Cooked bacon adds smoky flavor to the cheese and bread crumb topping in this flavorful and creamy macaroni and cheese casserole. Feel free to make it without the addition of green onions. I thought they went well with the bacon flavor, but if you’re not a fan of onions, you can leave them out. Serve this macaroni and cheese with sliced tomatoes or a tossed salad for a satisfying family meal.
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni, about 2 cups dry
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- dash garlic powder
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled
- 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water following package directions. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse with hot water, and set aside.
Heat oven to 350° F (180° C/Gas 4). Lightly grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the green onions and garlic powder. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir until well blended and smooth.
Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Set 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese aside and stir the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese into the sauce. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheese has melted.
Combine the cheese sauce with the drained macaroni and then spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle bacon evenly over the casserole and then top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese.
Toss the bread crumbs with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.
Cheddar and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts
So it’s about the end of the day at work and you’re struggling to come up with ideas of what to make for dinner. Not only that, but you also want to try to deviate away from the norm and let your taste buds reach a new level of extreme tastiness. Here is a recipe that will truly satisfy those taste buds without breaking the wallet and with simple, easy to find ingredients at the grocery store.
Cheddar-And-Bacon-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1) 6 slices bacon
2) 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3) Salt and pepper
4) 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, if desired
5) 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cook bacon on stove in oven-safe skillet until cooked but not crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Flatten chicken breasts to about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on each chicken breast, if desired.
Lay three pieces of bacon on each chicken breast, and top the bacon with the cheddar cheese.
Roll up each chicken breast, being careful to keep the bacon and cheddar tucked inside, and secure each with toothpicks.
Place the chicken rollups back in the pan with bacon grease and cook on the stove over medium heat, turning frequently, just to brown all sides.
Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Feel free to baste the chicken with some of the bacon grease while it’s baking. (I warned you this was not diet food.)
Serve hot, preferably with some of these pretzel rolls.
Bacon Cooking Tips
If the packaged sliced bacon is refrigerator-cold, slowly slide the dull edge of a butter knife along the length between the strips, gently rocking to separate slices. Plan ahead and take the bacon out of the refrigerator thirty minutes before cooking. The slices should separate easily.
When frying bacon, it’s important to keep a close eye on it and turn it often. It can burn in the blink of an eye. Older bacon will cook and burn almost twice as quickly as fresh bacon.
If you prefer very crispy bacon, choose thinner slices to fry up. Pour or baste off the fat as it accumulates in the pan. Use medium to medium-low heat. Cook slowly, turning often, to render out the most fat and help reduce shrinkage.
Pricking with a fork will help alleviate any curling problems. Drain breakfast bacon on paper towels.
The fat rendered from the cooked bacon is highly-prized as cooking oil for its flavor. After cooking the bacon, cool the rendered oil to room temperature and then pour through a fine sieve into a glass container. Cover and store in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. If you do not need the rendered fat, let it cool to room temperature, pour it into a disposable metal or glass container, seal, tie it up in a plastic bag, and toss it into the trash. It’s not wise to pour it down the drain, because it will coagulate and clog up the drain.
There are fancy microwave bacon cookers on the market which work well, but they are not necessary. Place a microwave-safe paper towel in a micro dish large enough to fit a single layer of bacon slices (4 to 6 slices). Cover with another paper towel. Six slices should take about 4 to 5 minutes on high, depending on the wattage of your microwave and the thickness of the bacon. Start checking after the first two minutes, and continue cooking at one minute intervals until you can judge the cooking time for the way you like it.
Consult your microwave manual for more specific times. A rotating base in the microwave is highly recommended for even cooking, and most come with one built-in these days. Remember that foods continue to cook even after the timer goes off in a microwave, so let it rest a few minutes before you dive in to let it crisp up and avoid burns. Curly bacon never bothers me, but this method reduces curling of the bacon.
Bacon can also be easily baked in the oven, resulting in amazingly flat slices. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a rack inside a baking sheet. Lay out slices and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on desired doneness level. Voila! Crispy bacon with no curls. You can also use your broiler, but I don’t recommend it. First of all, the splatters not only make a royal mess, but also cause flares. Secondly, it requires much more attention. Stick with frying, microwaving or baking.
How can you reduce splattering problems? Part of the problem arises from today’s quick salt-brining method (known as pickle-curing) used by producers. The liquid naturally soaks into the meat, and you know what happens when liquid hits hot oil — snap, crackle, pop! Be sure the bacon slices are cold from the refrigerator and start with a cold pan. Use medium to medium-low heat and take your time cooking the slices, turning often. It’s preferable to thaw frozen bacon in the refrigerator to reduce moisture, but even then some of the moisture may naturally seep out. Towel off the slices before cooking to avoid excess splattering.
If you must watch your fat intake, lean smoked ham or prosciutto can be substituted in many recipes where the rendered bacon fat is not needed. Turkey, chicken and vegetarian bacon products are also available.
Most slab bacon is sold with the rind attached. Remove the rind before using. Render the fat from the rind by frying and you have cracklings, a favorite Southern snack.
Smoked Gouda is special among all cheese produced in Holland. Though it is produced just like all other types of cheese in computerized dairy plants, this cheese is still smoked over smoldering hickory chip embers in brick ovens. For many, the best part of the cheese is the smoky, brown rind.
Gouda is produced from cow, goat, and sheep’s milk. Milk is obtained from cows that are purely grass fed, to make un-smoked or smoked Gouda. As the taste of Gouda cheese is mild, it is flavored with mustard, herbs, chipotles, nuts and spices like cumin and black pepper.
Smoked Gouda, with its unique taste, is ideal for many mouthwatering recipes.
Smoked Gouda and caramelized onion Quesadillas
These delicious Quesadillas are sure to impress your guests. You can pre-assemble Gouda, prosciutto and caramelized onions and bake the dish when you are ready to serve. To make this appetizing dish, you need the following:
- 1 thinly sliced onion
- 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ tsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp golden brown sugar
- 1-1/2 cups grated smoked Gouda cheese
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 ounces of chopped prosciutto
- 4 flour tortillas measuring 10 inches in diameter
Preparation method –
Take a heavy medium skillet and melt two tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat. Add onion, vinegar and brown sugar and sauté for a while. When the onion turns golden brown, remove and cool to room temperature.
Set the oven to 350ºF and preheat it. Divide the tortillas equally and sprinkle cheese on one half. On top of the cheese, sprinkle sautéed onions and prosciutto and season with pepper. Over this cheese mixture, fold the other half of the tortilla. Brush the tortillas and a large skillet with melted butter and place over medium heat. Tortillas must be cooked carefully until you find the brown dots appearing on them. When they are done, transfer to a baking sheet and bake till the cheese melts and the tortillas are golden. When they are done, transfer the quesadillas to a working surface and cut them into six triangles before arranging and serving from a platter.
Other exciting recipes you can enjoy using smoked Gouda include smoked Gouda and Arugula pasta salad, grilled pumpernickel and Gouda sandwich, creamy spinach with smoked Gouda au gratin, pork chops stuffed with smoked bacon and smoked Gouda, spinach and mushroom frittata with smoked Gouda and smoked Gouda mashed potatoes.
Prepare any of these recipes using smoked Gouda for your family and you will find them asking for more.
What recipes do you think Smoked Gouda would add flavor to?
Most cheese connoisseurs cringe at the thought of processed cheeses. Think of Kraft singles, Laughing Cow, or Velveeta. Most of us loved such cheeses when we were kids, we always made sure Mom grabbed some at the grocery store. So why do they offend our adult palates? Labels that contain the name “cheese food” don’t make them sound any more appetizing either.
Processed cheeses are made with some natural cheeses, but usually contain other unfermented dairy products as well as chemical emulsifiers like sodium phosphate and citrate to circumvent the aging process necessary to produce most natural cheeses. Normally processed cheeses are medium firm, have a very mild flavor, and a consistently smooth texture.
Processed cheeses are often criticized for having a small range of flavors and textures and for potential health effects associated with the use of trans-fats, chemical preservatives, and artificial colorings. But like anything else, the health risks are negligible when these items are consumed in moderation, and these types of cheeses also offer many advantages.
Being cheese enthusiasts ourselves, we originally began stocking certain processed cheeses in order to satisfy our customers who requested them. But there has been a recent surge in the acceptance of many of these processed cheeses amongst the culinary community. The consistency of processed cheeses enables them to melt much more smoothly than natural cheeses, which tend to separate and pool after prolonged heating. They also have a much longer shelf life and the shortened production process lowers their cost significantly. This makes them ideal for use in cooking.
Some dishes call for only the finest natural cheeses, but many do not. It would be unusual for a chef to use a top shelf wine or liqueur to cook with. The same goes for cheese in many cases. This came to our attention when Jim Kennedy, a customer and friend of ours who also happens to be a retired chef ordered some horseradish cheese from us. He specialized in classic French cuisine and had been an apprentice to the first American-born Master Chef, Richard Schneider. So his opinion carried a lot of credibility with us. He shared his ideas for incorporating the horseradish cheese into high-end cuisine with us: “We melted it into mashed potatoes and it was superb. We melted it into Alfredo sauce and it was wonderful. We baked it into a quiche and it was sensational. We baked it with macaroni and it was incredible. In the future we intend to combine it with the smoked bacon cheese in all the above.” he said “We were afraid it would be tame for mainstream palates, but we were pleasantly surprised.”
That brought us to the most important benefit of processed cheeses: they come in a very diverse array of flavors. Besides horseradish, processed cheeses come in flavors like bacon, pepperoni, garden onion, Bermuda onion, hot pepper, super hot pepper, caraway, and even Southwestern Salsa. We also offer smoked varieties of many of these. Of course American cheese is the archetype of processed cheeses, but we also offer Sharp (aged) American, which is probably our best-selling processed cheese because few other cheese stores offer it. All of these flavors make excellent additions to simple or complex recipes. We were very impressed with the zing the Bermuda onion cheese added to our burgers!
So while most cheese aficionados will wrinkle there noses at the mere mention of processed cheeses, we have now found some very sophisticated uses for them. Of course, if the cheese is offered by itself or used as a finishing element for a fine dining recipe, natural cheeses are best. But processed cheeses can be excellent ingredients in complex recipes and add zesty variations to simple ones.
Here is a wonderful recipe with Amish Country Swiss Cheese as the principle element While there are many cheeses on the market that fall under the broad title of “Swiss Cheese”, including almost anything with holes at your local grocery store, we have found that the proper cheese will make or break the recipe. The mass-produced cheeses found at most grocery stores typically use chemicals to speed the aging process. But those chemicals of leave a metallic aftertaste to the cheese, which can negatively alter the taste of the pie. For anyone desiring a bolder flavor, trying substituting the Swiss cheese with Emmentaler or adding some sharp swiss into the mixture.
For the Crust:
- 1 ½ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
With fingertips, work it until crumbly:
- 1/4 lb. butter or margarine (½ cup)
Slowly add, stirring with fork:
- 1/4 cup cold water
For the filling:
Fry until crisp:
Into bowl break:
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups of cream
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Heavy pinch of sugar
- Pepper to taste
Shape the mixture into a ball and roll it in wax paper; chill it in the refrigerator, about 1/2 hour or until it’s easy to roll. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a floured board, roll the dough into a large circle about 14 inches in diameter and fit it into 11” pie plate. Make a fluted edge as shown. Aerate the crust well with a fork. Place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Beat the mixture thoroughly with an egg beater. Take the piecrust from the refrigerator and rub the inside with 1 tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle the bacon bits, and then the grated cheese evenly in the bottom of the piecrust. Pour the cream mixture evenly over all.
Bake for 15 min., then reduce the oven temperature to 300°F, bake for 40 minutes longer or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Serve hot, cut into pie wedges.