mac & cheeseThe holiday pressure is on, home chefs! Are you starting to feel like a frantic contestant from Top Chef? Well take a chill pill. Real-life Top Chef Tiffany Derry is here to reassure you. We talked with her today about how we non-celebrity chefs can still make holiday meals memorable and stress-free.

Her first suggestion: BREATHE. "People put too much pressure on themselves -- just breathe!" She also likes to take an approachable recipe and add special ingredients. "There's nothing wrong with the classics," Tiffany says. "Just play around. Don't be afraid to try something new and have fun in the kitchen." One of her must-have holiday dishes is a big surprise: macaroni and cheese! But not just any mac & cheese -- keep reading to see her holiday twist on the comfort classic.

Tiffany says her family demands this dish for holidays. "I grew up in Texas, and there has never been a holiday where we didn't have macaroni and cheese. It's like a staple holiday food." She's created a recipe with four cheeses, and "oh my gosh -- this is amazing! It's crunchy from the bacon -- oh, it's good. I call this one the ultimate macaroni and cheese. The only problem is that now you'll be expected to make this every time your family gets together!" Check out the recipe below. What makes this version special is from-scratch sauce, the bacon, and just the right amount of sharpness from the cheddar and Parmesan.

She adds, "Sometimes we'll get a little fancy with it, and I'll put the mac and cheese in little ramekins." Cute idea! If you want to try that out, be sure to butter the dishes. Tiffany says you'll also need a shorter cooking time -- and that your nose will tell you when it's done. "When you start smelling it, you know it's time to start checking the oven!" It's done when the top is golden-brown.

If you want something even fancier, Tiffany recommends her pepper Jack cheese souffle. The habanero in the cheese adds a special kick to the classic (she likes Sargento's all-natural, ChefStyle Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese). And if you think souffle is too difficult, Tiffany says you have nothing to fear. "It’s something you can do at home. I always tell people, if you can put something in the oven, you can make this. It gets big and crusty on the top, and you open it up and the steam comes out, and everyone 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and it’s just really impressive!"

So remember Tiffany's advice:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Go with a classic you know everyone loves.
  3. Add a little something special.
  4. Use all-natural ingredients, like real cheese.
Green Onion and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 8 oz. elbow macaroni
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella & provolone heese
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large pot, boil water and add 2 Tbsp. salt. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a separate saucepan. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Gradually whisk in milk and simmer 5 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat.
  3. Put half of macaroni in 8x8-inch casserole dish and sprinkle with half of the cheeses, bacon, onion, salt, and pepper. Repeat. Pour white sauce over.
  4. Bake 30 minutes or until set and garnish with additional bacon and green onion before serving, if desired.

What does your family love to eat for Christmas dinner?