A Proper Mac and Cheese

So, following the awful recipe that was the “Cauliflower Mac and Cheese”, we endeavored to find a recipe that would redeem Mac and Cheese once and for all. The Garlic X3 cookbook offered such a contender (Giatura made it once before, but this was my first chance to try it). So, without further ado, the recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomato Topping:

Serves 8

  • 1 lb pipette (originally called for elbow macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (Colonna Italian Style)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, 1/2 tbsp dry (recipe called for 3 tbsp fresh) minced
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup frozen, chopped onions (called for 1 medium onion)
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, pressed (called for 3)
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and minced
  • 3 tbsp bleached flour (calls for unbleached)
  • 3 cups 2%, lactose free milk, HEATED (calls for whole milk)
  • 3 cups mild cheddar cheese (called for sharp)
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream (calls for whole cup – DO NOT USE NO-FAT)
  • Kosher salt (a dash)
  • Ground pepper (a dash)
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme/1 tsp dried (we used dried)
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices

Giatura (Gia) started by liberally greasing the casserole dish with unsalted butter, while I began unwrapping and pressing the garlic.

a garlic press atop the pressed garlicThis is an awesome garlic press. The pressing surface is huge, so more of the garlic gets pressed each time. The silver tab on the far right enables the pressing surface to swing out for easy cleanup. Yay GoodCook garlic press!!! ❤ Gia

She preheated the oven to 375°, and put the water on for the pasta. The pasta should be cooked to al dente, or to two minutes before the time listed on the box. Next, Gia combined the breadcrumbs and Parm, while I cut what little fresh parsley we had. Thankfully we had enough to mix in the 2 tbsp necessary for the breadcrumb/parm mixture.

mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs in a bowl with spoonsThe breadcrumb, Parmesan, and parsley mixture.

Gia melted 2 of the 6 tbsp of butter (medium heat), and added the garlic, followed by the onions (she defrosted, drained, and dried them first). That got covered, and allowed to cook for 3 minutes on a low heat. She separated the solid pieces from the liquid – the solids were set aside, and the liquid was poured into the breadcrumbs.

Next she melted the remaining butter (same heat), while adding the flour. I whisked that in, and it was then that we discovered the milk was supposed to be hot… and needed to quickly heat it up in another pan. It didn’t ruin anything in the end, so no damage done. The mixture was supposed to boil for a moment (happened), then thicken after having the heat turned down. This never quite happened, so we eventually added the cheddar, sour cream (which was interesting to scrape out of the container), salt and pepper, followed by the onions/garlic from before. The recipe called for MORE salt to then be added with the pasta, and we promptly ignored that. This got liberally stirred together.

macaroni in cheese sauce, gooey cheese stuck to spoonYummy Gooey Goodness

The mixture just fit in the casserole dish, with enough room to add the breadcrumb mixture on top. It then went into the oven for 35 minutes, was allowed to cool for maybe 2, and then promptly enjoyed. Gia says: Om nom nom nom!

the final productFinally done! Om nom nom!

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Impromptu Risotto-ish

Garlicturino86 (GT8) and I were hungry, so we decided to cook together. We took a look at the fridge and pantry and pulled out the items that were available for us to use. They were surprisingly limited: black beans, chicken broth (with vegetables and herbs), garlic, jasmine rice, pasta, a very small amount of frozen broccoli, fresh carrots, and milk.

“What can we possibly make with this?” I asked.

“Well, we can use the rice and chicken broth to make a sort of risotto,” GT8 replied.

I set to work peeling carrots and GT8 finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic. We heated 1.5 cups of chicken broth to a boil, then added 1 cup of jasmine rice and let it cook, covered, for about 15 minutes. I defrosted the broccoli and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Once GT8 had cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces we set them to boil as well, allowing them to cook for nearly as long as the rice. I also rinsed and drained a can of black beans.

Once the carrots were fairly soft and sweet, we drained them. We heated some olive oil in a frying pan, browned the garlic, then added the broccoli, followed a little while later by the carrots and the beans. By the time they were ready, GT8 had taken the rice off the heat and transferred it into a large bowl. I mixed in the beans and vegetables. The flavors all blended together marvelously, especially the rice and beans. This is definitely a meal we would both like to make again sometime.

The Stir Fry

This past weekend my close friend and best man came up to hang out. As is usually the case when he comes around, my kitchen gets invaded, and I get bumped down to sous-chef.

Thankfully, he’s a good cook, and we work well in the kitchen together, so the takeover is not a big deal.  One of the other usual things that happens is that a stir fry is one of the meals that gets cooked.

Our typical stir fry uses a store-bought teriyaki sauce. This weekend’s was different though.

Ingredients:

About 2lbs of Beef, cut into small strips (we used mostly a stir fry mix that was already the right general size, and only needed to be cut up a little).

1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice (makes 3 cups cooked)

About 1/2lb Bell Pepper Strips (frozen)

General Tso’s Sauce and Orange Ginger Sauce (Shoprite’s brand… surprisingly good – and I’m sure at least one of them contains garlic)

Soy Sauce (Reduced Sodium)

Fresh ground black pepper

Butter flavored grilling oil (leftover by an ex-roommate)

Preparation:

(Hours before – we marinated the beef in a mixture of the sauces and black pepper. As usual, the amount of each was a bit random – very much in my nature of “a dash of this” and “a pinch of that”)

I started by getting the rice cooking, since we figured it would take the longest, then started the peppers thawing process. We goofed on the timing a bit, so the rice finished just as the first portion of the meat hit my deep walled frying pan. We also managed to goof on proportions, so much so that we needed to cook the meat and peppers in batches.

Speaking of the peppers, they were simply sauteed in the butter flavored grilling oil. They were cooked until they just lost their crunch. The meat was cooked to well-done.

Once everything had finished, we served each item in its own bowl, letting each person present to choose what they wanted in their meal.

Conclusions:

Normally, I would have used one pan for everything but the rice (and even that might eventually get put into the pan toward the end), and I would have sauteed the peppers in olive oil and some chopped garlic. The butter grill oil gave the peppers a nice richness they normally don’t have, and the meat was perfect. All that remains of the meal is a small serving of the peppers, which will find their way into another dish soon.

Cooking On the Fly

I love pasta, but it requires too much forethought. You have to get the water heating early, so it has time to boil and then you add the pasta and then it needs time to cook. Yuck. I just don’t have the patience for that. Today I was way too busy playing Solitaire to make pasta.

(Seriously, whoever came up with the version of Solitaire where you draw 3 cards from the deck at a time was evil and sadistic.)

For this dish, I went straight to the frying pan. I coated the pan with olive oil, chopped up two cloves of garlic, and let that heat for a little while. Then I added 2/3 cup whole grain rolled oats. They soaked up all the oil, fast. After stirring them around for a bit, I added 7 oz frozen mixed bell pepper slices, then topped it all off with a few splashes of soy sauce. Why soy sauce? I’ve been finding that these oats benefit from a little bit of salt, and I wanted to make sure they had enough moisture.

Oats and Peppers in a frying pan

Call me crazy (it would match my mood) but I wanted a source of protein, so I cracked an egg into the middle of this.

See above, with Egg

As awesome as that looks, it seemed a better idea to mix the egg in with the other ingredients. So I mixed it around, creating a rather more consistent texture. If the oats needed any additional moisture, the egg certainly provided it.

Finally, I wanted some nuts, so I decided to sprinkle a handful of pine nuts on top.

Oats, peppers, and egg mixture, topped with pine nuts

A few more minutes of stirring, and the moment of truth had come. Is this concoction edible? YES!!! Thank goodness, too, because I have to run to class. The recipe above makes 2 servings. Buon appetito!

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