Happiness Project #36: Baked Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese!

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3 months later & I’m FINALLY back blogging! Not because I haven’t wanted to be baking & blogging these past 3 months (because I HAVE actually been baking) but mostly because being a semi-active Mom, battling her way through a whole whirlwind of physical struggles, in light of having a wonderfully SUPER active 15mo Toddler, doesn’t leave me much energy or time to blog as well. Even during the two days a week where I DON’T have my Mischief Maker with me. So in lieu of (very normal) Toddler tantrums and the decision to decline ever single event invitation we were invited to this month (once again, my apologizes to those who so graciously invited us to such lovely summer events), I’m finally making the time to do some much needed catch up. With a very messy kitchen paying the ultimate price.

So what HAVE I been up to these past very blog-free months, you ask? Why, Peanut Butter Brownies, Cinnamon Roll Mini Cakes as well as a very special Flower Garnished Vanilla & Lemon Celebration Cake, to tease you with just a few. None of which I’ll be sharing today. Shocking, I know. Though yes, the aforementioned recipes will be blogged very soon, I promise. Right now, though, I’d like to share a very NEW & EXCITING kitchen adventure with you! A DINNER adventure! Yes. Dinner. Something that I just DON’T do. Until now. Which is kinda a big deal for me, especially as a wife and mother. Instead of those oh-so predictable spoonfuls of sugar or cake flour or chocolate, this lovely dinner dish demanded cheese and noodles and tuna. Which I very happily, though a bit nervously, obliged to. And WOW, was this one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes I have EVER wrapped my stomach around! It’s THAT good! Thanks to my lovely blogging friend, Kelsey, over at her fabulous lifestyle blog, Oddly Lovely. Which you should browse through. Now. Or at the earliest connivence. There’s a blog post there for just about any subject that you could ever be (or want to be) into! Especially if you’ve never met her Dog, Ru, yet. Trust me. You’ll want to. Anyhow, after repeatedly eyeballing Kelsey’s very delicious looking Baked and Breaded Mac and Cheese Recipe, I (quite literally) dragged & pushed myself out of my usual kitchen comfort zone and did it. One of my very first home-made Dinner Dishes. Which was WONDERFUL! Cheesy, but not TOO cheesy. Delicate but hearty at the same time. With the perfect amount of surprising crunch, thanks to those well-needed breadcrumbs. And even though I threw in some frozen peas, white tuna and a teeny bit of lemon juice, this Baked Mac and Cheese Dish was perfect, all on it’s own. So with much (MUCH) delight, here it is!

Bake Tuna & Veggie Mac and Cheese:

8 ounces of macaroni (I used Rotini pasta because I have this thing for the cuteness of curls)

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)

black pepper to taste (a pinch)

1-1/2 cups reduced or low fat milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2-1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar

2/3 cups bread crumbs

*1 cup frozen peas

*9 oz can of tuna, drained

*2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from further cooking. Set aside.

Over a large skillet, set to medium-high heat, add and melt the butter, stirring so that it doesn’t brown. Once melted, add in the flour, salt and pepper. Mix with the butter until it reaches a nice & smooth consistency.

Gradually add the milk and heavy whipping cream into the saucepan, consistently stirring over the course of roughly 5 minutes. While stirring, bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to mediuim-low and cook for 10 minutes, still stirring to prevent the mixture from hardening. Now gradually add in the the shredded cheese, in small handfuls, mixing and waiting until each handful is melted before adding another. Once melted, turn off the burner. Pour in the cooked macaroni and stir throughly to create an even coating. Once you’re happy with your now fully coated macaroon, add in (first) the drained tuna, and then the frozen peas. Mix each addition well within the cheesy macaroni. Pour your macaroni mixture into a lightly buttered (or sprayed) 9×11 baking dish. Using a tablespoon, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice evenly over the entire dish. Followed by a sprinkling of breadcrumbs to finish the dish up. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumb topping becomes slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, on a wire rack, before digging in. Even though you might be chomping at the bit as soon as this yummy loveliness comes out of the oven, never fear. A few minutes won’t hurt anyone. Especially if you have a Toddler (or wiggly dog) underfoot. Trust me.

For explore all of Kelsey’s lifestyle adventures, go to her blog, at the oddlylovely.com

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