In her post on Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Emily talked about our snowshoeing trip to Mt. Abel. What she didn’t talk about was the best part of the whole trip—the campfire. Never before have I appreciated a campfire like I did this one.
It snowed on and off as we trekked up Mt. Abel, and by the time we reached our camping spot, I was tired and sweaty from the effort. We quickly set up our tents and unpacked some of our gear. By that time, I had cooled off a bit too much and the sweaty clothes I was still wearing made matters worse. Suddenly, I was cold and wondering how I would ever motivate myself to cook the macaroni and cheese I had planned to make. I looked over at Mai-yan and could tell she was feeling the same. We moped on the sidelines as everyone else played house around the campsite.
This whole time, I kind of ignored Emily, who was bent on starting a fire. No one believed she would find dry wood, but she did. Before we knew it, she had a little campfire going. Even at this point, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of having a fire while it snowed. I had pictured us making dinner as fast as possible and then cocooning ourselves in our sleeping bags before dark, with no plans to emerge until morning. Instead, Emily’s little campfire turned into an awesome, raging one. We happily made delicious food, sipped cognac and hot jello, and chatted by the fire until well after dark.
My contribution to our dinner was Creamy Macaroni and Cheese. There are lots of Macaroni and Cheese recipes out there, but I’ve been working on developing a recipe that would be great for camping, in particular. I wanted one that could be made entirely on the stovetop, preferably in one pot, and that didn’t require fresh milk. This recipe meets all those requirements. The macaroni is cooked in the sauce, so you’ll only need one pot. Instead of fresh milk, I use dry milk powder, which cuts down on weight and doesn’t need refrigeration. You’ll still need a couple of perishables—some cheese and a bit of butter—but those ingredients are less perishable than milk and are what make this so much better than Mac and Cheese from a box.
A few tips for perfect Creamy Macaroni and Cheese:
- If you have a nonstick pot, use it! That will make cleanup much easier and help prevent the milk mixture from burning.
- If you have a stove with simmer control, use it! If not, you can still make this, you’ll just have to watch it closer and possibly hold your pot a bit above the flame if the sauce starts to burn.
- When I made this recipe on the Mt. Abel trip, I added about 3/4 cup of fresh broccoli in the last few minutes of cooking. That lightened up the meal, and added some freshness.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Prep Time / Cook Time/
Activity GuideBackpacking, Bike Touring, Car Camping
- 2 cups macaroni, uncooked
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 cup dried milk
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- additional salt and pepper, to taste
- Large pot
- Mixing spoon
- Grater (or grate cheese at home)
- Combine uncooked macaroni, water, butter, salt and nutmeg in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat on your stove to low. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is not quite done to your liking. Add the milk powder and finish cooking the macaroni, stirring constantly.
- When the milk powder is thoroughly mixed in and the water is mostly absorbed, turn off the heat and mix in the shredded cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.