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Cheesy Goodness

Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

 Years ago I had a pretty amazing boss and work “family”. Our boss’s wife was really amazing too. And a pretty darn amazing cook! When we were having a potluck lunch she would almost always bring macaroni and cheese. I wanted to make it and I decided I had to have the recipe! So during a lunch celebration at our boss’s home in which his wife again served up the cheesy goodness, several of us were swooning over the amazing flavor and I declared “I’m going to ask her for the recipe.” Everyone looked at me in shock. They had for years wanted the recipe but none of them dared to ask. Here I was, fairly new to the office, and unafraid to ask! As I always say, “If you don’t ask, it’s already a no”.

I stood up from the table, found our gracious hostess and gushed to her about how much I love her macaroni and cheese and what a wonderful cook she is. Then I asked. I simply looked at her and asked: “Would you perhaps be willing to share your recipe?” She was so happy to pull out her cookbook and share the recipe with me, and all the girls were looking at me, completely astonished at my immense bravery. Ha! Us Cooks have no fear about asking for a recipe. Really, the worst that could have happened is she could have said “I’m sorry, it’s an old family secret” (which I have heard more than once) or she could have provided me with a different recipe than what she actually uses. Either way, no harm done. And I got an awesome recipe!

I have now made this, many years later, only a handful of times. And I usually use different cheeses than what the recipe calls for. I really like adding in some smoked cheese, sometimes even a creamier cheese like brie. Once even a small handful of bleu cheese crumbles got added in. The important thing is to use cheese that you like. And to make plenty for everyone. Oh and if by some chance you happen to have leftovers, please do yourself a favor in reheating them and do so in the oven. I promise you, the flavor of reheating in the oven vs microwave is well worth the time you wait!
Today I am making this most amazing cheesy goodness for a friend’s family. Her children have declared “what’s wrong with Kraft Mac and Cheese”. Well, nothing, I suppose, unless you want actual cheese in your macaroni and cheese. I have the blue boxes sitting here too, just in case I am unable to sway their tastes on this one. But really, it’s cheese, butter, and pasta! How can they not like it? Love it, even? These children are for sure my toughest critics. Since I have known them, I have cooked many meals for them. Most a hit, some are eaten, but I’m not sure enjoyed as much, and when they don’t like something, they speak up about it. (I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to forget the caramelized carrots fiasco… apparently “caramelized” means something entirely different to a 9-year-old girl than to a 30-something woman who has an immense love of food!)

To make this cheesy goodness for yourself and your faves, you’ll need about 2# of cheese a pound of pasta, plus some butter, flour, milk, spices…oh, and maybe a recipe… please don’t be intimidated. Read through the whole recipe before you start and then just relax and let the process work.

The reviews from my critics have come back and here’s what my toughest critics have to say:
1. I was so stoked to eat it! (14 yr old)
2. So stoked on this macaroni, it’s so dialed! (15 yr old)
3. It was very scrumptious, but very hot (like heat hot) (11 yr old)
4. I thought that it was awesome. (13 yr old)
5. It tasted good. I mean, I ate all of it… (17 yr old…who seemed a little confused that I was asking)
6. It’s ****ing amazing (17 yr old [yes, there was swearing…very excited swearing…] )

Next time I make this, hopefully some adults will be around to enjoy it. Until then, I am pleased that I was able to share this cheesy goodness with a houseful of teens and tweens. 🙂

The Great American Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe is from the Pasta & Co. Cookbook

They say not to substitute a smooth tube dried pasta but to always use rigatoni for the best results. They also make a note that it is not a fiery dish, even though it calls for Tabasco and chili powder. The spiciness of the sauce and powder enhance the cheddar flavor.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
3 cups milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1⁄4 cup romano cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1⁄3 teaspoon white pepper
1 lb rigatoni pasta
3⁄4 teaspoon chili powder
3⁄4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

Combine grated Cheddar and mozzarella and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat milk until near boiling. Turn off heat. Melt butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold the pasta after it is cooked. (It will take at least a 14-inch saute pan or a large casserole that can take direct heat.) When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat, and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick (about 5 minutes). Add Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and white pepper and blend.
Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water about 4 minutes. (It will be underdone, but will finish cooking later.) Thoroughly drain rigatoni and fold it into the cheese mixture.
If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Layer one-half the rigatoni mixture into a 9×13 pan. Top with one-half of the Cheddar and mozzarella. Repeat layers. Top with chili powder, sprinkled evenly over top.
If not baking immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. When ready to bake, drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the dish. Bake for approximately one hour. If frozen, add at least 20 minutes to baking time. The dish should be rusty brown on top. Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil for part of cooking time. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the dish.

 

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Better Butter

First, I’ll allow you a moment to recover from the shock of me posting two days in a row. When I get the chance to “steal” my girl child’s computer to do some blogging, and I actually have something to blog about, I take the opportunity. And this is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a couple years now.

It’s no secret that I love butter. I’ve mentioned fresh butter several times in my postings. I’ve even talked family members who were over for dinner into helping  to make butter (once, even a sister’s ex who only dropped in to see their daughter and wasn’t even staying for dinner helped to make the butter). I don’t always make my own butter, but if I’m making a nice dinner or yummy bread, I like to have really great butter to go with it. More than once, people have said things to me along the lines of “You know they sell that at the store, right?” and “There are easier ways to make butter than that”. “I know” is pretty much my response to all of the comments. So, would you like to make your own fresh butter? You just need one ingredient, one “tool”, and a little muscle (or several little muscles with the help of some kids)

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Pour 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream into a chilled 1 quart jar with a tight fitting lid. If you have access to fresh, raw milk and the cream that comes from that…well, I’m jealous if you do, but… it will make an even creamier, sweet, beautiful butter! Screw the lid onto your jar. Make sure it’s tight. It is important to not fill the jar all the way. Half-filled is perfect. The cream needs room to move around and do its thing to become butter.

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You can shake the jar yourself, or if you have some bored teenagers roaming around like I do, you can hand them the jar. It’s a tiring job, so usually more than one person and some turn-taking will make the task a little easier. I’ve set kids up in a circle on the floor and let them roll the jar around between them, but that takes longer (although, it keeps little ones entertained for awhile, if you need an easy activity for them!).

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You will know when the cream is turning into butter because it will start to kind of “thud” against the side of the jar. And once that starts to happen, keep shaking, as hard as you can (I almost always have taken over the task from the teenagers with tired arms by this point and finish it off myself), until there is a mass of butter and the liquid has separated. That’s buttermilk, by the way. Save it and use it in some pancakes, or Breakfast Cookies.

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Pour the liquid off into a bowl (or into a clean jar to store for later use, in the fridge of course), and spoon the butter into your favorite butter dish. Mine is a French Butter Dish I got from a friend’s shop last year.

There you have it, fresh butter. One ingredient, and a wonderful treat for topping for your favorite breads, and anything else you love topping with butter!

And now, my dear friends, family, and blog-readers… I must go. The battery on the girl child’s computer is near the end, and Red Widow is on. Have you started watching this show? Oh, you should! You really should!!!

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I’m Not Irish

It’s true. I’m not Irish. But you can still kiss me. 😉 And you may want to when you see how easy and fuss-free it is to make a hearty Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner for your family. I have talked to at least 4 people in the last week who have either never had corned beef and/or never made it. So, this is for everyone out there who has never made corned beef, especially if you have never made it because you are intimidated by the task. This will make the top 5 list of “least intimidating recipes” I will ever share with you, I’m sure!

IMAG1320Here are your ingredients:

Corned Beef

Red Potatoes

Carrots

Green Cabbage

Water

 

This is a recipe where you will be so happy you own a slow cooker. It’s what makes this such an easy meal to make. Are you ready? Get your knife out and let’s COOK!

  1.  Prepare carrots in the manner you prefer. (Either peel and cut into 1-2 inch pieces, or wash them and leave them whole, with our without the peel. I prefer unpeeled, whole carrots, myself.) Place carrots in bottom of slow cooker crock.
  2. Wash potatoes and cut in half. Place on top of carrots.
  3. Open the corned beef and rinse well. (Keep that little packet of spices. You’ll need it!) Place the corned beef on top of the potatoes in your slow cooker, fat side up.
  4. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the slow cooker.
  5. Now back to that packet of spices. You can take your pick of methods on this one, too. Personally, I don’t like the little bits of spice seeds, but the flavor is amazing and necessary for the roast, so I do use it. If you don’t mind the seeds, open up the packet and sprinkle over the top of your roast. OR, you can put some holes in the packet with a small knife and toss the whole thing into your slow cooker.
  6. Put the lid on your slow cooker, turn it on low, and walk away. In about 6-7 hours, the corned beef will be cooked and vegetables will be tender. (You can use the high setting as well, if you want it to cook faster. Same results!)
  7. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the cabbage! Cut the cabbage into wedges. Now, if your slow cooker is large enough and there is room to put the cabbage on top of the corned beef, add it to the top 1-2 hours before dinner. If you don’t have room for it, remove the meat and move it to a platter in a warm oven (COVERED, and maybe add a little of the juice from cooking to keep it moist), and then add the cabbage for cooking.

That’s it! Your dinner is done and it will taste as if you slaved over it all day. Your secret is safe with me, if that’s what you want your family to believe.

In our home, we serve this with bread (and fresh butter of course!) and put some butter and sour cream out for the potatoes, and vinegar and/or lemon for the cabbage, along with mustard and/or horseradish for the corned beef.

There you have it! Enjoy. You may now kiss the Cook Girl. 😉

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Filed under Main Dishes, Recipes, Slow Cooker

Best Banana Bread

Over the past few months, I have promised several people that I would share my favorite banana bread recipe. It is not my own recipe, it is just my favorite. I mean, it’s hard to improve on a Betty Crocker recipe (but I think I managed, just because of my own special touches). The original recipe is here, which I found in a magazine-style recipe collection titled “Brunch”. I love brunch. Not because I’m pretentious and like to say things like “Let’s do brunch.” No, it’s because mornings come too early and I don’t like to cook in the early mornings, so if I’m cooking in the morning, it’s more likely to be a late breakfast/early lunch kinda thing, which is typically referred to as “Brunch”. (It’s laziness, not pretentiousness…lol)

Yesterday was a day off from my “day job”, so we had dinner early, which gave me time to make banana bread for dessert. The pictures and recipe, along with my commentary follow below:

Gather your ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

You’ll see in the picture that I am using the vanilla sugar and vanilla extract I made back in April. I also had the girl child make some butter while I was gathering all my ingredients, and this produced just a bit of buttermilk, so I included that in the recipe so it didn’t go to waste. I love getting all the use out of our food as we possibly can!

Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.
Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. 

 

Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

I know you’re “supposed to” mash the bananas before adding them. But I hate taking the extra step and dirtying an extra bowl (that I’ll have to argue with the kids about getting washed. Too much effort…). I use very brown bananas, smash them a little while they’re in the skin, and then you can use either a strong whisk or a potato masher to mix them into the batter.

Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened.

Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.

If it is ever said that I’m an evil mother who doesn’t care what her children like/want, let this serve as proof to the contrary. Banana bread needs walnuts. The girl child doesn’t like them. So, I mix nuts into just half the batter, and divide the batter in the pan so we get a half loaf with and a half loaf without walnuts. Then I sprinkle extra nuts on top for easy identification of which side is which.

Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

If you’re patient, you’ll let it cool completely like the recipe says. But if you’re me (or anything like me), you’ll wait just until it’s cool enough to touch and slice into it so it’s still nice and warm and the freshly made butter melts right into it! YUM!

 

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Fabulous Friday

Today is not just Good Friday, it is Fabulous Friday! The perfect ending to a perfect week. It was like shipment central around my place all week, with packages arriving from all kinds of places, including one I have been waiting on for many years. Ok, so not the package itself, but the item. I finally purchased something I have been wanting for many, many years. It’s a French Butter Dish (you may have heard it called a Butter Bell). The husband of one of my friends makes handmade pottery and he does an amazing job. I was so happy to get my much-anticipated new piece of pottery for my kitchen, and getting to support a friend’s business just sweetened the deal!

So, what else makes this a Fabulous Friday? Well, it’s FRIDAY! Need I say more? And I got to run the bar at work today, steaming milk to a perfectly creamy, frothy texture with all it’s sweetness, pouring it over caramelly shots of espresso, chatting with customers and wishing them a Fabulous Friday…what’s not amazing about bringing a smile to everyone’s face?

And in case I hadn’t been given enough reasons to smile throughout the week, I did get some good news via email several times this week. Some relating to my kids and school, an email from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in awhile, and then an email from someone who is planning to make my Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta for some family. I am excited to hear how everyone enjoyed it!

Now I get to enjoy the day tomorrow with my favorite kiddos… picking up our produce basket from Bountiful Baskets, dying Easter Eggs, eating candy, and probably planning more menus!

Excitement abounds. New beginnings emerge. What kind of amazingness are you up to this weekend?

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Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta

  

Simple Garlic Shrimp Pasta

Tonight was the closing shift at my new job. But that wasn’t going to stop me from cooking up the shrimp that was waiting for me in the fridge!

Of course, you know me, and I was telling my co-workers how excited I was to get home and cook my dinner. Marc (with a c), who I have not worked with before tonight, seemed really excited about my dinner. I think he was a little jealous. He said he was trying to memorize what I told him about how I was going to cook the shrimp and what I would serve it with. Well, he seems like a nice guy, and he served 5 years in the Marines (Semper Fi!), so I decided to do a picture tutorial on this very simple dinner. It will be the perfect thing for him to make for a date to impress her. (All you other guys reading this need to pay attention, too! It’s easy! You can do it!)

A note about cooking the shrimp. There is only one person who has ever intimidated me in the kitchen with his knowledge. And I really learned a lot from him the few times we cooked together. One thing I learned from him is that cooking the shrimp with the shells still on gives them more flavor. The shells are where the flavor is. (Duh! I can hardly believe I hadn’t known it before. But I’m glad I got to cook with David a few times and add to my food knowledge. 🙂 ) So, it’s up to you, but I would recommend leaving the shells on for more flavor. For a date, perhaps you want to remove the shells before serving so she doesn’t have to fumble with trying to be polite and proper when she really just wants to rip the shell off with her fingers and not care how messy she gets. Just sayin’. 😉 And now, on to the recipe (such as it is…you know I rarely follow a recipe!), complete with pictures.

First thing's first, gather up your ingredients. For tonight's dinner, I grabbed just a small amount of angel hair pasta, the shrimp (I had 6 large ones), 3 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small tomato, 1 green onion, Parmesan cheese (Please note the time-- 9:55pm)

Right after snapping this picture, I added water to the pot and turned the burner on high to get it boiling for the pasta. At the same time, I put the pan with butter on a medium-high heat to melt while I peeled and sliced the garlic cloves.

Add the sliced garlic to the butter and cook until just before the garlic turns brown. (This will take about a minute or so)

Remove the garlic from the butter, leaving the butter in the pan. The garlic will continue to cook a little more and will end up lightly browned after it is removed from the pan. You can eat this, use it to top the pasta, or throw it away. Totally up to you.

By this point, your pasta water should be boiling. Angel hair pasta takes only 4 minutes to cook to al dente, which really helps to pull this meal together in no time at all. Get the pasta into the water and set your timer for 4 minutes. Don’t forget to stir the pasta so it doesn’t stick together.

Add the shrimp to the butter in the pan and let those little guys bubble away getting all that garlicky, buttery goodness cooked right into them! Is your mouth watering yet? Each side will cook for 1-2 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling and the shrimp are sizzling in the butter, you have time to run your knife through the tomato and green onion. Just cube the tomato into bite-size chunks and slice the green onion. (I use just the dark green parts for this recipe, and reserve the white and light green parts for another use.)

Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and put it into a pasta bowl or onto a plate with a rim that will hold the juices in. Then remove the shrimp from the butter (leave the butter in the pan, you’re not done with it just yet!) and place on top of the pasta.

Add the tomatoes and green onion to the butter in the pan. Toss gently, just enough to warm the tomatoes a bit (this should only take about 30 seconds), and then pour the entire contents of the pan, butter and all, right over the top of the pasta and shrimp.

”]Welcome to my little piece of heaven, straight out of my own kitchen. Enjoy!

 

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I’m a Flake

Yes, you read that right. I’m a flake! Finally, after years of practice and being taught many times by self-proclaimed “flake experts”, I have finally, yes, FINALLY made a perfectly flaky pie crust!

Yup, 45% of you voters got it right! My surprising kitchen success was a flaky pie crust. Many people are often surprised to learn that I use “cheater” pie crust most of the time, simply because the frustration of pie crust was too much for me and since I didn’t enjoy making it, it just was never worth the frustration.

So, why the change of heart? Why make my own pie crust after deciding to give up on it years ago (with a few failed attempts after making that decision, helping me stick by that choice!)? Funny story.

I have a friend, I’ll call him Dean, who in a matter of just a few weeks heard me talk excitedly about cooking. Everything from homemade bagels (for which I’ve just realized I still owe you a recipe and pictures! Must see what I can do about that soon, huh?) to roasts, cookies and basic dinners (yes, even my corn dog dinner and kitchen “mishaps”!). Well, one night in December, he invited me and my kids over for a game night and dinner with his daughter. Upon our arrival, he proudly announced that I was going to make pie crust. This was, obviously, laughable to me. But he insisted that it is easy and that I could do it. He patiently talked me through every step (though he really did much more of the work than I did!) and there it was… perfect pie crust. (Which I secretly decided I would probably never make, but was glad at his attempt to teach me.)

Fast forward a few months. It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I have decided that for my Mother’s Day dinner (that I would be cooking for myself) I wanted to have a Quiche, made with goose eggs from Triton’s Farm. So I contacted them and arranged for delivery of 3 goose eggs, along with a dozen duck eggs (for my breakfast that my awesome kiddos would serve me in bed. 😉 ). And then my kids asked me if I remembered how to make the pie crust like D taught me. Um, maybe? Kinda? I think? I’ll give it a shot! With the boy reminding me to add salt (I rarely add it to anything, so I know I would have forgotten!) and the girl asking me if I remembered the measurements, and both by my side, anxious to see if it would flake or flop, I got to work and was pleased to end up with an amazingly flaky, buttery pie crust for my Quiche. Below is the measurements, kinda… but I can’t explain the technique… so I hope you know what you’re doing! 🙂

PIE CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • salt (1 tsp?)
  • 1 cup butter (put in freezer to make sure it’s super cold)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ice water (this is a technique thing… I don’t know how much, several tablespoons, I guess?)

The egg yolk I think was the trick! Oh, and NOT working the dough too much! And keeping it cold. Sorry I’m not more helpful on how to actually make it, but, as you know, I’m a FLAKE! (Who can now make flaky pie crust! THANKS D!!!)

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Cinnamon Roll Filling & Icing

Grandma’s Sweet Foundation Dough recipe didn’t come to me with good directions on fillings or toppings. So for several years, I’ve experimented with different fillings and icings. I have finally found the “winning” recipes in cookbooks I have had for many years.
Filling:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 packed brown sugar
2 Tbl cinnamon
1 Tbl light corn syrup
In order to use this filling for the entire sweet dough recipe, I quadruple the ingredients.
Frosting:
2 oz softened cream cheese
2 Tbl softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl milk
Double, triple, quadruple, as necessary
I also like making my own sticky rolls or caramel rolls….
Glaze for sticky rolls:
Mix together in bottom of round baking pan:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbl melted butter
1 Tbl corn syrup
Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Place shaped rolls on top and continue as usual

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