I confess, I used to be a boxed macaroni and cheese person. As a teenager, I worked front desk at a local hotel. An older lady there made the best baked macaroni and cheese. While at the time I diddn’t have my heart set on re-creating the dish, it managed to stick with me for a decade. My mom always made homemade macaroni and cheese, but it wasn’t a cheese sauce. It was elbows, butter, and lots of cheddar cheese layered and baked. Still delicious, but there’s something about a gooey, cheesy sauce that really captured my heart.

Fast forward 10 years, I decided to try to find a recipe that I would consider “a keeper” for baked macaroni and cheese. I tried several recipes I’d found on the internet that looked good, but none really resonated with me. Then, I decided to give the recipe off the side of the elbow macaroni box a shot. Low and behold, I fell in love. I’ve changed it some over the years, but I’m glad I gave that “side of the box” recipe a shot. You never know! Feel free to top with a seasoned breadcrumb if you like, but I think that’s more of a “Yankee” thing, and just not the way I was raised. I like my macaroni and cheese soft and creamy. But, I have done it that way before…and it was delicious. Enjoy!

Allow me to introduce you to this recipe. We go way back. I first stumbled upon it when browsing The Spice House’s website (which is owned by Bill Penzey’s sister. They’re just a whole family chock full of spice tycoons, I tell ya). At the time, St. Patrick’s Day was right around the corner. I’m not a huge fan of corned beef, unless it’s in hash form. The recipe called for Guinness to be used, so I though it would be a festive alternative to the traditional corned beef and cabbage. I was right, it was a huge hit. I went out with some girlfriends that evening, and when I returned…it had all been consumed by the husband.  And make no mistakes folks, it was a large roast.

Needless to say, it since became my standard pot roast recipe. So much more flavor that your  standard Crock-Pot variety pot roast. Not only that, but I feel like it’s been improved upon by trying out different beers. I had heard wonderful things about coffee-braised pot roasts. So, I thought it would be very interesting to combine the two. Again, boy was I right!

We have  2 oh-so-wonderful local breweries in my area (hey – we don’t have much, but we’ve got good beer by God!). Both happen to make wonderful, rich dark stouts that use coffee in the brewing process. The first is Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout. If you haven’t heard about DogFish, and like beer, do yourself a favor and try something out. You can find them nationwide, if you look hard enough. The second is Evolution Brewing Company’s Rise Up Stout.  “Evo” started  up about a year or so ago, right here on the Eastern Shore, and have been putting out wonderful craft beers. Chances are if you don’t live in the Chesapeake area, you won’t find them. But, by all means, get out there and explore the beer coolers at your local stores. Lots of great microbreweries are springing up all over the place. I’m sure you could find something near you that is equally as wonderful!

I don’t list potatoes in the recipe, but feel free to add them in with the rest of the other veggies. I usually use red potatoes that I’ve halved.  However, it’s wonderful with mashed potatoes too. You want as much of the gravy as you can get, folks. Enjoy this recipe, I promise you that you won’t miss that corned beef a bit!

pineappleupside

Who doesn’t remember this cake from their childhood? I remember my “Aunt Sissy” making a notorious Upside-Down Cake. She’s been gone for quite a few years now. Unfortunately I wasn’t into cooking and/or baking at that time. So, sadly I never got the recipe. However, this recipe was close, and certainly brought back memories.

The cake itself is ultra moist and dense. The lovely caramelized sugar and pineapple rings on top are loaded with flavor, and make for a beautiful presentation as well.  It would be an excellent choice to make for an upcoming Holiday get together, as “that time of year” will be here before we know it. I know I can’t speak for anybody else – but I myself cannot wait! I’m counting down the days my friends. Enjoy!