Recipe 66: Sausage and Apricot Baked Brie Mac and Cheese

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been out of work for a while due to my health.  This makes money tight, but we manage.  Sadly it does put a damper on such things as V-Day, when you’re supposed to shower your loved one with gifts and candy and all sorts of unnecessary things.  But we always have money for food, including some occasional treats.  Now, I might not have the money these days to make a lobster mac and cheese, but a little indulgence here and there won’t kill us.

Sausage and Apricot Baked Brie Mac and Cheese (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients
9 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound breakfast sausage (mine was pork)
1 pound bow tie pasta (I used small corn shells)
6 tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s)
2 cups milk (mine was skim)
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper to taste
12 ounces Wisconsin brie cheese, rind removed and cubed (mine was not Wisconsin, but use whatever Brie you can, I say)
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (I used regular GF breadcrumbs)
Directions
Heat oven to 350°F.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in sauté pan. Add onion and cook over low until soft and caramelized. Set aside.
Cook sausage in skillet, breaking it apart with spoon into crumbles. Remove from heat and drain. Cook pasta according to package directions, heavily salting the water. Drain and rinse briefly with cool water. Set aside.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle in flour, whisking to form soft roux. Cook until golden brown and bubbly, stirring; slowly pour in milk. Bring almost to boiling point, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add garlic, pepper and brie, mixing until smooth. Fold in prepared pasta, sausage, caramelized onion and dried apricots.
Pour mac and cheese mixture into 9×13-inch casserole dish; top with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

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Verdict: 4/5 – The main reason this doesn’t score higher is because it is kind of a complicated recipe.  None of the steps are individually complicated, but I had all four burners on the stove going, so that doesn’t exactly count as being easy to make.  But in terms of flavor?  Worth it – perfect for breakfast, which is how I served it.  I was worried either the sausage or the apricots would overwhelm the dish, but everything really married together quite well, all adding different textures.  Loverman said he would just have me crumble the sausage more finely and cut the apricots more finely, so it really is just something that needed some minor finessing for all that.  Try this out as s breakfast casserole and you’re sure to be a hit!

 

 

 

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Recipe 65: Mac and Blue

I love my dad.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a daddy’s girl, but my dad just gets me – or at least, when he doesn’t, he admits he doesn’t.  We’re both nerds for history, and we love a lot of the same foods.  Most of those are foods that are bad for you, or “death on a stick,” as he calls it.

One of those foods is blue cheese.  Dad puts it on everything, either the cheese itself or the dressing.  While I don’t carry my love of the blue stuff that far, I do love a chance to highlight it whenever I can.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to serve it to my dad when he came to visit.

Mac and Blue (from the Rachael Ray Show)

Ingredients

1 pound cavatappi or other short cut of spiral or hollow pasta (I used corn elbows)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
1 cup whipping cream  (I used Half and Half)
White pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground mustard
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese or Gruyère cheese (I used white cheddar)
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese, such as Maytag Blue or Stilton
3 to 4 tablespoons minced chives (optional)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it liberally. Undercook pasta by 2 minutes, drain and reserve. Melt butter with garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl garlic a minute or so to infuse the butter then discard. Sprinkle flour over the garlic butter then whisk in milk and cream. Let thicken then season sauce with salt, white pepper, mustard and nutmeg. Stir in 2/3 of the cheese to combine, reserving some of both for topping the mac. Toss in reserved pasta and chives, transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until brown and bubbly, 30 minutes.

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Verdict: 4/5

This recipe was made for me, my dad, and my husband.  All three of us had seconds.  The only downside is that it didnt reheat terribly well, whigh might be because of the gluten-free pasta.  But this is definitely a mac I would make again.


Recipe 64: Stovetop Avocado Mac and Cheese

I’ve talked before how certain foods and I have strained relationships.  These foods are ones that I want to like more, but struggle to get my brain and my palate to meet.  Avocado is one of those foods.  I never liked guacamole, and only recently am I trying to nourish a pleasant relationship with this super-food.  This mac seemed like the perfect chance to try to make things right.

Stovetop Avocado Mac and Cheese (by Two Peas and their Pod)

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dry elbow macaroni (I accidentally cooked the whole bag of corn elbows, so I eye-balled 10oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired

Directions

Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.

Note-the lime juice keeps the avocado from browning. The mac and cheese is best eaten the first day, but it is still good the second day. The pasta may turn slightly brown, but not bad. If you want a milder flavor, you can use Monterey Jack or White Cheddar Cheese

VERDICT: 2.5/5 – Due for a Do-Over: Here’s the thing about avocados: They really need to be ripe.  Not thinking this recipe would be made for another few days, hubby bought under-ripe avocados.  This really detracted from the enjoyment of the dish – just big, unripe chunks that the food processor couldn’t manage to chop up because it was over-stuffed already.  The flavors were good, but the texture was just mealy and unpleasant.  I would try this again with ripe avocados.  It still doesn’t compare, in my mind, to the other mac we had that featured avocado, but it still has the potential to be a good dish.


Recipe 63: Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

You know me.  I make no secret about the fact that I’m gluten-free.  Heck, I have a whole heading where I talk about different gluten-free pastas.  But what might not have noticed is he fact that most of the recipes I make I’m adapting to be gluten-free from “normal” recipes.  Sometimes that makes things go funny.  Remember the mac and cheesecake?  That was probably the disaster it was because of gluten-free pasta.

But every now and then I’m lucky enough to find a recipe made especially for those of us of the gluten-free persuasion.  A recipe which takes into account the quirks of gluten-free pasta.  And when it’s nice and easy like this one?  How could I say no?

Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese (by Gluten-Free Girl and Presented by Parade Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb gluten-free macaroni, elbows or shells (DeLallo, for example) – I used Wegman’s brand of corn shells
  • 1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz soft goat cheese or cream cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – I suggest a heavy hand with these.

Directions

 

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
  • Spread cheddar in bottom of a large bowl. Dot with goat cheese. Drain pasta, reserving ¾ cup pasta water. Add drained pasta on top of cheeses. Pour ½ cup pasta water over pasta. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until pasta is coated with sauce. If you’d like it creamier, add more pasta water, 1 Tbsp at a time. Season with salt and pepper.

 

And here she is!

And here she is!

VERDICT: 3/5 – I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical of how the mechanics of mixing the sauce would work, but it worked like a charm.  The texture is a little one-note since there aren’t any mix-ins, but this is a great flavor.  This would be one of those that serves as a great base for other flavors.  I think chicken or mushrooms would be at home here, maybe even shrimp.  It withstood warming up in the microwave, but by then it was a bit bland.  I think use this as a base recipe and you’ll be much happier.

 

I made this recipe a few days ago, and already tonight I have a new recipe to update you with!  We’re rich with mac and cheese in this house!


Recipe 62: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Summer isn’t the best season for mac and cheese, lets be honest.  It’s so hot you don’t want to fire up the oven or load up on carbs.  But there is an exception to every rule.  I saw this recipe and decided with the lemon and fresh basil, it would be perfect for summer.

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil (from The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta, small shapes, like rotini, penne, fusilli, and gemelli (I used corn elbows)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably freshly-made
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino-Romano, as I tend to prefer it)
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

Directions

Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a few teaspoons of salt and the pasta.

In a metal bowl wide enough to fit over the top of the pot (or glass; that’s what I used), mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, juice and zest of lemon, salt, and black pepper. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta’s cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta and other ingredients. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, add the basil to the bowl of sauce and toss with the drained pasta. Serve immediately.

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VERDICT: 3.5/5 – The flavor is pretty great, but I actually could do with more lemon.  Maybe use lemon pepper or a lemon-flavored olive oil to amp things up.  Also, while the flavor was there, the texture left me wanting.  Maybe Loverman’s usual suggestion of chicken would work, but I think also shrimp or even tempeh would be at home here.  But with the lemon, the basil, and the ricotta, this was a perfectly light meal for summer.

Here’s a question, Weekly Mackers: if I made a Twitter feed, would you follow it?  I don’t have one right now, but I’m toying with the idea.  Let me know either way!


Recipe 61: White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been wanting to try this mac for a while. I found some white truffle oil at an inexpensive price, and I bought it without any clear plan for it; finding this recipe, therefore, was a godsend.

White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese (from The Curvy Carrot)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko – I used a combination of panko, breadcrumbs, and crushed rice/corn cereal.  Sometimes you gotta make-do.
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated – I used Pecorino
  • 1-2 tablespoons white truffle oil (to taste) – I used 2 Tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter – I use salted, I don’t think it makes a difference
  • 2 tablespoons flour – or gluten-free equivalent
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 8 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (or your personal favorite type of pasta) – I used corn elbows
  • Green onions, chopped, for garnish (optional) – I omitted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (this is considered broiling).  Generously spray a 2.5-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon white truffle oil (if using less white truffle oil overall, use about 1/2 tablespoon here), mixing until combined.

3. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. (If you are short on time, it might be helpful at this point to get your water boiling for the macaroni.)

4. Add the flour and whisk continuously until the mixture forms a thick paste, about a minute or so.

5. Slowly whisk in the half and half until smooth (some lumps may remain-that’s ok).

6. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

7. Using a wooden spoon, slowly add the cheeses and stir until completely melted.

8. Add the remaining truffle oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

9. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni as directed on the package.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the cheese sauce.

10.  Evenly distribute the macaroni into the prepared casserole dish and top with the panko mixture.

11.  Broil until the panko topping is lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes.  (Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn!)  Top with green onions (if using) and serve immediately.

My computer isn’t cooperating in regards to the image I have.  It’s a pale white mac, very loose in body.  It’s in a heather colored Fiesta bowl, if you’re interested in that.

VERDICT: 3/5.  I think this is on my personal taste. I’m not sure if it’s the white truffle oil or the fontina cheese, but this left a weird aftertaste in my mouth. Still, it’s not bad necessarily. Broiling it does nothing for the body, which was very soupy, so personally if I made this again, I wouldn’t bother with the crumb topping and would just serve it straight from the pot – so I would stop at Point Nine in the steps above . Normally I like to leave vegetarian recipes as-is, but I think this could benefit from chicken, or maybe even mushrooms.  Even without, it does have a certain earthiness that only could have come from that truffle oil.  Not a perfect recipe, but one worth trying out and impressing your friends with.  And hey, if you make any improvements to it, drop me a line!  I’d love to hear what you did.


Recipe 60: Red Pepper Mac N Cheese

I’ve had this mac in my back pocket for a little while now.  It seemed to me like it would be fairly easy, but also flavorful.  As you may remember, I am a wuss when it comes to spice, but red pepper?  Delicious!  And if it was any good, it would be a nice addition to my arsenal of vegetarian dishes.

Red Pepper Mac N Cheese (from the Frickin Chicken)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 tablespoons of flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 1.5 C milk (mine was skim)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb pasta (any) al dente (firm) (I used corn rigatoni)
  • Bread Crumbs (I skipped this step – see below)
  • 4 Red Peppers chopped (I had 3 red and 1 orange.  I think any sweet not-green pepper would work here)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced

Directions

Melt the butter on low heat, add in the flour.  Stir until bubbles appear – cook for 2-3 mines.  Add 1.5 C milk slowly – stirring constantly.  Blend the Peppers, onions and garlic until smooth and add to the roux.   Add approx 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 1 lb pasta (any) al dente (firm)

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Mix together and bake covered till hot about 15 minutes (I was really hungry so I just mixed mine on the stovetop and called it gravy)

Take off cover, add (buttered) bread crumbs & grated cheese mixture – bake a few more ins or broil for a minute…watching constantly.  It burns quickly.

And look at that color!

And look at that color!

Verdict: 2.5/5 There wasn’t much bad to say about this mac except, well… It was so very bland!  I thought it would be sweet with all those peppers, but instead it had an odd texture verging on gritty.  The cheese got completely lost, offering no real flavor or even texture – mine came out rather soupier than I imagined.  I thought this could be a great way to sneak vegetables into the dishes of children or reticent adults, but there would be no illusions: This is more a vegetable dish than a mac and cheese.  Maybe more cheese, or an extra-sharp would have been better?  As I say, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either.

 

Do you have any mac and cheese recipes you like for me to try in my haphazard but lovable way?  Drop me a line!