One of the highlights of my holiday vacation, as well a highlight of my whole last year, was the long awaited S’macDown of 2016. For the past eight months, 2 friends from home (Shaun Steele, my favorite oldest friend, and Jason Shelfer, my favorite newest friend) and I have been talking smack and gearing up for our macaroni and cheese showdown. It was an evening of healthy competition, noodles and cheese, and a high school reunion of sorts. Friends drove from Dallas, St. Louis, and Kansas City to join in the fun. Once again, Meg and Jason Shelfer, the now famous to All Good Things couple, graciously opened up their home in Carthage, Missouri.
In case you’re wondering how this competition came about, I was home in May and we had a gathering where I orchestrated the food and bossed everyone around. As the evening was ending, Jason says, “Ya know…you’re not the only one who can cook. I make a mean macaroni and cheese.” In the spirit of competition, I replied, “Are you challenging me to a macaroni and cheese cook-off?” Shaun walks in and says, “You’re both going down!” So the contest was on…
I came in with two entries hoping to increase my chances of winning, but also to treat my friends to some ingredients from NYC that might be a little hard to come by in Southwest Missouri. I made an upscale truffle macaroni and cheese dish and then a simpler jalapeño version with a Ritz cracker topping. Jason also provided 2 entries, both a buttermilk radiatore – one topped with chorizo and one with fried bologna. To say Jason and I got whooped is an understatement. Shaun lived up to his threat and soundly won with the single entry of ham and cheese mac. We had one other entry from Mike Goodrich, rounding out the S’macDown with a 4th place Cheeseburger mac and cheese with bacon!
After eating our fill, sampling, and resampling, we asked everyone to vote for their favorite dish with dollars. Jason had the great idea of donating money to a charity. And so we did! The Shelfers are involved with an organization called Art Feeds Carthage.
Art Feeds believes all children are artists. They exist to feed creative development and facilitate emotional expression in children through art and community. To do this, they provide free therapeutic art and creative education programs within schools and children’s organizations by mobilizing teams of community members to bring all forms of art into classrooms.
Jason and Meg’s daughter, Flannery, was introduced to Art Feeds after the Joplin tornado in 2011. They came into her school to provide art therapy to the kids dealing with the tragedy and loss. Jason is on the board of Art Feeds and he and Meg actively raise funds throughout the year. My Dad is an artist, among a zillion other things, so art was and still is a big deal in my home. And art is a big deal in the Shelfer home, as Jason is an artist, among a zillion other things. Jason suggested we donate our S’macDown voting money to Art Feeds Carthage. I’m happy to report that he turned in $254 from our macaroni and cheese contest! If you’d like to add to our pot, you can make a donation here!
Shaun, our winner, paid homage to the original blue box-orange powdered mac and cheese we all grew up on by nodding to their new recipe. Um, did you know that Kraft changed their blue box recipe in April of 2015?! Neither did I! They removed artificial preservatives, flavors and dyes from its mac and cheese recipe. To keep its yellow-orange glow, Kraft swapped out artificial food colors, including yellow 5 and yellow 6, for natural spices like paprika, annatto and turmeric. Shaun gave an awesome yellow hue to his noodles using turmeric! (He’s a marathon runner, he needs all the turmeric he can get as it is high in anti-inflammatory properties.)
Here is Shaun’s recipe!
Ham and Cheese Mac
- 8 ounces campenelle pasta
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 cups milk
- 4 ounces gouda cheese
- 4 ounces gruyère cheese
- 2 ounces Brie
- 1 pound chopped cooked ham
- 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Cook macaroni according to package directions.
In medium saucepan, warm milk on medium heat; stir in cheese and cook until fully melted; add garlic salt, turmeric and pepper; Drain macaroni and toss with butter; add to cheese sauce; stir in ham.
Top withbread crumbs and parmesan cheese. (This recipe makes 4 servings.)
Here is Jason's recipe!
White Cheddar Buttermilk Radiatore With Chorizo
1 stick of butter
1 cup all purpose flour
Mix roux in a big pan over medium heat.
Add generous amounts of salt, garlic powder, pepper, and a half gallon of buttermilk. Bring buttermilk up to temperature and add almost 2 pounds of grated, extra sharp Cabot white cheddar. Whisk frequently as cheese melts. In a stock pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil, add 2 pounds of radiatore pasta. Cook pasta for 4-5 minutes then drain and rinse in cold water. In a small saute pan cook chorizo until caramelized. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in appropriate oven ware, top with the rest of the grated cheese, crumbled chorizo, and bake at 350 for about an hour. (This recipe makes 2 full hotel pans!)
Handmade Butter in a Jar!
Flannery and I split a carton of heavy whipping cream between two securely lidded jars and added a healthy pinch of salt to each before capping them. We shook and shook and shook them. (Sweet Paul posted a butter making project and I book marked it long ago to make with Flannery when I was home again.) 10 minutes of shaking + passing the jars around to our audience to give them turns “churning” + a lot of laughter + moaning about our tired arms = delicious creamy whipped butter. Really! It was kind of a culinary miracle! Flan even added some garlic to hers towards the end of her shaking to make garlic butter. I highly recommend this project for anyone with kids and for any adults that can appreciate a handmade butter.