Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Payment In Mac n Cheese, Please!

I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to see all of my dear blogger buddies leaving such wonderful comments on my last post! Warmed the cockles of my heart, I tell ya. I thank you all so much. Your kindness is priceless to me.

Baby B and I are settling in just fine in our new home. I've been exploring the neighborhood in the last few days. Met a couple of neighbors, and immediately tried to bribe them with food. As usual. I stand by this strategy of making friends. Probably because I know it would work on me! Have also been hunting around for a reliable babysitter, and I think I'm finally getting close to finding 'The One". I've decided that I've missed out on too many good movies that have come and gone in the theaters, thanks to Baby B. Plus a Lady Gaga concert. I know I know. That one hurt. Still. I've made some progress in the last few days - namely, harassing a few of the neighborhood kids to cough up the names of their babysitters that live nearby. Soon I might take to parading Baby B up and down my street, with a sign around his neck that reads "Babysit me, and I'll make it worth your while".

What? You don't think that's a fabulous idea? Mercy me.

Right. Falling back on the tried and testing strategy of food blackmail instead. Hmmmmm ... I'll need a dish that appeals to every kind of woman. By George, I think I've got it!

My NYC girl Joanne, of Eats Well With Others fame, and possibly future medical guru, is a gem. I look forward to reading her blog whenever I can squeeze in a minute - it's my little window of escape and fantasy! I've seen her site take off for the moon (huh, that sounded very Steven Tyler-esque from a recent American Idol episode). Her writing and photos just keep getting better and better. I knew I could count on her to deliver just the recipe I needed. and voila ...

Baked Zucchini Mac n Cheese (check out the original recipe here)
Serves 6

3 cups milk
1-2 bay leaves
1 lb pasta
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 lb grated cheddar, grated - get the best you can afford/find
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
3 large zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Grate zucchini and using a paper towel, try to wring out as much moisture from the zucchini as possible. Set aside.

3. Heat up the milk with the bay leaves till just before it reaches a boil. Set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and stir for a minute or so till it becomes a smooth paste, and the raw flour smell disappears.

4. Discard the bay leaves from the hot milk, and slowly whisk it all into the butter/flour mixture till everything is incorporated and starts to thicken. Add in a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg if you have it on hand. Then the salt and pepper, and finally stir in the grated cheese. Remove from the heat.
5. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box (I had leftover elbows and farfalle, so I mixed them both). Drain completely. Mix gently with the zucchini, cheese sauce, and grated parmesan.

6. Pour into your baking dish, top with breadcrumbs, and pop it in the oven for a good 25 mins or so. When the sauce is bubbling, and the top is golden-brown (keep an eye on it), remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 mins before serving with some spicy ketchup.

Verdict: Not only was this a great way to use up leftover dried pasta, but it made me feel good! If I felt healthy and satisfied, I knew this was sure to be a hit with potential babysitters. And look at thoe bright, springy, green specks floating around in that unctuous cheese sauce - so purdy.

Until next time, dear readers, when I may update you with my progress in this new neighborhood. By the way, I saw a "Drive-thru church" the other day. You heard me. I'm not joking. Somebody. Anybody. Please explain.