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Nike Chillemi's Easy Festive Baked Mac 'n Cheese

Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chair, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. HARMFUL INTENT released under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press, won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Historic Suspense category. Her new release is DEADLY DESIGNS. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network. Learn more about Nike HERE.

Nike's Latest Book Release: Deadly Designs

Private investigator Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels teams up with Deputy Dawson Hughes to find a geeky radio broadcaster's missing wife and young daughter. They fear the woman and child were taken by Islamic terrorists as revenge against the husband's pro-Israel, conspiracy theory broadcasts. The investigation takes Ronnie and Hughes from a manicured Connecticut estate, to interviews with an elitist A-List society crowd, and run-ins with cranky local police detectives. Then they plunge deep into the seamy, drug-riddled underbelly of the fashion world, with the specter of international terrorism hovering.

Hughes has recently been promoted to lieutenant in the Taylor County, Texas Sheriff's Department. He's on leave on a special assignment with Authorized Operations (AO), a clandestine, quasi-government agency operating out of a sea-side mansion in Hither Hills, NY. The only thing is, many powerful politicians, and government big-wigs claim Authorized Operations doesn't exist.

Ronnie is furious at both Hughes and the broadcaster for waiting thirty-six hours to start the search. She knows the longer it takes, the less chance there is of finding the child alive. The problem is, radio talk-show host Ed Harper has been hoping-against-hope that his pot-smoking, model wife is on one of her 'esoteric experiences' and has simply taken the child while she romps for a few days. He doesn't want to seriously consider the other, more hazardous possibility… that his radio broadcasts have angered some very dangerous people. Purchase the book HERE. 

Nike's Recipe for Easy Festive Baked Mac 'n Cheese

16 oz. box of bow-tie pasta (or any pasta)
16 oz. jar Ragu Double Cheddar Cheese Sauce (or any cheese sauce)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 oz  jar Hormel Bacon Bits or Hormel Bacon Pieces
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
2-3 beefsteak tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta slightly less than package directions. (I like to use bow-tie pasta because it looks festive and will hold up after boiling and baking, but any pasta will due.) Drain pasta. Spray a rectangular baking dish well with cooking spray. 

Return pasta to the pot, mix in one jar of yellow cheese sauce. (I use Ragu Double Cheddar, but Velveeta is good too.) Add salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in gently so you don't break the pasta. Pour half of pasta and cheese mixture into the sprayed pan and smooth evenly. Top with a layer of (1.5 oz) real bacon bits and (4 oz) shredded cheddar.

Using a large cooking spoon, spread remaining pasta and cheese mixture carefully onto the bacon bits and shredded cheddar. Cover with thick slices of large ripe tomatoes. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and bacon bits onto the tomato slices covering them. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until luscious and bubbly. Remove foil and bake remaining 15 minutes. Some of the top pasta pieces will be crispy. Let stand five minutes, then bring to the table. Protect your hands with potholders and be sure to set the pan on a heat proof trivet.

Note: the photo shown of mine is before it went into the oven. This has always been a crowd pleaser. It can be baked at home then transported covered with foil and warmed in an oven, or baked entirely when you get to wherever you're eating your holiday meal.

Easy Thanksgiving Dressing

Here's a recipe I've tweaked based on my mother-in-law's holiday recipe.

1 lb. ground sausage
1 - 6 oz box turkey stuffing mix
1 - 6 oz. box cornbread stuffing mix
3 1/3 cups water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
Seasoning packets
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup pine nuts

Brown sausage in skillet and set aside. In medium saucepan, combine seasoning packets with water and butter. Add chopped apricots. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, covered. Remove from heat. Add bread crumbs, sausage, and pine nuts. Stir to moisten. Cover and let stand an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve. Makes 10-12 servings.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Cottage Cheese Butterhorn Rolls

Here is a fun little recipe when you need a sweet treat. Goes well with potluck dinners or for picnics. 

1 cup margarine
12 oz cottage cheese
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixing bowl, cream together margarine and cottage cheese. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate for four hours. Divide dough into three parts. On floured board, form each into a ball and roll into a circle. Slice into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge, starting at the wide end. Place point side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake rolls for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Makes 36. Drizzle with icing:

2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Here are a few Thanksgiving recipe ideas to serve with your turkey next week. 
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Golden Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie

Chili Cheese Roll

Here's a delicious recipe to make for the upcoming holiday season. Especially good with crackers and Homemade Salami. Enjoy!

8 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. Velvetta cheese
16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder

In large bowl, mix together cream cheese, Velvetta cheese, and cheddar cheese. Using plastic wrap, shape into 2-3 log rolls. In small bowl, combine chili powder and garlic powder. Sprinkle onto parchment paper and roll each log in chili powder mixture to cover. Roll again in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. To serve, cut each into 1/2" slices.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Cranberry Salad

This is a favorite recipe to use this Thanksgiving.

4 cups raw cranberries, ground
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
2-3 oz. cherry gelatin
1 cup crushed pineapple
2 cups diced apples
1 cup chopped pecans

In medium saucepan, cook cranberries in water and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar and cherry gelatin until dissolved. Let cool and add remaining ingredients. Pour into large serving bowl. Chill until set.
Click here for a printable view of this recipe.

Gina Welborn's Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Gina Welborn worked for a news radio station until she fell in love with writing romances. She's the author of eight inspirational romances, including the 2014 Selah finalist "Mercy Mild" in ECPA-bestselling Mistletoe Memories. She serves on the ACFW Foundation Board by helping raise funds for scholarships. She is also the webmaster for the Southwest Oklahoma Corvette Club. Gina lives with her pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, two rabbits, four guinea pigs, and a dog that doesn't realize rabbits and pigs are edible.

Gina's Latest Book Release: Christmas Traditions
EIGHT CBA and Amazon Bestselling and Award-Winning Authors present heartwarming novellas of Christmases gone by, where the true meaning of the season warms your heart and love flows as fast as apple cider. Includes a brand new release, “Eleven Pipers Piping,” and also Selah Award finalist, “The Fruitcake Challenge.” Grab your favorite drink, no matter the temperature outside, curl up in a cozy chair and lose yourself in holiday romance.

Featuring “Holly Daze” by Gina Welborn

After a year of geological surveying northeastern Iowa, English paleontologist James Holly yearns to join a fossil dig in Colorado. Although amused by the town’s folklore and Christmas festivities, he doesn’t believe in superstitions or curses. Celebrating the holiday only reminds him of the family he lost. What goodwill he has for the townsfolk dissipates after someone steals one of his fossils. For once in his life he needs is a bit of luck on his side, and he’ll take it, even if it’s in the form of a charming lady. 

Everyone knows fortune favors Lena Reinhardt. That’s why on St. Barbara’s Day since she turned eighteen, she’s the lucky one who places the cherry twig in the holy water. The town believes her good fortune causes the year’s windfall of crops and livestock, and it will continue as long as she stays unmarried. This year, though, Lena believes God sent James to change her luck. Now if she can only convince him… Purchase the book HERE. 

Gina's Recipe for Gluten-Free Banana Bread

For years my favorite banana bread recipe was in a cookbook our church youth group put together. After switching to a gluten-free diet, I realized something was “off” with that tried-and-true recipe. Somehow the equal-substitution flour was off. I experimented with adjusting flour and baking soda amounts. Eh. Then my mom raved about a recipe from her sister-in-law. I now use this recipe so often that it stays in my baking drawer. In fact, it’s the only recipe in there.

½ cup shortening (or ¼ cup soften butter, ¼ cup coconut oil)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 bananas
1 ¾ cup GF flour (My favorite brand is from Freedom Delivered.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup chopped nuts (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour loaf pan, or line with parchment paper. Beat shortening (or coconut oil and butter) and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and bananas. Combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix into batter. Fold in nuts. Bake 1 hour. Remove from pan and enjoy! Top with fresh strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Pumpkin Pie

Here's a recipe I've adapted from my mom's pumpkin pie recipe. Serve with a dollop or two of whipped cream. Enjoy! 

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup cold water

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 can pumpkin
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
12 oz. can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In small bowl, mix together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until resembles small coarse crumbs. Add half water, mix dough, and then add remaining water and mix until dough forms a ball. Roll out pie dough onto floured surface the size of your pie plate. Transfer to plate and crimp edges. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix all filling ingredients together well. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake an additional 40-50 minutes, until center of pie is set. Test with a knife inserted into center that comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. 
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.