Let a little sun shine it – this month’s Pass the Cook Book club recipe features the snappy Sunny Anderson’s cookbook – Easy Food for Real Life. I’m not much on Food Network Personalities these days. Once Mario left and there were competitions for Iron Chef – it lost all it’s charm. Late night re-runs of Alton, and I’m there! I like to cook – but I don’t need tailored personalities and tablescapes to prove I’m the real deal. With the influx of stars clearly designed to appeal to mom’s, I’m just not game. But Sunny at least seems real. Like she would have no problem giving you what for in her kitchen if you got in her way but she’d put a damned good meal on the table at the end of the day. I dig that. It’s hard to find real with so many made-for-tv stars on these days.
Aly, the host of Cooking in Stilettos, recommended Sunny’s book for this month – and even snagged me a signed copy! How freakin cool is that. I love reviewing new books, and honestly, this one is one I would have ended up purchasing. Flipping through, the recipes just sounded too good (plus there was a savory waffle. I’m always down for a savory waffle). I gave Aly the reigns for the month and she picked three winners. There were seriously awesome sounding sticky buns, ribs, and this mac and cheese. And because I have been super stressed and busy at work – I went with one I knew Handsome would eat – the mac and cheese (even though it’s baked and not slathered in Velveeta).
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Spicy Taco Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Easy Food for Real Life by Sunny Anderson
For the Croutons:
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- 4 slices wheat bread cut into 1/2-inch squares
For the Pasta:
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- 8 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 2 cups elbow pasta, cooked to just under al dente, rinsed and set aside
For the Meat:
- 1 lbs ground beef, cooked (drained of fat if needed) and seasoned with taco spices of choice
For the Custard:
- 2 teas flour
- 1/2 teas salt
- 1/2 teas pepper
- 1/2 teas cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teas red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teas dry mustard
- 1/8 teas grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup Vidalia or sweet onion, minced
- 2 teas Tabasco sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
Melt the butter for the croutons in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and toast 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Season with salt, if desired. * In a skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.
Toss the cooked pasta in a large bowl with 2/3 of the shredded cheese.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, mustard, nutmeg. Add the sour cream, egg, onion, Tabasco, cream, and half and half. Stir well to combine. Pray for your arteries
Pour the mixture over the pasta and toss to coat. Transfer half of the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Add the cooked and seasoned ground beef in a single layer, spreading evenly with the back of your spoon. Layer the remaining pasta and sauce over the beef and top with the remaining cheese. (If you’re really feeling bold and daring, sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top). Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cheese on top is beginning to brown and everything is starting to bubble. Sprinkle your home made croutons on top and bake for another 10 minutes until everything is nice and golden.
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
*Omit the ground beef if you just want a killer side. Leave it in and you’ve got an all in one meal – sprinkle a little lettuce on the side and we can even call it balanced (no, not really).