Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Mac And Cheese

Mac and cheese and birthday cake

My little girl turned 2 yesterday. I can barely believe it. She is such a crazy, fun, smart kid, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life. Most days I can’t believe my good fortune in being her mommy.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are also the days she doesn’t nap, like yesterday. I ended up baking her birthday cake with her strapped firmly to my leg, muttering under my breath about the debatability of whether cranky 2-year-olds who don’t nap deserve homemade birthday cakes. Ah, good times.

Nap or no nap, I was determined to make her birthday fun and special, so I whipped up her favorite meal (mac and cheese, of course), and a from-scratch birthday cake it was.

birthday cake

Happy birthday to you!

I went with the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for yellow layer cake, which was amazing, and frosted it with their vanilla buttercream recipe. The frosting… not so much. Everyone else liked it, but to me, it tasted like I had frosted the cake with pure butter. Anyone have any tips on buttercream for me, or should I just try a different frosting? I liked the simple sugar icing I made for her birthday party cupcakes, but perhaps that is a testament to my sugar addiction, rather than just a taste preference. Nora obviously didn’t mind the buttercream… but of course, this is the same child who was begging me for chunks of butter while I was making the cake.

nora frosting

Don’t mind if I do…

Now, as for the mac and cheese, it has come to my attention that, although I have shared no less than six different recipes for my favorite dish, I have not yet shared my old standby recipe. There’s nothing quite like good ol’ fashioned baked mac and cheese, the kind I’ve been making (and tweaking ever so slightly) since… well, I can’t even remember when. I know it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook on my own. It’s good, and it’s so easy I could practically do it in my sleep. Or with a toddler strapped to my leg. Enjoy!


Say cheese!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Comfort food
  • 1 lb dried macaroni (preferably whole wheat)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 2½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and whisk until bubbling and golden, a couple of minutes. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring to incorporate well and keep smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring often, and simmer until slightly thickened. Add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of the cheddar. Add the cooked and drained macaroni and stir well with a rubber spatula.
  3. Transfer the macaroni into a 9 x9 baking dish or casserole of similar size and top with the remaining cheddar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly, and then heat until the broiler until the top is golden brown, a couple of minutes. Cool slightly before serving.


Hatch chile mac and cheese

I know, I know. I am obsessed with Hatch green chiles. It’s a sickness. A delicious, delicious sickness. But… this one is really amazing. How could you not love mac and cheese?

I picked up some pre-prepared Hatch chile mac and cheese at Central Market during their Hatch festivities, and it was good… but I knew I could do better. And I did.

Oh yeah.

The sharp cheddar went perfectly with the spicy Hatch chiles, of which I used a liberal amount. The green chile flavor suffused the entire dish, and there was a spicy kick to every bite. It was, in short, delicious, but not for the faint of heart.

Of course, you could use fewer chiles, or use milder chiles… but I liked it just the way it was, thank you very much.

Hatch Chile Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups dried macaroni*
2 cups milk (preferably whole)
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs butter
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
4-6 Hatch or other green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and mix thoroughly to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring to incorporate. Heat over medium low, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Gradually stir 2 cups of the grated cheddar into the mixture, stirring to incorporate. Off the heat, fold in the cooked macaroni and the green chiles. Transfer to a casserole dish and spread evenly. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and the bread crumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Turn on the broiler to finish, removing the dish when the bread crumbs are slightly browned.

Happy blogiversary to me!

It has been a year since my first post. How time flies! But, at the same time, it seems like I’ve been writing this blog forever. Funny, that’s just about how I felt on Nora’s first birthday. I simultaneously couldn’t believe she was already a year old, and felt like I had been her mommy forever and couldn’t imagine life without her.

Not that I’m likening my child to my blog… Well, maybe just a little bit. Taking care of both of them has become a labor of love. Nora, and writing about food and life with Nora and other miscellany, have both brought richer meaning to my life.

In honor of my first blogiversary, I am making a list, in no particular order, of my 10 favorite posts from the past year. Enjoy, and please let me know if you’ve tried any of the recipes out — I’m always looking for creative feedback.

1. Black bean burgers — finally!

I have to include this one, solely because it took so long to puzzle out what I think is the perfect recipe. Who needs frozen Gardenburgers when you’ve got these babies… and even quinoa burgers for a change of pace now and then.

2. 10 Easy Salad Ideas. This has been a really popular post, and I’m happy that people seem to have found inspiration for lunches here. Kudos to my friend Melissa for making a special request for this post, and for test-driving several of the recipes.

3. Pasta with Sun Gold tomatoes.

I don’t know what it is about this pasta, but it is just about my favorite tomato dish ever. The Sun Gold tomatoes (which grow like crazy in our back yard) have the sweetest, mildest flavor, and the sauce is so silky and delicious.

4. Grilled pizzas.

I’m psyched that my whole wheat dough came out well, and I love being creative with toppings. Grilled pizzas just may be my favorite meal!

5. Vanilla jasmine martini.Of all the drinks I’ve tried over the past year (and with Cocktail Thursday, there have been a lot!) this is my favorite. It’s such a lovely, elegant flavor.

6. Vegetarian cassoulet.

I just like that this is a classic dish, vegetarianized… and not in a way that leaves you missing the meat. I also love that it’s winter comfort food, and that it takes a long time (but most of it non-active time) to make.

7. On Choosing. I have to include this one for sentimental reasons. I spoke from the heart, and I’m glad that my daughter will someday be able to look back and know how I came to live this particular part of my life the way I have.

8. Pumpkin pancakes.

So good. Such excellent, excellent breakfast-y goodness. I can’t wait until it’s fall again.

9. Grown-up mac and cheese.

I am a noted mac-and-cheese enthusiast, and this is my favorite. It’s all grown up… and delicious. I have to mention, as an aside, that Nora has started asking for “mac” by name, at least a couple of times a day. She truly is my daughter.

10. Broccoli cheddar bites.

I haven’t made a batch of these in a while, but I really should. Nora loves them, and I love to sneak a couple off her plate, too! They’re super-simple, freezeable, and one of my most popular recipes.

It has been quite a year, and going back through these posts has really brought it all back. Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and here’s to more years to come!

Roasted tomato and basil mac and cheese

How do you take what, to me, is the consummate winter comfort food, and make it into a summer meal? Answer: tomatoes. I don’t think I would have ever thought to combine garden-fresh tomatoes with a hearty casserole like this, but Rufus’ Food & Spirits Guide has, once again, inspired me.

Take my old standby mac and cheese recipe, add a mouth-wateringly delicious heirloom tomato, a nice handful of basil from our backyard, and a little mozzarella and parmesan on top, and you have a perfect summer mac and cheese. Who knew?

Oh yeah.

The juice from the tomato mixes with the cheese sauce as it bakes, infusing the whole dish with tomato deliciousness in every bite. It truly is alchemy.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Macaroni and Cheese
Inspired by this recipe from Rufus’ Guide to Food and Spirits

2 cups dried macaroni*
2 cups milk (preferably whole)
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs butter
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzerella
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
2 Tbs basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and mix thoroughly to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring to incorporate. Heat over medium low, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Gradually stir the grated cheddar into the mixture, stirring to incorporate. Off the heat, fold in the cooked macaroni. Transfer to a casserole dish and spread evenly. Top with the tomato slices, sprinkle with the mozzarella and parmesan, and finish with the basil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Turn on the broiler to finish, removing the dish when the cheese is slightly browned.

* I like to use whole wheat.

Oh-so-slightly healthier mac and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is never going to be health food. But, when I had gestational diabetes, I figured out a healthier way to make it that didn’t spike my blood sugar. As a bonus, it was actually more flavorful than my old standard version, and so I’ve made it my new standard version.

healthier mac and cheese

Healthy(-ish) comfort food.

My hubby, the official salad chef of the house, whipped us up a salad of fresh butterhead lettuce from Full Circle Farm, topped off with grated parmesan, Green Goddess dressing (made with Penzey’s excellent salad dressing mix) and some leftover croutons from my split pea soup.

Gotta have some veggies.

Gotta have some veggies.

Since it was rainy and cold outside the other night, it was the perfect night for winter comfort food. The sunny weather is back again, but I’ll definitely be dusting off this recipe again next time it’s cold and gray!

Oh-so-slightly healthier mac and cheese
  • 2 cups dried whole wheat macaroni
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 3½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • bread crumbs (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni according to package directions and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and mix thoroughly to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until bubbly, about 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add the milk and vegetable stock, stirring to incorporate. Heat over medium low, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
  4. Gradually stir 3 cups of the cheddar into the mixture, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Off the heat, fold in the cooked macaroni. Transfer to a casserole dish and sprinkle the remaining cheddar and bread crumbs, if using, over the top.
  6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the top begins to brown slightly.


Cauliflower mac and cheese

I’m kind of a mac and cheese junkie. I’m sure that comes as no surprise, since this is probably the fifth variation of the classic dish I’ve posted here. I do like to come up with new twists, though, and if the twist is healthy, so much the better!

I came across this Jamie Oliver recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese a while back, and it has become a staple in our weeknight rotation, especially when we have lots of cauliflower to use. It has a great, sharp flavor and a creamy sauce, and the cauliflower actually adds a lot to it. I thought it sounded kind of weird at first, but I’m a convert.


I used romanesco for this particular batch, but you can use any kind of cauliflower, or you can even modify the recipe to use other veggies.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Original recipe from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver, with my modifications

half a head of cauliflower*
8 oz. cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping
4 oz. parmesan cheese
small bunch of Italian parsley**
1 lb. dried macaroni
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
garlic powder

Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and discard. Slice the end off the cauliflower stalk and cut the head into small florets. Halve the thick stalk lengthways, then slice thinly. Grate the cheddar and parmesan into a large heat-proof bowl. Finely chop the parsley stalks and leaves.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cauliflower and cook according to the macaroni package instructions. Drain, reserving the cooking water,*** and transfer to a large bowl.

Return the water to a boil (tip some out if you need to for the bowl to fit) and place the bowl of cheese over the saucepan. Add the crème fraîche or sour cream and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Carefully stir every so often until the cheese is smooth and melted. If the water boils up beneath the bowl, just turn the heat down slightly. Add all the chopped parsley to the melted cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Carefully remove the bowl of cheese using and oven mitt and set aside. Drain pan, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan, pour in the melted cheese, and stir.

Preheat the broiler. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to the macaroni, stir in, then transfer to a baking dish. Top with a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until golden and bubbling.

* Or a small-ish head of cauliflower, or just make a double batch with a whole head.

** I just skip this if I don’t have it on hand, but it does add iron!

*** The easiest way to do this is to use a pasta pot with an insert you can pull out, but you can also drain into a colander set over a large bowl and then dump the water back into the pot.

Grown-up mac and cheese

It has been cold, gray and rainy here lately, so I was in the mood for comfort food. What’s better than mac and cheese? Not just any mac and cheese, mind you, but fancy mac and cheese. First, swap the elbow noodles for penne rigate, a decidedly more grown-up pasta. My absolute favorite pasta ever is Selezione Monograno Felicetti, which used to be available at Whole Foods, but has since gone missing from their shelves.

Curse you, Whole Foods!!

I had half a box left, so I used it for this dish. Farewell, good pasta. Maybe I’ll find another source for you someday…

Next, add three deliciously complementary cheeses — brie, Gruyère, and sharp cheddar — and envelop them in a rich, creamy bechamel sauce. Top with more cheese and plenty of toasted, buttery breadcrumbs, and bake until warm and bubbly.

Good stuff.

It’s perfection on a cold, rainy evening. Add a salad and call it dinner.

Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese
Original recipe from Bon Appétit, September 2007, with my modifications

1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup diced rindless brie*
3 Tbsp butter, divided
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
dash nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
8 oz penne rigate

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Toss all the cheeses together. Set aside 3/4 cup for topping.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until golden brown (just a couple of minutes). Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until smooth and thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cheeses (less the reserved 3/4 cup), stirring until melted and smooth.

Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs, toss, and stir until golden brown. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and toss with the cheese sauce. Place the mixture in a 9×9 baking dish and top with reserved cheese, then breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown.

Note: You can also make this ahead and bake later. Refrigerate or freeze the pasta mixture. When ready to bake, defrost if frozen and drizzle with cream (about 1/4 cup total, but just eyeball it). Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture, and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.

*Stick the wedge in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to cut the rind off.


So, dear readers, how about you? I know you’re out there, and I’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite comfort food for a cold, rainy day?

MacGyver Cooking

Last night was Night 3 of the hubby being gone, and I was out of pizza. It also happened to be the night he was coming home, and although he was just planning to pick something up on the way home, I thought it would be nice to cook something so we could have a late dinner together.

So what could I cook with the stuff I had on hand? Uhhhh… frozen cooked macaroni leftover from when Nora was a couple of months old? Check. Cheese? Always plentiful around here. Chard? I already mentioned we had a glut of it. That’s pretty much how chard mac and cheese was born. Despite being of humble origins, it turned out pretty well, I have to say. It was quick and easy to make after Nora went to bed, and served with a quick salad of bagged mache from Trader Joe’s and tarragon vinaigrette that I made a few days earlier, it was actually a pretty darn nice meal. The pasta was slightly mushy from being frozen and defrosted, but I’d definitely make this again with “new” macaroni.

Mmm... comfort food

Chard Mac and Cheese 
Loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese (which is awesome, BTW)

1 bunch chard, cleaned and roughly chopped (cut stems into smaller pieces)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
veggie broth
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. parmesan cheese, grated (I used a mixture of Italian four-cheese mix and a bit of smoked gouda I had leftover, because, why not?)
1 lb dried macaroni (I like to use whole wheat)
1 cup sour cream
bread crumbs*

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute the chard in the olive oil. Once it’s wilted, add a splash or two of veggie broth and cover over low heat until liquid is absorbed and chard is tender. Cool and then chop finely. Press moisture out with paper towels.

Heat the sour cream and cheeses in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with boiling water. Stir until combined and melted. Add the cheese mixture to the macaroni. Stir in the chard along with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and set under a preheated broiler until crumbs are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

* I keep bread crumbs stored in a mason jar in the fridge. I just use the food processor to grind old loaves of bread and keep them on hand for future use. Super-handy for times like these!

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