Recipe 31: Ranch Mac Hack

You ever do recipe planning for the week?  I try to do that every now and then.  Now that both Loverman and I are working days (at least for now), we are trying it out.  I had intended to make a mac tonight, but to make a long story short, that didn’t happen and our recipe plan for the week got all kindsa jumbled.  Oops.  Not to fret, however; we have not been going hungry here in the Maison de Mac – and this week’s scheduled mac will likely be made on Sunday.  But don’t hold me to that.  Please?

Anyway, this mac hack is so easy, but it took an online suggestion and recommendation.  Apparently, you can add some ranch dressing and garlic salt to your mac for a creamy, tangy treat!  Mmm…

New recipe coming on Sunday… I hope.  Stay tuned!

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Recipe 30 – Very Special Macaroni and Cheese with Goat Cheese

Well, I’m officially back to work!  Preparing for a new job after a long time out of work really felt to me like preparing for the first day of school all over again: Packing the lunch, laying out the clothes, rearranging sleeping and eating schedules, etc.  While I’ve been enjoying getting back into the swing of things – and trying to keep straight all the various rules and regulation (there are a LOT!) – my little diva-dog had been losing her mind with pining.  My husband suggested I ask if they allow pets to be brought in.  I think I will wait for my probationary period to be over before testing those waters.

At my last job, Loverman was on days while I was on evenings, so for the most part we were on our own for dinner.  While training, however, I am on days, so when I get home it’s time for dinner.  Like, almost right away.  It’s only been two days, but I’ve been trying to make it easier by doing all the prep work I can the night before.  So far, so good – and hopefully that continues during my training time.  Don’t think any of this means that I’ve forsaken you, Weekly Mackers: last night I was dutifully grating cheese and measuring out herbs, etc, in order to continue this mad endeavor.

Oh, just a little not about the title of this mac: I totally didn’t make it up.  It’s a little… odd.

Very Special Macaroni and Cheese with Goat Cheese (from about.com)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (I used corn fusilli)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour (or gluten-free substitute)
  • 2 cups milk, 2% is fine (well, I used skim, so there)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mixed herbs, or 2 teaspoons dried leaf herbs, thyme, sage, chives, etc. (I used all three of these in similar amounts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces goat cheese with herbs or plain (I used plain)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Heat oven to 350°.

Cook macaroni following package directions; drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour until well blended and bubbly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly; continue cooking and stirring until slightly thickened. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper, then stir in the goat cheese and Cheddar (it smells amazing!). Stir in about 3 ounces of the Parmesan cheese. Continue cooking and stirring until cheeses have melted. Stir in the drained macaroni and turn into the prepared baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and toss with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and nicely browned.
Serves 4 to 6.

I wish you could smell this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 4.5/5

I think I’ve made it clear how very much I love goat cheese.  This was no exception.  The picture above was a half recipe (that’s all the goat cheese I had), and after a long day at work, Loverman and I easily polished it off.  Per his usual, Loverman felt it would be much better if there was chicken breast in it.  I don’t think it would hurt things any, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary either.  Similar to my last goat cheese recipe, I think mushrooms – probably portabellas? – would pair well with this if you were so inclined to change anything.  The various herbs I used added a subtle savory element, plus the tanginess of the goat cheese and the slight crunch of the bread crumbs with the Parmesan – perfection.

Funny thing I realized tonight while cooking: I’ve made so much mac and cheese this year that the steps to making the cheese sauce almost come naturally to me at this point.  I always like to double- and sometimes triple-check recipes (and still sometimes mess up), but it’s almost become a rhythm for me.  Ratios still perplex me, as I’m not a professional chef, but the process itself has become something of a breeze for the most part.

I’m not sure if I should feel proud of this new skill or embarrassed that I’ve made so much mac.

 


Recipe 29 – Tuna Casserole Mac Hack

Firstly, you may or may not have noticed, but there is a new link up top as to ways you can help out Weekly Mac if you are so inclined.  This includes pointing me to new recipes, donating items/money, and sharing this page with others.  Anything you are willing and able to do is appreciated, and if I could I’d put a sticker on all your charts for you.

Secondly,  I’m going to start out this mac hack with a little anecdote.  It is (somewhat) related, I swear.

If you are like me, you grew up with Sesame Street.  I seriously loved that show, and it still holds a special place in my heart because I am basically a child in a grown-up body.  I can actually remember a few of the sketches and cartoons from it.  One of the ones that my family and I still sometimes joke about is one where a cat is desperate for his owner to open up his food for him.  We remembered at one point his owner, distracted on the phone, says to her friend, “I never saw tuna casserole look quite like that!”  We kind of use that as a silly thing to say when talking about mundane stuff, don’t ask me why.  Yeah, we are weird.

So I decided since this mac hack was related to tuna casserole, I needed to find the clip online, which I did – and learned we had remembered the line wrong after all this time.  She had never seen stroganoff look quite like that.  Oh, the tricks our memories can play on us!

Anyway, I thought you might get a kick out of that.  And now for the mac hack.

After you make your mac, drain a can of tuna to throw in and add some cream of mushroom soup.  You now have a cheesy tuna casserole.  Important note for fellow gluten-free eaters (gluten-freaters?): Most cream of mushroom soups are not gluten-free!  There are some specialty brands that make gluten-free cream of mushroom soups, but check your labels for sure!  You can also find some recipes online to make a substitute at home.

I have a new recipe all lined up and ready to go within short order.  I start my new job on Monday (hooray!), but hopefully it shouldn’t interfere with posting semi-regularly.  Wish me luck!


It’s a Major Award!

When checking the Comments and Spam Queue for Weekly Mac, imagine my surprise when I saw that another blogger had nominated me for a blog-award!  Li’l ol me?  I do declare!  Allow me to hide my blush behind my fan.

ANYway, thanks to CJ from Food Stories for awarding me the Illuminating Blogger Award:

Ooh, pretty…

The “rules” of this award ask that I share something random about myself and nominate five other illuminating bloggers.  So here goes:

Something random – One of my favorite desserts is ice cream (or frozen yogurt or frozen custard).  Loverman and I even get it in the winter.  We enjoy ice cream so much that rather than having cake at our wedding (which would have likely cost even more than most wedding cakes generally cost, as gluten-free baked goods usually do), we had an ice cream bar and enjoyed our “first scoop” together!

Five bloggers to nominate:

1) The Novice Yogi – This is run by my friend Jen who explains yoga in a simple, non-threatening way that can be approached by anyone.  OK, a little nepotism here.

2) $35 a Week – How to eat well without spending a lot.

3) Domestic Diva, MD – Humorous anecdotes from life (often in medicine, but not always) combined with recipes.

4) Rural Spin – I just discovered this blog and I love it!  All about modern homesteading.

5) First Ways – Blog about urban foraging and medicinal plants

Never thought I’d get recognized for this humble blog.  Thanks!


Recipe 28: Mini Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese

Seemingly forever ago, way, way back at Recipe 2, I made some mac to serve over girl-talk with my friend Jen.  Jen and I go all the way back to elementary school (maybe first grade, definitely second), but we didn’t really become friends until high school, a friendship that improved after we both graduated from college. While we have many similar interests, as friends often do, we are also pretty different.  I am a devoted omnivore, she has been a vegetarian for over ten years.  I have a female dog, she has a male cat.  She runs a yoga blog while I run a mac and cheese blog.  You get the idea.

An unrelated but amusing similarity: She and her husband are called The Cute Couple while Loverman and I have been called The Cutesies.  But I digress.

Clearly Jen has some pretty healthy habits, and she has only been improving them.  She has reduced her intake of both gluten and dairy, does yoga a minimum of three times a week, and drinks a lot of tea.  I had to laugh when she described the “crap” she craves when PMS-ing as “bread and peanut butter;” I meanwhile consider the “crap” I crave when PMS-ing as “junk food like chips and dip.”  But she was coming over today for more lunch and girl-talk, so I wanted to make a mac that was not going to be super-heavy so I could feed her without stuffing her.

The primary cheese in this mac is goat cheese.  I have read in a few places that goat cheese has significantly less lactose than cow milk, making it much more tolerable to people with lactose intolerance.  I am no medical professional or nutrition expert (Hello?  Mac and cheese blog?), so I would not recommend anyone taking risks with their tummies, but Jen had said she tolerates it well, so I figured we’d give this a whirl.  It’s not like I don’t love goat cheese myself!

 

Mini Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Goat Cheese (from the Mushroom Council, which I never realized existed)

Ingredients

  • 4  ounces (about 2 cups) cavatappi pasta, uncooked (I couldn’t find gluten-free cavatappi in my store, so I used corn fusilli)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  pound assorted mushrooms (such as Portabella, crimini, shiitake and oyster), cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4  tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2  cups milk
  • 6  ounces fresh goat cheese (I use Lively Run, a Finger Lakes creamery – probably my favorite goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2  tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1  tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (both this and the fresh rosemary came from our herb garden!)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Flip mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more, until other side is same color.

(Side note: There were so many mushrooms I could not fit them in a single layer even in my biggest pan; I just stirred a lot and eventually they cooked down)

So much for that.

Melt butter in a large saucepan and stir in flour. Cook for a minute or two to slightly toast flour. Stir in salt and whisk in milk. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to slightly thicken sauce, for about five minutes. Remove sauce from heat, whisk in cheeses, rosemary and thyme and stir to melt. Stir in mushrooms and pasta and divide between four one-cup ramekins.

Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake until cheese bubbles around edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes. Serve warm.

Still life with dirty toaster oven – 2012

Verdict: 4/5

If I could only use one word to describe this mac, it would be “earthy.”  The aroma alone was to die for, the tanginess of the goat cheese blending with the woodsy scent of thyme and rosemary (there really is nothing like picking your fresh herbs and crumbling the leaves from the stem by hand).  This combines with the natural umami of the mushrooms was just amazing.  When Jen came in, the mac was in the oven, and she said the smell of it hit her as she entered, making her eager to taste it – and thankfully her eagerness was rewarded with a delicious payoff.  It managed to be hearty without being heavy, satisfying without weighing one down as many other macs can do.

My only complaint is that the ratio of noodles to shrooms seemed a bit off to me, 16 oz of shrooms to only 4 oz of pasta.  This is an easy enough fix – increase the pasta, I’d say probably to 8 oz – but you’d probably need five or six ramekins instead of the four that I had, which were stuffed to the gills.  If it wasn’t for the proportions favoring mushrooms over mac, this would probably have rated a 4.5 instead of “just” a 4.

 

Anyone trying these recipes out too?  I’d love to know how they turn out for you!