Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mac & cheese bites

If there's one challenge that will always excite me, it's that involved with planning a party.  My friends know that I will truly look for any excuse to entertain.  New digs, birthdays, holidays, the Academy Awards, and sporting events just to name a few.  I also have a mental list of get-togethers I'd like to throw in the future including, but not limited to, a pie party, an ice cream sundae party, a throwback foods and games from our childhood party, and even a girls only Disney princess party.

Wha?  There's no limit on the age of a Disney princess :)

Thankfully, I needed no creative brainstorming to come up with an idea for this party.  Someone is getting married and obviously wanted a bachelorette party!  I hosted the first part at our apartment before we headed out for a night on the town. 

If you know anything about girls women when they get together for a night of celebrating, it's that they don't want to sit down for a formal four course meal.  They want to laugh, dance, snack, and toast to the bride to be!  And I mean real snacks, not feeble celery sticks.

I think I speak for women everywhere when I say that we want something delicious and substantial... something we actually want to eat.  Snacks that will keep us satisfied without making us run for pants with elastic waistbands.  Don't you know that rabbit food is for the day after celebrating?

In addition to Giant Eagle cake for dessert, per the bride's request exactly one day after she became engaged, I picked a few bite-size finger foods that were almost all semi-homemade.  (Somewhere, Sandra Lee is smiling while downing a  cocktail.) Quick and easy black bean and corn salsa with tortilla chips.  Pretzel bites with three dipping sauces: honey mustard, marinara, and chocolate.  And these mac & cheese bites.

Oh, these mac & cheese bites!  How you satisfied my soul and made up for any bad day I've ever had in life so far.  They were totally mind-blowingly delicious, but I'll get to that.  The real reason I made these was to pay homage to the early years in the bride and groom's relationship.

They met as housemates while in law school and, after evenings out at the bar, would return home in search of munchies.  If they made it past the local pizza shop empty-handed, a Lean Cuisine macaroni and cheese stashed in the freezer would call to them as the only thing to satisfy their late-night hunger.  Two to three minutes later (depending on the microwave model), they'd be sharing that mac and cheese while planted on the couch and recapping the evening's antics.  A few years and many Lean Cuisines later, they fell in love, adopted a cute dog, and are planning to walk down the aisle in a few weeks.  Squee! :)

Macaroni noodles + cheese = True love

Speaking of true love, let's get back to these mac and cheese bites.  More like love at first sight and bite. Mac and cheese in miniature form?!  Get out of my way, people!  Good gracious.  The subtle garlic flavor paired perfectly with the tang from the sour cream and sharp cheddar.  What's that saying about Pringles?  "Once you pop, you can't stop."  I could've popped and popped and not stopped with these bites until the cows came home they were all gone.

What really blew me away, though, was the crunchy bottom of the bites.  Stranded on a dessert island, I'd request only a spoon and that mixture of cracker crumbs, cheese, and butter alone.  How could you improve upon such perfection?  Only by adding creamy macaroni and cheese, obviously.

These little bites are more like three to four-biters. You know, if you're with a classy bunch of folks at a lovely party and want to appear refined and mature.  Though I'm willing to bet they're more like two-biters if you're rocking a party of one and eating them in the wee hours of the morning after a night out with said classy friends.  Not that I'd know anything about that.  Just a thought...

One year ago: Pasta with white beans, tomatoes, and parmesan
Two years ago: Romaine salad with crispy proscuitto and white beans
Three years ago: One bowl chocolate cupcakes

Mac & Cheese Bites
(adapted slightly from Annie's Eats)
-makes 24 servings

12 ounces elbow macaroni noodles
2 cups butter cracker crumbs (I used 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers)
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (5.2 ounce) package Boursin garlic herb cheese (Alouette is also good)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease two standard size muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles according to instructions until just al dente or not completely soft.  Drain noodles well.  In a medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, and melted butter and mix with a fork until combined.  Spoon roughly 1 Tablespoon of the cracker mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup and pat down with the flat bottom of a small glass.

In a large bowl, combine drained pasta, remaining shredded cheese, the Boursin, and cold butter.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine eggs, milk, and sour cream, whisking to combine.  Add liquid to the pasta mixture, and add salt and pepper, tossing until well-mixed.

Divide the macaroni mixture among the 24 muffin wells.  Bake until light golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool in the muffin pans for 10-15 minutes.  Run a knife around the rim of each muffin well and carefully remove mac and cheese bites from the pan and serve warm.  Enjoy, devour, and swoon!

Bites can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Simply reheat in the microwave and enjoy.  I bet they'd freeze well, too, but we didn't have any left to experiment with.  If you try freezing them, let me know how it goes!

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