The other day at work the topic of Thanksgiving foods came up, and while it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving food, I mentioned that we always have a mac and cheese at ours because my siblings aren’t big on turkey. One of the best mac and cheese dishes that I’ve ever eaten was on our honeymoon, and the dish came served with a side of homemade applesauce — delicious. My wheels started turning for how I could combine these flavors in a new way, and I came up with this cute little idea for a savory and sweet side dish: mac and cheese baked apples. I love the idea of offering these in small apples as an appetizer, or as a bigger portion for a side dish at dinner — either way, they’re a super tasty treat. Full recipe below!

Mac and cheese baked apple Mac and cheese baked apple1 mac and cheese baked apple2 mac and cheese baked apple3 mac and cheese baked apple4 mac and cheese baked apple5 mac and cheese baked apple6Ingredients:

  • 4-5 large apples (honey crisp apples worked great)
  • 5 cups of cooked pasta (elbows work great!)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (plus extra for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Cook pasta as directed, removing from water when still al dente. Clean apples and slice their tops off; using a melon-baller, scoop out the insides of the apple leaving a half-inch rim around the edges. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and begin to whisk in flour until a roux forms, then slowly whisk in the cup of milk and heat until the sauce thickens. Next, mix in the cheeses and combine until the sauce is a consistent texture. Remove from heat fold in pasta until fully coated; salt and pepper to taste. Fill the hollowed-out apples with macaroni and cheese mixture, and top with additional sharp cheddar cheese. Bake in a baking dish in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes.

 

I was searching for some appetizer inspiration recently and came across this amazing recipe from Kinfolk magazine — I wanted to try it but it wasn’t exactly fitting my bite-sized criteria for serving snacks when I had friends over. I loved the idea of having something a little heartier to serve though, so I used the recipe for inspiration and made my own mac and chili mixture and baked in a mini-muffin tin for bite-sized tastes. They flew off the plate when my friends tested them over the weekend! Full recipe below. 1photo 4 (1) 2DSC_0039 3DSC_0041 3DSC_0042 4DSC_0043 5DSC_0052 6DSC_0051Ingredients:

  • Red bell pepper – 1/4 cup minced
  • Yellow onion – 1/4 cup minced
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • 1 small tomato- 1/4 cup minced
  • Scallions or chives – about 3 tablespoons chopped
  • Lean ground beef  – about 1/4-pound
  • Kidney beans
  • One bag of orichette pasta
  • 2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Flour
  • Butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a skillet, heat a small amount of oil or butter and cook red pepper, yellow onion, garlic, and tomato for about 3-4 minutes, until they begin to get soft. Next, add in ground beef, and brown in mixture. When meat is browned, add in about a half a can of red kidney beans and the chives, heat through and then remove pan and set aside.

While making the chili mixture,  cook pasta to al dente.  Next, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan, and add 3 tablespoons of flour, whisk together. Next, add milk, and continue to whisk together over the heat until it begins to thicken. Next, slowly add in grated sharp cheddar cheese and continue to mix sauce until smooth. When all of the sauce is incorporated and smooth, pour it over the orichette in a large pot or bowl. Fold in all of the sauce and pasta, and then add in the chili mixture.

Scoop mac and chili mixture into a mini-muffin tin. Using the back of a spoon, pack the mixture into the tin so that the ingredients are compressed together. When the muffin tin is full, sprinkle more grated cheese over the top (I used some Parmesan here for extra flavor), and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let them rest and cool slightly before removing from the pan (this is important, they may not hold their shape if you remove them when they first come out of the oven). I served them in mini-muffin liners for a festive touch!

 

This summer when we were on our cross-country honeymoon road trip, we stopped at a restaurant in Cleveland where I promptly demolished my bridal diet by ordering the baked mac and cheese. When the dish came out the waiter stopped to point out some homemade applesauce accompanying the cheesy dish. All he asked was that I give it a try, dip the steaming hot pasta into the cool, sweet applesauce — he assured me it would change my life. And it did. It makes total sense, I’d heard of people eating a slice of sharp cheddar cheese with apple pie, but it just never occurred to me to try this combination before, but it was completely and totally delicious. So this week I made some macaroni and cheese and had to try making some homemade applesauce to go with it.

Processed with VSCOcamLet me tell you a little secret: making homemade applesauce is as easy as pie (you like that apple joke?).  I peeled and cored 10 apples (a friendly farmer at our farmer’s market recommended using gravenstein apples, if you can find them.) and combined them with half a cup of apple cider, half a cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of granulated sugar, and three cinnamon sticks. I put it in our crock-pot on high for 4 hours, removing the cinnamon sticks after the first hour, and stirring occasionally. And that’s it, simple as that! Make sure to serve the applesauce cold — I’m convinced the difference in temperature is just as important as the balance of the flavors.

 

I shared a bunch of honeymoon pictures yesterday, but this particular type of trip called for a follow-up post with a focus on the food. We pretty much ate with abandon for two whole weeks, (with thanks to my trusty Food Network app we hit up lots of hidden gems). Chicago was all about the pizza, I wanted to buy tickets for a pizza walking tour, and when I found out they were sold out we decided to do a self guided version. We hit up some Guy Fieri approved drive-ins, and had some of the best fajitas I’ve ever tasted in Moab. And we tried some things that were almost beyond my imagine: a breakfast pot pie in Denver, a sweet pea and corn grilled cheese in Cleveland, and the winner of best road trip find: macaroni and cheese with a homemade cinnamon applesauce to dip the pasta in. You have to eat it to believe it.

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