Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grandpa's Mac and Cheese

My Grandpa Tude has one dish that he makes that everyone in the family fights over.  I'll admit that he's the best at making this dish.  I remember always going back to get seconds and even thirds when we got together and he made his infamous homemade Mac and Cheese.

Now that I'm making this recipe, I find that maybe I'll blend some other cheeses.  I feel that since I've moved, I think sharper cheeses in this would be better.  I think it may be more of a location thing.  This is still a good recipe to base from in making your own Macaroni and Cheese.  This is the best way to get yourself away from those wretched boxed macaroni and cheese dinners.  You'll never want those again.

I do apologize as the instructions aren't very technical in this recipe.  I will tell you how to make this the way it was told to me.  I do add some ground mustard to give it more zip though.  I feel it's important to do this.  My mother came up with the idea to add it and it tastes better.  I wonder if my grandpa added this and just didn't tell us he did for his recipe.

Grandpa Tude's Macaroni and Cheese

Ziti Macaroni from Italy (Penne and similar pastas work fine as well)
2 Lbs. Longhorn Colby, cut in 1 1/2 squares (Shullsburg has been the best brand so far)
1 Tbsp Salt
Milk, warmed in a pan (2% works best)

Fill casserole dish a little over 1/3 with uncooked macaroni and pour into boiling water.  Cook until very al dente (not cooked all the way through, sticks "to the tooth") or about 6 minutes for most brands.  Don't cook for longer since you want the noodle to soak up the flavors from the milk and cheese.  Drain macaroni quickly and immediately cool with cold water.  I use an ice water bath in another bowl and dunk the strainer of macaroni in there. This stops the cooking process to help the macaroni stay al dente for the milk and cheese.  Pour half the macaroni into a large casserole dish (I use a glass 13"x9" cake pan for this).  Add pieces of cheese to the point the macaroni is almost completely covered.  Add remaining macaroni and cheese, leaving enough room for casserole to bubble.  Pour salt on top.  Add some ground mustard to taste now if you choose to do so.  Almost cover with milk.  I warmed about 4 cups of milk and added until it looked good.  Put in microwave OR a 350 degree f oven to heat milk and cheese to a bubbly stage.  In the microwave, it takes about 12 minutes or so.  For the oven it takes about 30 minutes or so.  When "bubbly", stir to mix cheese.  Put in 350 degree f oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees f and cook for another 10-20 minutes or until brown around the edges.

Grape Jelly Meatballs, a Recipe that Lasts

My Great Aunt Joan is a wonderful cook.  I haven't seen her very much throughout my life, but every time I've seen her, she makes me feel special.  One time I got stuck in a snowstorm with my mother on a trip to Chicago.  We had planned to go shopping and check out the town.  The conditions were the worst we had seen in years.  Luckily part of the way there, we were able to stay with my Great Aunt Joan and Great Uncle Larry in a moment's notice.  It was incredibly nice of them.  We arrived to their place very late at night.  They greeted us with the best pork chops I've ever had in my life!  My mother and I stayed the night.  We never made it to Chicago but made it home the next day.  I come from a family of excellent cooks.  None of us have taken it upon ourselves to become professional chefs but the qualities are definitely there.

If you're doing a double take on the title grape jelly meatballs, don't be taken aback.  These are awesome appetizers to bring to parties.  Most people don't like the sound of them but they are probably the best kind of meatballs I've ever had.  The closest comparison for those who never had these, they are very similar to sweet and sour meatballs.  I plan to pass this recipe down to the next generation as it is a keeper.  Thanks Aunt Joan!

Aunt Joan's Grape Jelly Meatballs


1 1/2 Lbs. Ground Beef
2 Eggs
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together and form 1" balls.  Brown all sides, making sure they're cooked all the way through the middle.

Add to a mixed heated saucepan of:

10 oz Grape Jelly
12 oz Chili Sauce

Serve Hot and Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup, A Nice Way to Bring Us into Fall

One day last year, my husband came home from work all wide eyed and bushy tailed.  He said he had eaten several bowls of soup at work and asked me if I had ever had Butternut Squash soup before.  I hadn't.  He surprised me with a container of it that he brought home for me.  I could tell he didn't want to share it but thought maybe it would get me to make it.  This recipe comes from his boss who I must have to say is an excellent cook.  I tried the soup and it was delicious.

Later on, my husband pestered his boss enough to get this wonderful recipe.  It is a little spicy from the cayenne.  We also add more butternut squash (taking from 2 squashes) than what it says. In that case, I sometimes double the seasonings.  Butternut squash can be a pain to deal with so I suggest having a very sharp serated knife to cut through it all.  It's ok to cut any stem off too to help.  Also if you're unfamiliar with a leek, you just need to get rid of the dark green part and the hairy end.  Then you need to slice it down the middle lengthwise.  Be sure to wash out any sand and dirt from the layers as this is common.  It's ok to add more garlic if you like garlic like we do.  Soups aren't too picky.  Also if you have a soup blender, it's much easier to use that than to dump all the ingredients in another blender.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

3 Lbs Butternut Squash, halved and seeds scooped out
2 Tbs Butter
1 Medium Onion, sliced
1 Leek, washed and chopped
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Potatoes, quartered
2x 49.5 oz Cans Chicken Stock
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp Allspice
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Ginger
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Sherry
1 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.  Pour a thin layer of water in a baking dish.  Place squash halves cut side down and bake 40-50 minutes.  Cool slightly, remove peel and set aside.  Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add onion, leek and garlic and saute for a few minutes until tender.  Pour chicken broth into the pot.  Add potatoes and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until soft.  Add the squash and mash with potatoes until chunks are small.  Puree in a blender and return to the pot.  Season the soup with cayenne, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper, then stir in the sherry and half and half.  Heat through, but do not boil.  Ladle into bowls and dollop with sour cream.

If you need to substitute the chicken stock with chicken broth, you can do so.  I would just add a spoonful of chicken soup base then.