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Chapter 3: The Best Mac n’ Cheese

17 Jan

I almost can’t believe it. I have been on the search for the best macaroni and cheese recipe for what seems, ever. And apparently it has been; my last blog post on my search for the best mac n’ cheese was on May 23, 2011! I started a 3 chapter post and chapter 2 was all the way back then….

Well, I have found it. This is the recipe that will be the base of all my future mac n’ cheese recipes. Thank you Martha Stewart. (Of course.) I did change it slightly after reading and researching what makes the best mac n’ cheese. (How many times can I say mac n’ cheese?!) I did use some cream instead of milk and I used dry mustard instead of nutmeg. I DO NOT like nutmeg in recipes that are supposed to savory but I do like it in desserts. My husband thinks I’m crazy but I can detect the slightest bit of nutmeg and it just grosses me out.

Also, in this recipe Martha does a bread crumb topping which I omitted, just not a fan.

6 Tbs unsalted butter

3 1/2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream (yup!)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp dried mustard

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar

2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere

1 pound elbow macaroni (I used shells, holds the sauce better)

1/4 cup pecorino Romano cheese

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Fill a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Cook macaroni according to package instructions but about 3 minutes less, until it is just underdone. Drain in colander, rinse and set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish;set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk and cream. Melt remaining 6 Tsp butter in a high-sided skillet or large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is completed melted, add flour. Cook, stirring 1 minute.

Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from heat. Stir in salt, black pepper, mustard, cayenne pepper, 4 cups cheddar, 1 1/2 cups Gruyere; mix well. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce and then pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving….Enjoy!

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I have big plans for future mac n’ cheese recipes….

 

 

 

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Part II: Eggplant Rollatini

25 Oct

Hands down one of my all time favorite meals ever! And this is the first time I have ever made it and to make it with my homemade sauce made it even better. Thank you to Vodka and Biscuits for the great recipe, the only thing I changed was using fresh spinach versus frozen.

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Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants

kosher salt, as needed

pepper, as needed

15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 package fresh, organic baby spinach-torn into pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 T chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch red pepper flakes

2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the the stem end of the eggplant, I also like mine peeled but it is up to you. Using a meat slicer, mandolin or chef’s knife , cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4″ inch slices. Generously sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and to “sweat” for 15 to 20 minutes.

Rinse each slice with water and pat dry. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet and bake 10 -12 minutes.

In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, torn spinach and red pepper flakes. Taste for flavor before adding egg. Once you like the flavor, add egg and mix well.

Cover bottom of baking dish with a thin layer of sauce.

To roll the eggplant, place a heaping spoonful of ricotta mix on a slice of eggplant, roll and place in the sauce. Continue making the eggplant rolls and place them in the baking dish.

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Cover the eggplant rolls with the remaining sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

I served mine with spaghetti of course…just had to have the carbs. My husband said it was the best dish I had ever made, can’t beat that!

*Sorry about the crappy photos, one of my New Years’s resolutions for the coming year is better blog photos.

 

 

Pickle Time!!!

19 Aug

One of my favorite foods in life is the pickle! Yummy dill pickles!  Back in college my friend Mary-Jo had us up to her parents cabin in Pennsylvania for the weekend every summer and every year she would bring her fathers home-made pickles.  They were so delicious they wouldn’t even make it through the first hour. We begged her for the recipe but no luck…until about 10 years ago we had a sort of reunion and went up for a last hoorah because they had sold the place and at long last she shared the recipe with us.  So I have had the recipe sitting in my recipe box all this time and have never tried it out;until now and I am sharing it with you because it is so easy and so good!

Pre-Pickled Pickles

MJ’s Pickles

Kirby Cucumbers (I used 3 per quart jar, they were a bit on the bigger side)

Fresh Dill

Fresh Garlic (think 2 cloves per jar)

4 Tablespoons Salt

6 Cups Water

2 Cups White Vinegar

Quart Size Mason Jars (3-4)

In a large pot bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil.  While waiting for the liquid to boil, wash the cucumbers and put in jars.  Add about a handful of fresh dill and 1 or 2 large cloves of peeled garlic to each jar.  Use your judgement when it comes to the garlic-I did some jars with more and some less so I could see what I liked better.  When the liquid comes to a boil pour into the jars until covering the cucumbers, put the covers on each jar loosely and put aside for 10 days. Yes, mine sat on my counter for 10 days and we could smell the faint fragrance of the vinegar mixed with garlic and dill, then on the 11th day tighten the seals and refrigerate.  Then EAT! I got rave reviews from my co-workers,  my husband and even my dog!  As for the garlic, the general consensus was, the jars with more garlic were tastier. I hope you won’t wait as long as I did to make these, they are too good!

Voila...Pickle Time!

Summertime, The 4th of July…Hotdogs!

5 Jul

Hello Everyone! I apologize for being “off-air” for the last few weeks. I was fighting a sinus infection for more than a month and having work done on my kitchen but now my kitchen and my sinuses are back in working order.

Hotdogs

Hotdogs with our favorite toppings!

To me, the official start of summer is not Memorial Day but the 4th of July and with that, it is the season of eating hotdogs.  I am a pretty healthy eater but there is something about a hotdog that I cannot resist. And no, no fat-free turkey or chicken hotdogs, I am talking real beef and/or pork hotdogs cooked on the grill until the skin cracks.

Here are a few hotdog facts that are kinda crazy from the National Hotdog and Sausage Council:

In 2010 consumers spent more than $1.6 billion on hotdogs in the United States.

On the 4th of July Americans eat more than 150 million hotdogs!

L.A. consumes more hotdogs than other city in the U.S. (funny stat considering how it’s supposed to be such healthy city of thin people)

From Memorial Day through Labor Day 818 hotdogs are consumed every second-Wow!

The winner of the Nathans World Championship Hotdog Eating Contest held yesterday, July 4th is Joey Chestnut-he ate 62 hotdogs with buns in 10 minutes-this is his fifth year winning.

And the first ever Nathans Womens Hotdog Eating Champion is Sonya Thomas-she ate 40 hotdogs with buns.

I won’t be doing that anytime soon. I can eat about 2 tops and speaking of toppings my favorite is sauerkraut! The options are endless with chili, cheese, coleslaw, onions, relish, ketchup, mustard and so on. There are restaurants devoted to hotdogs and of course every major city has carts that sell the “dirty water dogs”  and now they are popping up in small towns all over the U.S.  My favorite hotdog joint is on St.Simons Island in Georgia, Hotdog Alley.  It is the most charming, friendly little place tucked away about a block from the Village: great hotdogs, delicious sweet tea and always with a smile.  The other is in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina-The Trolly Stop.  Again, it is a tiny little place with a menu of dogs with lots of different toppings and now they have hamburgers and other items on the menu but you really need to have the hotdog. www.trollystophotdogs.com

So welcome to summer and enjoy a hotdog!

Mexican Mac & Cheese – Chapter 2

23 May

For the second chapter on macaroni and cheese I am writing about a new twist on an old favorite, Mexican mac & cheese! A coworker told me about a recipe called Queso Chicken Pasta on the blog www.mangeratrois.net, I checked it out and decided to change a few things like adding ground beef instead of chicken (the chicken seemed a bit boring) and few other slight adjustments and voila! a hearty, tasty mac & cheese that is definitely a meal.  Check it out for yourself and I am sure it will delight you…

1 lb Penne pasta

1 lb ground beef

2 Tbls olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

2 Tbls flour

2 2/3 cups milk

2 tsp salt

8 ounces cream cheese

12 ounces shredded cheese (Cheddar, Mexican blend, Colby, Jack or mixture of any) I have found that I like to use 8 ounces of Colby or Jack to 4 ounces of Cheddar, it makes it creamier. 

1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained

Heat oven to 350 degrees and  thinly coat a large casserole dish with oil-I like to use olive oil but vegetable will work just as well.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta 2 minutes less than directed. Drain well and place in the casserole dish.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat and brown the ground beef, until cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes and drain well. Add the browned ground beef to the pasta.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet adding the onion and garlic.  Cook until the onion becomes soft, about 3 minutes.  Add cumin, coriander and salt.  Cook until spices become fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (Add a touch more olive oil it seems to dry.)  Gradually add milk and stir until smooth.  Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened.  Turn heat down to low heat and add cream cheese and 8 ounces of shredded cheese, stirring until melted.  Stir in Ro-Tel tomatoes.

Add the cheese mixture to the pasta and ground beef and stir well until fully incorporated.  Top with remaining shredded cheese and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.  Let stand for 5 minutes (if you can) and then ENJOY!

Mac & Cheese…Chapter 1.

15 May

Ok, so this particular favorite food of mine will get at least 3 chapters, this being Chapter 1.  I believe that it was love at first bite when I had my first taste of Kraft macaroni & cheese, although I’m not sure exactly when that was. It got me through college and whenever I don’t feel well it’s the only thing I really want to eat. I do remember going to a friend’s house when I was about 13 for dinner and they were having macaroni and cheese; just macaroni and cheese.  I had never heard of such a thing.  Her mom had made I’m not sure how many boxes and then put it in a large pan and baked it but that wasn’t even the best part.  She served it with sour cream! As if just having mac & cheese for dinner wasn’t enough of a treat, I got to smother it in sour cream. It was absolutely incredible!  I know that are foodies out there who say that I cannot be a “real” foodie if I like anything that comes out of box in powder form and is technicolor orange, but I am and I do!  And keep in mind that you do add real milk and real butter, so good!

My favorite...

Now I have always known that you can add all sorts of things to this mac and cheese to make it a meal or a more hearty side dish but I prefer it “au natural” , just plain and lovely.  My husband has just discovered at a friends suggestion that his favorite way to eat it, is with red-hot pepper flakes sprinkled on it, why didn’t he think of that?! But did you know that there are gazillions of recipes out there to enhance and entice you into eating more mac & cheese. On the Kraft website they have, of course, a macaroni and cheese page with suggestions like: add cut up hotdogs, can of peas or corn, a can of tuna…(not so much) and they also offer suggestions like to spray the top of the foil you put over it when cooking it in the over so the cheese doesn’t stick .  They also have an entire section of recipes devoted to macaroni and cheese and a Facebook page.  Love the Facebook page where you can post pictures of you, your family, friends, pets and neighbors eating Kraft macaroni & cheese.

Let me now your thoughts and feelings about this and if you get the chance check out the website and maybe you will find a favorite new way to eat mac & cheese.  www.kraftfoodscompany.com

Hotdog Casserole, it’s a real weiner!

11 Apr

I have lots of great memories from my childhood that revolve around food which I find to be very common.  There is one memory that I love and causes at least three of my seven siblings to gag-Hotdog Casserole! I hadn’t thought of or eaten it in many years until my husband reminded me about it when I told him I was writing a food blog.  It is one of those recipes that I thought was unique to our family and when I mention it, people often look at me in disbelief.  My brother John actually wrote a paper about it in high school and got an A.  Google it, there are many recipes out there which I was absolutely shocked to see.  My husband was very skeptical that it could taste good but I assured him that with several of his favorite foods in it; potatoes, onions, hotdogs and tomato soup that he would love it.

Here’s how it goes:

1 package of your favorite dogs

2 cans tomato soup (I like Campbell’s, and you don’t need to dilute it)

1 large onion-thinly sliced

5-6 medium eastern potatoes-thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread a thin layer of tomato soup on the bottom of a casserole dish. Then layer potatoes, onions and hotdogs spread with tomato soup and continue to layer, it should make 3 layers. For the top I put a layer of potatoes with a thin layer of soup on the top.  Put the lid on and bake for 40 minutes then remove lid and bake for another 20 minutes.  It will be a mass of bubbly goodness! Keep in mind to slice the potatoes nice and thin so they cook completely.

Well, my skeptical husband is now a convert, he loved it! The flavor of the onion that mixes with the tomato soup and is soaked up by the potatoes and hot dogs is just delicious!  I believe it will now be added to our regular rotation of meals along with spaghetti and meatballs and pot roast, his other favorites.  If you make it, please let me know what you think! Enjoy!

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