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Chicken Cheesey Macaroni

Ingredients for a quickie

Okay, so you’re in a hurry…I mean a really BIG hurry and ya gotta put something on the table – but there’s no boxed Mac N Cheese to be found…not in the pantry, or the cupboard or even the emergency/camping stash! 
So now what?
That’s where I found myself earlier tonight.
There was a chicken-looking left over thing that needed something-something to make it plate worthy. Thought I had it all figured out earlier but….I’d committed the deadly sin of assuming there’s be some sort of boxed side dish that would pull a poor excuse for a dinner together. 
There wasn’t.  Not surprising. I’d gotten away from depending on a lot of pre-packaged food through the years, with the exceptions of camping and/or emergencies that is.

Grating cheese

So with another quick tour of the pantry I came up with the following ingredients:
1 1/2 cups macaroni noodles, Nida brand powdered whole milk, Swanson’s Chicken Broth. 
I had a couple bits of garlic and a good selection of spices in the racks.
The fridge contributed 3 Tablespoons of butter, some tomatoes for slicing on the side and of course the chicken.
Suddenly there lay before me the makings of a good meal.

Okay, so to begin I boiled the noodles then drained them.  Using the same pan, I heated up the chicken with  a dash of the broth then removed it from the pan and set it aside.

Cheese melt down

Next I grated the cheese and made up the milk according to package directions using chicken broth instead of water.  3 Tablespoons of butter and the milk mixture landed in the pan used for cooking the chicken and macaroni.  Then I added the grated cheese and stirred, stirred, stirred as the cheese melted.  The sauce thickened more and more until at last, about 4 minutes later, it seemed thick enough to add the macaroni….and so I did.

Melting

The trick is to use a kind of folding-in stir rather than a liquid stir if you want the noodles to stay whole.  This also insures a more even coating of cheese per noodle.

I added the chicken chunks and some left over peas to my bowl, but you don’t have to.  Jack likes his chicken served separately….hey, what ever flies yer kite!

Mac n Cheese with Chicken n Peas

Anyway, this little recipe is one for the Just In Case files.  Feel free to share, contribute recipes, send comments!   Enjoy!

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Of terrorists and comfort food

So much going on in the world!  Where to begin? Everybody’s been talking about Usama bin Laden’s death….some see it as the end of a terrorist.  Others think it was wrong.  How do I feel?  Not sure.  I’m glad he’s gone….I don’t know why it took so long to get him; ten years is a long, long time!
I don’t believe in murder, but then again….karma is karma.

How does a recipe come out of this discussion?  Hmmmm.
On the one hand, there’s the fact that UbL’s gone….but on the other there’s the fact that there’s so much hatred in the world.

Times like these call for something familiar….favorite blanket familiar.

Think comfort food….homey and warm, like when it’s winter and there’s Macaroni and Cheese finishing up in the kitchen.  You can smell that tangy richness….made that special way, not too stringy or gloopy…but cheesy enough to wrap around and through each noodle like velvet.

With dishes like this, I don’t do much actual measuring…it’s more of a look, see, smell, taste kind of thing.  But that’s what cooking’s all about, eh?

The macaroni’s fairly simple….although instead of just boiling your pasta in water, try adding a bit of broth or maybe a spice or two….some folks add a cube of bullion (chicken, veg or beef, what ever accent you want to play with).  Broth can have a two-fold benefit…spiking a bit more protein nutrient into the starch. Be careful of the sodium content though, some of that stuff is completely loaded with it!
Remember not to add any more salt to the water if you do that!

Let the water come to a boil before adding the noodles….this will help to avoid sogginess.  Follow package directions for your elbow macaroni….usually between 8 to 12 minutes of rapid boiling.  Check for done-ness.
You want a firm noodle…firm but not chewy.

While the pasta’s on the boil, take the opportunity to shred cheese and get all your other ingredients in order.
Service for four usually needs about 1/4 to 1/2 cup or so of milk . Of course eyeballs are the best judge here….because some of that depends on the type of cheese or cheeses used.  On the cheese, up to about 1 lb, shredded not cubed if you want an even texture.  Of course we’re talking meaningful mac and cheese here, so be generous on ingredients. And if you shred too much, any left-overs can be used on other things. Just store it in a tight plastic bag.

What kind of cheese depends on you, too!  Pepper Jack can be an interesting turn of phrase. Some folk might want to tone it down a bit with some regular Jack or other cheese.  Asiago is a nice flavor to introduce, especially when accompanied by Provolone…Cheddar and Colby are great too!  The list goes on! 

Drain but do not rinse the noodles.  They can sit in the strainer over a bowl for a few moments while the cheesiness takes place!

Using the same pan (because it’s deep enough and already warm enough), begin the cheese sauce with a few tablespoons of butter or margarine.  Try to find a margarine that’s good for cooking. Some will even say so on the packaging.  These products will not scorch or break down under the heat of cooking, unlike “spreads,” which are intended only for schmeering on toast.

There’s a point of contention as to whether adding the milk first or the cheese first is appropriate.  I say put the flame on low and add the milk, stirring while you add the cheese….continue stirring.  It will thicken.  If it gets too thick, add more milk, a little at a time.  When all is in readiness, add the noodles back and fold them into the sauce.  It should enrobe them.

Some people like to put this into the oven for about 15 minutes to develop a nice, golden crust on top.
Other variations include adding everything from peeled, diced tomatoes to bacon bits….sauteed mushrooms, garlic and onions….jalapeno peppers and black beans….hot dog slices….ground meat….diced chicken or turkey and mixed vegetables….tuna and peas….the possibilities are astounding!  Just make sure to drain extra liquids, remove seeds or what-have-you and fold not stir when including ingredients.  There’s nothing worse than a macaroni with a broken elbow!

Well anyway, as long as there’s comfort food like Macaroni and Cheese around, I think we’re gonna be okay.