Cooking On A Budget: Ultimate Comfort Foods

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ultimate Comfort Foods

We all have our favorite comfort foods. One of mine is macaroni and cheese - simple to make, inexpensive and so delicious. It's made often in this household. However, I try not to stray too far off the original recipe because I have a very traditional and finicky person I cook for. There is one thing he can't get away from and that is since childhood he smothers macaroni and cheese with ketchup. Much like my mother was about this, it sends me around the bend. But over the years I have gained an acceptance to this ritual. (As I write this with gritted teeth.)
The great thing about macaroni and cheese is that you can use a variety of pastas to make it. Traditionally I believe Elbows are the choice. My mother used to make it with Ziti pasta and for the most part I use Penne pasta. But in the photograph above I ended up using partial boxes of pasta for the mac and cheese to use up what I had.
Another recipe I made used a variety of cheeses that I had available on that given day. I called the post "more mac and cheese please". Basically making macaroni and cheese doesn't mean you have to stick with one cheese - combinations of cheese are most welcome.

 To find this recipe: More Mac and Cheese Please click on the link.

I strayed a little bit on this next version in creating an Italian Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese. Looking forward to our garden this year to create more versions using fresh vegetables in the mix.

Cooking on a budget may lead you to combining this ultimate comfort food with some vegetables and maybe a protein. High end restaurants and a number of fine diners are using lobster in their macaroni and cheese. While I think that would be marvelous it is not always a budget choice. You could use Italian sausage, kielbasa or hot dogs in the dish. I would cook the sausage, kielbasa and hot dogs before adding them in the macaroni and cheese. Adding a protein and or vegetables in the mac and cheese serves two purposes: you have added a protein and or vegetable to the meal to make it "complete" and have saved yourself extra clean up after you have eaten.
It doesn't matter what you choose for ingredients - the cheese choice, the type of pasta, to add in a vegetable or a protein - you make the macaroni and cheese your own creation. Starting out the dish with a basic bechemel sauce is not an option - that you need to make. From there you can melt in your cheese(s) to make a cheese sauce. Have fun from there. Be inventive, be creative and cook from the heart. Your family will notice.
This is the latest macaroni and cheese that I made. I began with a roux and made a cheese sauce and cooked it with whole canned tomatoes that I broke apart.  Much to my surprise it tasted exactly like my mother's! That is the measuring stick for me; if I make it like Mom's it's a definite winner!
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