Thursday, November 18, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese the Right Way

Macaroni and cheese. My favorite food. I could eat this stuff every day for the rest of my life. I would die weighing about 3 tons, but yum-o.
Now, there are a lot of different ways of making mac'n'cheese out there today, and I have tried quite a few of them, but I always come back to my mom's recipe. It's not baked, so there are no nasty, crunchy pieces of pasta, and the ingredients aren't all just dumped together, which always produces extra-greasy, gloppy, separated mac. Also, it does not come out of a blue box, which is the best part. My hubby grew up on that blue box crap, and I am proud to say that I am the one who introduced him to the good stuff. He's very glad i did.
And I'm sorry, but like most of my family's recipes, there aren't really any measurements or decipherable instructions, but I shall try my best to translate. I will warn you that this stuff can get addicting, because it's easy, and it's

Judy's mac'n'cheese. (It's a long story why we call it Judy's, ask me sometime you want a laugh)

8 oz elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
about 1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
Shredded cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
A dash of ground mustard
Salt and pepper

Boil your macaroni to al dente. While that cooking, make a roux. I.E. melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once fully melted, add the flour and mix well, and cook that mixture for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk and cook and stir that over medium low heat until it gets all nice and thick. Add the mustard, salt and pepper. Then turn off the heat, add the cheese and stir until it's all the way melted.
Drain your macaroni well, and then combine the cheese sauce and the pasta. Eat it straight from the pot. Just do it.
There are lots of variations you can do to this recipe as well. You can use half and half cream instead of milk, or a combination of those (which is great is you need to use up leftover half and half). You can also use different kind of cheeses. Today I used Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar and it was A-MAZING. Any kind of cheese you'd like, really. Just so long as it melts nicely, that is. Enjoy!

I apologize for the terrible picture, hubby was quite ill today, and I was therefore not really applying myself to spending time taking a really good picture.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sauteed Veggies with Rice

I had quite the busy day today, what with running errands all over town and then randomly deciding to reorganize my entire pantry, which was a lot of fun, but took a while.
So when it came time for dinner, I wanted to make something fast and easy. I had seen a recipe for vegetable saute on from Alton Brown's Good Eats. I didn't have everything his recipe called for, so I created my own version of it. It was very, very good and really simple. This ensemble of rice and veggies is great because you can fix the veggies in the same time it takes for your rice to cook. What's that quote from the A-team? "I love it when a plan comes together." Amen.

My version of Alton Brown's Vegetable Saute

4 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 carrot, cut in 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pinch pepper
About 4-5 ounces trimmed fresh green beans
1/4 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 med. zucchini, shredded
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
pinch of dried mint leaves

Place green beans in a microwave safe bowl, add about 3 Tbsp. water, cover and microwave for about 3 minutes.
Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Once oil starts to shimmer, add the garlic, ginger, carrots, and salt and pepper. Saute for 4 minutes.
Add the cabbage and saute for 1 minute.
Add the green beans, saute 1 minute.
Add the zucchini and stir.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegars.
Serve with hot rice and garnish with a sprinkle of mint.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cardamom Bread Braid

Today was a rainy, gray day. The kind where you want to stay in bed all day...well if you're a normal person, that is. Days like today make me want to bake stuff. It makes me feel all fall-y and it helps warm up the house. It's 'comfy', if you will.

This bread is one of my favorite recipes, handed down to me from my mother. I've no idea where she got it from, but I'm glad she did! I'm also glad that she gave me half of her cardamom supply, because it is ridiculously expensive; like $13+ for a little tiny container of it. And if you're a skin-flint like me, you'll have a hard time paying that much for so little.

This bread does take quite a while to make, but it is so worth it if you love fresh bread. And a tip, be sure your place of living is warm (so skin-flints of winter: you'll actually have to turn on your heat), otherwise your bread dough won't rise, and that's bad.

The steps are pretty similar to most yeast breads, mix the ingredients, knead it for a bit, let rise. Shape, let rise. Bake.
One of the differences in this recipe as opposed to most is that it uses warm milk instead of water for the yeast mixture. I also think the most interesting ingredient in this bread is the shredded wheat. I just buy the Post Shredded Wheat original. They are shaped in large squares, and crumbling one is enough for one batch of this bread.

Just before baking, you'll also brush the top of your braid with milk and sprinkle a healthy amount of sugar on it. The taste and texture this step adds always reminds me of the sugar covered pretzels the Germans eat in celebration of St. Martin's day. So don't forget this step, because it really adds a delicious little touch of sweetness.

Also, the best part of making this bread is braiding the dough. I always loved to watch my mom braid it when I was little, thinking it was so awesome that she was braiding food in the same why she used to braid my hair. Yes, I was an easily entertained child....
So if you have kids, letting them help braid the dough would be a great way to involve them in the workings of the kitchen, which is something I believe every child should get to experience.

So...what are you waiting for? Get baking, people!

Cardamom Braid
1/2 cup whole wheat cereal biscuits (I use Post Shredded Wheat Original)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
milk and sugar for topping

Stir together the crushed wheat biscuits, 3/4 cup flour, yeast and cardamom; set aside. Heat milk, butter and sugar in a small saucepan until butter is melted and milk is between 110 and 115 degrees. Add to cereal mixture, stir until combined. Add the eggs and beat for 3 minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining 2 1/4 cups flour to make a stiff dough. (Sometimes you will have to use more then the recipe calls for.) Knead dough for 3 minutes, or until elastic. Put in a greased bowl, cover with a dish towel and let rise until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down, divide it into 3 even pieces and let them sit for 10 minutes.
Roll each piece into a 16 inch rope. Connect the 3 ends, make a braid, and connect the other 3 ends. Cover with a dish towel and let rise until double.
Brush the top of the braid with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 35 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup!!

Okay, so today was our first cheat day on our new diet plan, which by the way, is simply: eat healthier foods in smaller portions.

Anyway, today I made Cheeseburger Soup, from the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Ever since Erich and I saw that episode we've been wanting to try this.

I followed the recipe from the show pretty closely, but I added some touches of my own that made this soup taste much more like an actual cheeseburger rather than a plain ol' hamburger.

I did still try to make this as healthy as possible, although that was pretty difficult. I'll explain the steps in a second, but be warned, you will think you are drinking a cheeseburger when you eat this stuff, it's amazing!

Sarah's version of Grover's 'Cheeseburger Soup'

1 lb. 96% lean ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 Tbs. butter
16 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
1 15 oz. jar cheese whiz
1/2 pint (1 cup) fat-free half and half
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. water
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped

These are my additions to make it taste more like a cheeseburger:
4 Tbs. dill pickle juice (or you could dice up a couple large dill pickles)
1-2 Tbs. Heinz yellow mustard (more or less to your taste)

Alrighty, first you want to brown your ground beef, season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.
Melt the butter in a large soup pot and saute the onions until translucent. Add the broth, cheese whiz, and half and half to the pot and cook over medium heat until the cheese has all melted. Don't let the mixture boil yet.
Make a slurry out of the Tbs of water and the Tbs of flour and add that to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and then add the ground beef.
Reduce the heat to medium low and add the tomato, lettuce, pickle juice and mustard. Serve immediately.

My hubby just about went nuts over this recipe. It tasted so much like a cheeseburger without a bun it was almost creepy. I just wish it was healthier, because I'd make it more often then... :(
But you definitely must try this stuff once, because if you like cheeseburgers, this soup will make you very happy.

Side note: I probably won't be updating this blog more that twice a week, though I will try to write as often as possible, but what with the holiday season fast approaching, (made worse by the fact that I work for the USPS) things have gotten kind of busy of late. But don't worry, I'm not disappearing entirely!

Honey Chicken Stir-Fry

This is a short post for I have another post to wrote because I fell behind in getting these up. Yes, I know, shame on me.

This was a delicious recipe I made a couple nights ago, it was super simple, so it's definitely a good recipe for a busy day.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was that I used thin spaghetti instead of angel hair.

Here is the link to the recipe:
And here's the picture :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Asian Pork Tenderloin Salad

I know it's been a little while since I've posted, things have been quite busy at the start of this month, what with celebrating Erich's birthday and all. But now life is getting back to normal...hopefully.
This month we decided that we are going to eat more healthy, balanced meals. Erich would like to lose some weight and I would like to stay right where I'm at, so we are shooting for about 1500 calories a day for him and about 1200 a day for me. We also decided that we will have four 'cheat' days a month, where we will be allowed to eat some more indulgent foods. So we shall see how it goes.

So now for the food. I got this recipe out of one of my Taste of Home cookbooks, Simple & Delicious. I changed the recipe a bit, but not hugely. I also found a basic recipe for an Asian style dressing. Which I also changed.
The salad recipe called for 2 pkgs of 'Asian Crunch Salad Mix'. I couldn't find any of that, so I just substituted a bag of baby spinach and a bag of mixed greens. I also added some bean sprouts for some extra crunch.
The dressing was good, but if I ever make it again, I will use much less olive oil and more honey. I also used 1 tsp of ground ginger instead of fresh ginger.

Making the salad is super easy, you just slice the pork tenderloin and marinade it for 1 hour. Cook it and then toss it with the greens and apricot slices. It's that easy.

Asian Pork Tenderloin Salad

1 can (15 oz.) apricot halves
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound), thinly sliced
2 packages Asian crunch salad mix (I used spinach, mixed greens and bean sprouts)

Drain apricots, reserving 1/2 cup of juice; set apricots aside. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, oil, ginger, garlic, mustard and reserved juice; add pork. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Drain and discard marinade. In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry pork for 4-5 minutes or until juices run clear. Prepare salad mixes according to package directions; top with apricots and pork.

Asian Dressing

1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs + 2 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. + 1.5 tsp honey
2 Tbs water

Combine all ingredients and whisk.