Did you know you can make macaroni and cheese from scratch!? I grew up on the stuff from a blue box... but after seeing Alton Brown make it - I had to try it out. I've since modified and modified the recipe. You'd be amazed at how healthy you can make it and it's SO MUCH YUMMIER! I add chopped cooked chicken most of the time and make this a one-bowl dinner. Yum!
Confetti Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni or pipette, cooked according to package directions
1 pound frozen mixed veggies (you know, the cubes of carrots, peas, corn and greenie beenies)
Cook pasta according to package directions. When you have 1-2 minutes of cook time remaining on the pasta, add the frozen veggies. Drain and set aside.
Optional: 2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I like Trader Joe's)
3 cups low fat milk
1 large or 2 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 c pureed carrots (this gives it that pretty orange color our children have come to expect)
16 oz (4 cups) regular or reduced fat cheese, shredded (sharp cheddar or any mix of cheese you have on-hand)
3 T parmesan cheese
salt and white pepper to taste (black pepper will do, I just like the white because you don't see flecks of black in the pretty orange)
In a large saucepan (or the now empty large pot you cooked the pasta in...) melt butter over medium low heat. Once it stops bubbling, add the flour, dijon and paprika - whisk together to make a smooth paste, cook until this gets just a little darker, or thicker, or starts bubbling in the thin spots, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure all the paste dissolves. Add the bay leaf and carrot puree. Increase heat to medium and simmer to thicken. Get some little bubbles going, but don't boil, about 5-10 minutes. Think the consistency of gravy.
Add cheeses, stirring until all melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add pasta with veggies and chicken. Stir well, serve hot.
Leftovers are especially awesome if you spread them in a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs tossed in some melted butter and bake at 350F until golden.