Mac and Cheese Recipe - Crusty

One of Nat's besties had a baby recently (a boy!) and Nat - being a busybee - wanted to lend a hand. Unfortunately, the friend lives out of state, so the best we could do was to prepare some meals, freeze 'em, and ship them off with her friend's mom when she went to see her daughter.

(If you gave us a nice gift for the birth/baptism/pregnancy - thanks.   I loved it soooooo much!)  However, one of the best gifts anyone gave us during the pregnancy/baby was frozen meals.  We still have some of them in the freezer - they're the gift that keeps on giving!  When Nat is dog tired from battling the babe all day and I have class, so I don't get home until 10 pm, these are saviors.  We had tacos, enchiladas, chicken and salads and even chicken tetrazzini (although it wasn't frozen!).  While I'm certain Nat enjoyed all the "onesies" and such that our friends and family showered on us, I really appreciate the care that goes into the frozen meals.  These came from Nat's mom and my sister Vic.  Two moms who can appreciate the importance of prepared food during the first few weeks of your baby's life.

Because we enjoyed them so much, we decided to make a few of our favorite recipes and try to parcel them out for the new mom out of state.  We made deep dish pizza and crusty mac and cheese and packaged them into disposable metal pans - with clear plastic lids where we could write the instructions in marker.  They turned out cute (if you can tell from the photo on the right!).

Neither of these are "healthy" options, but when you have a 4 day old, who really cares about calories, right?  Here's the Mac and Cheese.  I think this has be adapted from my mom, my brother-in-law Marc (who used to make this stuff back in the "blue apartments" in Champaign back in the 90's and the NYTimes. ) Hope it turns out as good as ours usually does.

Crusty Cheese and Mac Recipe
2 tablespoons (to do the dish) butter plus 1 stick melted
24 ounces 
cheese, coarsely grated  (you could use more or less of both kinds of cheese!)
24 ounces another kind of cheese

1 cup cottage 
1 pound elbow pasta
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt to your preference
2/3 cup milk
1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 sleeve of saltines

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one to two tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine uncooked noodles, (all but 2 cups of) grated cheeses, cottage cheeses, milk, spices, mustard and setting aside those two cups of grated cheeses for topping.  
2.  Cut tomatoes into quarters and stick them in the dish wherever you like.  
3.  Crumble a sleeve of saltines in a bowl, and add 1 stick of butter.  Melt in microwave.
4.  Sprinkle reserved cheese mixture on top, top with butter/saltines mix and bake, covered for 30 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more uncovered, until crusty on top.  Might take longer depending on your oven.


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