Saturday, September 19, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

It's 3 a.m. The wind is whipping the rain against the side of the house and it is streaming down the windows. Inside the air is cool, but I lay warm and snug in my bed, listening.

It was my first night back in flannel pajammy bottoms and the coziness draws me to think of other satisfying "comforts". A bubble bath after a hectic day, a kiss shared by the fire with my sweetie, a great meal after a hard workout, an unexpected belly laugh, that first sip of coffee in the morning, sharing a bottle of wine, good company, good conversation, going out for breakfast and macaroni and cheese! Ahhhh..mac and cheese. The ultimate comfort food. Which I probably should have mentioned first as it is at the top of nearly everyones "favorites" list, except for Julie Andrews who prefers to think, strudel is a favored meal. Food lover and writer that I am, strudel really isn't on....hmm, let's see....well any of my lists and seems so yesterday, but macaroni and cheese is about as flexible and forgiving as food gets unless you are the fussy kind that has to eat gourmet mac and then you have to change the name and it really isn't what it should be or what it started out as which means your comfort meter just blew its top. Macaroni and cheese is for everyone, but don't try to dress it up because in the end, it's still just macaroni and cheese the old fashioned way and it doesn't get any better or easier to make unless you can put all the ingredients in your crockpot like I do.

I work. A lot. And I have a family that needs to eat. A lot. This recipe was an inspiration from a friend of mine who proved to me that macaroni and cheese can be made in a crock pot and when I became a believer, I made her recipe over and over until somehow, magically, it changed over the course of time like recipes do. I like this version because it is fast when you don't have time and the only thing that would make it better is if you sprinkled cooked chopped bacon over the top. Two comfort foods in one. I like it!

Macaroni and Cheese

* Use cooking spray and coat inside of crock pot. Macaroni noodles are precooked. Do not overcook mac in the crock pot as the cheese will burn.

1 bag Elbow macaroni noodles, cooked
1 can condensed milk
1 C. milk
1/2 onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 C. grated cheddar cheese
2 C. grated Italian cheese blend, separated
1/4 C. bread crumbs

After you have sprayed the inside of your crockpot, add the precooked macaroni noodles. In a small bowl, combine condensed milk through first cup of grated Italian cheese blend. Mix ingredients and pour over the top of noodles. At this point, I use a spoon and mix all the ingredients together. When mixing is done, sprinkle the last remaining cup of grated Italian cheese blend and bread crumbs over the top. Place the lid on the crockpot and turn on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Be careful to not overcook. Also, when you are using your crock pot, do not lift the lid despite how tempting it may be. Lifting the lid results in severe heat and moisture loss and it can take an extra twenty minutes to regain the temperature once lost which will not only dry out your food, but extend your cooking time. This is a great side dish or can be used as a main dish accompanied by a green salad. Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food!

Recipe inspired by Esther Stewart 2009

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