There are two different styles of mac-n-cheese I like to cook - an eggy style and a béchamel style. Today we'll be making mac-n-cheese with a béchamel sauce.
So what is a béchamel sauce? A creamy white sauce that sounds a lot fancier than it really is. All it takes is equal parts butter and flour with a cup or two of milk. That's it! Well, besides some seasoning - like salt, pepper, maybe a little garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. Nutmeg is a very traditional spice to add to a béchamel sauce, adding a little bit of warmth and depth of flavor. If you don't like nutmeg, it can be omitted.
Start by getting all of your ingredients together: butter, flour, milk, pasta, cheese, and spices.
Melt two - three tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
Add in equal parts flour and stir together until blended.
Let the butter/flour mixture cook for a minute or two, then slowly whisk in about two cups of milk.
Reduce the heat to medium and whisk frequently while the sauce thickens. Be sure the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add in your spices of choice.
Since we're making a cheesy béchamel sauce, add in a big handful of cheese. I chose a raw white cheddar.
While the sauce is thickening, go ahead and cook your pasta. Be sure to cook the pasta just short of al dente - you want it to have a good bite to it because it's going to finish cooking in the oven.
Once your sauce is thickened and the pasta is (almost) cooked, stir the two together and pour into a casserole dish.
Top with a little more cheese and some breadcrumbs to add a nice crunch.
Bake the mac-n-cheese at 375 degrees until it's bubbly and nicely browned on top, 20-30 minutes.
Macaroni and cheese is a very versatile dish... you could use any type of cheese(s) you like and any type of pasta. You could also add in a variety of vegetables (broccoli, spinach, peppers, topped with tomatoes, etc) or meat (chopped chicken, sausage, ham, etc). Just experiment and have fun with it!
Now I mentioned the fact that this is a relatively fattening dish, which it is, but I would like to challenge everyone to not shy away from fat. Fat, in moderation, is actually what satisfies our bodies, protects our hearts, and supports our overall health - both physically and emotionally.
The important thing to remember is to generally go for the "good" fats - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats - like olive oil, sunflower oil, avocados, nuts, flaxseed, fish, etc. Generally fats that are liquid at room temperature.
The fats to avoid are saturated and trans fats - ice cream, lard/shortening, margarine, processed/packaged foods, etc.
Now this dish includes both butter and cheese (saturated fats), but as I mentioned, all things in moderation. Also, I'd like to add another little note... I'd like to argue that fats are not what make us fat.
Sugar and carbohydrates are what make us gain weight. Well, this dish also has carbs - the pasta. So choose a whole wheat pasta (or in my case a brown rice pasta - which is low on the glycemic index).
Potato chips, ice cream, rolls/biscuits/white breads, sodas, processed foods... those are the things that will pack on the pounds. Carbs break down in to sugar in our bodies, and sugars are by far the most poisonous thing we can put in our body.
But get this... Fats actually slow down the absorption of sugar in our body! So if you're gonna have ice cream, go for the whole fat, not low fat. If you're gonna drink a coffee with sugar, then put in cream instead of low-fat milk. If you're gonna have a bowl of sugary cereal, drink fattier milk. This will prevent those sugars from absorbing so quickly and going straight to our hips. :)
Dr. Mercola, a brilliant mastermind in the world of all-natural living and nutrition, has some great info about sugars, carbs, and all that good stuff. Check out his website here.
And in this case, enjoy a nice helping of mac-n-cheese without guilt... a little fat won't hurt. Now those double dipped apple doughnuts? That's different story ;)
In other news... we had some major snow last night. In the corner of our fence, it measured up to a whopping 23 inches!
And here's LB trying out her Bumbo seat... she's not quite there yet with her neck. But she loves her butterfly.