Tag Archives: pasta

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. ūüôā

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‚ĀĄ2 cup flour
1‚ĀĄ2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1‚ĀĄ4 cup romano cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1‚ĀĄ3 teaspoon white pepper
1 lb rigatoni pasta
3‚ĀĄ4 teaspoon chili powder
3‚ĀĄ4 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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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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Evolution of a Recipe

As a young Cook starting out in the kitchen, I was given a recipe from Mom that has stayed with me ever since. We made it together once, and she wrote it down for me. The original recipe she wrote out was not exactly what we cooked together. I think this must have been the beginning of the end of following recipes “to the letter” for me.

Over the years this recipe has served me well as a quick, “throw it together at the last minute” meal, and it is also a “company worthy” meal, especially if paired with a nice salad. What started in my kitchen as simply “Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli”, has evolved into something that I still call “Chicken & Broccoli”, and yet, it is a rare occassion that broccoli is the only vegetable in the pan/on the plate.

Tonight’s version included nearly 2 heads of garlic (much more than the 6 small cloves called for in the original recipe), carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken, and angel hair pasta. Amounts? You got me! I have no idea, except that all of it together more than filled my very large Stir Fry Skillet and will provide leftovers for dinners and lunches this week.

 RECIPE EVOLUTION:

 ~Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli~

¬Ĺ lb. spaghetti

¬ľ c. safflower oil

6 sm. cloves garlic, minced

2 bunches broccoli, cut into small pieces (3 cups)

3 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned, halved and cut into strips (1 ¬Ĺ lb.)

¬ĺ c. chopped fresh parsley

Black pepper

 Boil spaghetti until AL DENTE; drain. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes, then transfer to a heated dish. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Toss pasta with broccoli and chicken. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

 Serves 6

 cal. 421                        chol. 57mg

carbo. 37g                   sod. 79mg

prot. 28g                      pot. 802mg

t fat 18g                      fiber 2g

sat fat 3g                     calc 159mg

                                    iron 3.5mg

Mom’s notes:

When I made this, I sautéed the garlic along with the broccoli and sprinkled with lemon-pepper. If you use a salt-free lemon pepper, the sodium count from above stays the same. One with salt adds to the sodium content of the dish. I also sprinkled some lemon-pepper on the chicken as it cooked and skipped adding the pepper at the end of the recipe. Most times, my broccoli took longer than the 2 minutes to cook properly, too.

/end Mom’s recipe

For years I have posted online with a group of women. We are bonded together by our love of cooking, but our relationships have grown to be so much more than that. This is where the above recipe was in it’s evolution stage when I was still pretty new to online groups, and this is how I shared my recipe at that time.

Chicken And Broccoli With Pasta Recipe

broccoli flowerettes (approx 1 pound)
boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (approx 1 pound)
4 cloves garlic, pressed (I probably use more than that, b/c we like garlic)
angel hair pasta

In a large skillett cook broccoli until crisp-tender, chicken until done. cook each with as much garlic as you like (we use A LOT!!) cook pasta, toss all together. I sometimes add a little parsley, and lemon pepper. it’s fast and easy, total of about 15-20 minutes. I put soy sauce and parmesan cheese on the table, and everyone picks their own topping.

Serve with Garlic Toast (or Garlic Cheese Bread) and salad.

Fully grown now, and this is the first time I’ve looked at this recipe in, well, I don’t know how long. I wasn’t even sure I’d still have the original copy from Mom. And tonight, I made my much-loved “Chicken & Broccoli”. It was really just my way of using up the vegetables in the fridge that were in need of cooking and taking up my valuable fridge space. Yes, tonight, it was as my recipe above states, except that I used nearly 2 heads of garlic, and added to the pan a head of cauliflower and several carrots. I have been known to include mushrooms and/or zucchini, and any other stray vegetables that may be laying around, just wanting to be added to a sizzling pan of oil and garlic and tossed with pasta.

I have discovered that freshly grated/shredded parmesan is better than the powdery stuff from a can. (Although, I do prefer the powdery stuff from a can when making my garlic toast. A little garlicky butter spread on french bread, and sprinkled with that and then broiled until brown… it’s like a slice of heaven that reminds me of spaghetti dinners from my childhood!) I have served this up to many people, and everyone tops it differently. For a friend who likes spicy food, he would add chili paste to his portion. My kids eat it just as it is, no toppings. I like fresh parmesan *and* soy sauce sprinkled on mine.

My Notes:

If you start the water for pasta at the same time you start the cutting and slicing and dicing, you should be eating dinner by the time the pasta is finished cooking, if you’re using angel hair pasta, that is. I definitely prefer this with angel hair pasta!

I cook this now with extra virgin olive oil, and the pasta gets coated with a generous amount of same to keep it from sticking together in one big clump.

As I said, this is an easy way to use up whatever veggies are on hand. I’ve put just about any veggie you can think of into the pan, and always love how it turns out. I mean, really… it’s cooked in garlic! Everything tastes great cooked in a little (or a lot of) garlic, am I right? ūüėČ

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Filed under Chicken, Cooking With Love, Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables

Imperfection at its Finest

I never said I’m perfect. I don’t even think I’ve ever hinted at thinking I’m perfect. I’m this imperfect little jumbled mess who wants to believe she can “do it all” and cook fabulous dinners every night, too. Yeah, well… I can’t. And I’m ok with that.

I made burnt grilled cheese sandwiches. The kids decided to take over the stove after I burned not only the first side of the sandwiches, but then the 2nd side, as well!!! I’m so glad I taught them how to cook. ūüėČ

I will say that I think I made up for that mishap by making some really great bagels the following weekend.

This last weekend, I made spaghetti sauce. It took me 2 days to get the spices right!!! In the sauce, I used my freshly canned tomatoes from a few weeks ago. I think they lend a different flavor to the sauce, and I’ll have to remember to make adjustments to my cooking when using those in the future.

But… after spending 2 days getting the spices just right, I made a nice, big lasagne using the sauce, that is now lunches for the week with all the leftovers, and I froze 3 bags of sauce for later use.

And then there’s yesterday. The one day I wish nobody would have asked me the question… the ONE day I didn’t want to admit what I made my children for dinner… and the question was asked. And answered. My answer: corn dogs and tater tots… and the reply that came after that was: SHE’S HUMAN!!!! (And no… the corn dogs were not homemade, nor were they organic, blah, blah, blah… they were pure junk food and we loved them!!! But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on eating well and cooking fabulous meals. I still love to cook! I just needed a night off!)

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Jerk Chicken Salad

I am just back from a wonderfully relaxing weekend at the beach with some of my favorite people! While there, I made dinner one night for everyone (Does that surprise you? I’m at the beach and I wanted to cook for my friends…) So… one of my favorite summer meals is Jerk Chicken Salad. It is simple and versatile.¬† The recipe is from The Pampered Chef and calls for serving with romaine lettuce. You’ll see in the Cook’s Tips at the end of the recipe that you can serve with pasta instead, which is what I prefer. On this occasion, however, we had a friend with a wheat allergy, so stuck with the lettuce version. When I do this at home, I like to use whole wheat rotini (corkscrew) pasta and then the leftovers are quite good served cold for lunch the next day.

And now, ON TO THE RECIPE!!! (As requested by some of the ladies this weekend…)

The Pampered Chef ¬ģ
Jerk Chicken Salad
Recipe
 1 tablespoon  Garlic Oil or olive oil 
 1 tablespoon  Jamaican Jerk Rub 
 1 pound chicken tenders 
 1 medium pineapple 
 1 red bell pepper 
 3 green onions (white and light green parts only) 
 2 heads romaine lettuce 
 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained 
 6 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled 
Dressing
 2 limes 
 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise 
 2 tablespoons pineapple preserves 
  1. In Classic Batter Bowl, whisk together oil and jerk rub with Stainless Whisk. Add chicken tenders; mix well to coat and set aside. Peel pineapple and cut in half lengthwise with Santoku Knife; reserve half for another use. Cut remaining pineapple in half lengthwise and remove core. Slice crosswise into ¬ľ-inch slices. Heat Grill Pan over medium heat 5 minutes. Add chicken; cook 3-5 minutes on each side, turning once. Remove from pan. Add pineapple to pan. Cook 1 minute on each side, turning once; remove from pan. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces using Utility Knife; set chicken and pineapple aside.
  2. Thinly slice bell pepper and green onions on Cutting Board with Measure Cups using Santoku Knife. Arrange 12 large lettuce leaves around Simple Additions¬ģ Large Round Platter. Chop remaining lettuce; set vegetables aside. Drain and rinse beans using Strainer; set aside.
  3. For dressing, zest one lime using Microplane¬ģ Adjustable Grater. Juice both limes into Small Batter Bowl using Citrus Press. Add lime zest, mayonnaise and pineapple preserves to batter bowl; mix well.
  4. Layer chopped lettuce, beans, bell pepper, chicken, pineapple, bacon and green onions over each lettuce leaf. Drizzle dressing over salad.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutrients per serving: Calories 320, Total Fat 16 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 60 mg, Carbohydrate 24 g, Protein 24 g, Sodium 580 mg, Fiber 5 g
Cook’s Tip: If desired, 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips, can be substituted for the chicken tenders. To microwave bacon, line Medium Bar Pan with sheet of Parchment Paper. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on bar pan; cover with another sheet of Parchment Paper. Microwave on HIGH 4-6 minutes, checking after each 30-second interval and turning once with Bamboo Tongs. Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain. For a kid-friendly version of this recipe, prepare recipe as directed, omitting lettuce. Cook 1 pound rotini pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and toss with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add remaining ingredients; drizzle with dressing and toss gently.
© The Pampered Chef, Ltd., 2001

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What’s in the Freezer?

I’m in “stop spend” mode right now. I go through these cycles of buying too much food… and when I realize I can no longer fit anything else into the pantry and/or freezer (and often refrigerator), I put the family on “stop spend” and then we take stock of our food and create our menus using only what we have in the house, going to the grocery store for only milk, bread and possibly some fresh produce.

So… what does a “stop spend” menu look like, and is it really possible to create a full week of meals without going to the store?! Keep reading this week to see what we create from our “stock on-hand”. For those of you that did not follow my previous blog, you may be wondering if it’s really possible to have that much food in the house, and really not need to go shopping for¬†a whole week. Let me tell ya… I’ve done this challenge in the past for 2 weeks and longer! It’s an awful, wonderful thing, my love of all things food!

On to tonight’s “stop spend” dinner: Creamy Pasta with Roasted Vegetables! This dinner required nothing from the store, because I had it from last week’s shopping trip (or from previous trips…that pantry is pretty full!)

  • Whole Wheat Pasta (pantry)
  • Shrimp & Scallops (freezer) cooked in butter & garlic (fridge & fresh garlic keeper)
  • Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms (fridge), drizzled with Olive Oil & tossed with garlic (pantry & fresh garlic keeper)– roasted on stoneware bar pan at 425F for about 25 minutes
  • Whipping Cream (fridge)– simmered on low to thicken
  • Fresh Basil (snipped from my window container of herbs… but you can use dried also, just simmer it in with the cream)
  • Tomatoes (sitting on the counter–did you know tomatoes lose much of their flavor and they have a different texture when stored in the refrigerator?)
  • Fresh Parmesan (fridge)

Toss all this together for creamy goodness! Serve with a salad and/or garlic toast, if desired. I like this with whatever vegetables I happen to have on-hand, and usually don’t add any kind of meat. I compromised with the family and added the shrimp & scallops this time… but next time, it will be a perfect “Meatless Monday” kinda meal!

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Filed under Eating What we Have, Main Dishes, Menus, Recipes