Melissa’s magnificent mac & cheese

My gal pal Melissa made this mac and cheese for her annual New Year’s Eve party this year, and it is truly magical. Like all good recipes, this one has been passed on – I got it from Melissa, who got it from her sister Teresa, who got it from a friend – and, now, it’s time you all give it a go!

It’s quick and easy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups elbow or corkscrew macaroni (I measured 2 cups dry, then boiled it for 6 minutes, until al dente – remember, it will cook a little more in the oven!)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • sprinkle of pepper
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/2 pound (an 8 oz. brick) of sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 slices white bread, cubed

Here are the steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  • Cook your pasta til al dente (about 6 minutes), drain, then put in a large mixing bowl
  • Dice the onion very fine to avoid biting into big chunks, then add it to the bowl
  • Cut up the butter into smaller pieces, then add it to the bowl, spreading it around
  • Grate the cheese – I grate it on a piece of wax paper to lessen the mess and for easy transport to the bowl!

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  • Cube up your bread – I stacked the 3 slices on top of each other, then made several vertical cuts. I then took the long pieces, and cut those to make cubes
  • Add the grated cheese, flour, dry mustard, salt, pepper, milk, and cubed bread
  • Stir all ingredients, then pour into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish
  • Bake for 10 minutes, stir, then bake another 10 minutes
    (Note: If the dish still looks too wet, bake for 5 minutes more then check again)
  • After 20 minutes, turn your broiler to high and broil for 3 – 4 minutes, watching so it doesn’t burn. This will give your mac and cheese a nice, crusty top. (If you don’t like a crusty top, no sweat, skip this step!)

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Low-fat cheese… I knew better

Today, I tried a low-cal recipe for mac and cheese with veggies. I have to admit, it was not a home run. It was more like a foul ball. But, with a few tweaks, I think it could be good. Here’s the story…

I modified the recipe from one I found when searching Pinterest. I added more veggies, and also non-fat plain Greek yogurt for creaminess – both of which I liked.

What would I change next time? I’d stay completely away from low-fat cheese, I’d use more cheese, I’d add kale, and I’d trade the gluten-free pasta for the protein-packed kind. Those changes alone could take this dish to a very good place.

Next time, I’ll use these ingredients:

  • 3 cups uncooked high-protein pasta (my recipe called for gluten-free pasta)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 orange pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 very large handful of kale, tough ribs removed, then cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 individual-serving size tub of non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese – 2 cups in the mix, and one cup on top to get bubbly and crispy (my recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of low-fat grated colby jack – 1 cup in the dish and 1/2 cup on top)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

And here are the steps:

  • Cook the pasta til al dente (remember, you’re also going to bake it!)
  • While the pasta cooks:
    • Heat a large skillet on medium-high (7 out of 10) for about a minute
    • Add 1 tsp olive oil to the skillet and let heat for about a minute more
    • Add chopped peppers and onion, and cook for about 2 minutes
    • Add the chopped mushrooms and corn, and cook for 3 minutes more
    • Add the kale and cook about a minute longer (the kale should be bright green and softened a little)

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Wouldn’t kale have looked pretty and added some healthy leafy greens?

  • Remove from heat, pour veggies in a large bowl, then add milk, yogurt, 2 cups shredded cheese, and black pepper
  • Add the cooked pasta to the bowl, then mix everything together
  • Put into a 9X12 baking dish, and add the remaining cup of shredded cheese to the top
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly (use the broiler for a minute or two if needed to get a good crisp on top)

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This definitely needed more cheese on top!

Enjoy!

Jalapeno, kale, and cheese quiche

Shout out to my local farm stand, Janowski Gardens, for this one!

I modified this recipe slightly, but this meal is largely based off of a great recipe I found online and is written by the owner of a local farm stand here in the Finger Lakes region of New York state, Janowski Gardens. The direct link to the recipe is: http://www.janowskigardens.com/rellanos.html.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pie crust  (I just buy it from the grocery store; it’s delicious!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk (you can use a kind higher in fat if you want to, but I don’t think this recipe needs it)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 15 or so pickled jalapenos, diced, straight from the jar (use less to reduce the heat)
  • 1 large handful kale, tough stems removed and chopped into bit-size pieces
  • 1/2 tsp hot Mexican style chili powder (use less to reduce the heat
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Clockwise from left: Kale, shredded cheese, diced pickled jalapenos

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  • Spread dough into a non-stick 9-inch metal pie pan
  • Put eggs in a large bowl and beat slightly with a whisk
  • Add breadcrumbs, kale, jalapenos, cheese, milk, breadcrumbs, olive oil, and spices
  • Mix together well
  • Pour mixture into the pan
  • Roll over and crimp edges of dough so that it’s even with the top of the pie pan
  • Brush top of dough with egg wash (crack an egg in a small bowl, beat it a bit, then use a pastry brush to scoop out the yolk and spread it over the crust)
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until done (I cooked mine about 38 minutes)
    • Note: When the crust starts to brown, make a foil wrap to protect it as the egg mixture cooks. To make the foil wrap, cut off a long piece of foil, 18″ or so. Fold it down the middle, lengthwise, pushing on the fold firmly, then rip in half along the fold. Put one half on top of the other, and fold one end over several times, to join the halves. Open up and mold around the pie plate, just covering the crust.

Sorry for the wrinkley foil, but this was an afterthought… I should have made a video for this…

  • When the quiche is done, the middle will not wiggle when you jiggle the pan, and a butter knife will come out of the center of the quiche clean

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Serve and enjoy! I served mine with a green salad. Soup would also be delish!

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Modifications: leave out the spicy ingredients if you don’t like the heat; replace the jalapenos with diced bell pepper, diced onion, or very small, sligtly cooked broccoli florets; add a little diced ham – use your imagination!

Leftovers crescent wrap

The list of ideas for this one is long…

But, here are a few: Try this with leftover veggies, cheese, or cold cuts from a party tray; leftover meat; pizza sauce and toppings; leftover goulash or mac and cheese… Yum!

Here’s how I did it:

  • Cube one chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken
  • Dice 10 or so raw asparagus stalks
  • Dice 1/4 of a red onion
  • Grate a 2″ X 2″ block of sharp cheddar cheese (or use a couple of handfuls of shredded cheese)

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You can judge amounts based on the size of these piles vs. my hand.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (7 out of 10) for about a minute
  • Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil into the hot pan, and heat for about a minute more
  • Put asparagus and onion in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften
  • Add cubed chicken to the pan
  • Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray
  • Roll out a whole package of crescent roll dough onto the sheet – DO NOT separate
  • Pinch the seams together to help them stay closed
  • Slice diagonal strips along each long side, about and inch wide and 2 inches long
  • Pile on veggie and chicken mixture, then top with cheese
  • Starting at one end, bring the dough strips over the filling, alternating sides and being sure to tightly wrap the ends (you don’t want to lose any cheese!)
  • Bake according to crescent roll instructions (about 375 degrees F for 10 minutes)
  • Enjoy with a salad, or by itself!

Note: Recipe based on this one: http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/ham-and-swiss-crescent-braid/7ca00a43-2dce-4c69-8cd5-fd9b963b2b6d

Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs with Cheesy Veggie Pasta

Friends, it was a tough day, and I NEEDED to cook, while sipping on a generous pour of red wine. So, that’s exactly what I did.

When my hubby tasted the food and said, “OMG, wait til you taste this,” I felt myself totally relax.

Here’s how to make your partner just as happy!

First things first, here’s what’s in my glass! Banner Elk Red, a new favorite from our vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C.

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For the pork: In a gallon-size zipper-style plastic bag, add:

  • 1 package country-style pork ribs (about 6 pieces)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (or about 1/4 tsp. dried)
  • 1 two-inch sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (or about 1/4 tsp, dried)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (or 2-3 turns of the salt grinder)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper (or 5-10 turns of the pepper grinder)

Seal and place bag in a large baking dish (to avoid leaking), put in fridge and marinate overnight (2-3 nights is also ok, as long as it doesn’t go past the use-by date on your meat).

pork

  • Turn your grill on medium low to low (all grills are different)
  • Cook on one side for 5 minutes, flip, then cook on the other side for 5 minutesimage9
  • Test the pork by cutting into the largest part of a few pieces. If a couple pieces are especially large, leave them on a minute or two longer. Here’s what you’re looking for:

For the pasta:

  • Fill a medium saucepan 1/2 – 2/3 full of water
  • Add a couple of shakes of salt (or a couple of turns of the salt grinder) to the water
  • After the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium or medium high, then add 1/2 box pasta
  • Cook pasta per directions on the box (but 6-7 minutes seems to always work for me)
  • While pasta cooks, heat a large skillet on medium high (7 out of 10) for about a minute
  • Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and let heat for another 45-60 seconds
  • Add 1/2 sweet onion, chopped, and let cook for about 3 minutes
  • Add 1 cup mushrooms, chopped, and cook for another 2 minutes or soimage5
  • Reduce heat to simmer
  • Add 1 Tbsp. butter, 1/2 cup (or a pour while counting to two) white wine, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. Sriracha, and a few sprinkles (or grinds) of salt and pepper
  • Add two large handfuls of kale, chopped, with thick stems removedimage1
  • Turn heat to medium and cover pot
  • Cook for about two minutes, til kale is bright green and softenedimage7
  • When pasta is done (pick out a couple of pieces and taste for the right softness), pour into strainer
  • Add pasta to skillet with veggies and sauce, then stir
  • Cut a few VERY thin sliced of tomato, remove the seeds, then dry them with a paper towel

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  • Add 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella to the top, then the tomato slices

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  • Broil on high for 4-5 minutes, watching closely so your dish doesn’t burn. Here’s what you’re looking for – crispy, ooey, gooey goodness!

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  • Top with crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese, basil – whatever you like

Finish:

  • Dish up pork with pasta, and enjoy!

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