Lately I’ve been on a huge 80s kick. I was walking home from work the other day when Celebration, by Kool & the Gang started to play. I was instantly transported back to those lost but not forgotten family gatherings at the local VFW (you know you had your fair share!). This song always brought everyone to the dance floor and feeling good. I love any excuse to throw a party, so I thought I would turn my inaugural post into one.
Celebrate good times, come on!
As Kool and his gang whisked me away to the far off 80s land, I realized when it’s not the dancing that brings people close, it’s definitely the food – especially good ol’ fashioned comfort food. If Celebration is one of those quintessential dance songs that never goes out of style, macaroni and cheese is its comfort food counterpart. Both are incredibly cheesy, but forever classics.
There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
This recipe for Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese is a kicked up take on the old classic, inspired by the zesty appetizer we all know and love. If you’re a heat seeker, keep the jalapeno seeds in or use a Serrano pepper or two instead (jalapeno’s spicier cousin). It also makes quite a bit, creating a perfect side for family dinners and potlucks. So turn up the volume, grab a fork and let’s party! Ya-hoo!
Until we beat again… Kasey
Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese
Makes about 8 – 10 servings
1 lb. box spiral or elbow style pasta (pick your favorite!)
1 medium onion, diced
1 large green cubanelle pepper, diced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 can diced green chiles
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups cheddar or Mexican style shredded cheese, divided
1/2 cup panko style breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat broiler.
- In a large non-stick pot, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, chop the onion and peppers.
- Drain the pasta and pour into a large casserole dish. Set aside.
- Using the same pot used to cook the pasta, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and peppers. When they begin to soften, grate garlic directly into the pan and cook for another minute.
- Sprinkle veggies with flour and cook for about a minute. Gradually whisk in milk, then the cream cheese and the canned chiles.
- Bring the sauce to just under a boil, then simmer until it starts to thicken, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and slowly add in 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Pour over pasta and mix together.
- Mix breadcrumbs with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and sprinkle over the mac and cheese. Broil until brown and bubbly.
- If using bagged shredded cheese, mix the breadcrumbs directly into the bag. Save a bowl!
- I used skim milk and 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese. It still turned out pretty cheesy and flavorful.
- Sneak in some healthy grains — Whole wheat pasta works well in this recipe since the cheese sauce is so full of flavor.
- My version of this recipe isn’t terribly spicy. Everyone’s palates are different, so play around with the heat.
Flashback to 1980 with Celebration, by Kool & the Gang: