Thursday, November 2, 2017

'Tis the Season for Comfort Food and Tea

One mid-autumn before the first snowfall I stocked up (like a squirrel before winter) on comfort foods at our local supermarket. At this time in my life cooking wasn’t on my agenda but eating hot, feel-good fare was definitely on my brain. Enter boxes of gourmet, organic frozen mac and cheese. It was the kind you take out of the colorful box, peel off the cellophane wrapper, and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. Instant gratification, right? Sort of. But TLC was missing.  
Fast forward to my present days of cooking and baking real food. Nowadays, mixing it up with pasta, cheese sauce, fresh herbs, spices and vegetables is worth the time and effort. As the days are getting shorter and cooler, it's time for hitting the kitchen and whipping up home-style creamy, gooey macaroni and cheese. This fall-inspired good grain recipe is one you'll want to use and save for winter.

Home-style Mac and Cheese
2 cups cooked whole grain pasta
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup parmesan, finely grated
2 tablespoons European style butter
2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped
Ground pepper to taste
¼-1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, seasoned
1 large Roma tomato, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons basil or parsley, chopped

In a pan boil pasta per directions on the box. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat half-and-half. Add cheese, and butter. Combine cheese sauce with cooked pasta. Mix well. Add onion and pepper.  Scoop even portions into ramekins. Top with panko. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and sprinkle tops with tomato. Place back into oven for 10 more minutes. Take out of oven and cool. Sprinkle with basil. Serves 4. Add a salad with dark leafy greens, and a cup of hot tea.
As simple as this recipe is, it is more flavorful and easier on the eyes than the stuff in the box—and the crunchy topping is scrumptious. Also, as leftovers simple heat up in the microwave and you’ll still get that homemade creamy taste. Mac and Cheese boasts good-for-you fiber-plentiful pasta, calcium-rich Parm, and nutrient-rich tomatoes and basil. Not only is it a healthful dish (in moderation), it will warm you up on a cold, snowy day for lunch or dinner.
Motto:  Homemade food made with passion nourishes the mind, body, and spirit.
— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is . 

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