Mac and Cheese

macaroni and cheese baked

I eat carbs and lots of them. Some of my favorite carb alternatives are mashed potatoes, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. The top of my carb list, however, has to be macaroni and cheese.

I have been perfecting my macaroni and cheese dish since 1993. I started out with the basic recipe my mom always used. She cooked the macaroni noodles, drained them, added butter, milk, and chunks of cheddar cheese in with the noodles and heated on the stovetop. Before baking in a casserole dish in the oven, she added some crumbled Saltine crackers and a few pats of butter to the top. I loved her macaroni and cheese. Little did I know how much better it could be.

Here is the recipe that kicked off the macaroni and cheese improvement plan. I am posting the original recipe but am also including some RoomMom modifications at the end. I will eat this dish for dinner, leftover for breakfast, or packed in a school lunch to be eaten at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 lb. corkscrew pasta (cavatappi)
  • 5 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 t. salt
  • 3 c. grated white cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. grated orange cheddar cheese

macaroni and cheese cheese

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam.
  • Fill a large saucepan with salted water, bring to a boil, then cook pasta according to directions on the box. Follow the time for al dente.
  • Transfer pasta to a colander, drain well, and set aside.

macaroni and cheese noodles

  • In the empty saucepan, melt 6 T. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, stir in flour. Cook, whisking, for about one minute.

macaroni and cheese roux

  • Continue to whisk and add milk a little at a time. After adding all of the milk, whisk constantly for about 7 minutes or so until the sauce thickens and bubbles around the edges. Remove from heat.

macaroni and cheese sauce

  • Stir in salt, pepper, 2 1/4 cups of each of the cheeses.
  • Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the sauce covers the pasta.
  • Add the pasta and sauce mixture to the casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese, and bake until golden brown on top (about 25 minutes).

macaroni and cheese casserole

Notes

  • I use any non-spaghetti like pasta I have on hand. I make this dish with elbow macaroni, penne, bow tie noodles, shell noodles, or any other smaller sized noodle.
  • I like to mix up the cheese. I use about the amount called for in the recipe, but I usually use a combination of whatever is in my refrigerator. I always have cheddar as the main cheese. I like Cracker Barrel extra sharp orange and Cracker Barrel Vermont white. I usually reduce the cheddar amount a little and supplement with freshly grated Parmesan, some freshly grated Swiss, and I recently started adding several slices of American. Other than the American, I think the cheese needs to be grated at home. The pre-grated cheese does not have as much flavor or melt as well (in my opinion).
  • I eyeball the butter, flour, and milk amounts. If you are following this recipe for the first time, cook as instructed. Adjust to your taste the next time you make it (and I firmly believe you will be making this recipe a second time).

Sunday Linner

tomato pie baked

As soon as school starts, I lose touch with many friends until I resurface again in May when school ends for the year. This year, I am going to make more of an effort to be in better contact. It starts today with a Sunday family lunch/dinner. One of my mom friends from swim team is having us over this afternoon for late lunch/early dinner. It is a perfect time. I can still get all of my Sunday chores finished. We will be home in plenty of time to get kids ready to go back to school tomorrow and be in bed at a reasonable time, and I don’t need a babysitter since the kids are included. My contribution to this afternoon’s linner is a tomato pie.

What are other easy ways to stay in touch with adult friends during the school year? Do you feel like you disappear when after school activities and school projects start?

tomato pie slice

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust (I use store bought)
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/2 bag basil, chopped
  • 1/2 bag chives, chopped
  • 4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  • Cook pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. You may need to put uncooked beans or other pie weights in the pie crust to keep it from puffing up while it cooks.
  • Turn the oven down to 350 degrees after the pie shell is finished.

tomato pie tomato slices

  • While the pie crust is baking, cut tomatoes in slices and let drain on paper towel for 30 minutes.
  • In cooked pie shell, layer tomatoes, basil, chives, and green onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and repeat.

tomato pie layers

  • Mix mayonnaise and grated cheese and top the pie with the cheese mixture. You don’t have to spread the cheese mixture too much. Just dollop on the center and push down with the back of a spoon. It will spread as it bakes.
  • Sprinkle the bacon bits on top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

tomato pie toppings

I would like to give a shout out to the 30306 Book Club without which I would not have this tomato pie recipe. Many years ago when I was fun and single, I had an amazing book club in Atlanta. This recipe is from that book club. I miss you!

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

hot vidalia onion dip

It’s a sad day on my friendly little street. One of our neighbors (and primary organizers of the neighborhood potlucks) is moving. Last night we had a casual farewell party for our dear friends. Even though they will not be moving far away, our street and neighborhood gatherings will not be the same.

In honor of this special event, I needed a dip untasted by the group. I pulled out a recipe for a Hot Vidalia Onion dip that I have not made in years. Man, is this stuff good. It falls into the “face food” category meaning you want to stick your face into it to eat. The dip lasted about 17 minutes (after picture below).

Ingredients

  • 3 c. finely chopped Vidalia onions (the Vidalia part is important)
  • 2 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 c. grated Swiss cheese (I combine 1 1/2 c. baby Swiss and 1/2 c. Gruyere)
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika to taste
  • Wheat Thins

hot vidalia onion dip bite

Directions

  • In a medium bowl, mix chopped onions, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and Tabasco.
  • Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake ~30 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden and bubbly.
  • Serve with Wheat Thins.

hot vidalia onion dip after

Fancy Dill Dip

dill dip in bread bowl

You may not recognize the dill dip in the picture above because I shared the recipe previously as a kindergarten snack idea. Even though it is the same recipe, it looks totally different when presented in the grown up way. I brought the fancy version of the dill dip to a neighborhood party, and the adults and kids dug in. You know it is a hit when even the bowl gets eaten (no after photo available).

Dill Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 2 c. mayonnaise
  • 3 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 3 T. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 T. grated onion
  • 1 T. seasoned salt

Directions

  • Combine ingredients and chill at least one hour or overnight.
  • Serve with raw vegetables, pita chips, pretzels, etc.

dill dip in bread bowl w veggies

Bread Bowl

  • Purchase a round loaf of crusty bread. I think the loaf in the picture was called “Mountain Bread”. Sour dough loaves work well too.
  • Using a serrated knife, cut the top and center off the bread. It is similar to cutting the top off a pumpkin when carving.
  • With your fingers, pull out some of the squishy center, so you have a good amount of hollowed out area for the dip.
  • Cut the removed bread into bite sized pieces and serve with the dip.
  • Pour dip into the center of the bowl.

bread bowl

Twice-Baked Potatoes Two Ways

mini twiced bake potatoes

I love twice baked potatoes all ways, but I am posting recipes for two of my favorite versions. The casserole is great for pot lucks, tailgating, and casual parties. The mini twice-baked potatoes are a great appetizer, look fancy, but have that comfort food factor, and… are mini. As some of my readers know, I live for mini. Unfortunately, there is no way around baking the potatoes twice, so both recipes require time. It is worth the wait, though!

twice baked potato casserole

Twice-Baked Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-size baking potatoes (~4 lbs), baked and cooled
  • 2 c. (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 (16-oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c. milk
  • ½ c. butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. chopped fresh chives
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • ½ t. pepper
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Directions

  • Scoop pulp out of potatoes into a large bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher (discard the empty skins).  Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, sour cream, and the next 7 ingredients.  Spoon into a lightly greased 13×9-in. baking dish.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese and bacon.  Can garnish with additional chives too if desired.

twice-baked new potatoes

Twice-Baked New Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 12 new potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 oz. sour cream, softened
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese or white cheddar
  • 1 T. minced chives
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

scooping potatoes

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the potatoes with the olive oil and toss to coat. Roast the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes until tender, and the skin is slightly crisp. If your new potatoes are on the large size, you will need longer roasting time.
  • Remove potatoes from the oven and let cool slightly. Halve the potatoes. Use a small scoop (I like my little gelato scooper) and remove the insides leaving a little margin of potato. Put the scooped out part of the potato in a mixing bowl.
  • Add cream cheese, sour cream, grated cheese, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper to the potato pulp. Mash until the potato mixture is smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
  • Scoop potato mixture back into the shell (gelato scooper works well for this too). Sprinkle bacon bits on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top.

twice baked potatoes pre baked