Monday, February 21, 2011

Cooking to your Craving (and Homemade Three Cheese Mac)

It occurs to me that, in general, this is what I do and likely the reason I do love to cook.

This evening, for example, I considered exactly that which my tummy was pining for (pity my family when their cravings do not align with mine). I thought about comfort food, since the eerily springlike weather had given way to the reality of an ongoing winter. I thought about protein, which I crave this evening but do not always desire. I thought about a bit of chopping, which I find to be enjoyable, and of mushrooms, which I find most satisfying to chop.

And I thought about NPR, which I find to be interesting to accompany chopping, because in the evening hour I may catch key words (emancipation, slavery, soldiers) but not a full story while cooking, allowing me to exercise my mind a bit. But I digress.

These thoughts led me to a three cheese homemade mac (blue cheese, a basic shredded fiesta blend and parmesan) with mushrooms, which I thought would be tasty with some quickly blackened shrimp. I added a premade salad with some carrots and sesame ginger dressing, and behold: I found my cravings (and my patient family) satisfied.

If you don't make homemade mac, it is high time to begin.

1. Cook the noodles just al dente. I like this:

or whole wheat noodles, but hey - it's your craving!

2. Drain the noodles and use the same pot to quick sauté onions in olive oil - maybe 1/2 cup, but to your taste!

3. Add about a tbsp of flour (I like whole wheat!) and black pepper (I like lots!) and whisk, then add milk - I use a liberal pour (probably 1.5 to 2 cups) of 2%, but play with your preferred type and amount based on consistency.

4. Start folding in cheese! A basic finely shredded fiesta blend works well, but I try others once in a while. About 2 cups, but again, to taste based on the thickness you wish of the cheese sauce.

5. Put a light spray on your casserole or baking dish, add the drained noodles and pour on the cheese sauce, stirring to incorporate.

7. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or so. I often top with more shredded cheese and pepper, and turn to broil for the last 5 minutes to brown.

You'll never go back.

Long live the basic act of listening to your gut (as it were).