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I was just dying to make macaroni and cheese last week. There is something about cold weather and having to retire my flip flops and gauzy tops (ok, they should have been retired long ago) in favor of fleece hoodies and drawstring sweats that makes me crave pasta, butter, and cheese. Unfortunately for me, I had some deliciously tempting but not-as-much-craved-for shrimp and beef in the fridge. Well, I did have two delicious meals, but really, I just couldn’t plow through those perishables quick enough to get to mac and cheese.

I dug my nose into Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and some of my favorite food blogs in search of a fail-proof recipe. Well, I was a little overwhelmed and confused. Everyone seems to have their own protocol. Cold roux with warm milk; warm milk with cold roux; warm roux with warm milk; to preboil or not preboil; Velveeta as a stabilizer; American as a stabilizer; the decisions were endless. I threw up my hands in disgust and did what I always do when I am overwhelmed – turn to Ina.

I could just sing Ina’s praises all day long. Her recipes are always simple, easy to follow, and delicious. This recipe was no different.

Mac and Cheese
Adapted from

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. whole-wheat elbow pasta
  • 2 c. low-fat milk
  • 1 c. cream
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 c. grated cheddar
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ c. Italian breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cream and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Swiss, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  4. Top with breadcrumbs bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
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As much as I love to cook, at times my laziness gets the best of me and I, like many others, succumb to the convenience of the pizza parlor across the street. While making my own pie was not nearly as convenient as takeout, it was not the arduous task I envisioned it to be.

Making sauce and cutting up toppings is the easy part. What has always prevented my (and I imagine most others’) success was making the crust. I recall the first time (as a child) being introduced to Boboli and my excitement that came topping the crust with mozzarella and sauce. As I sat in front of the oven window watching the cheese melt and salivating at my creation, there was nothing else in the world that could match my excitement (perhaps besides a new Cabbage Patch Doll or a new episode of Punky Brewster). My hopes and dreams of delicious homemade pizza were shattered at that first bite. Not even a child’s palate could be impressed by the glutenous and impossibly chewy Wonder Bread masquerading as crust. Many disappointments followed with store bought doughs and, given my lame bread making skills, I never dared to try making my own crust. Until now.

While I cannot say I was one hundred percent satisfied with the result, I did make a pretty tasty meal. The pizza dough was easy enough to make, though stretching it was a bit difficult. I made a little “test” pizza first (to check if I was spot on with the oven temperature and baking apparatus) which turned out crispy and delicious. I had slightly more difficulty stretching the dough thinly when it came time to make the big boys, leaving me with a slightly bread-ier result. Nonetheless, it was still tasty and I will use this recipe again taking more care to stretch the dough out thinly.

After cooking the crust for a few minutes sans toppings, I brushed it with some garlic infused olive oil, added a zippy homemade pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and then topped with leftover chicken, kalamata olives (a vice of mine), and thinly sliced roma tomatoes.

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