Recipe 15: Cajun Mac and Cheese AND Blog Notes

So anyone who is a regular reader of this blog (are there any regulars outside of those Following it?) may have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve updated.  Pardon me, Weekly Mackers.  There has been two reasons for my unwonted delay in updating.  Firstly, I was sick for a while – not deathly ill or anything, but not really up to mucking about in the kitchen.  The second is a bit more complicated.

Imma keep it real with you, Internet-people:  Things are not all sunshine and roses in the Maison de Mac.  They aren’t terrible, but there are challenges.  Some of you who know me in real life already know this, but for those who don’t, at the end of April 2011 I was let go from my job (those who know me in real life who didn’t know, don’t feel bad: I haven’t exactly been proclaiming it on Facebook).  It is now the beginning of April 2012 and I’m still out of work – and not for want of trying.  I have years of experience on my field, a Masters degree, and have even applied to jobs for which I more than meet what they are seeking, even branching out of my field – but no luck.  I’m lucky in that not only am I approved for Unemployment, but more importantly the hubz has a job that helps support us while I’m not able to contribute much to the household.  We are even more fortunate in that despite having to trim the budget a great deal, we are not in dire straits: We pay our rent on time, have good food to eat, the utilities are in no risk of being turned off, etc.  But it does make it a bit of a challenge to justify getting a bunch of extra gluten-free pastas, cheeses, and more unusual ingredients that we normally wouldn’t keep in the pantry.

I’ve been able to keep the challenge going pretty strongly up until recently, but the belt has had to be tightened even more.  It might end up being the Achilles Heel of this challenge.  I plan on continuing to try to complete 52 recipes in the 52 weeks of 2012 – I set myself a challenge, however ridiculous, and I want to at least attempt to complete it successfully.  To assist, I plan on adding a page with How to Help Weekly Mac, including a Paypal Donate button and Amazon Associate links (a portion of the cost of the items you would buy through those links would go to me), and also a Weekly Mac Wishlist; the page isn’t up now because I’m troubleshooting some HTML issues.  I feel weird adding these features- I am very aware that there are countless people in my own country, state, county, etc. who experience very real Want for necessities, and here I am just some chick trying out a bunch of recipes (and often messing them up).  This whole paragraph could probably be something of a White Whine (AKA First World Problems), and I’m not proud of that.  I am choosing to put it on a separate page of its own (in the menu up top where you see info About Weekly Mac and Gluten-Free Pastas) because I don’t want to be shoving ads and such in your face.  If you want to give, great – thank you.  If not, I don’t blame you at all – it’s rough out there! – and I hope you at least stick around to enjoy the recipes.

ANYWAY, let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

Cajun Mac and Cheese (from Shine on Yahoo!)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dried tricolor or plain elbow macaroni (12 oz.) – mine were tricolor rice spirals
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 oz.) – I used a sharp white
  • 4 oz. American cheese, cubed – mine was shredded; it melts better that way
  • 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions (for me this was about 3 whole green onions; your mileage may vary)
  • 1 cup chopped green and/or red sweet peppers (I used 2 red sweet peppers; I think it was more than 1 cup)
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard (I messed this up; see below)
  • 2 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot; as previously written, we have a bunch)
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. In a large saucepan cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Return to saucepan. Stir in cheddar and American cheeses; set aside. (Note: This will be very gummy and hard to stir, but stick with it)
  2. In a medium skillet cook sweet onion and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in green onions and sweet peppers. Cook and stir 1 minute more; stir onion mixture into pasta-cheese mixture. Spoon into prepared baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together milk, eggs, flour, mustard, hot pepper sauce, paprika, and salt until smooth; pour evenly over pasta mixture in baking dish. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until bubbly and heated through. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

...and looks like this.

Verdict: 3.5/5

I totally messed up in that I used yellow mustard powder rather than yellow mustard (I use the excuse that I was severely underslept – and well, that I make mistakes a lot).  I think there would been a sharper bite to it than it had as I made it.  I accidentally added a bit more hot sauce than required – I was a bit overzealous in pouring it out – and it still wasn’t really spicy at all, making me wonder why it was called a Cajun variation on mac and cheese in the first place.  All that having been said, however, it isn’t a bad recipe.  I really like the sweetness of the peppers and the caramelized onions, and I love how crispy it got on the edges if the pan.  It could use a do-over to make it right, but it isn’t bad by any stretch.  Some Shine readers suggested adding some Cajun seasoning, and it wouldn’t hurt, but it’s good like this too.

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