This guest post is from our favorite ladies, Natalie and Holly, over at The Modern Proper. Their mission is to reinvent proper for the modern homemaker, one delicious meal at a time. Check out more of their delicious recipes here.
If you're anything like me, you muster the creativity and energy to get a from-scratch meal on the table two to three nights a week, tops. Don't get me wrong, a sit down meal with my husband and kids at the end of a long day is at the top of my priority list, but often times the meals we share consist of leftovers, take out, or what I call “cheater meals” (a rotisserie chicken, a baguette and some sliced fresh fruit and veggies). There was a season that began somewhere in between post wedded bliss and ended not long after the arrival of my second child (and a failed attempt at freezer meals) that I abandoned the notion of five to seven individual dinners cooked at home every week, and was forced to accept that I just couldn't “do it all.” To me “it all” meant play with the kids (because this remains at the top of the important pile), maintain a semi-clean house, shop for necessities, be social, maintain my Instagram account (that's a full time job right there ;))AND make all those homemade meals. Something had to give and give it did. Now pregnant with my third, and feeling all of what pregnant with your third and having two kids, two dogs and a husband who works long hours means, it's safe to say the pendulum has at times swung hard the other way. There have been weeks (and I'm ashamed to say even months) where a from-scratch meal was the exception, rather than the norm. The nausea and general malaise associated with pregnancy aside, I have come to realize that my dinner time success or failure is 100% dependent on how prepared I am. If meat is not defrosted, forget it (call me crazy but I'm not a fan of throwing that stuff in the microwave). If I was planning on making Mexican but the avocados have gone bad, I guess we're calling in Chinese. If I have everything prepared to make a great salad, but realize I neglected to buy spinach, out goes that plan as well. I'm not about to “hop in the car” with my two kids at dinner time to remedy the situation, so plan B often comes into play.
“Know thyself”...and in this case thyself needs to be fully prepared if homemade dinner is happening amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy week. I like being adventurous and trying out a couple new recipes here and there, and am even willing to spend a good chunk of time on a delicious meal that's a bit more time consuming a couple times a week, but I now realize that if I shoot for new or complicated every night, I quickly get burnt out. I need those go to meals in my back pocket that are no brainers. These meals need to be hearty, simple, use ingredients I usually have on hand, and they must be delicious. I've learned I'm not willing to sacrifice delicious. Ever. Like never. (It’s true. In our pre marriage counseling my husband complained that I spent too much on food, I cried and told him I just couldn't eat bad food. Nothing was resolved, but our marriage lives on.) One of my favorite go-to’s is this 4 ingredient homemade mac and cheese. I feel confident in saying that there are few dishes one can consistently eat at a nice restaurant, where if they're done right, they taste like they were made at home. Mac and cheese is such a dish. When done right, nothing beats homemade. Cheese, cream, butter, noodles. Nothing more, nothing less, and you have perfection. Kids love it, adults love it, and it's really hard to screw up. Sounds like my kind of meal. The fact that it can be made in under 20 minutes doesn't hurt either.
I love adding a bit of organic grilled chicken sausage and sautéing up whatever fresh veggies I have on hand to throw inside it. Some fresh basil and chopped tomatoes is a great choice, too. And some caramelized onions and bacon never hurt nobody. There's really nothing you can add to this mac and cheese to make it taste bad (that might not be true, but you get my point). The sky’s the limit and this is the perfect dish to use up whatever you have on hand, or make over and over again with little flavor tweaks each time. So, the next time you're at the store, stock up on macaroni noodles, and liberate yourself and your weeknight dinner routine with this 4 ingredient go-to mac and cheese recipe, that requires very little forethought and even less hands on time. Like me, you may not be able to “do it all” but you can make this killer recipe and feel good about yourself while doing it, and even better while sitting down to eat it with your family. Homemade Mac and Cheese Ingredients:
1 lb dry pasta noodles (we used Italian cavatappi) 1 cup heavy cream 3/4 cup parmesan, shredded 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded ½ tsp salt (optional) ½ tsp freshly ground pepper (optional) In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Season water with 2 tsp salt. Cook pasta according to directions or 8-10 minutes, until. While pasta is cooking, heat cream in a heavy saucepan or cast iron skillet along with the cheeses and ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper.