Mac & Cheese with Broccoli & Shallots to combat a dinner meltdown!

Day 15 Mac & Cheese

Crazy work hours are in full swing.  This morning I am writing this in the confines of my boss' cozy trailer while it's -9C outside.   It's the first day back on set.  I had a minor meltdown yesterday as I still didn't have anything to post for today.  Wednesday night was a calzone that I didn't photograph and Thursday was pizza at the office.  I sent out a panicked tweet looking for quick and easy recipes.  While I got some good suggestions, the twitterverse didn't know what I had in my fridge which didn't work out so well, since I wasn't able to stop at the store.  In talking to the Boy we decided on Mac & Cheese, a completely easy go-to for us and one I was hoping not to use so soon in the challenge.  Lucky for us my mac & cheese is completely different every time since it entirely depends on what we have in the house.   But since it is so easy for me. I made a rule that I can only make it every other month at the most and I have to change more than just one cheese to make it different. Hopefully I can stick to my own rule on this one!

To recap the week:

Day 13 - Jan 19 - Eggplant, Sausage & Ricotta Calzone
Day 14 - Jan 120 - Pizza at the office - wah wah
Day 15 - Jan 21 -  Mac & Cheese with shallots and broccoli

This has been a total planning challenge on top of a cooking one for me.  Dinner at our house is very often what one of us is craving on the day and crazy work schedules really don't allow for that kind of thing.  I did good with Wednesday's dinner since on Tuesday night I made a calzone, knowing Wednesday would be a long day.  I was able to do that without too much planning because the ingredients were all leftovers I found in the fridge.  Half a ball of store bought pizza dough left over form last Monday's pizza,  chorizo sausage in the freezer left over from what I didn't cook for the cassoulet, ricotta leftover from a brunch recipe I tested last weekend, and eggplant that the boy got on the sale rack of produce at the grocery store.  Major tip for those of you on a tight budget, most of that stuff is reduced because it's not too pretty or it is so perfectly ripe that for some reason people won't buy it.  I swear you can get AMAZING deals on that little cart, we always get bananas for the Boys smoothies there.

Mac & Cheese with Shallots & Broccoli
serves 6

3 cups dry elbow noodles
2 cups broccoli florets - cooked, leftover is ideal
1 shallot - chopped
1-2 Tbsps grapeseed oil
3 Tbsps butter  - separated
3 Tbsps flour
3 cups milk
2 cups old cheddar
1/2 cup smoked cheddar
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/4 tsp groung nutmeg
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 cup crushed crackers
salt & pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta until just past al dente (you don't want it too firm or it will suck up all the cheese sauce when you bake).  Drain and reserv the pasta.
2.  In the pasta pot heat some grapeseed oil over medium heat. Saute the shallot for a few minutes until just translucent.  Add 2 Tbsps of butter and the flour to the pot and whisk it all together until combined, cook for a few minutes and then whisk in the milk.  Let cook over medium heat until it begins to thicken.
3.  Turn off the heat and add in the cheeses 1 handful at a time, whisk until melted and combined. Add in spices and add salt & pepper to taste.  The sauce does well with a healthy dose of pepper.  Stir in the pasta and carefully fold in the broccoli.  Pour into a buttered baking dish.  Top with cracker crumbs and dot with remaining Tbsp of butter.
4.  Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe truly came about by what I had in the house.  These cheese were all things I wanted to use up but came together really nicely.  I didn't have any breadcrumbs which is what I usually to my mac & cheese with, but found some low sodium Ritz Crackers which were kinda great as they added a slight sweetness to the topping.  All in all it was a winner with the boy.  If you want more vegetable you can easily sub a cup or two more of broccoli or even use cauliflower, like I did here, for equal amounts of cooked pasta.  The boy always likes my mac & cheese, so this was a no brainer in terms of being a crowd pleaser and working the broccoli in almost makes it a complete meal in one dish.

So far what I've learned in terms of dinners while working is to make things in advance that reheat easily.  The calzone being an example of that.  With about 45 minutes of work after dinner on Tuesday I had something ready for the following night.  All it took was 20 minutes in a 300 oven and the calzone was good to go.Stayed tuned for more on how I figure this all out.  Hopefully I'll get to throw something together tonight or tomorrow since we have early days or the panicked tweet will be going out again on Tuesday!

Do you have any tips for putting together a weeknight dinner on a crazy schedule? I'd love to hear them.


  1. Yummy! I have never considered putting broccoli in my Mac and cheese. Seems like the perfect match. Who doesn't like cheese and broccoli.

    Weeknight dinner for crazy schedule???

    I know crock pots sometimes get the shaft, but you can put just about anything in one and it comes out delish. Stew, roast, chicken piccata.....etc. :)


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