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.
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.
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!
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.
- 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.
- 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.