Macaroni and Cheese

So like.  I just want to know when the heck I turned 35.  When did this happen, and why do I not feel 35?  I don’t believe that I’m 35.  No, not me.  I’m 26.  At heart.

It’s a funny thing to come to terms with your age.  Before long I’ll be 40.  I remember being in my mid-twenties and dreading turning 30.  It was like 30 was the Gateway to Geezerdom.  And then I turned 30 and I was eh this ain’t so bad.  Forty was barely on the horizon.  But now I’m 35.  And 40 looms.  Oh, how it looms.  Now I know plenty of people who are 40 or over, and they don’t look/act/seem like they are 40.  So I think there is hope for me yet.  But like – what is no longer acceptable once I reach 40?  These things I don’t know.  Can I still go out day drinking with my husband or my girlfriends without looking like an old-head?  Can I still get VIP tickets to Copeland concerts without looking like my sister’s mom?  Will I even care about those things anymore at 40?  Hell.

You know how when you’re young, like a kid, and you picture 30-year-olds as these big fancy adults with briefcases and skirt suits and pumps?  No?  Was that just me?  I guess I just always thought I was destined for that.  And well here I am.  There are days I wear yoga pants to work (shhh).  And leggings.  And I hate pumps.  And I’ve never even priced out a briefcase.  I carry a backpack.  And I curse a lot.  I wear sneakers and hoodies on the weekends.  I don’t hardly ever wear makeup.  I still listen to Wu-Tang.  I drive a black Charger.

I am nothing like I thought I was supposed to be at 30+.  But.  I do go to bed at like 8-9pm most nights.  I don’t have the energy to chase my kid around the playground.  I get so excited about grocery shopping and menu planning.  Cuz I’m domestic AF.

I like my version of 30+ more.  But still.  Forty looms.

Anyway.  You know what makes me forget all about my age?  Slutty food.  So here I am, friends.  And what is more slutty than a warm, cozy, creamy, delicious bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese?

Everyone loves homemade macaroni and cheese.  And I am particularly proud of this recipe because I worked on it for a long time before I achieved that creamy, gooey, cheesey perfection.

There used to be a restaurant by my parents’ house called Tomatoes.  I actually worked there as a busser when I was a teenager, and it was a good neighborhood favorite.  We went one time for dinner in the winter and they had a five cheese mac and cheese on their specials menu.  My mom and I both ordered it and ogled over how creamy it was.  We asked the waitress to ask the chef if we could have the recipe – and of course he said no, but he DID tell us what cheeses he used in his recipe.  #score

I immediately went home and began googling homemade mac and cheese recipes that used the cheeses he mentioned in his recipe.  I found one that was really close, and I just subbed out some of the cheese that were in that recipe for ones the chef said he used.  After several attempts to adjust quantities, I finally got that perfectly creamy mac and cheese – even after it was baked.  Lots of mac and cheese dishes dry out or separate while baking – but this cheese sauce stays creamy through the baking process.

In fact, you could eat this mac and cheese as a stovetop version if you didn’t feel like baking it, too.  I may or may not have done that while “tasting” “for seasoning” “just to make sure” “it doesn’t need anymore salt or pepper” “I swear”.

Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 4 (main course) or 6 (side dish)

Ingredients
2 cups dry macaroni
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk, warmed for 2 minutes in the microwave and set aside
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese (sharp, medium, or mild all work well)
1 1/2 cups freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2oz Velveeta, cubed
1/2 – 1 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. Return drained macaroni to the pan you cooked it in.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat and whisk in flour to make a roux. Let the flour-butter mixture bubble a little bit while you whisk, about 1 minute. Add warm milk and whisk until combined. Continue to whisk until you feel it thicken. (The warm milk will make this process faster – if you use cold milk, it will take a little bit for it to thicken.) Add cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking and whisking until cream cheese has melted completely. Add shredded cheeses and Velveeta, a little at a time, whisking to incorporate and melt.

3. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni, and stir to combine. “Taste for seasoning” at this point. At this point, you can also serve it as a stove-top macaroni and cheese (just make sure you turn your oven off). But if you prefer to bake it: pour the macaroni and cheese into a greased 11×7 casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons melted butter and enough breadcrumbs that when stirred, the mixture looks like wet sand. (This usually ends up being about 3/4 cup for me, but it depends on the brand of bread crumbs I use.) Pour the buttered breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese and bake, uncovered, on a middle rack for 15-20 minutes. When it’s done, the breadcrumbs will be browned and the cheese will be bubbly along the edges of the casserole dish. If the breadcrumbs brown too quickly (before the cheese gets bubbly), cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

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