The easy way to make almost any Tater Tot casserole is with Cream of Mushroom soup. I’ll go one step further and say, almost any casserole dish you find on the internet involves Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup. But, this one is a simple little T.T. casserole that can be made in minutes from scratch, and, it has sausage gravy in it! Let’s make it.

As usual with my recipes, it only feeds 2-3 people. That’s an 8-inch cast-iron skillet in the photos.


  • 4 ounces Jimmy Dean sausage
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 8 ounces tater tots
  • Chopped chives or green onions
  • Sour cream – opt.


  • To a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sausage and crumble. Add the minced onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and smashing, for about 7 minutes, until the sausage is cooked and the onions have softened.
  • Add 1 tbsp of butter then 1 tbsp of flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Whisk in the cream and bring to a simmer just to let it thicken a bit. Lower heat and cook about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small baking dish or small cast-iron skillet with cooking spray.
  • Add the gravy to the skillet, then top with the shredded cheddar.
  • Whisk the eggs with 2 tbsp milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese, eggs, and gravy evenly.
  • Top the casserole with the tater tots in a circular pattern. Bake for 35 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with chopped chives or green onions. Enjoy!


This is an incredible Summer style pasta salad I have made a few times recently.

We love pasta salads with either rotini, macaroni, or ditalini pasta, red bell peppers, red onion, sliced black olives, parmesan cheese, and Italian style dressing. But this one caught my eye one day a few weeks ago…so, we made it. Wow, it’s really flavorful, creamy, and easy to make.

One of the keys is a “pantry hack” of using Ranch dressing mix. It add so much to a lot of things just using a half teaspoon or so. Most of the time, I made it without the leftover cooked chicken, but that is an option that makes it more of a meal. Finished with cubed avocado and fresh, ripe diced tomatoes, this salad is creamy, cool, and goes so well with almost anything. Its got everything!

The photo is without chicken, so don’t look for it! The only other thing I would add is sliced olives, but I was out of at the time.


  • 4-5 ounces of rotini pasta, colored or plain
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, sub whole milk if you want
  • 1/2 tsp Ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives or green onions
  • 2 thick slices of bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh diced tomatoes
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped – optional
  • Fresh cracked black pepper


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. I suggest cooking all the way (not al dente). Drain and rinse. Chill in the refrigerator.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, butter milk, and Ranch dressing mix.
  • Add the cooked pasta, celery, and chives and fold in, mixing well.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and fold into the salad. Season with fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.


Think marinara sauce on steroids. Spicy, garlicky marinara sauce with an attitude.

Arrabiata sauce gets its heat from red pepper flakes. This recipe is moderately spicy, but not fire-breathing. Adjust the red pepper flakes to your liking.

And, yes, “arrabbiata” means “angry”. The “angry” from the spicy part. Of course, the garlic helps as well.

A couple of tips…cook the (whole) garlic cloves in the olive oil in very low heat. It’s almost a confit. Let it get a bit brown, but be careful not to burn it as garlic gets extremely bitter when burnt…add a little sugar or honey near the end if your sauce is either too spicy or just bitter. The butter and cream really helps make this version very smooth and elegant…and more tame.

Penne is the pasta of choice for Arrabbiata sauce. The ridges on penne lend well to holding the sauce. Speaking of that, don’t skimp on the sauce when serving. I used 6 ounces of penne in this and it could have taken 8 ounces.



  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (5-6 cloves) of garlic, peeled
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil leaves + more for serving
  • 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano
  • 6-8 ounces dry penne pasta
  • Fresh grated parmesan


  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the olive oil and the whole peeled garlic. Let the garlic cook slowly, stirring, for about 15 minutes. Do not burn. Golden brown is O.K. Remove the garlic to a small bowl.
  • Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse about 2-3 times to just crush. Add the cooked garlic and pulse 2-3 more times.
  • Pour the tomatoes in the same saucepan you cooked the garlic in with the olive oil. Add the fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, red wine, and Romano cheese. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Add 2 tbsp cold butter and 1/2 cup cream. Stir in and bring to a simmer. Taste and reseason if necessary. Stir in 2 tbsp of chopped fresh basil.
  • Cook the penne just short of al dente, about 13 minutes.
  • Using a wire spider, scoop out the cooked pasta into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 2-3 minutes to finish cooking the pasta.
  • To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with grated parmesan and more chopped fresh pasta.


So, what the hell is a Pub Burger anyway? Well…almost any burger you want to call a Pub Burger is exactly that…a Pub Burger. It’s a trendy name given out to some burgers served in American Pubs a few years ago. That’s right, I said “American Pubs”. Apparently, no authentic British pub owner in Britain knows what the hell a Pub Burger is. I guess any burger in an English pub in England is technically a pub burger. Like French Fries in France are just called…fries? Actually, French Fries were invented in Belgium, but don’t tell the French that! Point taken. With that known, let’s push on.

One thing usually agreed upon is that a Pub Burger must be made from fresh-ground beef, usually brisket is involved. The actual patty is right around 1/2 pound or more. And, it should be well-seared and not gray inside. That’s right…it should be medium-ish…with a little pink inside. There is also something called Pub Burger sauce that is quite distinctive. It’s made with mayonnaise, soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and fresh chives and garlic. In my “pub”, it also has blue cheese, crispy onions, and is served on a brioche bun, that, with any luck, will be fresh made at home! So, wish me luck on that last thing. I’ve always been a glutton for punishment.

For cooking the patty…if I owned a fire-breathing gas barbecue, I would char-broil it on that. If I owned a charcoal barbecue, I would cook it on that. That leaves me with two choices. I could crank up my Pit Boss smoker to “fire-breathing” levels, or…sear the hell out of it at my stove on my cast-iron ribbed skillet. The latter being my choice as the temperatures around here are supposed to hover around 105 for a few days when I plan to make this…I don’t want to be outside during this time!

Minimal condiments, though that is entirely up to you. A fresh-ground, 8-10 ounce patty will be the star of the show. Don’t overcook it, beyond Medium is frowned up with pub burgers! And, I’m afraid a fork will be necessary…but, have at it by hand if you’re eating at home. Lots of napkins!


  • Choice, fresh-ground beef – I used brisket, chuck, short ribs
  • Brioche buns
  • Crispy Onions
  • Crispy Bacon

For the Pub Sauce”

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Worestershire
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  • In a small bowl, mix together all the pub sauce ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator.
  • Grind your beef using the coarse chili grind die. I use my grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid. You can also use a food processor and pulse the beef until it is coarse ground. Don’t let it get mushy. If you don’t want to grind your own, at least have your butcher grind some fresh for you. Ask or a mixture of brisket, chuck, and short ribs. He will love you for it!
  • Weight out 8-10 ounce patties. Don’t smash or compress too much, but make them slightly wider than your buns. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a cast-iron griddle over high heat (I used a ribbed griddle). When the griddle is smoking hot, put on your patties. I used a press to keep it against the griddle. When you have achieved a dark crust or grill marks, flip over and cook until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness. Do not over cook. I cook mine Medium (130 degrees) with some pink in the middle.
  • When you turn over the patty, add a handful of blue cheese crumbled then cover the patty with a pan lid to help melt the cheese.
  • Lightly butter your brioche buns and griddle until golden brown. Slather some pub sauce on the bottom bun.
  • When your patty is done, place on the bottom bun. Top with some crispy fried onions, I used French’s this time though I sometimes make my own.
  • Place a few half slices of crispy bacon on the onions then place the top bun.
  • Grab a handful of napkins.
  • By the way, the pub burger sauce is also an excellent French fry sauce.


By definition, a “charro” is a Mexican cowboy. The name Charro Beans comes from that. Charro Beans are also sometimes referred to as Ranch Beans. These beans were made on the ranches of Northern Mexico and have been adopted by modern BBQ circles as Ranch Beans. Whatever you would like to call them, Charro Beans are the best thing you can do to pinto beans!

Now, if there are 10,675,999 kitchen in the world that make Charro Beans…there are 10,675,999 recipes for these. Personally, I have made Ranch Beans for Santa Maria BBQ’s hundreds of times., tough I tend to use Pinquito beans for this. Pintos work very well and are more flavorful in my opinion. It seems each time I make it a little differently than the last. But this recipe hits the mark for myself and Loretta. Yes, even Loretta loved them…and she is not a bean soup lover. Charro Beans are really a Pinto Bean Soup if made traditionally. And, as a bonus, leftover Charro Beans make the most incredibly delicious Refried Beans. I will include some directions for Refried Beans as well.

Charro Beans go well with any BBQ’d protein. Serve them in a small bowl or ramekin. Or, in a larger bowl as an entree with soft, warm flour tortillas. Top with chopped onion and cilantro.

By the way, anyone or any recipe that tells you to cook the beans for 45 minutes to 1 hour is wrong! I see this all the time in beans recipes and I wonder what those cooks were smoking when they wrote that recipe. It takes much longer…and more time is better than less time. More cooking time also means more flavor with beans.

You will be shocked at how simple this is…..


  • 1/2 lb, about 1 1/2 cups, pinto beans
  • 2 thick slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 cup diced white onions
  • 1 jalapeño, halved, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Chopped white onion and cilantro for topping
  • Lard or bacon fat (for the refried beans)


  • Soak the pinto beans overnight in water. The next day, rinse and drain the beans, looking for any rock or other errant material.
  • Add the beans, stocks, and enough water to cover the beans by abut 1 1/2 inches. Turn the heat to high.
  • Add all the ingredients except for the toppings and lard and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Check the beans for tenderness by biting into one. If the beans appear nice and tender, remove the cover and continue to cook another 20-30 minutes if you want the liquid a little thicker. This will also intensify the flavor.
  • Place in a bowl and top with diced onions and cilantro if desired.

For the Refried Beans:

  • Place small to medium cast-iron skillet or any heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 tbsp of lard or bacon fat. Butter or vegetable oil will work but the flavor profile will not be the same.
  • Using a slotted spoon, place a cup or two of the Charro Beans in the skillet. A little of the liquid is O.K., you may need more to keep the refried beans moist and creamy.
  • With the back of the slotted spoon, start smashing the beans to your desired consistency. Some people like to leave then a little chunky. Add more fat and beans water if they get too dry. They should be creamy, not heavy and clumpy. Turn heat, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Serve topped with Monterey Jack cheese and grated Cotija and tortillas chips for a dip.


Oh…and there is bacon on the inside as well!

So, what makes it Danish? Some ingredients that I put in Swedish Meatballs and Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)…allspice and nutmeg. The bacon is an embellishment on my part. I’m Danish…I’m allowed!

A couple of tips I use for any meatloaf recipe. First, I minced the bacon and onions in a small food processor, then saute them for about 10 minutes. Second, I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer to combine all the ingredients…wet stuff first, then the meat. Third, I dump it all in a parchment paper-lined loaf pan, and mold it as round as possible. Then, lift it out with the parchment paper and place on the bacon laid out on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Did I tell you I hate mashing meatloaf up with my hands? I’m not alone. Let it sit about 15 minutes before serving, or, like I am doing, let it sit in the fridge overnight for Meatloaf Sandwiches…another blog post on the way. There is an optional Honey BBQ Chipotle Bourbon glaze recipe below as well.


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 8 slices bacon, divided
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn in pieces
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard

For the glaze:

  • In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s or Bullseye), 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp bourbon, and 1/2 tsp minced chipotles in adobo. After the meatloaf cooks to 165 degrees, slather the glaze across the top, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and cook for about 3 minutes until the glaze has caramelized.


  • Chop 3 slices of bacon. Add the bacon and diced onions to a small food processor and process until just minced.
  • Place the bacon and onions in a small saucepan and cook for about 8 minutes until the bacon is rendered and the onions are soft. Place in a small bowl in the refrigerator until cool, about 10 minutes.
  • Place the torn bread and the cream in the bowl of the stand mixer and let soak for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the egg yolks, onion and bacon mixture, chopped parsley, granulated garlic, slat, pepper, Worcestershire, all spice, nutmeg, and dry mustard. Attach the pallet and mix on low for about 2 minutes.
  • Crumble the ground beef and ground pork into the mixer bowl. Mix on low for about 5 minutes, scraping down the side occasionally.
  • Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.
  • Place a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet.
  • Cut some parchment paper the length of your loaf pan. Spray the pan with pan spray. Press the parchment paper into the loaf pan letting the long sides hang over. Spray the parchment paper.
  • Dump the meatloaf mixture into the parchment line loaf pan and try to mold it as round as possible by picking up the paper and squeezing it slightly.
  • On the wire rack, place about 5 slices o bacon side by side. Lift out the meatloaf and place on the bacon slices. Careful roll the meatloaf onto the slices, removing the parchment paper. Wrap the bacon slices around the meat loaf, then gently roll the meatloaf over onto the bacon seam side.
  • Bake in the 360 degree oven for about 55 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Add the glaze if using, turn up the oven to 425 and cook another 3 minutes until the glaze has set.
  • Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  • I like to serve mine with Yukon Gold Hand-whipped Potatoes.


Around the 1980’s, we had the Monterey Chicken Sandwich (adding Swiss cheese to a grilled chicken sandwich). Now, Spicy Crispy Chicken sandwiches are the rage. We love them. However, not all of us like some of the fire-breathing, super spicy recipes that abound on the internet. Give me a little heat, and that’s it.
And, this is it: a Crispy Chicken Bacon Club Sandwich with a whisper of heat by way of Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce (thick Buffalo Wing Sauce) in the buttermilk. Wait! Don’t run away thinking you need a deep fryer…you don’t. This chicken breast is made like a chicken schnitzel cutlet, fried yes, but pounded very thin, Panko-breaded, and sautéed in a little oil in a non-stick skillet. Whew…that was a mouthful! And, it is built on a soft sandwich roll with plenty of cool, crispy shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and an easy-to-make garlic parmesan aioli. If any of this sounds good, then read on. It makes 2 sandwiches.


  • One 12 ounce boneless chicken breast, butterflied in half
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 soft sandwich rolls
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp granulated laric
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • Canola oil
  • Garlic Parmesan Aioli (recipe below)
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 4 thin slices Swiss cheese
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce

Garlic Parmesan Cream sauce:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of Kosher salt


  • Place all of the Garlic Parmesan Aioli in a small food processor and process until smooth. Place in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Set up 3 flat bowls for breading. In the first bowl, place 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp granulated garlic, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp paprika, and a pinch of Kosher salt and mix well. In the second bowl, place 1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce, and 2 tbsp buttermilk. In the third bowl, place 1 cup of panko crumbs and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and mix well.
  • Pound the chicken breast halves to 3/8 inch thick. Dredge each one in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Dip in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Then coat the breast with the panko crumbs. Place the breasts on a dry plate and get ready to fry them.
  • In a medium skillet, heat about 1/4 inch of canola oil. When the oil has reached 350 degrees, fry the breasts until golden brown on each side and the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Drain on a wire rack over a sheet pan and build the sandwich immediately.
  • To build the sandwich, grill the sandwich rolls until golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • On the bottom bun, spread on some mayonnaise. Add the crispy chicken breast. Top with Swiss cheese if desired. Add cooked bacon then add sliced tomatoes. Add the shredded iceberg. Spread the garlic parmesan aioli on the top bun and place on the sandwich.

How I Smoked a Beef Brisket on my Pit Boss pellet Smoker

This was my 6th Beef Brisket smoke in my Pit Boss Pellet Smoker. I think it has been about a year since I’ve done one of these bad boys.

Undeniably, the flagship of Texas BBQ, the brisket is highly revered in barbecue circles. Before I describe my method, I feel I should clear up some terminology.

True “barbecue” means long, slow, cooks at relatively low temperatures. Compared to “grilling’ which is fast cooking over very high temperatures. The difference between the two is wide, although they have two things in common: heat and meat. I don’t correct people who claim to be good “barbecuers” because they can grill a steak or a hot dog on the BBQ. And, I do not get into debates with purists barbecuers about method or ingredients. Kind of like religion and politics…I don’t go there!

A few years ago, I got a Traeger pellet smoker. I had it a few years and used it a lot. At some point, I decided to sell it to my neighbor since I wasn’t using it anymore. Low and behold, I got the itch again to “smoke” and decided to buy a Pit Boss pellet smoker. I love it. Very similar to all the other pellet smokers on the market, but, in my opinion, it is built better than some.

By the way, the other topic for barbecuer debate is whether or not pellet smokers are a viable part of the BBQ/smoker community. Most competitions now do allow pellet smokers, some put them in a separate division. But some competitions don’t have a stand alone division, and, believe it or, pellet smokers do just as well in blind taste testing as traditional wood BBQ smokers. Let’s get to my 12-hour brisket smoking journey. The times are approximate.

This is the Austin, Texas style of brisket cooking. No seasoning other than salt and pepper. And no BBQ sauce while it cooks. Savor the flavor of the beef.


  • One approximately 10-12 lb beef brisket
  • Kosher salt and Coarse black pepper


  • This first part is pretty subjective, so bear with me. Trim the brisket. Many briskets from grocery stores are trimmed of excess fat already. But, they may need some attention. Try to keep the fat cap around 1/2 inch or less. Also, it may need some trimming to make it more uniform. Check out any number of videos on line and watch a grill master do it. The one I got, a Prime Beef Brisket from Costco, didn’t need a lot of trimming. But, I did take a 12 lb brisket and cut it down to about 10 lb by removing excess fat and some trim for grinding burger meat later on. I also saved the fat to render for beef tallow.
  • Season your trimmed brisket on both sides with a 50/50 Kosher salt and coarse black pepper mixture. Don’t be shy, it’s a thick cut of beef so season it liberally then rub it in. I like to do this the night before and cover with plastic in the refrigerator. Getting up at 5am to start a brisket is hard enough…I don’t want to have to season this beast half asleep!
  • The next steps are what I use to “schedule” my brisket cooking:
  • 5:15am – Start your smoker on “Smoke” setting and letting it run for about 5 minutes to start producing clean smoke.
  • 5:20am – Turn smoker to 250 degrees. The ideal temperature is supposedly 265 degrees, but mine doesn’t not have that option or increment. Let it come to temperature, about 10 minutes.
  • 5:30am – Place the seasoned brisket on the grill grate fat side up. If you are using a traditional smoker, place the thick end closest to the heat source. Insert the temperature probe in the thickest part.
  • Monitor the heat and make sure it stays right around 250-265 degrees.
  • 8:30am – Check that the internal temperature of the brisket is 160 degrees. If not, let it go a little further.
  • 8:30am – Double wrap the brisket in butcher paper. If you don’t have butcher paper, use foil. Place back in the smoker.
  • 11:00am – Check that the temperature is 203 degrees. If it is, turn off the smoker, and let it sit for another 30 minutes.
  • 11:30am – this step seems unusual, but makes for the most buttery tender brisket…and that is what you want. Get yourself 2 old large bath towels. Wrap the brisket, still in the foil, in the two towels.Then, place the brisket is a large drink cooler, Close the lid and let it sit about 3 hours. Here is what happened when I monitored the internal temperature over the afternoon.
  • 12:00pm – 196 degrees
  • 1:30pm – 180 degrees
  • 2:00pm – 175 degrees
  • 2:30pm – 172 degrees
  • 3:00pm – 168 degrees
  • 4:00pm – 160 degrees

Don’t be tempted to open the foil or peak during this period or you will lose some valuable heat. As you can see, by 4:00pm, the internal temperature of the brisket (160 degrees) is still well about the danger zone of 140 degrees.

Before removing from the smoker, check the tenderness. Use a skewer or cake tester and insert it into the brisket. It should be butter tender.

4:00pm – at this point, depending on when you want to eat, unwrap the brisket and place inside on a butcher black, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 45-60 minutes before slicing.

Slice against the grain any way you like. Serve with slices of white bread and your favorite BBQ sauce on the side. Cole slaw goes well also!


Mac and Cheese…Macaroni and Cheese. We all love it. Most of us have made it. It’s easy to make. So why doesn’t it always come out they way we like it? Dried out. Too thick. Too thin. Not enough cheesy taste. Well, here’s the solution to making the BEST AND CREAMIEST MAC AND CHEESE ever.

What’s in most Mac and Cheese recipes? Butter…milk…cheese…and some sort of thickener, like flour. For the most part, it’s the flour that is responsible for the downfall of a lot of Mac and Cheese recipes. It can make it pasty, too thick, and taste like…flour! Sure, if you cook it enough, the flour taste will cook out. Heck, we make a lot of other things with that combination…it’s called a Béchamel Sauce. It’s one of the exalted Mother Sauces. But, not all of us know how to make Béchamel properly, or, just don’t take the time to make it properly. So, let’s take flour out of the equation.

So, wait, won’t it be too thin? How do we thickened it for Mac and Cheese. The answer: Cream instead of milk. Reduced cream to be more specific. Yes, using cream does take a bit more time than using a milk and flour béchamel, but it is well worth the extra effort.

The other recipe element that can cause epic Mac and Cheese failures is the cheese itself. USE GOOD CHEESE! Which kind of cheese you use depends on your preference…cheddar…Gruyere…cream cheese…Velveeta…it’s up to you. Just buy good, quality cheese, especially cheddar. Cheap cheddar doesn’t melt or blend well in a cheese sauce.

So, be patient. Try this creamiest of creamy Mac and Cheese method and you will be extremely please on the results of your new Mac and Cheese recipe.

By the way, how do you like your Mac and Cheese? With or without a crumbly Panko topping?


  • 5 ounces of Cavatappi or other curly short pasta
  • 1 3/4 cups cream
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter plus 1 tbsp
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Panko crumbs – opt.


  • Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, about 8-9 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain and keep warm.
  • Place a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter begins to melt, add the cream. Bring it to a simmer, stirring, for about 8 minutes until it reduces slightly.
  • Add the cheeses and stir to combine, allowing the cheese to melt thoroughly. If it is too thick, add a little reserved pasta water to thin. It should not be thick, it should be a sauce consistency (coating the back of a spoon).
  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Place the cooked, warm pasta in a large bowl then add the cheese sauce. It should be thin. With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold it all together completely. Place the Mac and Cheese in a pan-sprayed baking dish.
  • Combine the Panko with 1 tbsp melted butter and mix thoroughly. Spread over the top of the Mac and Cheese. This is optional.
  • Place in the broiler until the top is golden brown.
  • Garnish with chopped chives or green onions if desired.


In our house, it’s just myself and my wife Loretta for meals. On occasion, we have people over for dinner, but, for the most part, it’s just the two of us. So, a lot of my recipes are geared to two people. Two older people who just don’t pack it in like they used to. We eat less!

When I make soups, the recipe will be enough for one meal then two more stored in the freezer. Anything complicated with a long list of ingredients, I will make a bigger rendition. So many things always taste better the next day…and I love leftovers.

This is my super simple, chicken taco recipe that makes about 3 tacos…4-5 if you use those little street tacos. The recipe calls for bone in, skin on chicken thighs, but you could certainly use boneless skinless thighs. Breasts will be a bit dry and not at all as flavorful, just keep that in mind.

You do need a ripe avocado for the Avocado Ranch Sauce. Ripe tomatoes help as well. Here we go….


  • 2 medium size bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (boneless thighs will work also)
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp Taco style seasoning mix
  • 1/2 cup salsa (I like to use Pace)
  • Mexican rice (recipe below)
  • Avocado Ranch Dressing (recipe below)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Grated Cotija cheese
  • 3-4 corn tortillas


  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and your taco seasoning mix. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add 2 tsp of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the thighs to the saucepan skin side down and let it brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side. Remove the thighs to a plate.
  • Drain the oil from the saucepan and add 1/2 cup water to deglaze the pan. Keep the heat on medium and add the salsa. Let it come to simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  • Place the browned chicken thighs in a small baking dish. Pour the salsa and water from the saucepan over the chicken. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked to 165 degrees. When the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let cool lightly. Remove the skin and bones and shred the meat with two forks. Add some of the cooking liquid from the baking dish to the chicken and mix in. Cover and keep warm.
  • For the tortillas, either fry them for a few seconds in oil to soften, or soften them on a hot griddle. You also could use flour tortillas if that is what you prefer.
  • To assemble, add some Mexican rice to the tortilla. Top with the cooked chicken. Add Avocado Ranch Cream, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, grated Cotija, and sour cream.

For the Avocado Ranch Cream

  • To a small food processor, add 2 tbsp sour cream, 1/4 cup cream cheese (softened), 1 tsp dry Ranch dressing mix, a couple dashes of Tabasco, 2 tbsp buttermilk (milk works as well), pinch of black pepper. Pulse the processor until the mixture is smooth.
  • Mash a ripe avocado to your favorite consistency. Fold the Ranch mixture and the 2 tbsp chopped cilantro together in a bowl. Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

For the Mexican rice

  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp canola oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/2 cup rice and stir to brown the rice for about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3/4 cup of chicken stock mixed with 1/4 cup salsa to the rice and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to very low, cover, and cook about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the liquid has cooked out, turn off the heat, fluff with a fork, add 2 tbsp chopped cilantro and keep warm.