Getting My Mac On

52 macs in 52 weeks

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“Week” 49: Mushroom Mac

I seem to be on a roll with recipes that my mom won’t like! She doesn’t like tomatoes IN things, so the two last week didn’t appeal to her, and she REALLY doesn’t like mushrooms, so I know this one is not going to be a hit. Mom – the next couple should be more to your taste!

Growing up, I liked fresh mushrooms – dipped in ranch of course – but I thought cooked mushrooms were disgusting. I’m not sure when or how that changed, but now I looooove sauteed or grilled mushrooms. On a steak, on a burger, straight out of the pan, it’s all good. (Canned cream of mushroom soup remains on the disgusting list.) Here, they join garlic and an onion-flavored cheese in my attempt to create a hearty mac & cheese for these still-chilly winter days.

Mushroom Mac

Adapted from Life as a Strawberry

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded “Steakhouse Onion” white cheddar cheese (see notes)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (see notes)
  • 6-8 ounces fresh white mushrooms, sliced (see notes)
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic, minced (see notes)

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook for 9-10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  • In the same pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, add the garlic and mushrooms, and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and reduced in size. This may take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. See notes about measurements and moisture.
  • Meanwhile, heat the milk on low until warm, but do not let it come to a boil.
  • Add salt to taste, then stir in the remaining butter. After it has fully melted add the flour and stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the warmed milk, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until sauce thickens. This should take 5-6 minutes, but even after 10 minutes, it never really thickened up for me.
  • Remove pan from heat and add both cheeses and stir until fully melted. Add additional salt to taste as needed.
  • Add pasta and stir until well-coated.

RESULTS

This ended up being a little disappointing. The sauce was very runny and the flavors were VERY mild. The mushrooms gave off a lot of water while cooking – I think everything got diluted. This is probably a case of too many adaptations to the original, it’s probably great if you stick to that. It wasn’t bad, just pretty bland (and that’s with double the garlic!).  When I re-heat the leftovers, I expect I will need to add more cheese, as well as more sautéed mushrooms and/or garlic.

NOTES

  • The recipe I adapted called for gruyere and goat cheese. When I was at the grocery store, I thought I already had both. I had neither.  But this Steakhouse Onion white cheddar seemed like a good match – maybe just because I like mushrooms ON steak? It needed a stronger companion; it wasn’t enough on its own.
  • Additionally, I had started with 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese per the recipe, and it was nowhere near enough. I added the rest of the block, making it roughly 2 cups total.
  • It turned out I actually did have some goat cheese, but it wasn’t the plain flavor, and I didn’t think goat cheese with honey would be a great fit here.
  • The recipe called for 16 ounces/4 cups of sliced baby portobello mushrooms, which I don’t know if I like, so I played it safe with white mushrooms. Turns out 16 ounces of sliced white mushrooms is a LOT more than 4 cups, so I only used about half of what I prepped. I still had to add more butter to sauté them in, and they put off so much water the sauce never thickened, and the flavor was diluted.
  • As always, I used more garlic than the recipe calls for. Start with 4, then add as your taste buds prefer.

Posted February 22, 2021

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“Week” 47: BLT Mac

There are nine days left in this project, and only two Sundays, and I’m three recipes behind, so I’m getting desperate creative. BLTs are my favorite sandwich – OK, that’s a lie, I don’t like lettuce … bacon & tomato sandwiches are my favorite – and since I had some leftover roasted tomatoes from the previous recipe (not to mention some leftover mac & cheese) plus an unopened package of bacon in the fridge, it was perfect timing. I don’t typically put cheese on my BLTs, but it’s certainly not an unappealing flavor combination!

BLT Mac

INGREDIENTS

  • Leftover mac & cheese (see notes)
  • Roasted tomatoes (see the Roasted Veggie Mac post from a couple of days ago), roughly chopped
  • However much bacon you have on hand (see notes)
  • 1-2 handfuls of raw spinach leaves, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS

  • Make or reheat mac & cheese
  • Cook the bacon to your desired level of crispness. I have 2 methods that I prefer, depending on the amount of bacon and amount of time that I have.
    • Line a baking sheet with foil, then lay the bacon strips out on a wire cooking rack. Place the rack on the baking sheet and cook in the oven at 400 for 15-18 minutes. Remove and let cool, then crumble into small pieces. (My Pampered Chef salad chopper works great for this.)
  • Chop raw bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Scoop the bacon bits onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. (A cool trick I learned somewhere is to roll individual bacon slices loosely and freeze, then you can take out a few pieces here or there rather than having to thaw the whole pack at once. Bacon rollups that are partially thawed are also easier to chop evenly.)
  • Combine a scoop of mac & cheese with 2-3 tablespoons each of the tomatoes, spinach, and bacon.

RESULTS

I’m completely biased for bacon and tomato together, and this did not disappoint! The spinach is fine – it doesn’t really add or detract either way, so just like I don’t use lettuce on the sandwich version, consider it optional.

NOTES

  • As I mentioned recently, you may not always have leftover mac & cheese on hand the way I seem to. I used some leftover Sour Cream & Onion Mac from a week or so ago; but the Classic Mac recipe from Week 1 would be terrific here.
  • One of my favorite humor writers, Jill Connor Browne (the Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love), says that a serving of bacon is however much is in front of you. I do not disagree with this sentiment.

Posted February 19, 2021

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“Week” 45: Roasted Veggies Mac

What this comes down to is I’m running out of time and I had 2/3 of a bag of Brussels sprouts that needed to be used, a couple of onions on the brink of sprouting, and a whole bunch of tomatoes because I always have tomatoes on hand.

I love roasted veggies, and I love Brussels sprouts and I really love tomatoes. One of the best non-macaroni and cheese treats I’ve ever made is roasted tomatoes and burrata on toasted baguette slices and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. HEAVEN. Caramelized onions are another one of my favorites, but they take forever, so I just threw these on the baking sheet with the rest. They don’t get as fully golden, but they still taste great.

These are my particular favorites, but there’s a lot of room for experimentation here – butternut squash, broccoli, asparagus … go crazy!

Roasted Veggies Mac

INGREDIENTS

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Roma tomatoes
  • White onion
  • Red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Leftover mac and cheese (see notes)

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 425.
  • Trim the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and slice in half or quarters, depending on size. My pile was a mix of both.
  • Slice the tomatoes in half. With winter grocery store tomatoes, there’s usually no need to scoop out the seeds and core. In the summer, when I’m getting the amazing tomatoes from my dad’s garden, they’re much juicier and need to be scraped out a little, otherwise they end up more steamed in their own juices than roasted.
  • Cut off the root ends of the onions, slice in half and peel.
  • Toss all veggies with olive oil, making sure all pieces are well coated. Add salt and toss again.
  • Arrange the veggies on a baking sheet – they’re going to be in there for different times, so it works best with this particular combination to keep them together rather than mixing them up.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, then check Brussels sprouts for desired level of crisp vs. tender. I like mine a little softer, so I gave them 30 minutes. That also allows the leaves that have fallen off to get nice and crispy.
  • Continue cooking the tomatoes and onions, checking every 10 minutes or so. I roast tomatoes a lot, and it can be all over the board how long it takes, based on the size, firmness, how charred you want them, etc. I pulled the onions out around the 45-50 minute mark, and the tomatoes at around an hour (possibly a little longer). Smaller tomatoes, or ones that have been scooped out, will take less time.
  • While the veggies are cooling, make or reheat mac and cheese. I had thawed a package of the Three Cheese Mac from way back last summer. I added a splash of milk and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan to make sure it was nice and smooth.
  • Chop the tomatoes and onions coarsely, then combine all veggies with the mac and cheese.

RESULTS

The sharpness of the cheese combined with the roasted sweetness of the veggies is really good! One of my favorite recipes in the early days of this project was the asparagus prosciutto … this is very similar. Because of the roasting time, it doesn’t come together quickly – I’d recommend roasting the vegetables a day or two in advance or keeping this recipe in reserve for when you happen to have leftover roasted veggies and/or mac & cheese. But it’s definitely worth going to the effort!

NOTES

  • I realize not everyone makes mac & cheese as frequently as I do and may not HAVE leftover mac & cheese on hand. The Three Cheese Mac I thawed out was a great match, but if you need to make a fresh batch, the Cougar Gold (i.e. sharp white cheddar) recipe from Week 27 would also be a perfect fit.

Posted February 17, 2021

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“Week” 44: Grilled Cheese Mac

This is one I’ve been meaning to try forever, even before the waffle mac – but I was either always out of bread or didn’t have the “right” kind of leftover mac & cheese or whatever.

I’m not exactly sure WHY I wanted to try this. I’ve never even really liked grilled cheese sandwiches – I think mainly because I don’t like American cheese or that cheese imposter known as Velveeta (BLECCHHHH), and those are usually what my mom would use to make them. (But when it’s something like mozzarella with tomatoes and balsamic reduction? Yum-MY!)

Since the microwave mac from the last post was kind of disappointing and I didn’t even finish the small amount in the mug, and since I – for once – had a loaf of bread that DIDN’T look like a forgotten science project, I figured it was time.

Grilled Cheese Mac

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ – 1 cup of leftover mac & cheese
  • 2 slices of bread
  • Butter

DIRECTIONS

  • Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat over low-medium heat. (I buy the butter-flavored spray, so no need to melt butter in the pan, although some recipes recommend that.)
  • Butter both slices of bread.
  • Place one slice, butter side down, in the pan. Top with macaroni & cheese, then place the other slice, butter side up, on top.
  • Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, checking frequently to make sure it’s not burning. (I destroyed a lovely mozzarella and roasted tomato grilled cheese over the weekend due to the heat being too high and the cover on too long. Only the tomatoes were salvageable, fortunately I had more bread and cheese).
  • Flip and re-cover, cooking 1-3 minutes, keeping a close eye on how quickly it’s getting brown since the pan is now hotter and the cooking spray has been absorbed. Some people like their grilled cheese very well-done/crispy … I prefer a medium brownness with some crunch but still soft.

RESULTS

This may seem like a weird combination – LOTS of carbs – but if you eat breadsticks before your pasta when you go to Italian restaurants, don’t judge me. 😉 Anyway, it was pretty good – I kinda sorta did it as a joke, but I ended up eating the whole thing and enjoying it very much.

Posted on February 12, 2021

(For those completely lost by the erratic numbering – makeup recipes posted Monday-Saturday will be out of order as I frantically attempt to get in all 52 by the deadline. Sunday recipes posted on schedule will be the actual week # it’s supposed to be.)

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Week 43*: Microwave Mac

Alternate title: Mug Mac

I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to make homemade mac and cheese in the microwave, especially since I used to buy packaged Kraft cups all the time to keep in my drawer at work. Recently I was watching one of those Facebook click-bait videos (titled “Foods when you’re feeling lazy” … right up my alley!) and the first demo was a microwave macaroni and cheese. It looked very simple (many of the things in the video were absolutely not simple, they involved WAYYYY more work than someone who’s “feeling lazy” would be interested in), so even though a whole bunch of comments on the post were negative, I decided to give it a try.

Microwave Mac

Adapted from Tasty

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup water
  • “Splash” of milk (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (see notes)
  • Salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Place the macaroni in a microwave-safe mug and add the water and salt and give it a stir.
  • Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove from microwave and stir in the milk, then add the cheeses and stir together.
  • Microwave on high for 30 seconds.

RESULTS

This just didn’t really work. The water apparently boiled over – when I took it out to add the cheese, there was more water on the microwave tray than in the mug – and the noodles didn’t get cooked enough. Maybe it would be better to put it in for longer but at a lower setting?

I forged on, adding the milk and cheese, and the texture was slightly better, but still VERY firm. I “splashed” in some more milk and kept stirring. It was technically edible – and tasted fine – but it was not great.

A big-time food blogger type would probably make this over and over to get it right and then only post when it worked out – but if you remember, I made no promises of perfection. Once a week is the most I can handle (and sometimes not even that).

NOTES

  • Ugh, I hate things like “a splash” – just tell me how much to use!
  • The video said ¼ cup of cheese, but it certainly didn’t make it worse by having extra.

Posted on February 11, 2021

*For those completely lost by the erratic numbering – makeup recipes posted Monday-Saturday will be out of order as I frantically attempt to get in all 52 by the deadline. Sunday recipes posted on schedule will be the actual week # it’s supposed to be.