Creamy homemade macaroni and cheese
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Creamy homemade macaroni and cheese

Mar 20, 2023

Make this the summer of home cooking. If you need motivation, I can provide it. I read that the top ten toxic foods from one to ten are: salad dressings, candy, deli/packaged meat, white bread, sprayed produce, margarine, diet sodas/drinks, GMO foods, commercial dairy, seasoned packaged foods. All we can do is try to eliminate these foods whenever possible. I must confess that I do use bottled salad dressing. After I discovered that castor and anal gland secretions from a beaver, castoreum, is used in candy like raspberry flavored Starburst, I found it is easy to turn down colorful candy. I do indulge in chocolate on occasion. Of course, any product made from corn is a GMO food product making it very hard to completely eliminate GMO's. I am here to be your cheerleader and to encourage you to take small steps to better health. Avoid processed food whenever possible.

Processed foods, including restaurant foods, contain non-food additives to improve the shelf life, look and taste of food. Another common ingredient in processed foods are various forms of added sugar. There are over sixty different names for added sugar in processed foods, so spotting sugar on food labels can be hard. Here are few of the sugar names beginning with the letter m: malt, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, mannitol. Other unhealthy ingredients in processed foods are emulsifiers that keep food ingredients from separating, such as oil and water. All these additives affect gut health. The unhealthy balance of bacteria in the digestive system is known as dysbiosis, and dysbiosis may exist long before symptoms manifest as an autoimmune disease. Not only do we ingest dangerous ingredients in our food but also through pharmaceutical products. Toxic ingredients are found in medications, supplements, beverages and tap water. Confusing studies often funded by biased sources and the lack of regulation make it difficult to know what is best to ingest. Marketing diet food and drinks as healthy also adds to the confusion. At this point, it is each person's responsibility to find healthy choices.

Luckily, fresh local fruits and vegetables are in season. I hope you have enjoyed local strawberries. There is no comparison of local berries to the ones shipped into grocery stores from far away. The first tomatoes of the season are just now ripening. If you haven't planted a garden, time is of the essence. Don't delay. Or if you are like me, support local farmers by buying directly from the farm or visiting weekly farmers’ markets.

Growing up, my mother made stovetop "Kraft dinner" (macaroni and cheese) a lot. As a young mother, unfortunately, I served it to my girls also. I recall that when my brother got married, he told my mother that his new wife did not make "Kraft dinner" like my mother. How could that be? During my twenty-seven year teaching career, I enjoyed Ludlow Elementary creamy macaroni and cheese, but never attempted to make homemade macaroni and cheese until this past week.

If you make homemade macaroni and cheese, please shred the cheese yourself or buy sliced and cut it up. Packaged shredded cheese is coated with a starchy substance that keeps the cheese from clumping and also prevents it from melting as it should. I made some lasagna about a month ago and the shredded cheese never melted. Ugh!! Read the cheese labels and buy the ones that have the least amount of ingredients. Have you tried Tillamook brand cheese? It uses milk from cows without artificial growth hormones and is aged slowly and naturally. Another tip is to use elbow macaroni cooking it a minute shy of directions on the package to avoid soggy macaroni. By making a roux (equal parts butter and flour) and then slowly adding the cold liquids, you will achieve a creamy cheese sauce. Instead of using heavy whipping cream and whole milk, you may substitute ¾ cup whole milk and 1 ¼ cup Half and Half. I used medium sharp cheddar cheese and gouda cheese and a small amount of parmesan cheese. Once you have melted the cheese, taste the sauce. Mine needed more flavor so I also added some roasted garlic and pepper flakes. Just say no to processed macaroni and cheese and make it at home this summer!

Creamy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces dried elbow pasta

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) all purpose flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup Gruyere cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

More seasonings to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add dried pasta and cook one minute less than the package directs for al dente. Drain pasta and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil to keep from sticking.

While pasta is cooking, shred cheeses and toss together.

Divide cheese in three piles: about a 1 ½ cups for the sauce, about ¾ cup for inner layer and ¾ cup for topping.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk/stir to combine. While stirring continually, cook until thickens and roux bubbles.

Slowly pour in a small amount of milk/cream stirring constantly until smooth. Slowly pour in remaining milk and cream while constantly stirring/whisking. Continue cooking until it is thick.

Turn off heat and stir in spices and ¾ cup of cheeses. Stir until all cheese is melted.

Taste the sauce. Adjust seasonings.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained pasta and cheese sauce.

Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Top with ¾ cup cheeses.

Pour rest of the pasta mixture into the baking dish.

Sprinkle the top with the last ¾ cup of cheese.

Bake 30 — 40 minutes until cheese is bubbly and lightly golden brown.

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