Thursday, September 4, 2014

Everybody's Favorite Macaroni & Cheese

Busy days and hungry people result in the frantic question, “What’s for dinner?!”

When we were on our northeastern roadtrip, our stop in Boston landed us to Quincy Market with its rows of food stalls.  Think of any city food market – the options are endless. Sandwiches, pasta, pizza, then throw in the New England spin – fried oysters, fried clams, lobster rolls.  One of those stands was MMMac N' Cheese – a make to order macaroni and cheese shop.  They individually made servings of macaroni and cheese, with all kinds of meats and veggies added in, yes, like an omelet stand.  While the kids ordered their lunch, I watched to see how to make macaroni and cheese on the spot, to individual specifications.

Back at home, I tried it out. It’s so easy, it’s so fast, the kids loved it and declared that mine turned out just as good as the place in Boston. Now, any mom knows the “it takes just like the restaurant” is quite the compliment.  So here’s how to make what will be Everybody’s Favorite Macaroni & Cheese.

  • Macaroni noodles (cooked)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese plus a variety of your family’s other favorite (meltable) cheeses, shredded
  • American cheeses, slices
  • Half-and-half or milk (your preference, or whichever is in the fridge)
  • Butter 
  • Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste

Fix-ins (all cooked)
Use whatever you’re family likes, it should be cooked and cut into small pieces.  You can cook it, buy it cooked, use last night’s leftovers, whatever works in your schedule.
  • Meat suggestions: Ground beef, chopped chicken, chopped/cubed steak, chopped ham, chopped rotisseries chicken, crumbled bacon, shrimp, crabmeat, lobster
  • Veggies suggestions: broccoli, spinach, chopped carrots, chopped tomatoes

To make it the quick, just ran in from work and after-school activities dinner, the key is to prep everything the night before, the morning of, or, if you work at home, on your lunch break.  On the other hand, if you’ve got time, you can prep it all just before you’re ready to cook.

You will be making single servings, so each person can choose their own cheeses and fix-ins.  Offer as many or as few options as you’d like.  Serve along with a salad and everyone can enjoy their salad while their macaroni and cheese to be cooked – no waiting.

Line all your ingredients up at the stove, ready to go, this moves fast like when making stir-fry.
  1. Melt a pat of butter in a large frying pan.
  2. Add 1 slice of American cheese.  Add ¼ cup cheddar cheese, plus ¼ cup of any other favorite cheese.  Add more shredded cheese, to taste.
  3. Add about 1/8 c cream/milk.
  4. Stir to keep cheese from burning, and add milk, if needed, until smooth and creamy.
  5. Add Fix-ins (meat and veggies) to each person’s preference.  Season, to taste, if desired.  (If the meat is already seasoned, you may not need additional seasoning. But if you're doing an all veggie option, it might need a few shakes of something. Try a dash of Old Bay if going with a seafood option.)
  6. Add ½ cup macaroni noodles and mix until noodles are fully covered in cheese and fix-ins.
  7. Serve.
  8. Start the next person’s dish.


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