Well, it's Day 3 of the VanderLeek family quarantine. Other than running out on Sunday night to pick up Calamine lotion, I have yet to leave the house since finding out that our 2 year old has Chicken Pox. I must admit, I'm getting a touch of cabin fever. After cleaning and finishing taxes for my friend's business on Monday, cooking some yummies yesterday, and a noticeable increase in the amount of time I'm spending on Pinterest, I'm feeling the need to get out and do stuff. However, I'm hoping to rein in that energy and convert it into practical energy for household duties. Or, you know, more cooking.
My cooking yesterday was in part a restitution to my husband for past negligence. You see, Matt's favorite home-cooked meal is baked Mac and Cheese with a breadcrumb topping, and save for about once a year, I never make it for him. This is partly because I have not been thrilled with the recipes I've used and hadn't found a real 'wow' recipe yet. Usually the flavor isn't quite right, the cheese separates or the breadcrumbs aren't as yummy as they ought to be. Well, thanks to yesterday's forray into the world of Mac and Cheese, I expect to make this much more often now! I started out with a base recipe that I found through Pinterest. Surprise, surprise, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. For starters, the recipe called for whole milk, while I used 2% (quite simply because it's what I had in the house). To compensate for the lost fat, I added about 2 tbsp of sour cream. This also helped make up for the fact that I used medium cheddar cheese instead off sharp - although in the future I'll make sure to use sharp, and I'll probably throw in a sharp white cheese too. The sour cream added such a nice flavor to it that I'll make sure to do that again in the future. One of the nice things about this recipe was it's use of onion powder. I have to say, I really hate onion powder normally. The flavor isn't anything like a fresh onion and after even setting foot in a house that has used onion powder on a roast or something, I smell like it for days. In this dish though, it was the perfect thing. A good Mac and Cheese sauce starts out like all good cheese sauces: a medium white sauce with some grated cheese stirred in. But when you add in chopped onion to that cheese sauce, particularly if you cook it into the sauce before you add the milk, it actually encourages separation. The onion powder, while it's not a substitute for fresh onion, is a great substitute for deeply cooked onions. It was the best way to season the sauce without separating it. Another pro about this recipe was how it reserved some cheese from the sauce to stir directly into the pasta - this made it a cheesier, stringier mix, rather than just a cheese-flavored sauce. Oh yes, and one more bonus point for the recipe: Panko instead of breadcrumbs. I loved the extra crispiness! As did my darling husband who was thrilled with this recipe. I assured him that I would use sharp cheese next time and that was all he needed to hear to make it the perfect dish.
So here's my actual recipe for Mac and Cheese, adapted from a recipe found on Babble.com:
A Perfect Pot of Mac and Cheese:
1/2 package of elbow pasta, cooked and drained
1 tbsp butter
1 small clove garlic
Salt and Pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp flour
1 c. 2% milk
2 tbsp sour cream
3 c. shredded sharp cheddar (sub in some other sharp cheeses if you want!)
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. Add in crushed garlic clove and cook over medium heat until softened. Stir in salt, pepper, onion powder and flour. Whisk in milk. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking regularly. Whisk in 1 1/2 c. shredded cheese and sour cream. Pour sauce over cooked pasta and stir until well combined. Fold in remaining cheese (do this while the sauce is still hot so that the cheese mixes well - otherwise you may get clumps). Pour pasta into a 9x9 square baking pan.
1 c. panko crumbs
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp oregano
Stir together panko, chili powder and oregano. Stir in melted butter. Sprinkle evenly across top of pasta.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.
Unfortunately I have no insight into how this tastes the day after because my husband stole it all for his lunch today! But since I made it for him, I suppose that's fair :)
In addition to Mac and Cheese, I also made pretzel bites yesterday! These are, unfortunately, not the fat-free variety of soft pretzel. These are instead the sugar-added, fat-added, extra salty kind of pretzel that you would find at the mall. They were, however, super yummy and I'm ashamed to say how few we have left today.
Since we're still expecting to be under quarantine this weekend, we will not be heading to Calgary again, where we were expected to attend my Grandpa's birthday potluck. It happened to fall on St. Patty's Day - lucky for my Irish grandfather - and there was supposed to be a strong Irish theme running through the whole event (as much of an Irish theme as you can get at a dry event, that is.) Well, now that we're staying home, I plan to make our own merriment for St. Patty's Day. All thing green and Irish will be welcome in our home that day. Some old tricks like Leprechaun Kisses (my parents would draw green lips on us while we were sleeping... right up through high school. We were horrified to fall asleep the night before and wake up with a green sharpie tattoo on our face...), green milk, clover pancakes and wearing green are givens in our household. In addition to that, however, I also plan to make irish soda bread, perhaps some potato patty's and I'm going to see if I can track down some lamb for stew (if the demand goes up, does the price go up or down? While supply is limited I know it would go up, but if stores can order in bulk shipments of something they normally wouldn't, I'd think the prices would go down...). I'm also hoping to make some Irish Cream flavored fudge (Matt looooooooves fudge) and Irish Cream flavored italian sodas.
But until that day comes, I'm still on quarantine with nothing better to do than to browse Pinterest and, sigh, more taxes. Wish me luck.
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)