Food, Comfortable Food

Sunday nights are “family night” in our household.  Dinner is always supposed to something a little special, particularly something that is a favorite of TPE or She-Who-Hums (the Kid), followed by games as a family (Boggle is the current favorite).

In the past, these conditions have always meant that dinner focused around a specific piece of meat.  Pot Roast.  Roast Chicken.  Beef Stew.  Homemade chicken nuggets (fried chicken cut down to nugget-size) with homemade french fries. Chicken noodle soup (a specialty).  You get the picture…comfort foods.

Comfort foods don’t seem easy to me (yet) from the vegetarian side of the ledger.  Sure, all of the cookbooks I own that are vegie-oriented have plenty of comfort foods but they are the kind of things that go well with in-season ingredients.  Plus, its kind of hot and the idea of a thick veggie stew with chickpeas or something just doesn’t appeal to me.  I guess I’m still meat-biased that way…I can eat it no matter what the surrounding weather.

To make a short story somewhat more to the point, She-Who-Hums decided early on that she would like macaroni and cheese.  TPE had made a version of this about two weeks ago that was pretty good and SWH has been asking for it ever since.  It so happens that my mother (the Life Giver, if you will) makes a dynamite mac-and-cheese and I am fairly comfortable with her recipe (even if I don’t have “the mac-and-cheese” dish…ask my sister, it just tastes better in that stupid dish she has…there is no explanation for that). So, tonight’s dinner was mac-and-cheese with a side salad.

For those of you that would like to try it at home, here is a rough sense of the what Mom does:

  • Boil some salted water in a big pot.  Put in about 2 cups of dried macaroni.
  • In a med size sauce pan, melt a 1/2 stick of butter (I didn’t say this would be healthy.)
  • Once the butter is melted, put between 2-3 TB of regular flour into it.  This is best done slowly with a wire whisk in my experience.  If you want thicker sauce, put in more flour.  If you like it runnier, put in less.
  • Let this roux cook a bit over a medium-low heat so it develops its flavor.  Then add between 1 and 1 1/2 cups of milk (I used some cream tonight in a pinch).  Again, whisk it until it heats through.  Add salt and pepper.
  • Take one block of extra sharp white cheddar cheese and melt it slowly in the sauce.  It helps to have cut the cheese into thin slices ahead of time.  If you want it cheesier, use more cheese.  If you have a thicker sauce and want to taste the cheese, use more cheese.
  • Put a little of the cooked mac into an oven safe dish, spoon some sauce and mix it in.  Continue doing this until all sauce and pasta are in the dish.
  • Bread crumbs and parmesean cheese make a nice topping.
  • Cook for about 20-30 at around 350 degrees (depending upon your oven).

Its not very healthy, but it is very good (especially if you use a quality cheese…make sure it is extra sharp).  It would, by the way, be easy to add all kind of vegetables to this kind of a dish.  I’ve had tomatoes in it before and I could see some good mushrooms in it as well.

Since there is obviously no nutritional content in this dish (well, not much), I decided to make a mixed green salad.  I thought that the simplicity of it with a little vinaigrette on it would be a nice balance to the heaviness of the pasta.  Plus, it gave me an opportunity to sneak the kale in.  I took about 1/4 of a bag of fresh spinach, a handful of kale leaves, and some regular butter lettuce and chopped them up.  A half of a tomato and two green onions later, I had a healthy salad that just need to be topped of with balsamic, Spanish olive oil, and some herbs d’ provence.

After letting TPE eat some of the salad and making sure she liked it, I sprung the ingredient list on her.  I could’ve gone without telling her because she didn’t notice, but I figured that wouldn’t be cool.  Plus, then I could blog about sneaking kale into her dinner.  And where would be the fun in that?

Sunday dinner…what are your rituals? Favorites?  They don’t have to be vegetarian…

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  • Ellen  On June 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I can vouch for the magic of the mac-and-cheese dish. It adds a whole new level to the deliciousness which is our mom’s mac-n-cheese. And before you say it’s just that Scott and I don’t know how to make it as well as Mom does, I’ll tell you that even Mom’s mac-n-cheese is not quite as good if she cooks it in a different dish.

    Scott and I are going to work out a shared custody agreement of the dish once it passes on to us. It’s that important.

    The hubby and I do pizza a lot on Sundays from a healthy, organic pizza place down the street from us. I don’t eat cow cheese any longer (except for the mac n cheese!), so I get my half with a little goat cheese sprinkled over the roasted veggies we always get. You could make your own at home, even with a white sauce or an oil and garlic treatment. I also like using won-ton wrappers to make my own ravioli filled with roasted veggies, squash, or pumpkin. You can then use whatever sauce makes you happy. In the winter, ratatouille is DIVINE! Use Julia Child’s recipe (it’s my favorite) and add in some red pepper flakes or hot sauce to kick it up a notch if you like spicy dishes. It’s just fantastic on its own though, spooned over brown rice.

  • suzanne  On June 7, 2010 at 10:21 am

    In our house, it’s Sunday breakfast – Mexican Egg Tacos (scrambled eggs with chorizo, roasted poblanos and onion, topped with mexican cheese and chile colorado sauce on soft corn tortillas), with a side of home fried diced potatoes, long-simmered pinto beans, and fresh fruit of the season. Yum. Oh, and Jordan (the dog) gets some shredded cheese on his kibble.

  • Jane a.k.a. Picky Eater  On June 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    It is NOT NICE to hide things in your wife’s food!!!!!!
    BTW, Ellen, you and I will have to duke it out for that mac n cheese bowl. I do want to say that I can get to it faster, if mom dies, I’m only 2 hours away! A little morbid..but it is the best bowl for the job!

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