IT IS COLD outside! I just want to stay inside and eat warm things, so I decided to make a pan of what I consider to be one of the ultimate comfort foods - Mac-n-Cheese. For me, it's the food equivalent of a fuzzy blanket and a roaring fire.
This is my short-cut version and does not involve starting with a roux to make white sauce. It's great as a side dish or all by itself. I served it for dinner with two other comfort foods, barbequed chicken and baked beans. Cozy up with this cheesy dish.
1 box of your favorite noodle pasta (I used penne)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream
2-3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 400
Prepare the noodles by box directions. As I've written before, I like to put some salt and a dash of oil in my water when I boil pasta. For this reason and because of the salty nature of the cheeses, I don't add salt to the recipe. When the pasta is al dente, drain it well.
Put the drained pasta into a large mixing bowl. Quickly put the butter in it and stir gently to coat the pasta so that it does not stick together. Add the sour cream, cheeses, cream and spices and mix thoroughly. Make sure the pasta is well coated, otherwise it will get dry and unpleasantly crunchy in the oven.
Pour the mixture into a large oven-safe pan and spread it evenly. If you like them, you can sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Put the pan into the oven and bake it for about 20-30 minutes or until the cheesy goodness is bubbly and hot. I usually turn the broiler on for a couple of minutes at the end to brown the top slightly. If you choose to do this, make sure to watch the dish in the oven. (I have started pulling a chair up to the oven and watching through the little window, otherwise, I tend to think of some chore that I need to run off and do only to be reminded of the dish in the oven by the smoke detector.)
The pasta and cheese will be extremely hot, so resist the temptation to taste it right away. Allow your Mac-n-Cheese to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!
'TIS THE SEASON when we eat and eat and eat. From baked turkeys to smoked hams to roasted beasts, from butter and cream to sugary treats, we load ourselves with the heavy comforts of the kitchen. I love all of those foods, but it is nice to have something light and fresh to counteract all those other things.
This week I am sharing my family's recipe for cranberry relish. It is sweet, tart and beautiful on any holiday table and still tastes great for breakfast the morning after a feast on a leftover roll. My favorite part is that it requires no cooking, just a blender or food processor.
1 lb fresh cranberries
1 navel orange
about 1 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
Begin by thoroughly rinsing the cranberries and removing any that are squishy or discolored. Wash the orange well, too, as you will be using part of the peel as well as the fruit inside. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove strips of the orange peel, trying not to cut too deep as the inner white part of the peel can be bitter. Set these strips aside and cut the sections of the orange free from the remaining inner peel. Make sure to remove any seeds if there are any.
Put the orange pieces into the blender or food processor and chop them well. Add about half of the cranberries, the strips of peel and the sugar. I recommend adding about 2/3 of the sugar and tasting it after you finish adding all the cranberries. You can stir more sugar in afterwards, but this helps keep it from getting sweeter than you might want. Chop these ingredients together. Finally add the second half of the cranberries and chop it all together. By adding the cranberries in increments, you should be able to get some smaller pieces and some larger. This will make a better texture and flavor. Pour the relish into a bowl and taste it for sweetness. Add more sugar if you like. Serve chilled and enjoy!
Happy holiday feasting. May your table be a peaceful and joyous gathering place for friends and family.
COOKIES! SWEET LITTLE discs of sugar and spice and all things nice. It was a snow day yesterday so we decided to bake cookies to celebrate our extra day at home. Unfortunately, our young baker has recently been diagnosed with number of new food allergies so we had to alter the recipe to fit her dietary restrictions.
Below is a recipe for basic cookies that could be decorated for the holidays or made any time of year to warm up a gray day. We had to take out the eggs and the milk products.
I substituted half of a banana for 1 egg, 1/2 cup of strong coffee for 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup shortening for 1/2 cup butter. If you decide not to use the substituted ingredients, you would need only 1 1/3 cups sifted flour and could use baking powder instead of soda. I used baking soda because baking powder has corn starch, and corn is also a no-no these days. If you have to switch to baking soda, you need an acid in your recipe to activate it. The coffee is the acid in this recipe. Believe it or not, we could not taste the coffee in the finished cookies, but the banana flavor was quite strong and complimented the spices nicely.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup coffee (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar and shortening. It does not cream together quite as nicely as butter, but it worked fine in the finished product. Add the coffee and mix it thoroughly with the shortening and sugar. In a small bowl, mash the banana and then mix it in with the first three ingredients. Sift the flour and measure out 1 1/2 cups. Put the flour back in the sifter and add the baking soda and spices. Sift these together into a separate bowl and then slowly mix them into the wet ingredients.
Prepare a cookie sheet either by greasing it or lining it with parchment paper. Spoon drop the cookie dough onto the sheet in about teaspoon-sized dollops. Bake for fifteen minutes (peek in on them at 13 or so minutes) and place the cookies on a cooling rack.
These cookies are spicy, not-too-sweet and a little chewy. This recipe makes about 2 dozen. Enjoy with a glass of milk... or your favorite allergy-friendly substitute.
OKAY, OKAY I admit it: I like to stock up on sale items at the grocery. If it's not perishable and we use it, I will hoard a few extra containers of sale items. I recently bought, perhaps a few too many, cans of organic pumpkin at the grocery.
I like to bake with pumpkin, so in order to make some space in my pantry for the next round of grocery hoarding, I mixed up a batch of pumpkin bread. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy all the cans, so you can probably still find canned pumpkin at the store now, maybe even still on sale (but don't tell me if it is!).
Pumpkin, spices, chocolate - what's not to like?
1 16 oz can of pumpkin
2 cups flour (or your favorite gluten-free all-purpose bake mix)
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, I suppose) + a few extra for nibbling
Preheat oven to 350
Mix the pumpkin, oil, milk, sugars and spices in a large bowl. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add them. Stir thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips last. Grease a loaf pan or muffin tins (makes about 2 dozen muffins). Pour the mixture into the pan put it into the oven. For muffins, check it in about 20 minutes and every 3-5 minutes thereafter.
For bread, check it in about 45 minutes and use a toothpick to check for doneness in the middle (Poke the toothpick into the middle of the loaf. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.) Allow the bread to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting. The bread is moist, sweet, marvelously spicy and wonderful for breakfast or snacks. Enjoy!
DO YOU HAVE one of these in your refrigerator?
We had plenty of turkey meat in our refrigerator, so it was time to get creative with leftovers. This weekend, I made turkey minestrone and was able to use up some other leftovers, too (sweet potatoes and kale). If you have already eaten all of your turkey, you can easily substitute chicken. Just cube up some breast and/or thigh meat in about 1/2 inch pieces and cook it in the broth. This soup is warm and lovely and, perhaps most importantly after last Thursday's all day cook-a-thon, easy to make.
2 quarts chicken broth
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 pinch cayenne powder (optional)
salt to taste
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 16 oz can kidney beans, drained
about 2 cups shredded pre-cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/2 package of penne noodles (about 8 oz)
1 bunch kale, chopped with woody stems removed
about 12 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
In a medium to large stock pot, bring the chicken broth to a gentle boil and add the seasonings (minus the fresh basil) and sweet potatoes. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes and then add the turkey, the tomatoes and the beans. Allow to boil for another 5 minutes and then add the penne. Cook it as long as the package directs you to boil the pasta.
Finally, add the chopped kale and basil and stir thoroughly, turning off the heat. If the pasta has taken up too much of the liquid, you can add a little bit of water or more broth. Serve hot with a little basil and parmesan sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
QUICHE. It sounds so fancy, but I'm here to say that it ain't nuthin' but a bunch of eggs and stuff.
We like quiche in our house for quick breakfasts. I often make one on the weekend and heat slices for breakfast throughout the week. I recently made quiche with my class, so I had to individualize the quiches.
Here is a recipe for mini quiches that is quick, easy and can be customized for individual eaters. Using uncooked tortillas as a bottom crust makes this even easier because you don't have to mix and roll out a regular crust.
Preheat the oven to 350°
8-10 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
about 2 cups total of chopped veggies and/or meats and cheeses
olive oil to grease the pan
1-2 uncooked flour tortillas (usually in the refrigerated section of the grocery near the packaged cheeses)
Let your eggs and half and half come up closer to room temperature (about 1/2 hour out of the refrigerator) and chop your veggies, meats and cheeses into about 1/4" pieces. I used sweet peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, ham and cheddar, but you can use almost anything you like. You can even let everyone make his or her own little quiche with his or her own favorite fillers.
Use a round cookie cutter and cut out 12 little rounds of the uncooked tortillas to about the size of the bottom of the cup of a muffin tin. Use the olive oil to grease the cups of a muffin tin and place a little tortilla round in the bottom of each cup. Put in enough of the fillers of your choice to fill each cup about half way.
Thoroughly mix the egg and half and half and pour enough into each cup to fill it nearly to the top but not all the way. If you want, you can sprinkle a little cheese on the top of them. Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes. They will puff up a bit but shrink back down when you take them out of the oven. When the egg is fully cooked it will not look shiny and wet. I do not recommend letting them brown as the egg will become tough and rubbery.
After you have taken the pan from the oven, allow it to cool for a few minutes then, with a butter knife, gently loosen the quiches around the edges and carefully dump them out onto a cooling rack. You can enjoy them right away or let them cool and refrigerate them for future breakfasts, snacks, lunches or appetizers.
Enjoy! Or should I say, Bon Appétit!
Brandy Steinhilber grew up in Kentucky as a member of a cooking family. Breakfast, dinner and larger family gatherings always meant sitting together around a table full of good home-cooked food, and she has carried that tradition into her home with her own family. She is a firm believer in the importance of family meals as a time to be together and listen to each other. Brandy works as an elementary school teacher at the Anchorage Waldorf School, and her hobbies include, knitting, sewing, camping, cycling, skiing, hiking and cooking.
IT WAS POTLUCK night for the wrestling team on Wednesday, and I had a special request from our young wrestler for this orzo dish. When I make it for dinner I serve it with spicy Italian sausage, but it is just as good as a pasta salad served hot or cold. The vegetables make it colorful, tasty and healthy. You can vary the veggies as you like.
1 16 oz package of orzo pasta
1/2 stick of butter (or substitute slightly less olive oil)
2-3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 yellow squash
1/2 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
salt to taste
I find it best to start by getting the pasta water ready and on the stove warming. There is a great debate about what is the best way to prepare your pasta, but I like to put about a tablespoon of salt and a dash of oil in the water to give the pasta more flavor and keep it from sticking, boiling it until it is still a tiny bit chewy. Once you have the water heating on the stove, wash and chop the garlic and put it in a large skillet with about 2 Tbs of the butter and begin to cook it on low to medium heat. Don't let it brown. As the garlic is cooking, wash and cut the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss the veggies in with the garlic and butter. Wash the asparagus and snap off the woody ends, then snap the spears into approximately 1" long pieces.
When the zucchini and squash are nearly cooked, add the asparagus and the sun dried tomatoes along with the rest of the butter and cook for about 3 more minutes. This should take about as long as it takes to heat the water and cook the orzo. Drain the pasta thoroughly and, in a large bowl (it helps to warm the bowl with some hot water or in the oven on a low temperature for a few minutes if you plan to serve the pasta hot) mix the pasta with the veggies and butter. Salt to taste and enjoy!
EGADS! MY REFRIGERATOR is full of leftovers:
Waste not, want not, right? That means it's frittata time. Everyone in our house loves frittata for breakfast, and I especially love it because it empties out the fridge, frees up my food storage containers and makes a fast yummy breakfast. You can make frittata out of a variety of leftovers - veggies, rice, quinoa, couscous, chicken, ham, sausage and so much more. Be creative!
Here is a recipe using the leftovers I had from a chicken dinner with wild rice pilaf.
1/2 cup pre-cooked and shredded chicken
1 cup pre-cooked wild rice pilaf
3 Tbs half & half or whole milk
It is best to allow the leftovers and eggs to warm a little as the eggs cook more evenly when they are not coming straight out of the refrigerator. You may want to put the ingredients out on the counter for 1/2 an hour before you start cooking. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the rice and chicken. In a bowl, thoroughly mix the eggs and milk. Pour the mixture carefully and evenly over the chicken and rice. Cover and cook slowly over low heat. Do not stir. You will know it is done when the eggs are no longer runny on top. The bottom is crispy and yummy. I felt that there were enough flavors from the chicken and rice, but you may like to add a little dash of herbs, salt and pepper to taste or even sprinkle a little cheese on top. Slice it and serve it good and hot. Enjoy!
THIS TIME OF YEAR they're prominently displayed in the groceries. They have wacky names. They come in a myriad of bright and cheerful colors, and they are deliciously sweet. No, it's not Halloween candy. It's winter squash. This week, I cut into a Delicata and baked it up for a seasonal side dish.
1-2 winter squash
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp sugar
Preheat oven to 350.
Wash the squash and apples. Cut them into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.I prefer not to core or peel the apples beforehand, and I cut the apples horizontally rather than vertically to show the lovely stars that the seeds form inside.
Use caution in cutting the squash. This time of year, they should be fresh and fairly soft, but as they age, the skin hardens and they can become very difficult to slice. Once you have the ends cut off the squash, scoop out the insides just like you would a pumpkin and then slice it.
Spread one of the tablespoons of oil on a cookie sheet and then spread the slices out evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the oil, the vinegar, the ginger and the sugar as evenly as possible over the squash and apples. Toss them a bit and put them in the oven for about 45 minutes. You may want to stir them once or twice as they cook.
Nibble around the cores of the apples and the skins of the squash and enjoy!
PORK ROAST - my grandmother seemed to have an infinite stash of them in her deep freezer as she would stock up when they were on sale. I found pork roasts on sale this week, so, in honor of Mamaw, I stocked up, too. This week's recipe for a pork roast dinner is quick and easy to prepare, slow to cook and fills your house with a delicious aroma. The carrots and parsnips give it the tiniest hint of sweetness. I served it with butternut squash ravioli which is usually available this time of year. If you cannot find the ravioli or don't think you would like it, the roast would be just as good served with a rice pilaf or mashed sweet potatoes.
This serves 4-5 people. 2 Tbs olive oil 2 pound pork roast 1 medium white onion 2-3 shallot clusters 1 entire bulb of garlic 4 Tbs rosemary 1 Tbs salt 1/4 c water 4 medium carrots 4 medium parsnips Preheat oven to 350. Take the roast out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before you are ready to cook it so that it can warm up and will cook more evenly. Peal the onion, shallots and garlic. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch strips. Quarter the shallots and smash each of the garlic cloves with the side of a large knife. Set these things aside. In an oven-safe pan, pour the olive oil and heat it to searing temperature. Place the pork roast in the pan and brown it on both sides. Turn off the heat and put the onions, shallots and garlic in the pan with the roast. Sprinkle the salt and rosemary in the pot and add the water.
Place the pan, covered, in the oven and bake for 1 hour. While the meat is cooking, rinse the carrots and parsnips and trim the ends. Cut them into 1/2 inch pieces and set them aside. After and hour of cooking, add the carrots and parsnips to the meat and put the lid back on.
Cook for another 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about ten minutes and then slice the meat and serve it with the ravioli, vegetables and a little broth. Enjoy!