Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni & Cheese

As my blog name hints, I am a huge mac and cheese lover and always have been.  I've probably tried more mac and cheese recipes than any other type!  At the same time, I'm pretty particular about my mac and cheese.  A recipe has to be just right to get two thumbs up from me.  Maybe 1 in 8 mac and cheese recipes I try are ones I deem tasty enough to make it to my blog.  Those include the magnificent Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese (my husband's favorite), Beer Mac and Cheese, and Stove Top Mac and Cheese.  I also made Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese for Ina Fridays and enjoyed it, but wouldn't have posted it on the blog if I hadn't made it specifically for that recipe group.

So what I'm getting at here is that I'm always trolling for more mac and cheese recipes, and when I do make one, it has to be freaking fantastic if it's going to join my little mac and cheese recipe family.  Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to say there's a new cheesy, noodley member of the family!  The recipe is called Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni and Cheese and I found it on a blog called Chick in the Kitchen.  I honestly have no recollection of how I came upon the recipe, I just know it was a couple of months ago.  We moved recently and with all the craziness of buying a house, packing, moving, and not being able to use the kitchen for several weeks, I had in the back of my mind the idea that I would make this mac and cheese recipe once I made my way back into the kitchen.  That happy day finally occurred recently, so of course this is one of the first things I made!  Oh and for those wondering, apparently Mrs Jones was the preschool teacher of the cousin of the blog author, Dara, some number of years ago, and the recipe has been in her family ever since. I altered it a smidgen (increased the Worcestershire sauce and added some salt), but my version is pretty true to the original.

Okay, on to what people may actually care about: a description of the recipe.  This is NOT a creamy, saucy mac and cheese.  There's actually no sauce to speak of.  Instead, the cheese, eggs, and milk make a rich, custard-like binder for the noodles.  It's not dry at all, either, and that's coming from someone who loves lots of sauce!  The mac and cheese also has awesome flavor from all of the sharp cheddar and the dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper in the sauce.  All the flavors really work together perfectly.  Even my husband really liked this mac and cheese, and he's a guy who groans whenever I make any recipe other than Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese because he loves that one.  This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I'll still be making 50 years from now!  Thank you, Dara, Dara's aunt, and Mrs Jones!

Mrs Jones' Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb regular or whole wheat small pasta shells (I used Barilla White Fiber)
2 Tbsp butter
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs
12 oz can evaporated (NOT condensed) milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 casserole dish.  Boil shells in salted water, drain, and return to pot.  Add butter and stir until it's melted, then let the pasta cool for a few minutes so it won't melt the cheese.  Stir it occasionally so it will cool faster.

While the shells cool, whisk the eggs in a small bowl until smooth.  Whisk in evaporated milk, salt, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
When pasta has cooled a bit, stir in the grated cheese until it's evenly distributed.  Spoon pasta into the prepared baking dish and pack it down lightly with the back of a spoon.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over top.

Bake, uncovered, until the edges are bubbly and the top is golden, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 main dish servings or twice as many side servings.  Mac and cheese is ALWAYS a main dish at my house!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Buttermilk Spice Cake

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Lisa's blog, Sweet As Sugar Cookies!  I had such a hard time choosing a recipe because Lisa's blog is just full of amazing looking desserts.  She makes other things, too, and I almost chose either Oyster Sauce Meatballs or Spicy Peanut Butter Meatballs (will have to try those later), but ended up choosing her Buttermilk Spice Cake because it looked like the perfect recipe for autumn.  We just purchased and moved into our first house, and this cake had the honor of being the first dessert I made!  It was definitely a good choice, because we loved how the cake turned out.  The spices were fantastic and the amount of ginger gave it a little bit of a burn, in the best way possible.

My one change from the original recipe was to use a maple glaze on top instead of cream cheese frosting.  I used the glaze recipe from Pound Cake with Maple Glaze, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy, flavorful cake.

I will definitely make this cake (and the glaze!) again, but will try using cake flour instead of all purpose flour, and a 7 by 11 pan instead of 8 by 8.  There was a lot of batter for an 8 by 8 pan and by the time the center was cooked, the edges were a bit dry and it was a bit over browned, to the point that I covered the cake with foil for the last 10 or 15 minutes of baking.  I think a slightly larger pan will help with this!

Buttermilk Spice Cake

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
2 eggs
2 C flour
2 Tbsp ground dried ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease either an 8 by 8 pan or a 7 by 11 pan (see my note above).

Cream together butter and sugars, then beat in eggs.  Stir together dry ingredients in another bowl.  Alternate beating dry ingredients and buttermilk into butter-sugar mixture in 3 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Spread batter in the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  You may need to cover the cake with a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up, if it browns too much.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool about 20 minutes.  It does not need to be completely cooled before you add the glaze.

Maple Glaze

2 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp maple syrup
1 C powdered sugar

Place butter and maple syrup in a small pan and heat over medium until butter is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Spread over partly cooled spice cake.  Let cool until the glaze has set.  You can either serve it while still warm, or let it cool completely- it's great either way!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Green Beans Amandine

Secret Recipe Club
My blog assignment for this month's Secret Recipe Club was The Tasty Gardener!  This blog is absolutely stuffed with really good looking recipes, and it was hard to choose one.  I ended up going with Green Beans Amandine.  It's a recipe I've wanted to try for years and years, so this was a great opportunity!  The recipe turned out wonderfully.  It's very simple, with just 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), but all the flavors really come together and are so good.  The almonds get fried in the butter and olive oil, and I think that's what really makes the flavor incredible.  My husband and I ate the whole pound of green beans in one sitting, they're that good.  Most definitely a repeat recipe.  Thanks, Heather!

I tweaked a couple of little things.  First, I used black pepper instead of white because I absolutely cannot stand white pepper.  I also changed the directions so you cook the almonds a little before adding the garlic, because I found the garlic cooked a lot faster than the almonds.

Green Beans Amandine

1 lb green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 C sliced almonds
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook beans until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes (length of time depends on how soft you want them).  Drain beans and keep the lid on the pot so they stay hot while you cook the almonds and garlic.

In a large skillet, melt olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add almonds and cook just until they begin to barely change color, then add the garlic.  The almonds and garlic cook quickly, so don't walk away!  When the almonds and garlic are golden, add green beans to skillet and toss to coat.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.   Place the beans in a serving bowl so the almonds and garlic don't burn on the bottom of the still hot skillet.

Yield: About 4 servings

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ina Fridays: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

It's Ina Friday again!  This month I was supposed to make a dessert.  My husband and I both love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I've only made ONE PBJ dessert before (some cookies about 10 years ago), so it was pretty quick to settle on Ina's recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.  You can find the recipe here.  My small changes were to cut back the salt from 1 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp because my butter was salted, and leave out the peanut topping because as much as we love peanut butter, neither of us is crazy about peanuts sprinkled on things.

It was such an easy recipe to throw together, and a perfect, all American, homey dessert for the 4th of July!  We loved how they turned out, it's hard to imagine the bars being much better than they are.  Unlike some other bars that need to sit over night before serving (thinking of Carmelitas), they held up together very well when cut about 4 hours after coming after the oven, and the flavors are perfect.  Can't wait to see how they taste tomorrow after the flavors have had a chance to blend and balance out!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

1/2 lb salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
18 oz jar smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
18 oz jar jam (I used seedless blackberry)
2/3 C salted, chopped peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 pan.  Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy and light yellow, about 2 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Add vanilla extract, peanut butter, and eggs to butter-sugar mixture and mix on low until well combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low just until completely combined (do not over mix).

Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spoon jam over the top and spread evenly.  Drop remaining dough in small pieces over the jam.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Allow bars to cool completely (at least 4 hours) before attempting to cut them into squares.

Yield:  About 16 servings

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ina Fridays: Weeknight Bolognese

It's time for another Ina Friday!  Unfortunately I missed last month because I was sick and in no condition to cook, but it's a new month!  This time we were supposed to make a main dish.  I had about 5 main dish Ina recipes bookmarked as potentials, and after spending all day today thinking about her Weeknight Bolognese, I picked up the ingredients on the way home from work and whipped it up.

This recipe did not disappoint!  I did have to make a few small changes, the most important being that I only used 1/2 teaspoon salt instead of a tablespoon, and only 1/4 teaspoon black pepper instead of 1 1/2 teaspoons.  I think this was a VERY good call because with that amount of salt, we probably would have shriveled up and died.  Reducing the pepper was more an issue of personal taste, but I really think the given amount would have been excessive.  I also left out the olive oil simply because even lean ground beef has enough fat to cook fine, and used pre-shredded parmesan.  Normally for a recipe like this, I would have grated my own, but I had an open container in the fridge that I couldn't bear to throw away!  It definitely would have been better with freshly grated though, the pre-shredded kind detracted a bit from the dish because it made it a little chalky.  One last thing- I boiled a whole 1 pound box of shells even though the recipe called for 3/4 and thought my husband would just eat the leftover pasta with butter for lunch.  The recipe ended up making so much sauce, though, that I went ahead and mixed all of the pasta with it.  Even with the extra noodles, it was still wonderfully saucy.

Now, plenty of sauce aside, what did we think of this recipe?  Well, my husband LOVED it and rated it 10 out of 10!  I didn't like it nearly as much as he did, but it's still something I will make again and am quite pleased with how it turned out.  The sauce is very robust and hearty with great flavor from the wine and a bit of creaminess.  It does not taste like a sauce that was only simmered for 20 minutes!  Next time I may experiment with adding a bit more cream, mostly because there was a lot left over in the container and there's no way an extra 1/4 cup cream could make it worse.

Weeknight Bolognese

1 lb ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 C red wine, divided
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped roughly and packed lightly into measuring cup
1/4 C heavy cream
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 lb small pasta such as shells or orecchiette
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan, plus more for serving

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high and add ground beef.  Saute until cooked through.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and saute another minute, until garlic starts to turn golden.  Add 1 cup of the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper.  Bring sauce to a boil, then cover with a splatter screen, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After the 10 minutes are up, begin to cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water.  While the pasta cooks, stir basil, cream, and nutmeg into sauce and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done. 

Drain pasta and place into a large serving bowl.  Pour sauce on top and add the parmesan.  Toss until pasta is coated and cheese is melted.  Serve in bowls topped with additional parmesan.

Yield: 5 generous servings

Monday, June 2, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Shawarma with Pita Bread & Toum

Secret Recipe Club
For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the amazing blog of a nice lady named Sawsan who lives in Jordan.  Her blog is called Chef in Disguise and has so many incredible looking recipes!  I had a heck of a time choosing one because food from that region of the world is basically my favorite.  When I saw her recipe for chicken shawarma, I decided to go full out and make that along with her pita bread and toum (creamy garlic sauce) recipes.  This was my first time making any of these things and also the first time I'd had chicken shawarma or toum.

For the purposes of this post, I'm just focusing on the chicken shawarma recipe, but you can find her pita bread here and toum here.  I made the latter two exactly according to her recipes and they turned out great!  The bread was soft and tender, and formed pockets like it was supposed to (something I worried about a bit!), and the toum was extremely creamy, lemony, and garlicky.  They definitely get my recommendation.

The chicken shawarma was very good, too.  It's something I've always wanted to try and ended up being quite unique!  I've never tasted anything with this specific combination of ingredients, but cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom are among my favorite spices and this recipe has all three!  Sadly I did not have the mastic so had to do without, but I will definitely try to get some next time I'm in Seattle and will make this recipe again with it.  The flavors came together quite nicely even without the mastic, though, and my husband and I both are looking forward to the leftovers and making it again another time.  I'm so glad I was assigned Sawsan's blog because these three specific recipes are probably not ones I would have come across otherwise.

Below is my version of Sawsan's recipe.  There were a couple of things I was a little unclear about in the main recipe, so I did it how I thought she intended, but I followed her recipe pretty closely.

Chicken Shawarma

8 oz plain yogurt
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mastic (I did not have this)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground bay leaf (I put a whole bayleaf in with the marinade)
1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into strips (I used breasts)
2 Tbsp
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

pita bread
sliced pickles
toum or tahini
french fries

Mix together marinade ingredients.  Add chicken and stir to coat.  Refrigerate several hours or over night.

When you're ready to cook, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high.  Add chicken to skillet with tongs and discard the remaining marinade (some will stick to the chicken).  Saute until chicken is almost cooked through, then push it to one side of the pan and add the onions.  Saute the onions until they soften, about 3-5 minutes, then push them to the side of the pan.  Saute the tomatoes until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes more.  Stir everything together and let it simmer for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

To serve, open up a pita and spread with some toum or tahini.  Make a line of the chicken shawarma mixture down the center of the pita and add sliced pickes and a few french fries if you'd like.  Roll up the pita and serve with fries on the side.

Yield:  About 4-5 servings

An InLinkz Link-up

Friday, May 16, 2014

Quinoa Chicken Chili

 This is a recipe I randomly came across a few months ago on the Queen Bee Coupons website.  The idea of quinoa in chili intrigued me and I love chili, so decided to make it!  This was actually my first time cooking OR eating quinoa and it was great.  There's not a whole lot in the chili, but it really expands a lot and adds a bit of substance and texture.  Quinoa aside, the chicken and spices are just perfect.  My husband said this was the best chili he's ever had, and I'm inclined to agree!  I made it over a month ago and froze most of it, but need to make another batch already.

Quinoa Chicken Chili

4 C chicken broth
10 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
1 C quinoa
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Toppings such as sour cream, grated cheddar, diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, or green onion (I just did grated cheddar and it was perfect)

In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, stir together everything except chicken.  Add chicken.  Cover and cook until meat is cooked through, about 4 hours on high or 6 on low.  Remove chicken, chop or shred, and return to slow cooker.  Serve with your favorite chili toppings, such as grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and green onion.

When I did this, I added the broth, Rotel, and half the crushed tomatoes to the slow cooker, blended with the immersion blender, then added everything else.  My chicken was frozen in a large solid brick, so it took longer to cook- about 4 hours on high.  I put the chicken in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool off before shredding.

Yield:  About 13 servings