Panera's Mac n' Cheese

My kids are obsessed with Panera's mac n' cheese and if you've had it yourself you'd know why. It's creamy goodness is over-the-top and was on a quest to replicate it at home. 

I'm happy to report I've found the perfect recipe, used the finest ingredients and my kids can't get enough of it! I make this mac n' cheese at home, regularly, and now you can too!

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used Kalona's whole vat milk)
  • 2 cup heavy cream (I used Kalona's cream
  • 2 cup shredded white cheddar (I used raw, white, sharp cheddar)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1lb, pasta, cooked elbow

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions while making the sauce. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot on medium high heat, add butter until melted. Whisk in the flour and cook for about one minute. Reduce heat to medium and add milk, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Continue whisking until it begins to bubble. Reduce to low and add white cheddar. Stir until melted. Add cooked pasta, stirring until combined. Remove from heat and allow to sit about 5 minutes to thicken. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Now take a've NAILED IT!! You're going to love this recipe...
Adapted from Shugary Sweets

roasted beets in olive oil, thyme and red wine vinegar

Beets are so amazing. If you haven't tried beets yet, you need to try this simple recipe and get with the program! Beets are earthy, tender, and delicious. Toss with a salad, eat as a side dish, or simply eat just because...

12 beets, cut off ends, peel and quarter
olive oil
salt and cracked black pepper
dried thyme
red wine or raspberry vinegar
feta or goat cheese
your favorite lettuce

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Cut the ends off of 12 beets, peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife and cut into quarters. 

Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with about 3 tbsp. of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. 

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until tender. When they're fork tender, they're done.

Pull out of the oven and let cool until warm, pour over a couple tbsp. of red wine or raspberry vinegar another sprinkling of salt and pepper and viola! A masterpiece!! Enjoy anyway you like! I placed mine on lightly dressed lettuce leaves with feta. A--MAZING!

Make some fresh beets for your family. You'll love them!

Adapted from Ina Garten Food Network

baked pumpkin cinnamon sugar donuts

These donuts truly have a taste of fall in each and every bite. The cinnamon and pumpkin sweetened batter make this baked delight something we look forward to every fall season!

I used a large, donut pan that you can find below on Amazon image (affiliate link). They are inexpensive, and worth it! Make sure to get a couple of them so you can make one dozen donuts at one time.

I used organic canned pumpkin, pure cane sugar (unprocessed and non GMO) and Bob's Mill, organic unbleached flour. I get my sugar at Walmart. Walmart has the lowest price around that cannot be beat!!! You can find it HERE

Delicious. Delicious. Delicious. 



1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice or or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 baking powder

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Mix all the ingredients to combine in a large mixer. Add the flour and mix until smooth.

Grease your donut pans with a cooking spray (muffin tins work, too, if you don't have donut pans!) and fill 3/4 to the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the donut comes out clean.

Let cool for about 5 minutes and invert onto a cooling rack to cool a couple more minutes. While still warm, put donut one at a time into a large ziplock bag filled with cinnamon and sugar (a good ratio is 1/4 sugar and 1 tbsp. cinnamon. So in a bag I did 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tbsp. cinnamon). Cover donut completely and set back onto cooling rack and continue with each donut. 

Yum you guys! Happy fall!!

Adapted from King Arthur flour

the best chocolate chip cookie

these cookies, above, are crammed with milk chocolate chips with no extra on top

I'm not messing around with these cookies. I mean, why would I? These babies are soft, moist, loaded with the finest chocolate chips and full of butter--NO shortening. 

This is the Nestle Toll House Recipe. Buuuutttttt, I adapted it to become more moist, soft, and delicious without having to sacrifice on flavor. No shortening and all butter makes for a more flavorful cookie, without a doubt. I added more flour to make the cookie fuller and full bodied. (Full bodied?) 

When using all butter in this recipe without extra flour they become flat and ugly. This recipe is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe you'll need. 

I used a butt-load of mini chocolate chips in these cookies and then piled high, Guitard's, milk chocolate chips on top before placing in the oven. This ensures every bite has enough chocolate. em' I right? Uhhhhh, holy cow. DE-LISH-OUS!!!

Don't take my word for it... make it today. Your kids will love you. And the neighbor kids. 

these cookies didn't get topped with extra chocolate chips and as you can see, it's loaded with chocolate by using mini chocolate chips. The chocolate cookie is loaded with Guitard's mint chocolate chips
Make these for freezing in snack-size bags to pull out for kids' lunch boxes, husbands lunch, controlled snacking after school, to take with you on a picnic, anytime! It will be softened and ready to eat. Freezing keeps them fresh and keeps you organized in your kitchen. If you missed my, Feeding Hungry Boys, series, check out the cookie freezing tip for your next baking day, HERE

Ingredients and Directions:
This is a doubled recipe so you can either: divide in half to make chocolate, or just more for stocking the freezer. 

Add the butter and sugars in your mixer and beat well

4 sticks of softened butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

Add eggs while mixer is on low, beating in one at a time. Do not over mix here
4 eggs

Splash in the vanilla
1 tbsp. vanilla

Stop the mixer and add your dry ingredients. Mix well without over mixing

2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
5 cups A.P. flour

2 bags of chocolate chips of your choice. I recommend mini chocolate chips, Guitard and Ghiradelli. MIni M&M work great, too! Add nuts if your family loves...

**Press  dough balls down with the palm of your hand before baking**

Chocolate Cookie Option
If dividing the dough, add the chocolate chips but do not add all 5 cups of flour, and 4 2/3 and remove half of the dough into another large bowl. Now add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and mix with a wooded spoon until fully incorporated and 1/3 A.P. flour to the other. 

I use a large ice cream scoop to make my monster-size cookies baking in 375 degree oven for 8-9 minutes or until lightly browned. 7 minutes for regular-sized cookies.

9 dough balls to a sheet for monster cookies; 12 for regular-sized cookies

Adapted from the Toll House Recipe
Enjoy these cookies!

cookies made easy

Feeding Hungry Boys
snack-size, frozen cookies to pull from the freezer, anytime!

Your baking day just got more genius!

I'm continuing my series on, Feeding Hungry Boys, and I know you're going to like this idea next: snack-size cookies to pull from the freezer anytime!

Homemade cookies, frozen in snack-size bags, to keep in the freezer for snack-time, school lunches, to pack in your husband's lunch and a great way to control snacks! This has been the best idea I've had, yet! Yes, I've baked and froze cookies, like all the time, but not in individual bags. Since snack bags are not made for the freezer, I store my cookie snack bags in a large freezer bag and label. 

This way of storing your homemade cookies keeps them fresh, keeps you in control of what your family is eating and you are giving your kids your homemade treats. Can you say, MEM-OR-IES! 

Write this in your planners, girls, to make on your next baking day for feeding the hungry boys in your life.

Check out my different cookies with their recipes to make, HERE.


Feeding Hungry Boys

I am totally digging this series! Aren't you? Well, maybe you're not quite there yet, but you will be when you see your sons grab one of your frozen, homemade baked goods from the freezer, when hunger hits around the clock.

These delicious baked goods are my empanadas. You can fill them with anything your children like. This is not the time to fill with something you'd like to see them eat, like a spinach feta, empanada  *ahem* no, fill it with familiar, homey flavors, such as cheeseburger and pizza! All your hard work will pay off and will make for quick options all week long.

As a recap: creating a baking day in your week to devote to some freezer meals, is a time savor in the long run, will save you money feeding these starving boys, and keep them fed well. It's well worth the effort because feeding your kids is serious business. You don't want to feed them cheap fillers. And besides, when you see that your grocery bill is kept down, which it will, BELIEVE ME, you will use this method of feeding your hungry kids, over and over again! 

Getting your freezer stocked seems overwhelming at first, but it isn't. Don't try to tackle it all in one baking day. Use a full month to get the freezer where you want it, creating a different baking and cooking plan each week and using opportunities when you are making a meal for your family for dinner, that you'd like to freeze, too, and making an abundance. Soon you'll have that stocked dream freezer to feed your hungry boys and your hard work will be so satisfying. You'll know you've fed your family well, controlled ingredients, saved money and your kids will crown you, "Best Mom". Well, sometimes, us Moms don't get the accolades we deserve most of the time, it's a thankless job on the daily, but you'll still feel the satisfaction just them eating what you've made, on the quick. In the long-run, it makes your life easier. 

These are flakey, delicious, and out of control. Using my go-to pie crust recipe and some easy fillings, make this a reliable freezer snack/meal.

I did bake these off rather than freezing them unbaked because I wanted it to be fast. Hungry boys are too hungry and won't even grab for them. If the agony of the preheat of the oven wasn't enough, the thought of waiting 10-15 minutes to bake these suckers will surely kill them off. I have five boys, and if they can't get to food fast, it's not worth eating, they just shrivel up and die. 

What makes these fast is that they are frozen, fully baked, in individual bags. To reheat, all they have to do is pop into a 500 degree, preheated, oven (smokin, hot) to get it toasty, fast, in about 5-8 minutes, tops.

They can warm in a microwave, but they won't experience that crispy exterior of the crust. By fully baking and then freezing individually, oven baking will be a breeze. I've nailed it! A fast meal, homemade, easy to eat, and still keeping its integrity.

You will find my flakey, fail-proof, pie crust recipe, HERE.

For the filling, you can choose to fill anyway you'd like! Let's not forget this can be a sweet treat, too. My apple pie filling is on my pie crust recipe's page or shoot, Nutella and mini marshmallows sound good, too. Let your guide be your mama instinct on your boys' taste.

I made cheeseburger and pizza. (Taco would be an awesome flavor profile, too!) 

Cheeseburger filling:
1 lb. of ground hamburger
1/2 diced onion
1 tsp. granulated garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Grated cheddar cheese

Brown the hamburger meat. While it's browning, dice your onion and put in with the hamburger, stirring and browning and adding your spices. I add water so it creates kind of like a gravy. I do this with my taco meat, too. Let mixture cool while you roll out the dough.

Grate your cheese and have a pile on hand to easily fill your dough and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Empanada tops:
one egg with a splash of water
granulated garlic
dried parsley
salt and pepper

For your egg wash, stir an egg in a small bowl with a splash of water and whisk with a fork. Set aside.

Roll out your pie crust, after it has chilled for about 30 minutes, on a floured surface; rolling thin. Cut into small circles using a large mouth mason jar or large round cookie cutter. I rolled mine out a bit more to make more of an oblong shape. 

Place a small scoop of your cooled hamburger mixture on one half of the cut-out and a heap of shredded cheese. Fold over press together with the tines of a fork. 

Here is what sets the regular ol' empanada to zesty, Jenny, empanadas: season the tops! Brush with the egg wash and I seasoned mine with a little granulated garlic, parsley flakes, and a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. Prick with the tines of a fork to release steam while baking.

Bake off in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. First, try one for yourself. Dip in some ketchup, if you please, and let your taste buds do the talking! Good, em' I right? Let cool completely, wrap in individual, freezer quart-sized bags and then fill a large freezer, labeled zip bag for easy organization. Reuse these quart-sized, bags, as you will use quite a bit. 

Pizza fillings are just a little pizza sauce, your same browned hamburger meat and all the pizza toppings are your kids' favorite. Same drill with the prepping, baking and freezing. Don't forget to label and you're set!

Feeding hungry boys can be a reality, girls! We can do it. More to come this week!! Enjoy and comment on how your empanadas turned out...I'd love to hear!

homemade frozen personal pizzas

Feeding Hungry Boys

Welcome to my new series, Feeding Hungry Boys. 

This series came about because of my absolute necessity of finding ways to feed all my hungry boys, I have five of them...and 3 hungry girls, without constantly having to be in the kitchen. I didn't like that their go-to was junk cereal, and I didn't like having to listen to all the whines from my boys telling me there isn't any food in the house. 

I needed to take action right away, making meal and snack-time easier, and well, keeping boys' hunger pangs at bay; I'm excited to share with you what I've learned.

Those that follow this blog know how I feel about creating a baking day in your week. It is a necessity in order to feed your family well and save you money. The cost of some flour, oil, and eggs, doesn't even touch the processed junk in the middle isles of your grocery store in terms of price and nutrition. When you bake or prepare freezer foods, you're baking and cooking in abundance! Mark it in your planner and do not throw a dentist appointment on this day. Reserve it as your day to get some baking and cooking done that will last you well into the second week or a full month depending on your family's size and how much you freeze and bake on your day(s).

It's going to take some time to get your freezer stocked, and this is the idea; you want a stocked freezer. You can do this by creating a baking day like we discussed earlier, and by simply waiting until you are making a particular meal you want to keep handy, like pizza, and making a ton. Do the same (for example) taco meat on taco night.

I won't waste another minute. My first, freezer quick meal for boys (or hungry girls) is my personal pizzas. If you homeschool, this will be a godsend for lunch, if you don't, this is the perfect after school snack. This is also amazing for a quick dinner. Perfect for the weekend, it's perfect for anytime a boy says, "Mom, I'm hungry!"

Below are my, par baked (baked off for 5 minutes at 450 degrees), personal-sized pizzas. Allow to cool, label and freeze in individual freezer bags. To reheat, Preheat oven to 500 degrees, take frozen pizza out of zip bag and place on cookie sheet, and bake for only 10 minutes or until crispy and lightly golden! This is so delicious, it's homemade and you're feeding them easily and on the cheap!! 

These pizzas were taken out of the freezer and baked for 10 minutes in a 500 degree oven.

before they hit the oven for their par bake debut
do you see the deliciousness??

Below is another option for quick pizzas in your week. On Friday night, pizza night, I make an abundance of dough and keep extra dough in a greased ziplock bag in the fridge to pull out, roll out, top with my favorite toppings and put in a 450 degree for 15 minutes or until golden and crispy for quick pizzas for lunch or dinner! The crust just gets better and better sitting in the fridge as it ferments and gets that perfect chew and flavor.

Keep your toppings chopped and cheese shredded for easy toppings for your pizzas all week. Really, it makes it a snap to roll out and throw a pizza in the oven!

pizza dough can sit in the fridge for up to, and no longer than, 5 days
My pizza crust recipe that is simple and delicious is found, HERE
My pizza sauce, HERE

My boys have been pulling these out and making themselves pizzas for weeks and the results are nothing short of miraculous. Miraculous in that I've fed my hungry boys a delicious, homemade meal, and I didn't even have to barely lift a finger! 

Well, until dinner-time.

What are your hungry boy, hacks? Please share below!