Returning Home for Some Comfort Food--Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

I don't care if you've been to paradise (and we did spend one night there last week), nothing compares to coming home to your own bed, kitchen and laundry room after a fun but tiring holiday. We had a truly great few days in Nice, with outstanding scenery and amazing food, but I was relieved to get home, see the kiddies and get back to normal. House was still standing and kids seem to have survived, although Maddie was obviously craving some home-cooked comfort food since there's no telling what her brothers had been feeding her over the past few days. Her fave is macaroni and cheese, so that's what it had to be when given the choice, although I knew I'd have to find a new version. With the exception of KD (pre-challenge, that is), I never make stovetop mac-and-cheese, but always a baked version, with crispy toppings and all. When I found this stovetop recipe, however, I realized it would meet my need of being incredibly fast and simple, since I was feeling pretty jetlagged, while still meeting her criteria of being smooth and super-cheesy. Based on results, I think I'm now a stovetop convert; instead of the pasta swallowing up the sauce and somewhat drying up while it baked in the oven, we all had bowls of pasta swimming in the creamy sauce. And if I want something toasty on top in future, I'm just going to throw it quickly under the broiler to toast up quickly instead of baking it through.

And with July 1st comes not only Canada Day celebrations here in Toronto but also the realization that, for Jen, Carole and me, we're pretty much halfway through our 365-day challenge. Six months down, six to go. There's also the recognition, for myself at least, that each season has brought its own rewards and challenges. The winter provided lots of options for trying various soups, casseroles and other heavier dishes but by spring I couldn't wait to eat colder meals with lots of crunchy veggies. I anticipated that the summer would be a breeze in terms of barbecuing and prepping simple salads, and it has been, but the truth is that there are many hot evenings when I'm less than inclined to cook at all and more willing to skip dinner altogether, or at least find a patio and let someone else do the cooking. Our five-day holiday provided a little reprieve and hopefully will inspire me in the coming weeks with some new French-inspired ideas. Just not today, lol.

serves 4

14 oz elbow pasta

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk, heated

1/4 tsp salt

4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 oz shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, with extra on top

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. While water is coming to a boil, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisp together. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add heated milk, whisking well after each addition until milk is incorporated and there are no lumps. Cook and stir the mixture until it thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Drain pasta and toss with cheese sauce. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed. Serve with additional cheese on top.

Rest of the week

June 23 to June 29 Eating out, on holidays