Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The CHEESIEST Mac and Cheese

Kraft macaroni and cheese is obviously the easiest, and claims the cheesiest Mac and Cheese. This variation of the classic adds Gruyere and Gouda cheeses, and for a cheese lover, I think it can actually claim the title of the CHEESIEST. I like making a huge pan of this and having it for a couple days of left over’s or a great, easy meal for entertaining. It is also really good frozen. There are tons of things that can be added in as well, I have tried tomatoes, spinach, pancetta and mushrooms before. You could also replace the ham with rotisserie chicken. I also couldn’t find macaroni at Trader Joe’s this time, so I ended up with a penne, which was still delicious!

½ shallot chopped
2 slices of ham
1/3 lb Gruyere cheese (about ½ c chopped into small pieces)
1/3 lb Gouda cheese (about ½ c chopped into small pieces)
½ lb sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 c. chopped or shredded) plus ¼ c for topping.
¼ c grated parmesan cheese
¼ bread crumbs
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs white wine
1 tsp white truffle oil (opt)
Salt and Pepper
1 lb pasta (macaroni, penne, etc.)
1 serving white sauce (see recipe below)

Heat oven to 350F. Boil water for pasta. When boiling add pasta and cook until soft, but not overcooked. Drain and place aside. Heat olive oil in sauce pan. Add shallots and ham. Cook for approximately 4 minutes on medium heat. Remove from saucepan and place aside. Make white sauce as shown below. For this one I replaced about a ¼ of the milk with cream, but milk will work just as well. With heat on low, add Gouda, Gruyere and cheddar cheeses a little at a time, allowing to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste, white wine and white truffle oil if you have it. Mix shallots and ham back into cheese sauce. In a pyrex pan (9”x12”) mix cheese sauce and pasta. Sprinkle grated cheddar, parmesan and bread crumbs on top. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. ENJOY!

White Sauce
This recipe comes straight from my mom’s home ec classes and is a great recipe to know for sauces, gravies, etc.
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 c. milk

Over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in flour until smooth. Slowly stir in milk until smooth and return to heat until sauce is thick. For other dishes you can replace the milk with water, broth, cream or any combinations of these. Instead of butter you can use olive oil, margarine, or pan drippings from a meat for a gravy. To make a thicker sauce use 3 tbs of butter and 3 tbs of flour. For a thinner sauce, use only 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of flour.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taco Bar

For Labor Day a group of friends and I headed up to Stinson Beach for the weekend, and a couple of us girls took on the dinner for Friday night. We wanted a simple meal that incorporated the BBQ and of course was delicious. We went for a Taco Bar that incoporated chicken, steak, shrimp and a couple different salsa's to go with it. The Jalapeno Peach Martini finished off the meal with a sweet spiciness.
Peach Jalapeno Martini
4 oz Peach Vodka
2 oz White Cranberry Juice
1 oz Triple Sec
Juice of one lime
1 Tsp. Sugar
Add ice to shaker and two slices of Jalapeno (take out the seeds). Muddle the ice and Jalapeno a bit – not too much as it will make it too hot. Add in the ingredients and shake. Pour into a frozen martini glass and float one slice of Jalapeno without seeds.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
2 avocados
1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced
¼ c shallot
¼ c chopped cilantro
1 lime (Juice)
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Butter lettuce

Mix shallot, lime juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, cilantro and salt and pepper in small bowl. Mix with lettuce and top with avocado and grapefruit.

4 ears corn, in their husks
2 jalapeno peppers
2 vine-ripened, tomatoes, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Soak the ears of corn (in their husks) in a deep bowl filled with cold water for 1 hour, placing a plate or other heavy waterproof item on top of the corn to keep the ears submerged.
Preheat a grill to medium. Lay the corn on the grill and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, turning frequently, until the outer leaves are blackened. Grill the jalapenos for 5 to 6 minutes, turning periodically. Remove the corn and jalapenos from the grill and set aside to cool.
Once the corn is cool, remove the husks and silk and discard. Cut the kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl. Stem, seed and finely chop the jalapenos and add to the bowl with the corn, along with the tomatoes, red onions, garlic, cilantro, mint, lime juice, olive oil and salt. Stir well to combine.

Mango – Pineapple Salsa
½ Pineapple chopped
2 mangos
1 red bell pepper
½ red onion chopped (about ½ c)
¼ c chopped cilantro
1 lime (juiced)
¼ Serrano chili (about 1 tsp chopped)
Mix together all ingredients. Serve cold. I recommend chopping the pineapple and mango into very small pieces, and make sure to retain all of the juices.
Chili Skirt Steak
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs plus 1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 tbs chipotle chile powder
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder or very finely ground coffee beans
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
On a cutting board, crush garlic cloves using the flat side of a large knife; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place the flat side of the knife blade on top of the garlic and salt; press firmly, pulling knife toward you. Repeat until a paste forms; transfer to a small bowl. Add chile powder, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, pepper, espresso, and remaining tablespoon salt; stir to combine. Rub mixture all over skirt steak, and place in a large freezer bag to marinate for 30 minutes.
Preheat grill pan over high heat, or use an outdoor grill. Place steak on grill, and cook for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve thinly sliced steak.

Lime Cilantro Chicken and Shrimp
4 Limes
½ Olive Oil
½ c chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 lb shrimp pre-cooked
6 pieces boneless chicken breasts
In a separate bowl (or large plastic bag) for each add ingredients and cover chicken and shrimp entirely. Garlic can be crushed as it was for Skirt Steak. Marinate chicken for approximately 30 mintues and the shrimp for approximately 20 mintues. Place shrimp on skewers and grill on each side for about 5 minutes or until warm. For chicken grill until it bounces back under a spatula.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shrimp Scampi

Another easy Sunday night dinner with very few ingredients! There are so many different recipes for Shrimp Scampi online, which I have combined a little bit of each of them for this dish. Clare and I first made this recipe in college and it was the first time I appreciated mushrooms and shrimp, two of what are now a couple of my favorite ingredients. Make sure you include the Worcestershire sauce; I consider it the secret ingredient!

½ bag frozen shrimp
½ box Bowtie Pasta
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 lemon
3 cloves Garlic - chopped
¼ parsley – chopped
¼ c white wine
½ tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tbs olive oil
Parmesan Cheese

Boil water and add pasta. Run shrimp under cold water in strainer to thaw. Heat olive oil in stir-fry/sauté pan. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add shrimp to pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add juice of lemon, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add parsley. Mix pasta into pan and serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

This semi-homemade dinner is so easy and only takes about 30 minutes for prep and cooking. I love cheese, and parmesan is one of my favorites to include in meals, so this dish has a lot of it! I used the Three Cheese Marinara Sauce from Trader Joe’s, and other than that the rest of my ingredients were in my kitchen or fridge! I added the fresh herbs in because I had them, but any sort of Italian Dried herbs will work as well. (Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, etc.)

½ Jar (about 12 oz) Marinara Sauce
2 pieces Chicken
1 egg white
¼ c grated Parmesan Cheese
4-6 slices Parmesan Cheese
1/3 c Bread Crumbs
¼ c Basil chopped
¼ c Parsley chopped
1 tbs olive oil

Boil Water and cook pasta. (I used about ½ a box of bowtie pasta, which made me about 3 meals worth of pasta). Place egg white on plate or shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl mix together bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, ½ of the amount of basil and parsley and salt and pepper. Dip chicken into egg white coating on both sides. Dip chicken into breadcrumb mix coating on both sides. Heat olive oil in frying pan. Cook chicken on medium on each side for about 2 minutes. Pour Marinara Sauce in to frying pan around chicken. Place slices of Parmesan cheese on top of chicken. Cover frying pan and cook on Medium for about 20 minutes. (Time will vary depending on thickness of chicken, so make sure to watch carefully and cut into the chicken to check that it is cooked.) Pour marinara sauce onto pasta and add chicken on top.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peach Crisp

This is my favortite summertime desert and is quick and easy and fun to impress friends with. I usually eye ball this recipe, especially with the spices, so make sure you taste test!

5-6 ripe peaches
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. oatmeal
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 c slivered almonds
1 tbs Disarrano (amaretto)
1/8 c. chopped basil (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Slice peaches and place in pyrex pan. (You can choose to peel them, or leave the skins on to make it easier) Mix Disarrano and basil with peaches in the pan. Set aside.

Cut butter into flour until it forms small balls. If you don't have a pastry cutter, a knife and fork also work. Add oatmeal, brown sugar, almonds and spices and mix together. Pour topping onto peaches spreading evenly across pan. Cook at 350F for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!

Photo Courtesy of

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rotisserie Chicken Night #2

Rotisserie Chicken and Heirloom Tomato Sandwich
I just created this tonight after having a sandwich with similar flavors this weekend. Who can resist the taste of Heirloom Tomatoes and Goat Cheese, and since I had the chicken from Sunday night, it just made since to add that in there as well. To go with it I made a simple green salad with my favorite Dijon-Lemon Dressing. A couple notes: I like to use Pugliese Bread for its light flavor, and it is also a little sturdier than other breads and toasts perfectly. I have also found that for cheese, Trader Joes is the best when you don’t need anything too fancy, but still want it to be good, and of course it is cheapest there!

2 slices Pugliese Bread
1 oz Goat Cheese
Shredded Chicken
1 Heirloom Tomato - sliced
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
3 Sprigs Fresh Basil
Mixed Greens
Spread the Goat Cheese on both pieces of toast. Place chicken on one side of toast and sprinkle Balsamic Vinegar on the other side. Toast in Toaster Oven on Medium-High for approximately 3 minutes. Add Basil, Tomato and Mixed Greens.

Dijon- Lemon Vinaigrette
This is my go to Salad Dressing, I like that it isn’t a typical Balsamic Dressing, it doesn’t leave your lettuce tasting bland, but it still light at the same time.
2 tbs chopped shallots
Juice from ½ lemon
¼ c Olive Oil
2 tbs White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbs Dijon Mustard
Mix together all of the ingredients and add to your favorite salad!

Rotisserie Chickens

I love the taste of Rotisserie Chickens as well as the cost of them and the ample recipes that you can use them in. I can usually use one Rotisserie Chicken for 3 or 4 meals and they usually cost around $6-7. Just some ideas are enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches, chicken pesto lasagna, pasta salad with chicken, chicken sandwiches and just tossing it on a salad! Last night I bought one and plan on using it for at least a couple meals this week including the enchiladas below. This recipe actually comes from my friend Alison’s mom a couple years ago, and I love it! This also makes a good entertaining recipe, since it will make 5-6 servings!

Chicken Enchiladas
1 large can enchilada sauce (green or red)
10-12 corn tortillas
4 cups Mexican blend cheese
½ rotisserie chicken
½ c. chopped cilantro
½ tbs cumin
½ c. minced onion

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Heat ½ can of enchilada sauce in saucepan over medium. Place tortillas in sauce, making sure each side gets coated in the sauce. (Alison just taught me this as a trick to keep the tortillas from breaking) Pull apart rotisserie chicken into small strips. Mix in bowl with cumin, cilantro and onion. Cover the bottom of a Pyrex pan with enchilada sauce. Lay one tortilla and fill with chicken mixture and a handful of cheese. Roll and turn so the open side faces down. Repeat, lining the enchiladas up in the pan, filling the pan. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top and sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.