Thursday, July 5, 2012

In the Kitchen: Baked Smokin' Mac & Cheese

One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that we have so many birthdays to celebrate!  June is Ellis's, July is Monte's and August is Iain's (among other cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, too!).  When a birthday comes around, the birthday king/queen gets to decide what we have for dinner that night as well as what kind of cake they like.

It never fails that Iain requests the same dinner each year, as it's one that has been a favorite of my kids' since the first time I made it.  We have made this dinner for friends, we make it when people have babies/surgeries or just need some help - it's delicious for parents and kids alike!  Since we love it so much, I decided it was time to share it with all of you.

Recipe courtesy of the "Southern Living at Home" Magazine, January 2011 issue.

Baked Smokin' Macaroni and Cheese

Makes 8 total servings.
Hands on time: 25 minutes - Total time: 1 hour

1 lb. uncooked cellentani (corkscrew) pasta  [we use Cavatappi]
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. all-purpose flour
3 C. fat-free milk
1 (12-oz.) can fat-free evaporated milk
1 C. shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 c. shredded 1.5% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
3 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, divided
1 (8-oz.) package chopped smoked ham
Vegetable cooking spray
1 1/4 C. Cornflakes cereal, crushed
1 Tbsp. butter, melted

[Side note by me: I have found it necessary to prepare all of the ingredients before you start making this dish, as the timing of it all requires you to be able to just grab it for use].

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Gradually whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Whisk in Gouda cheese, next 3 ingredients, and 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper until smooth.  Remove from heat, and stir in ham and pasta.

3. Pour pasta mixture into a 13-x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Stir together crushed cereal, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Then serve to the masses!  Please don't tell Monte that I put a picture of him in this pink shirt on my blog - it's a painting shirt and he doesn't wear it away from the house.  It just might embarrass him to know it went viral! :)

My only change to this recipe is that I use red pepper flakes instead of ground red pepper, and I put it on each individual serving as requested since some of my kids can't handle that spice!

Stay tuned for a future "In the Kitchen" featuring Iain's favorite birthday cake! 

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