A Resolution Breaker [stovetop mac and cheese]

This mac and cheese is amazing and quick, and if you’re looking for a great way to break your 2017, “be a healthier person” resolution, this is it.  I made it as written months ago, and we’re experimenting with Havarti and Mozzarella later this week.

img_6388

Cheers, dear readers, and happy 2017.  I’ve got tons to tell you, but I’ve gotta get through the most epic reading post ever.  I’ve been editing it for weeks–weeks!

To make Alton Brown’s Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese for 4, you will need:

1/2 pound elbow macaroni*
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

*I take issue with a lot of recipes that call for less than a whole box of pasta.  Why wouldn’t you make the whole box of pasta?  So use a big pot, and double up if you want, dear readers.

The Wisdom of AGOMYR [pioneer woman’s twice baked potatoes]

After Thanksgiving, AGOMYR was kind enough to inquire as to the results of a little experiment I conducted in my kitchen.

“How were The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes?”

“Oh, AGOMYR, they were good.  They have almost everything Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe has.  But they just weren’t the same.”

“Um, of course they weren’t.”

Because nothing is ever the same as your grandma’s mashed potatoes.  Especially when you and your grandma have gone so far as to exchange Hallmark cards specifically about mashed potatoes.

So noted.

img_6664

I can tell you, however, that The Pioneer Woman’s twice baked potatoes are absolutely and completely too good to be true.  There is not a shred of nutrition in them.  But now and again, I’m okay with that.

These would be a delightfully decadent addition to your Christmas table, and you could make them ahead of time, and reheat them in the oven right before serving.

To make potatoes for 12, you will need:

8 baking potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 sticks salted butter
1 cup bacon bits (fry your own!)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Cheddar or Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the canola oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through.

Slice the butter into pats. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon bits and sour cream. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet.

Smash the potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste and mix together well. (IMPORTANT: If you plan to freeze the twice-baked potatoes, do NOT add the green onions.)

Fill the potato shells with the filling. I like to fill the shells so they look abundant and heaping. Top each potato with a little more grated cheese and pop ’em in the oven until the potato is warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

The Story Behind the Menu – A First Birthday Bash [honey ham and swiss sliders]

Don’t fret, dear readers, Gooplet still has a couple of months to go before he gets his first taste of cake.  This first birthday bash was for CV(D)’s son.  In fact, she not only had time to pull of this party, but she even wrote her next guest post about it. And the sliders in question were gobbled up faster than anyone could snap a picture.  Please enjoy her adorable cake, instead.

Displaying IMG_5943.JPG

Who: family and some of the best friends a family could ask for
What: a first birthday party
When: 2-5 on a Sunday afternoon
Why: because one always hosts a first birthday – OMG my baby is one!
Displaying IMG_5944.JPG
The thought process: Pick a time between naps that also doesn’t require feeding people a real meal. Pick a theme because that’s what people do for first birthdays nowadays, and it makes it more fun for mom. Pick a theme based on a book because mom is a teacher and baby boy loves things that go. Enter The Little Blue Truck. Ask grandmas to bring things that require actual cooking because babies be babies.
Displaying IMG_5945.JPG
The Menu:
Farm fresh veggies (veggie platter with ranch dip)
Chicken feed (white cheddar popcorn)
Honey Ham and Swiss Sliders (no cute name, but yummier than pigs in blankets)
Hay bales (rice crispy treats)
Spare tires (Oreos)
Birthday cake and smash cake!
What worked: Pinterest! Thanks for all the great ideas, people who take the time to post those sorts of things. Also, having my mom and mother in law make things that required time and attention. It took enough to get our house clean(ish) and our kid napping at the right time; not having the stress of putting anything “real” together the day-of was amazing.
What didn’t: not enough beer and not enough sliders. (oh hey, last minute guests! We love hosting parties and we love our friends; just because we didn’t think you’d be into a one year old’s first birthday, doesn’t mean you don’t love us enough to come!)
My mom made the sliders for the party using a recipe from her sweet neighbor, Kelsey. They were a hit to say the least!
To make Honey Ham and Swiss Cheese sliders for a small crowd, you will need:
24 Slices of deli honey ham
6 Slices of swiss cheese, cut into fourths
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Butter melted
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 packages (12 count) KING’S HAWAIIAN Original Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls

 
Kelsey’s Note: I always add a little extra cheese and ham on mine to make them more hearty. This recipe calls for more than I think you need, but I tend to use almost all of the ham & cheese when I make them! Also, sometimes they sell the rolls in a 24 pack, and they are easier to prepare/cut that way because you’re cutting one full package of rolls instead of 2-12 packs. I’ve found that this recipe takes close to 45 minutes for prep, wait time & cook time!
 
Instructions: 
1) Cut rolls in half and spread mayo onto 1 side of the rolls. Place a slice or two of ham and slice of swiss cheese in roll. Replace the top of the rolls and bunch them closely together into a baking dish.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together poppy seeds, dijon mustard, melted butter, onion powder and worcestershire sauce.
(Note: if you’re prepping in advance and assembling at the party your daughter is throwing (or whoever), pause here. Cover the baking dish(es) and put a lid on the sauce. Carry the whole deal over to the party, then pick up again at step 3)
3) Pour sauce over the rolls, just covering the tops. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
4) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for additional 2 minutes until tops are slightly browned and crisp. Serve warm.
We doubled it, but if you have a few single guys who aren’t that into cooking on your guest list, you might consider tripling that 😉

 

A Dose of Nostalgia [adult spaghetti-o’s]

It’s terrifying to think that it’s people my age who are the targeted market for nostalgia these days.  The first time I heard a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on the classic rock station I flipped out.  Classic rock?  A song that I remember vividly from my childhood? Not possible.

IMG_6707.JPG

Need something to eat while you’re finishing up season two of Fuller House?  (Surely you’ve finished Gilmore, even though I haven’t started.)  May I suggest Bon Appetit’s adult SpaghettiOs?

To make enough for 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large sprigs basil
  • 12 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta

Purée tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth; there should still be some dime-sized pieces remaining. Set aside.

Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef and mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1″-diameter balls (you should have about 24); transfer to a plate.

Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and reserved tomato purée. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices; continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.

All of Our Dinners [tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons]

Over the past couple of weekends, my husband and I have been poring over Ina’s cookbooks (more on this later).  This is a first for him, but not so much for me.  At one point in his perusal, he remarked, “These are all of our dinners!”

Astute observation, honey.

img_5773

Our most recent Barefoot Contessa dinner was her tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons.  I first enjoyed it on a lunch date with my longtime friend Sarah, and was so pumped to find I had all the ingredients I needed (save for saffron) to make it at home.  It was on the table only two evenings later.

To make soup for 4, you will need:

3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped fine (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.  This is a simple as making your favorite grilled cheese, and cutting it into bite-sized pieces.

Halloween Beans [frankenbeans]

Just about a month ago, I made How Sweet’s slow cooker bourbon baked beans, and they left me wanting something a little more timeless.  And then shortly after that, my new favorite book ever, How to Celebrate Everything arrived, and within the first couple of pages, out popped the classic baked beans recipe everyone needs in his or her arsenal.  She makes hers on Halloween for her great launching of the children, and we used ours in much the same vein.

img_6118

I followed Jenny’s recipe in terms of ingredients, but took her oven baked beans to the stove top.  She calls for these to sit in the oven for 5 hours, which sounds so dreamy, but I wasn’t going to be home for 5 straight hours on Halloween.*  As you can read in the recipe below I kept my pot on the stove all day, turning it on and off as I came and went.

These are a classic, and a new Halloween staple in our house, to be sure.

To make beans for 4-6 people, you will need:

  • 1 lb. dry navy beans
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (the real stuff, please)
  • 1/4 C ketchup (why yes, I did use this)
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 T spicy brown mustard
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 thick strip bacon
  • boiling water
  • 4 hot dogs, cut into rounds

At least one day before you need the beans: Soak beans overnight (cover with water in a pot and leave them on your counter).

This next step can be done the day before, or the day of: Bring water to a boil and let beans cook till tender, about 1 hour.  Drain.  If you’re not using them right away, put them in a container, seal it tightly, and refrigerate till you need ’em.

The day of: Bring a pot of water to a simmer.  In another large pot, combine onion, maple syrup, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, salt, pepper, bacon strip (yes, uncooked!) and whisk around a little bit.  Add beans, and just enough simmering water to cover.  Let that cook on the stovetop.  For as long as you want.  Keep adding water to keep everything just covered.  I probably simmered mine about 2 or 3 hours in the morning, another hour in the afternoon, and even another hour or two before we enjoyed them.

*Side note: Halloween as a parent?  Holy fun!  But holy exhausting!

A New Favorite Sprout [brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins]

For three years, I’ve been devouring Ina’s roasted brussels sprouts about as fast as I can make them.  But when my favorite foodie friend sent me this recipe from Jenny Rosenstrach (of Dinner, a Love Story fame), I knew there could be room in my heart for another sprouts dish.

IMG_5909.JPG

They’re similar enough that I don’t feel the need to declare a favorite, but I will tell you that the raisins in this add an amazing, unexpected twist.  Ina’s are a throw them in the oven and forget about them for almost an hour kind of dish, whereas these come together quickly, but require some hands-on, skillet time.  You can pick which ones you want to eat depending on what you’ve got time to make.

To make sprouts for 4, you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups brussels sprouts (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Let cool. Coarsely crumble. (Make sure crumbled bacon is unreachable by children, or it will disappear before you need it again.)

While bacon cools, add brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5–7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

The Perfect Snack [mini pizza cookies]


As easy as they look.


And they taste even better.


What are you waiting for?


To make at least 2 dozen mini pizza cookies, you will need:

  • A tube of pizza dough
  • Sauce
  • Pepperoni
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a tray with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness and cut in 2 inch rounds. Too with sauce, a pepperoni slice, and mozzarella. Watch these carefully as you bake. Mine took about 10 minutes until the sauce was bubbling and the cheese was browning.

Social Media [brussels sprouts gratin]

I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing something else on social media.  Snapchat?  Podcast?  Instagram stories?  I played around with stories the other day as I made this brussels sprouts gratin.  And I don’t see as many Snapchat stories these days, so maybe this is where everyone is hanging out now?

img_5606

I had never made a gratin before, which seems slightly ridiculous.  I love cheese, I love roasted veggies, and I love cream sauces.  What was I waiting for?

img_5614

I’d tell you this is amazing but I bet you already figured it out.  Oh, it has pancetta, too.  So it can’t be bad.

Since this was my first gratin, I perused a couple recipes, wanting to make sure I’d land on a good one.  I ended up going with Elise’s, because she’s a great person to turn to for classics.  Truth be told, I’d prefer it had I roasted the sprouts for about 25 minutes, and then finished them in the gratin, but boiling them was just fine.  I know a lot of people put a rich sprouts-centered dish on their Thanksgiving table, but I wouldn’t hesitate to make this again on any old evening I want.

A Post with too Many Photos [boursin mac and cheese]

Warning:  All the photos ahead.  I had way too much fun scrolling back through the last 10 years’ worth.  Ladies.  Ten.  Years!

A long, long time ago, in a much simpler time in all of our lives, when we (almost) all lived in close proximity to one another, and had 0 children among us, CV(D), AGOMYR, Hey Girl Hey, My Ex and I got together on the regular to eat cheese and crackers and drink copious amount of wine.  Sometimes we called it book club (LOL).  Other times, we planned to go out afterward, but were having way too much fun with each other to waste time with bars and men.  (And still other times, we went for it with the bars and men.)

birthday-034birthday-013book-club-003legwarmersimg_5809img_6197img_0893img_3116

img_4950img_5599img_6256

Those were the days.  Cheese and cracker and wine-filled days.

Out of habit, I was always content to stick a slice of extra sharp cheddar atop my beloved triscuits, but I’d be remiss if I was hosting and I didn’t include Boursin cheese in the spread.  It was an essential to a handful of these lovely ladies.  But I could take it or leave it on its own, which is odd, given my penchant for herbs and cheese.

Nonetheless, this recipe on Cup of Jo caught my eye, because it took all the flavors I love and added pasta, and fine, fine, I’ll give this Boursin stuff a shot.

img_5540

What I found discovered was everything I never knew I was looking for. This is like a more sophisticated, homemade version of Annie’s Mac and cheese.* Too good to be true. 

To make pasta for 4, you will need:

1 lb. medium shell pasta
1 package (5.2 oz.) Garlic & Fine Herb Boursin
1 1/2 cups fresh peas (frozen are fine too)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shells and cook until just al dente. (They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain the shells.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the 1 cup of pasta cooking water** and the Boursin. Break up the cheese as it melts. Simmer the sauce for about one minute. Add the peas and the shells to the pan and stir. Cook for about a minute until the sauce has thickened around the shells and the peas are cooked through. Stir in the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

Plate the shells and garnish with the lemon zest and fresh black pepper. Enjoy!

*When I served this up, my husband thought it was Deb’s alfredo. The two are similar, but distinct enough that I will be hanging on to each recipe in its own right. 

**At first, when I added a whole cup of water, I thought, holy goodness, I’ve done ruined the sauce.  Just let it keep simmering a while, and everything will thicken up.  Even more so when you add the pasta back in.