Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Cheesiest

One of the things I often say about myself is that I "feel big". No, not like "I feel too big for these pants" (although that is sometimes the case....ok, often the case...) I mean my actual feelings. I have large emotions, and I express them dramatically at times. If I love something, I LOVE it. And there are few things that I love more than food. (maybe that's another reason "I feel big"?) and near the tippy top of my list of culinary crushes is macaroni and cheese.

Yep- Kraft Dinner has been a favorite of mine since as long as I can remember. At my dad's house especially, it was a weekend staple...we collected the box tops and I earned all kinds of fun stuff. Among my favorite were my Cheese-a-saurus Rex figurines, and "blue box" beach towel...(jealous?!) I love, loved it. Sure, we experimented with the spirals, and the wheels, and every once in a while some Velveeta Shells and Cheese (when we were feeling all fancy!) but nothing really beats the original macaroni (plus, as my frugal father taught me from a young age, it was the most economical. Would you pay the same price for a 5.5oz box of spirals that you would for a 7.25oz box of regular shapes? Would you?!?!)

And though I'm still known to polish off a box of the classic stuff from time to time, my palette has become a bit more refined over the years. But don't worry....that doesn't mean I've turned away from my cheesy roots. No....macaroni and I are in this for the long haul.

Which brings us to what is arguably the best idea anyone has ever had....The Macaroni and Cheese Cookoff. I mean, why should chilli cookoffs, and wing-fests get all the glory? Mac and Cheese deserves some hype too! So almost two years ago (Golden Oldie alert!) Dustin and I decided to host a mac-and-cheese-off. We invited a bunch of friends over, and each attempted to wow the group with their rendition of mac and cheese.... I have no idea why I've gone so long without blogging this event. Perhaps I just found it too hard to put all that cheesy joy into words. Even the photos don't do it justice!

The party was everything I could hope for....people got competitive, we got to try a ton of variations, and I ate like it was my last meal (afterwards I almost wanted it to be). We had some fancy trophies, but for the life of me, I can't remember what the winning dish was. But I'm pretty sure I liked it. For our part Dustin and I made Hoggy's version, and a rendition of the fried mac and cheese from The Cheesecake Factory (it was a TON of work....but honestly so ridiculously good). In addition to the main event (or main dish) we held a euchre tournament, which turned out to be the perfect pairing to all that food (we got to sit around and digest... perfect!)

I loved that party so much I hoped to make it an annual event, but time got away from us. All of a sudden it was 2011, and we hadn't managed to host a sequel. But never fear....my Birthday to the rescue!

You see, we didn't have an idea for a party this year, and were almost ready to skip the festivities, but then I realized it was the perfect excuse to combine my two favorite things once again- Mac&Cheese (that's one thing), and games! So we rounded up our friends, and put together The Bowdens' Second Non-Annual Macaroni and Cheese Cookoff.....2011!

We prepared a menu:

Prepped the games:

And let everyone else do the rest.......And oh boy did they.

(yeah, that's salad on the bottom right....I had to have something healthy, just in case someone's heart stopped.) We ended up having twelve kinds....and it was a really tough vote. I mean, look at these entries :
(click to enlarge)

Everyone voted for People's Choice, and then Dustin and I got to choose "Host Favorite" and "Wild Card".

And the results?
Drum roll.............

People's Choice: Lobster Mac by Barefoot Contessa (prepared by my friend Deb)
Wild Card: Chicken Enchilada (by Lindsey and Mike)
Host Favorite: 6 Cheese and Bacon (by Amy)

(we'll have to wait and see the chefs of the second two prizes want to share the link to their recipe in the comments....)
It was a hard battle because everything was so so (so so so so so) good. Dustin and I of course prepared entries, choosing to try a couple of offbeat versions on the theme:
Sweet Potato & Rosemary and Cornbread & Apple. Neither was a winner (or really a contender) but they certainly weren't bad.
I won't get into the rest of the night....but I can sum it up saying we ate, and played, and ate, and played, and ate. Oh, and laughed. A lot.
And let me give you a sure-fire party planning hint...if the macaroni doesn't make your party a hit (it will), just start handing out beaded necklaces. Best Birthday Ever.


  1. Ah, the circle of life. As I read this post, a tear came to my eye and my heart filled with pride.
    your "frugal father"

  2. It turns out that when Courtney and I laugh you can't see our eyes!

    Also, this was a great party! Some college kids from church heard about the party and were hitting us up for some left-overs. We're going to give them some or else we'll both be 300 lbs!

  3. Ironically enough I just served up the blue box of cheesey goodness today for lunch! I love that your palette, while refined in many ways, isn't snooty and doesn't turn its taste buds up at some Kraft every once in awhile!

    What an awesome sounding party/cook off! Very creative and your written recap is cleverly done!

  4. That sounds like an amazing party! I seriously want to move to Pittsburgh so I can come to all your cool get togethers (that is, if we make the cut - our cool factor isn't too high!). When I was pregnant with Ella I craved baked mac n cheese (a la stouffers) but before that I was all about Kraft - nothing but the blue box! I hope you can convince the other winners to share their recipes :)

  5. you officially have the most fun parties ever.