Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a Twist

There aren’t many kids around who don’t like macaroni and cheese. It doesn’t matter how picky they are, kids just love this dish.

maccheeseWhether it’s the kind that comes out of a box like the one from Kraft or your own homemade version, mac ‘n’ cheese is classic comfort food.

And it’s not just kids who love it. Take my friend and former co-worker, Ryan Bakken. He had an insatiable taste for macaroni and cheese.

When we lived together as students and Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State Moorhead) and later in Grand Forks as young sportswriters at the Herald, Ryan probably ate mac ‘n’ cheese at least three or four times a week. The reason? It was easy to make and tasted great.

While I didn’t quite share his penchant for mac ‘n’ cheese, it is a favorite of mine. Therese makes it ever so often, and on the rare occasion, so do I.

Recently, I made a variation of mac ‘n’ cheese using the following recipe, which was shared with my grandson. He absolutely loved it, as did I. It’s almost as easy to make as the boxed variety, and it tastes even better. Give it a try. I’m sure that you will agree.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a Twist
3 cups uncooked macaroni
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup croutons
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
Stir in milk, and heat to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute.
Add cheese and tomatoes. Stir until cheese is melted, then remove from heat.
Stir macaroni into cheese sauce and then transfer to an ungreased 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Cover with croutons.
Bake uncovered 30 minutes or until heated through.
Yield: Serves 8.

Tomato Cheese Tortellini Soup

Soups that are thick and hearty are generally full of flavor. That can be said of most Italian soups, such as pasta e fagioli, stracciatella and minestrone. Many are also creamy as a rule. And the ones that are heavy on cheese and pasta makes them popular with just about everyone, even the kids.

tortsoupI recently was given the following Italian soup recipe by a friend, Penny Cieklinski, who said it is a family favorite. The recipe can easily be doubled, which will make for plenty of tasty leftovers.

And there’s nothing like nice Italian soup recipes to take the chill out of a cold, cold day

Tomato Cheese Tortellini Soup
½ pound Jimmy Dean pork sausage (hot)
½ pound pork sausage
1 26-ounce can tomato soup
13 ounces water
13 ounces milk
1 14½-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 ounces cheese tortellini, cooked according to package instructions (can use frozen)
Italian seasoning, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Brown the sausage in a skillet on the stove top until cooked and crumbled. Drain and set aside. Put tomato soup, milk and water in a pot. Add meat, cooked tortellini, cheeses, tomatoes, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Cook for 1 to 2 hours. Serve with crusty bread.