Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Easiest and Creamiest Mac-n-Cheese....ever

Who doesn't love mac-n-cheese? I have made several variations, my most recent favorite being this one where I toasted the bread crumbs and herbs in butter before topping the mac and baking it. Delicious!

So a few months ago when I was going through old issues Food and Wine and ripping out recipes to try, I found one for Three-Cheese Mini Macs in the December 2007 issue. I shared the recipe with a friend who made it once using the muffin tins, and it was so good that she decided to make it in a casserole dish. She raved about it so much that I had to try it.

My adaptation of the recipe is below. For the original recipe using muffin tins, see the link above.

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 c light cream
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 lb deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 425; grease a baking dish with 1/2 tbsp of the butter
  • Cook macaroni; set aside
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk until you have a nice roux.
  • Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the American and cheddar cheeses. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  • Mix in the egg yolk
  • Pour the cooked macaroni into the sauce and toss until coated. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until sizzling.

The American cheese may not be the fanciest cheese around, but it is what made this dish so creamy and delicious. And talk about easy - this took about 10 minutes to prep. I usually put chopped onions in my mac-n-cheese, and thought I'd miss them, but I didn't. I will still make other, fancier versions of mac-n-cheese, but this is my new go-to recipe.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Soup Sunday: Wild Mushroom and Rice Soup

Over the past year I have made a few variations of mushroom soup, including a
creamy pureed mushroom soup (never named it!) and mushroom, potato, smoked Gouda chowder. Last weekend I wanted to make a mushroom soup with rice in it, so I did a quick search on the internet.

I decided to us this recipe for
mushroom and wild rice soup as my inspiration. My major dilemma was that I could not find wild rice in my market! I looked everywhere (how annoying that they have rice in 2 different sections) and had to settle on a box of long grain mixed with wild rice...I threw away the seasoning packet it came with. My adaptation of the recipe is below:


  • 1 c cooked rice (wild preferred, I used a mix)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1.5 c mushrooms, chopped; I used a mix of white and shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 4 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 c light cream
  • 2 pinches dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: black truffle oil for drizzling before serving


  • Heat butter in a large pot
  • Add onions and celery; saute 5 minutes until tender
  • Add mushrooms, saute 5 minutes
  • Add white wine and cook until absorbed, about 4-5 minutes
  • Add broth, thyme, pepper; bring to a steady simmer for 20 minutes
  • Stir in cream; season with salt if needed. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes before serving. Drizzle with truffle oil for serving.

This soup had a great earthy flavor, and while I liked it with the rice I used, I think it would be even better with all wild rice.

Old-fashioned home cooking - Meatloaf

When I think of meatloaf, I think of TV dinners or a family sitting around a kitchen table in the 1950s. I don't think I have ever eaten meatloaf before, and if I have, I must not have liked it and blocked it out.

I was on the phone with my mom the other night asking her and my dad to come over for dinner. We talked about how comfort food sounded good, and she mentioned that she hadn't had meatloaf in years. I remember Jon making meatloaf before (I was a vegetarian though and wouldn't touch it), and nominated him to cook for us!

I was so impressed with this dinner! He made an amazing meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. I kept complimenting him on the meatloaf (we all did!) but he tried to play it off by saying "it's only meatloaf!!"

My favorite part was the part I was most unsure about - the ketchup topping!
His recipe is pretty simple -

  • 1 lb ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1 lb meatloaf mix (beef/pork/veal)
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c (+/-) breadcrumbs (you have to go on feel)
  • Salt and pepper (a few pinches each)
  • Ketchup


  • Mix all ingredients together and form into a loaf. Add more breadcrumbs if you need more help holding it together.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray
  • Place loaf in the center of the sheet and top with ketchup
  • Bake on 400 for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until internal temperature has reached 160 degrees.
  • Let rest on a cutting board for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

This loaf served 4 of us, Jon and I had dinner again, and my parents split another serving for lunch - so 7 nice sized servings total.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now I have to share this picture and story just because I find it so funny...

My mom was sitting in our family room when Jon pulled the meatloaf out of the oven. She turned around and saw it sitting on the cutting board and kept making comments about how beautiful it was, and telling us that we had to see it from her angle. Then she asked for my camera so she could take a picture of how pretty it looked... My mom cracks me up. So here it is, her picture of the meatloaf -

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orzo with Bacon, Spinach, and Mushrooms

The other day I went in search of a new idea for orzo on a cooking board I frequent. Elly recommended this recipe from her blog. As soon as I saw pancetta, I was sold. Any form of bacon makes everything better!

I used her recipe as inspiration, but instead of pancetta, roasted artichokes, and Swiss chard, I used what I had on hand - bacon, mushrooms, and spinach. My adaptation of her recipe is below.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 slices raw bacon, chopped
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 1 c orzo
  • 1/2 bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat
  • Add bacon and saute until brown. Transfer to a paper towel with a slotted spoon.
  • Remove half of the bacon grease from the pan.
  • Add onions and garlic; saute 3 minutes
  • Add mushrooms, saute 1 minute
  • Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a light boil
  • Add orzo, stir, lower heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 8 minutes or until orzo is done. I stirred it once after 5 minutes to keep it from sticking.
  • Stir in the spinach until wilted; add most of the bacon.
  • Season with salt and pepper as needed; top with bacon for serving.

Wow bacon! This was delicious! Thanks for the inspiration, Elly!

Risotto with Arugula, Mushrooms, and Gruyere

I love risotto and we eat it 2-3 times a month. Every time we grill steaks Jon requests risotto. I have tried a
ton of different variations, and am always looking for and trying new ingredients.

Over the weekend I came up with some new ideas, and decided to make risotto with arugula, mushrooms, and Gruyere cheese. I used my standard recipe and just added these ingredients.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 4 c warm chicken broth
  • 2 handfuls arugula, about 1/2 of a bag
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Gruyere cheese, about 1/3 c


  • Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan
  • Add shallots and garlic, saute 2 min
  • Add mushrooms, saute 2 min
  • Add rice and toss until coated, about 2 min
  • Add white wine and stir until wine has absorbed
  • Add broth, 1-2 ladles at a time. Once you start this step, you have about 17-18 minutes left until you use all the broth. Continue adding the broth; once you have used 3/4 of the broth, keep tasting the rice to see if it is done. It will be tender but not too mushy.
  • When you add the final ladle of broth, add the arugula and cheese. Stir until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

This is my risotto when I added the final ladle - just a touch more liquid to be absorbed.

I loved the nuttiness of the arugula with the earthy flavor from the mushrooms - great combination. And the Gruyere cheese evened it all out - delicious!

Along with our steaks and risotto, we had some white asparagus, something I have seen a lot in the stores but have never cooked. I tossed it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted it for 15 min on 400. I found that it took longer to roast than green asparagus, and had a more bitter flavor than the green variety, but was sweeter towards the tougher ends. We both agree that we prefer green asparagus, but it was nice to try something new.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup with Poblanos, Oregano, and Fresh Cheese

The past year has really flown. Why is the older you get, the faster the time seems to go? I don't know how it is fall already, don't know where October went, and can't believe the Phillies are playing in the World Series...feels like they just won. How was that over a year ago?

I am happy, however, that it is fall as it's my favorite time of year. Sweaters, changing leaves, crisp air, a fire in the fireplace, and the best part, soup. Sure, you can have soup in the middle of the summer if you so desire, but there is something about the change of seasons that makes me crave both cooking and eating soup.

Last week our dog gave me a birthday present (yes, we do that), the cookbook
"Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen."Over the past year I have really started to pay attention to this amazing chef, author,and culinary star who is dedicated to introducting America to authentic Mexican foods, my favorite kind of food! I have tried several recipes and loved all of them, had the opportunity to dine in one of his restaurants in Chicago, Frontera Grill, and really enjoyed watching him on Top Chef Masters. So needless to say, I was very excited to flip through my new cookbook. I immediately decided that I need to make every recipe in the book! Everything just looks and sounds THAT good.

I started with a recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup with Poblanos, Oregano, and Fresh Cheese found on page 124 of the book.

The first thing I loved about the recipe was the use of roasted tomatoes. There is something about roasting tomatoes that brings out a much deeper, more intense flavor.

The recipe used poblano peppers, my favorite Mexican pepper. It's such a versatile pepper and can be used in such a variety of recipes. It is good both sauteed and roasted, and always varies in heat - sometimes you'll get a pepper that is completely mild, and other times you'll end up with one that is eye-watering hot.

Finally, the recipe had a short list of ingredients, but from reading it I knew the flavors would be very intense, and they were. I love when you can get such depth of flavors from such a simple list of ingredients. Although the process of roasting and peeling both the tomatoes and peppers took some time, overall this is a very simple recipe in both process and ingredients, but it blew me away with flavor and texture.

The Recipe - The recipe below is Rick's recipe with my use of store-bought broth instead of homemade. I also simplified the wording in the directions, and took out options and just showed what I did. For the complete recipe, see the book (linked above). I recommend that anyone who loves good, authentic Mexican home cooking purchase this book!

  • 2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 6 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles;
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 4 cups beef broth (the original recipe recommends 6 cups of homemade beef broth)
  • 1 tsp salt, if needed
  • Mexican queso fresco


1. Roast the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until the skins are blackened on one side then flip and broil the other side; this took about 20 minutes total. Cool, then peel, keeping all the juices. Puree the tomatoes in their juices to a rough puree.

2. Roast the Poblanos. Roast the poblanos 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning occasionally until blackened on all sides; this took about 12 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seeds, then rinse to remove any seeds. Slice into 1/4 inch wide strips.

3. Start the soup. In a medium size pot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano, toss a minute longer, then stir in the roasted poblanos to heat.

3. Finishing the soup. Add the tomato puree to the pot and cook over medium-high, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced, about 7 minutes. Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer over medium-low for 30 minutes. Season with salt, if needed.

Serve the soup topped with some of the crumbled cheese.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pork Chops with a Mushroom-Wine Sauce

It has been several days since I last posted - this week got away from me! Between work, my birthday, Halloween, and the World Series, I haven't been experimenting much in the kitchen, but instead have been remaking old dishes.

This dinner from last Monday is a bit of both something old and something new. We usually marinate and grill pork chops, but I decided to sear them in a pan and finish them in the oven so I'd have something to deglaze for a sauce. The sauce is a spin on the Mushroom-Wine Gravy I made for our stuffed pork loin last Christmas.


  • 2 pork chops
  • Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning (pinch each per side of chop)
  • Olive oil
  • 8 white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1/4 c chicken broth


  • Season pork chops with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning
  • Heat approx 1 tbsp oil in a pan over medium-high heat; preheat oven to 400
  • When the pan is very hot, add chops and sear until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven until done (I took them out at 155 degrees, about 5-6 minutes). Remove from pan and keep covered.
  • Add another tbsp oil to the pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add mushrooms and garlic; saute 2-3 minutes. Add half of the wine and stir, scraping up brown bits. Add the rest of the wine and broth. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Serve over the pork chops.

This sauce was not only perfect on the chops, but I loved pouring it over the smashed potatoes. It was a light sauce with a touch of earthiness from the mushrooms. This didn't look or taste like a weeknight meal, but it was definitely quick and easy enough to pull together at the end of a long day!