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Monday, January 16, 2012

Wednesday Night Dinners: Lasagna And Mac & Cheese

This last Wednesday night I did not completely scratch cook.  I know--you're all shocked.  But it was still tasty and provided a nice meal at a reasonable cost.  In the fall, I had  a lasagna and mac & cheese night that went over very well.  I decided it would be a meal we would definitely repeat.  A few weeks later a saw Stouffer's lasagnas on sale for $9.98 a piece so I bought three more and kept them in the freezer until this last Wednesday. Last time I used Kirkland lasagnas at $12.99 a piece.  I have to say, of the two, I prefer the Kirkland, but Stouffer's has a big following and the Stouffer's lasagna went over well.

Because I also try to always provide a vegetarian option, I made macaroni and cheese to go along with the lasagna.  It's easy to make and very inexpensive.  Again, I'm more of a sight and taste cook so I didn't follow any specific recipe but I'll tell you the basics of what I did and provide you with a recipe on a smaller scale that's basically the same thing.

Macaroni and cheese is very simple to scratch make.  It takes some boiled pasta and a cheese sauce.  The cheese sauce starts out as a bechemel, which is your basic butter, flour and milk mixture that is the base of many sauces.  Melt your butter, add in a littler flour until it absorbs the butter 
but is still light in color, then add in milk to 
the desired thickness.  From there, you can 
add in whatever spices or ingredients you 
choose to bring your sauce together.  This time I added some garlic powder and cumin, along with salt and pepper, plus lots of sharp cheddar cheese.  Simply pour the sauce over the pasta to enjoy, or add some cheese on top and bake it in the oven for a while (that's what I did).  I also chose to use shells this time instead of elbow macaroni.  I like how the cheese sauce fills in the crevices on the shells.

All told, including the $30.00 I spent previously on those three lasagnas, I spent $57.46.  This made 70 servings between the two entrees, as well as a salad, orange slices, milk and juice to go with.  That comes to .82 a serving.  It's a little higher than usual, but that's due to the store bought lasagna's instead of scratch made ones.  And again, we still had salad dressing, butter and flour left over from previous dinners so I didn't have to buy those this week.  

Oh, one word on serving size...the store bought lasagna's size they are 12 servings.  I actually get 16 out of them.  I don't need such a huge serving, especially with the additional sides.  I cut the trays of lasagna 4x4 instead of 3x4.

Below is a pretty close approximation to my Mac & Cheese recipe:
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  1. In a large pot with boiling salted water, cook macaroni until al denti.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat melt butter.  Stir in flour until fully incorporated in butter.  Add milk and stir until thick and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.  Add cheese and stir until completely melted and sauce is smooth.
  3. Remove sauce from heat and stir in macaroni until completely coated in sauce.  Pour into greased 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with additional cheese or cracker crumbs if desired.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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