Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Cheese Macaroni & Cheese Muffins

My Aunt has two little ones home for summer, and she asked me if I could help her find some good recipes for lunch and dinner the kids would like and be able to help with.  These macaroni and cheese muffins are perfect for kids and adults!  I served these as a side at our barbecue last night, and the portions are perfect (especially if you are trying to control portions).  I used fat free cheese and skim milk to cut calories where I could.  The next time I make these I am going to add spinach to them as well!  Enjoy!
3 Cheese Mac & Cheese Muffins

1 lb elbow macaroni
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
5 cups skim milk
1 1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

For the topping:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease standard 12 cup muffin pan with butter (I used Pam).

Bring saucepan 3/4 full of salted water to a boil.  Add macaroni, stir once, and return to a boil.  Cook just shy of al dente, 6-7 minutes.  Drain.  Set cooked macaroni aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture just starts to darken, about 3 minutes.  Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk, raise the heat, and bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, 3-5 minutes longer.

Add the cheeses, salt, and pepper to the sauce and stir until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add the macaroni and stir to coat thoroughly.  Cover to keep warm,

To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the butter, bread crumbs, and Parmesan until well mixed.

Fill each prepared muffin cup to the rim with the macaroni mixture.  Sprinkle the muffins with the topping, dividing it evenly.  Bake until the tops are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate the muffins still in the pan for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours so they hold their shape.

Unmold the muffins using a small sharp plastic knife (so you don't scratch your pan).  Rewarm in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes and serve.

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Asparagus

We had a last minute barbecue at my parents house last night with grilled chicken and steaks.  My mom was making the eleven hour drive home from Michigan, so I decided to make all of the sides we would have.  If it was up to the boys they would have put a bag of chips on the table and called it good.  This asparagus turned out wonderful.  Be sure not to over roast them, they should still have a slight crunch to them.  The rosemary was a nice complimentary flavor, and not overpowering.  The citrus was perfect for the kick-off to summer weekend!  Enjoy!
Lemon Rosemary Roasted Asparagus
1 bundle of asparagus
1 lemon
handful of rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Thinly slice 1/2 of the lemon.  Prep asparagus shoots, and spread them along with the lemon slices and rosemary on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Toss all with the olive oil, as well as salt and pepper.

Squeeze juice from remaining 1/2 of lemon.

Roast in oven for 7 minutes, then carefully turn asparagus over and continue roasting for another 8 minutes.  Watch for preferred doneness.  Add additional time if needed.  Total roasting time should be between 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm.