Although I encourage my family to always be thankful, I love Thanksgiving because it allows us to dedicate a full day to expressing our gratitude.
One of our family traditions is called “The Thankful Box.” Throughout the year, we write down things we’re thankful for on Post-it-Notes and stick them in the canister. On Thanksgiving Day, we sit around the table and read the notes. It feels great to share our gratitude and review all of the things we are thankful for.
But there is another reason why I love Thanksgiving – the food. I’ve been blessed with a family of great cooks and Thanksgiving is the day when they like to show off. Sometimes we’ll even have cooking challenges to see who reigns supreme in the kitchen.
My favorite holiday dish (aside from the turkey) is my mother-in-law’s homemade macaroni and cheese. If you were to Google the ultimate comfort food, Mom’s mac and cheese would be the top search result (disclaimer: this may or may not be true).
I first tried Mom’s macaroni and cheese while I was still dating my wife. Her parents invited me to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it was more of a hazing than a cordial invitation. My father-in-law stuck me in the cold basement for the night. I withstood the freezing temperatures even though I was tempted to gather some scrap wood and build a fire.
My next challenge occurred at the card table. My wife’s family members are serious card players – spades, bid whist, bridge – you name it, they play it. My father-in-law taught me the basics of bid whist and invited me to play. I teamed up with my wife and managed to hold my own and even win a few hands.
The final challenge was Scrabble. My father-in-law has a Ph.D and was a school district superintendent. In other words, he’s one smart cookie.
While we played, I was a bit intimidated by his vocabulary and strategy. But I refused to lose the game. I didn’t earn a degree in English for nothing. After several hard-fought rounds, I emerged victorious. I could tell that my father-in-law was impressed if not a little annoyed at losing.
After my trial by fire (more acurately, my trial by freezing), I finally received my reward – a generous helping of Mom’s decadent macaroni and cheese.
Beforehand, my wife tried to describe how delicious the mac and cheese was. Words cannot describe the sensation I felt when I had that first bite. It was akin to riding a unicorn across a rainbow with angels singing the background. Yeah, it was that good.
I knew I had to marry my wife so I could get more of this Thanksgiving manna.
My wife and I have been married over 16 years and I still crave my mother-in-law’s macaroni and cheese. I’ve attempted to replicate it, but my efforts always fall short. Rather than try to make her recipe, I’ve experimented with several of my own.
Macaroni, Bacon and Cheese Cups
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 3 Slices of cooked bacon (diced)
- 3 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons butter, melted
- 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons onions finely diced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 cups macaroni
- 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1. Cook the macaroni per package instructions. Drain and add to a large bowl.
2. Heat the oven to 400°F.
3. Spray muffin-pan cups with the cooking spray and lightly coat with bread crumbs.
4. Add the remaining bread crumbs, butter, onions, cheddar cheese soup, milk, black pepper, bacon, and cheese into bowl with macaroni.
5. Spoon macaroni mixture into each muffin-pan cup. Sprinkle additional cheddar cheese and bread crumbs on top.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the macaroni mixture is hot and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before removing the minis from the pan.
These bite sized cups are delicious and perfect for kids. After I made a pan, my 10-year son kept trying to snatch a couple to snack on.
My macaroni and cheese may never compare to my mother-in-law’s, but it’s good enough to tie me over until next Thanksgiving.
Join the conversation: What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
Disclosure: I’m a paid Campbell’s Condensed Soup Ambassador