Mac and cheese

If you were asked to name your favorite comfort food, what would you answer? Southern fried chicken? Ice cream? Mac and cheese?

I realize that none of these fall into the “healthy” category, but they are certainly “comfort” foods. They make you feel good when you eat them.

I feel sure mac and cheese would rank near the top of all-time favorite comfort foods. Ask almost any child, and they will tell you that their choice for dinner is mac and cheese.  

I grew up enjoying mac and cheese even though I must admit that my mother’s wasn’t the best. I didn’t realize it because it seemed that most moms were using the same recipe. For some reason, no matter how much the eggs were beaten with the milk, when the mac and cheese was baking in the oven, the eggs seemed to curdle.

I prefer mac and cheese made with a basic white sauce and plenty of cheese. For a richer flavor, you could use half-and-half instead of milk. I also like fresh gouda cheese in my mac and cheese. This could replace part of the American cheese, if desired. If you use the gouda, you might also want to leave out the cream cheese. The following Three Cheese Macaroni is simple, easy and delicious.

While searching for other versions of mac and cheese, I found one that is definitely not traditional but it sounds very good. It is actually a combination of two favorite comfort foods: mac and cheese and King Ranch chicken. This recipe is from a wonderful Southern Living cookbook titled “Comfort Foods Made Easy.” This cookbook would be a good addition to your collection and I think you would use it often.       

THREE CHEESE MACARONI

  • 8 ounces dry elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ⅓ cups freshly shredded American cheese
  • 1 ⅓ cups freshly shredded Cheddar cheese (mild or sharp, whichever you prefer)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  While macaroni is cooking, prepare cheese sauce. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, whisking to mix well with flour/butter mixture. Cook over medium heat until smooth. Add 1 cup of the American cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and the cream cheese (in small chunks). Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until smooth and beginning to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in drained macaroni. Pour into buttered dish (about 8x12 inches). Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

MAC AND CHEESE WITH KING RANCH CHICKEN

  • 8 ounces corkscrew pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies (such as Rotel)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package processed cheese, cubed
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 (10 ¾ ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and saute about 5 minutes (until tender). Stir in tomatoes with green chilies and the processed cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in chicken, next four ingredients and hot cooked pasta (drained) until blended. Spoon mixture into lightly greased 10 inch cast iron skillet (or 7x11 inch dish). Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.

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