Comfort Food

Have you ever looked up the definition of comfort food in the dictionary?

n. Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment.

My first thought of comfort food is a heaping bowl of pasta with my Big Nona’s tomato sauce and meatballs, loaded with Parmesan cheese (freshly grated from the Italian store no less!) on top. However, I also think about those meals as a kid that often found their way to the dinner table week after week, but not because of their five-star quality.

The first was a casserole of beef flavored Rice-a-Roni layered with thinly sliced sirloin, basted with teriyaki sauce, baked in the oven and served with peas – my favorite vegetable! Not kidding, I was the kid who asked for a side salad at restaurants to go with my children’s menu. My parents remember this as one of the cheap dinners they ate during the first five years of their marriage to save money to build a house. The second probably made the top three list of every kid in the 1990s – chicken nuggets and Kraft macaroni and cheese. It had to be the blue box and the powdered cheese – we were not a Velveeta cheese family. While I still enjoy my Rice-a-Roni and Kraft from time to time, I have graduated to more, um, should we say sophisticated tastes? But sometimes we still need our comfort foods when life gets tough.

I lost six pounds in three weeks back in November. That’s a lot quickly for short me. Conveniently for him, the breakup coincided with a second trip back 7,926 miles away. The upset and stress of all of the questions surrounding our relationship and girl #2, his return before Thanksgiving and the inevitable fact we’re linked by the same social circle has taken its toll on my appetite. However, I have Whole Foods’ hot bar macaroni and cheese to thank for being there as my comfort food this time around and making sure that even if I only eat one meal a day, it’s definitely not short on calories. It’s the best homemade macaroni and cheese that comes close to beating out Kraft in my book! After spending way too many days hanging out at the hot bar, I overheard the secret ingredient is an Alfredo sauce base instead of your traditional milk and butter rue. Don’t let them fool you into thinking all that food is healthy!

I got the dreaded email in my inbox today at work reminding me of the holiday lunch potluck. With zero appetite, the last thing I could think about was cooking and a creative idea. So why not comfort food? Maybe I could knock out two birds with one stone – potluck and dinner? I stopped at the Harris Teeter on my way home from work and picked up ingredients. It took me all of 30 minutes to prepare this dish before baking in the oven. See that? Simply prepared. Unfortunately, even tonight macaroni and cheese couldn’t bring my appetite back. Lucky co-workers – more for them!

Alfredo Macaroni and Cheese

Alfredo Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. elbow macaroni
1 jar Bertoli Alfredo sauce
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a medium pot of water to a rapid boil and cook elbow macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat Alfredo sauce. Slowly stir in Parmesan, Colby Jack and one cup extra sharp cheddar cheese until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and toss with macaroni.

Place macaroni and cheese sauce in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Don’t forget to serve with chicken nuggets!