Enjoy Cheesy Goodness in No Time Flat by Planning Ahead
There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything you need done, but rather than tossing together a tasteless store-bought box of mac and cheese together, consider making these flavorful homemade dishes for a quick fix of cheesy goodness. Prepping your dishes ahead of time, whether it be the night before or even a few weeks before, saves you time when you're looking for something delicious but not time-intensive to make.
1) No-Boil Overnight Mac and Cheese
The best thing about no-boil overnight mac and cheese is that it's so easy to make. Spread layers of uncooked elbow macaroni in a baking pan. Cover with equal parts shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese, dots of diced butter, black pepper, chili powder and a bit of salt. Pour in some whole milk or half-and-half and cover with foil. Let this mixture soak overnight in the refrigerator, and bake it the next day.
The liquid soaks into the pasta, eliminating the need to boil it. Top with some seasoned bread crumbs, and everything comes out brimming with the tasty melted cheese in less than an hour. It couldn't be simpler to prepare or cook for your hungry family.
2) Bake-and-Freeze Mac and Cheese
Whip up bake-and-freeze mac and cheese that you can freeze for up to three months. Making enough to divide it into two family-size portions means you can eat one dinner now and freeze one for later.
Boil and drain al dente elbow macaroni and combine it with a sauce made from flour, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, milk or half-and-half, eggs and shredded cheddar cheese. Divide the mixture of pasta and cheese sauce in two baking pans. Cover each one with crumbled cooked bacon and Parmesan to add a little crunch. Serve one immediately and cool the other before wrapping it in foil and freezing it. Or freeze both of them to have on-hand when you need them later.
To serve the frozen mac and cheese, thaw it the night before. Then, reheat this dish in the oven for only about 20 minutes to enjoy fresh-baked taste without all the work.
3) Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Slow cookers can make just about anything, including mac and cheese, and you need only eight ingredients: eggs, milk, evaporated milk, uncooked elbow macaroni, shredded cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce for a little kick. You'll also need a bit of nonstick spray or a slow-cooker bag for the inside of the crock to prevent the cheese from sticking to it. Mix everything up and cover with additional shredded cheddar. If you have it, add a sprinkle of Parmesan or bacon for added flavor. Cover and set the slow cooker to low for 5 to 6 hours.
Because it takes most of the day to cook, start it during your lunch hour so that you have a freshly made pot of cheesy deliciousness when you get home. Or make it a day or two ahead of time, store it in the refrigerator and reheat it in the slow cooker when you need it. Not only is this good for families, but it works for potlucks too.
Susan Paretts has contributed to a variety of publications about issues related to family and women's issues including Livestrong, eHow, Redbook, Our Everyday Life, Real Simple and Woman's Day among others. Her expertise is in topics related to nutrition, family, relationships and work-life balance for working moms.