Mac ‘n Cheese Bites

If you’re looking for a good appetizer idea for Super Bowl Sunday, look no further.  I tried this out for New Year’s Eve – and it was a-mazing.  Crispy bite-sized mac ‘n cheese?  Yes, please.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor fitted with a metal blade – you could also use the grater attachment if you’ve got it
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs
* This recipe yields 36 mac ‘n cheese bites – you can easily freeze this and bake when you need it!

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray the mini muffin pans with  nonstick cooking spray
  • Pour some bread crumbs into each cup of the mini muffin pan and turn the pan around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs, if you can, and reuse to coat the other pans
  • Once the noodles are just cooked, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined spoon the mixture into each mini muffin cup – use your fingers to pack it in
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for approximately minutes or until the tops are golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the muffin cups to loosen the mac ‘n cheese bites from the side of the pan

** This is basically the Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese recipe without the breadcrumb crust.   I did try making the breadcrumb crust in the mini muffin pans and you really couldn’t tell the difference between the crust and just plain breadcrumbs – so save yourself the work and leave that step out!

Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese

This is another one of my Godmother’s recipes and Christmas just isn’t the same without it on the dinner table.  When I asked her for the recipe, she told me there wasn’t one.  I would have to come over and watch her make it… let’s just say we were both amazed by how much cheese actually goes into this dish – but it’s worth every bite.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 3 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 2 cups mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor
  • 2 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Approximately 2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (I use PAM olive oil spray and I use this 4 quart oval Pyrex roasting dish – it’s the best for this dish)
  • Pour 1 cup of bread crumbs into the baking dish and turn the dish around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs
  • Beat the 2 eggs and pour them into the baking dish – again, rotate the dish until it’s evenly coated with egg; discard any excess egg
  • Pour the rest of the breadcrumbs back into the pan and rotate the dish until it’s coated with the crumbs again – you’ve just created the crust for the mac ‘n cheese!
  • Once the noodles are cooked al dente, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes
    • Baking this in a glass dish is helpful because you can watch to see that the breadcrumb crust is turning golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the dish to loosen the crumb crust from the side of the dish
    • My Godmother always serves this dish tipped over like a mac ‘n cheese “cake” and then cuts it into squares – the breadcrumb crust should hold everything together when you place a large platter on top of the dish and flip it over

*This dish also freezes really well — so you can make it ahead of time, freeze it and defrost it the night before you plan on baking it!

Zucchini Gratin

I decided to test out a new contender for one of our Christmas dinner side dishes.  Last night I made this Barefoot Contessa recipe and was pleasantly surprised… I made a few minor adjustments  and  I think we’ve got ourselves a new side dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 large zucchini (2 green, 2 yellow), sliced thinly
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly and then in halves
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (Don’t leave this out!  It won’t be overpowering, it will just make you wonder, “What is that?”)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk + 1/4 cup cream or half & half (I combined the two because I usually buy skim milk, but if you have whole milk on hand, just use that), hot
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs (here’s how you make them)
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter, diced into small cubes

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt the 6 tbsp butter in large saute pan and add in the sliced onions
  • Saute the onions until they’re tender (5-10 minutes) and then add in the sliced zucchini
  • Cover the saute pan and cook the zucchini for 10 minutes or until its tender
  • Add in the nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir well and cook uncovered over low heat for about 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the flour over the zucchini mixture and mix well
  • Pour in the hot milk and stir over low heat until the liquid begins to thicken a bit
  • Pour the mixture into a 8″x10″ baking dish
  • Combine the bread crumbs and grated cheese and sprinkle on top of the zucchini
  • Place small cubes of the diced up tbsp butter on top of the breadcrumbs
  • Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes
  • Let the zucchini gratin rest for at least 10 minutes before serving