Meal-Prep Macaroni & Cheese

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This week we welcome guest blogger, Christina Lane. Christina is the founder of the popular blog DessertForTwo.com. Her food writing and photography have been featured on popular websites including The Kitchn, Tasty Kitchen, Babble, Fine Cooking, Serious Eats, and the Huffington Post. A Texan by birth, Lane’s desserts are a unique blend of Southern, Californian and Midwestern influences. She bakes and eats dessert daily.

If the phrase ‘meal prep’ or ‘meal planning’ isn’t in your vocabulary, I’m so happy to introduce it to you. Meal prep is about taking your weekly dinner menu plan and moving one step closer to actually having it on the table. It’s more than just having a game plan come 6pm, it’s about having a leg up on the prep work by starting the cooking process ahead of time. Sometimes, it’s making an entire dish ahead of time and freezing it; sometimes, it’s chopping all of the vegetables you’ll need for the week. Most of the time, it’s making a big batch of ‘something’ to help meals come together faster during the week, like a pot of quinoa or a big batch of grilled chicken.

Meal prep helps you stay calm during the week (no more last-minute freak-out sessions about what to have for dinner!), and it frees up time to spend together as a family.

I never thought I would find myself into the process of meal planning, since cooking dinner is my favorite part of the day. I used to love to dream up what I wanted for dinner, head to the store for last-minute ingredients, and then leisurely cook with a glass of wine. I can feel you guys laughing at me now. Then, I had a baby, and everything changed.

Now, I try to spend one weekend a month getting some stuff prepped ahead and stored in the freezer. I make a lot of ‘bags o’ stuff,’ which are all of the ingredients for one recipe, tossed into a bag that will be later poured into a slow cooker or a 9x13 baking dish. Those recipes are great, and they save me a lot. But most often, I find myself lacking a decent side dish for dinner. I typically serve a vegetable with some kind of herb. Every single day! Roasted cauliflower with za’atar does get old after a while. Especially if the only thing it’s on rotation with is steamed broccoli with lemon zest and pepper. I knew I needed a change!

When I decided to step up my side dish game, I turned to my kid’s favorite meal: creamy macaroni and cheese with broccoli. I love it because it uses whole wheat (or brown rice or quinoa) pasta, and the broccoli makes me feel like I’m an amazing mom. My kid loves it because she loves cheese.

Really, it’s a total win all around.

I used 4-ounce ramekins to portion out the macaroni and cheese. I lined each ramekin with plastic wrap, gave it a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray, and then scooped in the macaroni and cheese. I wrapped the excess plastic wrap on top of the food, and froze until it was solid. Then, I removed the pucks from the ramekins, and stacked them inside a freezer-safe gallon-size plastic bag for further storage. Then, they’re ready when I need them!

I hope you love this recipe!

Meal-Prep Macaroni & Cheese Header 2

Meal-Prep Macaroni & Cheese
Serves:  4
Ingredients:

2 cups dry macaroni (6 ounces)

1 cup chopped broccoli florets

2 tablespoons Kerrygold unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups 2% milk

2 cups grated Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

First, spray the inside of 4 4-ounce ramekins with cooking spray. Then, lay large pieces of plastic wrap (enough to hang over the edge and cover the ingredients once added). Now, spray the plastic wrap.

Next, bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add a handful of salt, and toss in the macaroni.

Cook the macaroni for 6 minutes, or 2 minutes shy of the total cooking time called for on the package. Add the broccoli at the 4 minute mark, or when the pasta has only 2 minutes left to cook.

Wipe out the pot you cooked the macaroni and broccoli in, and return it to the stove. Turn the heat to medium.

Add the butter, and once melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk until dissolved and cook for about 1 minute.

Next, stir in the mustard powder, garlic powder and milk. Bring this mixture to a simmer, and cook until it coats the back of a wooden spoon when stirring.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the cheese until it melts.

Finally, add the macaroni and broccoli back to the pot with the sauce, and stir very well to coat.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze overnight.

The next day, remove the frozen food from the ramekins, stack the food in a freezer-safe gallon-size plastic bag for up to 3 months.

To serve, defrost in the microwave (at 50% power) for 4 minutes, until heated through, or defrost overnight in the fridge before microwaving until warm.