I have (literally) travelled the world in search of the best macaroni & cheese. A few summers back, we travelled to the mac & cheese mecca that is the Southern U.S.A. From Nashville to New Orleans, we ate mac & cheese every chance that we could get. It is amazing how a dish SO simple can be done SO wrong in SO many places.

Let me start by talking about what mac & cheese is NOT: Macaroni and cheese is NOT penne and cheese. It is not rigatoni and cheese. It especially isn't orzo and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is meant to be made with, you guessed it, macaroni. Stop trying to change this. Stop lying to me on your menus. Your penne in bland béchamel sauce with parmesan on top? IT'S NOT MAC AND CHEESE.

There. I've said it.

Now. Here is why THIS mac and cheese works best. Mac and cheese needs to be creamy - and it needs to not congeal and separate after 10 seconds of serving. A big problem that most recipes have is their lack of understanding of basic food science - more specifically, cheese science. Yes. There is science behind mac and cheese. The geniuses over at Serious Eats / The Food Lab discuss this in detail in their book. (You can find that book, which I HIGHLY recommend HERE!) The secret is in the proteins.

PROS: reasons why this mac and cheese is better than all the others you've ever made.
NO BÉCHAMEL NEEDED. No. Seriously. We are going to make a mac and cheese that is absolutely creamy and delicious without white sauce.
ULTRA GOOEY - no separation of oils here.
ONE POT WONDER - No joke. This is all made in one pot. You cook the pasta AND the cheese sauce in the same pot. Can't be easier.
REHEATS DECENTLY - I won't say "well", because you it is BEST served the day it's made, but of all the macaroni & cheeses that I've made, this one reheats the best when you add a little milk.

CONS: Are you kidding me? There is no con to good mac & cheese. Except for maybe that it isn't the healthiest item on the menu - but come on. This is comfort food that nourishes the soul.

Calling in your unexpected superstar: evaporated milk. Yes, that's correct. That canned weird stuff that you thought was only for baking in the 1970s? That one. The proteins are concentrated and will result in a much creamier mixture than a starchy floury béchamel. (Be careful when shopping though, you want evaporated milk and NOT sweetened condensed. Two very different foodstuffs. I recommend using Carnation Brand 2%.) You also want to choose a cheese that holds together as it slowly melts - not one that separates. The right blend of processed yellow (also known as American) cheese and something like processed smoked gouda (or just regular young gouda, if you aren't a smoked fan). Do not choose any cheeses aged more than a year. Though they have a powerful flavour, they will separate as they melt and won't work well here. For the American cheese, try to find a deli block if you can. It has a nicer flavour than those individually wrapped singles. My personal preference is to use Kraft Extra Cheddar cheese slices. (I find them at any grocery store, but they are also online here.)

Now - if it's all tl;dr to you, or if you actually read all the way up to here (awesome!) and you just want the recipe - here she is, folks!

Best Classic Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
recipe adapted from "The Food Lab" by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

454g (1lb) macaroni noodles
114g (1/4 pound or 1 stick) butter
1 can (12oz) evaporated milk
2 eggs 1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
454g grated smoked gouda *
* (or young gouda or young gruyère, or jack cheese or a mixture of any of these)
225g cubed American Cheese (I like to use deli cheese or Kraft Extra Cheddar)
1 cup chopped green onions / scallions

Place the macaroni in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Cover with about 2 inches of water.
Bring to a boil & stir. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until al-dente.
While pasta is cooking, in a separate large bowl, beat eggs and add evaporated milk, mustard and cornstarch. Whisk until combined, and toss with cheeses.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan. Add cheese / milk mixture. Stir.
Cook until mixture is melted and creamy. Add in green onions at the end and stir.
Serve hot, preferably while wearing elastic-waist pants.
Growing up in a Jewish household, we never had white sliced bread.
No. Seriously. Never. We had challah. Or onion rolls. Or pumpernickel. But white sliced? Never. The first time I tried white sliced bread was at a non-Jewish friend's house. Slathered with mayonnaise and bologna... I really didn't get the appeal.

30 years later, and I am still a rather large bread snob. The thing is, we've now moved to a predominately Italian area - which is an amazing place to be if you're looking for pizza, but not the best place to find a babka, let alone some kosher bread.

Good thing I like to cook.

Bread baking really isn't my forté, but I never stop trying new recipes and new techniques. It turns out that some of my favourites are actually some of the easiest to make. I recently started to perfect my pumpernickel, and last week I came across a really awesome Kaiser roll recipe. Slightly dense inside, crisp outer crust, bathed in eggwash and poppy seeds - they are incredibly reminiscent of the ones that I had in my school lunches as a kid.

These make excellent burger buns, or hearty sandwich bread alternatives. They are slightly dense and are a great base for something saucy, like a lentil sloppy joe or some pulled-pork style jackfruit.

Homemade Kaiser Rolls
a.k.a. Easy Bread Buns
a.k.a. The Most Excellent Burger Buns
recipe adapted from Taste of Home


8g active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups AP flour

1 egg (or 1tsp cornstarch if vegan)
2 tbsp. water
poppy and/or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. 

Mix the flour with the salt. Add flour mixture a little at a time until it is all combined. If dough is extremely sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour.
Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 6 to 8 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place 2 in. apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. 
Beat egg and cold water; brush over rolls. 
Sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds. 

Right before placing in oven, slash tops with a lame, razor, or very sharp knife.
Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Allow to cool fully before slicing. 

Béchamel sauce is one of those basic sauces that every good chef should be able to master. The problem? Béchamel is just that - SO incredibly basic that, well, it's boring! There. I said it! BÉCHAMEL IS FLAVOURLESS! Every traditional béchamel that I've tasted has been super plain, and feels like it is lacking. My pet peeve is when someone makes mac-and-cheese but it's like 50% béchamel, and it tastes like nothing. Enter a few extra flavourful ingredients though, and you've got yourself the creamy white sauce of your dreams. The powerhouse flavours in my arsenal? Onions (both dried and caramelized), buttermilk, vinegar (no, seriously) and fresh sage. Yes, my béchamel is a little out of the ordinary - meaning, in that it has TONS of flavour. I've married together Bernaise sauce's acidity, hollandaise sauce's butter & béchamel's roux to make the best white sauce you've ever had. The best part: it's easy! It is also super versatile. Add some shredded sharp cheddar or smoked gouda and you've got yourself some mac&cheese sauce. Toss it with green beans and bake to make a green bean casserole that'll knock your grandma's socks off. (Seriously, you CAN make a green bean casserole WITHOUT condensed soup.) Use it on top of crèpes and become a brunch hero. Eat it with a spoon. Ok, no, maybe that's only me. But, you get the idea.

Easy Recipe for Flavourful Béchamel 
with Sage & Caramelized Onion

175g butter
150g flour
250ml milk
250 ml buttermilk
500ml 15% cream
2 tbsp. dried onion pieces
4 tbsp. butter
5 shallots, minced
2 bay leaves
6 fresh sage leaves
salt & pepper, to taste

In medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add sage leaves and stir. Add in minced shallots. Cook over medium heat until shallots begin to turn golden brown. Add remaining 2 tbsp. butter. Stir until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt 175g butter over medium heat in heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk in flour all at once. Continue cooking over medium until mixture begins to bubble and soften.  (Congrats, you've just made a roux!)

Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly. Slowly add in cream & buttermilk, continuously whisking. Add bay leaves, dried onion & caramelized onion. Stir. Allow mixture to come to a boil. If mixture is too thick, add more milk or buttermilk (1 tbsp. at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Fellow food bloggers with full-time jobs, I tip my hat to you. As a teacher, the months of September and October have eaten my soul been quite tiring, and I'm not sure how you other bloggers all have the juice to pump out post after post. Prepping, cooking, plating, shooting, cleaning up, and finally, writing it all down... it takes a LOT. I absolutely love it, but, holy cow, there just isn't enough time (or sunlight!) in a day. (Speaking of sunlight, I thank food photography heaven for indoor shooting lights during this dark and dreary season, as it seems that there is never quite enough natural light to take any decent shots of anything!) 

Cold, rainy, dark days also call for warm, comforting food - but also, I'd prefer that comfort food to be the kind that you can just come home to and throw in the oven no defrosting required. The internet / Pinterest is full of freezer-friendly meals, however a lot of them require tons of advance prep, or they require you to defrost before cooking, or they end up lacking in texture and flavour once reheated. You think that at pitch-black, pre-caffeinated 6am, I can remember to defrost something for dinner? Ain't nobody got time for that. I can't even remember to pack my lunch. 

I did have some rare free time one weekend, and I wanted to create something that was relatively easy, made little mess, and was a cinch to reheat - without defrosting. Enter the freezer-to-oven twice-baked stuffed sweet potato. This adobo flavoured marvel is just as delicious the day you make it as it is 3 weeks later when you re-heat it. 

Freezer to Oven Vegan Meal
Twice-Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
an original recipe by allison sklar 

6 medium sweet potatoes
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 pinches sea salt
1 large Spanish or Vidalia onion, diced
1 cup black beans, cooked and drained (or canned - drained & rinsed)
1 cup corn kernels (either frozen or canned)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup ready-made salsa (homemade tomatillo salsa recipe HERE!)

Preheat oven to 425F.
Line roasting tray with parchment paper.
Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and place face down on roasting tray.
Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes (less time for smaller potatoes), or until fork pierces easily into center.
Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle comfortably.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pan.
Sautée diced onion until translucent.
Add beans, corn and salsa. Stir until heated.
Once potatoes are cool, flip them over and scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a small border around the peel.
Mash up the removed flesh & combine with bean mixture and chopped cilantro.
Fill potato skins with mash mixture. Serve hot.

IF FREEZING: Allow to cool completely. To freeze, wrap in greased aluminium foil and place on baking tray. Allow to freeze completely before stacking.

To cook from frozen, preheat oven to 425F. Place foil-wrapped potatoes on baking tray. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are hot.

Serve with shredded cheese, mashed avocado and extra salsa if desired.

Living in Montreal is pretty awesome for a multitude of reasons. Food wise, we have more restaurants than we can possibly ever eat at, and you can easily find authentic tasting cuisine from nearly every country in the world. We have an incredible selection of grocers, small and large, and it's pretty easy to find nearly any special ingredient that you're looking for. 

The one thing that we don't have? Trader Joe's. I love everything about Trader Joe's, and I'll take any opportunity I can get to cross the border just to have a taste of their delicious garlic na'an dipped in cowboy caviar. The thing is, I don't often have this opportunity, so when I recently ran out, I knew I would have to either a) live without it, or b) make my own. Obviously, I went with option B. And let me tell you, as much as I love my TJ's, now that I've made this, I may not need to make as many trips down south as I used to.

Tomatillo Cowboy Caviar (Salsa Verde)
an original recipe by allison sklar 

1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, diced
2 medium onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn kernels (canned, or cooked)
1 cup black beans (cooked)
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 diced jalapeno pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp salt

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large mixng bowl, combine tomatillos, onions, garlic, corn, black beans, cumin seed & oil.
Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Transfer about half of the mixture into a food processor or blender.
Add water, vinegar, cilantro, jalapeno & salt to blender.
Pulse until roughly chopped.
Transfer mixture, along with reserved half, to a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and sauce thickens.
Transfer to jar with airtight lid.
Allow to cool & refrigerate.
Best served cold.