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Saturday, November 12, 2016

White Cheddar Spinach & Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

I combined my favorite hot dip with my favorite side dish.
What's not to love?

white cheddar spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

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I'm kind of known for my hot spinach and artichoke dip.  Right when it was becoming all the rage say around 2005, I started making my version for every party, every gathering with my girlfriends and it most definitely tagged along with me for every family gathering.

It was kind of my thing.  I could make grown men, who claimed they "didn't like spinach, let alone an artichoke" dive into the bowl and forget about the entree awaiting them.

And please...don't think I was serving it with sliced veggies.  Never.  Each and every time I'd grab a nice crusty loaf of bread or baguette from the grocery store, slice it up, drizzle it with some olive oil, toast it in the oven and then rub a fresh clove of garlic over the slices right out of the oven.

Yep, that my friends is how you do toasted bread.

white cheddar spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

When I got my first "major" marketing job out of college, I was placed in a small department of this corporation and met some amazing women.  These ladies and I probably did more chatting than working, but it was during this period where I perfected this dip.

When the husband was working 2nd and 3rd shirts I'd invite those ladies over to our humdinger of a house {if you'd call it that, we opted to call it a compound} and we'd drink wine and eat appetizers as our supper.

Those days were so easy.  Hanging out with friends with not much of a care in the world other than getting back to work on Monday.

That job was one of my favorites and had we not moved I'm fairly certain I'd still be there today.  It allowed me to travel....Orlando, San Diego, Chicago and other Midwestern cities that I probably would have not visited.

So this newly created Mac-n-Cheese is for those ladies.  You know who you are.

white cheddar spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Let's take a moment to chat about mac-n-cheese.

There are so many different ways to make it.  So many variations to toss in.  I've made it a zillion different ways.  Honestly, every time I make it, it is not like the time before.  My poor kids, they never know what they are getting.

Sometimes, like this spinach and artichoke version, I make it in just one pot on the stove top. Kind of my favorite way as it only requires one pot and there is no draining.  One of our favorites is my Mushroom, Bacon and Swiss Mac-n-Cheese.  I adore the burger with all my heart so of course I stuffed all that into pasta!  And then sometimes I want to throw it in the oven and walk away as a baked version. My Bacon Buffalo Mac-n-Cheese is another crowd pleaser if you like some heat.

white cheddar spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Let me tell you something.

I was a bit nervous to serve this to my kids this week.  They are fine with spinach.  Not a problem there.  But enter in the funky vegetable called an artichoke and I was silently preparing for WWIII.

But like a good Mommy, I didn't say a word.  I put a serving on their plates right next to their chicken and sat down to eat.  I watched them like a hawk.

And I'll be damned, they ate it.

They didn't chat about the funky green stuff.  They didn't pick and complain.  They just ate it.  AND THEN ASKED FOR SECONDS.

Mommy win.

I'm sure it helps that the creamy cheese sauce is phenomenal {in my opinion}.  But anyway, it just goes to show this doesn't just have to be served to adults.  Serve your kids and let them find out for themselves.

Oh, and two important things.  Please use a quality, good white cheddar cheese.  My friends at Cabot Cheese sent me some and I love it.  You can find their version at any grocery store. Also, please use marinated artichokes, not just the plain ones in a can.  The marinated ones are FULL of flavor and really make this dish.  Don't skimp!

White Cheddar Spinach & Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

8 oz. penne pasta
4 c. water
2 c. milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. frozen and drained chopped spinach
6 oz. marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
2 t. salt

1.  In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat the water, milk, minced garlic, salt and penne pasta over medium heat.  Bring this to a low bowl.  The pasta will cook in this mixture.  Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.  When the pasta is almost finished you'll notice the liquid has reduced by half.
2.  When the pasta is cooked turn down the heat and slowly stir in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese. Continue to stir until it forms a smooth cheese sauce.
3.  Fold in the spinach and chopped artichokes.
4.  Bring the heat down to low, continuing to stir occasionally, until sauce is thickened and you are ready to serve.
5.  Optional: add in chopped cooked chicken or shrimp.

white cheddar spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

You know what else makes me a bit crazy?

Sometimes I make this famous American dip and then spread it on homemade pizza crust, add more cheese and then bake it like a pizza.

You can see my recipe for Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Deep Dish Pizza here.

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