Tag Archives: cooking

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Big Pan of Pasta

Two of my nieces mentioned “grown-up mac n cheese” on Facebook in the last few weeks and after the second mention, I wanted to know what it was.  I knew what it wasn’t: little elbow pasta with some milk, some butter and some orange powder.

They both wrote that it was put together with whatever looks good.  For example: Leah recently made it with aged Gouda and chanterelles.  Miriam mentioned Gruyere, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.  Yum!

I decided on some guidelines for my own version: I would use an interesting shape of pasta, pick out some really good cheese (not the conveniently grated stuff – this is the time to grate your own), put in some vegetables and why not add some sausage?  I grocery shopped before I got Miriam’s recipe with bacon as an ingredient.  The only thing about that is that I think bacon can become soft in a casserole.  But maybe if I put the bacon on top I can get good bacon flavor and keep the bacon crispy. This time I made it with sausage.

In the meantime, this is the recipe I adapted from Miriam Faw who adapted it from Alton Brown.  Use it as a springboard to make your own version of Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. Or if your a purist who thinks adding anything much past macaroni and cheddar cheese to a pan of Mac & Cheese is wrong, call it “Baked Pasta”.  Because it’s really yummy and worth making.

Mac & Cheese Ingrediments

Miriam’s recipe called for 8 oz. of pasta but I decided to make a pound of pasta so that Rem and I could each have our own version (mine has cauliflower and mushrooms), so keep in mind my pictures show a larger batch of pasta.  I’m writing out the recipe for one 2-quart casserole.

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

8 oz. pasta (I used campanelle pasta, little bells, that I think look like little trumpets, but how about rotelle or wagon wheels? Or try some cavatappi pasta – ridged, corkscrew shapes)

2-3 cups greens such as spinach, kale and/or chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 large egg

12 ounces cheese, combination such as smoked Gouda, Jarlsberg, Gruyere, and Parmesan, shredded

1/2 teaspoon paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.  When it is nearly done, drop the greens in with the pasta.  They just need a minute or two.  Drain the pasta with the greens.

Pasta with Greens

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the sausage.

Browning Sausage

Remove when done, leave the grease in the pan and sauté onions a few minutes, then add cauliflower and sauté a few minutes more, then add mushrooms and garlic and saute until everything is tender and cauliflower is golden brown.

Sliced Mushrooms

(Note: I roasted the cauliflower in the oven because I intended to use half in this recipe and have half for snacking on.  If you want to go that route, put the cauliflower florets on an oiled backing sheet and bake in a 400 oven for about 25 minutes until it looks kind of toasty and is tender.  Another options is to drop the cauliflower into the boiling pasta pot a few minutes before the greens)
Roasted Cauliflower

Remove all veggies from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan with a paper towel and melt the butter in it, over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add Flour to Butter

Stir in the milk and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in some of the hot bechamel to temper it.  Stir this mixture into remaining sauce in pan.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Grated Cheese

Cheese into Sauce

Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Before baking

If desired, combine panko crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.

 Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Closer Mac & Cheese

The days are shorter and even though we’ve been having sunny weather, it is colder at night and this delicious pasta will provide all the warmth and comfort of the macaroni and cheese of your youth.

Pear Candles

I’ve heard that my other niece, Caitlin, also prepares an awesome mac and cheese, so maybe I’ll try her recipe another time.

Pasta and Salad

Speaking of awesome recipes, I’m so proud of Miriam!  She entered a cooking contest on The Sam Livecast which is a cross between a radio talk show and a TV cooking show, filmed in Sam’s home in San Diego.  The whole family was thrilled when she was picked to cook her recipe, Lamb and Feta Burgers, on the show.

The eight contestants were paired up and they did an episode with each pair.  I don’t know how many entries they had for the contest, “Cook Your Way to Kauai”, but Miriam got on and you can see the episode here!  At the end of all the rounds, the winner will earn a trip, along with a guest, to Kauai with the Sam Livecast team.

OK, you should still watch the episode, but she WON her first round and went to the semi-finals. In this round they had to feature eggs and Miriam only knew two days ahead of time.  She prepared giant ravioli (made from won ton wrappers), stuffed with a ricotta, herbed goat cheese, Parmesan and raw egg yolk (it cooks just enough while the pasta is cooking) with a brown butter, bacon and sage sauce. She practiced her recipe all of ONE TIME before cooking it ON CAMERA on the show.  Did I mention they have 30 minutes to fix their dish? Whew.  Watch her semi-final here.

Have you watched it yet?  Because she won that round too!  For the Grand Finale, still in only 30 minutes, they had to feature fish and pineapple, no shellfish and no stir fry.  Miriam prepared Goat Cheese Crusted Halibut and Pineapple-Cilantro Risotto. Watch the final here to see if she won.

I have not yet tried any of these delicious looking and sounding dishes, but here is a link with all the finalists recipes for you to try yourself.

Thank you for stopping by.

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What I Ate In One Week, Part II

Fried Egg

Welcome to Part II of my photo journal of the food I ate last week.  This is the more indulgent portion of the week, what with an extra day off and a great trip to the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace.  It kind of balances out the first part of the week.

Friday morning: Fried Egg Friday!  I used to eat whole eggs 3 or 4 days a week but in the interest of my health, I now have one fried egg per week.  This week: 1 fried egg on a toasted, whole-grain sandwich thin, sauteed chard, with a dish of sliced apples and bananas.

Drippy Egg Yolk

Sampling tasting olive oil at McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil, at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Bread 'n Oil

Lunch: Spring Rolls and peanut sauce from Out the Door.  Yummy.

Spring Roll

Now, more samples while walking around the Marketplace.

Delicious almond brittle with dark chocolate from Alfieri Fruits & Nuts. We bought some to take home.  The gentleman who was handing out samples gave me a bemused look when I stopped to take a picture before I would take a taste.

Almond Brittle

A handful of kumquats from Farm Fresh to You helped me feel like I was eating something healthy.  Have you tried kumquats before? The skin of a kumquat is the sweetest part and the flesh can be quite tart. I like them but these ones were a little more tart that I prefer.  But good.

Kumquats

At Cowgirl Creamery they gave out samples of Effie’s Oatcakes, a little cookie that reminded me of a cross between graham crackers and shortbread. I just looked at the site for the oatcakes and saw a picture of s’mores made with them.  Oh, my.  That sounds like a perfect combination.

They were giving out milk too, for that cozy milk ‘n cookies vibe.

Milk & Oatcakes

As if all this snacking wasn’t enough, we had some soft serve vanilla ice cream from Gott’s Roadside.  Luckily for me, Rem was willing to share a few bites so I didn’t have a whole serving of my own.

Soft Serve

Curiosity convinced us to try “Mo’s Dark a Bar“, a bacon-dark chocolate bar that we picked up at Farm Fresh to You earlier.  It was a very small bar (1/2 oz.), but for me, a big disappointment.  Neither of us could taste bacon.  Now I know and I don’t need to try it again. Whew.

Bacon Bar

We left the Marketplace and took the ferry back to Marin.

Amazingly, I got home hungry.  So, I had 1/2 a banana and a delicious roll picked up at the Marketplace, which held me over until dinner.

The roll, from The Acme Bread Company was called Edible Schoolyard, made from 100 percent stone-milled organic whole-wheat flour, rye pumpernickel flour, honey,  and salt.  I will look for the Edible Schoolyard loaf another time – it is a winner.

Bread & Banana

Dinner: Leftover rice noodles, tofu and chard with red cabbage, apple, fennel and carrot slaw.

Tofu & Slaw

Saturday breakfast: Cereal, banana and 2% milk.

Cereal

Snack: A little handful of nuts.

Handful o' nuts

Lunch (with mom): Big green salad with cucumber, tomato, carrot & avocado topped with turkey-ham salad and hard boiled egg.  On the side: whole grain Ritz crackers and a little fruit salad of grapes, tangerine & blueberries.

Saturday Salad

And Mom’s homemade oatmeal cookies.

Oatmeal Cookies

Later that afternoon: jellybeans.

Jellybeans

Dinner: Delicious grilled hanger steak picked up on Friday at  Golden Gate Meat Company, sauteed kale, steamed green beans with lemon, cherry tomatoes and Acme Bread Company herb slab.  All the more delicious because Rem cooked (thanks).

Steak & Greens

Snacking while blogging: Chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

Seeds. Chocolate.

Dessert: Greek yogurt with blueberry jam.

Yogurt 'n' jam

Last day!

Sunday breakfast: Egg white-veggie-tofu scramble with baked tofu, chard, cherry tomatoes and cilantro with toasted herb slab & honey plus prunes.

Tofu veggie scramble

Snack (just home from the Farmer’s Market): Kumquats – better than the ones at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

More kumquats

Trader Joe’s taste: Tater tot and sausage.

Tater Tot & Sausage

Lunch: Juice! Kale, chard, cucumber, celery, fennel, apple, orange, grapes, lime & mint.

Juicie

Green Juice

Snackies: Ritz 100 calorie snack mix and fresh peas.

Snack Pack

Peas

Dinner: Halibut with lemon and whipped butter, toasted herb slab, Greek salad and an artichoke with lemon/olive oil mayo dipping sauce.

Fine Fish Dinner

Dessert: a piece of that heavenly Almond Brittle with dark chocolate.  I ate it before taking a picture so here is the picture from Friday.

Almond Brittle

That is it, every bite.

On Sunday morning I did a big shopping at the Farmer’s Market.  I hadn’t been in weeks and it was wonderful to walk the aisles, picking up fresh, delicious produce for the week ahead.  I’m all stocked up for the week ahead.

Market Basket

Thank you for coming on by.

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Day 24: Buttermilk Lace Pancakes

This post has a recipe for delicious buttermilk pancakes from Noreen at Picture the Recipe.  You can make these in the traditional round pancake shape or follow the technique also shown on Picture the Recipe (and plenty of other sites) and make them into lace pancakes.  The technique would work with other pancake batter (including Bisquick) but this recipe makes such good pancakes, I recommend using it.

I made these in our new pan from Ikea but it would be easier making them on a griddle.  The edge of the pan made flipping them a little bit tricky.

Once you make up the pancake batter…

Pour it into a squeeze bottle.

Spoon the batter into a glass measuring cup and then pour it into the bottle.  It is thick batter so I ended up with some on the outside of the bottle but it was easy to scrape back into the bowl.  I cut off a little bit of the tip of my squeeze bottle so the hole would be larger for the batter to come out.  Other sites suggest putting the batter into a large Ziploc bag and, after squeezing out excess air and zipping the bag closed, snipping a small hole from one corner.  I haven’t done that and imagine it would be a little more difficult to control than a squeeze bottle, but I think it would work.

Set the temperature for your burner or griddle on medium-high heat.

Update: I read on Not Martha, on her great post about making Flower Pancakes, to turn the heat down a notch to allow time to draw the batter into a fancy shape.  Great tip!

Once your pan is hot, spray it with nonstick spray and squeeze your design out onto the pan or griddle.  Do the outline first and any dots or frills around the edge, than add loops, flowers, squiggles, lines or zigzags to fill in the rest of the space, making sure you have all the parts of a particular pancake connected with lines of batter for structural integrity.

Carefully flip your lace pancake and brown the other side. Serve with fresh fruit, syrup, powdered sugar or whatever toppings you like.

We had them for Sunday Lunch but they would be wonderful for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast or a pretty Mother’s Day treat.

Buttermilk Lace Pancakes

Adapted from Picture the Recipe

Combine dry ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. sugar

In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients:

2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

5 Tbsp. melted butter

Pour the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients and combine but don’t over mix.  There should be some lumps in the batter.   Cook on griddle over medium high heat.  Spray griddle with nonstick spray before pouring batter.  A 1/4 cup measuring cup is a good scoop if you are cooking traditional, round pancakes.  Cook until top has bubbled and bubbles have popped, flip the cakes and cook the other side until golden brown.  Serve and enjoy.

Fresh fruit from the Farmer’s Market made a delicious topping, dusted with powdered sugar.

I had a break for project #24 last year: Gnome made some cute file folders out of old calendar pages.

Thanks for the visit.

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Day 3: Icebox Cupcakes

These little cuties are a variation of Icebox Cake, a simple but delicious concoction made with chocolate wafer cookies and sweetened whipped cream.  The cookies are stacked with whipped cream between the layers and put into the fridge.  After 5 hours (or overnight), the whipped cream has softened the chocolate cookies to make a cake-like dessert. These are also nice for warm weather when you don’t want to turn on the oven to bake a cake.

Rem and I stretch out our birthday celebrations from a day to a month, if possible.  He birthday falls on the first day of June a.k.a. Day 1 of 30 Days of Creativity! So some of my projects, like this one, are in honor of Rem’s Birthday Month.

I used the classic Famous Chocolate Wafers by Nabisco.  The package has a recipe on the side for Icebox Cake but on their website they call it Chocolate Refrigerator Roll.  One box makes 8 little cupcakes that are each 5 cookies high.

This was only the second time I tried this recipe – the first time I put it in a loaf pan and this time in the cupcake stacks.  One cup of heavy whipping cream should make enough for one box of cookies.  I used a pint and I had leftovers but I don’t consider that a bad thing!

Spread about a tablespoon of sweetened whipped cream (I also added some vanilla when I whipped it up) between a pair of cookies, and press the cookies together.  Add another tablespoon of whipped cream and another cookie until you have a 5-layer stack of cookies.

I used an offset spatula and spread whipped cream on the sides to get an even layer all the way to the edges.  Once you have a stack of five cookies, make sure the cookies are aligned then either spread a final layer of whipped cream on the top of each stack or pipe it on for a fancier finish.

I’m sure it will be just as delicious without the raspberry and mint leaf garnish but I love how these look, especially on my new cake stand!

My project for Day 3 last year: Security Envelope Flower Cards.

Thank you for stopping by.

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Dad’s Apple Butter

Apple Butter seems to taste best if you can get the apples for free.  My dad has no problem knocking on a homeowner’s door if he sees a tree in their yard with apples rotting on the ground underneath.   However, this year he isn’t yet out taking walks through the neighborhood, so he doesn’t have a stash of apples rotting fragrantly in crumpled paper bags in the corner of the kitchen.

I wanted apple butter for myself and loved the idea that my dad felt well enough to tackle the task of making a batch with my mom, so I decided to provide some apples. The first bag was purchased at the Marin Farmer’s Market at a discount as they were “cosmetically challenged” (the photo is from a week later at a different booth with a higher price).   I’d also snagged about 8 or so bruised or wormy apples from a free bin at the Market.    At my choir rehearsal, one of the singers had a big basket of apples from a tree in her yard that I was lucky enough to receive the bulk of (thanks, True).  As I was taking all of these apples to my folks’ house I saw a brown paper grocery sack on an overturned bucket by the curb with “Free Apples” scribbled on the bag.  I pulled over, hopped out and grabbed the bag.  So not every apple was free, but close enough!

Here in his own words is the way my dad makes Apple Butter:

Now you take a bunch of apples and wash ‘em.  [Note from Dianne: a bunch was probably half to three-quarters of a grocery sack]

Now you quarter ‘em, but leave the peels on and just cut out any rotten spots, seeds and core.  Leave as much of the apple as possible. Chunk up into pieces – about the size of the end of your thumb

Fill a large heavy-bottom pot to the brim with apple chunks, add about 1 cup of water.

Heat on high, turn to slow simmer, and watch out for bubbles, they’re HOT

Add water if needed to keep apples from burning.

Stir frequently – don’t go off and read a book!

Cook down until all chunks are soft. Different apples have different moisture content, keep testing.

Put some on saucer to cool and taste – different apples need different amount of sweetening

Add approximately ¼ to ½ cup sugar (or to taste).

Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and cook for a short time to meld.

Run batches of hot, cooked apple chunks through food mill or food processor, if using mill, you have to go backwards sometimes to unclog.

Pour milled applesauce into baking dish or casserole (or bottom of broiler pan)

Bake at 250 to 275 degree oven.  Now go read your book.

After an hour, stir sauce, scraping down sides, continue to bake 4 to 6 hours, watching and stirring occasionally.  Taste part way through cooking time and adjust sweetener and spice.

Resulting sauce will be a rich brown with a thick texture. Enjoy!

It takes some time and effort, but the rewards (not to mention the heavenly fragrance) are hard to beat.  I enjoyed fresh Apple Butter with cottage cheese (all the better because it was from mom and dad’s open jar and I got to take mine home unopened).

It is wonderful with peanut butter on toast or on pancakes.  I opened my jar Sunday morning and had it on waffles.

Delicious!

Thanks for stopping by.

And thanks, Dad, for sharing your recipe for Apple Butter.

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Day 4: Pizza Bites

Bites of dough made from scratch, stuffed with warm, melt-y mozzarella cheese and spicy bits of pepperoni.  Rem and I made Pizza Bites for dinner and though we enjoyed them, we didn’t love them as we expected to.  Maybe because I adjusted the recipe to make it a little healthier (1/4 wheat flour in the dough, part skim mozzarella cheese and in my half of the batch, turkey pepperoni) but these were more doughy and less yummy than we’d hoped.

I found the recipe on Annie’s Eats (click on the title to go to her blog and see her recipe) and made the changes mentioned above.  We don’t have a stand mixer so I mixed and kneaded the dough by hand.  These are good and kind of fun but I don’t know if we would make them again.

I don’t like all the tomato sauce on most pizza but I love the crust.  Because these little balls of dough are put up against each other in the pan before baking they aren’t very crusty.  Perhaps baking them in a larger pan and more spread out would make them more like I imagined.  Of course using whole milk mozzarella and some cooked Italian sausage might win me over too.  I dipped some in marinara and could imagine them slathered in butter.

Paprika marked the ones filled with turkey pepperoni

Making pizza dough and baking Pizza Bites on a rainy day with your sweetheart isn’t a bad thing and we’ll use the other half of the dough for pizza dinner on another night. That is my creation for today, day 4 of 30 Days of Creativity.

UPDATE: Leftovers, warmed in the microwave for about 20 seconds than toasted in the toaster oven were really good, especially with a bit of butter.

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The Comforts of Winter: Cooking Class Week 1

Fresh Ginger Cake with Meyer Lemon Cream

I have the good fortune of assisting with a cooking class. It is a 3-session series called “Creative Seasonal Cooking: The Comforts of Winter”.  The teacher of the class, Tom Hudgens, is a friend and colleague and is also the author of The Commonsense Kitchen cookbook and The Whole Hog Blog where you can find all the recipes  from the class.

One of my tasks is class photographer so feast your eyes on food from last weeks class and then take a look at Tom’s blog.

Dark red and gold beets

Winter Greens

The colorful seasonal menu is loaded with flavor and has inspired me to eat more winter salads this week.

Sliced Young Red Onions

Orange Red Onion Relish

The orange-red onion relish was the perfect addition to a chicken dinner this week and was pretty made with Cara Cara Oranges with their pink flesh.

Fresh Ginger Cake in the pan

The fresh ginger cake was topped with lemon curd folded with whipped cream but is delicious on it’s own.

Colorful Winter Dinner

Here is the whole menu:

WINTER BEET SALAD WITH FETA CHEESE, WALNUTS, AND HERB VINAIGRETTE

SPICED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH ROASTED YAMS, TENDER GREENS, AND ORANGE-RED ONION RELISH

FRESH GINGER CAKE WITH MEYER LEMON CREAM

Click here for the recipes.  Thanks for stopping by!

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