Food + Wine

Creamed Corn Mac n Cheese and Sometimes You Just Need a Little Push

I don’t know how to pack for just myself.  I haven’t taken a trip where I have been responsible for only my needs in, like, (how old is my oldest child…?)…almost 5 years?  My husband and I are taking our first real vacation in two days.  TWO DAYS.  In normal Abbey World my suitcase would be packed by now, the kid’s suitcases would be packed, the food bags would be packed, the car would be halfway loaded and traveling clothes and activity bags set aside.  I am the best planner.  If there were a planning olympics, I would win gold.  I am a list maker, a master packer and a master planner.  I walk around daily with a purse duffel bag filled with necessities to survive World War 3.  And my car is always filled with similar supplies.  So, wouldn’t you think that on this special occasion, I would have everything ready already?

I don’t know how!!  I keep thinking about all the things I need to pack and realize they’re all kid-related items.  I certainly don’t need emergency fruit snacks, coloring books and Elmo.  So I’ve had to do some serious editing in the suitcase department.  I’m flying on a plane for the first time since I was pregnant with my oldest child.  I’m now flying as an official mother and that changes things.  I used to be a good flier now I think I will need to be heavily medicated before take-off.  I don’t know the details about where we’re staying because, honestly, without my kids, it doesn’t really matter where I’ll be or where I’ll sleep.  I can sleep on a floor, but when it comes to taking my kids places I need to know every little detail before I leave the house so I can plan for the worst.

My husband and I are going to our old home of Los Angeles and I am so very excited.  I will get to see old friends and bosses, try new things, and hopefully sleep later than 5:30 am.  (Again, I may need to be heavily medicated in order to do this but hey, whatever gets you through the night, right?)  I will be able to walk without pushing a stroller, pushing anyone or anything for that matter.  (Hey, I may even ask my husband to push me in one of those electric wheelchair thingies while I sip on champagne and peeled grapes.  I bet it feels great to be pushed around all day. My kids are lucky.)  But, while I’m so very excited about going on this much needed vacation, I am also anxious and nervous…which I guess is normal.  And I’m currently on my third antibiotic and now steroid in a month due to multiple minor health issues and infections, which doesn’t really help in the excitement department.  But I think today I will begin to really be excited.  I just finished the last of my personal chef meals, made my birthday ‘cake‘, and have cleared out the leftovers and produce from the fridge. My birthday is tomorrow and tonight is the big family celebration of my special day.  I will be on my second dose of the new antibiotic and steroid so I’m hoping to feel pretty awesome.  Or pretty strong…we’ll see what happens.

Today I hope to actually pack the empty suitcase that I’ve been tripping over every night.  I’ve tried before, but something keeps getting in my way…

I’ve been thinking a lot about my outfits and how much fun it will be to wear my leopard platform pumps, carry a small clutch and go a whole 4 days without traces of snot and pee on my clothes.  I’ll get to eat a meal I haven’t been able to eat in over 5 years.  Brunch!  I love brunch!  You get to drink champagne at brunch!  My husband and I will be able to hold only each other’s hands, get to wake up and actually say good morning to one another and not have to plan our activities around the potty locations.

So, yes I’m so very excited but I’m worried that I won’t actually allow myself to relax until it’s too late.  So maybe if you have the time, please send me emails or texts with things I should do while I’m without my kids for the first time ever and remind me to relax.  I think I need a little push.

This recipe has absolutely nothing to do with LA or vacations or leaving your children for the first time.  I just had this recipe to post and wanted to talk about my trip, so I threw them both together.  Maybe when I get back I’ll be more clever…when the mucous has all cleared my brain.  This recipe is one I wrote last week and served to both my family and some new clients.  I may not be the first to come up with this idea, but I believe it’s a great one nonetheless.  It’s a combination of creamed corn and macaroni and cheese…I mean, come on!  I don’t eat canned creamed corn by itself but I use it in various casseroles* because I think it’s a super easy ingredient when you’re in one of those ‘open a can and dump’ moods.  And it actually, like many of my recipes, is lighter than most mac n cheeses.  I like to make my macaroni and cheese using pasta water instead of cream to cut back on the calories, I use whole wheat pasta for extra fiber, and I also choose to use reduced fat cheeses if I think it won’t sacrifice flavor.  Here, I’m using low fat cream cheese combined with full fat, extra sharp cheddar because the cream cheese can take the fat lowering, but the extra sharp cheddar has no replacement. 

*Creamed Corn Mac n Cheese

-Boil 1 14 ounce box of whole wheat penne (or your favorite shape) in a large pot of heavily salted water til before al dente, reserve 2 cups of your pasta water, drain and reserve.
-In the same pot, on medium heat, melt 2 TB of unsalted butter with about 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil.  Add 4 TB flour and whisk til pasty.  Season with a lot of freshly grated nutmeg and 2 TB of dijon mustard.
-Add your 2 cups of reserved pasta water and continue to whisk until you have a smooth, ‘creamy’ sauce.  Add 1 8 ounce brick of reduced fat neufchatel cream cheese (if you soften it, at room temperature for an hour or more, it will break down easier but it’s not necessary) and begin to smush it with a wooden spoon while you mix it into the sauce.  Add in 4 ounces of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (you will need 8 ounces total, which is usually 1 small brick).  Stir the cheese into the sauce in a figure eight pattern to prevent the cheese from becoming one big cheese ball.
-Add in 2 15 ounce cans of creamed corn and 1 15 ounce can of corn kernels and stir into your sauce until well combined.
-Stir in your cooked pasta.

Once the pasta is mixed well into the sauce, pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.  Spread evenly.  Sprinkle the top with the other 4 ounces of your extra sharp cheddar.
-Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
-Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

-When serving, sprinkle the top with either torn fresh basil leaves, minced sage or rosemary.

(*See my other uses for canned creamed corn here:  Corn Pudding, White and Greengo Enchiladas and Sweet Corn and Basil Lasagna.)  

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  • Reply Quinn September 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I felt the same way when we went to England this summer. It felt so strange to have a huge purse with basically nothing in it. I did miss having wipes, though. So maybe pack a small bag of wipes 🙂 Oh and be prepared to cry at the airport… I never thought I would, but I cried as soon as the car drove away with my baby girl inside. Have fun & Happy Birthday!

  • Reply Beth Quick September 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Have a wonderful trip!

  • Reply Everyday Champagne September 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Quinn-Thanks for the tip! I have just now included wipes! I'm not sure when I'll get emotional..we're dropping off the kids at my folks place before we go, so maybe in the car to the airport it will hit me…when everything is so quiet 🙂

    And thanks for stopping by, Beth! Let me know how your little one liked those teething biscuits, and FYI using wet hands on those sticky suckers worked well for me…they're so sticky and messy because of the lack of binder in the 'dough', but are super healthy because of that! Thanks again for trying them!

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