Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best Macaroni and Cheese EVER

I love love love love macaroni and cheese. My mother used to make it with velveeta and milk -- but of course I had to find a much more difficult way to make it. We got this recipe at a family fair years ago, a cheese company was one of the exhibitors. I only make it occassionally, because I would eat it all the time, and there is no redeeming nutritional qualities to this dish. Maybe that's why it's so good.

I think the kids could go either way with this dish. Not sure the husband likes it so much either. Who cares? If Mom is happy, everyone is happy.

Macaroni and Cheese
2 c. macaroni
3 T. each butter, flour
1/4 t. dry mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 c. whole milk, heated
4 c. (16 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 c. buttered bread crumbs

Cook and drain macaroni. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Whisking constantly, sprinkle flour over. Continue whisking while cooking until a thick,smooth paste with a nutty aroma forms, about five minutes. Add mustard, pepper, Worcestershire. Whisking througout, gradually add milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly.

Reduce heat to low and whisk in 3 cups Cabot Sharp Cheddar Ccheese until melted. Stir in macaroni until well coated. Pour into a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish (coated with non-stick spray). Sprinkle remaining cheese over evenly and top with crubs. Bake until hot throughout, bubbly and golden on top, about 20 minutes.


(The picture was taken with my groovy new camera -- birthday gift. I think my blogging career is really going to take off now!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin Praline Muffins

I've discovered the secret to a happy marriage! I'm going to write an article for Cosmo... it's not what you are thinking. Drumroll, please. The secret to a happy marriage is baking. As long as we have pies and cookies and muffins at the ready, my husband is a happy man. So, as the butter softens on the counter downstairs, I thought I'd share the latest confection I created in the name of marital bliss...

Pumpkin Praline Muffins

Praline Topping
3 T. butter, cut into pieces
1/3 c. flour
3 T. light brown sugar
1/3 c. finely chopped pecans

Muffin Batter

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. salt
2/3 c. canned pumpkin
1/3 c. unsulfured molasses
1/3 c. canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

1. Combine all the topping ingredients in a small bowl and use your fingers to rub them into a crumbly topping. Set it aside. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and grease the bottoms of 12 muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours and the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin, molasses, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients just until the batter is blended.

3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle on the praline topping. Then bake the muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chicken Piccata

I love piccata -- veal, chicken, whatever. My youngest recently complained that I was making the same thing over and over, and I took a few moments to scour my resources for something new -- Chicken Piccata came up. It's easy, it's yummy, it's chicken, what's not to like? I love the saltiness of the capers.

But when I served it, Zach, looking at the tiny green balls all over his plate asked, "Is that poop?"

I told him I rarely serve poop. They gobbled it up. Definately going on the kids meal list.

I got this recipe from Simply Recipes

Chicken Piccata Recipe

* 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pound total)
* 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/3 cup flour
* Salt and pepper
* 4 Tbsp olive oil
* 4 Tbsp butter
* 1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine
* 3 Tbsp lemon juice
* 1/4 cup brined capers
* 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally, butterflying them open. If the breast pieces you are working with are large, you may want to cut them each into two pieces. If the pieces are still thick after butterflying, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them with a meat hammer to 1/4-inch thickness.

2 Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces in water. Dredge them thoroughly in the flour mixture, until well coated.

3 Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to a plate. Cook the other breasts in the same manner, remove from pan. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

4 Add the chicken stock (or white wine), lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Plate the chicken and serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm Going On Strike

Here's what I said to my family last night at dinner. "I give up. Why don't you try to make dinner for a week, and see how it goes?" I was calm. I wasn't emotional, but I was sort of fed up.

The culprit? My crockpot and TexMex Chicken Stew. I didn't even tell anyone that the "S" word was part of the title. When they asked what was for dinner, I just kept saying, "Tex Mex Chicken." But in the end, everyone knew it was stew, and no one was really happy about it.

This is the second time I've tried to make something that contained all the ingredients my family likes -- or at least, mostly ingredients my family likes. However, as soon as the crockpot appears on the counter, my husband starts asking the probing kinds of questions like... where did this recipe come from? why did you decide to make this?

Since we had a bad chipolte chili in adobo experience last week, I opted against using them in this recipe. I replaced them with those green chopped chiles in a can. I think it turned out a bit bland, and I might try the chipoltes next time (and mark my words, there will be a next time -- but not this week, remember, I'm on strike.

From Martha Stewart.... Tex Mex Chicken Stew

1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 jar (11 ounces) mild or medium salsa (1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream, for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
1.In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together beans, salsa, chiles, flour, and 1 cup water. Season chicken with salt and pepper; arrange on top of bean mixture. Scatter onion and bell pepper on top of chicken.
2.Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours. (Do not open lid or stir.)
3.Remove chicken from stew; shred into large pieces and return to stew. Serve topped with sour cream and cilantro.

I heart panini

I have this personality flaw... I get sort of obsessed with a food item/appliance and I cannot sleep soundly until I explore/own the object of my obsession. I've done it with soup, beef bourgonion, and my electric skillet. A few months ago a new obsession bloomed, and fortunately for me, my birthday was coming up. Add to this pot the fact that my mother is an appliance/cookware lover like myself (she is the reason I have a food processor, kitchenaid mixer, and fancy all clad pans) -- and TA DA! I own a panini maker.

Honestly, I was a bit nervous about owning one, because I didn't have the slightest idea of how to create a great grilled sandwich, or even where to find the bread. Although, I had started that investigation weeks earlier, casually mentioning my need for ciabatta at book club and church and the like. As it turns out, I was not too worry, because, the other day not only did I return home from work to find a panini maker in my garage BUT ALSO a cookbook! Praise Heaven, I was in business.

On Friday night I piled the kids in the van and made them go from market to market searching for bread, brie, arugula and proscuitto -- and that night I created a sandwich that I, personally, found to be heaven on Earth. (My husband, who I believe I've mentioned can be a bit picky, and is the fourth picky kid in my opinion, said, "I don't like the cheese...") But that was okay, because that meant I could return to the store and buy another load of ingredients (this time tomatoes, fresh mozarella, basil and MORE fancy bread).

So, $60 worth of imported Italian ingredients and a weekend's worth of panini -- I am one happy camper, waiting for the next food obession to hit. My kids, I believe, would prefer a grilled cheese. My husband, seems like he'll go along with it as long as I don't use brie.