicious!  That’s what we do it 🙂

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BEEFY MAC AND CHEESE

Yield:    Serves 4

Ingredients:IMG_8417

  • 8 ounces medium pasta shells
  • 3 Tbsp, unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-fat milk ( 1%)
  • 2  2/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend ( about 8 oz,)
  • 2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs, preferably panko
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions:

1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook as the package directs.  Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

2.  Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and chili powder and stir until brick red, about 2 minutes.  Add the beef and cook, stirring, until browned, 4 minutes.

Browning the beef.

Browning the beef.

Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Spread the mixture in a 3-quart baking dish.  Preheat the oven.

3. Having cooked the beef, now we make a roux.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the same skillet over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. (It’s a thick and goopy mess.  You’re totally doing it right.)  Slowly add the milk and reserved cooking water.

Making the roux.

Making the roux.

Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking away until thick, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups cheese, the cooked pasta and 3/4 teaspoon salt and stir until the cheese melts.

Stir in the cheese and let it melt.

Stir in the cheese and let it melt.

Add the cooked pasta.

All that cheesy sauce gets inside the shells…Oh, Wow!

Spread over the beef mixture.  This is all about layering flavors.

4.  Mix the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and the breadcrumbs; sprinkle over the pasta mixture and bake for about 20 minutes.

Top with remaining cheese and bake.

Top with remaining cheese and crumbs and bake for 20 minutes.

Before removing from the oven, turn on the broiler, and broil until the top is golden and crunchy.  Top with the scallions and serve.

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Oh man… this is really good!

SOURCE:   Cooking Light

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Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Comfort Foods!  Just those two words bring to mind certain foods that we grew up with, or crave at one time or another.  Maybe you’ve had a bad day, and just want a familiar meal that you know you love.  Perhaps it’s mid-winter, freezing cold, and you want something to eat that feels like being wrapped up in a warm quilt.  Or you just broke up with your boyfriend, best friend, or had to have a pet “put to sleep”.  You want food that will make you feel better, if that’s possible.  Food that gives you comfort is naturally called “comfort food”.

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Well, here’s a question that I’ve been pondering;  do you crave comfort foods in hot weather?  Aren’t comfort foods warm foods that give you a “warm fuzzy”?  I can’t think of any cold foods that do that, and in hot weather don’t we usually want cold foods to cool us off, so where do comfort foods fit in?

That is the dilemma I faced last week.  The weekend had served up warm, sunny days in the mid to high 80’s.  It was hot, we ate salads!   Come Monday, the temperature is in the 60’s, and its raining, cold and damp outside.  Then I go for my dance lesson, where every move I make gets corrected, and I can’t seem to do anything right.  (That’s an exaggeration, but it felt that way).  And to top it all off, I forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner.  Does this day qualify for a comfort meal?  I thought it did.

This recipe for a variation on Mac and Cheese is my solution to wanting, no needing, something comforting to eat, but little time to prepare it, so let’s call this “Quick Comfort Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon”.  Even though the calendar tells us it’s late spring or early summer, this dish was perfect for my needs.  And Mr. D.  loved it too, saying it was fabulous, and “hit the spot”.

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Note:  included here is a trick I learned at one time:  a little bit of turmeric enhances the color, making you perceive the sauce as cheesier than it actually is.  It adds no additional flavor of its own, it’s only there for color, so if it’s not in your cupboard, just omit it and use a yellow cheddar cheese.

BROCCOLI MAC AND CHEESE WITH BACON

Yield:  Serves 4IMG_7492

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces uncooked large or regular elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups prechopped broccoli florets
  • 3 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1 cup 1 % low-fat milk
  • 1 jar Alfredo Sauce with cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions, adding a little salt to the water.  Add broccoli to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking.  Drain.

Add broccoli to end of pasta cooking time.

Add broccoli to end of pasta cooking time.

2.  While pasta cooks, place bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat;  cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.  Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon.  Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in the pan.  Add chopped garlic and the turmeric, if using.  Cook 1 minute, stirring throughout.

3.  Combine the milk with the Alfredo sauce, stirring with a whisk to blend well. Add to skillet with garlic, and mix together.  Bring to a simmer, and add 3/4 cup shredded cheese.  Stir to melt and blend in the cheese, stir in half the bacon.  Taste sauce and add salt and pepper if needed.

Making the cheese sauce with Alfredo sauce.

Making the cheese sauce with Alfredo sauce.

4.  Add the drained pasta and broccoli,  toss to coat.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese and remaining bacon over the top.

Add macaroni and broccoli to cheese.

Add macaroni and broccoli to cheese sauce.

Preheat the broiler to high.   Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown.  If time allows,  this dish could be baked for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top a little browned.

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Broccoli Mac and Cheese served with a salad.

Broccoli Mac and Cheese served with a salad.

 

SOURCE:   a Carolyn’s Originals