Jalapeno Popper Mac n’ Cheese

So many people ask us what our daughter’s favorite food is and it’s always hard to answer because she truly likes almost everything we give her. Lately, she’s been loving blackened salmon, kale and beans and broccoli. Most adults don’t like the food I just mentioned, so it’s a huge blessing that her taste buds are so adventurous. I think my husband and I will proudly take credit for introducing her to different foods very early on. Just kidding, she’s a rock star when it comes to food.

Anyway, back to her favorite food. If there was one I had to pick, I’d definitely say mac n’ cheese. This girl dances and pants like she’s never eaten before whenever she has a spoonful of good mac. She says “more” as soon as she swallows a bite. It’s crazy! I’ve created a monster!! Only the best kind of course.

She totally knows what’s good because I’m sure 98 percent of the world has mac n’ cheese on its favorite food list, me included. Yesterday I decided to put a twist on my mac n’ cheese by adding the ingredients of a jalapeno popper. Yes, that’s right – cream cheese, jalapeno and bacon. The best.

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In addition to all that yumminess, I added Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese. Both have a sharp bite and go very well with jalapenos. Speaking of jalapenos, these are no ordinary jalapenos. They are candied. Did I just hear the choired angels sing? Yes, candied jalapenos and they’re adapted from How Sweet Eats. You might remember them from my Pimento Cheeseburger post.

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To top it all off, I sprinkled the top of the mac with some garlic panko breadcrumbs. Can you taste the cheesy, spicy and crunchy bite by looking at these pictures?

If you make this mac n’ cheese, I’d love to know what you think. Don’t forget to tag your photos with #marinamakeseats!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Mac n’ Cheese

  • Candied jalapenos (recipe below)
  • 12 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound of rotini pasta
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 3 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of Monterrey jack
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Candied Jalapeños

  • 8 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

Directions

First, make the candied jalapenos. Add the vinegar, sugar and garlic powder to a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then add in the peppers and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all of the slices are submerged. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, but don’t overcook because the mixture will get sticky. Remove the peppers with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar or a bowl. Continue to cook the liquid for another 5 minutes until it has reduced by half, then pour it over the jalapenos. Set aside and allow the peppers to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom of a casserole or baking dish.

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Melt two tablespoons of butter and add minced garlic cooking it for about a minute until fragrant. Add the panko breadcrumbs and continue stirring until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Next, make the pasta by boiling a large pot of water. Once the water comes to boil, add a few tablespoons of salt and then add the pasta cooking it three minutes under what is instructed on the box/bag. Your pasta will continue cooking when it’s in the oven. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In the same pot used to cook the pasta, melt four tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, whisk in flour and let it bubble for about a minute or two. Add in milk constantly stirring for another minute or two until the sauce thickens. Once the sauce thickens, remove from the heat and add cheeses, cream cheese and salt and stir until everything is melted and combined. Add the drained candied jalapenos and 9-10 strips of bacon (save remaining for topping). Top with panko breadcrumb mixture (and remaining pieces of bacon. Don’t feel like you need to use all of the topping because using an excess amount will make the dish dry. Cook it in the oven uncovered for 20-25 minutes.

 

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