Apple, Bacon, and Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese

So, I get up early every day. Well, except Sunday – I sleep in on Sundays. And by “sleep in,” I mean I sleep until 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Hey, I get up at 3:45 Monday through Friday to either run or go to the gym! Sleeping until 6:30 feels like a luxury after all those early mornings!

Well, this morning, it was tough to roll out if bed well before the sun was going to make an appearance. But, I did because I was meeting a workout buddy at the gym. She was counting on me to show and I wasn’t going to be THAT GIRL who cancels at the last minute just because I was feeling lazy.  So, up I got and to the gym I went. Glad I did, too, because we had a helluva good workout. Here’s what we did:

Warm-up: alternated each set between these exercises – squats holding one 20# dumbbell between legs & high knees (just like it sounds) for 2 sets, 20 reps each.

Then, we moved onto the meat of the workout and did this:

10 reps X 5 sets of
* sumo squat high pull with 45# bar
* pushups
* box jumps
* dumbbell swings (30#)
* butterfly situps

And, on to the treadmill for some good, old-fashioned treading. Treading is where you move the treadmill belt with your body weight – the machine is not on. We did 45 seconds of treading, 15 seconds of rest for 15 rounds. Whew! What a workout! Then, we walked it out and stretched and called it done. Great morning!

Of course, after a workout like that, I’m pretty much starving all day. I always pack plenty of food but I look forward to going home and having dinner with the fam. Now, I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but mine has been rainy for the past three days and a cold front is moving in. What does that mean? Comfort food! So, when I saw this recipe for mac ‘n cheese that includes bacon, I knew it had to be made. Mac ‘n cheese – the ultimate in comfort food. Throw in some bacon and apples, and you’ve likely achieved the ultimate in comfort. Enjoy! 🙂

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese
Serves 4 (football players)

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced and cut crosswise, rinsed well and drained
3/4 lb elbow macaroni
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk, at room temperature
8 oz sharp white cheddar, coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour off all but 1 tbsp fat, add the apples and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Place the leeks in a colander in the sink. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes; drain in the colander with the leeks to soften them.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, cook until smooth and thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 1/2 cups cheese and a generous sprinkling of pepper; whisk until smooth.

4. In a bowl, add the pasta and leeks, the sauce, apples, and parsley; toss well. Reserve 1/4 cup of bacon. Add remaining bacon to the pasta; toss. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Divide pasta among 4 16-oz baking dishes, or one large dish, top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved bacon and serve hot.

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