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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Nina’s Top 5 Halloween Treats

Since Halloween falls on my birthday month I’m usually very festive and happy around this time of the year!  I usually get into the mood but this year has been kind of hectic and I wasn’t able to make my own Halloween treats so I picked some of my favorites that you can still make in time to enjoy the holiday.  I did attempt to make some caramel apples but…let’s just say my microwave turned into a caramel nightmare so that idea was out!  Have a wonderful Happy Halloween NCJ Peeps!

♥ Nina

Pumpkin Patch Puffs from Table Spoon


Roasted Pumpkin Pasta from Annie’s Eats


Caramel Apples from Paula Deen


Crisp Candy-Corn Treats from Martha Stewart


Candy Corn Martinis from The Slow Roasted Italian


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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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Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I recommend chopping and mincing all of your ingredients before you begin cooking to cut down on prep time.  This way everything will be ready for you to use and you won’t have to stop along the way to cut vegetables or shred cheese.



2 medium sized zucchini (8 ounces each), trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch coins

2 medium sized summer squash (6 ounces each), trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch coins

2 large sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 large red onion, trimmed and cut into 1 inch wedges

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 3/4 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

12 dried lasagna noodles

6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese



  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Spread zucchini, squash, red peppers and onion in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets; coat generously with the nonstick cooking spray.  Sprinkle vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and transfer vegetables to a bowl.
  3. Pulse mushrooms in a food processor or dice with a knife until finely chopped.  Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms to skillet.  Cook, stirring for 6 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated.  Reduce heat to medium; stir in garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; continue to cook 1 minute.
  4. Add butter to skillet and cook until melted.  Add flour and cook 1 minute, stirring.  Add milk and nutmeg to skillet and increase heat to medium-high.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley and all the basil.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook noodles according to package instructions, about 9 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.
  6. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Stir together Fontina and Parmesan.  Spread 1/2 cup mushroom sauce into bottom of baking dish, then place 3 noodles in dish.  Pour another 1/2 cup sauce over noodles, then sprinkle 1/3 of the vegetables and 1/2 cup of cheese mixture over sauce.  Repeat layering twice.  Top with three noodles, pour the rest of the sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  7. Cover dish with nonstick aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Raise heat to 500 degrees, remove foil and cook for another 12 minutes or until browned.  Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and let stand 15 minutes before serving.


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Seafood Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Before you look at the amount of butter in this dish let me be the first to tell you this is definitely one of those meals reserved for special occasions when you feel like cheating a little.  So with that said of course this dish is yummy!  I am a huge fan of any type of seafood and I grew up with my dad making fish all the time.  So this is a family favorite!  Best served with garlic bread so you can dip it in the extra sauce on your plate.  You can thank me later.


Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • 1 (8 ounce) jar clam juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste



  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. In a large skillet add the olive oil and butter. Heat until butter is melted. Add the garlic and saute until tender.
  3. Season with shrimp and scallops with salt & pepper.  Add the scallops and shrimp to the pan. Cook until shrimp is pink, about 10 minutes. Add clam juice, salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes more.
  4. To the cooked pasta add the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest, toss. Pour seafood mixture over the linguine, serve immediately.


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