From the freezer section (…Plus an onion from produce and butter from where the butter hangs out.)

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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.

cinnamon pecan pie

November 2, 2011

Happy November!  It seems like so many retailers are under the belief that this month is a pesky interlude between those big money makers, Halloween and Christmas.  Not this girl!  I couldn’t possibly fathom forgetting the joy that is the Thanksgiving feast!  As the month rolls on, I will be sharing more recipes as I try to narrow down the favorites for the big day.  Yay!  It’s an entire month of Thanksgiving practice!

Two things about me: I love pie and I LOVE cinnamon.  I usually celebrate these amours in the joyous union of apple pie, but I found this recipe on a bottle of corn syrup I bought to make stage blood last Halloween and had been waiting for the right time to utilize it for an entire year.  My dad’s birthday was finally the perfect opportunity to try this recipe, and I made the pie at my parents house so they would win all the tasty leftovers.

the goods

Cinnamon Pecan Pie Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 pie crust for a 9″ pie

temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°.

beat eggs

In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly with a fork.

more ingredients

Add brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until blended.  No need for an electric mixer, a wooden spoon will do just fine.

pecan party

Stir in pecans.

flour pie crust

You’ll want to flour both sides of the store-bought pie crust so that it doesn’t become soggy with the pie goo and fail to live up to its pie crust duties.

pour

Pour filling into pie crust.

almost there

Yummmm.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until you can stab the pie halfway between the edge and the center and the blade comes out clean.

toasty

Allow to cool before serving.  It won’t be easy, but you have to eat dinner before you can have dessert.

dollop on top

With a dollop on creamy whipped cream on top, this pie is a sweet treat to ring in the autumn season!  Don’t forget to check back for more tasty recipes this month as I narrow down the winners for a decadent Thanksgiving dinner (and dessert)!

Boyfriend made dinner.

pastitsio

May 28, 2011

If you grew up with boxed pasta dinners like I did, this meal is like a Hamburger Helper who cleaned up it’s act, got a haircut, put on a tuxedo, and smells gooood.  This takes Dick Whitman and turns him into Don Draper.

Pastitsio is a nutty, creamy, meaty, hearty pasta dish with Mediterranean roots consisting of tubular pasta, seasoned meat, and a béchamel sauce (a flour-based white sauce).  It’s been well over a dozen years since I last enjoyed this meal, so I was thrilled when I stumbled upon it while recently perusing the classic Red and White Cookbook.  Instead of working from the recipe as it goes in the book, my mom filled my hands with a copy of her preferred method – as well as a pound of hamburger.

(This is probably as good a place as any to come out and state for the record that I’ve had a fear of cooking meat.  It’s a little silly – I know! – but there’s something terrifyingly intimidating about those raw wads of meat, especially knowing that if you don’t cook it right the results can be gross and dangerous!!  I have made due living with this fear, because somebody else ALWAYS wants to barbecue or otherwise cook the meat for the entree at a dinner party.  But it’s time to grow up.  And my mom made me do it, by handing me a pound of hamburger and challenging me to make something of it.)

So this one is kind of complicated, but it’s totally worth it for these absurdist Chicago spring nights with sudden temperature drops to just-above freezing.

Pastitsio Ingredients

(Its a bunch, so I’ma break it down by the steps for you.  You’ll have to pay attention when shopping this one out because there is milk, cheese, eggs, and salt used in a couple places.)

Pasta

  • 1-1/2 cup tubular pasta (elbow macaroni works swell, I just wanted to say tubular because I haven’t heard the word in use since cartoon characters of the early 90s)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese  (shredded also works just fine)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk

Meat

  • 3/4 pound ground beef (for a healthier alternative, use ground turkey instead! Thanks to Jess for the great suggestion!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (again, shredded is also great)

Ready?  Cook the pasta.  Strain.  Put pasta into a medium bowl.

Stir in its buddies, namely the beaten egg, parmesan cheese, and milk.  Stir it up and set to the side.

Scary time for the meat which actually isn’t that scary at all!  Browning beef is about as complicated as scrambling eggs.  (If only someone had told me!)  Anyways, in a skillet, cook the ground beef and onion until the beef is brown and the onions are tender.  Drain excess fat.

In a medium bowl (or the skillet), combine the cooked meat and onions with the tomato sauce, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground pepper.  Stir it up.  Set to the side.

In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Blend in flour and salt. Stir in the milk, stirring until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Add beaten egg and parmesan and keep it moving in the pan.  You want the results to be creamy, not stucky.

Keep mixing it up (but don’t expect auto-focus to keep up with you!)

Time to start assembling!  It’s recommended that this meal be made in an 8x8x2″ dish because that will allow for nice, even, thick layers.  I had a rounded 9×12″ dish which can accommodate the volume, but isn’t ideal because the layers get spread out and aren’t as even or thick.  Anyways.  Dish out half of the macaronis into the dish.  (Here is probably 2/3 of the macaroni.)

Spoon all the tasty meat sauce on top of the macaroni layer.

Cover the meat with the second half of the macaronis.

Smooth it over with your béchamel sauce.  Top of with a sprinkle of cinnamon (nutmeg for a bolder touch).

Cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Serve it up and share with five other people (or eat it by yourself for dinner six nights in a row, I won’t judge).  You can see here where it’d be better to have that narrow deep casserole dish.  A thick cream layer makes this meal hella tasty, although by no means was this spread out version anything close to terrible.

And there you have it ladies and gents, overcoming silly fears with a hearty meal!