Cheater Macaroni and Cheese

I talked up my super-easy macaroni and cheese method while trying a new (and pretty meh) method of cooking the noodles in milk.  I’m going to share the cheater magic with you.

Things you need:

  • Noodles. Elbows are nice, spaghetti is fun, rotini is a nice twist on the original. Whatever you have and like to eat.
  • Cheese. Sharp or extra-sharp, please. Others need not apply unless you don’t like the taste of cheese.  If that’s you, why are you eating this?
  • Cream. Buy non ultra-pasteurized if you can.
  • Salt. I use kosher salt.
  • Pepper. If little black specks in your macaroni and cheese freak you out, just don’t use it. They don’t bother me and I like it, so I use it.

Cook some noodles.  If you want to super-cheat, use the cooking-noodles-faster hack previously featured on KH.  I usually do this when I make macaroni and cheese.  Don’t forget to salt the water!

Drain the noodles. Self-explanatory. I have pots and pans that allow you to strain through the lid.  Slightly more precarious, one less thing to wash.  Toss-up. If you use a strainer, put the noodles back in the pan.

Add your cream ASAP.  That pan is still hot and if you don’t add some liquid before the water burns off, those noodles will burn onto the bottom.  Ask me how I know.  Add some salt and pepper.

It should look like slightly runny macaroni and cheese.  The concern is adding too much, but even that can be remedied by just letting it cook down.

Let the cream get hot, then stir in your grated cheese.  If you’re cool, you grate your own cheese.  If you’re even cooler, you already did it for the week.  If you’re amazingly cool, you store your grated cheese in a mason jar.  Add more cream if necessary.  I usually think it’s necessary and if it looks like I’ll need a lot, I sometimes add milk.  Then it’s not quite as good though.

Check for saltiness and add more if necessary.  I honestly like it with some salt sprinkled over the top at the end for salty-surprise bites, but do whatever you like.

And now you know how to make my favorite of all time bachelorette/eating-alone/there-is-nothing-in-the-house dish.  Add some garlic and parmesan instead of the cheddar and enjoy some alfredo.  To add vegetables, heat up (or heck, even cook) some vegetables before you add the noodles back to the pan and continue with your desired cheese.  Try it lots of ways and you’ll not only perfect cheater macaroni and cheese, you’ll be able to make swanky macaroni and cheese too.

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Top Ten Kitchen Tools

My sister-in-law Kelsey asked me to write a post about the top ten things I think everyone should have in their kitchen.  I’m pretty passionate about some of my kitchen tools and have been known to travel with them to less-than-well-appointed kitchens (like the one in Gavin’s bachelor apartment). 

I honestly think you probably need more than ten things in your kitchen, no matter how simple you’re going, so I’m going to split things out into sub-categories (not all will have ten things).  This one is going to be the tools section.

1. OXO tongs.  Or really any kind of nylon/silicone head tongs that are decently long and sufficiently grippy.  These can be  used for TONS of things and in fact, I gave them to all of my bridesmaids as part of their wedding gift.  Honestly, I wish I had a second set, and so does main-dishwasher Gavin.  These also make a great spaghetti server, way better than those dedicated spaghetti ones.

2. Paring knife. I have one of these knives (they come in tons of colors, mine is orange) and they are not only affordable, but also a Cooks Illustrated top choice.

3. Chef’s knife. This is the other knife you really need and will make your big tasks, like cutting five pounds of potatoes, much easier.  Pick one that you like the feel of in your hand and that is reasonably-priced, not the cheapest thing you can find.  That’s not going to last or be pleasant to use.

4. Box grater. I’m so passionate about the need for grated cheese that I convinced Gavin to buy one of these for his apartment before we got married.  I like the box style because it’s the easiest to use, although slightly more annoying to store.  Yes, you can buy your cheese pre-grated but then it’s covered in that powdery stuff and your macaroni and cheese will not taste as good.  Plus you can use this to slice cheese, grate parmesan or lemon zest finely, turn potatoes into hash browns, or grate carrots for carrot cake.

5. Heat-resistant spatula. This is useful for scraping AND cooking, which makes it a winner.  I have a few, but my favorite is definitely this one from OXO. (Noticing a trend?)

6. Good-quality flipper.  This doesn’t get quite as much use as some of my other tools, but if you ever want to make anything remotely pancake-y or burger-y, a spatula is the best tool for the job.  Again, OXO makes a great one.

7. Cutting boards.  I have a giant wooden one that lives on my counter and I love and some smaller plastic ones for raw-meat-jobs, but I would really recommend one wood and one plastic.  Wood is better for your knives and is both more enjoyable and beautiful but I just feel better about putting anything with raw chicken juices on it directly into the dishwasher.

8. Measuring spoons and cups.  I like metal ones, but almost anything will do.  Just make sure the labels for the measuring spoons look like they’re going to stick around (embossed or raised letters are a good bet) or you’ll be confused someday.  Having a 1/4 teaspoon is nice, but you can usually eyeball it anyway.

9. Peeler.  You can definitely make tons of things without a peeler, but you’re also limited to buying baby carrots and eating your potatoes with the skins on.  I like big carrots and sometimes I even like my potatoes peeled.  So I think a peeler can be handy.

10. Mixing bowls. It’s nice to have a set with a small, medium, and large.  Ours nest and have air-tight lids, so we can also use them for food storage, which is nice, but (kitchen hack alert), a plate works pretty well as a lid for most bowls.

There are obviously tons of other things I own and love (meat thermometer, kitchen scale, even a cherry pitter), but I think you could definitely make the basics with these ten things!

If you could add one more thing to the list, what would it be?

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Macaroni and Cheese Cooked in Milk

Okay, so I’m kind of a macaroni and cheese connoisseur, something I alluded to in my last post.  Macaroni and cheese with a huge side of vegetables comprised a huge and embarrassing percentage of my single dinners.  Gavin thinks we eat it way too much, and I think we’ve had it about four times since we got married three months ago.  (That said, he accompanied almost all meals with the super-great side dish of “chips and cheese” aka tortilla chips with shredded cheese on top, sometimes melted.)

Anyway, I am always up for new and easier ways to make macaroni and cheese, so I tried this one from Heavenly Homemakers.  The basic premise is that you cook the noodles in the milk, which pre-makes a creamy sauce without fuss.  I really wanted to like it.  We always have milk and noodles and cheese!  My current favorite (also super-fast and low-dish-creating) way requires cream, which we definitely are more likely to run out of.

Buttttt, we did not like it.  Granted, I had a hard time keeping my milk at a simmer on my apartment gas stove (it really wanted to be much hotter!) but I had to add a ton more milk and when it was done, it was much more…solid than macaroni and cheese should be.  So I consider this one a fail and am going to keep making macaroni and cheese the way I do now.

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Lunches!

Here are some lunches Gavin and I have been enjoying!

Sweet potatoes, leftover steak, blueberries, and apple and peanut butter.

Salad with curry chicken, strawberries, and trail mix (goldfish, almonds, and chocolate chips).

Almonds and chocolate chips, carrot and pepper sticks with ranch dressing, chicken salad sandwich, goldfish, and berries.

Leftover carbonara, chicken salad, and applesauce.

Spinach salad with turkey and vegetable kebabs on top, trail mix, and cantaloupe and blueberries.

Chicken salad for lettuce wraps, hard-boiled egg, chocolate zucchini bread, and cantaloupe, grapes, and blueberries.

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