Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Crazy, Busy Fun and Mac & Cheese

This has been a crazy week, culminating with a birthday party this past Saturday. Of course, we didn't know it was going to be crazy when we scheduled the party, but hey... Sometimes you gotta roll with the punches.

My friend, Karen, was the first to arrive, determined that I should be properly attired for the event.
This wasn't quite what I had in mind, but at least she proclaimed me fabulous. :)
I hate having my picture taken with Karen. She's so tiny. 
And looks exactly the same as she did when we first met a dozen or so years ago. Disgusting.

So in planning this event I thought, "This is my party. I can have whatever I want." Of course, as usual, I forgot to take pictures of the spread. But then, when you're wearing pink antennas on your head, one can't be expected to remember everything. So I will have to tell you what was on the menu.

Texas Style Barbecue Brisket (you can find that recipe here)
Cowboy Beans
Grown Up Mac n Cheese (recipe to follow)
Various appetizers

Ooo, that reminds me. I had to play with my cupcake corer again and made this fabulous raspberry filling. 
In a medium saucepan, I mixed together 2/3 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 3/4 cups of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Heat and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in a 12 oz. package of THAWED frozen raspberries and fill cupcakes.

They were absolutely divine with buttercream icing. Not too sweet, with just the right amount of tartness.

But I digress. Cupcakes will do that to you. 
However, it's this amazing macaroni and cheese I want to tell you about. 

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce (I used Tabasco sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 qt. whole milk 
  • 8 oz. Havarti cheese, grated
  • 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 12 oz. white American cheese, grated (at least that's what the recipe calls for. I see no reason why you  couldn't use yellow American)
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, or similar, crushed
  • 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

Cook your macaroni in boiling, salted water for 6 minutes. Reserve a 1/2 a cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and rinse under cold water and set aside.

Melt 4 Tbs. (half a stick) butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. You'll see that I used a skillet. Why? Because the font on the recipe was very tiny and I failed to break out my readers until later, so I though it said skillet.

Whisk flour, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and cayenne into the melted butter and cook, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes. 

Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce begins to boil and thicken, about 5 minutes. 

Reserve 1 cup each of the cheddar and American cheeses and set aside.

Stir the remaining American, Cheddar and the Havarti into the sauce mixture until the cheese melts.
Stir in the macaroni, adding the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce. Personally, I didn't use any of the water. It was just fine without it. 

Salt to taste.

Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan, or whatever you like. I choose my cast iron casserole pan.

Melt the other 4 Tbs. butter in microwave. Stir in the crusted crackers and Parmesan.

Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the macaroni.

Followed by the cracker mixture.

Cover with aluminum foil (I used a lid) and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove foil/lid and continue baking until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Now for you less-than-adventurous people, I again feel the need to say that just because there's a little hot sauce and a little cayenne, that does NOT mean this dish is spicy. Yes, it has a bit of a kick, but nothing that would make you say, "Hey, this is spicy." Not with all that cheese. It's merely flavorful. I promise.

It was a great evening, hanging with friends and family. All my kids and grandkids were in the house, along with some of my favorite people. Oh, and the dogs.

Maddie has grown quite comfortable in her new home. And she loves playing with our Golden Retriever, Dixie. You can ignore the fact that Dixie is baring her fangs. She's harmless. Maddie on the other hand...

Of course, all that play wears a puppy out.

Even sorting laundry can be very tiring.


  1. I love trying new mac-and-cheese recipes. I think I have a SECRET DESIRE to undermine low-carb diets by EATING LOTS OF MAC AND CHEESE. Self-sabotage!!!! Tex, love the party gear, so you!!!!! :) And the filled cupcakes are a wonderful thing. My whole family loves them with a capital "L". And while I'm not a spicy food lover at all, I add red hot sauce to my mac and cheese recipes because I love a good, sharp cheese flavor and the hot sauce lends itself to that while using cheeses that blend more easily. This is a great new find for me! Thank you!!!

    1. Ruthy, I think Mac and cheese has to be the ultimate comfort food. Even if it's the Kraft Mac and cheese, I could eat it by the bowlful. If only it wasn't all carbs. Sigh. Life can be so unfair.

  2. I want the puppy too. :-) So adorable...sleeping in the laundry. LOL. And the Golden is lovely too, of course. Who doesn't love Goldens????

    What an adventurous mac and cheese recipe. I really need to branch out more. I always make it with boring old cheddar. Someday I'll trust you enough to add the hot stuff into a recipe...but I'm not sure I'm there yet. I mean, you are from Texas and all.

    1. Kav, would you believe she climbed in there herself? I was sorting and she must've decided that looked like a pretty good bed. Next thing I knew, she was zonked out.

      As for the hot stuff, I wasn't born a Texan. I was born a yank, so spicy food was foreign to me. I have learned to appreciate the flavor it can lend, though. I will eat jalapeños, but only the mild variety. Yes, there is such a thing. Great flavor, no heat. Love it!

  3. Wait...does this mean you had to cook your own birthday meal?!

    1. It does, but only because I wanted to, not because I had to. :)

  4. well I was following the ingredients pretty optimistically until I got to Havarti...and didn't know american came where you grate it - only seen the slices...looks like a lot of work and a lot of time in the cheese section! and like Kav said- who had to cook your own bday meal?!

    cute pup!


    1. Susanna, I had the same thought about the American. Couldn't find it prepackaged in hunks, so I went to the deli counter where they slice it for you and told them I needed a 12 oz. piece.

      It really didn't take that long to make. And the flavor made it worth the effort. :)

  5. I'm a mac and cheese failure. Thanks for another attempt. Am willing and eager to try. I love mac and cheese.

    1. Try, try, again, Tina. Hey, what a great name for book. Save for the Tina part. :)

      Seriously, mac and cheese is always worth another try.

  6. This looks SO GOOD! I have to try it. And the blend of spices will make my family happy, happy, happy.

    And here's low carb secret - there's a pasta from a company called "Dreamfields" that claims to be low carb. I believe them, and use their pasta once a week or so.

    So friends, we CAN be low carb and have our mac and cheese, too :)

    And another HAPPY BIRTHDAY MINDY!!!!!

    1. Happy families are always a good thing, Jan.

      I may have to check into that pasta. I like to use the Barilla Plus because it has protein and omega 3s, but they quite carrying it at my Walmart so I'm going to have to venture into some of the other grocery stores to see if I can find it. I feel better knowing the family is getting some extra goodness in their pasta. Or maybe I just like being sneaky. Hmm... :)

      And thank you. It was a good day.

  7. The puppy is adorable, by the way. Sweet fluffy cuteness!

    1. She is all that, along with sassy and mischievous. But that's called being a puppy. :)

  8. YUM! I'm a huge fan of mac and cheese. Love this with the cheese and cracker topping!


    1. Thanks, Missy.

      You know, that little crunch of the crispy crackers was just the right touch. No complaints here.

      Wonder about throwing that on top of Kraft mac n cheese? Hmm... Might be just the right touch.

  9. YUMMY!!! I've been wanting to make real mac and cheese for a long time. I'll be trying this one!
    And those pink antennae are the BOMB. Totally cute. Love it!

    your puppy is adorable. Seriously. I sort of want one. When my kids are older!

    1. This is definitely real Mac and cheese, Virginia. No packets of powdered cheese here. (Though I still have a fondness for those cheese packets)

      Your boys would love a puppy. But I hear you. Someday. :)