Monday, February 4, 2013

Prepare Today Homemade- Creamy Baked Mac & Cheese

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This recipe for Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese is one of my family's favorites!! I wrote this recipe down in my "to try" notebook and usually I write the source of where I found it, but I didn't make a note of the source.  I tried googling it but I couldn't find it either.  If anyone finds one similar please let me know so I can credit the cook who came up with this amazing dish!!

One of the foods that will become scarce quickly after a disaster will be cheese.  I have had a can of Honeyville's freeze-dried cheddar cheese on my storage shelf for some time now, and I finally opened it the other night.  My kids were begging for this dinner and I had run out of cheddar cheese, freeze-dried cheese to the rescue.  I have been to many classes at Honeyville where they use this cheese, and I have used the Mozzarella cheese, but never the cheddar.  This is a must-have storage item for everyone who eats cheese!!

This is what the cheese looks like in the can.  Doesn't it look exactly like shredded cheese?  If feels like a slightly drier version of fresh shredded cheese.  Now, the trick to reconstituting freeze-dried cheese is to use COLD water.  If you use warm, or hot, water you will get a big, melted blob of cheese.  
 I spread out the cheese onto a large plate and sprayed it liberally with cool water.  I tossed it a little with my hands and sprayed it again.  After about 5 minutes I checked it and tossed it again, and sprayed any dry cheese with more water.  Just a note, if you are adding the cheese to a dish that is creamy or has liquid, I would just toss the cheese right in and not worry about reconstituting it.  
 The ingredients for this recipe are pantry friendly and they also convert easily to a food storage friendly recipe as well.  If you're wondering how to get cream cheese from your storage, good news the Honeyville store in Salt Lake sells powdered cream cheese that would work great in this recipe.  Click HERE to see where to order powdered cream cheese if you don't live near the Honeyville store.  You can also make homemade cream cheese by straining plain yogurt for several hours in muslin or kitchen towel. Place the towel in a colander and set in a bowl.  Let drain 5+ hours until you get desired consistency.  (Kathy Ashman)

The freeze-dried cheese melted so well when I made the cheese sauce.  

 For the topping I love to use Ritz crackers.  They add the right amount of buttery goodness to the top of this dish.  I crush them right in the sleeve they come in.  Feel free to mix it up and add whatever topping you like on your mac & cheese. 

Stir the noodles and cheese sauce together.....

Top with more freeze-dried cheese and finish it off with the crushed crackers.

I forgot to take an "after" picture.  This is what was left :)

Baked Creamy Mac & Cheese
2 1/2 C elbow macaroni cooked and drained
1/2 C butter
1/2 C flour
1/4 t salt
dash of pepper
2 1/3 C milk (we use skim)
1/2 C broth
3 1/4 C cheddar cheese (or 3 1/4 C freeze-dried cheese)
4 oz cream cheese
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, stir in flour to make a paste.  Add the milk and broth slowly while whisking.  Stir and cook until the sauce has thickened.  Add only 2 1/2 C of the cheese and cream cheese.  Stir until heated through and melted.  Remove from heat and pour over macaroni.  Stir mixture until combined.  Pour into a greased 13x9 pan.  Top with remaining cheese and then the crushed crackers.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.   

To make this a shelf-stable recipe:
  • Substitute freeze-dried cheese for fresh cheese in equal amounts
  • Substitute powdered milk, butter powder, and cream cheese powder for fresh ingredients (follow directions on can to reconstitute)

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