What constitutes a good cook? Is it someone who can whip up anything in their kitchen and make it taste delicious? A person who can cook on the fly without a recipe? Someone who prepares your favorite comfort foods or an adventurous home chef full of surprises?
I think a good cook could be one, all or none of those things. It is highly subjective like beauty or art. What if no one else likes your food but you think it’s delicious? Are you still a good cook? I say yes! Cooking is something that pleases the senses. You have to be your biggest fan to grow your strengths and foster confidence.
I used to be a timid cook but now I’ll try anything once (almost). I think what makes me a good cook is imagination with a budget. If I want to try a new recipe, I will start by researching ingredients and methods. I may combine ideas, add or omit certain components or decide to make a dish in a different way altogether. Then, I see what I already have and simply note what else it may need. If a particular ingredient is too expensive, unavailable or unappealing, I will try something else. It may fall flat but you never know until you put your food out there if it is crazy or genius.
Right now, like a lot of people, I don’t have many opportunities to get to a proper grocery store. Sometimes Dollar General will just have to do. On the bright side, they have bacon and macaroni and cheese! All of a sudden, I found myself in the mood for baked macaroni and cheese. I have attempted this many times before from scratch with varying degrees of success. I’ve tried béchamel and toasted breadcrumbs. I’ve experimented with different types of noodles and cheese. But they’ve all turned out kind of bland…
So, today I’m attempting a convenient, cost effective version of baked macaroni and cheese working with ingredients that I have on hand. I just can’t see sparing a whole block or more of cheese to make one thing. Also, the store is low on butter so I gotta save that for toast and desserts. My plan is to apply all of the wisdom accumulated from dishes past. Wish me luck!🤞
You will need: 1 box of Kraft Deluxe macaroni and cheese, half a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese, 3 slices of bacon, 1/3 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
To prepare: I boiled the elbow noodles that came in the box until al dente, drained and added the liquid cheese. I added a splash of milk and a big dollop of sour cream to smooth out the cheese consistency. Meanwhile, I cooked the bacon in the microwave with my handy bacon tray and crumbled once cool. I shredded about 3 oz of cheese and cut 1 oz into tiny blocks.
I spread the mac in the bottom of a small casserole dish and placed little pockets of the sliced cheese in rows. I added an even layer of bacon bits and a then a layer of the remaining shredded cheese. Finally, I topped everything with a sprinkling of Italian bread crumbs and baked the dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Results: Two forks up!! This had a nice balance of cheese, creaminess and bacon flavor throughout. It had just enough salt and was certainly not bland. The best bites were the pockets of cheese that binded with the bacon and breadcrumbs. With just a little extra effort, I was able to turn a ho hum box of Mac n cheese into a baked dish with lots of flavor and texture. I will make this again and again and again! 👩🍳🧀🥓
However, would I serve it at Thanksgiving dinner?🤔 Honestly, I still want to master a homemade cheese sauce instead of relying on the liquid gold. Just like I want to master my grandma’s cornbread dressing. It will just take time, a little more practice and a lot of persistence. But I will get there. One day, years ahead, I hope to have perfected my best version of baked macaroni and cheese that makes people’s bellies and hearts full. In fact, I will have made it so many times that I won’t even need a recipe.❤️
Thanks for reading and remember to stay calm an cook on!✌️💜🍴
Mood Ring Kitchen
I’m a self teaching home cook and aspiring foodie entrepreneur. I enjoy coming up with creative ways to prepare flavorful food such as snacks, desserts and everything in between. Cooking is a way for me to challenge myself and satisfy curiosities about different ingredients.
The hope is to produce something thoughtful, memorable or every once in a while maybe even wonderful. I enjoy following my “gut” and exploring new recipes that can be comforting, exciting and nourishing. Above all else, I enjoy exploring the emotions surrounding food and writing about those experiences. 😝👩🍳👩💻