Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Superbowl Snacks

I don't have pictures to share, but for the Superbowl this year I made 2 very successful dishes: 7 Layer Dip & Creamy Mac & Cheese. I've made both before, but I will say that I was particularly proud of my culinary adventure this time.

7 Layer Dip:
1 can (16 oz.) Refried Beans (I used ones that had green chilli's in it to give it an extra kick)
1 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning Mix
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Salsa
1 cup Guacamole (you could make your guac from scratch but I didn't bother this time)
1 cup KRAFT Mexican Style Shredded Cheese (totally worth using this brand of other shredded cheese b/c there's something fantastic about the spices they mix in there
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 Tbsp. sliced pitted ripe olives

I then neatly layered them all in a glass dish (so you can see all the pretty layers), pretty much going down the list from top to bottom. Mix the taco seasoning into the beans as your first layer.

I believe the recipe says you should actually refrigerate it for a few hours before serving. I think mine was in the fridge for 20-30 mins before we put it out.

I got this recipe from one of my co-workers a couple years ago and it has always been a huge success - the Superbowl was no exception.

reamy Mac & Cheese
I volunteered to make two trays of lasagna for the Superbowl because it feeds a lot, is easy, and I've made it so many times I could practically do it in my sleep. Later, it was decided the boys wanted to get Dinosaur BBQ (amazing stuff) so Rajeev volunteered me to make Mac & Cheese. My initial (internal) reaction was one of panic b/c I hadn't make mac and cheese from scratch in at least a couple years. To be fair, I had just been telling Rajeev that I make great Mac & Cheese and should make it for us one day.

I decided that if I was going to make this for 16 people, I'd better do a test run. So I made it once the Friday before (it was great - phewf!) and then made it again for the Superbowl on Sunday. It came out waaaaaaaaay better (which - if I do say so myself, is pretty good considering I thought it was just fine on Friday) on Sunday since I made a few tweaks to the recipe. Here's the final version of the recipe that I used. (It originally came from The New York Times via my friend Monica.)

1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat - I used the highest fat % i could find - 4%)
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked. (this is the best part of this recipe! no cooking noodles in advance!)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. (My notes: The NYT recipes used a temp of 375, but I changed it 350 on Sunday- otherwise the cheese got too hot and once cheese boils its a gooey mess. The NYT recipe also says to grease the bottom of the pan with butter. I didn't do it for the Superbowl and it was just fine, if not better. I made a double recipe that day and it filled 3 aluminum 8 x 8 pans [not sure how deep] from the grocery store. The single recipe from the NYT calls for 1 9 x 9 pan.)

2. With a hand blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 20 minutes. (My Notes: I forgot the mustard when I made it on Sunday and it came out just fine. One trick that I think helped things on Sunday vs. Friday -- I definitely used exactly the right amount of pasta - possibly a bit less than I was supposed to - which added to the creaminess. On Friday I was guesstimating when I poured in the pasta and I think I added a bit more than a 1/2 lb. so it was a bit drier. )

3. Check on it after 20 mins, stir the entire thing, recover, turn the heat up to 375 and cook for another 20 mins.

4. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese (and dot with a tablespoon of butter -- I didn't do this part from the NYT on Sunday. When I did it Friday I felt like I needed to watch to make sure the butter didn't burn and it just added extra grease to all already oily dish. I much preferred it without the extra butter). Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One last note from me -- the NYT recipe said to bake the full hour at 375 and only stir it once. I did that on Friday and it was fine, but I felt like the cheese was sooooo hot and kinda gooey by the end. I used the temps and times described above and I felt like it made the cheese sauce smoother and creamier.

Overall it was a huge success at the Superbowl party. The boys ate every last bite and kept digging in to eat more even when I was shoo-ing them out of the kitchen. :)

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