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Mix It Up With Jenny - We Are Family

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Macaroni and Cheese for a Crowd

(Family Features) - Whether small and spontaneous or large and organized months in advance, family reunions are fun! Celebrating our common history and heritage is good reason to gather, but most of all I appreciate the good food and catching up on the latest family gossip.

I love being in charge of the menu planning, and I've learned some secrets for success:

  • Ensure that you have a somewhat balanced menu by assigning different menu parts-salads, desserts, side dishes.

  • Start by asking certain family members to bring the dish they're "known" for.

  • Be sure to include dishes that are treasured by the family-that dessert, side dish or appetizer that Grandma was famous for and will be missed if not on the table.

I always make this irresistible Macaroni & Cheese for A Crowd. Since it's a real crowd pleaser, I usually make two pans and they both disappear. Collect the compliments and make copies of the recipe to share. And I bring this yummy casserole in a disposable dish-if the dish gets lost, I don't feel badly!

Everyone appreciates having a role to play:

  • Create a family cookbook of cherished family recipes; use self-publishing cookbook software or tap your local office copy center for ideas.

  • Have an artsy family teen design a family "crest" that represents your heritage.

  • Ask the amateur photo bug in the family to be the reunion's official photographer and share photos by e-mail or snail mail after the party.

  • Choose an enthusiastic family member to arrange activities-games, skits, sports, or a slide show of the family; ask another to plan decorations.

  • If your family includes toddlers, arrange for teens to babysit so adults can visit.

Don't forget to put out a big bag or barrel for easy trash collection, and a container for recyclables. Disposable serving dishes, plates, glasses and flatware are a good idea for a large gathering-saving on the cleanup makes more time for fun.

For never-fail, crowd-pleasing dishes that will make your reunion memorable, plan the menu by starting at www.VeryBestBaking.com.

Jenny Harper is Consumer Test Kitchen Project Manager for the Nestlé Test Kitchens and VeryBestBaking.com.

Macaroni and Cheese for a Crowd

  • 1 box (16 ounces) dry, small elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cans (12 fluid ounces each) Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
  • Ground paprika (optional)

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375&176;F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking dish or disposable baking pan.
    2. COMBINE cornstarch, salt and pepper in large saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, water and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheeses until melted. Place macaroni into prepared dish. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni; stir to coat. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.
    3. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Calories: 320g     Total Fat: 20g
Cholesterol: 65mg     Protein: 15g
Carbohydrates: 20g     Sodium: 700mg

Makes 12 servings

SOURCE: Nestlé USA, Inc.

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