Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- For a hearty main dish, add chicken and spinach to macroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese has been in the limelight for the past year or so. Yes, it’s everything from the granny-type casserole of yellow cheese (or a cheesy product) to exotic cheese blends melted and folded into cooked macaroni.

How it’s served determines where it fits in the menu. I’ve seen mac-and-cheese balls for appetizers, mac-and-cheese cakes as a side and a mac-and-cheese wedge with a salad for a lunch combo.

Last week, I added cooked and deboned chicken thigh pieces with fresh spinach to mac and cheese for a meal in one.

The sauce can be your favorite cheesy white sauce or a cream reduction that’s thickened with cheese. Begin by first pre-boiling the macaroni and then making the cheese sauce. Serve it plain or add your own touches like cooked chicken, raw or steamed vegetables. Except for spinach, kale and sweet peas, most of the vegetables would have to be blanched or steamed first. The pasta shape can be up to you or what’s on your pantry shelf like elbow, bowtie, twists, penne, ziti or small shells.

Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at