Sunday, September 11, 2011

Freezer Mac & Cheese

*It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since September 11, 2001.  On that day, I was newly married and just a few weeks pregnant with my first child.  For a while, I felt fear for the new life I was going to be bringing into the world.  I think many of us can remember where we were and our thoughts and feelings about that day.  Let us never forget.*

This recipe comes from the now-defunct Freezy Happy website, a blog where the author had a ton of good-looking recipes suitable to make ahead, store in the freezer, and take out and bake when needed.  Luckily my tech-savvy husband was able to find the recipe for me to post even after her site went down (it seems for good).  I made this a few weeks before my baby was born.  We ate half of the recipe that night, and the other half went into a disposable aluminum container and into the freezer. 
We ate the other half recently when my son requested mac and cheese for his b-day dinner.  It was just as good as the "fresh" one we had eaten before!  I did not include the crushed crouton topping in my frozen one (the pic above is the first one we ate back in July or August).  You can always top with crushed crackers or something right before baking. 

Since making this recipe, I've come to find out that just about any homemade mac and cheese recipe does awesome in the freezer.  When I was pregnant, I made and froze 3 different mac and cheese recipes (they all used a roux though).  Besides this Freeze Happy one, I made this one (Potluck Mac and Cheese) and it turned out great.  I also made this one.  I honestly can't remember if we've eaten that one or not yet, but I'm sure it was/is delicious!  (My brain is fuzzy these days).  That last one I mentioned is closest to Stouffer's Mac and Cheese, which of course comes frozen for you to bake at home.  Anyway... on to the recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound short pasta, such as cavatappi or macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups 2% milk
salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (12 ounces)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
Topping like crushed croutons or crackers, optional

1.  Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water 1 to 2 minutes less than package instructions.  Drain, and return to pot.

2.  Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add flour; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Add milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and salt; bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in cheeses until smooth.

3.  Pour over pasta; toss to coat. Divide among baking dishes- use 2 8x8 or 9x9 dishes, one for now and one for later.  For the one for now:  bake in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.  Freezing instructions below.

To Freeze:
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then foil.  I like to also stick the whole thing into a big freezer baggie.  Freeze up to 3 months.

To Prepare:
- Preheat oven to 375°. Place frozen dishes on a baking sheet; remove plastic. Cover with foil.
- Bake until bubbling, 60 to 70 minutes for large dishes, 40 to 50 minutes for small.
- Remove foil; continue baking until golden, 5 to 10 minutes more.
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