The air conditioning swirled around my swollen, almost third-trimester ankles as I sat in my kitchen leafing through the latest edition of Hy-Vee’s magazine Seasons featuring back-to-school meals and dreaming of cooler weather and delightfully structured days. My pleasure turned to annoyance as I came to the school lunch section with impossibly complicated suggestions for the lunch box—the deli spinach wrap cut in the shape of a rabbit face—while my daughter looked wide-eyed over my shoulder at the cheese and sausage astronaut with rocket-ship-shaped turkey sandwich. I harrumphed and kept turning the pages, cheering up immediately upon seeing an article on the Olympics with a perfectly colorful cocktail for the occasion, as well as more school supply ads.
Towards the end of the magazine a photo of a tower of sandwiches stopped me in my tracks. A two-page photo of seven sandwiches stacked on top of each other, all variations on the simple grilled cheese, took my breath away. Ranging from the simplest to most complex to suit your children’s tastes as they mature, the magnificent pile of melty sandwiches offered the promise of an easy, satisfying, age-appropriate meal for those days when meal prep time is limited. My eyes zeroed in on the offering for middle schoolers: the Mac and Cheesy. A generous portion of creamy mac and cheese was topped with a couple of slices of white American cheese and sandwiched between buttered toasted ciabatta bread. Perhaps it was the new baby on the way but I simply had to have it. I made my grocery list and headed out to the store the next day with mac and cheese on my mind.
I assembled it in a snap that evening and served it amidst much ooing and ahhing—not a familiar dinnertime sound at my house. Even my husband dug in and I knew that I had a school-year winner.
Hy-Vee’s Mac and Cheesy (serves 3 adults or 4 children)
-1 loaf ciabbatta or focaccia bread, sliced lengthwise and buttered
-1 box deluxe macaroni and cheese (one with a foil packet of cheese sauce)
-3-4 deli slices white American or Havarti cheese
-Prepare macaroni and cheese according to the directions on the box. In the meantime, place the sliced and buttered loaf face-up on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and set aside.
-Spoon entire batch of prepared macaroni and cheese onto one half of the loaf. Place cheese slices on top of the macaroni and cheese. Remove the unused half of the bread for a moment and place the pan back under the broiler for a minute until the cheese begins to melt but before it browns. Remove pan from oven and replace top of loaf. Slice into sandwiches and serve with a nice spinach salad that your children won’t eat.
Copyright 2016 Meg Matenaer