August 28, 2013

Panera Mac 'n Cheese

Diana and I have found out recently that we really quite enjoy cooking together. You'd think we would have known this already, since we have been friends for five years now, but we're lame and didn't.

Well, one night a few weeks ago, Diana came over for dinner. It just happened to be a night I was in charge of the cooking, so she and I stopped at the grocery to pick up what I needed. I had decided I would cook up some Panera-style mac 'n cheese, and, on a whim, Diana said she wanted to try a recipe for Parmesan Cauliflower. So we got our food, drove home, and got cooking.

This post is about how I cook my mac 'n cheese! Panera actually gives you their recipe on their website, but I have altered it a bit to fit my tastes, budget, and time needs more accurately.

Here's what you'll need...
1 package noodles (Any kind works. Shell noodles are my personal favorite)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
6 slices American cheese
8 oz. extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar cheese
1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. Tobasco (or any hot sauce)

1. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Do so in a stockpot. A three quart pan is not big enough for this recipe, even if the pasta all fits. Later on, after you strain the pasta, you will be putting it back into this pot and adding the cheese mixture.

While the pasta is cooking...

2. Start the cheese mixture. In a three quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. (Hint: 1/4 cup butter is half a stick.)

Emmy showing you what 1/4 cup butter looks like...

Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for one minute, whisking constantly.

Gradually whisk in the milk. Turn heat down to medium and cook until the mixture thickens and boils. Don't forget to stir it occasionally!

3. Chop and shred your cheeses. Your white vermont cheddar will need to be shredded. Unwrap all your American cheese and rip it into small pieces.

Slowly, a handful at a time, add your cheeses to the mixture. Make sure it melts.

4. Add tobasco, mustard, and salt. Stir the mixture until it is creamy and smooth.

5. Mix cheese with pasta. By now your pasta should be cooked and strained. Remember the big pot we cooked it in? Put it back on the stove on low heat and put the pasta back in.

Now, pour your saucepan of the cheese mixture into your stockpot of pasta. It helps to scrape the sides of the saucepan with a spatula so you get all the cheese out. 

 Stir the cheese and pasta together with a wooden spoon until the pasta is completely coated.

And there you have it! My variation of the Panera Mac 'n Cheese! The biggest difference is the amount of Dijon mustard you put in. The real recipe calls for too much; if you put in the amount it says all you will taste is mustard. It didn't actually taste like the real thing with all that mustard.

Look for a post on the Parmesan Cauliflower we made, too. It was just as delicious! (And I don't even like cauliflower...)


Have your own macaroni and cheese recipe you love? Think I'm crazy for leaving out all the Dijon mustard the real recipe calls for? Have any questions? Leave us a comment! 

August 9, 2013

How To Save Big at Target... Lizzie's Insider Secrets

Lizzie here.

When brainstorming new ideas for blog posts, I usually try to make sure my ideas are either entertaining or useful. Or both. And of course it has to be something I actually know about. And while I love to be a know-it-all, I'm really not. (You hear that, Diana?) Sometimes I feel pretty lost when it comes to choosing post topics.

But one thing I really know a lot about is being thrifty.

Today, I somehow fell into conversation with a fellow shopper at Target while we browsed through the cardigans...

I asked, "Are you using the Cartwheel coupon for these sweaters this week, too?"

She looked at me like I was crazy. "What's Cartwheel?"

I then explained how I saved myself $70 on a recent Target purchase by using a combination of coupons, phone apps, and employee knowledge.

(Yeah, by the way, I work at Target. I don't think I've ever mentioned that, actually, haha.)

Needless to say, I spent fifteen minutes showing this woman how to download all the apps and where to find all the coupons her bargain-hunting heart could desire.

And that's what I want to share with you all today... How to save some serious money at Target.