Lee MathisINSANELEE DECADENTGrand Junction Free Press Food Columnist

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February 16, 2012
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FOOD: Turning three years young

Well, who would have thought, that back on Feb. 18, 2009, when our first column appeared in this paper, that we would actually be around for our 3rd Anniversary? When I noticed the Free Press no longer had a local food column, I wrote an acquaintance of mine, Josh Nichols, at the Free Press that I would be interested in writing such a column and in a moment of weakness, he thought that it would be a good idea. Thanks, Josh!We pretty much have run the gamut in the column, what with having written over 100 column, posted over 100 recipes, posted over 100 "Websites of the Week," talked about many of the new restaurants that have opened, commented on food both here in the Grand Valley and from my not-frequent-enough road trips, and talked about the many fairs, festivals and markets that make the Grand Valley such a great place to live ... and eat! And you know what - it has been fun!We have heard from many of our readers, both emails and letters, and that is why a lot of us write and pontificate... to elicit reactions, to get feedback on recipes, to hear your "foodie" moments and hopefully to get you to think (and react) to these. We hope to continue this and get even more reaction.What has been your favorite column? What was your favorite recipe? What was your favorite Website of the Week? What would you like to see more of in this column? Write me (c/o The Free Press) or email me! We will publish your comments in a future column and who knows ... you might actually win some cheesecakes.TABLE FOR TWO?Chez Lena, the restaurant of the Colorado Culinary Program at Colorado Mesa University/WCCC, has just put out their spring semester menu!From Chilled Spice Crusted Beef Carpaccio to Brandied Beef Tip Tostadas & Grilled Loch Duart Salmon w/Sauce Barnaise and much, much more, nothing over $13, this truly is, as many of us have said before, one of the hidden gems of the Grand Valley!They only serve lunch, from 11:30-1 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. Reservations are highly recommended; call 255-2641 for more information! Chez Lena will close for the semester around the first of May, so make sure you get over there posthaste!====================Lee is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. Reach him at decadencecheesecakes@mindspring.com, via the website at www.decadencecheesecakes.com, or by calling 256-4688. Follow the adventures of Decadence on Facebook and on Twitter.

One of my favorite food shows is "Heat Seekers" on the Food Network! These chefs travel the country to find the hottest, fieriest foods around and basically see if they can stand more! (Wonder what would happen if they stop by for the Soup Challenge during Palisade's Olde Fashioned Christmas and try "El Nino Del Diablo" Chili Soup!) Check out their site and then check out the recipes listed. For my "Recipe of the Week," here is one that I really have to try from "Heat Seekers" - A Pimento and Habanero Mac & Cheese ... Do you dare?http://www.foodnetwork.com/heat-seekers/index.html

Total Time: 40 minPrep 20 minCook 20 minYield: 6 servings ---------------------One 16-ounce box pasta (your choice) 2 cups half-and-half (or 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup cream) 1 pound shredded sharp cheddar 1 cup your favorite pimento cheese (homemade works best) 4 medium habanero, seeded and chopped 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard Salt and freshly ground black pepper Cayenne pepperPreheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box given for al dente pasta. Drain the pasta and put back in the same pot over low heat. Add the half-and-half, half the cheddar, the pimento cheese and habanero. Stir until melted and creamy. Stir in the mustard, salt and pepper. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish, top with the remaining cheddar and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Cook's Note: I use sharp cheddar mostly, but you can you use any mixture of cheese you have on hand. There is no wrong cheese for this recipe. This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchen chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 16, 2012 10:04PM Published Feb 16, 2012 09:59PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.