Baked Macaroni and Cheese for Meatless Monday

Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s Meatless Monday again already!  When I was a young girl one of my favorite meals was macaroni and cheese.  I love my Mom, but she was not a gourmet cook and this was no exception.  The macaroni and cheese came from a box.  Looking back I know it was for a couple of reasons.  One for the convenience and two for the cost.  Gosh, I think back then you could buy certain brands at 3 boxes for a dollar. Now, that I am a Mom myself, I prefer to make homemade macaroni and cheese for my kids, mainly because it is much more healthy and to me, it tastes way better.  Let me say, though, that every now and then I do buy a box of macaroni and cheese, but the only brand I buy is Annie’s Organic.  It’s definitely more expensive than the mainstream brands, but I choose to do it because I can’t put the other stuff in my kids’ bodies. 
Something that is really troubling me lately is that so many Moms are feeling attacked for their choices when it comes to feeding their children.  I think, without a doubt, we can all agree that processed foods are simply not healthy for our children.  The problem is that no one is trying to offer help to those that feel they truly can’t afford to feed their family more healthy options. Anyone can say you should be feeding your child this and you should NOT be feeding your child that, but looking at a family’s budget and walking the grocery store with them, then home to prepare the food, is a whole other story.  My family of four has lived on one income for a long time and I know it’s hard to get by and stretch a dollar while keeping the health of my children my highest priority. 
Truly, my hope is to help others with this challenge, but I am finding it difficult here on my blog because I recognize that every situation is so unique and different. I will keep brainstorming, though. 
Okay, now some fun……my recipe for Meatless Monday!  Preparing at least one meal a week without meat is not only a money saver, but also much healthier, too.  I know, though… has to be something really yummy for the carnivores in your family, right?  I have one of those in my husband and he loves this dish! Here’s what you need for a great homemade and baked macaroni and cheese:

  • 3 cups of macaroni (or any tubular pasta)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons of flour (I use whole wheat hard white)
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • pepper
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese (buying blocks of cheese and shredding yourself is a huge money saver)
  • about 1 cup of bread crumbs – recipe below (prepare first)

*Making your own bread crumbs is so inexpensive and way more healthy than the packaged ones with an ingredient list a mile long. Plus, they are way more tasty!!
Here’s what you do: Simply melt a few tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add about 2-3 finely chopped slices of bread (if you have a food processor, great! If not, chopping with a knife works, too). Stir the bread crumbs and butter just for a few minutes until golden brown – they will cook in the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

  • Cook the pasta according to directions on package
  • Melt the butter, stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk.
  • Cook on medium, whisking constantly until thick.
  • Add salt, pepper and 3 cups of the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted.

In a greased 9 X 13 pan, pour the macaroni, then the sauce on top.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top and bake about 35-40 minutes with a lid on for first half of the cooking time.

*This recipe feeds my family of 4 (I have a grown meat loving husband, and two sons (15 and 11) – yes, they can all eat a lot! Plus, we usually have some left over for lunch the next day.

Some added information I want to share is that I always make a side of vegetables when I make this dish.  I keep a few organic choices in the freezer and usually let the kids help me decide on two to make to go with dinner.  When they are part of the decision making, they are more apt to eat at least one of the options at the dinner table.

At first glance, this may seem more expensive than grabbing a few boxes at the grocery store, but when you really break it down piece by piece, it truly isn’t.  If you’d like my specific breakdown, I’d be happy to share it!

Happy Meatless Monday everyone!

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