Best Ever Mac and Cheese

Sometimes the best meals are made impromptu, completely unplanned, on a hungry whim before a technologically-inept appliance. You grab noodles- the remainder of a folded and torn cellophane bag packed and moved from one home to another for this exact purpose. The whole bag gets dumped into a pot brimming with salted boiling water, because noodles are thirsty and you are hungry and time is of the essence here. A second pan is devoted to saucing this carbohydrate platter, but of what ingredient and what influence? Cheese, of course. You grab cheese, because you definitely don’t have tomato sauce, and you beyond a doubt don’t have the ingredients to make tomato sauce. Cheese- a Mexican blend, it turns out; half an onion; seasonings, why not?; the flour, the milk. It whisks together and the pasta finishes boiling. Approximately eleven minutes have passed. Something healthy, something healthy… you ponder. Ah, a bed of spinach. It’s moderately wilted, insistently structuring its cells with a dehydrating buoyancy, but serves the purpose of “vegetables” all the same. You add the pasta to the sauce, aggressively coating and stirring to achieve that drenching effect. Pasta is haphazardly strewn across spinach leaves, which defeatedly wither on contact, and the plate is dropped against the dinner table. Sit down, fork in hand, breathe once. And suddenly- the best ever mac and cheese to ever grace your lips. Is it hunger? Who knows. But the whirlwind memory stays in flashes; ingredients are marked duly in your brain. You’ll need to make this again.

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Best Ever Mac and Cheese

Serves 1 super hungry person, probably 2-3 reasonable people

3/4 cup whole wheat penne (or macaroni if you’re a traditionalist or otherwise prepared)

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

Salt & pepper, to taste

3 tbsp. flour

3/4 cup milk, anything but skim

1/3 cup shredded cheese (I used a mexican blend from Trader Joe’s)

Spinach to serve

In a large pot of salted boiling water, add the noodles. Cook according to package directions, maybe just shy of their instruction (9.5 minutes instead of 10). Strain the noodles and set aside (ideally for minimal minutes).

Sauté the diced onion in the butter over medium low heat for 10 minutes, until softening and translucent. Add the paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir in the 3 tbsp. of flour until fully incorporated with the butter, forming a thick paste. Whisk in 3/4 cup of milk and bring to a boil over the same low temperature. Continue whisking until a thick sauce forms, almost the consistency of nacho cheese from a terrible baseball game. Add in the cheese and whisk to combine. The sauce will be quite thick, but consequently very adherent to the noodles.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir and stir and toss until the noodles are adequately and evenly coated. Serve atop a bed of spinach.

Die.

Well, that’s morbid. But, it’d be ok. Because you’ve had the best ever mac and cheese.

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Blueberry Peach Baked Oatmeal with Quinoa

So many ingredients in that title; sigh.

I acknowledge that peach and blueberry season is fast escaping. For the coolest summer I can remember, this transition feels silent and, in a way, inappropriate. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve felt overheated these past few months, and I can recount specifically the days (plural, but limited) in which I was too warm in my un-air-conditioned apartment. It feels unfair to me, that although this summer was undoubtedly beautiful, it never felt truly present. I suppose I could blame that on busy schedules as well. But before I could even embrace the beautiful produce and supposedly months-long season, it seems to be passed. As you can tell, the significance of this melodrama is highly upsetting to me. But, to be fair, I love fall so much I hate to dwell too long on my missed experiences, because I find myself excited all the same.

In any case, I did enjoy a few summer recipes that I should really share before it’s too late. One of them is this breakfast I made a few weekends ago. It’s annoying to me now that I have time for breakfast in the morning, I lack a microwave to reheat more complex dishes to enjoy throughout the week. I am forever eating 5-minute meals. Unless! It’s Saturday.

This recipe is based on a more simple baked oatmeal I love, which itself is derived from another found recipe. All the derivations still created a delicious product, and I think this recipe is easily worth a share for a big, family-style brunch or daily breakfast. While you can still find peaches and (good) berries, try it!

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Blueberry Peach Baked Oatmeal with Quinoa

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup cooked quinoa, cooled

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 tbsp. melted (or browned!) butter

1 1/4 cup milk

1 banana, mashed

1 egg

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 cup blueberries

1 peach, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8 square pan.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, quinoa, sugar, baking soda, and spices.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, banana, eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir. Gently mix in 1 cup of fresh blueberries. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Top with sliced peaches.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

I promise to send out summer with just a few more recipes!