What kind of mac & cheese did you grow up on? Nick loves Kraft, and I grew up on Velveeta, so we currently have no boxes of mac & cheese in our house, because we can’t agree on which kind to have. But we can absolutely agree on homemade mac & cheese. Especially when that homemade mac & cheese is customizable- Choose Your Adventure style! This time I added truffle oil, because decadence, but you can go any direction: chipotles in adobo sauce for smoky heat, bacon for porkiness, veggies to make this a one pan dinner- the sky is your limit! Well, the pan is your limit, but you can always get a bigger one.
And it’s healthy! Um, ish… It uses cottage cheese (and sour cream, shh) for the sauce instead of making a roux with all that unhealthy butter and flour. And then of course: cheese! I use sharp cheddar and Monterey jack, but as this is Choose Your Adventure, you could try gruyere, mexican blend, pepper jack, mozzarella, extra extra sharp…
Guys, can we take a minute here and talk about lactose intolerance? I’m sure that is exactly what you’d like to hear about in a mac & CHEESE post, but indulge me. From the age of 19 until I got pregnant with Carter Jane, I was lactose intolerant (head bowed in sadness). I could occasionally have cheese or ice cream, but then I would always… suffer. Then I got pregnant. And once the nausea of weeks 7-14 subsided, I began to play my eat tiny bits of dairy and brace myself game. But nothing happened. No suffering! It was a whole new world of Ben & Jerry’s, cheese boards (all pasteurized, calm down), and Chick-fil-A milkshakes. Y’ALL. I had never had a Chick-fil-A milkshake before! So chocolatey! So creamy! So cheap! So available to me without ever exiting my car! So located across the street from my OBGYN! Ohhh, that’s where the love handles came from…
So what about now?? Am I a free, lactose tolerant person?? Sort of! I’m pretty careful about how much dairy I consume, and throughout it all milk has tasted super gross (what up, Almond Breeze!), but I can eat this mac & cheese no problem. Thank you, Jesus, my intestines, and mostly, Carter Jane! I’ve also heard of this happening with other formerly lactose intolerant pregnant women. So all you lactose intolerants, go forth and procreate! Just kidding, a baby is SO much work, dairy is not worth that sacrifice until you’re emotionally, physically, and financially prepared, blah, blah, blah.
Until then, buckle up, grab your Lactaid, and make yourself some Mac & Cheese.
Choose Your Adventure Mac & Cheese
Serves 6 as a side dish
16oz cooked elbow macaroni
1 cup cottage cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons flour
A pinch of pepper
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded*
2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded*
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded, for sprinkling on top
*Can use another cheese, but keep the amounts the same and go for a similar texture (aka not brie and not all parmesan)
Flavor Options (please don’t use all of them at once):
1 tablespoon truffle oil
2 tablespoons sauce of chipotles in adobo (or one chipotle, chopped, but careful, they are spicy)
4-6 strips cooked bacon, chopped into one inch piece
1 onion, sliced and caramelized
1 cup cooked veggies, chopped into one inch pieces (zucchini and squash could be good, mushrooms, peas, asparagus…)
Whatever else your little mind comes up with!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with Pam. Place cottage cheese, sour cream, flour, and pepper into either a large bowl or the food processor (if you were already using it for shredding cheese, you might as well keep it going!) and mix until it’s very creamy. Toss the macaroni in creamy mixture, then stir in cheeses. Add your topping options and mix until everything is combined.
Pour mac and cheese into the pan, top with parmesan, and bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top is slightly brown. Remove and enjoy!