The best Macaroni and Cheese Ever


I love a good blue box dinner every once in a while. To be truthful, I compare every other macaroni and cheese dish against that standard. I blame nostalgia over anything else. Lately, J has taken over more of the cooking responsibilities in our house. Since he likes to try new dishes and tweak old ones, I’ve been spoiled. When he made this macaroni and cheese dish this weekend, I told him we could never go back to the blue box. Ever.

Ingredients:
4 to 5 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter (plus 2 tablespoons to mix with cooked pasta)
4 large garlic cloves, minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves, but since we like garlic, we used more)
1 teaspoon onion powder (in the future, we’ll use regular diced onions)
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (while the original recipe said this was optional at 1/4 teaspoon, but we like cayenne)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups half-and-half cream (reserve a little or keep milk on hand to assist with the mixing)
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (we used a mixture of sharp and mild)
1 (16 ounce) package Velveeta cheese (cut into small cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
bread crumbs (we used our own, recipe to come!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium casserole dish (we used butter).  Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente (do not overcook the pasta) drain but do not rinse. Place the pasta a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons butter to prevent sticking; set aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper; stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in flour and stir for about 1 minute (this should look like a paste). Slowly add cream (or milk if that’s what you’re using) and cook, stirring constantly over medium until bubbly and thickened. (This is when you will need to watch the heat, you may need to turn it down.) Reduce heat and add in both cheeses; mix until melted and smooth. (If you’re like us and the oil separates here and the mixture turns into a big glob. We added a bit more milk to loosen it.) Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine. (Do this slowly! A little bit at a time. Otherwise, it will be a giant mess!) Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes.

My opinion:
As I said above, I’ll never go back to the trusty blue box. I couldn’t stop eating this. Amazing.

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Sausage Cheese Balls

These are yet another tradition in J’s family for Christmas morning. In the past, I found them greasy and not very tasty. I’m not entirely sure what J did differently than the rest of his family, but this year they were delicious! They weren’t greasy at all and the flavors really melded together.

Ingredients:
3     cups Original Bisquick mix
1     pound bulk pork sausage
4     cups shredded Cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
1/2     cup milk
1/2     teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

Directions:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease bottom and sides of cookie sheet. Stir together all ingredients, using hands or spoon. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place in pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Immediately remove from pan. Serve warm.

My Opinion:
As I said before these were much better than in years past. They are best right out of the oven, but if you do make them ahead, you have two options, either don’t fully cook them, refrigerate and then pop them back in the oven just before you want them or just cook them through and microwave. They weren’t bad microwaved.  We also made the batter ahead and kept it in the refrigerator for two days. These were easy enough that I might consider making them on  weekend or for brunch.