Friday, December 31, 2010

Mac and Cheese

I never liked mac and cheese as a kid, my mom always made homemade and all I ever wanted was the fake stuff out of the blue box. But since moving to the south seven years ago I've decided that mac and cheese needed to become a staple at our parties. It seems everyone loves mac and cheese, kids, adults, college age kids, everyone. I went on a quest to find a good mac and cheese recipe, Paula Deen makes a good one, but for some reason mine is always still a bit dry. I spent a day googling mac and cheese recipes last year and finally found a winner. This is a recipe that has been requested numerous times and I'm proud of the tweaking that I've done to make it my own. I've always doubled this recipe, it freezes great! For Simon's graduation I quadrupled the recipe and it still came out awesome. This recipe is for the single version and it serves 6-8.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 16 oz elbow macaroni
9 tablespooons butter
1/2 c smoked Gouda cheese (cubed)
1/2 c shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 c shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups half and half
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
( I also occasionally add Goat cheese or Pepper Jack cheese for an extra kick)


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the oil and the pasta and cook for 8-10 min, or until al dente; drain well and return to cooking pot. Add 8 tablespoons (one stick) butter to hot noodles, stir. In  a large bowl combine all cheeses, beaten eggs, half and half, stir. Add noodles, mix well. Add salt and pepper and sprinkle some extra cheese on top. Dot with 1 tablespoon remaining butter. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbling.

Add the butter to the drained pasta

I love Gouda cheese
I love how it only takes one big bowl 
Look at all that cheese

Mixing it all together, the white chunks are Goat cheese
Pour in the half and half
Add the noodles
Sprinkle some extra cheese on top
Right out of the oven

Happy New Years

Best Brownies....ever!

A good brownie recipe is a precious thing, and I promise you this is the best one I've found. I originally found the recipe here, but have tweaked it just a bit. I like to use store bought frosting and add my own ingredients to it to make it even better, but you can make your own chocolate frosting. I dare you to try a better brownie than these!!!

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray large cookie sheet (jelly roll pan) with Pam.

1/2 cup cocoa
4 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened baking chocolate
4 sticks butter
4 cups sugar
8 large eggs
1 T. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 bag Nestle chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)

Melt butter, baking chocolate and cocoa together in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs, two at a time and stir until well blended after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir. Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture in three additions. Do not over mix. I like to let it sit just a bit to cool down, so that when adding the chocolate chunks they don't immediately melt.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake about 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool.

2 cans store bought chocolate frosting
Reeces Peanut Butter Cups
Andes baking bits
Peanut butter

I like to cut the large brownie in half and make two different types of frostings. 
Mix one large tablespoon of Peanut butter into canned frosting. 
Rough cut 10 -15 small peanut butter cups 

Spread frosting on one side of brownie 
Top with peanut butter cups
For the mint frosting take one can frosting and 3/4 bag of Andes baking bits, if you can't find these you can use Junior Mints or York Peppermint patties.  
Stir chopped mints into frosting and then spread over brownie  
Top with remaining chunks  
One giant pan of goodness!

One pan makes 35 brownies.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crack Pie

My husband Tom read an article a few years ago about a restaurant in Los Angeles that served pie so yummy and addictive that it became known as "Crack Pie". I will admit this pie is delish but it's also very time consuming and the finished product is not a visual show stopper. But the taste.......OMG! You will begin by making a large oatmeal cookie, cooking it, crushing it up and then using it as one ingredient for the crust, see I told you it was time consuming. I also have not found the perfect time to bake it, I keep testing it until it's fairly firm in the middle (when jiggled). The best part of this pie is the taste and the fact that it makes TWO PIES! 

This pie calls for 2 (10-inch) pie tins. You can substitute 9-inch pie tins, but note that the pies will require additional baking time, about 5 minutes,  (more than 5 min, trust me) due to the increased thickness of the filling.

Cookie for crust
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 egg
Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.
5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, garnish
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla
3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.
5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes.  I find that I have to cook the pies much longer than called for. Keep jiggling the pies until they seem firm. Remove the pies and cool on a rack. I have frozen these pies for 6 weeks and they still taste great!
6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling and chilling times
Servings: Makes 2 pies (6 to 8 servings each)


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paula and I make a Chicken Pot Pie

A few years ago I discovered the city of Savannah and immediately fell in love. I think it's one of the few perfect cities in America. It boasts great food, ghosts, war history, yummy candy and beautiful southern homes. While we were there we ate at Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons, I remember having to sneak to the bathroom to undo my jeans before dessert came. I bought her cookbook Savannah Country Cookbook and haven't found a bad recipe yet.

I love buying Pralines in Savannah

I've modified this recipe a bit to work for my family. This recipe makes a large 9x13 dish, but I like to make 2 pies instead. I like to do it like this so I can freeze one to have a few weeks later. I also like to use a rotisserie chicken in place of cooking a whole chicken, it saves time and I think a lot of mess too. Today I made mine with frozen turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving.

Chicken Pot Pie
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 c milk
1 chicken, (cooked) skinned, boned and cubed
1 medium onion
1 10 oz package frozen peas
3 carrots, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 sets of frozen pie dough ( you can make your own dough, especially if you want to make the 9x13 version, but once again I like things to be quick and easy, therefore I go with frozen dough.

In a large sauce pan, heat soups and Milk. Stir in chicken, onions, peas, carrots and salt and pepper. Cook until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 350. Pour into 2 frozen pie shells. I then take the two extra pie shells and remove them from the tins and place on a floured countertop, I then use a pizza cutter and slice the dough into strips. Lay dough over pie in a lattice pattern. Dot with butter. Place pie tins on baking sheet before going into oven, sometimes it bubbles over. Bake for 45 min until golden brown.

Here I am once again using my awesome Le Creuset pan that I got for Christmas

Pour into pie shell

It doesn't have to look perfect to taste fabulous!

before oven



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breakfast Sausage Ring

I am not a big breakfast eater and unfortunately I've passed this along to my children. We don't eat or even buy cereal; I try and force a granola bar or pop tart into Olivia's mouth before she heads out the door to school. I found this recipe a few years ago and it's been a HUGE hit ever since! It's super easy and looks and tastes so good, it's the perfect breakfast food to make during the holidays.

Breakfast Sausage Ring
1 lb Jimmy Dean type sausage ( we like it spicy)
2 7.5 oz cans of Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded ( you can use any type of cheese that you like, but again, we like it spicy)
I love how the cheese melts and oozes out the sides

 Preheat oven to 350. Brown sausage in frying pan, drain. Open one can of biscuits and flatten each biscuit into larger circle. Place in bottom of greased bundt cake pan, overlapping each biscuit so that it makes a ring around bottom of pan. Top biscuits with 1 cup of shredded cheese, next place  cooked sausage on top of cheese then top sausage with remaining 1 cup cheese. Open second can of biscuit dough and flatten out each biscuit, repeat placing dough around the top of bundt pan so it looks like a ring. Cook for 25 min or until golden brown. Let sit in pan for 5-10 min before turning over. Slice and serve. This makes a gorgeous centerpiece for a breakfast buffet!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Calzone with Italian Tomato Sauce

 I have two sons that go away to college and they always request their favorite foods when they come home, this week has been full of foods that fall into that category.  This recipe is a favorite of Olivia's and she is constantly begging me to make it. It takes a few hours to put together so I don't make it very often. I've modified the recipe from the cookbook A Pinch of Salt Lake, this book is no longer in print, but you can sometimes find used copies on Amazon or Ebay. I've bought one for each of my kids and have put them away until they move out,Tommy's is currently in his kitchen in Missouri.  This cookbook is probably used more in my home than almost any other I own, and buying them  used is a super cheap way to get one!

Italian Tomato Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
12 ounce tomato paste
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 c dry white wine, you can sub water for this

Before blending the sauce, notice the chunks of carrots and onions

I love my immersion blender, it makes it so easy to blend while the food is still cooking.

Prepare this sauce at least 2 hours before serving. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, saute onions, carrots and garlic until onion is limp but not browned. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, sugar and wine. Simmer uncovered on low for an hour. After an hour either use an immersion blender and blend sauce smooth, or transfer into a blender and liquify. This changes the color of the sauce from dark red to more of an orange color (this is caused by the carrots) Simmer again for another hour on low.

2 lbs frozen white bread dough, thawed
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced
12 slices Provolone cheese
12 slices hard salami
8 slices Mortadella (Italian bologna) if you can't find don't panic, you can leave it out, but I recommend trying to find it at a good deli
8 slices boiled or baked ham
2 green onions, sliced

To prepare Calzone, grease a baking sheet or cover it with tin foil or silpat mat. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12x18 inch rectangle. Saute garlic in butter for 2-3 minutes. Spread half of garlic butter on top of dough. Arrange Provolone, salami, Mortadella and ham over dough; sprinkle with green onions. Fold top third of dough over middle, then fold bottom third up over top, as if folding business letter, enclosing filling. Transfer to baking sheet. Pinch ends to seal. Spread remaining garlic butter over top.
I decided to uses 3 lbs of dough and ran into a small rolling problem :) I couldn't get 
it to do what I wanted, sort of looked like a clover instead of a rectangle.

Spoon melted butter and garlic over dough

Next the ham
Mortadella is the secret ingredient
hard salami on top
chopped green onions
Fold up the dough and spread remaining butter/garlic mixture on top

                                         Bake for 30 minutes at 350 or until golden brown.
Nice and brown
Allow to cool  5 min before slicing and serving 
Spoon Italian Sauce over top.  


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Homemade Pasta

When my kids were younger I always made homemade pasta noodles, but for some reason (life/me getting too busy) I quit making it. Olivia found my pasta maker  crammed into the back of the pantry and asked if I would teach her how to make it. I still have all the tools to make the pasta and the cold/windy day today made it seem like the perfect time.

The tools 

Ingredients for Pasta
2 c flour
2 eggs
less than a 1/4 c olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
( I love adding additional ingredients to my pasta like, garlic, spinich or tomato paste)

Follow directions on pasta machine to make the pasta of your choice, ie. spaghetti, linguine, etc. If you do not own a pasta maker then roll the dough out onto a floured countertop and using a pizza cutter cut into thin strips.

After making the style of pasta you want then hang the pieces on the drying rack or over the back of your kitchen chairs. Let dry. 

You can store in a ziploc bag in freezer, but it's best to use it the same day as it's made.

Put flour, eggs, olive oil and salt into food processor and start. 
Add a small amount of water and continue adding water until mixture turns into a ball. 
Remove from Cuisinart and divide into 3 pieces. 
Feed pasta into machine

The 3 balls of dough are now thin and flat
Place flat pieces of dough into the cutting side of pasta maker

Drying rack
Make sure to separate all of the pasta
Dry the pasta