Creamy Macaroni & Cheese and Pecan Bars: like money in the bank. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

I honestly don’t remember when our family switched over from boxed macaroni and cheese to the good homemade stuff; I only know I wish I’d done it a whole lot sooner.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Back in the day it took a couple tries to train my growing brood to like it, but now it’s a family favorite, as well as a much-requested potluck dish. I’ve been known to make enormous batches then stash it in casserole dishes of all sizes in the freezer. This makes me feel like I’m ready for anything: it’s like money in the bank.

This is absolutely not a recipe for using skim milk, low-fat cheese, and all that falderal. Go with whole milk and the best cheeses you can afford. You can always take an extra walk or dance to 80s music in the kitchen if you have a caloric concern.

Adding a cup or so of diced ham is a tasty addition, as is lobster, if you like that sort of thing, but since I prefer the original recipe, I add a bit of meat to my Rainbow Chard.

And because I’m nutty over pecan pie, I bake batches of these tasty triangles. These treats keep well in a tin between layers of wax paper, so you have them on hand for holiday gift-giving. After all, it’s Christmas time and there must be cookies for all!
Stayed tuned for a new cookie recipe every week leading up to the 25th.

Gram’s Mac & Cheese

5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
3 1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
5 cups good-quality, extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 ounces elbow macaroni
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.
In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly to make a lightly browned roux for about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk 1 cup at a time. Whisk in salt, dry mustard and pepper sauce. Bring to a simmer, continuing to whisk and cook, until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon, 5-10 minutes. Add cheddar cheese and continue to cook and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, fill another 4-quart pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally for about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander.

Combine the macaroni with the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until bubbly and browned on the edges, about 30-40 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 6-8 servings

Winter Rainbow Chard

1 bunch Rainbow Chard, julienned
8 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil (omit if using bacon)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

Place meat and oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until meat is crisp, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer meat to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Place chard in the hot pan drippings and sauté, tossing occasionally, just until stems become tender and greens are slightly wilted, about 8-10 minutes. Place chard in a serving bowl and set aside.

Whisk vinegar and mustard into the pan and season with pepper. Pour this over the chard and add the meat and almonds, tossing to combine. Serve warm. Yield: 4 servings

Pecan Triangles

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsps. brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch square glass baking pan. In small bowl, mix flour and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Cut in grated butter until dough begins to stick together. Press onto the bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

In a medium bowl, beat 1/2 cup brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and salt. Stir in pecans. Pour over crust and bake for 30-35 minutes until edges are lightly browned and center is firming up. Cool for at least 2 hours then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into 3-inch squares then cut each square into a triangle. Yield: 18 cookies

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