Cheap Eats: Austerity Kitchen Comfort Food Edition
For some reason, I have a feeling comfort food is going to be very popular during the coming months. But not just any comfort food. It has to be easy to make and inexpensive. It should keep for a few days (leftovers, yummmmm!). And the ingredients should all be real foods -- no substances with names that sound like answers to a chemistry pop quiz.
That's why this homemade macaroni and cheese recipe is highly recommended. It takes a little (not much) more prep time than the boxed or frozen varieties and it has to bake in the oven for 45 minutes or so. But on the plus side, it doesn't contain sodium tripolyphosphate, citric acid, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, propionic acid, potassium chloride, mono and diglycerides with datem, and FD&C Yellows 5 and 6. (In all fairness, some of these ingredients might be in the homemade version, depending on the pasta and cheese of choice.)
Also, go easy on the salt and you'll avoid the 700 to 1,000+ mg of sodium per serving in the packaged and frozen varieties. (The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for sodium is less than 2,400 mg.) Same with milk and cheese. Use reduced calorie versions, you'll end up with substantially less fat and calories than the boxed or frozen products. Finally, macaroni made with whole grains or added fiber and protein gives homemade a healthier advantage, too. Most Americans eat far too little fiber, so here's a chance to correct that.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Boil water and cook 4 cups of macaroni for 8 minutes. While macaroni cooks, spray a 2.5 qt casserole with oil.
Drain macaroni and mix well with ...
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer) cut into approx 1" cubes
Add grated onion, garlic, steamed, chopped broccoli, frozen peas, white kidney beans, sun-dried tomatoes, whatever you're in the mood for and mix well. Put into greased casserole.
Pour 2 cups of reduced-fat milk over the top. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, toasted onion rings or nothing at all.
Cover with foil and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, so the top can brown a bit. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before eating.