by Chrysa Smith

It’s cold. It’s gray. It’s winter. And nothing helps us stay warm and keep the cheer better than a good man, a good friend, a good dog and some hearty, old-fashioned comfort food.

And we’re bringing it on (well, not the friend, man or dog—but glorious food).
During the next few weeks of post-holiday/pre-spring blogging, we’re covering some of the favorite staples of our winter pantries. And we’re encouraging you to share your favorites: a sort of ‘pass it on’ recipe exchange to help warm another winterized reader. Ready? Let’s go. And let’s kick it off with a childhood favorite: mac & cheese.

If legends are accurate, this cheesy pasta casserole dish has its roots as far back as Marco Polo. Started in Italy, enjoyed by its neighbors, the dish spread throughout Europe. It’s US debut is credited to Colonial foodie, Tom Jefferson, who served it at a White House dinner back in the early 1800’s–and the rest is, well, the rest is a great history. Home chefs and mega food corp’s have been serving up the comforting combo of fat and carbs for centuries; shifting recipes slightly to suit the tastes of the times.

As a young girl, with a mom who cooked real food nightly, I loved the rare treat of a frozen dinner. It was either Swanson’s fried chicken with mashed potatoes and corn or the bubbly, crusty metal tin of mac and cheese. My son prefers the boxed Kraft variety, which I find a bit tasteless and crustless. I prefer to stir up my own brew; sampling recipes that sound interesting and perhaps a bit different.

So today, I’m going to try out my own version of one of Oprah’s Favorite Things: Beecher’s Mac & Chesse. They’re a Seattle-based cheese shop who have probably tripled their staff since the golden endorsement of the Queen of daytime tv. But Oprah, and others swear by it. It’s a bit pricey if you want to buy it online, but luckily, Beecher’s has posted their recipe online. Check it out at: (I tried it and recommend it—in portion controlled servings)

And next time, I’m going to shake it up a bit, as is the current restaurant trend—serving mac and cheese with a variety of different, higher end cheeses, rather than the old, private label block of orange cheddar. A pepper-jack, smoked cheddar, nutty cheese combo will let me play kitchen chemist, comforter, mom and trendsetter all at one time. If I get it right, get some comfort and joy and a full belly, I’ll be sure to pass it on.
Got a favorite recipe? Share it, link it and pass it on.