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Saturday, May 19, 2012

My mac and cheese cheat: making cheese sauce with less cheese

Psssst -- I have a little cheat I use, when I don't have enough cheese for homemade mac and cheese

It's a combo of chili powder and cooked, pureed carrots. I make a white sauce, add whatever cheddar I have, then add about 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, plus about 3 Tablespoons pureed carrots.  The chili powder gives the sauce color and flavor, and the carrots add extra orange zing to the color, (as well as sneaking in some extra nutrients).  To camouflage this all, I sprinkle the top of the mac and cheese with buttered bread crumbs, then bake at 350 degrees F, for about 25 minutes, until the crumbs are toasted looking.

Here's how it all goes together. This makes about 1 1/2 cups of "cheese" sauce, enough for about 3 cups cooked macaroni:

3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
whatever amount of cheese you have, up to about 1/2 cup shredded (I had a block about 1-inch by 2 inches by 1 1/2-inches -- maybe 3 oz.)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2-3 Tablespoons pureed carrot

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over Medium.  Stir in flour. Add milk, while stirring. Cook until thick. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in salt, chili powder and cheese. Cook over Low until cheese has melted. Stir in carrot, until you have the right color and flavor. More salt and chili powder can be added at this point, too. Toss with cooked macaroni in a buttered baking dish.

For the crispy topping:

melt 1 Tablespoon butter in microwaveable bowl.  Stir in a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I use 1 slice homemade, whole wheat bread, dense stuff, so you may want 1 1/2 slices if using fluffy, store-bought bread).

I was not only short on cheese for this dish, today, but short on macaroni as well.  (See this post "When there's not enough pasta for dinner".)  My 2 lovely daughters made a pasta salad last weekend for the family and cooked up all the macaroni.  They had about 2 1/2 cups leftover cooked pasta, so they popped it into the refrigerator.  When I dumped it into the baking dish, I could see that it would not be enough pasta for the 3 of us who'd be eating at home tonight. So I added about 1/2 cup of leftover cooked rice, some chopped red onion that needed using up, and 3 hot dogs, sliced.  It looks yummy and is sitting in the fridge waiting for baking time later this afternoon.


We often play "guess the mystery ingredient" at the table.  All the members of my family are great sports when it comes to eating Mom's kitchen experiments.  So long as it looks appealing and tastes great, they don't mind if it's a little different.

*for the pureed carrots, or pureed veggies of any sort, I cook up enough for about 1 cup of puree. In this case, I cooked 4 carrots, and now have leftover puree for carrot muffins later this weekend. If I didn't have a plan to use it all, I'd toss the container in the freezer to make soup, muffins, cake, or another mac and cheese casserole, later.

One final note, it was yuuuuummmmmmy!  Comfort food, without the guilt!


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