mac and cheese with brocoli

Apron Strings By Samantha Gianulis –

If you have never heard the statistic that families who share meals together are happier, healthier, and more likely to produce feelings of well-being among every person at the table, you haven’t been reading the right headlines.

Easy Mac’n Cheese Dinner Recipe:


1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup broccoli or cauliflower or other vegetable (optional)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (about 8 ounces)
Cooking spray
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cheese Sauce:
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add onion to pan; cook  until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add flour and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
 Stir in milk and bay leaf; bring to a boil.
Cook 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Add Gorgonzola, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt; stir until cheeses melt.
 Discard bay leaf.
Preheat oven to 375°.


 Cook pasta in boiling water until almost tender,  drain well.
 Add pasta to cheese mixture, stirring well.


Place about 1/2 cup pasta mixture baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.
Top evenly with remaining pasta mixture.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and panko; sprinkle evenly over pasta mixture.
Spray lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with black pepper.
Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until heated.

Because I am writing to tell you, this fact is nothing but deliciously, delightfully, true.

It doesn’t matter if the kids come in two minutes before dinner, a total mess from a pick up baseball game in the front yard and keep everyone waiting while they wash up. When you’re all seated across from each other with steaming mashed potatoes or slow cooked pot roast, you will know, from that second on until the last goodnight kiss, that your dinner time was spent as it should have been. And you will sleep better.

It doesn’t matter if the dinner was spontaneously purchased at the grocery market’s deli, or at the sandwich shop. Who cares of dinner is a hot rotisserie chicken or a cold sub sandwich with a side of slaw? I insist, it’s asking each other how everyone’s day went, learning what happened at school or work that day, and going over the plans for tomorrow’s similar, sublime craziness that injects a collective joy into those moments.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a quick meal, eaten by the children like they like they have been starved since they were born, all that matters is the substance, the (forgive me for using a cliche) quality of time you put into those feverish, fleeting meals before someone has to dash off to the shower or bath after the weeknight basketball game. “I’m so proud of you!” can be shouted as they run down the hall as easily as it can be under – or over – stated and spoken at the supper table over a thrown together repast of chorizo and eggs.

It doesn’t matter if they protest the sitting down in formal chairs, forced to interact with their parental unit, if they complain about the talking you make them do, or the gratitude you make them display before they take the first bite of whatever it is you are serving that evening.

I’m going to be bold and tell you what matters.

What matters is this; the smiles exchanged, even if melancholy is the age-appropriate stage. It always feels good, and it is so necessary for any human being to know they are loved. What matters is this; even if you’re dragging-feet tired from the impossible day you’ve had, you took the time and used your last smidgen of energy to get food on the table and nurture the people you love, and that they know it (even if it’s not acknowledged until several years later).

What matters is this; everyone was physically, emotianally together. Present at roll call. No matter what happened yesterday, come what may tomorrow, tonight, today, you and your family were inches apart, separated only by she-prefers-mustard, he-likes-ketchup-only, but everything else – DNA, bedtime rituals, morning rushes, and familial telepathy – is just the same.

As it should be.

And it is so clear, at that same time each day. So reliable.

Forget all the headlines, relish in your own.

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Helene Rodriques

Helene Rodriques is a chef who cares about health she is agraduate of Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts, specializing in healthy foods. She is a teacher, lecturer & consultant on Wholefoods cooking Her kitchen provides traditional family cooking, tips to learn how to cook as well as new twists on recipes to make them healthier. RodriquesApron Strings Cooking ColumnCooking and Recipes,Family Fun,HealthApron Strings By Samantha Gianulis -If you have never heard the statistic that families who share meals together are happier, healthier, and more likely to produce feelings of well-being among every person at the table, you haven't been reading the right headlines. Easy Mac’n Cheese Dinner Recipe: Ingredients1 teaspoon olive oil 1/4...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids