Hey, everyone. Today is an exciting day – we have our first guest blog post! Allow me to introduce you to Kelly (her name has come up here before) and her mom, Linda. Kelly and I studied together in Russia, where our first adventures in cooking and eating began. We would most often cook Mexican food, because let’s face it – Russia (and, well, most of Europe) doesn’t really do Mexican food, so we had to create it ourselves. (And we also, of course, had to make my Russian host mother try this food, prompting her to exclaim “Pozhar! Pozhar!” – Fire! Fire!).
I digress. Even more exciting than a guest blog post, is the start of what I’m certain will be a lovely food blog, brought to you by Linda. Watch out for it in the coming weeks (and maybe even for an announcement and link here!)
In the meantime, here’s a look at what you can look forward to.
Fall is our favorite time of year! There are so many wonderful fruits & veggies that are ready to be harvested, eaten & used in cooking & baking that I hardly know where to start! Apples are always available, we know, but getting them in the fall when they are just harvested is wonderful. This dish is a perfect cold winter day comfort food meal, so it’s good that apples are always around! We did NOT want to stop eating it! Between the two of us, we made it 4 times in less than 2 weeks and we’ll probably make it a time or two more before Thanksgiving! The original recipe was from Better Homes & Gardens, but we put our own spin on it and made some additions to boost the flavor & satisfaction level.
These great ingredients turn into a heavenly comfort dish. Let’s get started!
Apple-Cheddar Mac & Cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 3 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 12 ounces (3 ½ cups) dried penne pasta
- 2 cups (~3) chopped, peeled Granny Smith (or other tart) apples
- ½ cup chopped sweet onion (1 small), such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
- ½ pound chicken meatballs or chicken sausage
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup apple cider
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened & cut up
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease the sides of a 9 x 13 oven safe casserole dish with the tablespoon of softened butter, using only what is needed. Save the rest. Coat the greased area with the bread crumbs using only what is needed. Use the remainder of the tablespoon of butter and combine it with the remainder of the bread crumbs, add 1/3 of the thyme and set aside to top the mac & cheese.
3. Put a large pot of water on to boil the penne pasta. Cook the penne pasta 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain & set aside.
4. Chop the onion, apples & meatballs.
5. In a large saucepot, cook the apples, onions & meatballs in the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, making sure the meat is thoroughly cooked and the apples & onions are tender. Add the flour to the saucepot & cook for 2 minutes longer while stirring.
6. Add in the chicken stock & apple cider. Cook & stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low.
7. Add the remaining thyme, cream cheese and cheddar cheese, stirring to melt and distribute the cheese.
Make sure the cream cheese has completely melted before adding the sauce to the pasta.
8. Add the sauce mixture to the penne pasta, mixing well to combine. Spoon into the prepared 9 x 13 dish. Sprinkle the reserved breadcrumb-butter mixture over the top. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are bubbly. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.
–Linda and Kelly