Friday, September 16, 2011

A crafty day that ended with macaroni

One of the things I enjoy most about being home with the kids is that now any day is a good day for getting crafty.
It was a beautiful late summer day, so we decided to take advantage of the sunshine, by painting outside.
Painting with little kids is so much fun, and when you can be outside there is much less anxiety about getting paint everywhere. I just hosed them off when we were done.

The rascals were still in a crafty mood after painting, but I wasn't interested in any more clean-up-heavy activities so I got out the PlayMais.
If you haven't seen this stuff before, it's made from corn and has the consistency of foam peanuts.
It's completely non-toxic and more importantly non-messy. The little beans stick together when you dampen them with a moist felt cloth. You can squeeze them and cut them into smaller pieces.
We reuse ours over and over again. The kids love them because they are light and very easy to handle and hold and they stick together however you want them to.

Mommy helped with these.
I love them because they are easy to clean up and they occupy rascals long enough to prepare silly lunches.

While eating lunch, Mimi and I were chatting about how crafty our day had been and she suggested that a crafty day should end with "Craft Dinner". She has no idea what Kr@ft Dinner really is, she's just heard other kids talk about it. (Don't get me wrong though, I've eaten my fair share of KD, but neither Shawn or I grew up eating it as kids so we never think to have it in the house.) I checked the cupboards and fridge, confirmed we had the necessary(ish) ingredients and said, "Sure! Let's make macaroni and cheese-Abelattanzedinio Style!" (Errr, to be completely honest, it's Martha Stewart style).
I'll warn you now. If you are looking for a quick recipe to make for dinner this is not the one. Grating the cheese alone takes longer than making KD! This is also not a budget saving recipe. I think mine used about $15 worth of cheese alone. I'm a cheese snob though. Judge me if you must.
All that said, it's a very, very tasty recipe and it makes a big batch, so you will have some to freeze for later when you do need something quick. I've made this recipe at least, oh I dunno, 20 times? I've served it to company and everyone loves it. It's worth the time and effort. There are not many things more comforting than a hot bowl of macaroni and cheese.


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (I used half a day-old baguette)
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I love the cayenne in this recipe! Don't leave it out!)
  • 4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces) (I use both...I also used about a cup of grated mozzarella that we had left over from making pizza)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I use more than a pound....probably more like 1.5 pounds)


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I skip this step) Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.
  5. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce
  6. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
    I love using these mini casserole dishes and the rascals love picking their colours.

    Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top.
    Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot

    This one went into the freezer for another day.

    This recipe doesn't disappoint, so if you have the time and the cheese I suggest you try it. I've also added veggies (broccoli, peas etc) from time to time, and you wouldn't be crazy if you threw a little bacon in there too. Mmmmmm.....bacon. Enjoy!
     P.S. Here's my little photographer/food stylist getting a good shot on her own camera.

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