For some reason lately I have been in a rut. A rut that leaves me struggling to will myself out of bed at 6:15 am to workout. Ugh. I have come to the conclusion that there is not one single reason as to why this is happening, but more like several…
- My first downfall was to allow myself to sleep until 9 am last Saturday. I never sleep in that late, but for some reason having the bed all to myself while Jake was at his retreat allowed me to be extra super comfy I guess.
- My second downfall was on Sunday Morning when I once again allowed myself to sleep in until 8:30 am. Darn the weekends!
- It has not helped that our weather has turned from beautiful early winter to freezing-your-butt-off cold Iowa weather and has made just the thought of getting outside of the covers unbearable.
- Waking up to my little Klausie curled up in my arm is just too cute and peaceful that it forces me to fall back asleep because I cannot bear the thought of waking him up. 🙂
- Staying up way past my bedtime recently because I cannot seem to put down Inside Scientology.
But these are all excuses and tomorrow my rut will be stopped. Because of my inability to get up early enough, I was forced to work out after work today. Double UGH. I cannot stand working out after work. It sets me up for feeling like a lump all day. And not to mention, it takes away from my free time in the evenings…
Like making dinner. I have been meaning to share this winter meal for the past couple of weeks, but haven’t found the perfect moment, until now. I guess it takes below freezing temps to get me in gear to give you one of the best baked mac and cheese recipes you will ever taste!
The original recipe was given to me over a year ago by my brother Fred who could not stop ranting and raving about this dish. Since then, Jake and I have made it over a dozen times and have tweaked it until creating the perfect blend of flavors. We have tried different onions, mustards, ways to cook the noodles and various cheeses. Our favorite version is one that adds a little kick, but still remains true to good ol’ baked mac and cheese.
Along with making this dish several times, I have been able to pinpoint little tips and tricks that help make this recipe even better.
First and foremost, but sure to have everything set out and ready to go before you start cooking. It makes things run a little bit smoother when trying to make the sauce.
When cooking the noodles, but sure they are done ‘al dente’. No one wants mushy mac and cheese, trust me, its not that fabulous.
Another must is to be sure to boil the pasta in heavily salted water. This adds a nice salty flavor to the noodles and brings out the other flavors in the mac and cheese.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan.
Once metled, add flour and mustard.
Be sure to keep this moving around the pan until it is pasty and a beautiful yellow color. You do not want any lumps.
Next add the milk,
paprika, green onions and bay leaves.
Jake and I tested out yellow, white and green onions. We both agreed that the green onions give a much milder flavor.
Be sure to stir continuously until you have a nice blend.
Temper in the egg. This is another must. The first time I made this I thought “Oh it will be okay if I don’t”. But I was wrong. Way wrong. That night I ate scrambled eggs with some noodles and cheese. Not good.
To temper an egg, means to slowly add a hot liquid to the egg so that you are allowing the egg to slowly warm up without cooking it and turning it into a scrambled egg.
I add at least four spoonfuls of hot liquid to the egg, whisking as I go. Pour the tempered egg back into the sauce.
Now for the best part, pour 2 cups of the shredded cheese into the sauce.
Jake and I use Shullsburg Longhorn Pepper Jack Cheese. The flavor is out of this world delicious and makes this dish burst with flavor and a kick.
Once the cheese is added, stir over medium heat. And then stir some more. 🙂 I have found that while you don’t want the sauce to come to a rolling boil, you do want it to simmer at a medium temperature to thicken up. This should take about 10-12 minutes. The sauce will be done when it has a nice cheesy and thick texture.
Add the cooked noodles. Season with salt and pepper.
Once combined, pour the delicious, creamy, ooey, gooey, macaroni and cheese into a greased 13×9 casserole dish.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Sprinkle panko bread crumbs on top of the cheese.
Bake until a light golden brown and bubbly on the sides.
You will see the cheese sauce baked into the noodles.
And your taste buds will not be disappointed.
Somehow when I made this, I forgot to take pictures of it plated. My guess is that our mouths were watering so much that we didn’t stop to think before we inhaled our dinner.
But pictures of it being plated or not, this baked macaroni and cheese is divine and a must make!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Alton Brown on foodnetwork.com
- 2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
- salt and pepper
- Panko bread crumbs
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil elbow macaroni in kosher salted water until cooked al dente.
- Meanwhile in a separate pot, melt butter.
- Add in flour and mustard. Keep it moving with a whisk or back of spoon for five minutes. Be sure there are no lumps.
- Stir in milk, onions, bay leaves and paprika. Stirring continuously, simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 10-12 minutes.
- Temper in egg.
- Stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour into a greased 13×9 casserole dish.
- Top noodles with remaining cheese.
- Sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs.
- Back in oven for 30 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.
- Allow dish to sit for a few minutes before serving.
Well in hopes of getting back on track with my routine, I am headed to bed earlier than the past few nights in hopes that I can get some good shut-eye and be up bright and early to tackle P90x plyometrics. Wish me good luck!
What are some of your favorite winter dishes?