Friday, January 21, 2011

Cold Weather Comfort Food, Part 2: Macaroni & Cheese

Tonight I made one of my husband's favorite meals:  homemade macaroni and cheese.  Well, actually it was homemade penne and cheese, but it's the same principle.  My friend Fab asked for the recipe, so here it is for all to see.  Enjoy!

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 pounds whole wheat macaroni (or penne pasta)
6 cups milk (I use 1% most of the time)
1 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 small onion, diced (you can omit this if you really don't like onion)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded mild white cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.  In a non-stick 4 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and tender.  Stir in the flour gradually and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring constantly.  Gradually add the milk, then the sour cream, whisking them into the flour/butter/onion mixture.  Add the salt, pepper, and paprika.  Bring to a low boil, add the mild white cheddar cheese, stir to combine, and turn the heat off.  Put the pasta in a large casserole dish, then pour the cheese sauce over it.  Mix gently to combine.  Sprinkle the remaining sharp cheddar over the top.  Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or so (until the cheese melts and forms a nice golden crusty top, and the sides bubble).  Remove from the oven, and serve hot.

My kids won't eat this meal.  We call it "Death By Casserole," because of the anguish caused by trying to get my kids to eat it.  Can you believe they prefer the neon orange boxed stuff?  Someday they'll realize that I really am a decent cook.  They love my baked goods, but getting them to eat any entree that involves any sauce, or any kind of beef, is a total lost cause.   It doesn't help that I like things with FLAVOR.  I don't do bland.  This is probably one of the mildest meals I make, beside chicken soup.  Go figure. 

My kids seem to live on yogurt, whole grain everything (they won't eat many veggies, so I insist they eat whole grain stuff), fruit, milk, juice, popcorn, peanut butter, and whatever other healthy options I keep around the house, and various snacks and occasional goodies.  And a daily multivitamin.  Our son, Safety Guy, thinks that Kraft Mac is a staple of life.  He'd eat it every day if I let him.  Princess Yakyak would live on milk and dry cereal if we let her.  We hardly ever all eat the same thing at the same time, with the possible exception of takeout pizza.  Is this a nutrition and family dinner fail, or a Mom compromise win, for keeping my sanity during meal times and still getting healthy stuff into my kids?  Sometimes you have to pick your battles.

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Kona Banana Cake

My Mom has been making this cake for years and years, since I was about 10.  It's hands-down the best banana cake recipe I've ever had, so good that I haven't tweaked the recipe at all (and anyone who knows how I cook knows that I can never leave a recipe un-played-with).  This cake is dense and rich.  It doesn't need frosting to be delicious (my kids love it plain), but cream cheese frosting is totally amazing on it if you want to go for over-the-top awesomeness.

Kona Banana Cake

1 c. shortening
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 medium ripe bananas
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs until light.  Add the bananas and the vanilla and blend well.  Add the dry ingredients (except the nuts) and mix until evenly moistened - batter will be thick.  Stir in the nuts.  Spread the batter in a greased and floured 9"x13"x2" cake pan.  Bake for 45 minutes (until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean).  The center of the cake may be slightly concave once it cools, especially if you don't use the nuts.