Struggling to find ideas for lunch? Tired of the same ol’ leftovers? We hear you and we want to help you solve this dilemma. Afterall, while breakfast is the most important meal of the day, lunch too often gets overlooked. Lunch is a critical meal in the middle of your day as it refuels you at the midway point in your day and recharges you to the finish line.
Without further adieu, here are some great ideas for you to make your next lunch creation. The best part about these recipes is that they have the cheese lover in mind!
MAC N’ CHEESE WITH BACON AND CHEESE
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 cups milk
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, smashed and divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small saucepan heat the milk with the thyme sprigs and 2 garlic cloves. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to keep lumps from forming. Strain the solids out of the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Continue to whisk vigorously, and cook until the mixture is nice and smooth. Stir in the 4 cups of the cheese and continue to cook and stir to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and the parsley and fold that all in to coat the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Scrape into a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
While that bakes, heat a saute pan. Add the bacon, render the fat and cook until crispy. Add onion, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, scatter the bacon mixture over the mac and cheese. Use a big spoon to scoop out servings, making sure you get some of the smoking bacon mixture on each spoonful.
GRILLED CHEESE WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
2 tablespoons/30ml olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
Salt and pepper
8 thick slices bread
1/4 cup/60ml butter, room temperature
2 cups/500ml grated aged Cheddar
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions until soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the onions to a plate.
Generously butter both sides of each bread slice. In between two bread slices, pile the caramelized onions between two layers of cheese.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Cook the sandwiches, flipping once, until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
SCALLOPED POTATOES AU GRATIN
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar
1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and continue cooking 1 minute longer. Stir in the cream, broth and thyme, and season with the salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until the potatoes are fork-tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the potatoes and cream to a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the potatoes. Bake until bubbly and the surface begins to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
PARMESAN-CRUSTED GRILLED CHEESE
CREAMY STOVETOP BACON MAC AND CHEESE:
1 pound elbow macaroni
6 strips thick-cut smoked bacon, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups hot whole milk
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, or more as needed
8 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded (2 cups)
8 ounces Muenster cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
PARMESAN-CRUSTED GRILLED CHEESE:
Eight 1/2-inch thick slices brioche
8 slices American cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 tablespoons crushed Calabrian hot chile peppers, from jar
8 slices tomato, cut thin (or 4 large slices, depending on how big your tomato is)
2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
For the mac and cheese: In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain. Set an extra-large skillet, or a large heavy saucepan, over medium-low heat and cook the bacon until crispy and the fat renders out, 10 to 12 minutes. Set the bacon aside, reserving the fat to build your sauce. At this point you should have about 1/4 cup of reserved fat. If needed, add some olive oil or butter to make sure you have a 1/4 cup of fat in the pan.Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the paste bubbles a bit, about 2 minutes (make sure it doesn’t brown). Continuing to whisk, add 3 cups of the hot milk and cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Stir in the dry mustard, and then gradually add the Cheddar and Muenster cheeses, stirring constantly until all of the cheese has melted into the sauce. Stir in the hot sauce and the remaining 1 cup milk. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to coat. Stir in the crispy bacon and season with salt and pepper. You’ll need 2 cups of mac and cheese for the sandwiches.
For the grilled cheese: Top all 8 slices of bread with a slice of American cheese. This will act as your glue. Spoon 1/2 cup of the mac and cheese onto four of the slices, sprinkle with some basil, and then add a dollop of the spicy peppers. Top with 1 or 2 tomato slices, and cover with a second slice of bread.
In a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat, spread 1/3 cup of the grated Parmesan in an even circle roughly the same size as your bread. Let the Parmesan begin to melt and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. As soon as it gets golden brown, set a sandwich on top of the Parmesan. Cook for 2 minutes more. The Parmesan will adhere to the bread and create a nice crispy crust. Remove the sandwich from the skillet and repeat the same process for the other side of the sandwich. Depending on the size of your pan, you may be able to do two sandwiches at a time. If needed, keep finished sandwiches warm in a 200 degree F oven while the others are cooking.