Baked Mac n Cheese

Every family has their holiday traditions and my family is no different.  My mom makes the dressing, turkey and cakes while my Dad makes the greens, sweet potatoes, mac n cheese and sweet potato pie.  The peach cobbler has become my specialty but this year I decided to help my parents make Thanksgiving dinner with the hopes that when I have my own family someday I won’t burn the house down!


I know the turkey is the star of Thanksgiving but in my family baked mac n cheese is just as important.  My Dad tried many recipes and methods before making the perfect version and even though this is not his recipe it’s pretty darn good.  Don’t tell them I said this, but my sisters are mac n cheese snobs and they ate the whole pan, lol.  So I would call that a major success.

This year I’ll be peeking over my Dad’s shoulder to see what he puts in his mac n cheese so hopefully I’ll be making an update to this post in the near future 😉  In the meantime enjoy!

♥ Nina



2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add onion and saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk, salt, mustard and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture boils and thickens.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.  Do not over cook or macaroni will be mushy.

Add the cheddar and American cheeses; stir until cheese melts. Combine macaroni, 1 cup of mild cheddar and cheese sauce in a 2 quart baking dish; mix well.  Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with remaining cheddar and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.   If you like a brown crust on your macaroni, broil on low heat for 3-5 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.


*An NCJ Original*


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Baked Ziti with Spicy Italian Sausage

When cooking for someone have you ever heard them say, “What’s in that?” “I’ve never tasted that!”. LOL  Well it seems like whenever I make something out of the ordinary my family is hesitant to taste something new which drives me crazy! I am such a huge foodie and I love to try new and exotic dishes so sometimes I forget that not everyone likes to experiment like I do.

So I let my sister Ashley pick something that I would cook for the whole family that they’ve had before and would no doubt love.  This is what she came up with and even though I hate to admit it she was right.  My family loved loved loved this dish and even ate all the leftovers.  I guess sometimes you’ve got to go back to the basics and keep it simple.

This would be a great dish to make for a large gathering or party.  You can make it in advance and warm it in the oven right before serving.  I promise this dish is delicious and you and your guests will love it.



1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided

Table salt

1 lb. ziti

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

20 oz. spicy turkey Italian sausage

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided

Ground black pepper

3/4 tsp. cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)

8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces



Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned.

Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.


Adapted from: Annie’s Eats


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French Toast Casserole

Yesterday was my Mom and my sister Ashley’s birthday so I decided to make an extra special birthday breakfast!  It’s pretty cool to have both of their birthdays on the same day…twice as much fun, right?  Also, my sister is home from college so it’s nice to be able to spend the day with her and my whole family.

I have to admit I’ve had this recipe for about a year but never had the occasion to make it until now.  However, now that I have tried it this will definitely be added to my normal breakfast rotation.  Super easy to make and it tastes just like french toast.  It’s also great to make if you cooking for more than 2 people but don’t want to have to make individual french toasts that can get cold while waiting.  This would be delicious with some fresh strawberries and warm maple syrup.


Yield: Serves 6


  • 5 cups bread cubes (I use Texas steak bread)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Powdered Sugar

To make the french toast preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly butter an 8×8 inch casserole dish.  Beat together eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Set aside.  Cut each slice of bread into four cubes and line the bottom of the dish with one layer of bread making sure to fit as many cubes as possible without over crowding the bottom of the dish.  Pour 1/3 of of egg mixture over first layer of bread.  Place the remaining bread cubes on top, again making sure to make a complete layer.  Pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over bread.  Dot with butter and let stand for 10 minutes.

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Sprinkle remaining sugar over the top.  Bake in a preheated oven about 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.



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