Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Homemade Mac & Cheese

I always preferred Velveeta boxed macaroni and cheese to the typical Kraft blue box. It was creamier and I liked the more substantial sauce. I also liked frozen mac and cheese a lot. Same thick, creamy cheese sauce.

Looking back, that stuff is really gross. :(

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The ingredient list for Velveeta Shells & Cheese:

Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Durum Wheat Flour, Glyceryl Monostearate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid); Cheese Sauce (Milk, Whey, Water, Canola Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Sodium Alginate, Lactic Acid, Oleoresin Paprika [Color], Natural Flavor, Cheese Culture, Enzymes, Annatto [Color], Sorbic Acid As A Preservative). Contains; Wheat, Milk.

All of those items in bold are the 'cheese' sauce. Canola oil? Gross.

In case you hadn't guessed, I make my own mac & cheese these days! It's not nearly as hard as it sounds. In fact, it's really not that much more difficult than making boxed mac & cheese. I also can use my own cheese, ingredients: milk, cultures, salt and enzymes. 

When picking out cheese, I always buy a block of cheese versus the shreds and just grate it at home. The shreds have that powdery stuff to help keep it from sticking together. It's cellulose (wood pulp) and I'd just prefer not to use it! I also choose white cheese because the orange color is just food dye (unnecessary) and when its affordable I like to go for something grass fed, organic and local. The farmer's market is my favorite place to pick some up- the cheeses are just incredible- but, Trader Joe's is a great back up with a huge selection.

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(Yes, that mac & cheese was made with white cheese! The trace amount of mustard helps, as does the yolk of the egg. The eggs we get from the farmer's market have really bright orange yolks!)

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 box whole wheat pasta (shells, elbows or spirals work best)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz gouda, shredded

Directions

  1. Boil a pot of water and cook pasta until tender
  2. Remove pasta from heat, drain, toss with butter and return to pot
  3. Whisk together the half and half, egg, salt, pepper and mustard
  4. Slowly pour the half and half mixture into the pasta, stirring constantly
  5. Turn the heat under the pot on low
  6. Handful by handful, drop in the shredded cheese and stir continuously while adding in the cheese
  7. When the cheese is melted and mixed in (this takes about a minute) remove from heat and serve

This stuff is delicious. If you want, you can pop it into a casserole dish and sprinkle it with some breadcrumbs, butter and more cheese then bake it. Most of the time I just want to eat it immediately so we skip that step. 

The mixture of cheddar and gouda gives the cheese sauce a strong flavor (cheddar) with a creamy texture (gouda). I use regular yellow mustard versus the powdered mustard in most recipes because I don't use powdered mustard in any other recipes and never have it on hand. Just be careful to use a very small amount of yellow mustard!

This is so easy that I made two batches in a row last night- one for Brian and I, and another to drop off with a friend today. I'm tempted to use my leftover cheese make another batch to keep in my freezer for a back up dinner! Enjoy :)

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