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Why I Love My Grandmother's Baked Mac and Cheese

I love everything about Grandmother Howard's beloved Mac and Cheese—especially its crunchy, cheesy crust over a creamy center—but what I love more is what it represents—family, unity, and love.

Needless to say, when we were asked to give our favorite Thanksgiving recipe for the Cooking Light family cookbook, it was no question that it was going to be Grandmother's baked macaroni.

As I approach the doorstep of the white house that sits on the hill, the aroma of buttery goodness fills the air. And when I ring the doorbell, I spot my Grandmother coming to greet me with a smile and hug. When I enter the kitchen, I see casseroles, green beans, turkey, pies, and that beloved mac and cheese ready to be served. When we all sit down, Grandmother (at the head of the table) proceeds to tell us how proud she is of us and how thankful she is for us being with her.

Even with the gorgeous centerpiece, fine china, seasonal decorations, and decadent food, none of it would matter without our family, especially her. She is the one who brings us together and reminds us how important family is. She is the one who is always interested in what we're doing, including what I'm doing at Cooking Light. She receives every issue, reads it cover to cover, then gives feedback. I look forward to that every month. She continues to set the example of what love, kindness, perseverance, hard work, joy, and attitude should look like.

Christmas Eve 2014

When we all were old enough to learn how to cook, she so graciously passed over the apron to us, and we all began to attempt her "famous" recipes. Have any of us succeeded? Not quite, but we sure do try.  There's something so special about a grandmother's touch, especially my Grandmother Howard's. The Mac and Cheese especially has been a family-favorite for years. Not only has it graced the holiday table numerous times, but it was the dish we begged for as children. Grandmother's chicken salad was the other family-favorite. Man, we loved that stuff, and we still do.

The key to this dish is the evaporated milk, glorious amounts of cheese and butter. To make it a little bit lighter and put the Cooking Light spin on it, our Executive Food Editor Ann Taylor Pittman added canola mayonnaise to make things extra creamy. She finished it off with a crunchy panko topping—an amazing way to lighten up such a decadent dish while maintaining the creamy, cheesy goodness.

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