Tag Archives: cheese

Picnic Dinners

sunsetcliffsselfie

One of our favorite new dinner routines is to pack a picnic, a blanket and a Frisbee, and explore a new park.

Dinners don’t require much prep–just a quick stop at the grocery store and a few odds and ends from the fridge, tossed into a basket or bag. We’ve been buying a baguette and cheeses, especially those little marinated balls of mozzarella because Tom is obsessed. My friend Eva included some baby brie rounds on a cheese plate this weekend, and I think those would be awesome too, because they’d get all gooey as they sat outside. Once, for my birthday weekend, we picked up a few other sides at Whole Foods for our elaborate smorgasbord, but I also like to just prep a salad during the day and slice up some fruit to round out our meal.

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Emma’s Mac-A-Roo, the ultimate macaroni and cheese

emma

That’s my silly sister, on a day long before end-of-the-year work consumed her life. 

Emma put in 14-hour days all week just so she could be home for my last weekend.

Busy season for accountants on the audit side is January and February, and 12-hour days aren’t uncommon, as she’s learning in her first year as a newbie at one of the Big Four. Saturdays are required too, unless, apparently, you present extenuating circumstances like your oldest (and favorite) sister is moving across the country. So she clocked in at 7:30 a.m. all week, getting home at 10–or later–at night. And, she still had to spend a few hours with a calculator and laptop and scary spreadsheets while our pups played. (And mind you, she wasn’t as happy as she was in the above snapshot, taken before a UVA game this fall. Far from it.)

But, Emma: I’m so glad you were here. It may be awhile before we can again cuddle, lunch with a great friend, or shop for running sneakers together. Or, eat mom’s macaroni and cheese.

macaroo

Perhaps most memorable this weekend, we dined on some favorites: Mac-A-Roo and later, grandpa’s fluffy and delicate pancakes. Watching “The Wizard of Oz”–she’s obviously seen this classic too many times and knows every single line–while cozied up in grandpa’s living room wrapped up a low-key evening. (Along with this dark chocolate caramel panna cotta.)

For some reason, Emma and I refused to like homemade macaroni and cheese when we were kids. Was it too saucy, too different than what’s from the blue box, too flavorful? But then, our family went to Outback. And life changed. Emma ordered the kid’s Mac-A-Roo, a simple bowl of noodles tossed with a rich, creamy cheese sauce. My mom, astonished, said, “I could make that at home!” With the macaroni and cheese recipe from Betty Crocker, homemade Mac-A-Roo quickly became a favorite for our family.

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It’s simple and hearty–start with a roux of butter and flour, whisk in milk (for a bechamel sauce), and then melt in cheese. My mom tends to use a mix of American (no longer available in a blue box though, she lamented, just sliced) and grated cheddar. Spoon it over pasta for a saucier dish, creamy cheese clinging to the tiny ridges on the penne, or bake and allow the noodles to soak up the extra sauce and the whole dish will get crusty on top. Emma prefers it unbaked, but my favorite is baked; this weekend, she won. A side of peas always complements Mac-A-Roo, though I don’t know why. That’s just what we’ve always done. The peas are a tad sweet, green (and thus healthy), and blend in well to a bowl of ultimate richness.

Like Dorothy says, there’s no place like home.

uvauncgame

Mac-A-Roo (aka Macaroni and Cheese)
From Betty Crocker

2 cups / 7 oz. uncooked pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
2 cups / 8 oz. cheese (equal parts American and shredded cheddar)

If baking the finished dish, heat oven to 350ºF.

Cook macaroni as directed on package.

While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constanly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.

Drain macaroni.

Choose how you’re going to serve: Either spoon the sauce onto bowls of pasta, or, mix the sauce and all cooked pasta together and pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.

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