My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is better than yours. Or your mom’s.

My mother recently became bionic.

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Meaning that she got a total knee replacement last week, and despite recovering nicely, did not feel up to the hours of standing required to make Thanksgiving dinner.

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As you already know, I am always game to make dessert and cranberry sauce, because these are usually my favorite parts of the meal. Dan and my dad also got in on the cooking this time, being responsible for the meat and side dish portions this year.

However, when I said two seconds ago that dessert and cranberry sauce are my favorite things? I was lying. My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is my favorite dish in the entire world. I know it doesn’t have chocolate or cranberries or pumpkin or pie crust in it, which is usually all I write about, but trust me when I say that this stuff is fantastic. It is simultaneously sweet and savory, eggy and cheesy, creamy and crunchy…it’s perfection in a casserole dish. And now I had the honor of making it, listening intently and making notes on a Post-It while my mom dictated the next step to me from the kitchen table.

Want to make it, too? Of course you do! That would be pretty terrible to give it such a big intro and then say it would remain a mystery, right? Right. However, here’s a caveat before we really get started. We are from New Orleans, and in New Orleans, we don’t measure while we’re cooking, so getting the measurements nailed down on this thing was a bit of a guessing game. (Note that I didn’t say that we don’t measure while we’re baking. That would just be utter craziness.) I think that what we came up with was pretty damn near perfect, but depending on your oven, your humidity, the phase of the moon, and whether a black cat crossed your path, you may want to shift your proportions a little bit.

Let’s go.

Jinger’s Mom’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese
the only macaroni and cheese that you will ever need to know how to make ever again

Ingredients:
1 package of long macaroni noodles (My mom insists on Luxury, a local brand that’s pretty delicious, but you can use whatever you’d like.)
salt & olive oil (for your pasta water)
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 lb. shredded cheddar cheese (She actually told me 1 lb. and then a little bit more, so this is a big guess as to how much we used. Using too much cheese would be a big non-issue, really.)

Directions:
First step? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil up a whole bunch of water in a huge pot, making sure to salt the water and add a little bit of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Don’t skip this, because the noodles are going to sit by their lonesome for a while after this, and you really can’t have stickiness there.

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After the pasta’s done (and we mean DONE done, as in fully softened but not falling apart, as my mother informed me that she doesn’t believe in al dente), drain it and place it in your favorite casserole dish. I believe the one that we used is a 4-quart one, but I generally have no idea as to these things.

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While the pasta is cooling off a bit, beat your eggs lightly in a medium-sized bowl. Then, add your sugar.

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Eggs + sugar = macaroni magic.

Whisk it up good. Add your milk and whisk some more.

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Then pour it on top of those patiently waiting noodles, and mix it up as gently as possible. You want those long macaroni noodles to stay long, right?

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Nice. Now, dump about half of your cheese (a little bit more than that, really) on top.

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And mix it in.

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And try not to get frustrated if the cheese is a little clumped up in there. She assured me that this was perfectly normal, even though Dan and my dad were making fun of me for my clumpy cheese.

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After it’s all mixed up, put the rest of your shredded cheese on top, making it nice and even, and making sure those edges and corners get covered, because those are the very best part!

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Strike a pose to commemorate the occasion.

Then put your beautiful cheesy goodness into that preheated oven for 1 hour. Try to be patient. I know it’s hard.

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Then pull it out and admire its majesty.

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Remember what I said about the edges being the best part? Proof! My mom and I always immediately go for the corners to get as much crispy cheesy topping as possible.

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Eat it all up and be thankful that my mom told me how to make this so that I could tell you. Make it for your family and friends. Spread the sweet, eggy, cheesy goodness across the globe.

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Thankful for Pie – Extended Metaphor 2013 Edition

Sometimes life is a big mess.

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And it takes a little bit of elbow grease to make things come together.

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Sometimes things just seem like they just don’t go together.

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But even if it seems like something’s not quite right…

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…it all works out.

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Sometimes things just look gross.

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And then they become beautiful.

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And tangy!

Sometimes you just have to get that butter worked into that brown sugar, so you throw aside the pastry blender…

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And get your hands dirty.

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And then you run out of metaphor.

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But you have streusel topping, so it’s all good.

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And brown sugar whipped cream, too, which is a miracle unto itself.

The point is…no matter what life throws at you, if you have pie (and homemade cranberry sauce), you can handle it, rest assured.

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This particular one is an adapted version of Pillsbury’s Maple-Walnut Pumpkin Pie (that I got off of a calendar!), made with Joy the Baker’s Easy No-Roll Pie Crust (of course) and pecans substituted for walnuts, because Louisiana, dammit.

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When you’ve got pie, you’ve got smiles. You’ve got people gathering together to chat about nothing in particular. You’ve got warm, pumpkin custard goodness and buttery crust to share with those you love.

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And we all know how we feel about crust. It could solve all the problems of the world, that crust.

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I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of cranberries, pie, parades, love, laughter, and warmth.

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And an extra dollop of whipped cream. That just goes without saying.