Ridiculous, Cheesy, Perfection

I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve!!!

I had a fabulous Pre-Christmas weekend with my family (I’ll recap it after today’s recipes!!) But  good heavens, I can’t wait to get home tomorrow, hunker down with some Wonton Soup and Sesame Chicken from our favorite Chinese take-out place, snuggle up on the couch, and watch Santa Claus is Coming to Town!! We will also be exchanging gifts with my husband’s family – which they do on Christmas Eve. I will also shamelessly prepare a big pan of break-and-bake chocolate chip cookies to enjoy.  This is the way I’ve spent every Christmas Even for quite some time now and it’s traditions like these that I love and I think make the holidays so special?? What do you and your family do on Christmas Eve? What is your FAVORITE holiday tradition?  

Now last week I promised I would share a recipe with you that, I’m telling you, is the epitome of ridiculous, cheesy, perfection.  To cut through the richness of this AMAZING mac & cheese, I served it with a light kale and pomegranate salad. This salad is pretty fabulous, too, I can’t lie to you. It’d be great as a meal all on it’s on with a nice piece of bread to go with it. It’d also be great with a little crumbled feta or goat cheese in the mix. However, I didn’t think 6 cheeses were necessary on the evening I prepared this! I will share that recipe below, too!!

macandsalad

 

5 Cheese Pancetta Mac & Cheese

  • 2 lbs cavatappi pasta, or pasta of your choice
  • 1 lb white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 oz diced pancetta
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat free milk
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg

Begin by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high  heat in a large pot or sauce pan. Add the pancetta and onion and saute until the pancetta is crisp and the onions begin to soften and caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining butter and flour and stir well to combine. Let the flour mixture cook for about 3 minutes, until the flour begins to brown. Slowly whisk in the 2 cups of milk and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the cream cheese cubes and continue to whisk until the cream cheese melts into the mixture.

Combine the remaining cheeses in a large bowl, and reserve 1/2 cup for topping.

Add the remaining cheeses to the cream cheese mixture and whisk very well until all of the cheese is melted. This sauce will be on the thicker side.  Keep whisking.  Add the black pepper and nutmeg. Whisk a bit more.

Drain the pasta just shy of al dente and add it directly to the cheese sauce. Fold the pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer it to a large baking dish sprayed with a little nonstick spray. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and place in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and brown.

Let sit for about 5 minutes before digging in!!

macandcheese

 

Kale and Pomegranate Salad

For the Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced fine
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar or a container with a tight fitting lid. Make sure the lid is secure and shake, shake, shake until everything is combined! Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking.

For the Salad

  • 2 cups kale leaves, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1 large pear, sliced thin
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine all of the ingredients in  a large salad bowl. Toss well to combine and add as much dressing as you like! This salad is safe to make an hour or two ahead of time, as kale is sturdy enough to hold up to the dressing!!

kalesalad

 

If you make either of these recipes, please let me know how the come out for you!!!

Now onto my weekend recap!!! We spent Friday night in NYC with Bill and Susan and had a fabulous Italian Dinner at Daniela on 8th Avenue. The muscles were amazing and I ate my fill of them and sopped up the ridiculous creamy tomato broth with the hot, fresh bread they provided. Susan and I went splitsies on Penne al la Vodka, which was perfect – and a linguine dish in a garlic white wine sauce with calamari, muscles, and clams. You couldn’t pick a favorite!!

Of course we stopped by the tree in Rockefeller Center!! The weather was a bit warmer than we anticipated, so there was no snow on the ground. It was lovely to walk around and not freeze, though!!

Here is my obligatory photo with the hubs by the tree!! It’s so pretty. I love it so much.

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Saturday, we met up with some of my extended family for dinner at the Palisades Mall and had a fabulous time!! Here are some photos of the action!

Me & My Papa Bear
I always have the worst eyes in pictures!!! But here I am with my Dad!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's Susan and I being pretty and wearing adorable scarves!!
Here’s Susan and I being pretty and wearing adorable scarves!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I photo bomed their picture with Uncle Santa!
I photo bombed Bill and Susan’s picture with Uncle Santa…muhuhaha!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me, Chris, Johnny, Uncle Bob, & Sarah
Here I am with my little brother Chris, Johnny, my little sister Sarah, and my Uncle Bob (Santa!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wonderful time was had by all!!! We exchanges cookies and wine (among other gifts) and enjoyed our holiday time together!!

Sunday morning Susan and I met up with our great friend Desirae for breakfast at my most favorite diner. I finally met Desirae’s boyfriend and we discussed our little buns in the oven! I’m afraid I have no photos of that to share, but it’s all good.

Johnny and I ended our weekend meeting up with Melinda and Kyle and our friend Sue, her husband Matt, and their little man Juddah, who is probably the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen!!

Finally, woo this has been a marathon post, I’d like to wish my mother and her best friend Debbie BOTH a very happy birthday!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMA & DEBBIE!! 

That’s all for now, folks!!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!!

XX/OO

 

 

 

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