Saturday, January 23, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Mac & Cheese Bar....Make it your own

I don't think that there is any other food that has come to be more associated with comfort food than mac & cheese. From the instant stuff in the blue box to secret blends of cheese handed down from southern grandmothers, its hard to find someone out there that doesn't enjoy a nice bowl of melted cheese and pasta.
In recent years there has been a trend to re-make mac & cheese an "adult" treat as well - keeping all the things you love about mac and cheese but putting a little more flavor and taste into it. Additions of pork (with bacon as king) are probably most common, high end additions like lobster and truffle oil tend to find there way into many recipes as well. I decided that I was going to push the limits of additions to mac and cheese and create a toppings bar so that everyone could make their favorite. After polling friends about the additions they would most like to see, some taste testing at home and scouring some local restaurants for their secrets our menu was born.

Mac & Cheese bases:
4 cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, Jarlsberg & brie) w campanelle pasta
Jalapeno Jack w shells
4 cheese w pancetta w campanelle pasta
Baked Classic Cheddar w elbows

Mix-in toppings
hot dogs
roasted cauliflower
sauteed mushrooms
roasted garlic
roasted red peppers
crumbled potato chips
garlic chili sauce
salt & fresh pepper

The idea was simple - allow my guests to create their "ultimate mac & cheese". While I kept my combos pretty simple and themed - Tex-Mex M&C with Jalapeno Jack M&C base, bacon, salsa, broccoli, scallions, cilantro and some potato chip topping and an Mediterranean Blend with the 4 cheese with pancetta, extra pancetta, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic and roasted red peppers - others got creative and blended in just about a little of everything!

We ended the afternoon with a strawberry shortcake from Martha's Country Bakery in Queens which was amazing as always. There was also a choice of homemade ice creams thanks to my new ice cream maker - peppermint stick w chocolate chunks, maple walnut, cinnamon and peanut butter w mini pb cups. Of course we topped it all off with a dollop of whipped cream to make everything a little sweeter!

Now for the results! Here is a listing of some of the creations that were made today - feel free to leave a comment and vote on your favorite combo or list one we haven't though of.....

Andrew: Jalapeno Jack M&C , Bacon ,Broccoli, Jalapeno, Salsa, Cilantro

Robyn: 4 cheese M&C , roasted garlic, scallions and potato chips

Mary: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, pancetta, bacon, scallions, potato chips,fresh black pepper

Tova: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, salsa, croutons and potato chips

Corinne: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic, cilantro, scallions

Erin: 4 cheese M&C, Baked M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic, scallions

Kelly: Baked M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, potato chips

Andrew #2: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, roasted cauliflower, pancetta, roasted red peppers, jalapeno, fresh black pepper

Tim: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, bacon, roasted red peppers, garlic, cilantro, potato chips

Adam: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, cauliflower, broccoli, bacon, roasted garlic, jalapeno, fresh black pepper

Bob: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, hot dogs, pancetta, bacon, posted red peppers, garlic chili sauce, cilantro, salt & pepper

Jessica: 4 cheese M&C, pancetta. hot dogs, bacon, roasted garlic, broccoli, scallions, salt

Adam #2: Baked M&C, mushrooms, roasted red peppers. scallions, fresh black pepper

Beth: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, broccoli, salsa, scallions, roasted garlic

Special thanks to:
Tova - for bringing the cake, shredding the cheese and doing more dishes than I thought humanly possible
Erin - for coming over early and helping to keep the chaos to a minimum while chopping all the ingredients for the mix-in bar
Jeremy- for taking all the photos and helping me to have all these crazy little parties at our place

also a big Thank you to Food Buzz for picking my 24, 24, 24 idea out of their submissions! We had a lot of fun today and hope to be able to participate again


Terra Wellness said...

horray! My mouth just watered reading this post. I am so sad I had yoga and missed it. I didn't get out until after 4pm. :(

Erin said...

Carla, you're more than welcome! Thank you for the yummy dinner. And the ice cream! Holy moly I want more of that cinnamon one

Beth said...


pixiekelly said...

yay! that was fun thank you carla!!

Randy said...

YUM. i would put hot dogs, broccoli, cauliflower, mushies, scallions, cilantro, garlic, sirracha, salt and pepp in mine! ok maybe i'd hold off on the hot sauce bc the 4 cheese flavor combo sounds so delicious, wouldn't want to overpower it.

i think the obvious solution is... SECONDS! :)

Corinne said...

Best party of yours I've been to.... drool

The Duo Dishes said...

Woop woop! Mac & cheese all day! This is such a good idea. Looks like pancetta was a popular ingredient.

Julie @SavvyEats said...

I think Robyn's is my favorite. I am intrigued by the addition of potato chips!

Great 24,24,24 submission!

jema said...


Carla said...

Julie... I have to admit I stole the potato chip idea from a local Mac & Cheese bake off near my home in jersey city, NJ - they were so much better than the traditional bread crumbs

thanks so much everyone!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks awesome Carla, wish I were there. auntie

NOELLE said...

Carla! Thanks for entering the giveaway! I like your blog and especially this great post! Oh I also meant to comment on your Pah-eh-ya post too! I speak Spanish and hopefully bring you closer to the correct pronunciation! ;)

brattypants said...

What a wonderful idea! Great choices for the mac & cheese and it seems so fancy! I am definitely going to try this the next time I have people over for dinner!

Tracie said...

This is such a great idea!!! How fun for kids and adults alike. We often do Baked Potato Bar and Salad Bar... I would have never thought of Mac n cheese bar! Thanks for sharing. We will definately be trying this one.

Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers said...

How fun!!

Anyonita said...

that is so cool! :) looks like a great time!

Lily said...


Carla said...

opps... sorry randy I totally accidentally deleted your comment too when I was removing that spam! thanks for the heads up

Dana said...

This is great! We are planning on a mac and cheese bar for my daughters wedding and love the toppings ideas - thanks!

Chen said...

Wow, it looks like The Pioneer Woman read your recipe! She posted this exact idea today! (of course you were a year and a half ahead, lol). Great idea, loved it!

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea for a kid's party too!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for this! I was contemplating a mac & cheese bar for my lunch bunch, and this is exactly what I needed to help me think it through. Also, the roasted cauliflower is a reeeeeeally good call. Yum.

Anonymous said...

When she has give-a-ways...because she loves us....No, she is given a fee for doing this and then the sponsor gets thousands of people's emails, sizes who all hope to win.

Business, a brand, not that she 'loves us'.

She can have the business but be honest about it.

In scenes shown that were cut from the show, the kids, Marlboro Man and she act more everyday normal, not ranchy, and somewhat affected by the camera, liking it all.

Big deal about "egg in the hole".

This is a big business, they were doing well when they got married, nice honeymoon and all, his business and stocks....I am glad it has done well for them, but I feel the show gives a false impression.....this is Ree in designer clothes, and a fancy ranch, Lodge, and a family who travels on expensive vacations. I have no doubt she enjoyed her new life and had new experiences, but the books, program, endorsements have gotten too much. The books about her dog. She has lost that original flare. Some of her work is insulting...such as her favorite candles. Who cares? Does everyone have to turn Hollywood for money?

One season, one book was enough.

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