baked macaroni and cheese

December 8, 2011

Whoa.  You guys, Thanksgiving left a LOT behind!  Now I am tired of turkey and sick of sweet potatoes, but still crave a warm, home-cooked meal.  Especially one that doesn’t come with half a dozen sides or take six hours to cook.

This is my favorite anything ever.  In university, I would request this as my first meal back home on every visit.  I can’t even recall how many times I’ve asked my mom to remind me of the recipe, because it’s so simple it almost seems like its too good to be true.  But its not!  It’s the truthiest in its gooditude!! (sorry, I’m getting excited here)

This recipe is so simple and concise, you could practically send it in a text message!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cook 1 cup of pasta.  Drain pasta and mix with 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (undrained) with half a diced green pepper and 6 oz cubed cheddar cheese.  Put in a casserole dish and cook in a 350° oven for 40 minutes.*

*Now, there are a couple things to note.  As with most family recipes, there is plenty of room for specialization and modification.  Like the cheese.  No one in history has ever complained about too much cheese in their mac and cheese.  Cube that whole 8 oz block of cheese if you’re looking for a good time.  Want to feed a few family members and still have lunch tomorrow?  Throw in an additional half or full cup of pasta. Don’t like green pepper?  Try bacon! But the green sure does look nice.  And a couple grinds of black pepper on top really takes it home.

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beginner’s banana bread

November 17, 2011

It’s a sad day when good fruit goes bad.  Except for bananas.  When they turn all brown on the outside and smushy on the inside they transform into super bananas!  Pop a few into a freezer bag and they make the perfect basis for your next breakfast smoothie.  Or prepare this totally easy recipe for a warm treat great for any breakfast or snack time.

Banana Bread Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, smashed (2-3 medium bananas)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350°.

Oh oh oooh, oh oh ooh, oh oh oooh, The White Stuff.  Whisk it together (sugar, baking powder baking soda, salt and 1 cup of flour) in a large bowl.

*Glorp*  Smashed frozen ripe bananas isn’t exactly the most attractive  substance on the planet, but think about what deliciousness this ooze turns intos!   Add smashed bananas, butter and milk.  Beat with a mixer on low speed until blended, then on high speed for a couple minutes longer.

Add eggs and remaining flour, beat until blended.

Get a little nuts!  Then fold them into the batter.

Whoa.  It’s getting majestic in here.  Pour batter into greased loaf pan (8x4x2).

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a centrally stabbed toothpick removes clean.

Cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from loaf plan and cool thoroughly.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing.  Use this time to think about all the delicious ways you can eat your homemade banana bread.

With melty Nutella!

Or creamy cream cheese, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon!

And if there was any left I would have attempted more options.  Like french toast.  Or – holy wow – can you imagine BANANA bread pudding!  Wowzers, time to start collecting hyper-ripe bananas for the next loaf.

lemon tea cookies

October 6, 2011

Perfect for any time of year, these lemon tea cookies are an easy-to-make cake-like treat that will rival any of those chemically softened cookies you find at the store.

recipe

Revisiting the glorious Red and White Cookbook, this recipe calls for simple ingredients that I already had on hand – no special trips for silly one-time-only ingredients taking up valuable cupboard space!

ingredients

Lemon Tea Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
oven
Preheat oven to 350°.

lemon milkIn a small bowl, stir in only 2 teaspoons (not all!) of lemon juice into the milk and let stand for 5 minutes.  It’s going to look pretty gross.

butter towerIn a larger bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed.

beat beat beat

Add about half the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar (not all of the sugar!), the egg, baking powder, baking soda, lemon peel, and lemon milk mixture.  Beat until thoroughly combined, then bet in the remaining flour.

raw dough

Drop the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

tick tick tick tick

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

lemon sugar

Remember that lemon juice and sugar that were left behind?  We’re going to make a wonderful glaze thing that is sweet and tart and soaks deliciously into the cakey goodness that are these cookies.

stirrrr

Stir together until the sugar is dissolved.

soak it up

Brush the glaze onto the cookies.  There is no such thing as too much, these cookies are sponges and are waiting to soak it up.  (I’m using a foam brush to avoid any stray hairs.)

tea party

Enjoy with hot or iced tea to host the smartest tea party in town, fit for a lady and a cookie monster!

bacon and egg cupcakes

July 22, 2011

Although not technically a cupcake in the traditional sense, these bacon wrapped eggs from Recipe Cards are a cute and impressive addition to any brunch spread – not to mention a total breeze to make using minimal ingredients and taking less than 20 minutes to whip together!

So many wonderful recipes are written to make enormous batches, leaving a lot of lonely leftovers.  These fantastic little “cupcakes” are made individually so you only have to make exactly how many you want right now; for your family, your breakfast-for-dinner party, or just you.

Bacon and Egg Cupcakes Ingredients

  • eggs (one per cupcake)
  • bacon (approximately 1 1/2 strips per cupcake)
  • cheese (shredded or crumbled – use your favorite, mine is cheddar jack)
  • chopped herbs (thyme, chives, rosemary, dill – anything you like, I like basil)
  • salt and pepper (pinches each, per cupcake)
Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook bacon until browned, but not crispy.

In a greased muffin tin, line a muffin cup with a full strip of bacon.  In this “cupcake” the bacon acts as the liner – holding the delicious goods all together with no need to peel off and discard, just eat it right up!

Tear about half a strip of bacon into little bits and fill the bottom of the muffin tin.

Crack an egg into each tasty bacon cup.

Season with salt and pepper.  While you’re at it, take a moment to appreciate the song styling of Salt-N-Pepa.

Fill each cup with cheese and sprinkle with herbs.

Cook for 10-15 minutes (mine were good around the 12 minute mark).

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute or two.  Two of these self-contained breakfast vessels make for one sturdy serving.

Serve with sliced tomato, fresh fruit, home fries, Bloody Marys and you’ve got another delightful reason to get out of bed on a Sunday!

And if this wasn’t easy enough to follow, check out this beautiful video from Recipe Cards:

taco pizza

July 10, 2011

When the bars close, what is your munchie of choice?  For me, it usually comes down to tacos or pizza.

After a show last summer, my friend guitar demon and web designer Michael Kostal and I wondered what would happen if we got a taco and a pizza together, made them breed, and ATE THEIR TACO PIZZA BABIES!!  There was general drunken drooling as we imagined how delectable the addition of taco flavors to a pizza could be.  “Or it could be a pizza in a taco!?!”

It’s summer again.  Having been unable to come across a decent incarnation of my taco pizza dreams in the past year, and being an expert already in the art of the pita pizza, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

But a pita is too thick and a tortilla is too thin, but a fajita wrap is juuuust right for the perfect taco pizza crust.  Actually, you’re going to need two of them – married by melted cheese – if you plan on holding your taco like a pizza, instead of having all the goods flop out.

On top of that I had low-fat refried beans (had to negate somewhere, there’s a lot of cheese on top), guacamole, taco seasoned ground beef, sliced jalapeño, and grated Mexican cheese.  I really could have used some diced tomatoes, but all I had was salsa and the guac’ and ‘peños had already made my taco pizza sufficiently spicy.

This turned out to be kind of enormous, much larger than an after-hours snack (at least when eaten alone) and was probably a gazilliondy calories.  So, I warn you that this should probably just be shared.  Or made when you need to clean out the fridge.  But for dinner, because it fills an entire plate.  And stomach.  Or two.  Sharing!

 

 

chicken nugget salad

June 1, 2011

Chicken nuggets + baby spinach, green peppers, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes + fat-free ranch dressing = dinner for hot weather.

Only meat in the house + all of the vegetables in the house + salad glue = chicken nugget salad.

Once a staple of fundraising bake sales and post-game soccer treats, these delightful cubes of gooey goodness have gone by the wayside.  Ever since the individually packaged interpretations of these came on the market in their bright blue wrappers, my aversion to these factory versions has kept me away from enjoying the simple pleasure of making a batch of these myself.  Now no longer the case!

I was alerted to this fabulously easy-to-make recipe from Poppytalk by my awesome friend Alda (of the printmaking duo Beside Herself), of Rice Krispie treats for grown ups.  By browning the butter, a rich almost-nutty flavour is introduced to a favorite childhood memory.

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 oz mini marshmallows (half a bag of minis – I had the fluffy full sized marshmallows and used about 20 which had to be torn into bits – a smidge sticky, yes, but it works)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies

In a large pot, melt the butter while stirring frequently over medium heat.  Be sure to pay attention, as there is no fun in burnt butter Rice Krispie treats.  Remove from heat once the butter is browned and stir in the marshmallows until you’ve got a smooth goop.  Stir in salt.  Add cereal and stir until all is evenly coated.  Squish into a greased 8×8 pan with a flexible spatula.  Once cool, you’ll have nine yummy squares to share!

Between my dad, me, and a pair of three-year-old twins, this initial batch of treats disappeared at record speed.  Dad said plainly that these were the best Rice Krispie treats he has ever had (only slightly garbled by stating this fact with his mouth full with one). Since the recipe is easy enough to make, I whipped up a second batch, this time using Cinnamon Cherrios.  Two words for this adaptation: Do It.  With my attention compromised by bouncing toddlers matched with my eagerness to get these Cinnamon Cheerio treats into my face ASAP, I added too many marshmallows and didn’t wait long enough for them to completely melt into the butter.  This resulted in the appearance that Spiderman may have had a hand in helping make these.

In this instance, the subtle flavour brought by the brown butter was masked by the cinnamon, however this still yielded superbly tasty results.  Yum yum yum yum!

Nothing is more than the harmonious coupling of two contrasts.  In this edition, we’re going with spicy and cool.

I know there are wimps out there when it comes to the really hot stuff, but  jalapeño peppers rate comparatively low on the Scoville scale (a fraction of a percent of law enforcement grade pepper spray!), and who doesn’t need to keep themselves hydrated anyways?

For some reason, I’ve had a heart on for cucumbers this year.  Have you ever craved a cucumber?  It’s a delightful alternative to a potato chip when you’re yearning for something crunchy.  Also, cucumber slices are fantastic drink garnishes for your vodka lemonades and gin & tonics.

Add a Ritz cracker and a schmear of whipped cream cheese and you’ve got a crunchy, creamy, spicy, cool treat!

(And for the wimps, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple blanks on hand for those jalapeño slices with a few too many seeds!)

So, you’ve got a craving for a chocolate cupcake, but can’t afford the calories or fancy ingredients?  I hear that.  Well lookee here!  A magnificently moist brownie muffin recipe that consists of only two ingredients and 180 calories each?!  Would I lie to you?

(I will follow the logic that the addition of frosting makes a muffin into a cupcake – ex. morning glory to carrot cake – and therefore also makes these a-okay to eat for breakfast 100% guilt-free.  Feel free to call these tasty morsels anything you damn well please.)

Stupid-Simple Guilt-Free Brownie Muffins

  • 1-15 oz can of pumpkin (be sure  you grab a can of “pumpkin” and not “pumpkin-pie filling”)
  • 1 box of devil’s food cake mix

That’s it!  Really!  Now here’s the hard part, you’ve gotta combine the two.  Yeah.  But think of the fat you’ll be burning off with all that mixing, and before you know it you’ll have super hot First Lady arms too.  Scoop into a lined muffin tin and cook for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  (Or – since there isn’t any raw egg like with a normal cake mix – you can safely just eat the batter with a spoon, I won’t judge.)  Yields 12 muffins (if they make it to the oven).

A couple more things:

  • You might be thinking, “Pumpkin and Chocolate?!?” but it’s totally not going to be weird, promise.  And since you aren’t using any eggs, butter, or dairy it seems like its a solid “Maybe Vegan” contender (although, I really should have checked out the box mix for any funny business before taking out the recycling…)  Regardless, it’s still a pretty fantastic way to get your vegetables.
  • The batter is super thick.  It will come out of the oven exactly the way you put it in, so sculpture is highly recommended.  Muffins with mohawks, hells yes!
  • Since the pumpkin saves you all kinds of calories, feel free to spend them on mix-ins!  Cinnamon, chocolate chips, orange zest, a super decadent frosting, etc!  But whatever you do, don’t add anything to make the batter thinner, it’ll just ruin everything.

I like to think of these as extra credit.  You could enjoy one as maintaining a healthy lifestyle like eating just one after a morning jog with your herbal tea, but let’s get real, this is a spectacular way to essentially eat a fist full of brownie for breakfast and feel no shame.

So I urge you, do this totally easy project for extra credit and you can slack off later.

tuna crasserole

May 1, 2011

Some times you just have to fake it.

The tuna casserole my mom makes has been a favorite of mine for as long as I’ve been able to eat solid foods.  It was one of the first things I craved when I went away to university, the warm gooey mess that tastes just like home.

But when do I ever have cream of celery soup or bread crumbs on hand?   Or the 45 minutes it takes for the casserole to bake?  My dad turned me on to what he calls College Casserole, consisting of a can of tuna and a bowl of Kraft Easy Mac, but I always felt there was room for improvement.

Tuna Crasserole

  • 1 box Kraft Dinner, or comparable boxed mac and cheese (shells give a more homemade look)
  • 2-5 oz cans tuna
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • shredded cheese (a couple handfuls works for me)
  • ground black pepper, as you like

Fully prepare the mac as the box instructs.  Toss in a handful of shredded cheese and stir until melted in.  Cook the peas as the bag instructs.  Add the tuna, peas, pepper, and another handful of cheese.

Combine.  Serve.  Enjoy.

It won’t be as savory as Mom’s, but in 15 minutes you’ll have a pretty tasty knock-off.


pita pizza

April 27, 2011

You know what’s great?  Late night pub grub.  You know what’s even better?  Not having to go to a bar to eat like it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce, the Pita Pizza.  Next to my best friends – The Sandwich and Bowl of Cereal – Pita Pizza is the most enjoyable single-serving meal you can find (…ingredients for in my fridge at all times).

For double duty purposes, pasta sauce becomes pizza sauce!  Sprinkle all the cheese available in your fridge, and whatever herbs you can get your hands on.  You can even use real things, like meats and veggies for toppings!  (I find this is a fantastic way to make use of starting-to-wilt spinach, just sauté with butter or bacon fat and now you don’t have piss off Popeye by throwing that great spinach in the garbage!)  Cook in a 350 oven for 10 minutes and biggity-bam! you’ve got yourself a meal that you don’t have to share!

For foodie’s sake, here’s the breakdown of the goods I used:

  • whole wheat pita
  • Trader Joe’s Vodka Sauce (that’d be the pasta sauce, and it’s delish fore it comes with big ol’ wads of tomato in it – but really, any sauce you like will do) with several splashings of Frank’s Red Hot sauce (because I really do put that shit on everything)
  • shredded cheddar jack, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses
  • and a couple pinches of basil leaves (for tastiness, but really to get that stop-light look)

NOM!