Friday, August 12, 2011

Poor Man's Mac and Cheese

Ladies and gentlemen, when I was young, my family did not have a lot of money. We were most certainly lower class. There are many who come from those kinds of circumstances and reminiscence about the fact that they didn't know any different and were happy with second hand clothes, playing in the dirt, blah blah blah. I am not one of those people. I HATED being poor. But we'll save all that for another blog. The point I'm getting to is that even though I hated our lack of resources and our sad little meals, there is one that rises above the rest. One meal that I still devour and find incredibly comforting. That is, baked macaroni and cheese. It's so simple and so inexpensive. It's not even worthy of calling a recipe, but I'm going to share it anyway. You can serve it as a side dish, but for me, it's a meal.

Here's what you need:

Cooking Spray, Elbow Macaroni Noodles, American Cheese, Breadcrumbs. That's it. For real.

Now, to get started. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Boil some water. Enough to adequately cover your noodles and leave of couple inches of water. This will depend on how many servings you are making.

Intense, I know.
Next, add your noodles. When cooking for myself and my husband (or maybe just myself) I use about 2 cups. Let these boil for 8-9 minutes. Strain. *Note* My colander was not available at the time so I strained the water out and let the noodles hang out in the pot they were cooked in. Don't do this. Your noodles will stick to the pan. It's not pretty.

Now, spray your casserole dish with the cooking spray. In a pinch, you could also butter it. Add a small layer of your cooked noodles.

Next, add a layer of American cheese. The trick here is to really cover that layer of noodles, so depending on the size/shape of your pan, you may need to be a bit strategic. For example, I put down one whole slice on the edge, then broke the second slice into thirds.

We're talking about cheese here people. Strategy matters.
After the cheese comes another layer of noodles, then another layer of cheese. Repeat this process until you have used all of your noodles.

Now you should be looking at the top layer of noodles. This is a very important layer. This time when you add the cheese, you want to cover the whole thing with zero gaps. I also nudge the slices down the sides, just a little.


When I was little, my mom would crumble saltine crackers on the top layer. That way is delicious, but I rarely have those available. And I don't want to open a bag just to use a couple and have the rest go stale. So I use breadcrumbs. And you know? Equally heavenly.

Pop the whole thing in the oven for around 20 minutes, again, this may vary depending on the size, but all you're really doing is melting the cheese.

It's done when the top is browned.

And that top layer? That heavenly, salty, crispy, cheesy layer? It's kind of the best part.

For the time and money, this is definitely worth a try. My husband doesn't care for it, but this is the same person who doesn't like Cracker Barrel or diners. There are ways to jazz this up. Use different kinds of cheese, add veggies, different toppings...Cook it with salsa and top with crushed tortilla chips for a fiesta version! The options are endless! Please share if you try any! :-)

Approximately 6 Weight Watchers Plus Points/cup

Bon appetit!

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