Despite our ever present nostalgia for the foods of childhood, tastes and recipes are always evolving. I came across this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine recently. It has all the flavors of a favorite casserole come together in the comfort of ‘mac & cheese’.
During the Great Depression era, the idea for boxed macaroni and cheese was born when a salesman used a rubber band to pair packets of the then newly developed, grated Kraft cheese with boxes of pasta and convinced stores to sell them. In 1937, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (known as Kraft Dinner in Canada) was introduced with the slogan ‘make a meal for four in nine minutes for the cost of around nineteen cents’. It was an immediate success in the USA & Canada.
Traditional mac & cheese is a casserole baked in the oven, however, it may be prepared in a saucepan on the top of the stove. This particular casserole recipe takes the whole idea to a new level. Chicken, bacon, macaroni, three cheeses and Ranch dressing! I had tasted ranch dressing on chicken and bacon pizza so why not? Brion and I loved the end result making it a ‘keeper’ in our meal rotation.
Chicken Ranch Mac & Cheese
In a large pot, cook macaroni to al dente stage; drain & return to pot. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt & pepper until smooth; gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook & stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheeses until blended. Stir in ranch dressing. Add chicken & sauce to macaroni, tossing to combine. Transfer to baking dish.
Toss bread crumbs with melted butter; sprinkle over macaroni. Top with bacon. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
I’m sure the appeal of mushrooms isn’t for everyone. For me, I love that earthy taste. There is hardly anything you can’t use mushrooms in from appetizers to main course.
I remember when I was growing up on the farm we would sometimes find edible mushrooms especially on humid days. My father had an area where hay bales where kept for feeding the cattle in the winter. It seemed this was where these mushrooms would pop up. There was never any great amount — just enough so we each had a taste. Mom would fry them in butter and they were so good.
For company barbecues, I used to make a stuffed mushroom that everyone really enjoyed. The recipe used a frozen souffle product from the Stouffer company. The only problem was every time I needed it I couldn’t seem to find any to buy. Since there are endless kinds of stuffed mushrooms, why not just make a different kind? That would have been too easy! In this recipe I tried to achieve the same kind of spinach souffle.
Mushroom Caps with Spinach Souffle
Nice light, tasty little morsels, great as hors d' oeuvres or part of the main meal
In food processor, combine eggs, soup, onion, garlic powder, & salt; pulse for 30 seconds. Add spinach, bread crumbs, thyme, nutmeg & Parmesan. Blend for another 30 seconds. Set prepared souffle mixture aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove stems from mushrooms. Wipe mushrooms with a towel as opposed to rinsing them with water. Dip outside of 'cap' in bottled, Zesty Italian dressing. Place in a shallow baking dish; stuff caps with souffle mixture & sprinkle with a few more seasoned crumbs. Bake 15 minutes or until souffle mixture is set.
- This recipe is easily halved or make the amount of mushrooms you need then bake the rest of the souffle mixture in a casserole dish.
- Mushrooms can be made earlier in the day & placed in refrigerator until ready to bake & serve.
- If you prefer, use an extra topping such as grated cheddar or bacon bits.