Comfort Food for Dad
As you know we are focused this week on those wonderful people we will celebrate this coming Sunday…Dads:) They come in all shapes and sizes and have all different opinions and tastes. But it has been my experience over the years that one universal quality about fathers is that they all love comfort food….well for that matter who doesn’t? !!!
So today we are going to offer you a go-to menu you can use anytime Dad needs an extra little dose of nurture and love from the kitchen. From my Southern roots, I learned that food was an answer to just about any problem or hurdle and it was (and still is) the main ingredient in a celebration. Since this coming Sunday we will be celebrating Dads, this seemed a good time to share this menu with you. Today we are offering the all American classic….Macaroni and Cheese. There are all kinds of ways to make mac and cheese and you have probably tried some. At the very least most people have opened the blue box of Kraft Mac and Cheese and made a quick dinner for kids, if not for yourself. The truth is growing up I literally NEVER had Kraft Mac and Cheese…..I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we ate our weight each year in macaroni and cheese. It is a favorite of mine, but my grandmother was the chef of this family favorite and she always made it from scratch.
What is different about this mac and cheese from other recipes you may have tried is that there is no flour in it. Every other recipe I have ever seen starts the process by making a white sauce of butter, flour and milk to which the cheese is added to make a “sauce” and then all that is poured over the cooked macaroni and then baked. My grandmother didn’t use that technique. She didn’t so much have a recipe for making macaroni and cheese as she had a method. I have done my best to turn that “method” into a recipe anyone can follow.
It is simple to make and usually everything you need is already in your refrigerator. You can truthfully use any bits of cheese you have in your refrigerator as the different cheeses add layers of flavor and how could a bunch of melted cheese taste bad anyway? In our home growing up, this casserole was sometimes a side dish to other main dishes. But more often than not, it was the main dish and was accompanied by a salad and cornbread and cold, sweet slices of cantaloupe. No matter what kind of day any of us had had, macaroni and cheese was a welcome sight and a delicious smell from the kitchen to cheer us or console us. It still works in my house and I’m betting it will work in yours too. Though very humble in its origins, eating this will most certainly fill Dad and anyone in your home, with love, joy, and a grand sense of abundant living:)
1 lb. elbow macaroni
1 lb. sharp cheddar *
4 oz. cream cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
3 cups warm milk or ½ & 1/2
1 clove minced garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon Coleman’s Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ cup parmesan cheese for topping
Boil the macaroni in enough salted water to be about 2 inches higher in the pan than the pasta. For 1 lb. of macaroni I would use about 1 tablespoon of salt. This sounds like a lot of salt, but remember you are going to pour the salted water out. If you don’t sufficiently salt the water while the pasta or macaroni is cooking, it will taste very bland when it is done. You really can’t properly salt it after it cooks.
Cook the macaroni until it is just underdone. This is important because as it bakes in the oven with the milk and cheese, it will continue to cook and you don’t want it to be soggy. Drain the macaroni.
While the macaroni is cooking warm the milk to scalding (little bubbles will form on the sides of the pan)and stir in the garlic, mustard, salt and pepper.
Immediately add the warm milk mixture and cheeses to the drained macaroni while it is still hot. This is so the hot pasta will combine with the milk and melt the cheese creating the sauce.
Stir to mix well. The mixture will be a little bit runny. That is OK. The pasta will absorb some more of the milk as it bakes.
Pour into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbling and the top is lightly browned.
Dig in and enjoy:)
* You actually can use bits of any cheeses you might have in your refrigerator but the main cheese should be cheddar.
1 lb. spinach leaves
1 lb. bacon cooked and crumbled
2 eggs hard boiled
2 tomatoes diced or 1 pkg. cherry tomatoes
1 bunch green onion, chopped
1 avocado (optional)
1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook bacon and crumble OR chop before hand and cook in bite sized pieces. Drain on paper towels and save bacon drippings for corn bread. Chop tomatoes and avocado into small pieces and add to spinach leaves with green onion.
Cook and peel eggs and grate over spinach salad just prior to adding dressing.
Grate the rind of a washed lemon into 1 cup of mayonnaise. Squeeze juice from the lemon, being careful to catch seeds. With a wire whisk, stir the lemon juice and rind into the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour over spinach leaves, tomatoes, egg, bacon, and avocado and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
The secret to success with this cornbread is to have the pan you are baking it in VERY hot when you add the batter.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil or bacon drippings
2 additional tablespoons of oil or bacon drippings
1 ½ cups milk (approximately)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a cast iron skillet or 8-9” square pan in the oven to heat while you make the batter.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Stir together the ¼ cup oil or drippings, egg and milk, then stir it into the dry ingredients.
The batter will be thick but should be thin enough to be poured into the pan. Add a bit more milk if batter is too stiff.
Remove hot pan from oven and grease the pan by adding the 2 additional tablespoons of oil or bacon fat. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula.
Beat together until smooth 1 stick of room temperature butter and 1/2 cup honey.