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Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To make a short story long, my parents are moving up to my area soon. That means parental-unit visits on a regular basis, which I LOVE. That also means field trips around the Pacific Northwest, one of which brought us to Garden Treasures, a lovely farm stand operation in Arlington, WA recently.

Actually, we’d been by several times – always zooming back & forth along State Route 530 and never taking the time to stop, but pining to do so each and every time we passed. So finally, we made the time. And lost about an hour…but it was a wonderful hour! We explored the whole place, wanting to take home much more than we actually ended up with. But one of these items was a verrry interesting block of lavender cheddar cheese.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The small bin containing the Golden Glen Creamery cheeses is just off to your right as you first enter the big red barn. And if you’re not local or just not inclined to head to Arlington, you can purchase their artisan cheeses online. There were several varieties available, but I wanted something a little different so I went for the lavender cheddar.

We headed home after our visit, giddily happy with our purchases and me already dreaming up lavender cheddar mac & cheese possibilities. After several variations, I settled on a simple preparation which adds a touch of fresh thyme flavor to offset the flavorful lavender.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Time to gather my ingredients. Since I went local with the cheese, I also went local with the pasta (Casarecce from Lagana pasta, one of my local favorites for fresh pasta), the lavender and the thyme (both from my garden). And if you want, we can call the Tillamook butter close enough to local, as well (it’s just over in the next state, after all…).

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To begin, I melted a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and once melted, added the Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and gave it a good stir. Once everything was well-mixed, I set the mixture aside.

Pop the oven on to 350 degrees, Pam an 8×8 oven-safe pan, then prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and set aside. By the way, the fresh Lagana pasta gave off the most intoxicating yeasty scent as it cooked – I wanted to scoop up the scent and bottle it!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

While the pasta is cooking, shred your cheese. In the same large pot over medium heat, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter and once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for about three minutes, or until the roux turns toasty-colored.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the mixture begins to thicken (about five minutes). Reduce the heat to low.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add the lavender cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and everything in the pot is happily mixed. Add the cooked pasta and stir once again.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Grab your Pammed pan and scoop the macaroni and cheese into it, topping it with the buttery thyme breadcrumb mixture. Let it bake for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least five minutes.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Yes, I know it’s tedious to have to wait five minutes, but just do it. It allows the mac & cheese to firm up just slightly and believe me, you’ll be happier for it. Feel free to sprinkle some additional fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The casarecce had a nice firmness and the cheese sauce took to it perfectly. The lavender imparted a delicate, not overpowering, flavor (I know lavender can be a polarizing herb, just like cilantro) and blended beautifully with the buttery thyme breadcrumbs. The medium cheddar provided a solid flavor as well – all in all, each flavor balanced the next and nothing overwhelmed anything else. So what did I think? I give it 3.5 elbows. The lavender gave the dish such a wonderful light and summery feel!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is my recipe.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish, Main Course
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 as a side
 
Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces fresh casarecce pasta (or other short pasta)
  • 1 pound lavender-infused medium white cheddar, shredded (or, 1 pound medium white cheddar plus 1 tablespoon culinary lavender)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, melt 1 tablespoon butter in microwave. Add Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and stir to combine. Set the bowl aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pam an 8x8 oven-safe pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, then set aside.
  4. In same large pot over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for 3 minutes or until roux turns toasty-colored.
  5. Slowly whisk in milk and continue to cook until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to low.
  6. Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add lavender cheese and stir until melted. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.
  7. Scoop macaroni and cheese into Pammed pan, topping with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Feel free to sprinkle fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.
  8. Serve and scarf down immediately!

 

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Recently, the good folks at Pirate’s Booty were kind enough to send me four boxes of their new Mac & Cheese to try.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

All four varieties of their new mac & cheese line are made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. So, of course I was more than happy to give them a try!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac & cheese.

Milk and some butter – so easy, right? The instructions on the box call for 1/2 tablespoon of butter, but I went with a whole tablespoon to add a bit of richness. Also, I used fat-free milk instead of 2%.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Following the box directions, I boiled 6 cups of water, popped in the macaroni, stirred, and let it simmer for 7 minutes. I then drained it and added it back to the pot. In went the milk, butter and cheese powder (apparently the day-glo orange color of the cheese DOES exist in nature, as this product is made with 100% real cheese).

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

After giving it a thorough stir to ensure that all the ingredients melded into an amazing and lovely cheese sauce, I then let the mac & cheese sit for about three minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

The end result? A delicious mac and cheese with a very delicate, mild cheese flavor. Three elbows up! There was no powdery, chemical taste that you find with other boxed brands. For me, I’ll be adding it to my pantry soon!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

 

 

 

 

 

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Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Recently, I was contacted by the good folks behind the Pirate’s Booty brand. I was aware of their popcorn, but this new offering was right up my alley: Mac & Cheese! And not just one, but four different flavors! All four made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. Would I mind trying out these four new offerings?

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

As my father loves to say, “Do bears go in the woods?” Of course I would love to give them a try! So, after an interminable (really, maybe a couple of days…) length of time, a box bearing four brand-spanking-new boxes of Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese arrived at my doorstep. Woo hoo! I opened the box and took a good look at each box. Organic pasta, 100% real cheese, certified organic by Oregon Tilth, no artificial colors or preservatives, and a bonus: a different game on the back of each box. Even better, a bit of the cheekiness of the brand came through in the pirate humor throughout the packaging.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Arrrrrr, matey! Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac and cheese:

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Milk and a little bit of butter. Pretty simple, right? The directions call for 1/2 tablespoon of butter (I used 1 tablespoon, because I am firmly in the camp of “more is better” when it comes to butter) and 1/4 cup of 2% milk (I used fat-free). Here’s a close-up of the cheese powder:

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I boiled 6 cups of water and added the shells, stirring periodically as they cooked. After draining the pasta and popping it back into the pot, I threw the butter, milk and cheese powder and stirred.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I took some time stirring to make sure that I didn’t have any powder clumps, then after everything was happy I waited about three minutes to plate (to allow the sauce to thicken, as it was a bit thin).

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

So I know you’re on pins and needles…how was it? Three solid elbows up! There was a nice cheesy tang which I loved, and a good amount of umami on the tongue. I really liked the fact that the cheddar flavor came through and that there was no “powdered-cheese” taste (you know what I’m talking about; it’s the bane of boxed mac & cheeses).

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Even better? It really thickened up into a nice, creamy sauce about five minutes after I plated it.

Product Review: Pirate's Booty Shells & Cheese Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

So, should you run out and buy Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese? It’s entirely up to you, but I know I’ll be adding it to my pantry!

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

 

 

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Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Wensleydale. You can’t say it aloud without feeling just a slight bit uppity and with a hint of a proper English accent. Go ahead; try it if you don’t believe me. But what is it, you ask? Well, the folks over at cheese.com do a great job explaining the joys of Wensleydale. It was developed in 1150 by the Cistercian monks in North Yorkshire and while it was originally made from sheep’s milk, nowadays it tends to be made from a mixture of cow’s and sheep’s milk. And just when you think you’ve never heard of Wensleydale before, allow me to remind you of several spots in which it has been featured:

  • Monty Python: It is one of the cheeses that John Cleese asks for in “The Cheese Shop” sketch. Even cooler? The cheese shop owner, played by Michael Palin, is named Henry Wensleydale.
  • Wallace and Gromit: Wallace mentions in both “A Grand Day Out” and “A Close Shave” that his favorite cheese is Wensleydale.
  • Pinky and the Brain: In “Cheese Roll Call” (episode 8, series 1), Pinky sings about his favorite cheeses, of which Wensleydale is one.

So now that you know all about my highbrow tastes in pop culture, back to the cheese.

I came across a nice block of Wensleydale with cranberries at Costco and was intrigued. It looked like a white cheddar studded with bits of cranberry. As I’ve not yet come across a piece of cheese infused with fruit that I haven’t liked, into the cart it went. When I got it home, I looked up the characteristics of Wensleydale and had no idea how to incorporate it (hard, crumbly cheese) into a mac and cheese. Other than the usual of creating a béchamel and then flinging the nearest bit of cheese into the pot. And since that seems to work, I did end up going with a variation on the cheese-flinging theme.

I wanted to add a bit of color contrast to the mac and cheese, as it is Springtime and everything is green and lovely. I thought about fresh dill, but wondered if that and the cranberry flavors would clash too much. After looking around my local market, I came upon fresh asparagus, a quintessential Spring vegetable. Still a little iffy as to whether the flavors would meld well, but heck – they don’t ALL turn out great, right?

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Thus decided, I gathered my ingredients. I added some fresh goat cheese at the last minute as I though the tang of the goat cheese would pair nicely with the tart of the cranberries. Our chives were also beginning to bud in the garden, so I snipped a few of those to add to the mix.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

First, I cooked the pasta (Bionaturae whole wheat fusilli) in a large pot per package directions, then drained and set it aside.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

While the fusilli was cooking, I prepped my ingredients: chives and shallots were minced, asparagus was cut and the Wensleydale was grated.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Since it is a crumbly cheese, you could always just crumble it but since we’re talking a pound of cheese, it was faster to grate it in the food processor.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

In the same large pot, I melted the butter and then whisked in the flour. I let the slurry cook, still whisking, for about two minutes. I then slowly streamed in the milk while I continued to whisk. Over medium heat, continue to cook the béchamel while whisking until it begins to thicken (usually about 3 to 5 minutes).

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Once the béchamel has started to thicken, add the shallot, one tablespoon of the chives (reserve the other tablespoon for garnish), and the asparagus. Stir to combine, then add the Wensleydale and goat cheeses and stir again until everything is mixed, melted and happy. Season with salt and pepper (I used about a teaspoon of each) to taste. Finally, drop in the pasta and give it a good stir.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

Plate and garnish with the remaining chives.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

The taste? Three and a half elbows up. The tanginess of the goat cheese and the cranberries balanced the “green” flavor of the asparagus and the overall rich, creaminess of the sauce. The shallot flavor was delicate but presented itself initially, while the very subtle sweetness of the cranberry flavor hit at the end of each bite. The asparagus added a nice crunch to the overall dish. And if you can’t find Wensleydale locally, you can always substitute a similar hard, crumbly cheese (like a Cheshire or a Caerphilly) and about 2 tablespoons of chopped, dried cranberries.

Here’s my recipe.

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course, Side dish
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 as a side
 
Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 16 ounces Wensleydale cheese with cranberries, grated (or, 16 ounces hard, crumbly cheese mixed with 2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries)
  • 16 ounces whole wheat fusilli
  • 7 stalks fresh asparagus, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, cook pasta per package directions, then drain and set aside.
  2. In the same large pot, melt butter. Once melted, whisk in flour. Cook, whisking, for two minutes. Slowly stream in milk while continuing to whisk. Over medium heat, continue to cook béchamel while whisking until it begins to thicken (3 to 5 minutes).
  3. Add shallot, one tablespoon chives (reserve other tablespoon for garnish), and asparagus. Stir to combine, then add cheeses and stir again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine. Plate and garnish with the remaining chives.
  4. Serve and scarf down immediately!

Very enjoyable for a Spring dinner alfresco, and heck, I might just speak with an English accent for the rest of the day.

Cheers!

Wensleydale Mac and Cheese with Cranberries and Asparagus - Mac & Cheese Chick

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Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Did you know that April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day? No? Well, now you do! And in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, I created a wonderful toasty-golden grilled cheese sandwich featuring Hatch chiles and, of course, macaroni and cheese!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

I had some leftover fire-roasted Hatch chiles in the freezer (always good to have on hand) and because Hatch chiles and mac & cheese pair so beautifully, I had to incorporate them into my grilled cheese. More on how to roast Hatch chiles here, and I’ll work on creating a how-to post soon.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

You might think that making homemade mac and cheese is too much work just to put into a sandwich…and you’d be incorrect. This mac and cheese comes together quickly and doesn’t even involve making a roux. Simple stuff! Because I don’t want you to have to wait to enjoy the gooey, crispy, subtly-spicy lusciousness of this grilled-cheese sandwich.

Ingredients roll-call: the usual organic fat-free milk, butter and seasonings, along with a quinoa pasta, Beecher’s amazing Flagship cheese, Tillamook’s zingy pepper-jack slices, Dave’s Killer Bread, and some heavy cream.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

First up, the Hatch chiles. If you’re using previously-frozen, like me, make sure your chiles are completely thawed before handling. If you’re roasting fresh, check my link noted above for hints and tips. Either way, once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), carefully peel off the outer skin and remove the stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve the chiles, about one per sandwich.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

In a large pot, cook the pasta per package directions. I decided to mix it up a bit by using a quinoa pasta, but feel free to use whatever pasta you like – I think elbows or another short shape will work best with this recipe. Drain, then set aside.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

While the pasta is cooking, shred the Beecher’s Flagship (or extra sharp cheddar) cheese.

To the same large pot, add the heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Taste, then adjust seasonings as necessary. Throw in the Beecher’s cheese and stir until everything’s melted and happy. Add the quinoa elbows and stir to combine. Set aside the pot while you prep the sandwiches.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Your butter should be softened. If it is not (I know I often forget to rescue the butter from the fridge to soften it for recipes), simply soften it in the microwave using 5-second intervals, turning to a new side after each 5-second interval is up. You should have nice, uniformly softened butter within the first few turns.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on the heat, just place the bread in the cold pan. We want to build the sammie before turning on the heat. Now, it’s time to layer on the cheesy goodness!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

First, a slice of pepper jack cheese.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Next, a healthy scoop of mac and cheese.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

On top of that, add a layer of Hatch chile (about one whole chile per sandwich).

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Another slice of pepper jack cheese,

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

then the other slice of bread, butter-side up.

NOW, turn the heat on low. This is one of those times where patience is a virtue, because you want the sammie to cook slowly and take its sweet time caramelizing and getting all nice and crisply browned on the outside. Allow about three minutes per side (and don’t forget to flip it over to evenly toast both sides!), but check it periodically and of course, adjust to the level of doneness you prefer.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Those six minutes ticked by very, very slooooowly, as evidenced by the sad face on our chief taster’s face.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Once the sammie is cooked to your liking, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to rest, in the pan, for another few minutes.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Then, plate it and have at it!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

Looks amazing, right? Crispy outside, gooey inside, just perfect! And the zing of chiles comes through at the end for a nice surprise.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

And in case you like your grilled cheese with a lighter toast, here you go. This recipe makes four whole sandwiches, so you can please all tastes!

My verdict? 4 elbows up – the layers of flavor were amazing and the textures (crunchy! gooey!) made it a stand-out. I’ll be making these again very soon.

Here is my recipe.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (or any other elbow pasta)
  • ¾ cup fat-free milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 2½ cups Beecher's Flagship cheese, shredded (or other extra-sharp Cheddar)
  • 8 slices Tillamook pepper jack cheese
  • 8 slices Dave's Killer Bread 21 Whole Grain
  • 4 fire-roasted Hatch chiles
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
Instructions
  1. Roast the Hatch chiles, or if you're using previously frozen chiles, thaw completely. Once the chiles are roasted and cooled (or thawed), peel off outer skin and remove stem and seeds from each chile. Reserve chiles, about one per sandwich.
  2. In a large pot, cook pasta per package directions. Drain, then set aside.
  3. To the same large pot, add heavy cream and fat-free milk and stir gently, bringing mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat (about five minutes). Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir to combine. Add Beecher's cheese and stir until melted. Add pasta and stir to combine. Set aside pot while you prep sandwiches.
  4. Butter the outside of two slices of bread, then place one slice of bread, butter side down, in a small skillet pan. NOTE: Do not turn on heat, just place bread in cold pan.
  5. Building the sandwich: on the bread in the skillet, layer one slice pepper jack cheese, then one scoop macaroni and cheese, then one Hatch chile, then another slice pepper jack cheese, and finally the remaining slice of bread, butter-side up.
  6. Over low heat, cook the sandwich (about 3 minutes per side, flipping once) until desired doneness. Remove pan from heat and rest for two minutes.
  7. Serve and scarf down immediately!

Go make this one now!

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Hatch Chiles - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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Product Review: Trader Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Yes, I went a little nuts in Trader Joe’s recently and purchased every single mac and cheese item I could find. Can you blame me?

With this product review, the fifth in the series, we move from the boxed, powdered mac and cheeses to the big leagues: frozen. Okay, so maybe not the big leagues, but better than boxed and powdered, right?

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

This review is for Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese. It featured four cheeses: Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti and Gouda.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is the nutritional information.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Close-up of the frozen product right out of the box.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Ingredients needed: 1 box of Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese and a microwave or conventional oven. I used a microwave.

As directed on the package, I removed the package from the box and punctured the plastic film with a fork. The product was microwaved for six minutes, then allowed to sit for an additional minute.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I removed the film, gave it a good stir, and popped it into a bowl.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

How was it? Quite good! Four elbows up. It was just a tiny bit dry, but I like my mac and cheese saucy. It was actually very similar to Stouffer’s frozen macaroni and cheese – just not quite as creamy. 

Product Review: Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

Because Trader Joe’s offers so many mac and cheese options, this post is the fourth in a series of TJ’s mac and cheese product reviews.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

This review is for Trader Joe’s Microwavable Mac & Cheese – single servings.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is the nutritional information.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

Pasta and cheese powder.

 Ingredients needed: 1 packet of Trader Joe’s Microwavable Mac & Cheese, microwavable bowl, 1/2 cup water.

I put the pasta and the water into the microwavable bowl, stirred, and placed it in the microwave on high power for 3 minutes. I added the cheese packet and stirred, breaking up little powder clumps. I then let it sit for a minute to allow the cheese sauce to thicken.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

First bite? Eh. I’d give it 2 elbows, and that is being generous. Even after allowing the mac and cheese to sit for a minute, the sauce was watery and thin. Great is there’s nothing left in the cupboards but otherwise, I’d pass.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Microwavable Mac & Cheese - Single Servings - Mac & Cheese Chick

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Product Review: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

I’ve been reviewing Trader Joe’s various mac and cheese offerings lately. The first two were boxed mac and cheese, like this one, but this one’s a little different – it is gluten free. Instead of wheat in the pasta, it is rice.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here’s what the box says: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar. I like that they call out its gluten-free-ness and also let you know exactly what the pasta is made of. And I dig the pasta smile on the box.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is the nutritional information.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Close-up of the cheese powder.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese ChickProduct Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Ingredients needed: 1 box of Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar, 1/4 cup fat-free milk.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

I boiled 3 quarts of water and added the pasta. Once they were cooked (about 11 minutes), they were drained and popped back into the pot. I added the milk and cheese packet and stirred. In addition, I followed their suggestion to add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter “for richer flavor”. I think the butter punched up the flavor of the mac and cheese to a new, better level.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

My verdict? 3 1/2 elbows up! Delicious for a boxed mac and cheese.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

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Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

It’s all Trader Joe’s fault. They offer too many great things to try! One of these items is mac and cheese. Because of Trader Joe’s, this post is just the second in a series as they has soooo many great mac and cheese options when we last visited their store!

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

This review is for Trader Joe’s Macaroni & Cheese – Wisconsin Cheddar.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is the nutritional information and preparation instructions.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Close-up of the cheese powder. Yes, it is indeed Day-Glo orange.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Ingredients needed: 1 box of Trader Joe’s Macaroni & Cheese – Wisconsin Cheddar, 2 tablespoons fat-free milk. There is a suggestion that you can add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter “for richer flavor”, but I wanted to get a good idea of how the product tasted out of the box.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

I boiled 6 cups of water and added the macaroni. Once they were cooked (about 7 minutes), they were drained and popped back into the pot. I added the milk and cheese packet and stirred, breaking up little powder clumps.

At first, the powder didn’t want to integrate into a sauce-like consistency. I stirred the heck out of it and it eventually produced a creamy texture.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

The taste? Just okay. I’d give it 2 1/2 elbows. The “cheese powder smell” was really prevalent (if you’ve smelled cheese powder, you know of what I speak – generally, the smell goes away after the powder has been mixed with a liquid) but it held its creaminess pretty well. It was just a touch dry, so I’d add an extra tablespoon of milk next time.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Macaroni & Cheese - Wisconsin Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

One caveat: you need to scarf this down immediately. If not, it gets a little gluey. And my immediately, I mean start eating within 30 seconds of your last stir.

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Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

On occasion, the Mac & Cheese Chick takes a break from scratch-made macaroni and cheese. Hey, I love Velveeta Shells and Cheese as much as the next guy. No, wait, probably much more.

Anyway, we were at Trader Joe’s the other day and, seeing all the lovely mac and cheese options in the store, of course I had to try them all. So, this post is the first in a series covering reviews of all (well, at least everything I could find while I was there) of Trader Joe’s macaroni and cheese offerings.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

First up: Trader Joe’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese. What a mouthful, right? You can guffaw here, I won’t mind.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is the nutritional information.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Close-up of the cheese powder.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

Ingredients needed: 1 box of Trader Joe’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese, 3 tablespoons fat-free milk. There is a suggestion that you can add 2 – 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter “for richer flavor”, but I wanted to get a good idea of how the product tasted out of the box.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

I boiled 6 cups of water and added the shells. Once they were cooked (about 8 minutes), they were drained and popped back into the pot. I added the milk and cheese packet and stirred like mad, breaking up little powder clumps. The shells, by the way, were cute, little, and adorable.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

The powder integrated nicely into the pasta and produced a creamy, good white-cheddar flavor. It was slightly salty, in a good way (flavor!).

One caveat: you need to scarf this one down immediately. If not, it gets a little gluey. And my immediately, I mean start eating within 20 seconds of your last stir.

Product Review: Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Mac & Cheese Chick

My verdict? 3 elbows up! Great for a boxed mac and cheese.

 

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