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Monday, October 31, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Mmmm.... mac and cheese. Carbs and cheese? Seriously? Who invented this? You deserve a medal. I decided to try out the Pioneer Woman's versions since I usually trust her whenever calories are not a restriction and butter is a necessity. You can serve this without baking it for a creamy, succulent version, but I decide to bake it. I'm not sure which way I prefer. Baking it dries up the sauce some so you don't get the same creaminess but it does have the added bonus of a crunchy topping.

4 cups dried macaroni
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard
1 lb cheese blend of your choice, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme

Cook macaroni until very firm. The macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot melt butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk together. Cook for five minutes, whisking constantly. Do not let mixture burn. Add milk and mustard, whisk until smooth. Cook for five more minutes, until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Beat egg in a small bowl. Scoop 1/4 cup of the sauce out of the large pot and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to temper the egg. Whisk until smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly until smooth. Add in cheese and stir until melted. Add salt, seasoned salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt as needed. Do no under salt.

Add cooked macaroni to sauce and stir to combine. Serve immediately for creamy mac and cheese or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra grated cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 or until bubbly and golden on top.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Barbecue Sauce

The next time you make BBQ pulled pork or chicken, definitely try making your own sauce. It makes such a huge difference from store-bought sauce and is really quite simple to do. Freeze and leftovers to use at a later date. This recipe makes about 7 cups.

2 cups ketchup
2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
4 teaspoons hickory flavored liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, mix together all the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken as it simmers and again as it cools. Store in the refrigerator or freeze for later use. Use the sauce in any recipe that calls for barbecue sauce.

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

These pulled pork sandwiches were insanely good. I think it is all about the sauce. This time I decided to make my own sauce and it made all the difference in the world. And you gotta top these delicious sammies with homemade coleslaw!

Use your leftovers to make a BBQ pork pizza with the BBQ sauce in place of tomato sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella, pulled pork, and red onions. After cooking, load with cilantro. So good!

3 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder 
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon hickory flavored liquid smoke

Rinse the pork shoulder, pat dry, and rub with salt and pepper. Place in a crock pot. Add water and liquid smoke. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until pork is tender. 

Remove pork from crock pot and discard liquid. Place the meat back into the crock pot and shred with two forks. Add barbecue sauce and mix to combine. Cook for 20-30 minutes until warmed through or leave crock pot on warm until ready to serve.

Serve on buns with coleslaw and extra barbecue sauce.

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll

What would I do without pumpkin and cream cheese? My pants might fit a little better but that is a small price to pay, I think. I have been meaning to make this for the past couple years and never got around to it. This is actually surprisingly easy to make and looks highly impressive. And, it is delicious to boot! Definitely give this one a try, you won't be sorry and it is a great treat to share with friends and co-workers.

1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted (optional, for garnish)  

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 15x10 inch jelly-roll pan then line with parchment paper. Leave the parchment paper long on two opposite ends for easy removal of the cake after baking. Butter the parchment, sprinkle it with flour and shake off excess.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixer bowl until thick. Add pumpkin and beat to combine. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Spread pumpkin mixture evenly into the prepared jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle with nuts (optional). 

Bake 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Sprinkle or sift 1/4 cup powdered sugar evenly over top of cake. Place a piece of parchment over the cake. Flip the pan onto a smooth work surface so that the new parchment paper is beneath the cake. Remove the pan and carefully peel away the old parchment from the top of the cake. Starting at the narrow end, roll up the cake and parchment together. Place on to a wire rack, seam side down, to cool.

When cake is cooled, beat together cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Carefully unroll the cooled cake. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the cake. Re-roll, removing the parchment as you go. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Sift additional powdered sugar over cake before serving if desired.

Note: the cake looks best if you slice off a bit of each end to give it a smooth surface. Plus, you have to taste it before you serve it to guests anyway, right? Right. Do it.
Adapted from Libby's via allrecipes.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta

I loved this perfect autumn pasta dish. The flavors are spot on. Sweet butternut squash, caramelized shallots, salty, smoky bacon, sharp provolone cheese, and aromatic rosemary combine to make a delicious and highly flavorful pasta dish.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe making it a little time consuming and it does dirty a lot of dishes, but trust me it is worth it! This is worthy of a special occasion or a dinner party. Yum! 

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
Cooking spray
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Fresh rosemary, chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread squash cubes on the foil-lined sheet. Sprinkle squash with 1/4 teaspoon salt, dried rosemary, and pepper. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 450.

When squash has been roasting about 30 minutes, put a large pot of water (omitting salt or fat) to boil for the pasta while you cook the bacon and shallots. 

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until slightly crispy. Do not overcook. Remove bacon from pan and reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon into a medium bowl and set aside. Increase heat under pan to medium-high. Add the shallots to the reserved drippings and saute 8 minutes, or until tender. Add cooked shallots to the bowl with the crumbled bacon. Once squash is cooked, add it to the bacon and shallots, tossing gently to combine. You may also wish to add chopped fresh rosemary to the squash mixture for additional flavor. Set aside.

When the water for the pasta comes to a boil, add pasta, and cook according to package directions. Drain well. 

Spray an 11x17 inch baking dish lightly with cooking spray. Set aside. Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil then cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone and stir until melted. Add the drained pasta to the cheese mixture, tossing well to combine.

Spoon pasta and cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Top with additional fresh rosemary before serving.

Servings: 5
Calories: 469

Adapted from Cooking Light.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Creamless Tomato Soup

There is nothing that screams comfort to me more than a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup. Except maybe eating that curled up on the couch with the dogs and a good book. And a glass of wine. Perfect scenario!

This tomato soup tastes smooth and creamy despite it's lack of cream, or any dairy at all (although, I added a few drops as a garnish). It is also surprisingly filling. A perfectly healthy and delicious soup for the fall and winter.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling, divided
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, to make it vegetarian
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and their juices. Using a potato masher, mash tomatoes until pieces are no bigger than 2 inches. Stir in sugar and bread. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bread begins to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and blend soup using an immersion blender, until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and brandy, return soup to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with fresh basil, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with grilled cheese. Makes roughly 4-6 servings.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pasta Bolognese

When the weather gets cooler, I always love a good, hearty pasta. This bolognese is super delicious and I knew Casey would appreciate a meaty sauce. The leftovers were wonderful, too, this  sauce tastes great the second day. I served it with my favorite Alexia Garlic Bread and topped with plenty of fresh basil


1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3 oz tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes. with juice
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Fresh basil, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add carrots and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Push the carrots and onions to the side, exposing the bottom of the pot. Place ground beef in the center. Cook for several minutes, gradually breaking down the ground beef and mixing it with the carrots and onions.

Add oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Continue to cook until meat is browned and combined with the other ingredients. Make a well in the center of the pot and add tomato paste to the exposed bottom of the pot. Let the tomato paste heat for 1-2 minutes, add garlic, and stir to combine.

Make another well in the center and add the red wine, stir to combine. Add Worcestershire and canned tomatoes, stirring to combine. Pour in the milk, stir, cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Serve over pasta and top with fresh Parmesan cheese and basil.

Serves: 4

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken Stuffed with Zucchini and Mozzarella

I pretty much love chicken stuffed with anything, but I had never had a zucchini stuffing before. I loved it! The flavor is perfect with the chicken and a good way to use up the last of your summer squash. Plus, this makes for a guilt-free meal.

1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Romano or Parmesan cheese
3 oz part skim shredded mozzarella
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.5 lb chicken breasts
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Olive oil non-stick spray

Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Wash and dry the chicken breasts. If you are working with large cutlets, butterfly them in half and then pound them down to an even thickness. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and saute 1 minute or until golden. Add the zucchini, 1/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Saute 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Once cool, add the mozzarella cheese and combine gently.

Combine breadcrumbs and remaining 2 tbsp Romano or Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, combine 1 tbsp of olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper. Set aside

Place the prepared chicken on a working surface and spread the zucchini mixture on each cutlet. Loosely roll each one, keeping seam side down. Dip each roll in the lemon-oil mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Place seam side down in prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray the chicken with olive oil.

Bake 25-30 minutes, allow to cool slightly, and serve.
Servings: 8
Calories: 171.9

Adapted from: Skinny Taste

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C + C Marriage Factory: October 2011

C + C Marriage Factory