Saturday, May 31, 2014

No Boil Mac and Cheese

I have a favorite macaroni and cheese recipe where you make a rue and melt the cheese, constantly stirring so you don't burn the sauce.  It is the one where you boil the macaroni then once the cheese sauce is ready you mix it together and then bake for 30 minutes.  You know the one.  Well hubby found a no boil Mac and cheese recipe and had to give it a try.  I am not sure he is going to let me make my traditional Mac and cheese again.  

We found this recipe on Facebook from the Country Cook.  Her Recipes are very easy, simple and delicious.  Hubby doesn't have his own Facebook account, he lives vicariously through mine has been finding recipes to try on a regular basis.  This recipe he found right before our spring break trip, so it was a easy dinner to make as we were busy packing.  And since we had half of the velvetta in the refrigerator, he made it again last night. So if you are looking for something that requires less standing in front of the stove time, give this a try.

No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese


2 cups macaroni, uncooked

4 cups milk (2% or higher)*. See note

4 tbsp. salted butter, melted

1 tsp. table salt

8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed or shredded

4 cups shredded cheese (2 cups cheddar, 2 cups mixed cheeses)

1 tsp. dry mustard powder



Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut up  Velveeta cheese into small 1/2-inch cubes.

In a medium bowl, combine milk with melted butter.  Add in salt and dry mustard powder.

Pour in uncooked macaroni and Velveeta.  Next add in 2 cups of shredded mixed cheeses and give it all a good stir.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish.  Cover with aluminium foil.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes (until macaroni is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed). Oven times vary so check it around the 40 minute mark.

Take it out of the oven, remove foil, and top with 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.

Put it back in the oven (uncovered) for another 10-15 minutes (until cheese is melted, bubbly and golden).

*. Hubby substituted the whole milk with a mixture of half and half, heavy cream that we had on hand to equate to 2 cups, then 2 cups of skim milk.  Recipe came out fine.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Kitchen Help


Updated from July 2013 and in time for summer meals

Our kids are home this summer and already complaining that they are bored.  Hubby and I are working everyday, with a bit of travel thrown in there as well and then find our selves coming home and trying to find something for dinner.  Well after a few days of that and coming home to a  marathon of "Say yes to the dress" on in the family room we said - find something better to do.   
Our daughter loved to cook last year, I suggested she find something to make for dinner. "Let us know what you need from the grocery store and we can make it happen".  So, low and behold our little chef is back in the kitchen whipping up a Cooking Light dinner for the four of us.

Sausage, Tomato and Arugula Fettuccine

1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces Italian turkey sausage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula leaves
2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, shaved

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 2/3 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Break sausage into bite-sized pieces and add to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently to crumble. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and pepper; cover and cook 2 minutes. Mash tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to break them up. Cover pan; reduce heat to low, and cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add pasta, reserved 2/3 cup cooking liquid, and arugula; toss well. Sprinkle with pecorino romano.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crockpot to the rescue, again!

With the spring sports season winding down and summer weather finally here, the days of the crockpot recipes will slowly be gone until fall.  This finally crockpot receipe of the season was a Williams and Sonoma Chili recipe that was quick to make and filling.  It is a very basic and simple recipe without any beans.  Start it around lunch time with either a timer or a stop by during your lunch hour.

Now if beans are your thing, I assure you can add them. My regular chili  recipe is just used as a base. From there I throw anything I think will taste good.  Green peppers, cilantro, you name it.  That part of my prep work and cooking experience comes from my father.  He was a great cook and could whip up a great bowl of soup from whatever he had hanging around the kitchen.  Thanks Dad!

6 Hour Chili


  • 5 lb. ground beef
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz.) chopped tomatoes with 
  • 6 to 8 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups unsalted beef stock
  • Sour cream, grated,
      cheddar cheese and/or chopped green onions
      for garnish


In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown half the beef, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the garlic, yellow onion, tomatoes with juices, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, cornmeal and stock to the slow cooker and stir to blend. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Skim the fat off the surface of the chili. Ladle the chili into warmed bowls and garnish with sour cream, green onion and cheese. 

Serves 8 to 10.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ready for Memorial Day!

Who can count on the weather these days.  Memorial Day is just around the corner and it will be full tilt picnic time!  If you can't count on Mother Nature, then make these S'more bars as a backup plan for this years picnic season.   These will  taste great sitting around our fire pit on a brisk spring evening.  Looking forward to  settling in with a warm cup of coffee a Brownie or two.

Inside-Out S'mores Brownies


1/2 cup butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
9 honey graham cracker squares
1 cup tiny marshmallows


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 11x7x1 1/2-inch baking pan with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan. Set pan aside.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour.

Spread half the batter in the prepared pan. Top with graham crackers (divide as needed to evenly top the batter). Sprinkle marshmallows on the graham crackers, but do not let them touch the sides of the pan. Carefully spread the remaining batter on the marshmallows and graham crackers, covering them completely.

Bake brownies for 25 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Crispy potatoes that are a smash

It was Saturday night and finally a chance to have a home cooked meal.  Hubby wanted to barbecue some chicken and then use the peanut sauce that was left over from the szechuan noodle salad as a sauce.  I wanted these potatoes.  I have made them a couple of times before and they are so good.  I had grabbed a bag of small red potatoes about a week ago from the store with the intention of making these.  We finally had a opportunity and they did not disappoint us.  The kids love them and my son couldn't wait to grab seconds and clear the plate.

These are very easy with just three ingredients.  They can be prepared ahead of time and put in the oven about 30 minutes before dinner.  

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

  • 12 to 15 baby red or yellow potatoes (about 1-1/2 oz. each; 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter)
  • 2-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Boil the potatoes: Put the potatoes in a large saucepan (preferably in one layer) and cover with at least an inch of water. Add 2 tsp. kosher salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are completely tender and can be easily pierced with a metal or wood skewer. Make sure they are cooked through but don’t overcook. The total cooking time will be 30 to 35 minutes.
    While the potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dishtowels on your counter top. As the potatoes finish cooking, remove them individually from the water, and let them drain and sit for just a minute or two on the dishtowels.
    Flatten and cool the potatoes: Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Repeat with all the potatoes. Don’t worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.
    Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Transfer the flattened potatoes carefully to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature.
    Roast the potatoes: Remove the pan of potatoes from the refrigerator, if prepared ahead. Heat the oven to 450°F. Alternatively, if you have a convection function, turn it on and set the temperature at 400°F. Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 tsp. salt and pour the olive oil over them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and that they are well coated on both sides. Roast the potatoes until they’re crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 minutes if using a convection oven, 30 to 40 minutes if roasting conventionally, turning over once gently with a spatula or tongs halfway through cooking. Serve hot.
    Make Ahead Tips:  Do the busy work—boiling and flattening the potatoes—up to 8 hours ahead. Let potatoes cool completely, and store them on the pan, lightly covered, in the fridge. Then all you have to do at the last minute is coat with oil and salt and roast.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Request Fullfilled

During our very busy week my hubby asked what I would like for Mother's Day.  After a day of thinking about it, I requested a new watch and to spend the afternoon at home.  I didn't want to be running all over or going out for dinner.  I really wanted to get our patio cleaned up and the furniture out.  My patio is my summer oasis.  Hubby has beautifully tended the landscaping, our fire pit will shed a soft glow with a warm heat on summer nights and the furniture makes it an extension of our home.  Another family room you could say.  

So after church and the showering mom with gifts (thank you kids and hubby, love the gifts) I headed out side to start my work.  And while I was cleaning the patio, hubby was inside preparing the Szechuan Noodle Salad I asked for.   And it was delicious!  The sauce for the salad could be used for barbeque chicken or a dipping sauce.  We served this with steaks off the grill and green beans cooked in aluminum foil with some minced garlic, minced ginger and some lemon peel. A beautiful mothers day dinner.

So, a big Thank you to my hubby for giving me the perfect Mother's Day.  And thank you to my two beautiful children.  Love you to pieces!

6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup good soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
4 scallions, sliced diagonally (white and green parts)

Place the garlic and ginger in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the vegetable oil, tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, sherry, sherry vinegar, honey, chili oil, sesame oil, and ground peppers. Puree the sauce.

Add a splash of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, place it in a large bowl, and while still warm, toss with 3/4 of the sauce. Add the red and yellow bell peppers and scallions; toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature. The remaining sauce may be added, as needed, to moisten the pasta. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Crock pot to the rescue

This has been a really tough week.  We have had 4 softball games, 2 baseball games, and practices.  Our son was on a school trip to Washington DC and didn't get home until 10:30 on Tuesday. There was a school meeting on the upcoming junior/senior after the prom party that ran pretty late and hubby was out of town one night.  The hardest part about these weeks is when both kids have games on the same night your just not sure what time everyone will be home for dinner. 

We really try to make dinner a family together time.  I know that some families just get food on the fly and not try and eat together when their schedules are as hectic as this.  We strive to be all together, unless our daughter is working.  Dinner time is a chance to catch up on everyone's day, find out what is required of the next day and a chance to just unwind from all the running around. So last night, after a leftover night, a Coney's on the grill night and a let's stop for pizza after the game night, we had a let's all sit down together crock pot dinner night! 

 During my lunch hour yesterday, I ran to the grocery store for the needed ingredients, then ran home and threw everything together.  I even had the rice all ready to go and the table set so that when we did finally get home there was less to do. 

Our daughter's game finished earlier than the JV baseball game so she got a ride home with a friend.  Since we had two cars at the baseball game I took off for home ahead of the guys as soon as the last out was called.  On my way I called home to have our daughter start the rice.  Everything time out perfectly for us to finally sit down at 7:45 for a home cooked meal.  Now this was a new recipe and it was pretty good.  My only issue was that the chicken might of cooked too long, but who can really time how long a game can go on for! I would suggest keeping it to 3 to 3 1/2 hours max.

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
Serves 4

1 1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would be fine too)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tablespoons water
Sesame seeds
Season both sides of chicken with lightly with salt and pepper, put into crock pot. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or just until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened. Cut chicken into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dinner club time!

It has been quite a while since I posted. Spring has sprung in our house with the start of the softball and baseball seasons.  Cooking up new dishes has been put on hold with the late night practices and games.  Finally, we had our dinner club dinner a couple of weeks ago.  With a very busy spring we found one weekend that worked for everyone.  Our foodie friends were the host and when they plan the menu they pull out all of the stops.

Mr. Food has some special kit that he can make some peculiar concoctions.  Our palate cleaners was a lemongrass foam.  Dinner started with a pork pate, seared scallops over a corn salsa, braised short ribs plated with mock mashed potatoes and carrots and an arugula salad dressed with crushed pistachios. The dessert was our assigned dish and was profiteroles.  A little complex recipe that we probably didn't get the attention it needed because of kiddo commitments, but in the end we pulled it off. 

Here is a sampling of our dish and a few of the others.

Dessert -Profiteroles

Arugula Salad

Scallops with Corn Salsa
Let's start with our recipe -


1 cup milk
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons prepared coffee
Good vanilla ice cream (recommended: Haagen-Dazs), for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1-inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 18 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. (You can also use 2 spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

For the chocolate sauce, place the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl set over simmering water and stir just until the chocolate melts. Add the honey and coffee and stir until smooth. Set aside.

For serving, cut each profiterole in half crosswise, fill with a small scoop of ice cream, replace the top, and drizzle with slightly warm chocolate sauce.

Now here are a couple of others

Scallops with Corn Salsa


1 to 1 1/4 pounds of dry sea scallops, approximately 16
3 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
3/4 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups corn
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1 shallot
1 pinch saffron threads
1/2 cup vermouth
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Begin with corn salsa by sauteing the diced bacon in a pan.  When done, remove from pan and reserve for later.  Add onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the corn, red pepper and bacon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the garlic saffron sauce, melt 2 T butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until the shallot is soft and translucent.  Add the saffron, vermouth, stock and cream then bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

For the scallops, start by removing the small side muscle and rinse in cold water thoroughly, pat dry.  Add the 1 T butter and oil to a clean saute pan on high heat.  Salt and pepper the scallops.  Once the fat begins to smoke, add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other.  Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side.  The scallops should have a 1/4 inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center.

Plate the corn salsa, top with the scallops and drizzle with garlic saffron sauce.   Serve 8 as appetizer

Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Shave Pecorino

2 cups baby arugula
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons high quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup shaved pecorino, aged pecorino Toscano or pecorino Romano


Place the arugula in a bowl and drizzle in about half of the vinegar and olive oil and season generously with salt. Toss the salad gently to incorporate all of the ingredients. TASTE IT! It should taste very flavorful but not soggy. Arrange the arugula on 4 individual salad plates. Toss all of the beets together in the salad bowl and add the remaining oil, vinegar and salt, and toss. Arrange the dressed beets on the arugula and top with the pistachios and shaved pecorino.

Makes 4 servings