Mac ‘N Cheese

Mac ‘N Cheese

If you mention you had Mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner amongst my work colleagues there would be gasps of horror! “oh my goodness, so much cheese”,” so many carbs”….”I just could not indulge like that”.  Any of those comments sound familiar?

So if you want to avoid those types of comments, just don’t mention it, or call it something else!

It was my birthday last month, and as we were not able to eat out, I figured I could treat myself to this family favourite – and somewhat classic dish!

Ingredients:

  • 250grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cups Tasty or Colby cheese, grated
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, Japanese breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot to the boil with a dash of salt, and add dry pasta. Cook until al dente – or cooked ‘firm to the bite’. Drain and add a little olive oil to the cooked pasta to ensure it does not stick to each other.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth – I use a whisk for this. Add two cups of grated cheese, and your seasoning. Remove from the heat, and set to the side.

Add a little cooking oil and over a medium heat sauté the bacon and onions for 10 minutes or until they’re starting to colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two more minutes.

At this stage, I combine the bacon and onion mix with the cheese sauce in the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix it well.

Transfer to an oven-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes – or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

Serves 4

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You can whip up a big dish of Mac ‘N Cheese very economically, which is also a great benefit for those of you with a tribe of teenagers to feed. A packet of dry pasta is less than $2, and this will go a long distance. Leave out the bacon, and add extra vegetables – you can chop up a broccoli, or grate a carrot and zucchini into this, and get away with it!

Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself and the family to a delicious Mac ‘N Cheese dinner; add it to a family menu for a quick and easy week night meal the teenagers will devour in a flash. One word of warning however; make plenty as they will be back for seconds!

Happy teen – happy mum xx

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Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

An early lesson in my life as a young married mum with 3 children and a mortgage was learning to cook a nutritious meal on a budget.

This is a recipe I have used and adapted over the years – especially great after football practice in the winter months when the teenage boy came home wet, dirty and very hungry! I either had this prepared to heat up and eat straight away – or could have it ready to tuck into as quick as a teenage boy can shower after practice! Well okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. Dinner is usually ready before the teenager is out of the bathroom 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta shells
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 rashers rindless bacon, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 600g kumara, peel and cubed
  • 150g baby spinach (or a handful)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 c tasty cheese, grated

Sauce

Pasta Bake

Quick to prepare, and easy on the budget.

  • 60g butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup tasty cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to a hot 200°c.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until soft. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

In a large frying pan, heat oil and cook bacon for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the leek and pumara and cook for abut 3-4 minutes

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add flour & thyme and cook, stirring for around 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gradually whisk in the  milk until smooth. Pop back onto the heat and cook, stirring constantly until them mixture thickens.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then stir in the cheese and mustard. Season with salt & pepper. (You just made a white sauce!)

At this point I usually put all of the ingredients into a large bowl to mix together well. So pasta first, then vegetables and sauce. Add the spinach in last – (this does not need to be pre-cooked). Mix all the ingredients well.

Tip the lot into a large baking dish and sprinkle with combined breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top turns golden and crunchy!

Freezing this pasta dish is another great option for the busy mum – cool it down and then wrap well in glad wrap and foil. It can be in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Now you can make this dish with store bought fresh pasta which is very good, and a jar of ready made pasta sauce. Both of these items are handy and whilst they may save you a few minutes, the cost is not worth it.

I have used pumpkin instead of the kumara (and at the moment that’s a great option – I bought a whole pumpkin for $2.00 last week), and instead of bacon, a couple of pork sausages cooked up and sliced. The younger kids liked this option 🙂

So if you are watching your budget, and have a family to feed, give this recipe a go. Either way it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve with most of the ingredients ‘pantry staples’ making it easy to put together for those last minute dinner guests.

Happy cooking xx