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Macaroni and Cheese Nirvana

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I hit upon the world’s best macaroni and cheese by accident in the kitchen last week and I wanted to get the sort of thrown-together recipe down before it escapes my mind, so here you go:

(When I made casserole-type dishes, I always make a ton because it seems like a waste of time NOT to do so. Consequently, this recipe made two huge casserole dishes and two small one-serving pans of mac-n-cheese. I put one casserole in the freezer, gave the two one-serving pans to a friend and we dined on the other casserole two nights in a row.)

This recipe calls for much activity at once. I browned ground beef (am going to use lobster next time) while boiling pasta while making the béchamel while ALSO grating cheese. I managed to dirty eleventy dishes in the process and the kitchen was a disaster. The resulting mac-n-cheese was totally worth it. If you don’t need to make a ton, just half or third the recipe.

2 lbs (2 boxes) pasta–we chose shells (will use whole grain next time)
1 1/2 – 2 lbs ground beef–we use organic
1 lb cheddar cheese–block, not pre-grated
couple tbsp parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil–goes in the pasta while boiling
1/2 stick butter
1 c ap flour
tiny sprinkle nutmeg
1/2 to 1 tsp chili sauce–like Sriracha
1 c milk/half-and-half mixture–I use fat-free milk and a T or two half-and-half
4 c low fat, low sod chicken broth

I think what made this dish so rich is the use of chicken broth instead of all milk in the béchamel. SO. Brown the ground beef and drain grease. Use a large pot to boil pasta because you’ll use it to mix everything together at the end, too. Add olive oil to the water, as well as a bit of salt, and boil the pasta to al dente. Preheat oven to 350.

Grate cheese (I used a food processor. Otherwise this would have taken forever.) Pre-grated cheese is coated, I think, in some sort of preservative that alters the flavor of the cheese and I hate that far more than I hate grating cheese.

Make your béchamel: melt butter in a large saucepan over a burner set to medium heat. Add flour and stir to incorporate. Keep a close eye on the paste and stir frequently. You must get the color of your roux to a light brown without burning it (but honestly, I have never burned it–it must be hard to burn). Once you’ve gotten the roux to the color you’d like (it’s to remove that flour taste), pour your liquids into the pan while whisking or stirring briskly. The contents of the pan will lump up immediately, but will smooth back out again with stirring. Keep burner on medium heat and stir frequently while you wait for béchamel to thicken.

When sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, add a tiny sprinkle of nutmeg and the chili sauce (add more if you love it!) Stir to incorporate and add salt and pepper to taste (don’t over salt because the ground beef makes the dish saltier, too). Add cheese and stir to incorporate. You should still have a smooth sauce at this point.

Add everything to the large pot you used for the pasta. Stir to blend and divide between casserole dishes. Because the dish is inherently greasy, there is no need to pre-grease the dishes. Top with a sprinkling of panko and bake for 25-30 min until bubbly.

I am telling you, the chicken broth makes this dish.

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Delicious Roasty Chicken

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Last night I made Julia’s Healthy Italian chicken for dinner. Here’s the recipe link:

http://www.juliashealthyitalian.com/2011/10/roasted-chicken-with-citrus-glaze.html

I used 8 organic chicken thighs and left the skin on. I made a triple amount of the glaze recipe and put another 8 chicken thighs in a ziploc bag with half of the glaze straight into the freezer, uncooked, for another meal, which was Julia’s suggestion at the end of the recipe.

I considered adding a tablespoon or two of bourbon to the glaze–bourbon and citrus pair well together. I didn’t do it, but I might next time.

This recipe was simple to make and used ingredients I generally have on hand. I think the glaze would be outstanding on pork, too. Thank you, Julia! You haven’t failed me yet!

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Caramelized Onion Dip

Posted on October 11, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Caramelized Onion Dip

After a few years of experimenting with two onion dip recipes, I think I’ve hit upon my ideal homemade onion dip. And, really, aside from the fact that it sort of stinks up your house (and your hair), the resulting dip is light years better than the dried soup mix/sour cream combo people often make.

I started out with Ina’s recipe, but it seemed too fatty (it even tasted highly fatty):

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/pan-fried-onion-dip-recipe/index.html

And then tried [Never Failed Me Once Ever] Mark Bittman’s dip:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/magazine/mag-20Eat-t-002.html

And here’s where we are now:

5-6 large white onions, diced
2 T butter
2 T olive oil (or whatever oil you have on hand)
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
a few stems fresh thyme
a squeeze of lemon
a few T sherry
a sprinkle or two of cayenne pepper (to taste)
16 oz low fat or fat free sour cream
16 oz fat free Greek yoghurt
1/4 c low fat mayo (you could also omit this altogether)

Peel and chop onions. Melt butter and oil together in a large skillet and when melted, add diced onions, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until onions are caramelized (and you should probably eat a spoonful or three to taste this deliciousness). Add sherry and deglaze bottom of pan, scraping up bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon or spatula. After all the alcohol is absorbed, add squeeze lemon and cayenne to taste.

Take onions off burner and allow to cool for 10 min or so. While they’re cooling, in a large bowl, mix sour cream, Greek yog, and mayo. Add thyme leaves and cayenne to onion mixture and stir to combine. When you’re satisfied that the onion mixture has cooled enough not to totally melt the sc/yog/mayo mixture, stir onions into dairy products. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.

This makes enough onion dip to split into two bowls, one to take to a friend’s cookout, and one to keep for yourself. It’s rich and delicious! Enjoy.

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Self-creation or running from yourself?

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: general musings |

At some point in the time since I’ve known my husband, my father told my husband that I am a self-creation. He explained to my bewildered husband that I read things that interested me in books and adopted what I liked into my own life. I don’t think the statement bothered my husband or that my father meant it to be hurtful.

I do think it might have been meant as a warning, somehow, that I might be too malleable or that I might make integral personality or life changes on a whim. But, what my father might have failed to realize, is that if your parents don’t give you all of the tools you need to grow into a fully realized adult, you might have to take on some of your own. And really, is it so very wrong to read Dominick Dunne and decide that you might prefer engraved stationery over thermographed, or thermographed over a tablet and a box of envelopes from the corner drugstore?

(I’m still counting the days until I can add a letterpress printing press to my storage room at my new house. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the new mortgage to go with the new house for a while.)

The other message my father meant to give my husband, however unconsciously, is that he wasn’t quite sure how the child he raised grew into the woman he didn’t always recognize. Again, though, is that so bad a thing? We must take our life lessons from somewhere and, protest though he may at times, guess whose number my father dials when he has an obscure etiquette question? When I was about 12, my father came home from a warehouse club, where they display books on big tables, plunked a fat paperback volume of Miss Manners on my bed and told me to read it from cover to cover. My father may not have expected me to end up the way I am now (set in my ways, always certain I am right, full of opinions about everything), but he planted at least one of the seeds.

The problem with being a self-creation is when you run from yourself. Do you do that? I think I have stopped. I am pretty damned proud of this self, the parent to two, wife to one, domestic overlord to linens in the zillions and pets who come to my house to die. I wonder about people who continuously feel the need to reinvent. What iteration of self, of personality, of life, does it take to finally be happy with yourself?

I am not, unfortunately, the Empress of the Free World, but I sure like that title. It’s possible that I may never write a single word that truly tells you how to live. Perhaps I should have named my blog “How I Live and Why You Should, Too.” Live well. Leave a fine legacy.

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