Sunday, June 27, 2004

Sometimes it is the simple things you do that carry the most meaning. One of T’s favorite dishes is macaroni and cheese. That familiar blue box was one of her childhood comfort foods. Now I on the other hand, HATE the stuff. Just the thought of the bright orange cheese power makes my skin crawl. Since I do most of the cooking, you can guess that it seldom made an appearance at our dinner table.

Sure, we always had a box of the stuff in the house. She would eat it whenever I was not home for the evening. Pretty soon it became a running gag. Monk had a date so T made sure to plan on Mac & Cheese for dinner. I started making a point to having it on hand for her before I left for the evening.

Eventually a lover taught me how to make the real deal, white cheddar macaroni and cheese. There are no more blue boxes in our house. Now whenever I go out with a potential lover for the first time, I make T this dish for dinner as my way of telling her thank you for loving me so much.

Now go make some for someone you love.
1 medium onion -- chopped
1 clove garlic – minced
1 cup ham - diced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 tablespoons margarine
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese -- shredded, divided (or a mix of Romano, Parmesan, and Assagio)
8 ounces macaroni -- cooked
1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add onions, garlic, and red pepper and sauté
until tender. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture
bubbles slightly, about 2 minutes. Add milk, a little at a time, mixing
thoroughly after each addition. Bring to a boil, add salt, peppers, and one
cup of the cheddar cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Spray a 1.5-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Place cooked macaroni in
the dish. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and mix gently. Sprinkle the
remaining cheese (1/2 cup) over the top. Spread the breadcrumbs over the
cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and
the sauce is bubbling.