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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Pasta Fagioli – spicy… or not!

My hubby didn’t add hot sauce… heed my warning!

If you love spice – I mean, really love it, follow the main recipe. If you don’t, lessen the spice by choosing all or some of the modifications in parentheses.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (or 1/2 sweet onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 or so baby carrots, sliced thin
  • 1 lb ground hot sausage, casings removed if necessary (or 1 lb sweet sausage)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning – I didn’t have this, so I added 1/3 each dried parsley flakes, dried oregano, and dried rosemary to fill up a 1 Tbsp measure
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less, or none)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chili-style diced tomatoes (or 1 can regular diced or crushed tomatoes)
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock, divided – this means this ingredient gets used at different steps of the recipe for a total of 4-5 cups used
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 – 1 1/3 cups dried pasta – a short-cut pasta like spirals, bow ties, small shells, or the little tubes you traditionally see in pasta fagioli work well
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
  • Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired

Directions:

  • Put a dutch oven, or other heavy pot, on medium-high heat (7 out of 10), heat for about a minute.
  • Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pot, and let heat about 1 more minute
  • Add 1/2 onion, chopped, to the pot and cook about 2 minutes
  • Add the sliced carrots and cook about another 2 minutes
  • Add the minced garlic and give a quick stir
  • Add the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula, as it cooks, until there is no pink left

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  • Add the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and 4 cups chicken stock
  • Bring to a boil – you may have to turn up the heat a bit – then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  • Add 1 cup water
  • Add pasta, cannellini beans, and kidney beans
  • Turn the heat to medium-high to high and bring to a boil again
  • Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cook 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender – yep, stick in your fork and try some of that pasta!

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Serve with Parmesan cheese on top!

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Note: I added a final cup of chicken stock because there was not enough broth to cover the solid ingredients once I dished out a couple of bowls.

Recipe based off of this one found on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/382806037054134223/

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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Shrimp & pasta, with an Asian flare

It’s quick, easy, and pretty darn healthy!

Want a super-easy weeknight dinner – here’s your jam!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a 14.5 oz box pasta, any shape you like (I use the high protein kind)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 pound frozen shrimp, unthawed (place frozen shrimp in a bowl and cover with warm water to thaw quickly; just drain and use!)
  • 1/2 pound frozen broccoli florets
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 large onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp jarred sesame garlic sauce (in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • sprinkle of Parmesan cheese

Had I planned a little better, I’d have also added:

  • Chopped peanuts for topping
  • 1/8 tsp grated fresh ginger to the sauce

Directions:

  • Cook pasta until done to your liking (I find boiling for 6 minutes or so to be perfect just about every time)
  • Drain and set aside when done

As the pasta cooks:

  • Heat a large skillet on medium high (7 out of 10) for a minute
  • Add the olive oil and heat for another minute
  • Add sesame garlic sauce
  • Add onion and frozen broccoli, then cook til thawed and softened, stirring occasionally; the broccoli should still be bright green (to speed the cooking, you can cover the skillet)

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  • Once veggies are cooked, add drained shrimp, grape tomatoes, and chopped garlic, then cook for another minute or two (shrimp will shrink a bit as they lose their water content and tomatoes will wrinkle and soften)
  • Add drained pasta and mix together thoroughly to cover the pasta with sauce
  • Top with whatever you desire – a little Parmesan cheese (my choice), a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, a few shakes of dried parsley (also my choice), a little more crushed red pepper, etc.

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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