Baked Macaroni Casserole with Three Cheeses

Ahhhh,  Baked macaroni and cheese!!!   One of the nice things about the return of cool weather is that we can indulge in some of our favorite casseroles.   The one casserole dish that stands out above all others at my house is Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  Mr. D.  goes nuts-o for it!

Baked cavatappi with three cheeses

Baked cavatappi with three cheeses

This is another of those dishes that everyone probably has a favorite recipe for, or they just make it without a recipe.  That’s usually what I do.  But back in 2006,  (Yup, way back then),  I came across this recipe that incorporates three different cheeses into the mix, and the resulting cheesiness is outstanding.  The other thing I like about it is using a different shape pasta.  Most everyone I know uses elbows, and there’s nothing wrong with elbows,  I love them, too.   But, ya know?  Sometimes I just need a change!

So cavatappi is what is called for in this recipe, or any other interesting pasta that excites you.  But be different,  don’t use elbows.  When choosing a pasta shape, think about what will hold all that cheese sauce best– something with curves or openings for the cheese to cling to.    Along with the mac and cheese,  I like to serve ham, and a green vegetable.  The evening I made this I had sautéd beet greens, but spinach or broccoli would also be good with it.   Omit the meat and serve with just a vegetable or a big salad and it becomes a great meatless meal.

Mr. D. said this meal was so special that it felt like a Birthday dinner.  I told him I was practicing for his birthday!  😀

This recipe is one I prepare when I want to splurge a little and serve something rich and decadent, because of the quantity and quality of cheese used.  You can certainly substitute different cheeses if you wish, but choose those that have good melting abilities.

IMG_5135

CAVATAPPI CASSEROLE WITH THREE CHEESES

Yield:   6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cavatappi or other short, spiral shaped pasta

    Squiggily pasta and  three cheeses become a super mac and cheese dinner.

    Squiggily pasta and three cheeses become a super mac and cheese dinner.

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
  • 8 ounces Gruyére cheese, grated ( 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded ( 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, ( 1/2 cup)

Directions:

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish, or similar size casserole, or 6 – 8 individual ramekins, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350*F.

2.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add flour, and cook whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly. 5 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Whisk in salt, black pepper and if desired red pepper.  Remove from heat, and add 1 cup Gruyére, whisking until smooth.  Add Gouda and Parmesan, and whisk until smooth.

Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta.

Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta.

3.  Add sauce to pasta and stir to combine.   Transfer mixture to prepared dish or ramekins, top with remaining 1 cup Gruyére, and bake at 350*F for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Doesn't that look good?

Doesn’t that look good?

SOURCE:   Country Living

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Scalloped Tomato and Cheese Bake

Scalloped Tomato and Cheese Bake

Scalloped Tomato and Cheese Bake

It’s “Theme Thursday”, and guess what it’s not about zucchini/squash.  I’m switching gears, ahem, vegetables.  Today starts a series about tomatoes.  I can’t pass by a display of fresh native tomatoes without stopping to look, feel and ultimately buy a few.  They are so good eaten right out-of-hand, with just a light sprinkle of salt and/or sugar, but let’s face it there are so many ways of cooking with tomatoes that I would like to pass along some of the ways that we enjoy eating them.

So delicious!

So delicious!

Today I want to share with you an old recipe that I’ve had for years. The clipping is yellowed and folded at the edges, taped into a notebook holding many such clippings that I’ve collected over the years.  An “oldie, but goodie” you might say, but old recipes can be made new again with some simple updating.  This one is the original, as I found it; as good now as it was then.  I hope you like it.   In the accompanying photos I am making half the recipe for two of us.

SCALLOPED TOMATO AND CHEESE BAKE

Yield:   Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

Just a few ingredients.

Just a few ingredients.

  • 4 large firm-ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped ( about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups soft bread crumbs (4 slices)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried leaf marjoram
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.   Core tomatoes; cut each into 8 even-size wedges

2.   Saute onion in butter in a large skillet until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper, sugar and marjoram; toss lightly to coat.

3.   Line a 1 – 1/2 quart shallow baking dish with half the tomatoes;  sprinkle with half the bread crumb mixture.  Repeat with remaining tomato wedges and crumb mixture.   Drizzle melted 1/4 cup butter over the top.

Layered in a baking dish.

Layered in a baking dish.

4.   Bake at 350*F  for 25 – 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and crumbs are lightly browned.  Sprinkle cheese over top and return to oven until cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Out of the oven, hot and bubbly with a crunchy, cheesy, topping.

Out of the oven, hot and bubbly with a crunchy, cheesy, topping.

A further note:   This vegetable casserole goes nicely served with baked fish, or baked potatoes and a meatloaf.  My two favorite ways to enjoy it.

SOURCE:   from an old clipping, don’t remember the source.

Summer Squash Casserole

Summer squash casserole with crumb topping.

Summer squash casserole with crumb topping.

I was tempted to call this post ” How to eat squash every day and not want to kill yourself”, but at the risk of offending someone I decided to rename it as you see here.   Yes, I know, it’s yet another squash recipe,  but at least it’s a switch from zucchini to yellow squash, and I think it just may be one of the best ones for yellow, summer squash.  This is the way my mother always, well almost always, fixed it, and we loved it.  So why mess with a good thing?

Summer squash can be pretty boring, when simply cooked and seasoned with salt, pepper and a little butter.  But when you bake it with cheddar cheese, and a topping made from Ritz cracker crumbs, magic happens.  This casserole and a green tossed salad satisfies me as a whole meal.  Mr. D., however likes a little meat with most of his meals so I served it with this chicken and some pasta.    Can’t tell you how good it was!  😀

Squash casserole served as  a non-boring vegetable.

Squash casserole served as a non-boring vegetable.

SUMMER SQUASH CASSEROLE

Yield:  makes 4 – 6 servingsIMG_4908

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 yellow squash, about a pound or a little less, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2  cup Ranch Salad Dressing (light or low fat is OK)
  • 3/4 cup shredded, mild cheddar cheese
  • 8 – 10 Ritz crackers, crushed

Here’s how to make it:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.   Lightly spray a 1-qt. casserole with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon into the casserole.

3.  Top with cracker crumbs.

Top squash mixture with crushed Ritz cracker crumbs.

Top squash mixture with crushed Ritz cracker crumbs.

4.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until heated through, and squash is tender.

Summer squash casserole with crumb topping.

Summer squash casserole with crumb topping.

These are some ways that I have varied this dish:  substitute zucchini for half the squash,  add some grated carrot for some added color.  You can use reduced-fat Ritz crackers with good results,  regular onions instead of scallions,  Southwestern or Bacon Ranch dressing.  Add a can of diced green chilies for a little more zing, and use shredded Mexican Blend cheese.  YUM!  All are good.  Let your imagination run wild with this one.

SOURCE:   Family recipe, don’t know its origins

Baked Seafood Newburg

Baked Seafood Newburg

Baked Seafood Newburg

New Year’s Eve, a night when many people are out on the town,  Mr. D.  and I are rather low-key in our celebration.  I like to splurge a little on the ingredients for a really nice dinner that includes a good bottle of wine.  After dinner we usually watch a movie.  That’s about as exciting as it gets around here.

This year’s dinner was a baked casserole of Seafood Newburg, along with a salad of mixed baby greens, green grapes, dried cranberries and pistachio nuts, with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  A loaf of crunchy ciabatta bread and a bottle of Pinot Grigio completed the meal.   Amazingly I turned down having any dessert.  I know, I can’t believe it, but that casserole was so darn good I couldn’t stop going back for more.

Seafood Newburg with salad and ciabatta bread.

Seafood Newburg with salad and ciabatta bread.

I must give credit for the original recipe  to The Ranting Chef Blog where on a Monday, the guest blogger Maggie, gave a recipe called Seafood Casserole.  It looked really good so I made note to try it.  Then using it as a basis I added some of my own “twists” to it to come up with this one.  So thank you Pat and Maggie at the Ranting Chef for a great recipe.

These are some of the additions I made.  I wanted this to be a rich and decadent kind of dish so I added the meat of one small lobster to the scallops and shrimp  called for.

Just your everyday friendly lobster.

Just your everyday friendly lobster.

I used a can of condensed cream of shrimp soup as the basis for the cream sauce, and thinned it with one cup of half and half;

Condensed cream of shrimp soup and spaghetti, broken into thirds.

Condensed cream of shrimp soup and spaghetti, broken into thirds.

and for the topping I mixed crushed Ritz crackers, a little melted butter and the Parmesan cheese for a more substantial topping with a lot of crunch.  This is without a doubt the best recipe for Seafood Newburg.  Instead of mixing the spaghetti with the seafood and sauce you could serve the sauce over spaghetti, or on toast points, or in a puffed pastry shell.  Once you have a good recipe like this one there are so many ways to change its presentation or how you use it.  I just love its flexibility!

BAKED SEAFOOD NEWBURG

SERVINGS:   about 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces spaghetti, broken into thirds,  and cooked as directed on the package 

    Scallops, shrimp and lobster.

    Scallops, shrimp and lobster.

  • 1/2 pound scallops,  If large sea scallops, cut in half or quarters.
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound cooked lobster meat,  ( 1 – 1/4 lb. lobster)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can condensed cream of shrimp soup
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 4 Tablespoons white wine or Sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 10 Ritz crackers, crushed

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F,  Butter a large ( 4 qt. ) casserole

2.  Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet.  Add the scallops and shrimp and sauté 6-8 minutes till opaque.  Add the lobster meat just to heat it; then remove all the seafood to a bowl and set aside.  Retain any liquid in the pan.

Saute all the seafood in butter.

Saute all the seafood in butter.

3. Add 1 Tablespoon butter to the pan and melt it.  Add the mushrooms and sauté  until browned.  Remove them and set aside.

4.  Empty the can of condensed soup into the skillet and over medium heat stir to smooth it out.  Gradually add the 1 cup half and half, stirring all the while.  Add the wine or sherry and 4 Tablespoons Cheese.

Newburg sauce with peas added.

Newburg sauce with peas added.

5.  At this point taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.  Add the peas and heat through, then add back the mushrooms and all the seafood.

Mushrooms added.

Mushrooms added.

Seafood added.

Seafood added.

Heat slowly over low heat, while you drain the spaghetti.  Add the spaghetti to the skillet and stir to mix in.  Pour all of this into the buttered casserole.

Spaghetti added.

Spaghetti added.

6.  Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter.  Add the crushed Ritz crackers and stir to coat well,  Stir in the remaining 4 Tablespoons cheese.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.

7.  Bake at 375*F for 25 – 30 minutes till brown and bubbly around the edges.

Brown and bubbly round the edges.

Brown and bubbly round the edges.

Baked Seafood Newburg

Baked Seafood Newburg

SOURCE:   adapted from The Ranting Chef Blog

Creamy Hash-Brown Casserole

Creamy potato hash brown casserole.

Creamy potato hash brown casserole.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like potatoes, do you?   And there are umpteen thousand ways to prepare them.   So this is what I was asked recently:  “Carolyn,  I love the way you make potatoes, would you, could you, make a big pan of something special for Christmas Dinner?”   Who could say “no” to that?  Start with a compliment and then ask the question.  That’s how to get results.  Here’s the situation;  when we all get together there are usually somewhere between 15 and 20 people.  So I needed to make  A LOT!

Fortunately, I knew immediately what I would make.  I’ve made it before and it was a great success.  People always go back for seconds whenever I serve these rich, cheesy potatoes.  The casserole is a snap to fix using convenience foods, and it travels well, too.

The recipe as presented here makes 12 – 16 servings.  In my need to make sure there was plenty for everyone, I expanded the recipe by adding some additional diced potato, that I cooked in advance;  added some milk to the soups for more liquid, and increased the sour cream to 1 1/2 cups.

Recipe:  CREAMY HASH-BROWN CASSEROLE

Convenience foods make it a snap to put together

Convenience foods make it a snap to put together

SERVINGS:  12 – 16

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cans (10 3/4 oz. each ) condensed cream of potato soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 package ( 32 oz.) frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, and garlic salt.

Mix together the soup, sour cream and garlic salt.

Mix together the soup, sour cream and garlic salt.

Add potatoes and cheddar cheese;  mix well.

Mix in the hash browns and grated cheese.

Mix in the hash browns and grated cheese.

Pour into a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish.  Top with parmesan cheese.

Spread in a greased baking dish, and top with more cheese.

Spread in a greased baking dish, and top with more cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 55 -60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Top should be browned and bubbly.

Creamy potato hash brown casserole.

Creamy potato hash brown casserole.

SOURCE:   slightly adapted from TASTE OF HOME

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Several weeks ago we had dinner out and one of the side dishes offered was Lobster Mac and Cheese.  My husband chose this option as part of his dinner and when it arrived it looked soooo good.  On tasting it he said it was the best he had ever had, so of course I had to try my hand at making it.  What could be so difficult about adding some lobster to basic mac and cheese?

Well, before I got around to trying it out a new issue of Food Network Magazine arrived, and in it was a recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese by Ina Garten from her newest cookbook Barefoot Contessa, Foolproof.  So there was no need for me to develop a recipe when I now had one from a well-known celebrity chef.

With some minor modifications, and making only half the recipe,  I made it last week and my husband said it was the best he has ever eaten.  ( He always knows just the right thing to say!)  Without his having said that, I would have said the same thing:  it is THE BEST I have ever made.  Not only does the addition of lobster elevate it above the ordinary, but the cheeses used made a velvety smooth sauce. I used Panko crumbs and butter for the topping instead of white bread crumbs, and they browned up nicely for a crunchy topping. Served with a hearty mixed greens and vegetables salad,  it was a most satisfying meal.

LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE

SERVES:   6 – 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese ( 12 ounces )  I used Gouda cheese.
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar ( 8 ounces )
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 pounds lobster meat, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs ( 5 slices, crusts removed)

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a large baking dish, or several individual gratin dishes.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package .  Drain well.

3.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t allow it to boil.  In a large saucepan, melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter and add the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the cheeses, 1 Tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese melts.

The rich cheesy sauce.

4.  Stir in the cooked pasta and fold in the lobster.

Fold in the lobster!

Pile the mixture into the prepared baking dish, or dishes.

5.  Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter;  combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

Now that’s Comfort Food!

SOURCE:  slightly adapted from  Ina Garten, via Food Network Magazine

Chicken Provencale

This is a wonderful one-dish meal that I came across several years ago.  I prepare if rather often, because it is easy, very tasty, and makes enough for a second meal.  The ingredients are ones you probably already have in your storage pantry.  It contains all the food groups recommended for a well-balanced meal, especially if served with a side salad and a crusty  bread to soak up all the juices.

I have served this entree when I entertain, and people always comment on the tender chicken and flavorful beans.  Any leftovers reheated seem to taste even better because all the seasonings have more time to “marry’.

Chicken Provencale

  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut up; or any combination of chicken parts to equal 3-4 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can ( 15 1/2 oz.) Great Northern beans
  • 1 can (15 1/2 oz.) Black beans, both cans rinsed and drained
  • 1can  (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, brown the chicken in oil, a few pieces at a time.  Do not crowd the pan as the chicken will not brown nicely.  Remove to a platter and set aside.

Saute onion and garlic in drippings remaining in skillet until transparent.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Spoon into a large baking dish. 

Arrange chicken pieces on top.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 65-75 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.