Dinner tonight in A’s basement in front of the hockey game. (A different A from the Didsbury A of last night.) It was a toss-together of whatever we had in our fridges – I needed to get rid of the last of the milk and cheese, and she made a pot of chunky leek and potato soup and cooked up some frozen veggie samosas from Costco that reminded me how much I love samosas, even veggie samosas from Costco. Have I posted a recipe for them? Not the Costco ones – from-scratch samosas using frozen hash browns and peas? They are actually dead easy to make, albeit a little time-consuming. But so worth it, especially if you have some chutney around. It would be fun to have a samosa bee, where a group of like-minded eaters made big batches of them assembly-line style. Or I could always go to Costco.
A made the soup with a big ‘ol leek in her fridge, some potatoes, peeled and chopped, and stock, tarragon, and a handful of fresh spinach stirred in at the end. She left it all chunky and it was wonderful eaten out of wide fish-adorned soup bowls with crusty bread from the market.
Considering the fact that a gaggle (or clutch? herd? swarm? did you know it’s actually called a gulp of cormorants and an implausibility of gnus?) of young boys would be in attendance, I turned the milk and cheese into a batch of mac & cheese, using whole wheat rotini and a simple cheese sauce (cook equal parts butter and flour to a thick paste, whisk in milk until bubbly and thick, stir in grated cheese) into which I stirred a couple jars of baby food sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a sweet and relatively benign flavour, as do cauliflower (which you can’t get in baby food form) and squash, and so you can stir some into mac & cheese and no one will see or taste the difference. I keep a few jars on the shelf for cheese sauce occasions – you could even add a jar to a package of KD and it would just come out looking cheesier. Not that kids shouldn’t eat their vegetables in their natural state, but hey – every bit helps.
(Those Canton beans, by the way, are available at the following retailers:
The beans are available at the following outlets across Canada: Metro, Sobeys, Wal-Mart, Loblaws, Boucheries, London Drugs (!!), Thrifty’s, Overwaitea/Save on Foods.)
Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese with Veg
These measurements are flexible – I admit to never measuring when I make mac & cheese – you just get a feel for it. The only thing that really needs to work out is the white sauce – add milk to the roux (butter and flour) and when it bubbles it’s as thick as it’s going to get; if it’s too thin, add a bit more flour and bring back to a bubble. If it’s too thick, add extra milk. The kind of cheese you add and the amount is really up to you. If you want to forego the crumb topping, you could always sprinkle the top with a little grated cheese and bake it until it’s bubbly around the edges and golden on top.
1/2 lb. whole wheat rotini, small shells or other pasta
3-4 Tbsp. butter or non-hydrogenated margarine
3-4 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese, or any combination of cheeses you have in the fridge
1/2-1 cup pureed cooked cauliflower, sweet potatoes or squash or 2 jars pureed baby food
Bread Crumb Topping (optional):
1-2 slices bread (preferably whole wheat), torn into pieces
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil or melted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it’s tender but not mushy. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In the empty pot (no need to wash it out), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, cooking for a minute or so until the mixture starts to turn golden. Stir in the milk and bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. The sauce must reach a full boil in order for the flour to reach its full thickening potential. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, until the mixture is nice and thick.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts. Stir in the vegetable puree, if you’re using it. Add salt to taste, then stir in the drained pasta. If you want a bread crumb topping, pulse the bread, butter and Parmesan in a food processor until the bread turns to crumbs and the mixture is well blended. Pour the macaroni and cheese into an appropriately sized baking dish and top with the bread crumbs or additional cheese. (It can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in the baking dish; sprinkle with the crumb mixture or cheese right before you bake it.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the topping is golden and it’s bubbly around the edges.
Serves 6, more if there are kids.