Confession time! At one time or another most of us have taken a short cut, claimed a bakery item as homemade or fibbed about an ingredient list..
"is this banana bread healthy - it's just yummy..."
"well... I've added applesauce and reduced the butter. The flour is whole wheat the the bananas are organic ...have another slice" (not saying that you also added heavy cream and loads of nuts)
Last night I did the unthinkable and took major short cuts with cheapo ingredients when making mac and cheese. When my DH said he loved it and that it was the best ever and that it sure tasted like I used loads of expensive artisan cheese, but it was soo good he didn't even mind the additional cost, I kept my mouth shut. It's bad to keep secrets - they can haunt you, so here's mine Let me back up...
My DH has been out of town for a week and was due home today. Late yesterday he called and said he had finished early and was on his way home and would be there in an hour and could we have mac and cheese for dinner - he'd been thinking about it all day. Cool! He's coming home early.
Uh-oh - mac and cheese in an hour? I might not have all the ingredients and there's no time to shop. Hmm... ok I can do this. Maybe.
Turn on oven
Run tap water to get it HOT
Turn 2 burners on high
Get out 2 pots, 1 baking dish and fill one of the pots with hot water to boil elbows. Hit the fridge and cupboards for elbows, butter, flour, seasoning, milk, cheddar. Cheese - oh no. There is not enough; but I am not deterred; surely there must be more in the back of the cheese drawer. Maybe some nice aged gouda or manchego I could add or a little gruyere or some herbed chevre? There are always left over cheese bits in the fridge.
I'm sticking to my plan.
I made the white sauce while the noodles cooked and added all the cheddar I had and a small handful of shredded parm. Still not enough cheesey-ness. Back to the cheese drawer..and nothing! It's empty.
Next I got out yellow mustard and added some - it provided some nice snap and made the color look better but I know I have committed a culinary crime. Hotdog mustard in mac and cheese is just not right. Those ladies at the kitchen "arts" store will surely know and point and shake their heads when they see me ...
Another taste and I'm standing in front of the open fridge looking for inspiration I need more cheese! I root through the entire fridge and then I see it. ALL in the way in back, behind the lab cherries and capers, a small cheese ball! You know those hermetically sealed ones that come at Christmas time with the little sausages in a cardboard box packed in brown Easter basket grass? Yup - one of those. I yanked it out, checked the date (good for another two years - gasp), broke into the plastic encasement, chopped it up (nut crusting and all) and dumped it into my pot.
Oh melty goodness! I'm fairly certain that cheese ball is made of cheese-food-like "product" but it melted fast and made the sauce pretty good. But I have sinned again... mystery ingredients are in my sauce now. They came from exit 15 in New Jersey, were shrink wrapped for posterity and I am certain that no reasonable person would willingly eat them. But.. I have a DEADLINE and am not even a little reasonable.
Drain the elbows, dump them into the baking dish pour the sauce over the top and ram it into the oven. 19 minutes flat!
40 minutes later, there is a lovely rich bubbly dish of mac and cheese, cooked to perfection. It was wonderful and my DH went on and on about the texture and the seasoning and how clever I must be to have known he was coming home early and had this ready to go. So thoughtful. I smiled and nodded and was totally adorable as I contemplated being fitted for my scarlet scull and crossbones by the ladies at the kitchen "arts' store.
Baked mac and cheese with hotdog mustard and cheddo ball bechamel
Steamed Broccoli with lemon wedges
Sliced tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar