Ultra Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (slow cooker)

Ultra Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Is there anything that screams “comfort food” more than Macaroni & Cheese?  I’m not much of a Velveeta fan, so this Macaroni & Cheese is loaded with REAL cheese.  One thing you will love about this Macaroni & Cheese recipe is how easy it is to have it ready at the same time as the rest of your meal.  It takes about 2 1/2  hours from start to finish, give or take a couple of minutes and comes out perfect every time.  I honestly do not know where the original recipe came from as I’ve had it for quite some time, but I’ve adapted it to make it somewhat healthier… I mean, really?  How healthy can Macaroni and Cheese be, loaded with all that cheese?  This recipe had 3 3/4 cups of cheese and 3/4 cup of sour cream and I’m using 3 cups of cheese and 3/4 cup of non-fat greek yogurt instead.  The original recipe also included whole milk and 3 eggs and I’m using 2% milk and have completely omitted the eggs from this version.

I’ll never go back to making Macaroni & Cheese the traditional way.  This recipe has a very creamy texture and is loaded with honest to goodness cheese flavor… I could eat this stuff all day!

OK, people, bear with me on these photos… I waited a little too late in the day to start all this, and then add cloudy, dark, rainy skies to the mix and there was very little natural light for my photos coming in thru the windows, so I did the best I could with the photo editor.

First Step: Melt the butter and cheese together in a small to medium saucepan until it looks like this:

Butter and Cheese

Step 2: Spray your slow cooker with non-stick spray and combine all ingredients, except for your cooked pasta.  OK, I know this looks a little freaky and scary, but it will all turn out wonderfully creamy in the end.  There will be some lumps and it won’t be smooth at all at this point.  This is what you can expect:

All ingredients except Macaroni

Step 3: Add in your cooked, drained macaroni and stir.  The hot macaroni will somewhat melt some of those lumps and it will begin to look a little less scary at this point.  This photo has all ingredients combined and is ready to be put on the slow cooker base and set to low for 2 hours.

All ingredients, including macaroni

Ultra Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (slow cooker)

Servings: 12-15    Prep time: 30 minutes or less     Cook time: 2 hours

3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cheddar cheese soup

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 cups 2% milk

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni for 7 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  While your macaroni is cooking, in a small to medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and add in the cheese slowly, until it is all combined, melted and ooey gooey.

Spray a 3-6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray, and combine the cheese/butter mixture, non-fat greek yogurt, cheddar cheese soup, salt, milk, mustard, and pepper and stir well.   It will be very lumpy and have a weird texture at this point.  Don’t worry, it won’t stay this way.  It will be creamy when done.

Add drained macaroni and stir again.  Set the slow cooker to the low setting and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from slow cooker and serve.  It has a wonderfully creamy texture and takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.  It re-heats very well in the microwave with a little milk added before re-heating.

Everyday Mom's Meals

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Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Looking for something quick and easy to put on the dinner table tonight? Well look no further, because you can have this on the table in as few as 20-25 minutes. It’s a one skillet side dish that is easy to make and clean-up after, with only one skillet to wash. This pasta side dish is great served with chicken or fish. One of our favorite meals, includes this side dish and a delicious brown sugar grilled salmon. If you haven’t tried orzo before, you’re gonna love this one! Orzo looks a lot like rice, but is made from semolina flour and is a very small sized pasta. The orzo is toasted in butter, then simmers in chicken broth and is finished off with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Very simple, but very delicious!

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta

14.5 ounces chicken broth, canned or homemade (I use Better than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base to make my chicken broth)

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish (You may substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil for the 1/4 cup of fresh, but fresh is definitely better here)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra for garnish.

In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and toast the orzo for about 5 minutes until golden, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth. The skillet will be hot and the mixture will come to an immediate boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 13-15 minutes, until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup fresh basil and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, mixing until well combined. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon fresh basil.

Recipe Source: Allrecipes.com

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Apple Coleslaw

Spring has officially sprung!  Well at least here in Texas it has, with a forecasted high of 75 degrees today.  Warmer weather means grilling and smoking on our back patio.  Last night I put a 10 lb. Boston Butt on the Smoker and woke up this morning to some “fall apart tender” smoky meat.  I’ll save that one for another day, because today we’re focusing on the supporting star, our favorite Coleslaw.

You say you don’t like coleslaw?  Really?  Well try this one, then.  Before trying this recipe, my boys wouldn’t touch coleslaw with a 10-foot pole.  They do however, LOVE apples, and this coleslaw recipe is chock full of gala and granny smith apples.  It’s tangy and crunchy with a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar in the dressing.  It’s our absolute favorite and a must anytime BBQ is served at the Campbell House.  Today it’s being paired with Smoked Pulled Pork.  Is it lunchtime yet?

By the way, that little mandolin thingy is my trusty Boerner V-Slicer.  Besides my chef’s knife, it is probably the 2nd most used kitchen tool I own.  It’s awesome for slicing, dicing, mincing or julienning.  I got mine from Ebay, but I’m sure Amazon has them too.

Apple Coleslaw  

(Makes 6-8 servings)

3 cups coleslaw mix

1 unpeeled gala apple, cored and chopped finely or julienned

1 unpeeled granny smith apple, cored and chopped finely or julienned

1 carrot, grated (optional, since there’s already some in the coleslaw mix)

3 green onions, finely chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the coleslaw mix, gala apple, granny smith apple, carrot and green onions.  In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, brown sugar, and lemon juice.  Pour dressing over the salad and mix to combine; refrigerate.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com