Southern Kitchen Diaries

...as pleasant as a fresh peach on a summer's day
Mangoes and Rain

On a whim, I purchased two mangoes from the grocery store. Overly ripe and smelling of the tropics, they almost made me forget it was pouring down rain and unseasonably cold out.

Instead of slicing them up for a colorful fruit salad, I felt inclined to bake with them. Rain always makes me want to hole up in my kitchen and bake something sweet. 

Since puréed mango is almost identical in texture and sweetness to mashed up banana, I figured it would be an easy switch. Looks like I found my new favorite bread. Subtly sweet,  Mango Quick Bread is the perfect antidote to gloomy spring weather. 

Mango Quick Bread 

3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c puréed mango (about 2 mangoes) 

Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl cream oil and brown sugar together before adding eggs, milk, and vanilla. Once the ingredients are mixed together well, stir in dry ingredients. The mixture will be quite dry. Add in puréed mango and stir until incorporated throughout. 

Divide batter between two 8-1/2” by 4-1/2” loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Mangoes and Rain

On a whim, I purchased two mangoes from the grocery store. Overly ripe and smelling of the tropics, they almost made me forget it was pouring down rain and unseasonably cold out.

Instead of slicing them up for a colorful fruit salad, I felt inclined to bake with them. Rain always makes me want to hole up in my kitchen and bake something sweet.

Since puréed mango is almost identical in texture and sweetness to mashed up banana, I figured it would be an easy switch. Looks like I found my new favorite bread. Subtly sweet, Mango Quick Bread is the perfect antidote to gloomy spring weather.

Mango Quick Bread

3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c puréed mango (about 2 mangoes)

Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl cream oil and brown sugar together before adding eggs, milk, and vanilla. Once the ingredients are mixed together well, stir in dry ingredients. The mixture will be quite dry. Add in puréed mango and stir until incorporated throughout.

Divide batter between two 8-1/2” by 4-1/2” loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Opening Day A’s Monster Cookies 

A new season, a clean slate. I may live across the country from the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics but I’m still celebrating opening day. Big, soft monster cookies that boast green and gold M&Ms make me excited for the 2014 season. As they say, it’s baseball -anything can happen. 

A’s Monster Cookies
Adapted from “Sweet Treats & More” blog via Pinterest

1 c butter, melted and cooled
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c green, yellow, & white M&Ms

Cream butter and sugar until blended and smooth. Add in eggs and vanilla. 

In separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir in oats and M&Ms until incorporated. 

Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes to firm up. Using an ice cream scoop, place dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave plenty of room between each cookie, as they spread out. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 18 4-inch cookies.

Opening Day A’s Monster Cookies

A new season, a clean slate. I may live across the country from the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics but I’m still celebrating opening day. Big, soft monster cookies that boast green and gold M&Ms make me excited for the 2014 season. As they say, it’s baseball -anything can happen.

A’s Monster Cookies
Adapted from “Sweet Treats & More” blog via Pinterest

1 c butter, melted and cooled
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c green, yellow, & white M&Ms

Cream butter and sugar until blended and smooth. Add in eggs and vanilla.

In separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir in oats and M&Ms until incorporated.

Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes to firm up. Using an ice cream scoop, place dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave plenty of room between each cookie, as they spread out.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 18 4-inch cookies.

A Weeknight Meal

I forgot how much a newborn can stir up the daily routine. Before baby girl was born there was a rhythm to my evening. My two year-old would wake up from his nap and have a cup of milk while playing on his own. I’d retreat to the kitchen, play some music, and start prepping dinner. A two year-old occupied with his “choo choo” trains can leave ample time for dinner prep. A newborn does not.

Most nights I need dinner to be quick and not time sensitive. Meaning if I have to drop everything and nurse for 20 minutes or change a succession of dirty diapers, the meal won’t be ruined. 

A pan of roasted vegetables is quite forgiving. All it requires is some chopping action, a quick toss with olive oil, and the oven to work it’s magic. Fold into some cooked grains with a light dressing and you have yourself a meal.

I made this particular combination the other night and was pleased with the outcome. The mushrooms add a hearty flavor while the red onion lends a sweetness that pairs well with the dash of balsamic. Chopped spinach lends a freshness to the dish, without getting soggy. 

This salad is easily customizable using any variety of vegetables. I used cooked pearl barley since I had an open bag on hand but wheat berries, farro, or even pearled couscous would be good. 

A healthy, quick dinner with plenty of leftovers. This meal may become my weeknight routine. 

Cooked Grain Salad with Roasted Vegetables

1 red onion, cut into wedges
6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 c cooked corn
Handful of fresh chopped spinach
3 c cooked pearl barley or grain of choice
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375. Combine onion and mushrooms on parchment lined baking sheet. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and add tomatoes. Give the vegetables a quick mix before returning to oven for another 10 minutes or until onion is tender and tomatoes are soft.

In a large bowl combine roasted veggies, cooked grains, corn, and spinach. Drizzle with 1 tbsp each olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serves 4

A Weeknight Meal

I forgot how much a newborn can stir up the daily routine. Before baby girl was born there was a rhythm to my evening. My two year-old would wake up from his nap and have a cup of milk while playing on his own. I’d retreat to the kitchen, play some music, and start prepping dinner. A two year-old occupied with his “choo choo” trains can leave ample time for dinner prep. A newborn does not.

Most nights I need dinner to be quick and not time sensitive. Meaning if I have to drop everything and nurse for 20 minutes or change a succession of dirty diapers, the meal won’t be ruined.

A pan of roasted vegetables is quite forgiving. All it requires is some chopping action, a quick toss with olive oil, and the oven to work it’s magic. Fold into some cooked grains with a light dressing and you have yourself a meal.

I made this particular combination the other night and was pleased with the outcome. The mushrooms add a hearty flavor while the red onion lends a sweetness that pairs well with the dash of balsamic. Chopped spinach lends a freshness to the dish, without getting soggy.

This salad is easily customizable using any variety of vegetables. I used cooked pearl barley since I had an open bag on hand but wheat berries, farro, or even pearled couscous would be good.

A healthy, quick dinner with plenty of leftovers. This meal may become my weeknight routine.

Cooked Grain Salad with Roasted Vegetables

1 red onion, cut into wedges
6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 c cooked corn
Handful of fresh chopped spinach
3 c cooked pearl barley or grain of choice
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375. Combine onion and mushrooms on parchment lined baking sheet. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and add tomatoes. Give the vegetables a quick mix before returning to oven for another 10 minutes or until onion is tender and tomatoes are soft.

In a large bowl combine roasted veggies, cooked grains, corn, and spinach. Drizzle with 1 tbsp each olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins

This morning was one of those perfectly rainy Saturdays. Despite waking up a little too early, we lounged around in our pajamas for longer than I care to admit. Following a busy week and a late night dinner party, it was exactly what we needed. 

Around noon I felt the urge to bake something. Taking cue from some brown bananas I had lying around, I whipped up a batch of Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins. I’ve been on a bit of a banana kick as of late. Rarely consuming them fresh, I wait until they’re nice and browned then throw them in muffins and breads. 

I’ve gone through several recipes determined to happen upon “the best” banana muffin or banana loaf bread. This version filled with coconut and chopped pecans satisfied my craving. Hearty whole wheat flour paired with a combination of melted butter and coconut oil, these muffins are healthier without sacrificing flavor. Paired with a cup of tea, it filled my belly and warmed me up on this drizzly March day. 

Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins

2 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 c unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 c melted butter
1/4 c melted coconut oil
1 c mashed banana (about 2 large)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 c pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk first 7 ingredients together. In a separate bowl combine melted butter, oil, bananas, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chopped pecans. 

Grease or line a 12-cup muffin pan. Distribute batter evenly among 12 cups. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins

This morning was one of those perfectly rainy Saturdays. Despite waking up a little too early, we lounged around in our pajamas for longer than I care to admit. Following a busy week and a late night dinner party, it was exactly what we needed.

Around noon I felt the urge to bake something. Taking cue from some brown bananas I had lying around, I whipped up a batch of Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins. I’ve been on a bit of a banana kick as of late. Rarely consuming them fresh, I wait until they’re nice and browned then throw them in muffins and breads.

I’ve gone through several recipes determined to happen upon “the best” banana muffin or banana loaf bread. This version filled with coconut and chopped pecans satisfied my craving. Hearty whole wheat flour paired with a combination of melted butter and coconut oil, these muffins are healthier without sacrificing flavor. Paired with a cup of tea, it filled my belly and warmed me up on this drizzly March day.

Banana Coconut Pecan Muffins

2 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 c unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 c melted butter
1/4 c melted coconut oil
1 c mashed banana (about 2 large)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 c pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk first 7 ingredients together. In a separate bowl combine melted butter, oil, bananas, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chopped pecans.

Grease or line a 12-cup muffin pan. Distribute batter evenly among 12 cups. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

Love note to my husband.

Sitting at a coffee shop, sipping my latte, and thinking about the one I love.

Love note to my husband.

Sitting at a coffee shop, sipping my latte, and thinking about the one I love.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
A big, chewy chocolate chip cookie has the potential to turn your day around. There’s something about the soft interior studded with chocolate chips and perfumed with vanilla. It stops you in your tracks and makes you appreciate life one bite at a time. 

Lately, the days seem never-ending. Learning to juggle the needs of a two year-old while caring for a newborn is exhausting. In between endless nursing sessions and changing diapers, I am taking the time to soak in the little moments of each day. The moments that are full of love and joy and  make life worth living. 

I discovered this jewel of a recipe on Pinterest. At first glance, it looks like a simple chocolate chip cookie but I assure you it’s not. This cookie is flavored with a hefty tablespoon of vanilla, three full cups of chocolate chips and requires a two-hour rest in the refrigerator. The result is the best homemade chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted. Big, gooey, and rich, this cookie has it all. 

We polished off the first batch alarmingly fast and a second batch of dough is already resting in the refrigerator. Hopefully we can restrain ourselves long enough for me to freeze half of the cookies. That way I’ll be prepared the next time my day needs a good turn-around, and I need a reminder to savor the sweet moments of life.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from mysweetsavannah.blogspot.com via Pinterest

1 c butter, melted and cooled
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 1/4 c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the stand of a mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in flour mixture and chocolate chips until dough comes together.

Cover dough with plastic wrap or transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate for at least two hours, up to two days.

When you’re ready to bake, remove dough and let stand at room temperature for ten minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place golf-ball-sized scoops on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes.

Do not over bake. Cookies will firm up within 10-15 minutes out of the oven. I promise, it will be the perfect chewy texture.

Makes 20 4-inch cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A big, chewy chocolate chip cookie has the potential to turn your day around. There’s something about the soft interior studded with chocolate chips and perfumed with vanilla. It stops you in your tracks and makes you appreciate life one bite at a time.

Lately, the days seem never-ending. Learning to juggle the needs of a two year-old while caring for a newborn is exhausting. In between endless nursing sessions and changing diapers, I am taking the time to soak in the little moments of each day. The moments that are full of love and joy and make life worth living.

I discovered this jewel of a recipe on Pinterest. At first glance, it looks like a simple chocolate chip cookie but I assure you it’s not. This cookie is flavored with a hefty tablespoon of vanilla, three full cups of chocolate chips and requires a two-hour rest in the refrigerator. The result is the best homemade chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted. Big, gooey, and rich, this cookie has it all.

We polished off the first batch alarmingly fast and a second batch of dough is already resting in the refrigerator. Hopefully we can restrain ourselves long enough for me to freeze half of the cookies. That way I’ll be prepared the next time my day needs a good turn-around, and I need a reminder to savor the sweet moments of life.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from mysweetsavannah.blogspot.com via Pinterest

1 c butter, melted and cooled

1 c brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 egg + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

2 1/4 c unbleached flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the stand of a mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in flour mixture and chocolate chips until dough comes together.

Cover dough with plastic wrap or transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate for at least two hours, up to two days.

When you’re ready to bake, remove dough and let stand at room temperature for ten minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place golf-ball-sized scoops on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes.

Do not over bake. Cookies will firm up within 10-15 minutes out of the oven. I promise, it will be the perfect chewy texture.

Makes 20 4-inch cookies

Winter Salad
In the midst of baking gingerbread men and large batches of chicken curry to share at potlucks, I am trying to be conscious of my vegetable consumption. Usually I allow myself to indulge this time of year and not pay too much attention to diet, instead making up for it with daily walks on the trail or around the neighborhood. However, being seven months pregnant this time of year has given me a different perspective toward diet.
I’m not one to deprive myself but the baby in my belly forces me to maintain a healthy, balanced diet without giving up the occasional cookie or sweet treat. An easy way to do so is to keep a large container of pre-washed salad greens in my refrigerator for easy access. At least once a day, I’ll throw together a big, mixed salad with whatever chopped vegetables or fruits I have on hand. Not only has this practice kept my diet well-rounded, but it has forced me to be creative with my salad combinations during a time of year that is not particularly “salad-friendly”.
Below is a favorite combination recently that I threw together for a late-afternoon lunch. Baby or no baby, I may have to make my daily salad an annual goal during this time of year.
Winter Green SaladServes 11-2 c mixed salad greens, washed and dried1/4 c red grapes, halved1/4 c pecans, chopped1 celery stalk, sliced thinly1/2 avocado, dicedParmesan cheese 1/2 Meyer lemon, juiced1 tbsp olive oilSalt and pepper to tasteCombine first five ingredients in a mixing bowl. Grate in as little or as much Parmesan cheese as desired. Toss salad, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil then toss salad again. Serve and enjoy.

Winter Salad

In the midst of baking gingerbread men and large batches of chicken curry to share at potlucks, I am trying to be conscious of my vegetable consumption. Usually I allow myself to indulge this time of year and not pay too much attention to diet, instead making up for it with daily walks on the trail or around the neighborhood. However, being seven months pregnant this time of year has given me a different perspective toward diet.

I’m not one to deprive myself but the baby in my belly forces me to maintain a healthy, balanced diet without giving up the occasional cookie or sweet treat. An easy way to do so is to keep a large container of pre-washed salad greens in my refrigerator for easy access. At least once a day, I’ll throw together a big, mixed salad with whatever chopped vegetables or fruits I have on hand. Not only has this practice kept my diet well-rounded, but it has forced me to be creative with my salad combinations during a time of year that is not particularly “salad-friendly”.

Below is a favorite combination recently that I threw together for a late-afternoon lunch. Baby or no baby, I may have to make my daily salad an annual goal during this time of year.

Winter Green Salad
Serves 1

1-2 c mixed salad greens, washed and dried
1/4 c red grapes, halved
1/4 c pecans, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced thinly
1/2 avocado, diced
Parmesan cheese
1/2 Meyer lemon, juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine first five ingredients in a mixing bowl. Grate in as little or as much Parmesan cheese as desired. Toss salad, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil then toss salad again. Serve and enjoy.

Pumpkin White Bean Soup with Thyme
This season has brought an onslaught of changes for our family. I am grappling with the fact that my firstborn is now an active two-year-old; in just one week my husband will graduate with his MFA; and shortly after the new year our second child will make her debut. In between such moments of excitement and emotion, I crave comfort. Snuggling on the couch, the familiar sound of my favorite record playing, and a bowl of hot soup.
Pumpkin White Bean soup is pure comfort in a bowl. Made up of pantry ingredients, it comes together in very little time and is deceptively good for you. Creamy without being heavy or using actual cream, it begs to be eaten with a thick slice of bread or biscuit smothered in butter.
Pumpkin White Bean Soup
If you’re expecting a large crowd for the holidays, double the recipe and serve alongside a salad and loaf of garlic bread.
Butter and oil1 onion, diced2 cloves garlic, minced1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves1 tsp ground cumin1 tbsp apple cider vinegar1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree2 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drainedSalt and pepper to tasteHeat 1 tablespoon each, butter and oil in heavy pot over medium. Saute onion until translucent, about five minutes. Add in garlic and saute one minute or until fragrant. Stir in thyme and cumin. De glaze pan with apple cider vinegar before stirring in pumpkin, white beans and two cups of water. Simmer 5-10 minutes until heated through. Remove soup from heat and blend until smooth using immersion blender or in a blender.Serves 4-6

Pumpkin White Bean Soup with Thyme

This season has brought an onslaught of changes for our family. I am grappling with the fact that my firstborn is now an active two-year-old; in just one week my husband will graduate with his MFA; and shortly after the new year our second child will make her debut. In between such moments of excitement and emotion, I crave comfort. Snuggling on the couch, the familiar sound of my favorite record playing, and a bowl of hot soup.

Pumpkin White Bean soup is pure comfort in a bowl. Made up of pantry ingredients, it comes together in very little time and is deceptively good for you. Creamy without being heavy or using actual cream, it begs to be eaten with a thick slice of bread or biscuit smothered in butter.

Pumpkin White Bean Soup

If you’re expecting a large crowd for the holidays, double the recipe and serve alongside a salad and loaf of garlic bread.

Butter and oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
2 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon each, butter and oil in heavy pot over medium. Saute onion until translucent, about five minutes. Add in garlic and saute one minute or until fragrant. Stir in thyme and cumin. De glaze pan with apple cider vinegar before stirring in pumpkin, white beans and two cups of water. Simmer 5-10 minutes until heated through.

Remove soup from heat and blend until smooth using immersion blender or in a blender.

Serves 4-6

This salad was a bit of happenstance. One of those thrown together meals that ends up working out quite nicely. 

In the middle of what felt like one hundred loads of laundry and packing up for our Thanksgiving getaway, I noticed a leftover bag of locally grown salad greens and some random odds and ends that needed to be eaten or disposed. 

Aside from being full of seasonal flavors, it was a welcome meal, a sort of detoxification prior to Thanksgiving. Fresh greens, grated Parmesan cheese, pepitas, and roasted, cubed sweet potatoes. Dressed with a light mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar, it left me feeling satiated and ready to tackle the task of packing for a family of three.

This salad was a bit of happenstance. One of those thrown together meals that ends up working out quite nicely.

In the middle of what felt like one hundred loads of laundry and packing up for our Thanksgiving getaway, I noticed a leftover bag of locally grown salad greens and some random odds and ends that needed to be eaten or disposed.

Aside from being full of seasonal flavors, it was a welcome meal, a sort of detoxification prior to Thanksgiving. Fresh greens, grated Parmesan cheese, pepitas, and roasted, cubed sweet potatoes. Dressed with a light mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar, it left me feeling satiated and ready to tackle the task of packing for a family of three.

Mac and Cheese and Peas

Tonight called for comfort. So I retreated to the kitchen to cook up a batch of homemade macaroni and cheese with a side of peas sautéed in a bit of butter. We sat on the sofa, side-by-side eating our meal, while a nice breeze blew through the open windows.

In the midst of a busy, stressful season we have to remind ourselves to take a moment. Breathe the fresh air, smile at each other and give thanks for the love that surrounds us. Of course, a comforting meal does just that.

Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 lb dried pasta of choice (I used penne)
3 c whole milk
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 spelt or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 shredded Monterrey jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

To begin, boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

To make the bechamel sauce, bring milk to a boil in a large pot. Turn off heat, pour milk in a pitcher and set aside. In the same pot melt butter over medium heat before adding in flour to form a roux. Stir continuously with whisk until roux is thickened and golden in color. Remove pot from heat and carefully pour in reserved milk, stirring continuously. Once milk is fully incorporated, return pot to medium heat. Stir until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a metal spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove mixture from heat and stir in both cheddar and Jack cheeses until sauce is smooth. Add reserved pasta and stir, coating each bit of pasta with the cheesy sauce.

Pour the cheese coated pasta into a shallow casserole dish, smoothing over the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or until top is slightly browned and cheese is bubbly.