Category: macaroni/pasta

Everybody loves a picnic!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-James Henry



I love picnics. I don’t have them often, of course, but I’ve had a few over the course of my life & they’ve always been fun. When I was a kid, my mom used to have “backyard picnics” where we just set up a simple little picnic on the grass in the yard. It wasn’t anything crazy, usually a few sandwiches with the crusts cut off (mine was always either peanut butter or potato chip; yes I ate potato chip sandwiches) and some soda or sparkling water and some snacks. Once or twice on a rainy day we even had an indoor picnic on the floor and had pizza or Chinese food. It was so much fun.

And then you grow up and your sense of fun changes. You forget to do little fun things every now and then, “just because.”;

Taking a cue from that, I decided to have one now. As a “grown-up.” I have these two vintage picnic baskets sitting around that I never used. Plus I’ve been working really hard, on a variety of things (like the new Recipe Index!). I figured, why do I have to actually go somewhere to have a picnic when I can have one right here?! You can have a picnic anywhere- even inside, like I said. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on the Today show about how to prepare a picnic entirely in jars! There are tons of ways to do a picnic, from traditional to un-traditional. Bring cold foods, hot foods, room-temperature foods, salads, wine & cheese. Whatever you like.

The first usage of the word ‘picnic’ is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance. The word predates lynching in the United States; claims that it is derived from a shortening of ‘pick a n—-r’ are untrue.[2]

The word ‘picnic’ first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word.[3] The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting Hunt Picnic is still offered in the context of a hunt.

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.[4]

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art).[5] In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.


I decided to try my hand at a new recipe for a healthier macaroni salad to serve at my little picnic. It’s got basically 3/4 the calories of regular macaroni salad, and it’s got something like 1/3 the fat. Not that these things bother me particularly, because I don’t eat macaroni salad & don’t really count calories anyway, but you can’t have a picnic without some kind of mayo-based or carb-based salad, and I thought it’d be an interesting thing to try. Everyone is looking to cut down on fat nowadays. Not me. I like fat.


Eh. Let’s just call this a new twist on macaroni salad. From what I hear it’s too delicious to be considered “low fat” or anything. And about my “I like fat” comment above; I really do like it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I’m just being an asshole. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, lower fat diets are important. It’s just that I don’t. So I like fat. And I can’t really apologize for that.

‘Kay, now that that’s settled.. on to the salad!



  • 1 pound macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
  • 2 dill pickle spears, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chives for topping (optional)


  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions in salted boiling water. Drain and return to the pot it was cooked in.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the two egg yolks in a large bowl with a fork. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, and the lemon juice; stir together until creamy & smooth.
  3. Add pasta to mayonnaise mixture, and using a silicone spatula, flip and stir the pasta until evenly coated in the mayo mix. Add the egg whites, red onions and chopped pickles and mix well.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

This salad can be stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to three days. If it’s too dry after taking it out of the fridge, you can add a tablespoon more yogurt (or mayo, whatever). Just do yourself a favor and don’t accidentally buy vanilla yogurt. You’ll gross yourself out big time if you use that…


The cool thing about macaroni salads (& potato salads) is that you can add pretty much anything you like, within reason. You can add radishes, celery, sliced Bell peppers, dill, slivered carrots, exchange the lemon juice for vinegar, etc. Take out stuff you don’t like, add stuff you do. This other macaroni salad I made is a great example of that. You can personalize it 100% and yet it’s always guaranteed to be delicious.

As far as a picnic goes- it’s easy. You don’t even need anything crazy. Some bread (mine was a French baguette), cheese (I had some provolone & goat’s milk brie), macaroni or potato salad, fried chicken if you’re really ambitious, maybe some cold cuts or cold leftover chicken, some fresh fruit (& whipped cream if you like- I had strawberries, cherries, oranges & nectarines), maybe some warm-weather friendly cupcakes, a jar or two of pickles (I brought red wine vinegar/red onion pickles & dilly beans), maybe some sliced cucumbers & yogurt, baby carrots & ranch dressing, a refreshing drink or two (maybe even some wine- not pictured) and some cutlery and napkins… that’s it. You’re ready to go! Lucky for you, I took some photos of my little picnic before digging in.


Today might be a rainy/thunderstorm-y day here in New York & a bunch of other places on the East Coast, but when are you having your summer picnic?

Got an excess of pickled items? Well then read on…

I’m guessing that around this time of year most people who like to preserve foods or “can” end up with a plethora (or a bunch) of jars of pickled & preserved goodness. Now if your family is anything like mine, you end up with quite a few open jars in your fridge any given time. Everyone wants to taste everything at once!

“Ohh what are those? Pickled carrots?! I need to try them…”
“Mmm those habanero pickles look good, I think I’ll try one!”
“Holy crap- you made dilly beans?! I haven’t had one of those in years… lemme get one…”
“Wow lemon marmalade. Is it good? Can I try some?”

And then all the jars sit in the fridge getting picked at here and there, taking up space. Except for the regular cucumber pickles; the pickles go like hotcakes. I can barely keep a jar for longer than a week or two tops. So after the successful potato salad I made with dilly beans, I brainstormed this macaroni salad to incorporate and use up some of the pickled goodies sitting open in my fridge. I had some pickled carrots, dilly beans, peppers in oil & regular dill pickles, so that’s what I used. Of course, you can definitely substitute plain slivered carrots, chopped fresh Bell peppers and some chopped fresh green beans too… but it’ll be a totally different taste & flavor profile.

Keep in mind also that pretty much anything could be added: pickled zucchini, cauliflower, etc. Whatever you have open & whatever tickles your pickle (pun intended). Just chop it up & toss it on in there. You can adapt it to suit you in any way, including removing the mustard or removing the red wine vinegar & using all white, etc. Also, you can adjust the ratio of vinegar to mayonnaise as you like it.

Everyone loved it. LOVED IT. It was requested for lunch quite a bit that week.

The pickled carrots come from Molly Wizenberg‘s book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. I mentioned that lately I’d been reading through it again a few posts back, well I also saw the pickled carrots while re-reading it & became intrigued. They took no time to make, seeing as how they were really a form of “refigerator pickles” & were a welcome addition to not only this salad, but my refrigerator. I subbed fresh sprigs of rosemary for the thyme because my mother has an allergy to thyme, so I try to avoid using it in anything she’ll be eating. Now I understand that if you already have an excess of pickled vegetables, you might not want to add to it by making pickled carrots. And I really do understand. But in case you’re intrigued like I was, or you’d like to make them for your salad, I’m including Molly’s exact recipe. Mine differs slightly; I used rosemary instead of thyme, omitted the peppercorns & mustard seed but added freshly ground black pepper, and didn’t add the red pepper flakes either. But that’s something you can figure out for yourself. Same goes for the amount, I made one pint jar by adjusting the ingredients to accommodate it, which is certainly something you can do. If you used a variety of different colored heirloom carrots, it’d make an even more beautiful jar. Next time, that’s what I’ll do.

By the way, this is in the gluten-free category for the pickled carrots, not the macaroni salad, although you could definitely use gluten-free pasta. Same goes for whole wheat pasta or any kind you’d prefer. I like the tri-color because it adds to the prettiness, but that’s just a purely aesthetic reason.

They look gorgeous in the jar.



  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, plus more off topping jars
  • 2 cups water, plus more for topping jars
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 (5-to 6-inch) sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Heaping 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Heaping 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ pounds small (finger sized) carrots, or standard or baby sized carrots cut into sticks about ½” inch wide and 3 inches long


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, thyme, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt & mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ½ cup vinegar.
  2. Put the carrots in a large, heatproof bowl, and pour the warm brine over them. Cool to room temperature. While they cool, wash 2 quart-sized canning jars and their lids in warm, soapy water.
  3. When the carrots & brine are cooled, distribute the carrots evenly among the jars, arranging them snugly. (Hands & fingers work best for this; tongs make a mess). Using a ladle, ladle the brine evenly among the jars. The carrots should be covered completely. If not, add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water to cover.
  4. Seal firmly & refrigerate for at least 3 days, or preferably a week. Carrots are dense & take time to absorb the brine. Carrots will last indefinitely (in theory) but try to eat them within a month or two (unless you give them a 10-minute waterbath, then they’ll probably last longer*).
* That’s my 2 cents.



  • 1 pound tri-color pasta, cooked
  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 5 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup slivered pickled carrots (or regular baby carrots)
  • ¼ cup chopped dilly beans
  • 4 or 5 sweet Bell peppers in oil, chopped
  • 1 pickle spear, cut into ¼” pieces
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 hardboiled eggs, sliced then quartered
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Mix shallot and vinegars together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and paprika thoroughly in another medium bowl. In a third and larger bowl, add the cooked pasta and mayonnaise mixture together. Mix completely.
  3. Add the vinegar mixture and pickled vegetables and again mix thoroughly. Finally, add the eggs and gently toss.
  4. Place in refrigerator until chilled. Add more mayonnaise or vinegar right before serving if too dry.

Yeah. That’s one colorful, bright & happy macaroni salad. How could you not smile while eating that?

Mmm. Bacon.

Last week, I spent an entire day doing gardening. I planted some of my herbs, dug out my flower beds, and did all some of the maintenance needed after a really harsh winter. Anyway, I was really tired when it came to dinner time. I had a hankering for macaroni & cheese, but I wanted something different. I had some hickory smoked bacon so I decided to make a bacon macaroni & cheese. Bacon gets a bad rap; people bitch because it’s fatty, salty, etc. But really there is nothing like a good crisp slice of real bacon. Plus, bacon may save your life. No shit, click that link.

Pig butcher diagram courtesy of

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon (also known as green bacon). Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but may be cooked further before eating.

Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat. It is usually made from side and back cuts of pork, except in the United States, where it is almost always prepared from pork belly (typically referred to as “streaky”, “fatty”, or “American style” outside of the US and Canada). The side cut has more meat and less fat than the belly. Bacon may be prepared from either of two distinct back cuts: fatback, which is almost pure fat, and pork loin, which is very lean. Bacon-cured pork loin is known as back bacon.

Bacon may be eaten smoked, boiled, fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. The word is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning “buttock”, “ham” or “side of bacon”, and cognate with the Old French bacon.[1]

In continental Europe, this part of the pig is usually not smoked like bacon is in the United States; it is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient, valued both as a source of fat and for its flavor. In Italy, this is called pancetta and is usually cooked in small cubes or served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto.

That diagram get you hungry? Haha. For those of you who do not like bacon, or prefer turkey bacon, or are vegetarian, I don’t know what to tell you. Sure, I guess you can substitute turkey bacon or fake bacon in this if it makes you happy/feel better. But I myself don’t abide by that, so I can’t help you.

Basically, as far as this recipe goes, I threw it together in no time and I thought I’d share my “recipe” with you. One of you might be looking for something new & different yet filling to make after a long day of hard work, too. That’s the awesome thing about macaroni & cheese; you don’t need a recipe! Once you get the hang of making a roux & a basic cheese sauce, you can totally wing it; make one without a recipe at all or personalize an already great macaroni & cheese recipe.

Well, I posted it for those reasons but also because I think Brianne would’ve killed me if I didn’t. And you do not want to mess with a pregnant woman. Ever.



  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used mini-rigatoni, but elbows, pipette, gemelli, cavatappi or ziti work too… whatever you like!)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus an extra ½ cup set aside
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ lb. hickory smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled when cool (either by frying or baking in the oven)
  • 1 cup Italian flavored panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a small saucepan and melt. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until just toasted. Set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly puffy and bubbly on the edges. Add the cayenne, the garlic powder, the onion powder and salt/pepper and whisk. Add milk, and cook, again whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Turn off heat, and remove pan from hot burner.
  3. Add the cheese to the milk mixture slowly, by the ½ cup, stirring constantly to make sure it’s evenly distributed and melts evenly. When melted (or mostly melted), add the crumbled bacon and stir until evenly mixed.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions for al dente in a large pot of salted, boiling water with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Drain, but do not rinse. Return the pasta to the large pot and mix the cheese/bacon sauce in with it, making sure to cover all the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta & sauce to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with PAM. Sprinkle the ½ cup of reserved cheddar on top, and then the breadcrumbs on top of that and bake until bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve & enjoy!

I wanted the onion & garlic taste to be really subtle. For a bigger onion flavor, caramelize some finely chopped onions in the bacon fat after you remove the bacon, then add that to the cheese sauce with the bacon. If you like a lot of garlic too, then add some minced garlic to the bacon fat as well. Once they’re cooked, remember to drain them and not add all that fat to the dish! Oh, also… I didn’t pre-toast my panko, which I suggest you do (I wrote it in the recipe) because it would make the topping crunchier & darker. Eh. Coulda, shoulda , woulda! Live & learn. I didn’t complain, neither did anyone else- there wasn’t even enough left in the pan to save for leftovers.

And I leave you with this.


Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.


They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.



  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)


  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

She’s a lady… whoa, whoa, whoa.

Before I start rhapsodizing about cheese-covered macaroni, I want to give you all a heads up. Yoyo gave me a widget specially for all you Cupcake Rehab readers (it’s over there to the right, below the ads). Using the code ‘CUPCAKEREHAB’ is good for 20% off all her merchandise! I know, right? And ’tis the season for buying presents; especially handmade presents, because I think giving someone you love something that is made with love is always more special than a gift card. Although I do love me some gift cards. Anyway get your butts over there and buy some stuff, get 20% off, and be jolly. Ho, ho, ho.

Oh, macaroni & cheese. How I love thee. I have made so many variations of macaroni & cheese, it’s kind of crazy. Well no, not kind of, it really is. I’ve made buffalo chicken macaroni & cheese, garlic & herb macaroni & cheese, macaroni & cheese with cayenne, three cheese mac-n-cheese, mac-n-cheese with broccoli, plus a version of Ina Garten’s macaroni & cheese. But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I can’t really help it. And of course, it’s perfect comfort food for chilly weather- or downright cold weather. And despite making so many different kinds and variations, I have never made a Paula Deen recipe. INSANITY! So in my search for another recipe I happened upon this. If you didn’t know, Paula’s restaurant is called Lady & Sons, so of course her macaroni & cheese is called “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese.” The Lady does some things differently than I, so I tweaked it a bit. The original recipe can be found here.

Om nom nom nom…

Before I get to that, though, I want to talk about a new product I tried recently. You may have seen the commercials for it on television: Kraft Homestyle Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese. The premise of this is that it’s oven-baked, or rather, it can be… and it’s topped with bread crumbs. I was intrigued, and being a mac-n-cheese addict decided to try it. I bought the “Four-Cheese” variety; made with “Parmesan, Colby, Asagio and Cheddar.” I paid about $3.29 for one 12.6 ounce package. I planned on feeding three people with it, and it said it held 4 servings, so I went with it. Well… no. It doesn’t quite feed three adults, so forget about it if you have kids. Maybe two people could eat one package and be satisfied. The taste? Not bad. I’ve had way worse (namely, the original Kraft macaroni & cheese in the rectangular box with the orange powder) but really, I’ve also had way better. As a matter of fact, I’d rather eat straight up Velveeta shells & cheese instead of this; at least that way I know what I’m getting and don’t expect anything crazy. They went with a cream sauce plus powder seasoning mixture for this new “homestyle” venture, I guess that’s better than all powdered, although I must say Target has an Archer Farms macaroni & cheese that’s really way more delicious than this, and its made with just a powder. It’s a five-cheese kind and it too has a breadcrumb topping, only it’s seasoned. I’d much rather make that. I didn’t get a “four-cheese” taste from the Kraft, whereas with the Archer Farms one you could really taste all the different cheeses (I used to mix a pound of cavatappi with the pasta that comes with it to make more, and add some white cheddar to the sauce mix, way before I started to make homemade). They do have it in a lunch-bowl size as well.

My suggestion? Make homemade. It’s always better for you, even just based on the lack of preservatives, etc. Plus, you can personalize it from start to finish and make the right amount that you need. The Kraft wasn’t terrible, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again- I much prefer homemade. But if you’re really short on time, it’s okay in a pinch, or good to have in the house as a “just in case” option for dinner. Just buy two if you’ve got a family bigger than 2 (or teenagers in the house) and make sure you doctor it up by adding your own cheese. And if you really want a tasty powdered-in-a-box macaroni & cheese dinner, buy this one. Add a lb. of cavatappi to the pasta they give you, add a little white cheddar to the sauce mix, and you’ll make plenty, plus leftovers. But I really think homemade is the best way to go.

And on that note… here’s some really delicious macaroni & cheese for you… homemade, no powder.

THE LADY’S MAC-N-CHEESE (modified slightly by yours truly)


  • 1 lb cooked pasta, cooked al dente and drained (I used pipette, but elbows are okay, so is pretty much any kind you like)
  • 3 cups grated Cheddar, plus 1 cup for topping
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Mix thoroughly until all pasta is covered. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish, top with 1 cup cheddar and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I prefer to use sharp cheddar, but a mix of mild and sharp would work too. So this version was a bit unorthodox (for me); I’ve never made a macaroni & cheese with eggs before, but it really just melted in your mouth. It reminded me of the homemade macaroni & cheese my mom used to make when I was a kid, with the cheese bubbly & browned on top. A lot of people have had problems with the egg, they say it scrambles and that the mixture isn’t creamy. I had no problems, and I added the egg mixture directly to hot pasta right out of the pot, but I also added heavy cream to mine, so maybe that made it a bit creamier? I didn’t find it to be overly “eggy” but again, I tweaked the recipe. The recipe isn’t the creamiest, really, but it’s different. I like different. Although, even though it’s different… it is just straight up mac-n-cheese. There aren’t any other flavors going on, nothing fancy. But god, is it good.

What I did was I mixed the beaten eggs with the sour cream, milk and heavy cream. I cut the butter into very small pieces, then mixed that in as well. I let it sit while the pasta cooked (8 minutes according to my pasta box/brand), and then as soon as I drained the pasta I mixed it together with the cheese. Then I mixed in the egg mixture and made sure it was thoroughly combined, so all the pasta was covered. I don’t know if how I did it made a difference, or if it was just my tweaking, but I found it to be delicious, and so did anyone else who ate it.

And the best thing about it is not only is it amazing the first time around.. but even better fried. Mainly because it’s a great idea for using up the leftover macaroni & cheese, but also because fried mac-n-cheese is one of the best things on earth. In September I went to Chip Shop in Brooklyn with Jay & some friends of ours. You may know them from the Food Network & Travel Channel specials they’ve been featured on. Anyway we went there and we indulged in some lovely fish & chips, but more importantly some fried Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, fried Twix bars, fried pizza and fried cheesecake. We didn’t get to try the fried macaroni & cheese (or fried Twinkies) but really, it was an amazing experience. Believe it or not, we didn’t even feel gross after eating that much fried food… the batter isn’t disgustingly heavy or greasy. So if anyone out there is near Brooklyn, I highly suggest Chip Shop. They’re gods.  But if you can’t get there… try some of this…



  • 1 recipe “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese” prepared, chilled in the refrigerator overnight, and cut into 15 squares, recipe follows
  • 1 pound bacon (optional)
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil, for frying


  1. Heat peanut oil to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wrap each square of cheesy mac with 1 strip of bacon, and fasten with toothpick. Dredge each square in flour then egg and then bread crumbs to coat. Fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown.

Yeah. Holy shit. That’s all I can say.

There are TONS of macaroni & cheese recipes out there. So don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last one you see here. I want to try them all! This is an excellent Thanksgiving mac-n-cheese recipe- I’m definitely making it again on Thursday myself. It comes together easy, no roux, no flour, and yet it’s so delicious. Real stick-to-your-ribs food.

And if you’ve got a problem with the calorie count of this… I’ll quote my girl Paula: “I’m your cook, not your doctor.”

All gone *sad face*

Maverick-y pasta with potatoes, leeks & broccoli.

Why are they so maverick-y, you may ask? Well, long before Ms. Palin decided to christen herself & Mr. McCain “mavericks”, I was doing the rebellious thing; fashion-wise, personality-wise, life-wise, etc. No- I wasn’t shooting wolves out of helicopters, nor was I a hockey mom. But I was a rebel. And with this blog, I’ve been known to throw caution to the wind and completely omit things from a recipe or change them (like my “penne with broccoli” recipe with which I used… ZITI *gasp* shocking!). And my rebel-like nature in this instance caused me to say, with this particular meal, “screw the bow-tie pasta, I’m using radiatore!” See? Total maverick.


I get the Food Network magazine, as many of you may know. I’ve gotten so many of my favorite recipes from that magazine, including my Earl Grey with lemon tea cupcakes, tortilla soup, and a few others. Each time I get a new issue I get really excited, because while I love and adore Bon Appétit, and I miss Gourmet whole-heartedly, the Food Network magazine is much more accessible. It’s not as high-brow, the ingredients don’t usually cost $100.00 to buy, and they aren’t too stuffy or random for the average night’s dinner. Plus, they always have quick & easy dessert recipes too, which make me smile. This recipe was in the most recent issue, September 2010. It’s called “bow-tie pasta with broccoli & potatoes.” But obviously I used radiatore, so I can’t very well stick with that name. I also didn’t use any Boston lettuce- it just didn’t appeal to me in this recipe, despite the instructions. I don’t like wilty lettuce. So because of all my changes, I’m dubbing it “Maverick-y pasta with potatoes, leeks & broccoli.” So there, Sarah Palin. Put that in yer rifle & shoot it!



  • 1 pound radiatore pasta (or whatever kind of pasta you want, BE A MAVERICK!)
  • 1 large bunch broccoli, florets and some chopped stems
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and green parts only, sliced into half-moons
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese (or fontina)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

Directions on being all maverick-y:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 10 minutes, then add the broccoli and pasta and cook as the pasta’s label directs.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta & broccoli cooking water, then drain the mix. Return to the pot.
  4. Add the leeks to the pot and stir in enough of the cooking water to moisten, if needed. Stir in the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Top with more parmesan. Ta-da!

Fantabulonious. That’s really the only word I could use. This dish is an amazing combination of deliciousness… I mean, look at that cheese! And the best part is that it’s basically a 30 minute meal. Even better than that? When slicing the leeks, you can say “Now I’ll take a leek… ” and it sounds pretty funny. Get it? “Take a leek”/”Take a leak”? *clears throat* Yeah. Funny. And I apologize, because I keep saying I wish Sarah Palin would go away and I’d stop hearing her name, and yet here I am, invoking her name to get a cheap laugh on a post about a pasta dish. *sigh* I’m sorry everyone.

And speaking of douchebags, the one who stole from me can go suck an egg (in case you missed it, here’s the shortened version: crazy bitch stole my photos, claimed they were hers, posted them on Craigslist and started a baking business). I contacted her, told her the way it is, and specifically stated that I am not going to play games, so if she pulls this shit again, I’ll contact Facebook and a lawyer. I’d like to see her try that. I could use some extra pocket money made off of an idiot who doesn’t respect copyright law. It’s dumb enough to steal someone’s shit, but to steal mine? Even dumber. Not only are you fucking with a New Yorker, but sweetheart, you’re fucking with someone who’s significant other is an NYPD police officer & who has friends who are lawyers. I know more about copyright, law and my rights than you know about mixing your Duncan Hines cake mix. Good job. So, Lou Ann (or “Sharon”) Stallings of Virginia, aka “Cupcakes by Lou Ann”, since you never responded to my message, I’d like you to know these are for you. Thank you, have a nice day.

Eh, you’re nuthin’ but an overripe tomato.

Back in the 1920′s, a popular term for a female was a ‘tomato.’ It could vary, ‘hot tomato,’ ‘ripe tomato,’ and a variety of other, most likely equally sexist or racy, forms of the term. My great-grandmother, Mary, used this term a lot from what I’ve heard. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Chicago‘ (one of my favorites, I was clearly born in the wrong era), you’ll hear Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly call Renee Zellweger, who plays Roxie Hart, a “dumb tomato.” Except of course the ‘o’ sounds are replaced with more of an ‘a’ sound; as in tah-may-tah. I pride myself on my knowledge and use of “old-timey” phrases and sayings. So while I know this has nothing to do with pasta or tomatoes, I’m not kidding when the first thing I thought of when I saw this recipe was some broad, maybe a gangster’s moll, who’s maybe gettin’ a bit old to do the flapper thing… sitting in a speakeasy with a flask in a flapper dress- an overripe tomato.

Speaking of overripe tomatoes… here’s a picture of my new haircut/color. I think it’ll look even more awesomesauce when the long half gets longer… don’t you? Pretty sweet.

“Wait, what do you mean half my hair is gone!?”


And speaking of sweet, I always have a plethora (WHOA! SAT WORD ALERT! GET OUT YOUR DICTIONARIES!) of overripe tomatoes. I buy a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits, and in the summer they ripen and start to get mushy so quickly I can’t keep up. So I was super duper excited when Giulia Melucci, the author of one of my favorite food-related books, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti posted this recipe on Food52 and tweeted about it. I’ve made a bunch of her recipes: most namely the healthy penne with broccoli, the simple tomato sauce (which happens to be my favorite sauce ever) and of course the infamous Fuck You cakes. So I was really excited to make another, especially since it used up all those mushy tomatoes I’ve got.


Serves 1


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ shallot chopped (mine are big, if yours are small use one)
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, skins, seeds, juice and all (it’s summer for God’s sake!) chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 handful of torn basil leaves
  • some torn up oregano (*my addition, not in Giulia’s recipe)
  • 4 ounces spaghettini
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • Parmigiano cheese


  1. While pasta water is coming to a boil, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add shallot, saute until translucent, about one minute. Add tomato, salt, white wine, basil, oregano, lower heat and simmer until pasta is ready.
  3. Combine the sauce and the pasta, add the pine nuts, sprinkle with cheese to your heart’s content. Serve.

Again, this recipe is for ONE. Double, triple or quadruple it for your needs.

I used thin linguine instead of spaghettini. I didn’t have any white wine, only red, so I omitted it altogether. I also left out the pine nuts- not a big fan. I used half of a huge onion instead of a shallot as well, and I cut it a bit thicker. As far as the tomatoes go, I used two fairly large tomatoes and about half a package of grape tomatoes that were way overripe. It was so delicious. So fresh, bright and summery tasting. A perfect summer sauce  to use up those overripe tomatoes that doesn’t take forever to make on a hot day. I can’t wait until my tomatoes start to grow to make this sauce again with my own homegrown vegetables! As it is, it’s so nice to just walk out my back door and snip off some fresh basil and oregano to use.

All in all, it’s quick, simple and incredible and you don’t have to slave over the hot stove or sweat your ass off to make it. Make some while putting finger waves in your hair and watching ‘Chicago’ and you’ll be almost as bad awesome as me.

“Nah, I don’t eat buffalo.”

I know, all my posts lately have been either cupcakes or macaroni & cheese. That says a lot about me, right? I like fatty, cheesy, carb-loaded foods. But in all honesty, macaroni & cheese is probably the most basic, easiest and common comfort food. I can make it blindfolded (same with cupcakes), which is a good thing since I’ve been busy with other things. Yes, my dear readers, I’ve been lazy and distracted lately… mainly with my hair. No seriously. I have a new haircolor/cut and it’s massively cute. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably seen it already but for the rest of you:

Do you like it? How about my apron? And my Jem button and mini whisk? Don’t hate…

I was on a mission to find a cut that suited my not-quite-fully-grown-out hair. It just so happens that I decided to go a lighter blonde, and get rid of my highlights, so when I saw the color I just knew I had to cut bangs, get the back stacked & get myself a Velma Kelly-esque ‘do. It’s very flapperish/1920′s. I’ve had this style before, just in black. I keep going back to it, but this time in an amazing platinum/so-white-it’s-almost-lavender blonde. I guess it’s the whole 20′s thing that does it. It’s my favorite era. Just imagine me wearing rolled down stockings doing the Charleston with a flask tucked in my dress. Or something.

Anyway, sorry, went off on a tangent there.. like I was saying… macaroni & cheese. It’s comfort food. And who couldn’t use lots of comfort food? It also just so happens the newest issue of the Food Network magazine agrees with me; they have 5 or 6 amazing recipes for macaroni & cheese with a twist, one of which I made just a few weeks ago. I’ve been macaroni & cheese obsessed lately.

Anyone who knows me knows I love hot/spicy food and blue cheese. I could eat buffalo wings with blue cheese all day, everyday. I put hot sauce on everything. And blue cheese? I dip chicken fingers in blue cheese, french fries, I love it on burgers, etc. One of my favorite sandwiches at a restaurant me & Jay frequent is the Bourbon Street grill: grilled (almost blackened) spicy Cajun chicken on toasted garlic bread with blue cheese. God. I just love it. Once we ordered this Cajun shrimp as an appetizer at another of our favorite spots and Jay took one bite and was disgusted, he had to gulp down almost an entire pint of beer just to cool his mouth off. I loved it… it was so hot! Jay laughs at me because he says he actually likes to taste his food, whereas I seem to just douse everything in hot sauce. *makes sad face* It’s not true. I like to taste food too! I just love hot stuff… and how the blue cheese cools it down. Some people are just built to tolerate it better, though, I guess. Some sauces that others deem too hot is just fine with me. Plus, hot sauce is good for you. it speeds up your metabolism, helps heal ulcers contrary to popular belief and also helps clear your sinuses and drain phlegm and mucous from your nose, etc. Don’t believe me? Read this.

So in other words, this recipe was like a gift from the foodie gods to little ol’ me. BUFFALO CHICKEN MACARONI & CHEESE… WITH BLUE CHEESE. Yeah, my heart stopped too. I also had hears where my eyes should have been. So as it turns out, last week I  roasted a chicken for Sunday dinner. I had a lot of chicken leftover, and that’s where this recipe comes in. The next day, I used the leftover chicken for the chicken in this recipe, instead of buying a rotisserie chicken just for this. Do as you like in that department, though. I guess you could even cook some chicken breasts up and shred it as well.

See the chunks of buffalo chicken? Unf.

I changed the recipe a bit to suit me once again, so I’m giving my version of it here. If you want the real version (which includes dry mustard powder, onion, celery and other things I cleverly omitted) then buy the Food Network magazine, bitches! But whatever you do, if you’re a fan of buffalo chicken or blue cheese, you HAVE to try it. It was, in the words of Brianne: amazeballs. And I want to thank the second (the first, most assuredly, is Sarah Palin) most famous American idiot (no Green Day pun intended), Jessica Simpson, for the quote that titles this post. Remember when she thought buffalo wings were made of buffalo? *sigh*



  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cooked rotisserie chicken (like I said, I used leftover chicken from when I roasted a whole one… )
  • 1  pound pasta (I used shells, but anything will work)
  • 1 bottle Frank’s RedHot hot sauce (original)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups half-n-half
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese (sharp or mild, whatever you like), shredded
  • 1 cup panko
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13″ baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; add the pasta and cook according to package directions for ‘al dente.’ Drain. DO NOT RINSE.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic, cook 2 minutes. Then add ½ cup of hot sauce and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and stir with wooden spoon until smooth. Add the half-n-half then add ¼ cup hot sauce and sour cream. Stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth.
  4. Melt two tablespoons butter and mix it with the panko, parsley and blue cheese. Set aside.
  5. Put the pasta in the dish. Pour the cheese mixture over the macaroni and mix well. Top with the chicken, then the panko/blue cheese mixture. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until panko is slightly browned and cheese is bubbly.

I will 1,000,000% make this again. It was unbelievable and totally delicious. I would add more blue cheese next time, I didn’t feel there was quite enough for my liking, and I’d add some blue cheese dressing to the hot sauce/cheese mixture as well as having the crumbled blue cheese & panko on top. But that’s just personal preference. It was quite hot, with ¾ of a cup hot sauce in it total. If you want to tone it down, I’d suggest just using the hot sauce on the chicken, not in the cheese mixture as well. And if you’re really unsure, do it ¼ cup at a time, and then taste. I happen to have quite the tolerance, so for me it was hot, but amazing. For others, it might be too much, especially older people or small kids. I’d also bake it a bit longer because my panko didn’t brown enough or get crunchy enough.

Stay tuned later on this week for part one of my much requested frosting tutorial!

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.