It’s week two of Alex Mitchell’s Guinness Beer Challenge, where the men of the Deadly Force series cook and compete with their favorite dishes made with Guinness Stout. Last week Alex made Guinness Beer & Cheese Sliders (which were delicious), and this week it is Zack Tremaine’s turn. (Zack is the hero of In Search of Truth, book 3 in the Deadly Force series).

Zack ~ “Even though I didn’t win the Whiskey Challenge last year (because our female judges were bought by Detective Garza), I know I’m going to win this year. I have the best recipe for Guinness Macaroni & Cheese, and it’s going to blow everyone away. Luckily, my competition this year is weak. Alex can’t make a roux without burning it. And although Garza is a decent cook, his win last year was a fluke. He never would’ve won without the help of the women we love. And Vane? That’s laughable. The only worse cook in our small group of men is our boss, Kells. He can’t even steep a cup of tea. 

Since I only need a burner, I can use the portable stove we have in our kitchen above the gym. There’s not a lot of space, but it’ll work. Luckily, I asked Nate (our XO and contest judge) to come up with ways to keep everyone busy downstairs in the gym. I just don’t need my buddies wandering around up here, getting in the way, and giving information to my enemies (the other contestants).

Just as I’m chopping garlic, Kells appears. He leans his enormous body against the door jamb and asks, “I want to compete.”

I laugh out loud until I see his frown. “Sir, you can’t be serious.”

“I am serious.” He clears his throat and watches me as I finish the garlic. “I think it would be good for me, and the men, to get involved in this.”

I hide my grimace. While he’s our CO, and we trust him with our lives, he’s bossy–because that’s his job. He’ll take over the contest–because he’s bossy and that’s his job–and be a general PIA. And, like I mentioned before, Kells doesn’t know how to boil water. “Well, sir, I think all of the slots have been taken. Maybe you can help Nate judge our entries.” I’m sure I can get Alex to agree to that if it keeps Kells out of the kitchen.

Kells’s frown deepens. “I’d prefer to enter.”

“Great.” I try to keep the annoyance out of my voice.

Kells sighs heavily and crosses his arms over his wide chest. “You could be more excited.”

“Yes, sir.” I hide my grimace and hear men’s voices downstairs in the gym, specifically Vane complaining because no one cleaned the gym last night before we went to bed. And I get an idea. “Sir, Vane is one of the entrants. Why don’t you ask him if you two can team up?”

That way we all won’t end up at the hospital with food poisoning. Of course I don’t say that part out loud.

Kells nods and leaves. Once I hear him ordering everyone around downstairs, I text Alex. “Kells wants in on the contest.”

“No!!!” Alex texts back.

“Yes. I told him to talk to Vane. Maybe they can team up.”

Alex texts some bad words, which I won’t relay here, and ends with, “Thanks for letting me know.”

And now Kells’s request was Alex’s problem. Once all the prep work for my Mac & Cheese is finished, I hurry downstairs to work on the party space. Which is nothing more than a broken concrete patio out back. Luckily, the tables are still set up from last week, and my fiancée Allison is using a small tank to blow up balloons. A few days ago, Allison scored some inexpensive party supplies. While she’s not supposed to help me, Alex never said anything about shopping for paper goods. 

“Hey.” I kiss her quickly and help her with the balloons. She’s decorated the yard with silver and blue streamers, balloons, and glittery things on the table. I would’ve gone with no decorations, but she insisted. “Thanks for your help. It looks great out here.”

Allison kisses me back and says, “I have a surprise for you.” Then she points to the far corner of the yard where a big box sits on the ground. 

I head over and realize it’s holds an inflatable movie screen. It just has to be put together. “Where did you get this?”

“I found it for sale online. Someone was moving and didn’t want to take it with them. It’s used, but it’s supposed to work.” She came over and wrapped her arms around my waist. “Once we eat, I thought I’d make some popcorn and we could all watch a movie.” 

It was a great idea. “What will we sit on?”

“I found blankets in Iron Rack’s back storage room.”

I grimace because the back storage room, while kind of clean now, was once infested with rats. And may still be. “I don’t–“

“Don’t worry.” She left me to grab her purse and keys from a nearby table. “The blankets are at the laundromat and I’m going to get them now.” She waved her arm around the patio. “I’m so excited. I know you’re going to win. You just have to pick the perfect movie.”

A few hours later, as I’m on a blanket watching a Harry Potter movie with my buddies and the women we love, and our stomachs filled with the best Mac & Cheese any of them have ever eaten, I know I’ve won Alex’s contest. And I realize that while we may not have a lot of money, our real enemies are quiet and we have each other. And right now, that’s enough for me.”

Guinness Macaroni and Cheese

I love this recipe because it goes directly from the stove to the table and doesn't need to be baked in the oven. That means it doesn't dry out!

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 535 kcal



  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • cup Guinness or other stout
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces cream cheese cut into pieces
  • 3 ½ cups Irish shredded cheddar cheese divided


  • tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic finely minced
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley minced



  1. Let's make the topping first. Use a skillet over medium heat to melt the butter, but don't let the pan get too hot. Slowly stir in the garlic and breadcrumbs. Stir continuously until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted. Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the salt, pepper, and minced fresh partly. Set aside and allow to cool


  1. Heat a stockpot filled with salted water. Once the water is boiled, cook the macaroni until it's al dente – the cooking time will be on the macaroni box. After it's cooked, drain the pasta but make sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Set aside the reserved pasta water and allow to cool.

  2. While the macaroni is cooking, use a large saucepan to begin the sauce. Using a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Then sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk for one minute. Then, while still whisking, pour in the Guinness, whole milk, half and half, salt, pepper, and mustard. Bring the sauce to a low simmer and, while whisking continuously, cook for 4-6 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.

  3. Slowly whisk in the cream cheese and the 2 1/2 grated Irish cheddar cheese. Keep whisking until all the cheese is melted and smooth. Then carefully stir in the cooked macaroni. Once the macaroni is mixed in, stir in the last 1 cup of cheese. Stir this mixture until the cheese is melted and kind of stringy.

    Allow the macaroni to cook over a low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Transfer the macaroni to a large serving dish and sprinkle the bread crumb topping on top. Serve immediately.

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