Old-fashioned snail-mail just delivered the 2012 Southern edition of a perennial favorite, "The Old Farmer's Almanac."

This is the one established in 1792 by Robert B. Thomas and now released by Yankee Publishing in Dublin, N.H.

You may laugh, but I will wager a basket of next year's tomatoes that you will find something utterly fascinating inside the almanac's 256 pages. There's so much trivia, both practical and entertaining, it will keep you busy reading for a long time.

Discover Secrets of the Zodiac, how to really calculate your dog's age (not 7X), what to eat to blow off bad breath and find out when it's going to snow this winter. Its monthly calendars are crammed with information including celestial events, holidays, tide heights, moon phases, proverbs, poems, historical dates and more.

Of course, there's always a food component within the almanac. One of the 2012 features is "Mac & Cheese Outside the Box," which offers four recipes including Greek, Indian, Maryland Crab and the one below.

I usually favor recipes on the lighter side here, but let's go for broke in this fall-like weather.

The almanac should be widely available, but you also may visit almanac.com.

Makes 6 servings


1/2 pound (2 cups) dried corkscrew pasta (cavatappi), cooked

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

8 ounces coarsely grated, extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

6 strips crisply cooked bacon, crumbled and divided

1 1/2 cups Italian-style croutons


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9-inch baking dish or 2 1/2-quart casserole.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, nonstick saucepan. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium heat, partially covered, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened.

Uncover and cook off most of the liquid in the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.

Whisk in the half-and-half, in two batches, and cook, whisking often, until it thickens. Add the cheddar, half at a time, whisking and cooking until it melts. Add the salt. Whisk in the blue cheese and half of the crumbled bacon, and remove the pan from the heat. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Partially crush the croutons in a plastic bag and sprinkle over the dish.

Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with the remaining crumbled bacon.