Cheesy Bake

I hope that everyone survived winter storm Nemo! I celebrated my mom’s birthday AND 6 month vegetarian anniversary on Friday by sitting inside anxiously awaiting the skies to open and dump snow on us. It was a welcomed day on the couch (working, of course) after taking an evening Bikram yoga class the night before. It was my first class, and since I bought a 30 class card, I will definitely be writing about it in the future! Despite the not-s0-great weather, I did make a mean mac ‘n cheese that I wanted to share.

So ridiculous
So ridiculous

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For anyone that knows me, they know that menu planning is something I really enjoy doing; you can find me scouring the internet (mostly blogs and Pinterest) and cookbooks most days of the week looking for inspiration for meals weeks in advance. I’m usually thinking about my next meal before I’ve finished the one in front of me! I make the recipes as instructed a decent amount of time, but I often tweak a few things based on what I have in the house, or my personal taste preference. It usually isn’t enough of a change to warrant a blog post about it, but every once in awhile I do take a recipe and really make it my own, using the original more as a loose guide and inspiration. So, when I found Budget Byte’s Jalapeno Popper Mac ‘n Cheese, I knew immediately I was going to make it. I just didn’t know until about half way through that I was going to change a lot of it.

Baking macaroni and cheese is awesome. Who knew that adding a little bit of breadcrumbs and throwing it in the oven for a few minutes would add so much texture and flavor to such a simple kitchen classic! Using three different kinds of cheeses may seem like overkill to some, but to a cheese lover like myself, there’s no such thing as too much! The cream cheese definitely kicks this over the top (I need to cook with it more). This version isn’t spicy (to me), so if you want to kick it up a notch feel free to add more jalapeños or some other kinds of peppers. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold winter night (which we’ve been having a lot of recently), or to bring to a potluck. You won’t see this on any “skinny” or “diet friendly” lists, but it’s definitely something you should make and enjoy (in moderation of course).

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Jalapeño Popped Baked Mac ‘n Cheese adapted from Budget Bytes
– Serves 4-6 –

Ingredients:
1 lb. pasta (elbow, spiral, etc.)
1 Tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/3 cup milk
5 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-3 jalapeños, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (any variety will work)
1/2 & 1/4 cups of Panko style bread crumbs

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package. 
3. As the pasta cooks, make your cheesy roux by combining the oil and garlic first in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
4. Next, add in the milk, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. Cooking until the cream cheese is melted and everything is combined. Add the Greek yogurt and jalapeños. 
5. Drain the pasta, and add it back to the original pot. Pour the cheesy jalapeño mix and 1/2 cup of the Panko bread crumbs over the pasta and stir to combine. 
6. Fill a greased 9×9 baking dish with the macaroni and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and shredded cheese. 
7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes before digging in!