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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese

My apologies for my 2+ week disappearance.  Between moving and internet struggles, I have been a slacker.  Now that my life has calmed down a bit, I should be more regular in posting.

Macaroni and cheese finds its way on to my menu more often than not since it is delicious, easy, quick, and sure to please everyone.  While the boxed stuff is just fine for lunch every now and then, homemade mac and cheese casserole-style makes something ordinary a little more special for dinner.

The basic recipe is great, but I do like to make things interesting with “mix-ins” occasionally.  One of my favorites for a special treat is caramelized onions and BBQ pork.  Inspired by a restaurant meal I had years ago, this dish makes an average dinner worthy of company or any special occasion.

Enjoy!

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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese (Serves 6)

½ tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 box (13.25 ounce) whole wheat macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups skim milk
1½-2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, colby, or colby jack work well)
8 ounces cooked, shredded pork
½ cup BBQ sauce (more per personal preference)
½ cup breadcrumbs, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt ½ tablespoon olive oil or butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion slices; sauté for 3-5 minutes until beginning to soften and brown. Reduce heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are a nice brown color, about 15-30 minutes. Place in the bottom of a well-greased 2 quart or 8×11 baking dish.

3. Mix pork with BBQ sauce until well moistened (add more if you really like BBQ). Layer on top of onions in baking dish.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add macaroni and cook until just al dente – the minimum time on the box or even a minute less. Drain.

5. While macaroni cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan. When melted and beginning to bubble, add in black pepper and flour. Stir constantly, cooking for 1-2 minutes until just beginning to brown. Whisk in milk, stirring constantly. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently to prevent lumps, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Add in drained pasta. Stir until well combined. Layer over pork in baking dish.

7. If using, lightly toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle over the top of casserole.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until casserole is bubbling.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per Serving)

Calories: 606
Protein: 32 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 10 g
Cholesterol: 79 g
Carbohydrates: 75 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 561 mg

Recipe notes: Any short pasta will work. I often use rotini or penne. But there is something extra satisfying about macaroni and cheese made with actual macaroni noodles. You may need more or less BBQ sauce. It depends on how moist your meat is and how saucy you like it. I use meat leftover from making BBQ pork sandwiches, which is generally pork shoulder. Any shredded pork will work. You can save some cheese out from the sauce to sprinkle on top. I usually forget, but it is delicious that way.

Skip the steps about the onion and pork, and this is my go-to macaroni and cheese. I often add just the onions. They don’t take much effort and cook in about the same time as getting the noodles and sauce together.

I know the nutrition doesn’t look great on this. But I cut down to skim milk and scaled back the cheese a lot. Think how much worse it could be!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman and inspired by a restaurant meal

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Philly Cheesesteaks

Having never been to Philadelphia, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of these sandwiches.  But I can tell you they are delicious.  Even better, they are easy and fun to make.  My husband always helps me make these, because he thinks slicing the meat is pretty neat.

I usually buy whole-wheat hoagie rolls for these sandwiches.  I made some whole wheat french bread rolls this time.  They got a lot bigger than I expected in the second rise, so the sandwich looks huge in this picture.  The amount of filling is the right amount for four sandwiches, but there is a lot more bread than for a normal hoagie roll.

Philly Cheesesteaks (Serves 4)

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1 lb top round steak
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced
6 ounces of provolone cheese, sliced
4 whole wheat sandwich rolls

1. Slice steak into 1 inch strips. Place in a freezer bag and put in freezer for at least 1 hour.

2. Place largest slicing disk on food processor. Feed frozen steak strips through food processor. You should have small slices and some shaved pieces of meat.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add sliced peppers, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add sliced onion. Cook for about 5 minutes more, or until vegetables are mostly tender.

4. Add steak and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes or so. Place slices of cheese over the top of the meat/vegetable mixture to evenly distribute. Cover pan, and cook until cheese melts. Serve in sandwich rolls.

Nutritional Information (Amount per sandwich):

Calories: 501
Protein: 44 g
Fat: 20 g
Saturated Fat: 9 g
Cholesterol: 101 mg
Carbohydrates: 39 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 775 mg

Recipe Notes: If you can’t find top round steak, I have used flank steak as well. It isn’t as lean, so do try to find the top round. When freezing the meat, you want a good balance of being frozen but not rock solid. If it is too frozen, the slicing blade can have a hard time with it. If you don’t have a food processor, no problem– just try to slice the steak as thinly as possible before cooking it.  You’ll likely have to cook the meat a little longer, too.  When I buy provolone, it comes in 1.5 ounce slices, so I use 4 slices. If yours comes in 1 ounce slices, you could decrease the cheese to just 4 slices. This would save you calories, fat, and sodium. But, it is a cheesesteak, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

I know the nutrition facts don’t look that great for this sandwich. But here is a commercial cheesesteaks nutrition facts:

Calories: 760 calories
Protein: 57 g
Fat: 32 g
Saturated Fat: 17 g
Cholesterol: 145 mg
Carbohydrates: 65 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 2500 mg

Source:  Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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