Category: cayenne

Retro-style Indian “lime pickles.”

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

Retro-style? Salad oil? Lime pickles? What the hell is this?” That’s probably what you’re thinking reading this recipe. And I don’t blame you, really. But you should get the backstory before you think I’m totally insane.

Because lime pickles are totally a thing, and this is indeed a vintage- or “retro”- recipe.

A few months ago on a really rainy, chilly, gross Friday night, Jay & I stopped in to one of my favorite thrift stores. There wasn’t much to get. I was a little disappointed. Until he found a stack of 1960’s/1970’s McCall’s magazine cookbook supplements! SCORE!

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Flu fighting sorbet, anyone?

Now that Valentine’s Day is over & there’s one whole month until you’ll be ingesting green beer, feel free to get sick. No seriously. After reading this post, you just might not mind it so much. Okay… that’s a lie. You will. But at least this will ease your suffering just a bit.

A couple of years ago, on a hot summer night, me & my other half were being lazy, drinking some beers & watching a show on either the Food Network or the Travel Channel & it just so happened that on said show they featured Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. We were immediately attracted to the variety of hand-crafted ice creams & sorbets; specifically the ones like the cherry lambic sorbet & the whiskey pecan. Unfortunately we don’t live in Ohio, and it was the peak of summertime so there was no way we’d chance having ice cream shipped to NY, dry ice or no dry ice. And even if we had, it wouldn’t have arrived that night! So we were two sad pandas.

Cut to about two or three weeks ago… I discovered the newest thing in sorbets: the influenza sorbet. Genius! We’ve all been sick here on and off all winter, with either a mild flu-ish thing or a stomach thing or some other weird thing that gave us insane headaches, and I wish I had had some of this on hand. The idea of a FLU FIGHTING SORBET!? Holy balls. I love it. Now, apparently, the company has changed the name to the Hot Toddy sorbet because seemingly there were some idiots who thought either the sorbet contained the flu or actually cured the flu. But either way the concept & ingredients stayed the same! Orange & lemon juice, honey, ginger, cayenne pepper and of course, Maker’s Mark. Perfect for when your throat starts to hurt, and you can’t keep anything heavy down. An icy cold citrus-y delight, with a hit of bourbon & ginger, and cayenne pepper so subtle you probably won’t even know it’s there. But at $12 a pint, and it being all the way in Ohio… I knew I wasn’t getting my hands on any.

I decided I was going to come up with my own recipe and make my own version of Jeni’s infamous flu sorbetto.

But see, I don’t have Maker’s Mark. I have other bourbons. So I used Basil Hayden’s bourbon instead, because it’s a milder one, and I’m not such a crazy bourbon fan. I’ve gotta say though.. the idea of it this sorbet made me really happy. Really, really happy. And Jay has quite the selection to choose from… but I chose Basil. Of course, this is NOT Jeni’s recipe, this is my own creation. And it can be tweaked to accentuate whatever ingredient you want to be the main player. Just don’t add too much bourbon- it won’t freeze properly. And because I didn’t use an ice cream maker, it’s more of a granita. So that’s what we’ll officially call it:

Influenza Granita.

Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, although available all over Italy (but granita in Sicily is somewhat different from the rest of Italy), it is related to sorbet and italian ice. However, in most of Sicily, it has a coarser, more crystalline texture. Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten says that “the desired texture seems to vary from city to city” on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet.[1] This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. Although its texture varies from coarse to smooth, it is always different from the one of an ice cream which is creamier, and from the one of a sorbet, which is more compact; this makes granita distinct and unique.

Influenza, commonly known as the ‘flu’ , is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort.[1]Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease caused by a different type of virus.[2] Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children,[1] but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “stomach flu” or “24-hour flu”.[3]



  • 2 1/2 cups orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but a low sugar or all-natural bottled variety will work)
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice, but it must be fresh squeezed!)
  • 1/4 cup regular lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus two tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon GOOD bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • anywhere from a pinch to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, depending on taste or intensity of illness


  1. Put the orange & lemon juices & sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, raise heat to medium & add honey, 2 tablespoons of bourbon, ginger & cayenne. Stir well. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once everything is boiled, add the last teaspoon bourbon. Stir. Strain into a container and let cool to almost room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from freezer and whisk to crush ice crystals. Re-wrap and re-freeze. Continue doing this once every hour for 4-5 hours with either a whisk or a fork.
  3. Before you serve, if the mixture is still too chunky or icy, simply beat (in a cold bowl) with an electric mixer on low until fluffy. DO NOT LET IT MELT. Place it back into container and re-freeze until it sets. Serve & enjoy!

If you’ve got an ice cream maker or attachment (like I do, but I forgot to freeze the bowl before hand so I had to do this the manual way), then you can just freeze it according to the manufacturer’s directions. You’ll end up, most likely, with a smoother, softer less chunky version. More like sorbet, less like Italian ice. It doesn’t really matter what the texture is, though, as long as it isn’t just a crunchy block of ice. And even then, you could really just shave off pieces to eat. So it doesn’t matter much what you end up with. Oh- and Meyer lemons are way sweeter than regular lemons. So if you use all regular lemons, you might want to up the sugar amount. Remember: the cold lessens & dulls the sweetness of the sugar, but also remember that too much sugar will result in the same problem as too much bourbon in that it just won’t freeze properly.

Now, in no way am I telling you this will cure your flu (or your cold, or pneumonia or whatever you’re suffering with). What I will say is that there’s a lot of Vitamin C in here, and in addition honey, lemon & ginger are known for their flu-fighting properties. Cayenne pepper thins mucus, allowing you to breathe again. Plus, not only is bourbon an old-timey “helper” for all illnesses, it helps numb a sore throat a bit, as does the bracing cold iciness of the granita. No dairy to increase mucus production, either!

And if you want something hot to soothe what ails you, then you should definitely make a few jars of spiced honey. I guarantee you between this granita & some hot tea with spiced honey in it, you’ll be feeling better in no time. And if you aren’t… there’s always that NyQuil too.

Cupcakes made with brown butter & spice & everything nice.

Before I start in, I want to congratulate Polly for winning my giveaway & getting a copy of The Cookiepedia! Enjoy it! It’s an awesome book, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of it this baking season. Speaking of baking…

So, I bought these really cute fall leaf sugar decorations & I wanted to use them desperately, and what else would I use them on but cupcakes!? Cute little fall cupcakes that are dark chocolate cupcakes, spiced with cinnamon & cayenne pepper topped with brown butter frosting. Simple, but let’s be honest, I just made them to use the little leaves. Yes, I made cupcakes just to use decorations I bought.

But in all fairness, it’s fall! I was so inspired by the fall colors in the table runner & the icing leaves, not to mention the gorgeous fall leaves outside my window.


So I had to. I really did. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking so much lately (& cooking) that I think by December 1st, Jay will have to roll me down the stairs & into the car… or possibly just roll me down the street like a not-as-blue-but-just-as-round-Violet Beauregarde. Yeah. Despite that, I had to make them. And of course, I had to do the brown butter thing. Jay’s leaving tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. for San Antonio, Texas. He doesn’t get any cupcakes as punishment for leaving me & going off to do cool stuff without me. Alas, someone has to do the dirty work around here- baking, cooking, etc. We can’t all be rock stars; some of us have to rock out the kitchen instead of the stage. At least he’ll be home by Thursday!

What was I saying? Brown butter, that’s right. Brown butter is so amazing. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it immediately. I’m not kidding. It’s a game changer; a sweet, caramel-y, soft, kind of burnt taste that is sublime in frosting. You’ll want to frost every cupcake you make with it. Great with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, spice cake, malted milk cake, apple cake, just about anything/everything. It’s basically perfect. I’ve used it before on cream soda cupcakes & that was heavenly.


Makes 12 cupcakes

Get these ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder (or another dark cocoa powder of your choice)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Then you should:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, flour, salt and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cool.



  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered or confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of salt


  1. For brown butter, in saucepan heat ½ cup butter over medium-low heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes; cool thoroughly. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the butter so that any large burned fat solids aren’t included in the frosting. Fine specks are expected & totally fine, though.
  2. In bowl, beat the other ½ cup softened butter with mixer on medium 30 seconds. Add cooled brown butter; beat until combined.
  3. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash salt. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half, use more if needed until spreadable. Use frosting immediately. If frosting begins to set up, stir in a small amount of boiling water.
Probably wasn’t a good idea to use black liners & take the pictures on a black runner, but I did like how they matched

The ‘use immediately’ thing is 100% true. The nature of this frosting is that it sets up fairly quick. That can be a pain in the ass at times, but it’s well worth it.

I absolutely love brown butter frosting, I can’t say enough about it & I’d love it on just about any cake or cupcake or cookie. But on these it’s especially delicious. The cupcakes are like a Mexican hot chocolate-type of flavor, which I love, not to mention incredibly moist. Combine all that with the brown butter flavor & it’s just amazing… it’s so warming & fall-like. A great Thanksgiving cupcake. And don’t be scared of the cayenne! I promise you, it adds a slight warmth (or heat) but it won’t make you run for the hills. So many people are afraid of using cayenne or chili powder in their baked goods, but I’m telling you, when mixed with chocolate & cinnamon- it’s mind blowing.

And in true holiday form, as per usual, here’s the Thanksgiving tree in all her glory!

For those of you who are unaware, my mom puts up a tree for every holiday. I post pictures of them with one of my holiday posts; it starts after Christmas with her white winter tree, then Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, etc. Most recently I posted the Halloween tree. They’re usually the same though, year to year, with just a few changes- new ornaments, perhaps some new lights or ribbon, etc. It’s a fun tradition I always look forward to.

One thing that will be different is I won’t be hosting Thanksgiving this year, so for once I won’t be doing all the cooking! I will, however, be doing the baking. I do look forward to sharing those baked goods with you next week, but in the meantime, go make these cupcakes. Seriously.

What da dilly, yo?

Busta Rhymes & dilly beans. A natural combination, no?

So yeah. Dilly beans. As a native New Yorker, where most of my young-adult time was spent pounding pavement in Manhattan, either uptown by the Met or downtown in Chelsea & the Fashion District, not quite growing my own vegetables/living in a rural area/reading up about canning, I hadn’t a friggin’ clue what the hell a dilly bean was. I’d heard of them, sure, on the internet & blogging circles. But I was totally not sure what exactly they were. Turns out, they’re just preserved green beans! Go figure!

Dilly beans or pickled green beans, are a means of preserving this summer legume. Often flavored with dill, hence the name, they may also contain garlic, Tabasco sauce, and red pepper. Best kept in glass jars for safekeeping over the winter months, they can be served on their own as a snack or alongside a main dish or in salad. While they are made in kitchens all over the United States, they are particularly common in Vermont, where the overabundance of green beans produced during the short summer needs to be preserved for enjoyment during the long winter.

Dilly beans were developed as a commercial product in 1958 by Sonya Hagna and Jacquelyn Park, who made them the subject of a well-known radio advertising campaign.[1]


Ahhh so it’s a VERMONT thing, eh? I see. It just sounds so old-timey to me, I find them sorta fascinating.

Turns out they’re pretty popular. After Tracie, a Facebook fan of Cupcake Rehab, mentioned awhile back that they were her favorite thing to “can” (and also explained what they were, thanks Tracie), I thought they’d be an easy pickling project. Especially since my local grocer was selling fresh green beans for super cheap & my family was asking me for even more pickled items (word to the wise: the pickles are never enough). Even though I went canning crazy last month when my grandma died (that still sucks to write, by the way), practically all my pickles are gone and whatevers left is fought over.

I design/print/make my own labels… I just love them..

PICKLED GREEN BEANS AKA “DILLY BEANS” (directly from Food in Jars /adapted from So Easy to Preserve)

Ingredients for gettin’ dilly with it:

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit your jars
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)
  • 4 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 ½ cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¼ cup pickling salt (use a bit more if you’ve only got Kosher)

Directions on how to get yo’ dilly on:

  1. Prep your canning pot by inserting a rack to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, place pint jars in (wide-mouth pints work best here. A 12-ounce jelly jar is also nice, as it’s a bit taller than a standard pint and makes for less trimming) and fill it with water. Bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Wash and trim your beans so that they fit in your jar. If you have particularly long beans, your best bet is to cut them in half, although by doing so, you do lose the visual appeal of having all the beans standing at attending.
  3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While it’s heating up, pack your beans into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon dill seeds.
  4. Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that ½ inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles from jar by running it around the interior of the jar. Wipe the rims and apply the lids (which have been sitting in a small saucepan of water at a mere simmer for at least ten minutes in order to soften the sealing compound) and rings.
  5. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember that you don’t start timing until the pot has come to a rolling boil).

As she said: “These beans want to hang out for a least two weeks before eating, to thoroughly develop their flavor.” This recipe, as it is written above, makes 4 jars of dilly beans. I did not use wide mouth pints, I used 2 regular pint jars. Why 2? Well I halved the recipe, really because I bought only a pound of beans. I would’ve bought more but I forgot what the recipe said when I went to buy ’em, so I only bought one pound. Why I don’t know, because I clearly could’ve JARRED whatever extra I had. Oh well. I’m still thinking like someone who doesn’t can/jar, i.e. “I don’t want to waste it!” Duh. What an idiot, right? Anyway because these were gifts, or rather “orders”, I did not go crazy with the cayenne. I used just a ¼ teaspoon in each jar and it was too hot for these people! Crazy. If it were for me, I might have used the ½ teaspoon. But remember, these people are lame-o’s who don’t like “hot” stuff. So there we go. Who knew ¼ teaspoon of cayenne was too much? I guess these are some hardcore gangsta spicy dilly “Gettin’ silly wit my 9-milly, what da dilly yo?” beans.

Also, it’s true. Wide-mouth pints would work better. I used regular ones & it kinda sucked cramming them in. Pfft.

As summer is starting to come to a close, I’m trying to get in all the summer-y things I can. I had a pretty shitty summer, but while it’s still warm I’m trying to hang on to what’s left of it. Potato salad is one of those summertime staples. Every barbecue or picnic has either potato salad, macaroni salad, or both. My grandma made an awesome potato salad. So awesome, everyone who ate it said it was the best ever. Unfortunately, she wrote nothing down. And my mother never noted any of what she put into it, neither did I. It was always a dash of this, a little of that, etc. And as she got older, she made these awesome things less & less, and left the cooking to us; first my mom, then myself. So her recipes belong to the ages, along with her. However, last month’s issue of Bon Appétit has an entire article on canning, and it features a recipe for Dilly Bean Potato Salad. So I thought I’d give it a shot. And while it’s probably not quite as good as Nana’s, it’s something new & different. It’s also pretty damn amazing in it’s own right, to be fair. Maybe a new family recipe?

Dilly bean sighting!

DILLY BEAN POTATO SALAD (from Bon Appétit, August 2011)


  • 2 shallots, halved lengthwise, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or more, to taste)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 lb. potatoes*
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
  • 1 large pinch smoked paprika
  • 3 cups trimmed watercress, purslane or wild arugula, coarsely chopped**
  • 1 cup Dilly beans, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
  • 2-3 large hard boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or celery leaves


  1. Place shallots in a small bowl. Stir in the red wine vinegar, and a large pinch of salt; set aside.
  2. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 30 minutes. Drain potatoes well; transfer to a large bowl. Lightly crush potatoes with the back of a large spoon.
  3. Add shallot-vinegar mixture to hot potatoes and toss to incorporate. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Whisk  mayonnaise and smoked paprika in a small bowl; add to potatoes and toss to combine. Fold in watercress, beans, add eggs and season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar or mayonnaise if desired. Garnish with parsley.
*the original recipe calls for baby Yukon gold, I just used unpeeled quartered Russets, that’s what my Nana did.
**I omitted that & just added a handful of chopped chives from my garden.
 Nana would be proud, second & third servings were requested.

 This can be made one day ahead of time. Cover and chill, return to room temperature before serving, and stir in extra mayonnaise if it’s too dry. Although the next day nobody needed extra mayo; it seemed to stay nice & creamy. It would also knock it out of the park without the dilly beans; just add a little extra egg.

OH one more thing about the beans; remember what I said about the peaches floating? Dilly beans float too, apparently. I also did not have to trim many of my beans, sure I had to trim some but not a lot. Although now in retrospect, I probably could’ve gotten away with not trimming them at all, because I clearly had a lot of leeway, judging by the bottom of the jars there. I’m really bad at taking photos before I fill the jars, or during the process of filling the jars, etc.  I promise I’ll change. I’ll be better. I know people want to see the process. I’ll deliver, my friends, I’ll deliver.

And I swear on my dilly’s that there will be some baked goods soon. In the meantime, why not make some of this for one of those ‘last days of summer’ barbecues?

Three cheese spirals.

Okay so if you read this blog a lot, you’ll know I love macaroni & cheese. I have TONS of recipes for it  (well, this is the fifth one I’ve made; I have a traditional one, one with broccoli, a spicier one with cayenne and one with white cheddar and garlic breadcrumb topping) …but I love trying new ones. So when the new Food Network magazine came this month (you know I was one of the first subscribers to that? Jay got it for me as part of my birthday gift right when it was debuting) and it had a whole piece on macaroni & cheese, you can imagine how excited I was.

I immediately folded down all the pages with recipes I wanted to make, and the first ones I wanted to tackle were the mac-n-cheese ones. The first one in the article was this recipe, three cheese spirals, so I went with that one. What was different about this one was that there was evaporated milk in it, and also there was no baking (or broiling) involved. It was a strictly stove-top recipe. So it was really, really quick to make. It was thick, creamy, and very delicious despite being easy. I made a few changes, so I’m going to give you my version of the recipe here. If you want the original… well, you’re just gonna have to go get the magazine, aren’t you? Which will admittedly be hard to do when this post gets to be over a month old. Oh well. You’ll like my version, people of the future.

On a cold not-quite-spring day, it’s just wonderful to come home and have a bowl (or plate) of this. Actually it would be amazing to serve this in one of those super cute mini-casserole dishes or cocottes. I wish I had some to use, especially at times like this. And technically… this should be called four cheese spirals’, because I added another cheese in. But I don’t really count the parmesan anyway, because you don’t need it. You can even take it out if you want.

So creamy. Just perfection. There is really no excuse to not make homemade macaroni & cheese with a recipe like this. None at all. It’s pulled together so quickly it’s basically like making Velveeta shells & cheese or Kraft, just it tastes about a gazillion times better. Oh, and it’s homemade. Duh.

Now I have another hit mac-n-cheese recipe under my belt. It’s getting to be hard at this point, because when people request it for dinner or holidays now, I have to ask “Which recipe!?”



  • 1 pound gemelli (or other spiral pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese
  • 1 ¾ cups mix of monterey jack & colby cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley & chives


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour & cayenne pepper and stir with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste fluffs slightly, about 1 minute. Whisk in both milks and add ½ teaspoon salt and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened and creamy, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the cheddar and jack cheeses and all but 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese and whisk until melted; keep warm.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Add the panko, remaining parmesan, chives and parsley and cook until panko is just toasted and slightly browned. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup cooking water, and return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, adding the reserved cooking water (only if needed). Season with salt and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Serve.

Another score for the Food Network magazine. Thumbs up, guys.

Macaroni & cheese with cayenne.

I love macaroni & cheese. Who doesn’t, really? What’s not to like? It’s pasta, and cheese. So I’m always on the lookout to create variations on the “mac-n-cheese” theme. I’ve made two different kinds that have been huge successes, both of which are posted on here. But there’s always room for more! So I combined a new recipe with an old standby and came up with this new recipe that includes cayenne pepper. Yes. Cayenne. I love anything with cayenne. This recipe also uses mainly white  sharp cheddar, with some sharp regular cheddar and mozzarella. There are no bread crumbs on top of this one, but you won’t miss them.

According to legend, macaroni and cheese is said to be attributed to Thomas Jefferson, and his serving it at a White House dinner in 1802. Although recipes for meals similar to what we know today as macaroni and cheese can be found dated as far back as 500 years ago in Italy, and shortly after in England. Colonists in Colonial Williamsburg were served a dish in tavern there owned by a Christiana Campbell that was made of cream, cheese and pasta with vegetables, a recipe dating back to 1769. So mac-n-cheese has been a people-pleaser for a long time. Long before Kraft made bright orange powder and called it cheese. Sorry for getting all Alton Brown on you there, I’m just a big history geek so this stuff appeals to me. And me & Jay are going to Williamsburg this year, so I guess all the trip planning & research is on my mind.


If you like a stronger cayenne taste, I recommend upping the measurement to ½ teaspoon. The amount in the recipe is much more subtle. Don’t be afraid to try it, I think you’ll be surprised!



  • 1 pound macaroni (I like cavatappi, but elbows or shells are good too, or whatever you like, really)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded or diced
  • 1 cup sharp yellow cheddar
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish (or a shallow 3 quart baking dish).
  2. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.
  3. Drain the pasta- do NOT rinse. Leave in colander. Wipe out the pasta pot and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes (do not let it darken). Still stirring, slowly add the milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the cheeses, the cayenne and the salt and cook just until the cheeses melt. Mix in the pasta.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and bake until golden, 25-30 minutes.

This was probably one of the best mac-n-cheese’s I’ve made, let alone tasted. Super creamy and really tasty. Aside from my suggestion about the cayenne, there’s nothing I’d do differently.

It would also be great made with all white cheddar. Maybe next time I’ll try that… This is one of those great winter or autumn foods that sticks to your ribs and warms you up. It would also be awesome with broccoli in it, and if you’re a tomato fan, some sliced tomatoes on top. I don’t get down that way, though. I’m a mac-n-cheese purist.

The sweet treat recipes will be back soon, have no fear. I haven’t gone savory on you. I’m still a cupcake at heart.