“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

03 March 2012

slow cooked mac & cheese

Thank goodness it’s March!  Hopefully March will be better for blogging that February, which was very sad.  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking (although I think we hit an all-time high in February for going out to eat or pulling last minute meals out of the freezer, sigh) but I had a very difficult time getting these recipes written up.  Therefore, I am commencing an all-out blogging bombardment ~ on my computer, anyway.  Gotta get these recipes out there before you all drop my blog from boredom!  I will try to restrain myself from pummeling you too much, and not post them all at once.  That way maybe I can trick those of you who aren’t  paying attention into thinking I’m doing a great job at cooking every day.  In March.  Yep, that’s my plan, and it’s quite evil... bwahahahaha!  Ok, maybe not that evil.  It’s appealing to think that I could come up with an evil plan, and its very satisfying to cackle hysterically, but I think this plan falls far short from being evil... Darn it!

If you want something truly evil, and, yes, decadent, and easy peasy, and crowd pleasing, here it is.  Slow cooked mac & cheese.  Did you know there was such a thing?  I didnt.  Not that Im complaining.  Im definitely not complaining.  My kids beg me just about every day to make either, a) pizza, or b) macaroni and cheese.  (Middlest refuses to call it mac & cheese, insisting that “It’s name is MACARONI and cheese, mom.”  Rather ironic, when you think about it, since we only make it with actual macaroni noodles when it comes out of a blue box.  Otherwise its shells or rotini...)  So, crowd pleasing?  Absolutely.  Littlest gobbled it down and begged for more.  And despite telling me that he prefers MACARONI and cheese in it’s true form best (I.E. from the blue box), I caught Middlest picking at the leftovers several times.  Oldest “mmm-ed” his way through dinner, which is always gratifying.  I thought it was amazingly yum (Ill get to why in a mo...)  My husband hemmed and hawed a bit when asked if he liked it.  He said that it was good for what it was, but he prefers the white boxed mac & cheese.  I asked him if he thought he’d like it better if I used white cheddar or provolone... whatever I could make that white stuff out of.  He said he would like it better if I put some litl smokies in it.  Something to think about for next time.

And that brings us to the point of just why slow cooked mac & cheese tasted so yum and, I said it, decadent and evil.  Butter.  This recipe uses a lot of butter.  Which brings to mind, again, my favorite line from the movie Julie and Julia: Is there anything better than butter?  Think it over, any time you taste something that’s delicious beyond imagining and you say “what’s in this?” the answer is always going to be butter.  The day there is a meteorite rushing toward Earth and we have thirty days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter.  Here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter.  And in the words of Homer Simpson, “Mmm, butter... (gurgling drooling sounds)”

And on that note, heres the recipe:

Slow Cooked Macaroni & Cheese
serves 6
8 ounces medium shell macaroni
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup evaporated milk
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese or a cheddar blend
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook the macaroni following package directions.  Drain in a colander and rinse with hot water.  Drain well.

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 3½ to 4-quart slow cooker (I use about 2 tablespoons of butter).

Combine the macaroni with the remaining ingredients in the slow cooker and blend well.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 2½-3½ hours, stirring a few times.

When the macaroni and cheese is done, feel free to spoon into a baking dish, top with a little more cheese, and put under the broiler for a minute or two for that “fresh from the oven” look.

I admit I didn’t bother spooning into a baking dish, topping with a little more cheese, and putting it under the broiler for a fresh from the oven look.  I made this on a Wednesday ~ piano and scout day ~ precisely because I wanted something that would be already cooked when we all came home and we could just dig in to.  I didn’t even bother making garlic bread or ~gasp!~ vegetables to go with it.  I know, I know, bad mom!  I really am trying to get more veggies into my family ... hey, there was pepper in there; doesn’t that count as a vegetable?

Changes?  No, not really.  ~ Gasp again! ~ I did double the recipe.  And I used cheddar/jack cheese, but the recipe said that was ok.  It even called for shells, so I didnt deviate there.  Ok, I didn’t melt the butter first.  I was in an enormous hurry, so I stirred everything but the butter into the cooked noodles (al dente, which maybe was a good idea, as I think they could have been VERY soggy otherwise), dumped it into the crock pot and stuck a stick of butter on top (I doubled the recipe, remember) where I figured it would melt in.  It did.  I also didn’t stir occasionally.  I wasn’t home to stir occasionally.  That’s why you can see some of those little crusty brown overcooked bits mixed into the cheesy, buttery goodness in the picture.  But you dont hear me complaining about those little crusty brown overcooked bits.  Mmm, love those little crusty brown overcooked bits.

Really, this recipe is so easy (yes, just as easy as stirring that orange powder into the pan of milky/buttery noodles) and so yummy.  Go.  Try it now.

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