Smoky Bacon Mac and CheeseThe Monday after Labor Day week is the last of the firsts: It's the first day of school for much of the Northeast, and for lots of kids in other parts of the country. My own little ladybug starts preschool on Monday, and when I'm not weeping copious tears about it I'm planning some fun first-day-of-school family rituals that I'm well aware will probably not last past first grade.
See more: Quick and Easy Dinners
There may be no more appropriate resource for a special first-night-of-school dinner menu than Oakland's adorable Homeroom, the classroom-themed restaurant devoted to the art and science of mac and cheese. The owners of Homeroom have an appealing new cookbook out this month, The Mac and Cheese Cookbook. Homeroom offers ten or so different mouthwatering variations on mac and cheese at a time, with seasonally rotating sides and desserts, and, most exciting for us grownups, wine and beer pairings to complement all the smoky, cheesy, gooey goodness. The cookbook offers up recipes for some of their bestsellers, including a foundation recipe for a basic bechamel sauce that quickly explains how to achieve the perfect, silky texture.
Below are three of my favorite recipes from the book, which together create a filling, fast, festive menu for the first night of school. School nights can be crazy, but you can make the frozen Peanut Butter Pie the night before (it takes about 20 minutes tops) and chuck it in the freezer, and you can also cook the bacon and the bechamel for the Smoky Bacon Mac in advance and store them in containers in the fridge. With those two pieces of prep done, the entire meal will take about 20 minutes to put on the table, and there will be leftovers for the next day's lunchboxes.
See more from Epicurious:
Delicious Lunch Box Recipes for Kids
Taste Test: 3 Addictive Peanut Butters
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