Mac & Cheese ~ Choose your own adventure.

My youngest son must have heard this new term somewhere because over the past few weeks he has been all about the “Hot Ladies”, and each time he says it I say his full name, which has more of an impact because he has two middle names, followed by “don’t say that”. I must have known in advance he was going to be a challenge! But he continued on, if his brothers friend said they were going somewhere he would say “Why, are there gonna be hot ladies there?” in talking about a new movie, “Are there any hot ladies in it?” and so on and so on, driving me nuts with the hot ladies talk. Then he broke me, first his brother was asking questions about how me and their Dad met, where, what was going on etc. A story I have already told them, but they love to hear it over and over. I said “Do you guys remember why your Daddy came over and talked with me?” to which Aiden answered “Um, of course Mom, you were a hot lady, DUH!” ok, I had to let that one slide, right. Then finally this weekend he said it again and I said “Do you even know what you are saying? If you had a hot lady right here now what would you do? Would you kiss her or something?” He said very dramatically “UGH Mom, gross, no way, I would not kiss her, she is not my Mommy!!” So ok, I guess his “Hot Lady” comments are just a phase, and probably just a way to get under my skin. As much as he tries to act all grown up and cool, he is still my little baby for a while.

Alright, Mac & Cheese. I am calling this choose your own adventure style, after some of my favorite books when I was about ten. As I have mentioned in the past I typically change up how I make things each time. Last night I made it with low carb pasta, and the reason is that is was also my mother in law’s birthday (in addition to my daughters) and she has been doing the low carb thing for a while and I wanted to post something she could make. I have cooked with both low carb and gluten free pasta before and what I found is you need to change it up just a bit in order for it not to be too chewy or pasty. However my sister would like to make it with elbow macaroni, so I will post that as well. I hope this does not come out as too confusing, if you need any clarification, message me and I will iron it out. A lot of people add flour to the butter to thicken it up, but I don’t, you certainly could if you want, mine does not come out runny at all, just super cheesy. Also this makes a lot! We are a family of five, and since we eat it as a side dish, this is for three meals. Remember it is very rich. I like to freeze what we do not use for another night. We had some cake too, I will add the photo’s of that just for visual interest. Happy Birthday to my mother in law and my teenage daughter, neither of which were as big of a pain in my keester as I expected. 😉

Starting with the pasta, I usually use elbow macaroni, 2 boxes. (32 oz) The types available to use are endless, so use what you like, or try something new. Last night I used 2 boxes of Dreamfields Healthy Carb Living Penne Rigate. (26.5 oz) I boil as directed, cutting about a minute off the cooking time, you want the pasta slightly under-cooked Also whenever I boil pasta I use a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil in the water. I have put the full “how to” at the bottom after you decide which pasta and which cheese you would like to use.

For low carb or gluten free pasta I use the following cheese mix:
1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 16 oz package of Velveeta Prepared cheese
2 1/2 Cups of whole milk
1 stick of butter

For Elbow macaroni or other pasta I use the following cheese mix:

2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Cups of whole milk
1 stick of butter
(This is where you can get creative with the cheese as long as it equals 4 cups; Colby, Pepper Jack, Fontina or aged Provolone whatever you would like to try)

For the casserole dish in the bottom –
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic salt with parsley flakes
Butter flavor Pam or a little melted butter
Prep the oven save casserole dish (I used a 9X13) by spraying with a little butter flavor Pam or a little melted butter then sprinkle the whole bottom with Parmesan cheese and garlic salt w/ parsley flakes.

For the topping-

6 oz container of French’s Cheddar Fried Onions
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Put Cheddar Fried Onions in a large freezer bag, seal bag, and using a mallet pound out the Cheddar Fried Onions until they look like bread crumbs. If you want you can use a little bread crumbs to make it even more crunchy.

HOW TO:

Prep the oven save casserole dish (I used a 9X13) by spraying with a little butter flavor Pam or a little melted butter then sprinkle the whole bottom with Parmesan cheese and garlic salt w/ parsley flakes and set aside. In a large saucepan add the ingredients you have chosen for the cheese, start by melting the butter, then add the milk and then add the cheese, keep on a med- med low heat stirring frequently as it melts. At the same time, boil the pasta you have chosen as directed, cutting about a minute off the cooking time, you want the pasta slightly under-cooked Also whenever I boil pasta I use a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil in the water. Once the pasta is done, strain out all the water and put the pasta in the casserole dish you have prepared earlier. Very slowly and carefully pour the cheese mixture over the pasta making sure you get it all over every piece, if you miss a little stir it a bit with a spoon, but do not vigorously stir, you want to try and keep that bottom layer in tact. Add 1/2 of your 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar sprinkled across the top, leave the other half for later. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for about 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbling pretty good.
Take out the dish and add the Cheddar Fried Onion topping all over, evenly on top. Then above that add the remaining cheddar cheese. Put back in the oven but re-set to broil, high setting. Watch this part close, you do not want this to burn. It should only broil for about 2-3 minutes, the cheese will be bubbling up and the topping will be crunchy, and then it is ready.
I like to let people add their own salt and pepper to this dish, I love salt so I usually add it, but in this case, the Parmesan cheese adds a saltiness to it.