Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a big sports fan. I especially love football. It wasn’t always that way – I played baseball and basketball as a kid, and watched Mariners games, but didn’t have any real exposure to football. So when I made the cheerleading squad in high school, I didn’t have a clue what was happening on the field
I did know just enough about offense and defense to understand that we shouldn’t be shouting “GET that ball, get THAT ball, get that BALL” when we HAD the ball, but another one of the cheers went “We’ve got a first down, let’s go, now take it 10!”
I had NO IDEA what that meant.
So I asked my dad to explain it to me. He gave me some basics, and I started watching Seahawks games on Sundays. (Alone, my dad was not one to sit around watching sports when there was work to be done outside and my brother was only 4.) And I was hooked. I loved the game. (And I LOVVVVVED Steve Largent, but that’s a post for another day.)
I cried the first time the Seahawks won the division championship and earned their first Super Bowl spot. (And I cried after that game, I will hate Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger, and the stupid refs forever.) I REALLY cried after the divisional championship game against San Francisco that earned them their next Super Bowl appearance – that Richard Sherman tip in the end zone was a thing of beauty. I did NOT cry after they stomped on Denver in that Super Bowl, I was too busy rejoicing. And I was too numb to cry after the Super Bowl against New England.
And as much as I love my ‘Hawks, I love my WSU Cougars even more. There’s something about being a Coug that you just don’t get unless you are one, and then you don’t have to explain it. Whether we’ve met or not, we are family. (My sister defines it as a cult. Poh-tay-toe, poh-tah-toe, I say.)
Some of the most exciting moments in my life have been WSU football games (especially the 1997 and 2012 Apple Cups, OMG*) and some of the most depressing moments of my life have been WSU football games (sooooo many other Apple Cups and the USC game in 1991 come to mind, along with the 1998 Rose Bowl and the 2016 Holiday Bowl). But true, DIE-HARD Cougs stand behind their team no matter what.
*Even the 2008 Apple Cup, which was the only conference win of the season, is glorious because (a) I was there and it snapped my long-standing Apple Cup losing streak, and (b) it meant the Huskies went WINLESS for the season, which is almost as enjoyable as winning. We take our fun where we can get it.
So since the minute I started this blog, I knew that the first weekend in September’s mac and cheese was going to be Cougar Gold Mac in honor of the start of football season. Of course, I didn’t know that football season would not be happening due to a global pandemic, but I had a tin of Cougar Gold cheese I’d been saving especially for this, so I wasn’t about to let that stop me.
If you’ve never had Cougar Gold, you’re missing out. Also, as long as you don’t open the tin, it lasts FOREVER. There are people in my Facebook groups who brag about how many years (decades in some cases) they’ve been holding onto some tins. It is THE BEST CHEESE. And yes, I might be biased. So?
Cougar Gold Mac
Adapted from the WSU Creamery
- 6 ounces rotini pasta (see notes)
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 8 ounces shredded Cougar Gold cheese (see notes)
- 1/8 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat then stir in the flour and whisk continually for 2 minutes.
- Slowly pour in the milk, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until it begins to thicken.
- Add salt if desired – however, the cheese is quite salty, so it’s optional.
- Remove from heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted.
There were two variations on the WSU Creamery page and I split the noodles and sauce and tried them both.
- Add the pasta to a baking dish and pour sauce on top. Do not stir.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and combine it with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the pasta.
- If you’re finishing the full batch in the oven, bake at 350 for 30 minutes. I used a mini-baker that held essentially a single serving, so I only left it in for 15 minutes.
- Combine the pasta and sauce and stir until well-coated. (They actually have more/different instructions on the WSU Creamery recipe page, but this is what I did, and it worked just fine.)
- Chow down immediately!
I mean, you kind of know from what you’ve already read how this is going to score, right?
That’s not entirely my pre-disposition toward all things WSU, this is really, really good. Cougar Gold is a very sharp eating cheese but it mellows significantly as a sauce. In fact, I topped it with a little more shredded cheese, because, well … YUM!
Baked macs typically require a little more sauce as they dry out a little in the oven. Since I only baked a small portion of the recipe, I had some sauce left over and I think I’ll be trying it out on breadsticks this week.
- Apparently in one of my pasta buying binges, I picked up this box of gluten-free rotini without noticing. I don’t follow a gluten-free diet and wouldn’t have purposely bought these, but I actually didn’t notice any difference – the noodles were still very tender, not at all chewy like I feared.
- A can of Cougar Gold is 30 ounces, so even using a couple of cups of it shredded, I still had more than half left. You aren’t supposed to store it in the tin once it’s been opened, so I wrapped the bulk of it in cheesecloth and put it in a Ziploc and squeezed most of the air out; and shredded the rest. It’s a great snack with some Wheat Thins and green grapes, and I’ve also had reasonably good luck freezing it (shredded) for future use. It won’t go to waste!!!
Posted September 6, 2020