Leftover night with a twist.
The first twist, which is hardly exciting, is just that Amir ate the Healthy Mac & Cheese with gusto. Not sure about his little friend, but I guess it was the excitement of dinner company that left him uninterested in food that night. For all he knew, it was a homemade version of his favorite. He had no idea that a serving of butternut squash was hidden in there.
My husband ate his bowl unadorned, but I get to report on the second twist: Healthy Mac & Cheese with Balsamic Drizzle and Bacon Bits. I had a package of bacon bits at the house and sprinkled them on my serving. I also topped mine with a tablespoon of balsamic reduction. The recipe for that follows.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
Mix the two ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until it boils. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Reduction should look thick but not syrupy.
The "thick but not syrupy" part is pretty important. If you allow it to cook to the point of syrup, it will continue to thicken when taken off the stove, leaving you with sludge. Not a giant fiasco if that happens--just add tablespoons of water until it becomes syrup again.
Another tip when cooking this recipe: turn on the hood fan and open a window. As the cook, you'll hardly notice the smell of vinegar wafting through your house. Everyone else will fear a chemical spill. And for God's sake, don't lean in and smell your concoction as it cooks. I made the mistake of doing that the first time I made it and probably burned all my nose hair!
When using the reduction for the mac & cheese recipe, a tablespoon will be plenty. The flavor is strong and sweet and will take over the dish. If you have leftovers, it can be kept for a couple of weeks if stored air-tight in the refridgerator. Use it on meats or for a dessert topping. Sliced strawberries with sugared marscapone cheese and a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar comes to mind. Yum!