photograph by Matt Hulsman

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Yield: 8 servings.

1 (16-ounce) box elbow macaroni
1 stick salted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half, warmed
1 cup 2% milk, warmed
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a deep, 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter.

In a stockpot, cook pasta per instructions until just tender. Drain pasta and return to the pot.

In a heavy saucepan, melt remaining butter over low heat. Add flour. Increase heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon until roux is frothy. Gradually add half-and-half and milk, stirring constantly. Just before liquid begins to boil, reduce heat. Add cream cheese and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until cream cheese melts, stirring constantly. Stir in salt, mustard, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat.

While stirring cheese sauce, gradually add beaten eggs, then Monterey Jack cheese and 1 cup of sharp Cheddar. Continue stirring until the cheeses melt.

Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and toss until well combined and pasta is covered with sauce. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the remaining sharp Cheddar over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.


Bean Salad with Monterey Jack

Yield: 8 servings.

Dressing:
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup canola oil

Salad:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can crowder peas, drained and rinsed
3 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 large pita pockets, halved (optional)

For the dressing: In a glass mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar until sugar and salt have dissolved. Slowly add canola oil, whisking until dressing thickens.

For the salad: Place beans and peas in a large glass bowl. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, and cheese cubes. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss until all ingredients are well coated and combined. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Toss salad every 30 minutes.

Before serving, toss parsley into the salad. Fill each pita pocket with bean mixture or enjoy as a side dish with sliced pita bread.


Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Tart

Yield: 6 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced sweet onions (about 2 medium onions)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
1 (13.2-ounce) package puff pastry
4 ounces Gorgonzola or Danish blue cheese, coarsely chopped or crumbled
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
Honey (optional)
Apple or pear slices (for serving)

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 10 minutes or until wilted and starting to brown. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Reduce heat and cook slowly, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until onions turn caramel-brown in color. If onions start to dry out, add a few tablespoons of water. Remove from heat and let cool.

Roll pastry into a 10- to 14-inch rectangle. Cut pastry into individual 4½-inch round tarts or leave as one whole sheet. Place pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the edges of the pastry, half an inch from the outer edge, without cutting all the way through.

Spread cooled onions over pastry. Dot evenly with cheese. Sprinkle with fennel seeds. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crispy and golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. If pastry was baked as one sheet, cut pastry into wedges or squares before serving. Drizzle honey over each serving, if desired, and serve with apple or pear slices on the side.


Warm Feta and Red Pepper Dip

Yield: 12 servings.

1 (12-ounce) jar Mt. Olive roasted whole red peppers, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 (8-ounce) blocks feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Crackers, bread, or sliced vegetables (for serving)

Preheat oven to 400°. Place roasted peppers on a paper towel to remove excess liquid. Roughly chop peppers and place in a mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, garlic, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Stir until well combined. Fold feta into cream cheese mixture.

Spoon cheese mixture into an oven-safe baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Drizzle olive oil and fresh lemon juice on top just before serving. Serve with crackers, crusty bread, and/or vegetable crudités.

This story was published on

Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.

×