Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar

by Mac & Cheese Chick on August 22, 2014

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

If you follow my blog, you already know that the folks at Pirate’s Booty were kind enough to send me four boxes of their new Mac & Cheese to try.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

This is the third box I’ve tried – three down, one to go! All four varieties of their new mac & cheese line are made with organic pasta (certified organic by Oregon Tilth) and ingredients you can actually pronounce. Good deal!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this mac & cheese.

Box, butter, and milk. Easy! As with the other varieties I’ve tried, Pirate’s Booty recommends 1/2 tablespoon of butter but I like my mac and cheese rich, so I went with a full tablespoon. And to rationalize counteract balance the additional butter, I used fat-free milk.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

Following the directions on the box, I added the pasta to six cups of boiling water and cooked it for seven minutes. After draining the pasta, I added it back to the pot and threw in the butter, milk and cheese powder.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

I gave the mixture a good long stir, as I have learned that it can take a bit of stirring to remove all cheese clumps and ensure a nice, velvety sauce. Once mixed, I let the pot and its contents sit for about three minutes before plating, as this time allows the mac & cheese to thicken just a bit.

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

So how was it? Three and a half elbows up. The mac & cheese had a creamy, mellow flavor with no powdery aftertaste – delicious!

Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Aged White Cheddar - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

DISCLAIMER: Pirate’s Booty sent this product to me for review. This not a compensated review, but they were kind enough to send the product to me gratis.

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Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing DistrictField Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District

Every year, we are down in Orange County (I grew up there – if you call it “The OC” I will upchuck upon you) for an annual conference. And each year, I love getting together with childhood friends and reconnecting.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

This year, there was a big buzz about the opening of the Anaheim Packing District – so of course, I needed to go check it out myself. I met up with a friend of mine on a Saturday around 11:30am. We agreed to meet up a little early as we’d heard that parking could be difficult and we didn’t want to be surrounded by a hungry mob. My friend mentioned that she’s heard there was a hidden speakeasy within the space, and so that made it to the top of list of spots to find while there.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District

Once we met up (it’s been so many years!), we set out finding the speakeasy. Along the way, we sampled some delicious meats and cheeses from Wheat & Sons (my friend completely confounded the gentleman helping us at the counter, to the point that both I and the rest of the staff were giggling at the ongoing exchange) and ended up grabbing some to-go as we looked for the speakeasy.

As it turned out, the speakeasy, The Blind Rabbit, was almost across from Wheat & Sons. And, we were just a little early as they didn’t open until noon. That didn’t stop my friend from popping in the open door and striking up a conversation with the staff. We ended up grabbing two overstuffed chairs around a nice low table (it felt as though we were in our living room, in a good way) rather than bellying up to the bar.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

Since we knew we were “home” and here for the duration, we got cozy and after asking if it was okay, unwrapped our Wheat & Sons parcel to nibble. And the entire staff, by the way, was amazing, knowledgeable, and friendly. Aces, every one. You see that libation above? The one with the big ole ice cube and a hunk of bacon perched atop?

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

That’s a Bacon Old Fashioned (bacon-infused bourbon, Grade-B maple syrup & Angostura bitters) and it is waaaaaay better than you could ever imagine. So much so that I had three of them. Hey – I was there for over five hours. And I am now trying to find out to make bacon-infused bourbon; if you have a recipe, I’d love to try it!

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

But amazing drinks aside, around the middle of my second Bacon Old Fashioned we realized that we were both ready to grab something more substantial for lunch.

After perusing the Blind Rabbit menu, we decided to split the Duck Confit Mac N’ Cheese (truffle oil, topped w/Panko crust + micro fine herbs). Of course we did.

Field Trip! The Blind Rabbit in the Anaheim Packing District - Mac & Cheese Chick

How was it? Weeeeeellllllllll, I want to tell you that it was amazing. Unfortunately, the parts appeared better than the sum. It had a nice afterburn from a little cayenne pepper and it had a nice overall mellow, creamy flavor. Unfortunately, it was on the dry side and that exponentially worsened after it sat for more than two minutes. I’m giving it three elbows, but there is definitely room for improvement here. I was a bit sad, as I really wanted to love it (it sounds amazing!!!), but a third Bacon Old Fashioned helped ease the pain a bit.

Me? I’ll probably be back next time we’re in town for the drinks and the staff – and hopefully, the next mac & cheese I try there will knock my socks off.

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Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs

by Mac & Cheese Chick on August 7, 2014

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To make a short story long, my parents are moving up to my area soon. That means parental-unit visits on a regular basis, which I LOVE. That also means field trips around the Pacific Northwest, one of which brought us to Garden Treasures, a lovely farm stand operation in Arlington, WA recently.

Actually, we’d been by several times – always zooming back & forth along State Route 530 and never taking the time to stop, but pining to do so each and every time we passed. So finally, we made the time. And lost about an hour…but it was a wonderful hour! We explored the whole place, wanting to take home much more than we actually ended up with. But one of these items was a verrry interesting block of lavender cheddar cheese.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The small bin containing the Golden Glen Creamery cheeses is just off to your right as you first enter the big red barn. And if you’re not local or just not inclined to head to Arlington, you can purchase their artisan cheeses online. There were several varieties available, but I wanted something a little different so I went for the lavender cheddar.

We headed home after our visit, giddily happy with our purchases and me already dreaming up lavender cheddar mac & cheese possibilities. After several variations, I settled on a simple preparation which adds a touch of fresh thyme flavor to offset the flavorful lavender.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Time to gather my ingredients. Since I went local with the cheese, I also went local with the pasta (Casarecce from Lagana pasta, one of my local favorites for fresh pasta), the lavender and the thyme (both from my garden). And if you want, we can call the Tillamook butter close enough to local, as well (it’s just over in the next state, after all…).

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

To begin, I melted a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and once melted, added the Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and gave it a good stir. Once everything was well-mixed, I set the mixture aside.

Pop the oven on to 350 degrees, Pam an 8×8 oven-safe pan, then prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and set aside. By the way, the fresh Lagana pasta gave off the most intoxicating yeasty scent as it cooked – I wanted to scoop up the scent and bottle it!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

While the pasta is cooking, shred your cheese. In the same large pot over medium heat, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter and once melted, add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for about three minutes, or until the roux turns toasty-colored.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the mixture begins to thicken (about five minutes). Reduce the heat to low.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add the lavender cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and everything in the pot is happily mixed. Add the cooked pasta and stir once again.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Grab your Pammed pan and scoop the macaroni and cheese into it, topping it with the buttery thyme breadcrumb mixture. Let it bake for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least five minutes.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Yes, I know it’s tedious to have to wait five minutes, but just do it. It allows the mac & cheese to firm up just slightly and believe me, you’ll be happier for it. Feel free to sprinkle some additional fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

The casarecce had a nice firmness and the cheese sauce took to it perfectly. The lavender imparted a delicate, not overpowering, flavor (I know lavender can be a polarizing herb, just like cilantro) and blended beautifully with the buttery thyme breadcrumbs. The medium cheddar provided a solid flavor as well – all in all, each flavor balanced the next and nothing overwhelmed anything else. So what did I think? I give it 3.5 elbows. The lavender gave the dish such a wonderful light and summery feel!

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

Here is my recipe.

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish, Main Course
Cuisine: Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 as a side
 
Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces fresh casarecce pasta (or other short pasta)
  • 1 pound lavender-infused medium white cheddar, shredded (or, 1 pound medium white cheddar plus 1 tablespoon culinary lavender)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, melt 1 tablespoon butter in microwave. Add Panko breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and stir to combine. Set the bowl aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pam an 8x8 oven-safe pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, then set aside.
  4. In same large pot over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking and whisking for 3 minutes or until roux turns toasty-colored.
  5. Slowly whisk in milk and continue to cook until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to low.
  6. Add seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and whisk to combine, then add lavender cheese and stir until melted. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.
  7. Scoop macaroni and cheese into Pammed pan, topping with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Feel free to sprinkle fresh lavender and/or thyme over the dish just prior to serving.
  8. Serve and scarf down immediately!

 

Lavender Macaroni & Cheese with Buttered Thyme Breadcrumbs - Mac & Cheese Chick

 

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Product Review: Pirate’s Booty Mac & Cheese Mild Cheddar

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