Sunday, November 15, 2009

Apple Butter

More apples. We are down to two ice chests full. One consists of the smaller and more tart apples from one tree and the other is STILL full of the Red Delicious. We can only stomach so many cakes. I made two more cakes today and froze one of them.
In a desperate attempt to use these apples before they go bad, I decided to make chunky apple butter. So simple and a great thing to do with fruit that is not perfect.

APPLE BUTTER
  • 4 or more pounds of apples
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • juice and zest of one lemon.

Peel, core and coarsley chop up the apples. Cut out the bad or brown spots first. The best way I've found to do this is to use a potato peeler to take off the skins. Then just set the apple bottom down on the cutting board and make a cut vertically down one side of the apple close to the core. Turn the apple, make another cut......repeat until you have left the core of the apple. It will look like a square or pentagon, depending on how big your apple is. Don't worry if there is some skin still left on the apple, because you are going to cook it into a mush and the skins contain pectin.

Put the apple chunks in a large stew pan with the 1 cup of cider vinegar. Stew over low heat until they are soft. Mash with a potato masher or put through the sieve of a food mill if you want a smoother apple butter.

Add the sugar, lemon, salt and spices. Simmer and stir frequently until it is very thick or until when you put a glop of apple butter on a saucer there is no liquid leaking out around the edges.

Spoon into sterilized half pint jars and put on the sterilized lids and screw bands. Put into a water bath and process at boiling for 10 minutes.

If you have never canned before, there are some good sites on the net that will give you a basic tutorial. I highly recommend getting the book "Putting Food By". It will walk you through the process. This has been my canning Bible for years and years.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chunky Apple Cake

Its fall and the crops from the raised bed garden are long gone. We picked the last of the tomatoes and peppers a month ago. Yellow tomatoes, Romas, Beefsteak and sweet Italian.
Now, it is apple time. We picked the apples from our 5 trees. At least 50 pounds, mostly Red Delicious and Yellow Delicious, stored in open ice chests in the pump house for preservation over winter.

When we bought this property 8 years ago, most of the trees were already mature and needed pruning and now really have begun producing. Depending on what kind of spring: whether we get an early frost that kills the blossoms before they set or if we have a lingeringly warm spring where the bees and the blossoms make sweet harmony, we will have some apples or lots of apples. We had the latter spring this season.


Once again, we didn't spray the trees. It wasn't for any greenie organic reasons that did we not spray. As Steve Martin says...."I forgot". Ah well. Give me spots on my apples and leave me the birds and the bees. As a result we have 50 pounds of apples that taste great......look bad. What to do? What to do?


I know!!! Make Chunky Apple Cake. You're going to peel and chop the apples anyway....so who is to know that you also cut off a few brown or icky spots. It isn't like you need neat perfect slices like you would for an open face tort. Chop
away!

This is a wonderful, EASY, dense and flavorful cake. You just can't miss. Served warm with some whipped cream or dusted with powdered sugar and served at room temperature.

Chunky Apple Cake

  • 6 large apples
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan. Peel and core and chop the apples into chunks a little less than one inch. Toss the apple with the 5 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. (I use the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer so I can add the next step)

In a separate bowl mix the sugar, oil, juice and vanilla. It will look totally disgusting. Don't worry about it. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Then add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Don't lick the spatula.....OK....go ahead lick the spatula.

Pour half of the batter into the tube pan. Top with half of the apples and some of the nuts. Cover with the rest of batter and top with the rest of the apples and nuts.

Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until wooden skewer comes out clean.

I have to give away half of this cake or else eat it ourselves. Believe me, my hubby and I do NOT need to eat an entire cake.

This month we took generous slices to some of our older friends and our clients, most of whom are in their 80's and one is a Pearl Harbor survivor and who don't cook so much for themselves anymore. It is like stepping back into a gentler and kinder age. We have a cocktail...or two.... and as was usual in the cocktail era of the 40's and 50's our friends insist on making a production. Frosty cocktail glasses from the freezer, a full bar, hors d'ourves, salted nuts, napkins, coasters the works. We sip and gossip about locals, about politics, their children, my children, movies and anything else. We listen to stories from their past, and I marvel at what fine good people we will lose as a Country when this generation is gone. Sometimes it makes me very sad......have another piece of cake ......please.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

1 peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cracked Pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary

On a baking sheet toss the squash and seasonings together. Bake at 300 for about 1/2 hour or until the squash is tender, stirring it up once or twice with a spatula.

While the squash is cooking, saute slowly 1 large onion, sliced, in olive oil (or butter) until it becomes soft and translucent. Then add the mushrooms and sautee at a little bit higher heat until done and slightly browned. Salt and pepper and set aside. If the squash is done, throw it into the sautee pan and cover or put back into the oven that has been turned off. Just to keep the veggies warm

Boil the pasta in well salted water. If you can get whole wheat bow ties even better. Drain and add to the sautee pan. Toss until well blended and top with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley.

Add some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese if you like at this point and serve with crusty french bread, fresh green salad and white wine.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fava Beans Redux


Having used up the last of the fava beans on a delicious and pretty Shrimp and Fava Sautee over Couscous, I am definietly going to grow some more of them next year.


Growing a garden is a learning experience and here are the things I learned about Fava Beans.

  1. They are really TALL. So don't plant them in front of other plants. My poor pepper plants that were behing the wall of favas didn't get the sun they needed so as a result, I am nursing two Italian Sweet Pepper plants that have a total of 3 peppers.
  2. They are really TALL. You'd better plan on staking them up before they get too and flop over because
  3. The bean pods are HUGE.

Everything I read talked about the tedious process of shelling and preparing the beans. Really? It wasn't that bad. Sure, it takes some time, but then again so does anything worthwhile. And believe me they are definitely worthwhile.

Fava Beans and Shrimp over Couscous


  • Poached Shrimp
  • 2 Cups Prepared Favas
  • Roma Tomatoes Chopped
  • French Shallots Chopped
  • Garlic Cloves Minced
  • Fresh Tarragon Minced
  • Romano or Parmesan Cheese
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

You might notice, there are not any actual ingredient measurements? Wing it!

Prepare the couscous according to package directions. This will take hardly any time and while the pasta is sitting covered you can whip up the following.

Sautee the garlic and shallots over low heat in a bit of olive oil until they become limp and translucent. Turn up the heat at bit and toss in the favas and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the minced tarragon and add the tomatoes. Continue to stir and toss in the sautee pan until the tomatoes begin to become slightly limp. Add the shrimp and continue just until they become warm. Do not over cook.

Top the dish with some shaved slivers of cheese and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fava Beans Sautee

Fava Beans are a success. See my posting below:

It is so satisfying to be able to create a meal or side dish with fresh ingredients that you have grown yourself. With the exception of the tomatoes, which are not yet ripe and the olive oil which I conveniently buy at Costo and didn't press myself or the Asiago Romano Cheese from Costco (the best I have ever found), the ingredients come from my own garden.

/pats self on the back

FAVA BEAN SAUTEE

  • 3 cups of prepared fava beans (I tell you how below)
  • 1 whole large french shallot, chopped (not minced)
  • 3 coarsely chopped roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced tarragon
  • 2 cloves minced elephant garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • shaved slivers of Asiago/Romano cheese

To prepare the beans: Plan on this taking some time. First pour yourself a glass of wine to sip on while shelling the bean pods. A nice Chianti? Or in my case a chilled Gew├╝rztraminer. Split the bean pods apart and place the beans in a large bowl. This is actually kind of neat. The insides of the bean pods are fuzzy and white, almost like the beans have been lovingly encased in soft cotton.

Meanwhile start a pot of water, liberally salted with Kosher salt to boil. Once you have shell the beans put them into the boiling water and simmer at a low boil for about 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop the beans out of the boiling water and dump them into a large bowl full of ice water. This will shock the beans and stop the cooking. Let the beans cool.

Fava beans have a very tough skin covering the delicate green bean inside. To shell them, just pinch off a section of the tough sking and gently squeeze the inside bean into a bowl. They should just slip right out. If you moosh a bean or two. No problem......eat them while you are shelling the rest.

At this point, you can freeze the beans like Lima Beans are done in the grocery store or set aside covered in plastic wrap for maybe a day in the fridge. But the best way is to cook them immediately.

Preparing the dish: This part goes really fast. Coat a small sautee pan with a tbsp or so of olive oil and over medium low heat slowly cook the shallots and garlic until it is soft and slightly caramelized. Turn the heat up a bit and toss in the beans and tarragon. Toss them around in the pan. Maybe do a few Emeril Lagasse flips of the pan and contents to show off. Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Throw in the chopped tomatoes and stir/flip the contents of the pan over medium heat until the tomatoes start to wilt.

Serve with some shaved slivers of cheese on top of the warm beans.

Very pretty with the red and green coloring. Tasty. I served these as a side dish to some sauteed Red Snapper with a fresh green salad and warm french bread.

Growing Fava Beans

  • This year we really got cracking on our vegetable garden. The Dumbplumber, at my constant urging or nagging as he would say, put in some great raised beds. 6 beds that are 4 feet by 8 feet by 24 inches high and spaced just wide enough to run the wheel barrow through. We lined them with chicken wire on the bottoms and up the sides and then installed 1 inch PVC pipe at intervals along the sides before filling with dirt. This was so that I could use smaller size PVC and make hoops over the beds.

    Because it is cold here in the spring time due to the elevation, it is very hard to plant early. With the hoops running the length of the bed and covered with plastic it creates a tunnel/greenhouse to get an early start on planting. The other advantage is that to discourage the birds and deer, we covered the hoops with deer netting to keep the critters from gobbling up all of the young shoots.




There is no point in planting things that you can easily and cheaply get at the local grocery store. So, I try to plant things that are unusual or that are good trading stock with other local gardeners. This year I had a great crop of French Shallots (which are very expensive) and Elephant garlic. I'm trading with a friend who has a lot of Torpedo and Sweet Walla Walla onions. Yum Yum.

This was the first year that I had grown Fava Beans, so I didn't plant to many, as I wasn't sure if we were even going to like them. Picking the last of the crop today at lunch, we are planning to have them with dinner tonight.



Probably something with Garlic, Shallots, Lemon, Thyme (which I also grew) and shaved Assiago Cheese. If they are a success, next year I'll plant a LOT more as they were probably the easiest thing I have ever grown in the garden.

Next year I will be urging (nagging) my husband to put ground cloth and gravel between the planting beds to keep the mud and weeds down. I'm sure he is really looking forward to it. :-D

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peach BBQ Sauce

Have too many peaches? Peaches that are on the too ripe side and starting to get gooshey? Never fear. Peach Barbeque Sauce is here. This is a delicious sauce and is especially good on pork. It seems to last forever in the refrigerator and freezes well.

PEACH BBQ SAUCE

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cups chopped peaches
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups beer
  • 1 cup catsup
  • 1 cup mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbs cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the peaches, pepper, salt and garlic. Cook for a minute stirring frequently. Add the beer and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Drink the rest of the beer while stirring as it comes to a boil....oh heck...drink another one too. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes

Cool the mixture until it is just warm. Place half of the sauce in a blender. Remove the center piece of the blender lid so the steam can get out. You don't want your sauce and blender to explode. *Puree until smooth. Repeat with the rest of the sauce. Refrigerate for up to 10 days or freeze.

Notes:

*I use a hand held immersion blender , as long as it is just a single recipe. If our peach trees are especially generous, I will make a double batch for the freezer.

Leave the skin on the peaches. Don't waste your time trying to peel them. You are just going to puree them anyway.

Generally, I despise "Ball Park" type mustard and substitute Dijon whenever possible, but in this case you should use the inexpensive French's or other yellow mustard. You really want that harsher mustard flavor and will be wasting your money if you use Dijon. I haven't tried it yet, but adding whole mustard seeds to the mix or using a grainy brown mustard might be good here if a bit more expensive.

For a BBQ pork butt, roast or chops, I will marinate my meat in this sauce for a few hours before cooking. Discard the marinade and use fresh sauce for basting during the last part of the cooking process.

How to Organize a Zillion Recipies Without Going Nuts

Being an admitted Recipe Junkie and not about to reform or repent, the other option is to try to get organized.

You know what I mean.... don't you, you other Recipe Junkies. First we start out with a few cook books, some clippings and a couple of recipes that Grandma or Mom was good enough to let go of, written on 3 x 5 cards. A nice little index box with some tabs. A shelf on the book shelf or maybe even a spot in the kitchen for those few books.

Soon, we are browsing magazines for more good sounding recipes that we will certainly make in the near future. (uh huh...sure) Garage sales have lots of great old recipe books that are well used, cheap and absolutely must be saved. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Antique Stores: all treasure troves of fabulous recipes, cooking history, memorabilia and books. The really bad news is when your inner Recipe Junkie merges with your book collecting mania.

Now, instead of a few books and small recipe box, you have a whole book CASE devoted to cook books, Bon Appetite, Gourmet and a lateral file cabinet full of files containing recipes optimistically torn out of magazines.......even magazines while waiting in the doctor's office. /Embarrassed

So, smartie, how are you going to actually find a recipe that you want to try or that you really would like to make again in this clutter? You have some peaches and you remember (vaguely) that there is a recipe you read (somewhere) for a peach flavored barbeque sauce. Where IS IT and I want to find it before I am completely out of the mood and just eat the damned peaches.

Here is what I have done and I now use the world's best cook book software. Living Cook Book by Radium Technologies. If anyone else has other ideas, I'm all ears.

Clippings: I read the magazine first. Put pencil checks or dog-ear the page where the recipes sound good. THEN....put....the ....magazine.....down. Come back later read again and see if it still sounds interesting. Often a recipe that sounds good at first glance isn't so great or I realize, I already have several just like it. If I still think the recipe (or decorating or gardening idea) is interesting, tear it out of the magazine and throw the magazine away, and get rid of the clutter. Then it either goes into the files that are categorized by type or directly into my software program.

Books: First I read and browse the new or new/old cook book from cover to cover and use post its to mark the most interesting places for later data entry.

Living Cook Book is the best program that I have ever used!!! You can sort and print and more importantly FIND what you want. It can copy from the internet. So many great features. Check it out.



I have several virtual cookbooks


  • My Favorites: recipes that I have made, will make again and really like. Those are printed out on 4 x 6 cards and kept in a file or can be printed out in cookbook form and put into a binder

  • Untested #1: those that sounded good from the clippings or books and that I might want to make soon.

  • Untested #2: sound interesting, might be a bit complicated or unusual but worth consideration if I have some time to really experiment

Once I make an 'untested' it either goes into the virtual trash can or into My Favorites and printed on the card.


SO .....when I want to find my Peach BBQ Sauce recipe, I merely search for the ingredients and ta dah: PEACH BBQ SAUCE

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca

Wow. Where does the time go? I haven't posted here in months. I can make the excuse that I've been busy. Busy with non fun things like work. Preparing for an office audit that is required by the SEC once a year. Non fun things like being in the middle of a power struggle on the Water District Board of which I am a member. I won, by the way. We have a new board and fired the manager, but man was that stressful and scary. I even began packing at work and my husband acted as body guard a few times at meetings. We are still in the middle of a LOT of work reconstituting the District and trying to save it from bankruptcy.....but that is a story for my other blog.

Busy with fun things. My hubby made some wonderful raised garden beds for me out in the orchard area. Since he did such a great job, I had better grow something. Soon I will be harvesting French Shallots and Elephant Garlic. There is no point in growing things you can get in the grocery store, so I also planted Fava beans and Endame and some interesting varieties of tomatoes.

Busy entertaining/distracting myself on the Blogs arguing with the trolls on one particular blog and realizing that is a colossal waste of time. Also realizing that there are much more entertaining and friendly places to visit like Trooper York's blog. where they talk about among other things FOOD.

Trooper has requested a pasta recipe and so...in line with my burgeoning tomato crop that I expect to have soon. Here is an easy easy, cheap, fast and fool proof pasta dish.


PASTA PUTTANESCA
  • 2 or 3 large tomatoes *seeded and coarsly chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped calamata olives
  • 1 small tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 pound linguini
  • fresh parmesan or asiago cheese

In a medium sauce pan over low heat saute the garlic anchovies in the olive oil. Don't over cook, just smoosh the ancovies and garlic and oil around to make a paste and to release all the yummy flavors. Add the chopped tomatoes, capers, chili flakes, olives and simmer on low for about 10 to 15 minutes, stiring occaisonally.

Meanwhile. Cook the linguini to al dente in a large pan that has been salted with about 1 tbsp kosher salt.

Drain the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss in the Italian Parsley (bet you thought I forgot about it, didn't you?). Mix the linguini with the sauce and parsley.

Top each serving with a bit of shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese.

Serve with a green salad, fruit (cantelopes are really good right now), crusty french bread .....oh and of course a good wine.

My husband hated the Kalamata Olives. He thought they were too salty with the anchovies so you might substitute milder ripe olives. For those of you who don't like hot/spicy dishes you can also lighten up on the chili flakes (weenies). I also like this sauce over Farfalle pasta. Soon, I plan to try it with a mixture of yellow and red tomatoes from my garden.

* to seed tomatoes: cut the tomato in half crossways and simply squeeze the seeds and juices into a bowl. You want as much of the juice removed from the tomatoes or else your sauce will be watery and you will have to cook it much longer which will ruin the delicate flavor of the capers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lazy Day Oatmeal Cake

I've had this recipe for at least 30 years and have no idea where it came from but I can tell you it is easy easy to make. Always turns out great and is a bit hit at pot lucks.

Lazy Day Oatmeal Cake

1 cup rolled oats (NOT quick cooking oats)
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda

TOPPING:
6 Tbs butter
2 Tbs milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded coconut meat
1 cup chopped walnuts


Bring water to a boil and add oats. Let stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile cream eggs, butter and sugar. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixtures. Stir in the oats. Bake in a greased sheet cake pan at 350 for 35 minutes. Let the cake cool just a bit before putting on the topping.


Topping: Mix the 6 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp milk in a sauce pan. Heat until warm. Add the brown sugar and heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Add the chopped nuts and coconut. Spread on the still warm cake.

Roasted Corned Beef with Mustard Brown Sugar Glaze

Saint Patricks day is coming up and the corned beef is on sale. Buy one and get one free!!! I bought four. Going to cook one and plan to freeze the others. After all, why should we only have corned beef just once a year?

I used to cook the meat the way my Irish Mother learned it from her mother and so on. Boil the crap out of the meat, skim some fat and add the potatoes and cabbage. It is always good with a creamy horseradish and lots of leftovers for sandwiches and corned beef hash. However, I have found that I much prefer my corned beef done in the following manner. It also has the stamp of approval by my husband.

This recipe is rather free form as is most of my cooking.

Oven Roasted Corned Beef with Mustard Brown Sugar Glaze

  • 5 pound piece of corned beef.
  • One head of cabbage, cored and cut into quarters and then the quarters cut into halves
  • 8 to 12 small to medium sized red new potatoes
  • 4 to 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch sections
  • One onion cut into eights
  • Dijon mustard
  • Brown sugar
  • Fresh bread crumbs

FIRST: Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat the corned beef for a couple of hours until it is fork tender but not falling apart. Be sure to pour the corned beef juices and spices into the water to get all those good flavors.

Remove the corned beef and put into a foil lined shallow roasting pan or oven proof casserole, fat side up. Cover with foil and refrigerate until you are ready to proceed. You can even do this part early in the day or the day before.

Let the broth cool and skim off any foam and excess fat. Don't take ALL the fat out. The cabbage is best when it has a light coating of the fat. Yummy flavor.

SECOND: Make a paste of mustard, brown sugar. If you don't have Dijon use a nice stone ground brown mustard. Please... please! do NOT use that ballpark yellow mustard crap. Save that for your hot dogs. Notice the vague instructions? I don't know.....Depending on how large your piece of meat is about half and half of each to equal about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. You want it to be pretty thick so start with the brown sugar and add the mustard gradually until you get a thick paste. Too thin and it will just run off of the meat. Set this aside.

NEXT: Preheat the oven to a low temp. About 275 to 300. Roast the meat covered for about an hour or hour and half. Again. Vague and imprecise.

THEN: Raise the temperature to about 375, uncover and spread the mustard/brown sugar paste on the top surface of the meat. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or less. Check the meat to make sure it isn't drying out. You can always take it out of the oven and cover until the crisping process.

MEANWHILE: Put the whole potatoes in the broth along with the onion and bring to a boil. When the potatoes are about half way done about 10 minutes or so (firm but not hard as rocks when a fork is stuck into them) toss in the carrots and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Then at the last toss in the cabbage and cover the pot if you can. Shove those puppies down into the broth and cook for only 5 minutes. Shut off the heat and leave covered while you are crisping the corned beef.

CRISP THE MEAT: If it isn't already looking a bit brown and crispy on the crumbs, turn the heat up to 450 or better for about 5 to 8 minutes. Take out of the oven and let set for a bit while you are scooping the vegetables out of the broth.

Be careful though...Don't crisp for too long...you don't want dried out corned beef. That is why we par boiled and cooked it, covered at a very low temperature. On the other hand....what the heck, we're going to slather it in a creamy horseradish sauce and drown the potatoes in butter.

How I serve this: Cut the meat into slices and layer like shingles down the middle of a platter. Lift the potatoes and other veggies from the broth and arrange on each side of the meat slices. Horseradish in little cups for each person. Lots of butter for the carrots, potatoes and cabbage.

Good dessert for this is the Lazy Day Oatmeal Cake.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Comfort Food: Macaroni and Cheese

Ultimate comfort food? The winner is........macaroni and cheese. So creamy, salty, slightly sweet, inexpensive and yummy. Anyone who makes macaroni and cheese from a box (other than a starving college student) should be ashamed. It isn't hard to make. It is inexpensive. And the best part is that you can customize your recipe to suit your mood. Got leftover ham? Extra broccoli? Half of a red pepper? Odds and ends of cheese? All can go into a great Mac and Cheese casserole


Here is a simple version. The extra touches that I like to add at the end. Hint.....smoked Gouda cheese.


Basic cooking techniques used: making a roux, chopping, boiling water

Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1/4 cup butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt

8 oz cheddar cheese cut into dice sized cubes (see below for cheese substitutions)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 Tbs butter

1 Tbs chopped parsley

First: heat the oven to 350. Cook the macaroni according to package directions slightly under cooking the pasta. If you cook the pasta all the way done it will be mushy in the final casserole. Al dente is your friend here. Pour the pasta into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and also to keep it from becoming a big stuck together glob of pasta.

Now the roux and basic cream sauce Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in 3 quart saucepan until sizzling, stir in flour. Cook the flour butter mixture over medium/low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and bubbly ( I minute) Add milk and salt. Continue cooking stirring frequently until the sauce is thickened about 3 to 4 minutes. Drink a glass of wine and stir occasionally..you will be standing there for several minutes, might as well make good use of your time. You don't want the sauce to burn on the bottom and you do want the flour to be completly cooked. Take your time. Who knows....maybe another glass of wine?

When the cream sauce is done, stir in the chopped cheese(s) until completely melted and smooth.


Next, stir in cooked and cooled macaroni (and any additions suggested below). Spoon the entire glop into an ungreased 2 quart casserole.

(At this point, you can refrigerate the casserole for a bit if you are preparing for company or just want to get a jump on dinner. )

Toss the bread crumbs, with 1 tbsp butter and the parsley. Sprinkle this over the casserole.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until heated through and golden brown crispy on top


This is the basic recipe and makes a creamy and satisfying mac and cheese.

Oh....and a green salad and wine goes well. Fruit salad for dessert.

Now let's ratchet it up a bit.


Instead of just plain old Cheddar, substitute one third of a good high fat Smoked Gouda Cheese. (Come on ....are we counting calories here??? It's comfort food people!) If you don't have Gouda add some cream cheese and liquid smoke.

If you have old/stale french bread make some crumbs with that in a food processor instead of using that pasty pre-packaged crumb stuff that comes in a can. (Sorry Contidina). Panko crumbs work really well too, for a really crunchy topping.

Additions

Chop up some red peppers and sautee them in butter along with some green onions and add to the mac and cheese glop.

or

Have some broccoli?...chop it up and sautee with butter (can't have enough butter and fat in your comfort food you know) Left over ham? Absolutely! Throw it in with the broccoli.

Use your imagination. Use your leftovers.

What would I NOT put in this casserole? Mushrooms. They have too much water. Peas...yuck. Serve those on the side as a fresh vegetable.