Gorgonzola and Fig Mac and Cheese


Gorgonzola and figs. A beautifully seductive pairing.

The gentle sweetness of the figs, folded in after the sauce is cooked, balances the saltiness and bite of the Gorgonzola.

Don’t forget to save a few of the spiky chopped figs to sprinkle on top after the breadcrumbs have turned golden and lovely.

When you consider making this recipe, you’re buying into the fact that it’s going to be mind-blowingly rich, decadent and loaded with flavors that will make you want to “even out the corners” until it’s all gone.

But, honestly, don’t we all deserve a little indulgence every now and then?

cooking know-how: The oven-safe free-standing paper baking cups are perfect for maintaining portion control. My pals at Welcome Home Brands sent me a whole box of disposable paper bakeware earlier in the summer, which I’ve used like a fiend. The loaf pans, baking cups and mini-pans have been a lifesaver as far as the convenience and easy cleanup. Now if they could just figure out a way for this Mac and Cheese to taste this amazing, without all the calories…. Hmmm…



Kitchen Think: Getting Picky Eaters to Eat


Mama doesn’t believe in tricking picky eaters into eating healthy food… especially vegetables.

There are books and blogs dedicated to doing just that, I know. But if you introduce veggies early enough, and in small quantities, you have a better chance of bringing them into the tent.

Kale, the darling of the leafy vegetables world, is the perfect example. Kale used to be hidden in winter soups or boiled to death with other hearty greens.

Now, it’s roasted, sautéed and shredded into salads. There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to Kale recipes.

Kale chips are even being tucked into lunch boxes. Guess what? Kids love them… even the picky eaters. The other day I saw a kid with a green smoothie… WHAT? Kudos to the parents (or the kid) for venturing into territory my kids would NEVER have explored. Picky Eater Pasta

This all goes back to introducing kids to greens early… as soon as their little tummies can digest the fiber.

Mac and cheese, a kid favorite, blends beautifully with finely chopped kale, broccoli or spinach. Start with just a little bit, a teaspoon or two per serving is about right.

Another idea: sauté the chopped leafy veggies in the same pan that you fry bacon. Top with chopped bacon and a little cheese. Easy and delicious and goes great with a meaty main course.

Do your best to get them to eat their veggies. But at the end of the day, DON’T WORRY… they’re not going to starve if they turn their nose up at a dish.


Plated + Served: Bacon Crusted Mac and Cheese Cups


Leftovers don’t bother me… I always look at it like this: “Well, dinner is half-way made, I just need to figure out the rest.”

What DOES make Mama a little high strung is having just a little bit left of something. Too little to feed everyone, too much to throw away.

So… 2 cups of leftover cooked elbow macaroni became a terrific after school snack in the guise of these cute Bacon Crusted Mac and Cheese Cups.

It helps that I always have cheese in the fridge  and that I had leftover panko (Japanese breadcrumbs from a recipe I made last week. You can use regular breadcrumbs, too.

No, leftovers don’t bother me… it’s just that with the crowd at my table, we rarely have them!

Bacon Crusted Mac and Cheese Cups2


Bacon Crusted Mac and Cheese Cups

prep: 15 minutes
cook: 10 to 15 minutes

you’ll need…
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
3 strips cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled

let’s get to it…
oven rack to the center of oven. Spray 6 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Heat oven to 425°F.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add panko and stir over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes or just until panko begins to brown. Remove from heat and stir in chopped bacon; set aside.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat; whisk in the flour and salt and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened. Add the cheese and continue to whisk until melted. Remove from heat. Add beaten egg to sauce and whisk until blended; stir in cooked macaroni.
Spoon Mac and Cheese evenly into muffin cups. Top each with a little panko-bacon mixture.
Bake for 10 minutes or until panko is golden brown. Cool 5 to 7 minutes or until set. Carefully lift out with a spatula and serve.

Plated + Served: Lobster Mac and Cheese


Do you shop at big box stores? Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by something you’ve found there? I mean, something truly unexpected and high-quality… 

Mama usually goes to those stores to buy things the fam uses a lot: laundry detergent, paper plates, toilet paper.

But the other day when I was wandering the aisles marveling at things like the jar of 200 Kosher Dills, I came across a frozen half-pound lobster tail. It was Wild Caught, from the Bahamas (so I know how and where it was fished), and beautiful.

I’ve been wanting to make Lobster Mac and Cheese for a while now because every time I’ve ordered it in a restaurant (well, almost every time), I’ve thought to myself, “I know I can do better.”

And I have. Let me know what you think.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Lobster Mac and Cheese
prep: 20 minutes
cook: 20 minutes
serves: 6 (one-cup serving)

you’ll need…
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
¾ cup breadcrumbs
8 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ lb. cooked rigatoni, penne or cellentani pasta (slightly undercooked)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 Tablespoons garlic, finely minced or pressed
1 Tablespoon finely minced shallots
¼ cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup Gruyère cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt

let’s get to it…
2 Tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir breadcrumbs into melted butter; set aside.
Melt  remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium low heat in a medium sized heavy bottom pan (large enough to hold pasta later). Add celery, garlic and shallots; sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft.
Stir in flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the flour loses its uncooked taste. Increase temperature to medium and, using a whisk, slowly stir in milk and cream and cook until thickened.
Remove sauce from heat and add cheese, ½ cup at a time; whisking constantly. Add the Old Bay Seasoning and salt and whisk until smooth.
Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring gently with a large spoon or rubber spatula to coat the pasta. Stir in the lobster.
Place 6 bowls on a baking sheet and spoon Lobster Mac and Cheese evenly into bowls. Top with prepared breadcrumbs.
Place bowls on baking sheet under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes or until breadcrumbs have browned. Serve immediately.


I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com