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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Cabbage rolls… Oh yeah!

I’ve wanted to try these forever, and they delivered!

When I want to try my hand at something I’ve never made before, I head to Pinterest for recipes. Tonight, this cabbage roll recipe dominated my kitchen: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/28077197652733573/.

I modified it only slightly – boiling the head of cabbage before taking the leaves off. They kept breaking on me, so I had to soften them. This was the only semi-hard task in the recipe.

Here are the ingredients:

For the cabbage leaves and stuffing:

  • 12 cabbage leaves (I ended up using 9, but allow yourself a couple extras!)
  • 1 lb. raw lean ground beef
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (the squeezy bottle is fine!)

Here are the steps:

For the cabbage:

  • Boil  water in a very large stockpot (think of having enough water to cover a head of cabbage)
  • Remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage with a large, sharp knife
  • Put the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water – gently, so you don’t burn yourself!
  • Boil for 3 minutes, or so
  • Carefully pull out the cabbage head with a large fork and spoon (like used for serving salad) – Don’t empty the water, you may need it again!
  • Slowly peel off as many leaves as you can – the goal is 12
  • If the leaves become too brittle, boil the remaining cabbage head for a couple minutes more. Continue the peeling and boiling process til you have 12 leaves.

To fill the cabbage leaves:

  • Put the ground meat in a large bowl and break it up a bit
  • Add the milk, beaten egg, rice, onion, garlic, garlic salt, onion powder, salt, and pepper
  • Mix everything together til well incorporated
  • Put a very large serving spoon full of filling into a leaf, then fold the cabbage leaf over the filling, starting at the bottom, then the sides, then the top. Place the folded side down in a 9X13 baking dish.
  • Repeat the step above until you run out of filling

For the sauce:

  • In a large bowl, mix tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and lemon juice together thoroughly
  • Pour sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls

Bake for 75 minutes on 350 degrees F. Enjoy!

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!

Comfort-ish food

For the adult who knows better, but wishes she didn’t care

I was starving after work today, and all I really wanted was some comfort food – creamy pasta and beer. I’d have felt too guilty after a heaping bowl of ooey, gooey, crusty-top mac and cheese, so I went for something a little less sinful.

Start boiling water for your pasta – any shape you want – and cook according to cooking directions while you complete the steps below. Pull off of heat and put into a colander when done.

Heat a large skillet on medium high (7 out of 10) for a minute, then drizzle some olive oil in the hot pan. Heat for another 1-2 minutes, then add 1/4 of a diced sweet onion and 1-2 cups of largely diced mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add 3 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/3 cup white wine, 2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp plain coffee creamer (I used fat-free because it’s what I had in the fridge, but any plain liquid coffee creamer, half and half, or heavy cream will work), a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tsp fresh time (or 1/2 tsp dried). Turn heat to simmer, then let cook for another couple minutes.

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Put the pasta in the skillet and fold everything together to coat all of the pasta with the creamy sauce (tongs work well for this).

Serve, making sure you get some of the yummy, saucy goodness on the bottom of the pan.

Top with Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, crushed red pepper, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. And drink some Crabbie’s ginger beer with it if ya like – YUM!

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