Tag Archives: cooking

Mary Catherine’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Mary Catherine, though she doesn’t blog regularly, seems to be taking over my blog with all of her great articles. A few weeks ago she shared her do-it-yourself guide to Weight Watchers, and today I’m sharing her best macaroni and cheese recipe, according to her husband.

The original recipe for this was Alton Brown’s baked macaroni and cheese, but I changed it quite a bit because of our food preferences and what we had on hand.  I don’t like buying spices that I will only use in one recipe.

What you will need:

1 lb. box of rotini pasta (we just like rotini better, even though I know it’s not traditional macaroni)
6 slices of bacon
2 cups frozen peas (I usually just estimate by about half of small bag)
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
1 tbsp. dried mustard powder (I did buy this specifically for this recipe, but it’s worth it)
hot sauce (I usually add just a little for some extra flavor)
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups shredded cheese + a little extra for the topping (we use mild cheddar)
1 cup breadcrumbs tossed with a little bit of melted butter (how much you need will depend on how thick you like your crust and the dimensions of your pan; we use the Pepperidge Farm herb flavored kind; I would highly recommend them)

What you will do:

Cut the bacon into small squares and cook over medium high heat until brown and crispy.
Remove bacon from the pan and drain the fat.  There is no need to wash this pan or use another one.  Fewer pans, fewer dishes.

Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted, slowly add the 3 tablespoons of flour.  You may not use all 3, or you may need more.  If you’ve never made a roux before, it can be frustrating the first time.  You’re basically cooking the flour.  Once you have the butter/flour combined, keep it moving until it’s cooked to a dark yellow/blond color.  It will start to smell a little nutty.

Now is probably a good time to start the water for your pasta and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the roux is at the right color, slowly add the 3 cups of milk.  Keep it moving.  Using a whisk here really helps to break up the roux and incorporate it into the milk.  Room temperature milk works best, because if you add milk that is too cold too fast the roux will seize up into one giant clump. Even if this happens, it’s OK.  Just strain it out, dump it, and continue to make the sauce.  The difference is just in the thickness of the finished product.

Keep stirring the milk/roux regularly and let it heat over medium low temperature.  Add salt, pepper, mustard powder and hot sauce at this point.

Once the milk has warmed and thickened (usually about 10-15 minutes), add the shredded cheese.  Stir it in until it’s mostly melted.

Now add the cheese sauce to the cooked, drained pasta and mix it all together.  Throw in the bacon and frozen peas (no need to thaw them out before this point; they will cook in the oven) and combine.

Pour the entire mixture into your casserole.  On top, add a small layer of shredded cheese.  Then sprinkle the butter-coated bread crumbs on top of the cheese.

Stick it in your oven and let it go.  Cook time will depend on the dimensions of your casserole.  Ours is really tall/narrow, so it takes a little bit longer to cook than if you were using a shallow dish.  I think I usually cook mine anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.  I just check it after 20 minutes and pull it out when it’s golden brown and bubbly.

We just eat this by itself.  It also reheats really well for lunch the next day.

Thanks, Mary Catherine! Christian and I thought we had found the most delicious mac-and-cheese recipe, but we might have to try yours before we say that for sure.


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Spicy Goulash with Tortellini

Christian and I love to cook together. We love sitting next to each other at the computer, examining recipes, and when we’re in the kitchen, we each have specific duties. I get out all of the ingredients, keep up with the recipe and watch whatever goes on the stove or in the oven. Christian chops vegetables and shreds cheese and washes dishes as we go.

This isn’t a food blog (clearly, because I rarely have awesome pictures). I just like to share recipes that I have personally tried and found appealing. Most of the recipes we use come from the Internet, but we commonly adapt them to  what we like, leaving some ingredients out and exchanging some.

This goulash recipe is from Rachael Ray. We have made it twice, although the first time it was not really this recipe at all, as we had chicken breasts and no mushrooms. It turned into more of a chicken and red pepper sauce – but it had tortellini, so it was still delicious.

We like our food spicy, so I added chili powder and hot sauce to Rachael’s recipe. This might be too much for you. If so, leave them out or let people add hot sauce individually when they get their plates.

The only reason we didn’t use gnocchi was because we couldn’t find any. We’ve made gnocchi before, but it was pretty time-consuming, so we stuck with the frozen packages of tortellini.

Spicy Goulash with Tortellini

Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Chicken and Mushroom Goulash with Gnocchi

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ground turkey
1/2 pound baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons hot sauce
Salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock*
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
A handful parsley, chopped
1 package tortellini
(12-14 ounces)

Heat the olive oil in a  skillet over medium heat. Add ground turkey. Brown the meat, then push it to the sides of the pan. Add mushrooms, garlic, onions and peppers to the center of the pan. Add salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables about five minutes, then mix them together with chicken and season with paprika, salt, pepper and chili powder. Stir in chicken stock*, tomato sauce and hot sauce and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook five minutes, then stir in sour cream and turn off heat. Add parsley.

While goulash cooks, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Salt boiling water and cook tortellini. This takes about 3 minutes; they’re done when they float to the surface of the water. Drain tortellini.

Put tortellini in bowls and ladle goulash on top.

* Christian and I found that we really had to make a judgment call on the chicken stock. The mushrooms give off water, so sometimes it has enough liquid without adding the stock.

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Mom’s Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

Whenever I think of comfort food, I think delicious, but fattening. So I love it when there’s a comfort food that actually isn’t too terrible for you.

My mom used to make this all the time, and it remains a family favorite. You can use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, and you don’t even have to make a mess in your kitchen.

Chicken, broccoli and cheese casserole

2 chicken breasts
10 oz. broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup fat free mayonnaise
1 can low-sodium, fat free cream of mushroom soup
2 cups brown rice

Cook chicken on stove in salt and pepper. Dice.

Steam broccoli in microwave until tender.

Mix mayonnaise, cream of mushroom and cheese together in large bowl.

Combine all ingredients in 8×8 baking dish. Cook at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble. Serve over rice (and add Texas Pete hot sauce if you dare).

It’s a little late tonight to cook dinner, but maybe this will give you inspiration for tomorrow.

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This Week In Links: The Jeopardy Analogy Edition

I’ve spent the week combing the tubes of the Internet, and once again I’ve got five great sites that you should check out in your free time this weekend. My favorite has got to be the first one. Reading analogies by high schoolers makes my day, and as you will be able to tell once you read it, my favorite is number 4. But, to quote my old friend Levar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it.

[You just might wet your pants] 56 Worst/Best Analogies of High School Students

[Got a lot of free time?] Netflix Origami

[Save money, make people happy] 28 Gift Ideas that Save Money for the Recipient

[Recipe of the Week] Chile Relleno Casserole

[Stuff to Ponder] The Psychological and Emotional Attachment to What We Have and What We Want

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Garlic Basil Pizza Dough

It’s Monday. The start of a long week. You don’t feel like cooking, but you also don’t want to spend money on ordering out for pizza. Your fridge is pretty well-stocked, but what can you make with all that stuff?

I bring you the delicious answer to your problems: Garlic basil pizza dough.

A few months ago I was looking for a recipe for pizza dough that didn’t require having a pizza stone (because I didn’t have one). I wanted a recipe I could whip up, spread on a pizza pan and eat for dinner, without too much labor.

After a couple tries and adaptations of other recipes I found, I came up with this concoction, which results in a thick, fluffy, healthy pizza dough that you can put any kinds of toppings on. My favorite is barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, red onions and leftover chicken. Yum.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Garlic basil pizza dough

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
1.5 cups warm water
1 0.25 ounce package active dry yeast
garlic powder/minced garlic/garlic salt/fresh garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix yeast and warm water together first; then add the rest of the ingredients except for the last two.

If you want to let it rise (optional), stick the dough in the fridge covered for as long as you want.

As you knead the dough on a floured surface, generously knead in the basil and garlic – as much as you want! The dough will expand and you’ll be adding toppings, so unless you don’t like basil and garlic at all (why are you making this, again?), you can’t really add too much.

Spray pizza pan with cooking spray, then spread dough on it. Fold over the outside edges to make a crust, if you want.

Cook for about 8 minutes, then remove from oven and add toppings. After adding toppings, cook for 20-25 minutes or until crust is browning and cheese is melted and bubbling.

A few notes:

  • You don’t have to add wheat flour if you don’t think you’ll like it. The dough works fine with 3 cups all-purpose flour; however, the wheat flour makes it a bit healthier. I wouldn’t recommend doing half-and-half, because the crust won’t be as fluffy.
  • You can add any spices you want. Crushed red pepper sounds good to me for next time.
  • You don’t have to bake it before you put the toppings on, but in my experience, it turns out better that way.
  • If you want to make pizzas with thinner crusts, divide the dough in half and use two pizza pans.


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This Week In Links: The Slapface Edition

The fall television season is almost upon us, and I’m starting to get excited. I’m not a very loyal TV watcher in general, and I don’t really watch that much TV, but there are a few shows I really like. One of my favorites, embarassingly enough, is Dancing With the Stars (sadly, I’m the only one in my family). But seriously, guys. This season, Rocco Dispirito is dancing! An amazing cook attempting to do amazing dances. It doesn’t get much better.

And, of course, The Office is coming back Sept. 25. I haven’t heard much about the plot (though there had better be Jim-Pam wedding bells), but there’s a pretty good promo video that’s like licking the brownie bowl while the brownies are cooking.

Actually, it’s not like that, because I used to want to just eat all the batter without cooking the brownies. In fact, once I made a list of things I would do when I “got to college,” which to me meant being able to do anything I want. I think there were a lot of things, but the two I remember are 1) Eat a bagel every morning for breakfast and 2) Eat a bowl of brownie batter. I don’t know why my parents weren’t more worried when I went off to school. Also, I love that both involved eating. Not surprising.

But I’m getting off track. I’ve rounded up some of the things I’ve most enjoyed around the Web this week, including the aforementioned Office promo.

{A new Olympic game} Courtesy of Jim Halpert. Every scene with Dwight is my favorite.

{On Mike and Firemen} The Pioneer Woman writes about her brother Mike. Me? I almost cried.

{LOST preview} For those of you who don’t get Entertainment Weekly’s e-mails, keeping you up-to-date with everything LOST. In the spring, I would read them out loud to my friend Jess at school. She loved it.

{Black-bottomed cupcakes} She says they’re just for rainy days, but I would beg to differ.

{Triplet baby meerkats} Josh Harris’ blog is changing focus. (Just kidding. I thought they were cute, too, Josh.)


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Cilantro Bean Salad

Probably one of the most difficult areas to conquer is food – whether it’s eating healthy, figuring out what to cook for dinner or trying to please everybody’s varying tastes.

At my house, everybody has their own dislikes. I don’t really like tomatoes. My youngest sister hates most vegetables. My other sister doesn’t like red meat. It makes it tough.

That’s what’s most magical about this dip. Before I tried it, I refused to touch black beans or tomatoes. Now I’m eating black beans with much more frequency, and I actually kind of enjoy the tomatoes in this dip. If a food can overcome my picky eating, trust me. It’s worth trying.

Cilantro bean salad

1 can corn, drained, OR 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, chopped OR 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup chopped peppers (any color – I used red and green)
1/2 cup chopped red onion (you could use any kind of onion, but red tastes best)
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I like Texas Pete)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Mix first five ingredients together in large bowl. Mix last four ingredients together in smaller bowl. Pour contents of smaller bowl into larger bowl. Mix well and refrigerate. Best if refrigerated for several hours before serving.

As if the ingredients weren’t simple enough, the instructions really are that easy.

It’s delicious with a handful of tortilla chips, as shown, but I’ve gotten pretty creative with how I eat it. Sometimes I heat it up and mix in a little sour cream before I dip my chips. I like to put it on a tortilla with cheese for a  quick and healthy lunch. When we have enchiladas, I spoon some on top. Sometimes I even put it on my ice cream.

Just kidding. But if I thought it would taste good, I would try it.

A final note: You might want to double or triple the recipe. It goes pretty fast.


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