No Guilt Mac and Cheese

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I have been slacking on posting recipes on my Blog! I have been spending a large amount of my time this week in the kitchen, and made sure I photographed a good amount! Which means that I will be busy trying to post all the recipes. Life this week has been a bit chaotic, seeing people, applying to jobs, and trying to iron out my summer plans. As well as chopping all of my hair off! It isn’t totally gone, but it’s very short now and so much more manageable! Enough about all my excuses, its time to focus on the food!

Okay so oddly I have cravings for Mac and Cheese, its odd to me being that I am Greek and French Canadian that I would crave something that was never a comfort food for me growing up. Let me tell you I just love cheese and when you have cheese and carbs together I will probably be satisfied. However the Kraft*(probably shouldn’t name brands but oh well) stuff doesn’t curb my cravings, I like gooey thick flavorful Mac and Cheese. Let me also denounce that this craving hits me multiple times a month, and it is a very demanding craving, which can make me feel guilty for overindulging in what is typically such a fat filled dish. Except I have created a recipe for Mac and Cheese with layers of flavor and veggies! Yes veggies, because every meal should be well-rounded in my opinion, and you feel so good after eating something with some nutritional value. I don’t skimp on any of the cheese and if you aren’t a huge veggie fan, you won’t notice them at all. I can also say that this will help you get some veggies in your tiny humans belly if they are a picky eater, because most kids lovvvve Mac and Cheese. This is a grown up Mac and Cheese that appeals to all ages, and cures cravings! I will not lie it looks intimidating and does take some time, but it is a good weekend meal to make with people you loved and get others involved in the kitchen, the more love put in the better the recipe will turn out.

TOOLS:

  1. Cutting board
  2. Vegetable peeler
  3. Box greater
  4. Knife (sharp, your favorite kind, pick one that you are comfortable working with)
  5.  Large Deep Pan, or you can use a good-sized Pot for the sauce
  6. Food processor or Blender
  7. Large Pot to boil noodles
  8. Colander to strain the noodles
  9. Spoons
  10. Baking dishes
  11. Liquid measuring cup
  12. whisk

INGREDIENTS: (may look like a long list but fear not, its worth it)

  1. Extra virgin olive oil (before I started cooking I put two smashed garlic cloves, four basil leaves, some peppercorns and red pepper flakes and warmed the oil, This is optional but it can help build layers of flavor if you have the time and want to do this!)
  2. 1/2 a stick of butter
  3. 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar (I get pre-shredded it saves some time)
  4. 1 cup of shredded mild cheddar
  5. 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  6. 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  7. 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (not vital, so if you don’t have it don’t feel pressured but I do find it a good ingredient to build flavors)
  8. 1 medium white onion
  9. 2 medium garlic cloves
  10. 1 leek
  11. 2 medium carrots (should get two cups once grated)
  12. 1 to 2 teaspoons dry rosemary
  13. 1 medium acorn squash
  14. 2 tablespoons flour
  15. 4 cups of milk (I use whole milk)
  16. Noodles, I like Cavatappi they are super curly and hold the sauce extremely well
  17. Salt and pepper to taste
  18. 1/4 cups of my basic breadcrumbs or use store-bought Italian ones!
  19. Salt and pepper to taste

(I KNOW THE LIST IS LONG BUT YOU PROBABLY HAVE MOST OF IT AT HOME AND IT IS SOOOOOOOO WORTH  IT, please don’t let it intimidate you)

RECIPE:

  1. First off pre-heat your oven to about 400, on the bake setting to get our squash softened. I always do the squash first so I can work on everything else as it’s doing what it needs to do. Okay so cut the squash in half, and then cut the halves if half, basically just quartering it. Then wrap a baking dish in foil and place the quarters in it, prick them with the tip of your knife and then drizzle oil on them. Top them off with a dash of pepper, and healthy sprinkling of salt (better to start with less and add more at the end of the dish), and 2 to 3 pinches of rosemary! Then pop it in the oven for like 40 minutes until they soften up. That is all, You can peel it before hand but i think it’s easier to do it once it is cooked and cooled off.
  2. Take the pan you are going to make your sauce in and heat up the oil, while that is heating finely chop the onion, leek, and mince the garlic cloves. Add them to the pan and keep the pan on about medium-low heat so that it doesn’t burn, we want to caramelize it. After about 10 minutes of being in the pan add the balsamic vinegar, BUT do NOT add salt, because salt will prevent the onions from caramelizing. If the onions are taking long to soften and caramelize then crank up the heat a bit. Add oil as needed never let the pan get dry!                   02b0ba77-000e-4bd2-8482-b1f6f47c7604
  3. Okay so, now we are gonna prep our second veggie carrots. So first peel the outer layer of the carrot off with a vegetable peeler, leave the tops in tact but cut off the tip, because they never really look fresh.Then take the grater and grate the carrots with the finest setting you have on yours. Then place the two cups of finely grated carrots in the pan with the onions after 10 minutes to start to soften it up. (This will end up looking like cheese in the mac and cheese and won’t be noticeable!) e87cfd8e-12cb-4bda-b102-4bfd453c1bf9
  4. Now fill the pot you will cook the pasta in with water and crank it to high so that it can begin to boil and you don’t have to wait on it.
  5. I then measure out the cheeses on the cutting board and bring it to the stove, I also measure out the flour, butter, and milk (using a liquid measuring cup). This is because when you start making the sauce it is hard to stop. At this point you should try to peel and puree the squash to a smooth finish, you can use chicken stock or water. Now everything should be by the stove, so that you can be ready and not have to run around! This will help cooking be less stressful. Now the pot of water should be at a boil so its time to drop the pasta, salt the water heavily to give the pasta flavorful cooking fluid, it’s all about layers of flavor.5af9c079-642f-4782-b64b-5372838ab21f
  6. Now add the butter and about a tablespoon of oil, and then with a whisk add in the flour, you will need to cook it out for about 2 minutes. Then slowly whisk in the milk, the slower the better to avoid clumping, which is your worst enemy in cheese sauce. So slow and steady my friends. Now once the milk is added start to slowly sprinkle in all the cheese whisking vigorously, so that the cheese doesn’t melt together and form a blob, if it does that increase the heat and add some more milk. Once the cheese is integrated then you can add the squash puree, I also add Dijon mustard at this point about a tablespoon (to taste), salt and pepper also to taste. Whisk until thick, coats the back of a spoon and is thick enough that if you draw a line through it with your finger it doesn’t fill in.
  7. Drain the pasta with the colander, put the pasta into the pot with some olive oil, so it doesn’t stick. Then pour the cheese sauce and stir, depending how gooey and cheesy you want it you might not use all the sauce, don’t pour it all in at once, stir the noodles with the sauce using a wooden spoon.
  8. Set the oven to broil, pour the mac and cheese into a glass baking dish and top with breadcrumbs to toast them in the oven until golden brown! (IF not everyone in your family likes topping, then toast the breadcrumbs in a pan and keep them in a bowl as an optional thing, but the textural contrast is well supported by me and my tummy)
  9. Done! Hopefully enjoy my hearty, semi-healthy, mac and cheese.

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