I have a little trouble with the concept of "semi-homemade" particularly when it is associated with a certain food network host. While the term is meant to be a positive - that you make sure to insert homemade efforts into meals - I think it ends up sounding kind of negative. That you only made part of the meal. Maybe it's just the connotation with "tablescapes," I don't know.
But anyway, last night I ventured into this world. I was tired and Wright was out of town. I had spent all day cleaning my apartment, doing laundry, prepping various storage foods and the like, and I really had no desire to make a huge meal if I was just going to eat it on the couch while watching the Emmy's in my pajamas. I was too lazy to wait for my frozen homemade meals (fully homemade!) to thaw, but too hungry to settle on something along the lines of cereal or a bacon and peanut butter sandwich (my go-to, obviously).
Lo and behold, I had a box of Annie's Macaroni and Cheese for situations just like this one. But, insert Sandra Lee joke here, I wanted to make sure to add a little homemade spin on this instant mac and cheese (that at least wasn't kraft...). So I decided to make mac and cheese with the works - bacon, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
The meal was absolutely, embarrassingly, divine. So comforting and so easy - the perfect semi-homemade solution. [Can we please come up with a better term for this? I'm still cringing.] If you are ever in a bind, or just looking to dress up your mac and cheese, the "recipe" is below. While I may not have learned to accept this form of cooking in its entirety, this meal did teach me that semi-homemade does not have to be semi-delicious!
Sunday Night Mac and Cheese
1 box of Annie's White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
2 strips of bacon
1/2 yellow onion
1 small red bell pepper
white button mushrooms (I used about 7)
1 tablespoon butter
5-6 leaves of basil
olive oil, salt, pepper
1. Dice bacon into small pieces and saute in a large saute pan (one that will fit the entire dish eventually). Once finished, remove the bacon and place on a paper towel. Wipe down the pan with a paper towel to remove excess fat, but be sure to leave some for flavor.
2. Dice onions and saute in the bacon pan with a little olive oil.
3. While working on the vegetables, make the mac and cheese according to directions: boil water, cook pasta, etc.
4. Dice pepper and add to the onions when they are just beginning to soften. Saute together for a few minutes while slicing mushrooms.
5. Move onions and peppers to the edges of the pan. Add butter to the center area and let melt, then add the musrooms. Let them soak and sweat for a few minutes, then you can begin to mix everything together and allow the flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper to veggies.
6. Add cheese mix (gulp) to the pasta once strained. Mix around until it is mac and cheese like, then pour all of it into the saute pan with the vegetables. Mix everything together and let the sauce reduce and thicken a little bit. Add the bacon back in, as well as the basil (torn or julienned).
7. Serve to yourself and only yourself, preferably while on the couch.