24 December 2009

The Little Things

Consider your traditions at this time of year. What do YOU do that makes these few weeks at the end of one year and beginning of a new one special and dear to your family? Is it an event that you come together to celebrate, a favorite meal that you prepare, a dear story that you watch on TV or read for the hundredth time, special music that makes your heart skip a few beats, a precious heirloom unpacked and placed out for holiday use? Chances are there are a host of little things you find yourself doing these days that bring you joy and fond memories. Some may have grown or 'morphed' over the years and become unique to your family's holiday ritual. I know we have a few in the Lindquist family.
Let's take Christmas Eve, for example. When the Lindquist kids were little tykes, getting them to eat dinner on Christmas Eve was a near impossible feat. They were too busy ramming and tearing around the family room, drawing pictures for Santa and wondering just when he'd touch down on the roof with his load of loot. Of course, Silent Bob and I were equally wired. Getting presents wrapped and mastering 'some assembly required'  required planning and careful execution! Then there was the traditional Christmas Eve ride around town to view the Christmas light displays, making time to prepare the plate of cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, making the phone calls to family to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and finally watching 'A Christmas Carol' before packing the kids off to bed. Where did dinner fit into all that activity?  Food? Nutrition for the kids? Pah! I gave up on trying for an elaborate meal and headed straight for the comfort food that we KNOW they couldn't turn down! Macaroni and cheese and hotdogs! A sure hit and an easy dinner!

Well... it WAS easy and it WAS a hit. Over the years, we went from the blue Kraft boxes and deli dogs to various easy casseroles with less food coloring, a cast of additional ingredients, fewer hotdogs, and better cheeses. Our palates have become a bit more sophisticated... but not much. We still find a warm, steamy plate of pasta and cheese a welcome tradition on Christmas Eve. These days, it's usually tortellini with four cheeses. Give it a try! Perhaps, you'll find an occasion where it will fit your family tradition. It's such and easy little thing to make that gives you such a warm and satisfied feeling. Yup. It's the little things ...

1 lb. cheese tortellini
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp. flour
1 small onion, small chop
2 1/2 c. milk
two big pinches nutmeg
one big pinch of black pepper
5 oz. Fontina cheese, chunked
5 oz. cheddar cheese, chunked
4 oz. mozzarella
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
cayenne pepper, nutmeg, black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
Boil a big pot of water and cook the tortellini until it's al dente.
While the tortellini is cooking make the sauce.
Using a heavy saucepan, saute the onion in butter until it glistens.
Add the flour to make a roux and stir for about one minute to a bubbly froth.
Add the milk and stir constantly over a medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken.
Add the nutmeg and black pepper and stir well to incorporate.
Add the cheeses a few chunks at a time and stir to melt, but set aside a bit of the Parmesan for the top of the casserole.
Grease a casserole and its cover.
Place some of the cheese sauce in the bottom of the casserole.
Drain the tortellini and add the tortellin and cheese sauce in layers, ending with a drizzle of sauce, a sprinkle of the reserved Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of the cayenne, nutmeg, and black pepper.

Bake the casseroile covered for about 35 minutes covered. Remove the cover and brown up the top before serving (another 10-15 minutes).

1 comment:

  1. I make mac and cheese every couple of weeks during the cold months. And it never turns out the same twice. Believe it or not, I have a whole drawer in my refrigerator dedicated to cheese, so the recipe depends on what's in the draw. I love the idea of using cheese filled pasta instead of plain shapes. Thanks for this.

    And here is another holiday challenge for you. I'm looking for a fruitcake recipe that can really change minds about fruitcake - in time to make for Christmas next year. Have you got one already, or think you and your co-conspirators can fine tune one by next fall? Not that you were looking for requests, but if not you, maybe one of the sprouts will chime in.


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