Monday, July 27, 2009

Comfort Food - Mac & Cheese

Is it just me or are rainy days the perfect time to break out the comfort food? I've had a stove-top mac and cheese recipe stored away for a while that I wanted to try. It has just been waiting for the right moment. As usual I have changed the recipe; one because I like to put peas in just about anything I can (Come on. Give peas a chance.), and two because I live with a carnivore who requires meat at each meal.

So here it is, my fully loaded mac & cheese.

3 cups (1 bag) halved cherry tomatoes
Cooking Spray
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 slices sourdough bread (or any available bread)
1 tsp butter, melted
12 oz package of large elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cup cubed ham
8 oz bag of shredded extrasharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1/4 cup egg substitute
Kosher salt
Ground Red pepper
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (low-fat)


1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Get out a baking dish large enough for all cherry tomatoes (13x9 is plenty big enough) and coat with cooking spray. I use a glass baking dish for easy clean up. Place all tomatoes in the dish in one layer and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) While your tomatoes cook, you'll finish the rest of the meal. So everything should be ready in 30 minutes total. Take your bread and tear it into chunks. Place in a food processor or, my favorite, the Magic Bullet and pulse until you've got crumbs. Toss the crumbs with the melted butter and spread on a baking pan (any kind will do). These go in with the tomatoes for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure you stir them around every few minutes so they don't burn.

The finished product should look about like this.

3) On the stove, cook your macaroni in boiling water for about 7 minutes. My no stick trick is to add a bit of cooking spray or vegetable oil to the pot. During the last minute of cooking add in the frozen peas.

4) Drain the macaroni and peas and return them to the pot. You will need to change the stove top temp to medium-low heat. Add in the ham, cheese, and remaining ingredients. Season with salt and red pepper according to taste. I do 2-3 pinches of kosher salt and a pinch of red pepper. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring constantly until the cheese melts.

5) Fold in the tomatoes. Dish it up and add a layer of yummy bread crumbs to the top. A nice side salad and a glass of red wine couldn't hurt either. Now tell me that's not tasty looking!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fish Fry Sauce

I had a few requests for the "cajun mayo" I made for last week's fish fry, so here it is.

You'll need a food processor for this. I made quite a bit for our large gathering, so the ingredient list makes a party sized amount.

1 egg
2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 whole fresh lemon)
2-3 tsp garlic (fresh or the minced kind from the jar)
1/4 cup DILL pickle relish
1 Tbsp Creole Mustard (big squeeze)
2-3 tsp Horseradish (decide how hot you want it)
2 tsp parsley (about 2 handfuls unchopped)
3 Tbsp green onions, chopped
2 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

Put all ingredients except the Vegetable Oil in the food processor. Let it mix and chop for about 1-2 minutes until there are no big pieces. Leave it running and drizzle in the vegetable oil until it is all mixed. It should be thick like mayo. If it isn't, keep mixing. Chill until you're ready to serve it with something yummy like catfish.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

I've been craving a good salad dish for a while, and what better time than one of the hottest days of the year. Because it is the Fourth of July, I guess it needs to be something red!

We'll call this creation...

Strawberry Fields Salad


2 cups of chopped chicken breast meat (about 2 breasts)
2 cups of quartered strawberries
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 Tbsp golden raisins
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp basalmic vinegar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
salad greens


This is really just assembly. You will need to cook the chicken ahead of time. We just threw ours in the oven at 350 degrees until the internal temp reached 170 degrees. Once it has cooled to the point where you don't shout profanities touching it, cut it into chunks.

I also use this time to crisp up some baguette or french bread in the oven. Add a little goat cheese after it is done, and you've got a great compliment to any salad.

Now it's time to combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Set it aside, and combine the next 7 ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken mixture. Take a spatula or your fingers and get the chicken mix well coated. This could be chilled or served right away.

Spread goat cheese on the baguette pieces to serve with your salad.

Scoop the chicken mixture on top of salad greens of your choice and enjoy! Oh, and don't forget the wine. I'm no expert, but a reisling went really well with the strawberries.

Happy eating!

Summer of Salmon

Okay, so the title is a little wrong, but there's nothing wrong with this summer treat. If you aren't a fish person, use pork. The spice rub is perfect for chops.

1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
4 salmon filets (about 6 oz size)
2 cups cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp cider vinegar


1) Preheat your oven's broiler and get out a jelly-roll pan for the fish. You can spray it down with cooking spray if you like, but we've found that letting it stick a bit takes the skin off the bottom for you. If you like extra work, by all means cut the skin off instead.

2) Get out your yummy salmon filets. Mix up a rub consisting of the first 7 ingredients and 1/4 tsp of the salt. (other half of salt goes in the relish)

3) Rub evenly over the fish.

The finished product should look like this. Now throw that baby in the oven on a jelly-roll pan. Broil for about 8 minutes. The fish should be flaky but still pink.

4) While you wait, it's time to grab a refreshment and make the relish to go on the fish. Mashed potatoes go well with this dish, so plan on making these during this time as well.

Combine the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt with the rest of the ingredient list (cucumber, bell pepper, onion, mint, capers, and cider vinegar). Toss well and set aside.

Put it all together, and you've got one tasty summer dish. Did I mention it only takes a few minutes to make.

*We had some extra relish left over with this recipe, and it saves really well. You could have it as a snack on crackers, or have a repeat of this dish with pork.