Tag Archives: comfort food

Mac & Cheese

Growing up, we didn’t have homemade macaroni & cheese. We didn’t like it – instead, we begged mom for the Kraft kind in the blue box, which I’m sure pained her. I’d like to think that my newfound appreciation for homemade mac & cheese shows just how much I’ve matured.

The beauty of mac & cheese is you can make it almost any time, if you have cheese, butter, milk and some sort of short noodle. Jesse made this the other night with leftover rigatoni noodles, which I would highly recommend, along with penne or anything else hollow to catch all the oozing cheese. Other items we already had: some cheddar cheese, Parmesan, 1% milk and unsalted butter. Oh, and some bread I made.

Ah-mazing. Sharp cheddar cheese is my friend – but if you have gruyere and fontina, all the better. He also added chipotle chilies in adobo, which gave it a spicy, smoky flavor. Finally, breaking my claim that melted cheese is the only acceptable crust, he ground up nice bread to become crumbs that he sprinkled on top, along with some paprika. See how liberal you can be with this recipe? No wonder mothers have been making it for ages.

The leftovers are long gone and I’m still wishing we could have some more. And to my dear friend Cari, yes, it is even better than the frozen Beecher’s mac & cheese we ate when you were here (that stuff is crack in the frozen-food aisle).

J-Mac & Cheese

For the topping:

  • 3-4 slices of sandwich bread
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound pasta (penne, rigatoni, etc.)
  • salt
  • 8 oz. cheese (we used sharp cheddar, but I would also recommend some combination of gruyere and fontina), grated
  • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 1/2 c. milk (or heavy cream)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced

Grind bread in food processor until crumbed, then mix with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and handful salt and cook until very al dente, still with a bite. Meanwhile, mix the cheeses in a big bowl and set aside.

Melt  butter in small saucepan over medium low, whisk in flour for 30 seconds, then whisk in milk until no lumps remain. Increase heat to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to medium and simmer 1 min until it becomes a thickish white sauce. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, leaving slightly wet. Pour pasta on top of the cheese, then pour on the cream mixture. Cover immediately and let stand for 3 minutes. Working from the bottom (cheeses) up, stir until cheeses are melted and mixture is thoroughly combined. Add chipotles to combine. Transfer to a baking dish, 13×9 inch, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, pressing down a little. Sprinkle with paprika as desired.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 7 min. Serve immediately, or let it cool a bit and then dive in. Melted cheesy goodness…

This is absolutely comforting and good for a crowd – or just yourself. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Marbled pumpkin cheesecake


Taking a bite into this silken wonder, I am transported to a cozy kitchen with a turkey roasting in the oven, cranberry sauce bubbling on the stove and fresh rolls steaming on the counter.

The roasted nuttiness of the pecan-gingersnap crust, the bite of cream cheese and the wonderful smell of spiced pumpkin – These are the things that make this recipe my favorite in the Pumpkin Challenge. Here we are at #5 – a recipe I’ve had for years and that people seem to LOVE.

And I must say, the swirled top does give it a rather professional look…


Here’s the recipe:

1.5 c. crushed gingersnap cookies

1/2 c. chopped pecans

1/3 c. butter, melted

16 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

3/4 c. sugar, divided

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 c. canned pumpkin (I used the whole can)

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix cookies, pecans and butter. Press into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, use and electric mixer to combine cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each. Set aside 1 c. of mixture. Blend in 1/4 c. sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread pumpkin batter into the crust. Drop plain batter in spoonfuls. With a knife, swirl the two around to create a marbled effect.

Bake the cheesecake for 55 minutes, or until the custard is set (just barely wiggles in the center). Run a knife around the edge of the pan and let it cool before removing rim. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.


Yum Yum Yum. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese on this, but whatever floats your boat. Enjoy, friends! xoxo