Anyone else find themselves questioning their life choices? First world problems, right? I’ve got a roof over my head, food to eat, a wonderful family – so much to be grateful for. But I’m feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t “made it” yet or didn’t pursue one of the more conventional paths of engineering, medicine, or law (not that I have a litigating bone in my body). Of course this comes at a time when most of my high school and college classmates are receiving their secondary degrees and the grass is looking greener on the other side. But I’ve been trying to embody the saying I’ve read recently, “The grass is greener where you water it”. I love my family and would be so empty without them. But I need to reach my professional goals as well. Would love to grow this blog or my little side hustle (custom cakes) but I feel like I’m lacking some guidance. Is it my content? My outreach? Help me out, guys!! Granted I have two little ones, one who is isn’t in school yet, so my resources are limited. Speaking of little ones, for years I lamented that despite my efforts to make mac and cheese from scratch, my kids preferred the stuff from the blue box. Relieved, since dinner could be ready in a snap if I had the blue box on hand. Affronted, as well. So I sought a solution. The problem was the traditional mac and cheese recipes I followed were quite cheesy. Resulting in a strongly flavored and thick sauce.So, I thought I’d make a bechamel sauce, add in a little bit of cheese at a time until it had just enough thickness and was mildly flavored enough for my kiddos, and voila! I made something that my 3 1/2 year old would lick clean off the plate. This comes together so quickly, you’ll be like, blue box, who? Granted you have pre-shredded cheese. I use the Trader Joe’s blend of mozzarella, cheddar and jack cheese. It’s wonderful in omelettes, grilled cheese, etc. Throw in some frozen peas with the pasta during the last minute of cooking to make it a complete meal. Or shredded beef/chicken. The sky’s the limit. I just keep the chicken broth on hand in case it gets too thick. Make this once and you’ll never go back to Panera’s mac and cheese! Feel free to double the recipe if you have more mouths to feed!
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (cheddar or I use a combo of mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack)
- 3/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
- dash black pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
- 1/2 pound elbows or small shell pasta
- In a medium to large pot, heat about 4 quarts of water over high heat. Let it come to a boil while you prepare the other ingredients.
- When it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt and the pasta to the water. Give it a stir and set the timer to 8 minutes (check the time on the box for shells since I used elbows).
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. Next, slowly pour in the milk, while whisking. Continue whisking, taking care to get all the bits of flour and butter from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to a simmer a let cook for 5 minutes. It won’t thicken fully at this point. Make sure the mixture is not boiling otherwise the cheese will curdle*. Turn off the heat (and the heat of the pasta if the timer is up). Add salt and pepper and stir to combine.** Add cheese and stir – now the sauce should be sufficiently thick to coat the pasta.
- Strain pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Serve immediately.***
*I learned this the hard way after ruining two batches during our suite’s Thanksgiving potluck in college.
**Congratulations, you’ve just made bechamel sauce!
***To reheat, add a bit of chicken broth to a saucepan and warm over medium low heat until heated through.