Recipe 70: Bow ties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta

I saw this recipe and thought it sounded like spring, so I had to try it.

Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta – from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Salt for pasta water
1 pound sugar snaps
1 pound dried pasta bowties
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (Loverman forgot this…)
Glug, then drizzle, of olive oil
Coarse or fine sea salt for sprinkling
Ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
Few leaves of mint, slivered
1 cup ricotta; use fresh if you can find or have motivation to make it

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While waiting, string sugar snaps and cut into 1/2-inch segments. Cook bowties for two minutes less than the suggested cooking time on the package, then add sugar snaps to pasta. Cook for one minute more. Reserve one cup pasta cooking water, then drain sugar snaps and bowties. Add them back to the empty pot with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, grated cheese, a glug of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on high for one minute, tossing constantly. Add a splash more cooking water if pasta looks too dry. Turn heat off, dollop ricotta all over in large spoonfuls and, without stirring, tip pasta mixture into a wide serving bowl. (I do this because I love the idea of finding slightly unmixed pockets of ricotta.) Drizzle pasta with a small amount of olive oil, then squeeze lemon juice over the whole dish, sprinkle with mint, and finish with an extra sprinkling of parmesan. Serve quickly; eat happily.

(Lemon juice, rather rudely, discolors green vegetables so be sure to add this only right before serving, and when it will be eaten before anyone will care.)

Verdict: 2.5/5 – Due for a do-over.  Like I said, Loverman forgot the pecorino.  Without it, it was somewhat bland.  Also Loverman didn’t cut up the sugar snaps, which made it awkward to eat.  He liked it with the mint and the pepper.

 

 

 


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 56: Cheese Kreplach Mac

Every so often I come across a recipe that makes me think “this needs to go on Weekly Mac, but I’m not sure if it counts as a mac.”  The original recipe I came across was for kreplach, which is sort of a Jewish ravioli, for lack of a better term, but was easily transformed into a mac.
Cheese Kreplach Mac (inspired by this recipe from My Jewish Learning)
Ingredients
  • 8oz elbow macaroni (I used corn)
  • 8oz plain goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar seasoning
Directions
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and return to pot.  Mix in goat cheese and seasoning and serve.
Not much to look at.

Not much to look at.

Verdict: 2.5/5
I think the amount of seasoning I used dried out the taste too much.  Maybe stick with one teaspoon, or maybe even a little less.  Start with half a teaspoon and add from there: a little goes a long way.

Recipe 45 Adapted Inception Mac and Cheese

Every now and then I see a mac and cheese recipe that I absolutely cannot wait to try.  Many, many recipes get bookmarked to check on later – I could probably eat mac and cheese every day if I made all of them as soon as I found them, and I found trying to do it once a week challenging enough.  So it takes a certain j’nais sais quoi (did I spell that right?) to pique my interest right away.
Cheetos Mac and Cheese was one of those recipes.
I won’t lie, it was probably the obscenely unnatural neon orange color that lured me in.  How could I say no to such an obvious example of indulgence?  Not fancy-schmancy indulgence either (the kind that might be healthier to, well, indulge in), but just American junk food I’ll-have-what-I-want-because-Freedom indulgence.  Sometimes a gal gets those cravings.
Image

I mean, who could resist this siren song?

So when I made up the grocery list for Loverman this week, I asked him to get me a small bag of Cheetos, or the equivalent store brand.  Just one of those personal-sized ones should be enough, I figured.

 
He came back with this:
 
BOOM!

BOOM!

Neither of us had known such a thing existed, but now that we had it, we needed to try it with this recipe.  It was the ultimate: a mac and cheese within a mac and cheese.  MAC-CEPTION!  I decided to re-do the recipe with these instead of Cheetos, so alas, I did not get the same freaky orange color.  But when I opened the bag, these tasted pretty well the same as your average cheesy poof – except LOOK!  They are tiny macaroni noodles, except POOFED!

OK, enough of me siting here agog at these things.  Let’s get to the recipe:

Adapted Inception Mac and Cheese (adapted from Cheetos Mac and Cheese, and basically the same really, but let me feel special)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup uncooked macaroni (I used corn shells)
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Bisquick (they do make a gluten-free Bisquick, but I used Cup 4 Cup, another gluten-free all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (yes, in addition to the above)
  • 1/2 cup crushed Cheetos (or similar cheesy curl/poof product)

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease pie plate 10 x 1 1/2 inches (I actually don’t have a pie plate, so I used an 8×8 Pyrex dish). Mix 2 cups cheese and the macaroni. Sprinkle in plate. Beat remaining ingredients except 1/4 cup cheese until smooth, 15 seconds in blender on high or 1 minute with hand beater. Pour into plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese and Cheetos. Bake until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Verdict: 2.5/5

I don’t have a picture, but this really wasn’t a feast for the eyes.  Or the stomach, for that matter.  I’m telling you, I am actually really bummed out at how very bland this was.  I was worried that my gluten-free pasta wouldn’t cook like normal pasta, but that wasn’t an issue.  It was just bland, bland, bland.  Loverman said he didn’t think it was too bad, but he also added some more hot sauce to his (I think Sriracha, if that makes any difference to anyone).  Maybe mixing the cheesy poofs into the batter might help, or maybe using the real deal – i.e. the brand name – but I know something else is surely needed to make this live up to it’s promise.

 

Hey guys!  Remember I also have a non-mac blog for reluctant house-spouses like myself, Domestic Dalliances.  Feel free to Like it on Facebook too!

 

Recipe 44: Vegan Green Chile Mac N “Cheese”

Hello!  I’ve been away from this blog for quite a while.  I haven’t been eating anywhere near as much mac and cheese, though I’ve stopped the anti-inflammatory diet that I mentioned in my last post.  Turns out it wasn’t as helpful as previously hoped = though this recipe probably would have fit under its guidelines, actually.

I know, it says vegan.  It’s OK.  It scared me, too.

One of the most intimidating things about making a vegan “cheese” sauce is that it takes so many steps that I’m not accustomed to.  Making a roux and melting a variety of cheeses in it – that’s what I’ve gotten used to.  This required steps like “soak cashews overnight” and mixing things up in a blender.

The other intimidating thing about making a vegan “cheese” is the fact that it’s a vegan “cheese.”  To be clear, I have nothing against vegans, but I have had commercially made vegan “cheese” and found it, in a word, lacking.  Even the best I had never had the same taste, texture, or consistency that I love about cheese.  It was never as smooth, as creamy, nor did it have any of the natural flavors – the bite of a sharp cheddar, the tang of a goat cheese – that come with real cheeses.  I definitely entered into this recipe with serious doubts as to how it would turn out.

 

Vegan Green Chili Mac N “Cheese” (from The Minimalist Baker)

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces large macaroni shells (I used rice elbows)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight, then drained (I did mine overnight)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (mine was homemade)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 4-ounce can diced chiles – scoop half into the sauce, reserve half for the finished mac n cheese
  • Optional: 1 cup tortilla chips, fresh cilantro for topping (I didn’t do this, but it might have helped)

Directions

If topping with tortilla chips, crush chips into fine crumbs and add to a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Spritz with olive or canola oil, sprinkle with salt and stir, then bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Boil macaroni according to package instructions.  In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, sautee onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook until soft and fragrant – about 7 minutes. Set aside.  Add onions and garlic to a blender with remaining ingredients, omitting the tortilla chips and adding only half of the green chilies. Blend until smooth, using the “liquify” setting if you have it to get it really smooth. Otherwise just blend for up to a minute, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth and creamy.  Drain the noodles, set aside and cover (with a towel). To the same pot you boiled the noodles in, add the cashew cheese and cook on low stirring frequently until slightly thickened.  Add the macaroni noodles to the cheese, along with the remaining green chilies and stir. Serve immediately, topping with crushed toasted tortilla chips and cilantro (optional).

[apparently I didn’t take a picture, or if I did I can’t find it]

Verdict: 2.5/5

Some of what was wrong with this, was my own shortcomings: I only have an immersion blender (at one point our apartment had somehow accumulated three!), a new one whose strength I’m still learning.  Apparently it was not up to the task of liquefying the “cheese” sauce.  It cut through those cashews without any problem – I had worried that even with an overnight soaking, they might be difficult to cut through – but it really couldn’t get smooth, liquid.  As a result, the texture was halfway between chunky and gritty.  It was not bad, but it wasn’t really good either.

I also was overhasty in my chile selection in the grocery store, and I grabbed a can of jalapenos.  I found it a little spicy for my taste, though not as hot as I worried it would be with my wussy palette.

Still, I feel these flaws are more from my kitchen than from the recipe.  The flavor of the sauce, despite the unpleasant consistency, was actually pretty good.  I really can’t liken it to cheese, to be honest (I had read the nutritional yeast was supposed to have a cheesy flavor), but it was a fine flavor.  I would give this another go.

 

I never made my goal of making 52 mac and cheese recipes for 2012, but I still have so, so many recipes.  I may be sporadic in my updates, but I’m sure I’ll be updating a bit still.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in some of my other goings on in the kitchen and elsewhere, check out my other blog, Domestic Dalliances.

 


Recipe 32: Parmesan Shells and Cheese

So remember I said the newest mac would be made on Sunday?  Well Loverman and I were invited to dinner with his parents, so that clearly didn’t happen.  Then Monday we took a post-work nap and, shocked how late we had snoozed, we just slapped some stuff together to eat.  And yesterday we cooked something we had taken out to defrost a few days before.  So it didn’t happen.  Please forgive me, Weekly Mackers.  It’s been a long time since Loverman and I have been on the same schedule with work, and we are both kind of dropping the ball with dinner preparation.  Guess it’s a good thing my schedule will be completely shifting next week – which will mean fewer nights free for recipe-experimentation.

On the flipside, I have found a bunch of delicious-sounding macs recently.  It’s hard to know where to start!  Even more exciting, with 32 out of 52 recipes complete, that’s over 61% of the challenge complete and only 20 more macs to go!  Woohoo!

This mac is great because it is one of the many that uses ingredients that you either likely have in your pantry or can obtain quite easily.  Remember – when a recipe calls for Parmesan cheese (at least as its primary cheese), do not use shaky-cheese out of a green tube!  Use the real stuff!

Parmesan Shells and Cheese (from about.com)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth would probably be fine too, but because the original calls for chicken broth, I didn’t mark this as vegetarian; mine was homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces small shell macaroni, uncooked (I used corn; I actually am not sure the shape matters)
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • paprika, optional (I left this out because I forgot about it; good thing it was optional)

Directions

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, cooking until hot and bubbly, about 1 minute. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and continue to cook and stir until cheese is melted.  Note: It will start out super soupy and you will be worried you read the ingredients wrong.  Relax. and trust in The Force.  It will thicken out in time if you let it simmer and stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the shells in boiling salted water as directed on package. Drain well and add to the sauce mixture, blending well. Transfer to a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and parsley flakes; sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake at 325° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with paprika before serving, if desired.  Serves 4 to 6.

OK, so it isn’t pretty.

Verdict: 2.5/5

I think the somewhat low number for this mac is actually pretty misleading, as is the tag “due for a do-over.”  The taste was not the issue, but rather the proportions: The bread crumbs to pasta ratio was all off; both Loverman and I agreed that there were way too many breadcrumbs.  The taste was slightly nutty and earthy, something which I feel would be complimented by mushrooms.  Loverman chimed in his usual suggestion of chicken breast, and for once I agree.  He added that if the chicken was a little peppery it would be ideal, and I think he’s right on with that idea as well.  I think this would suit several different protein additions.

 

On an unrelated note, since we are on the downward slope for this challenge, I’ve toyed with the idea of making a non-mac blog.  Still, does the Internet really need yet another self-indulgent blog out there?  Probably not.  Still, I’ve considered it.  We’ll see how things go, I suppose.


Recipe 12: Pork Belly Mac and Cheese

Hello, Weekly Mackers.  Have you missed me?  I feel like it’s been too long since I last posted.  I don’t want to fall behind on this challenge!  I hope I have not left y’all like this in my absence:

Anyway, have y’all been following me on Facebook?  If so, you know that I have been super-excited about making this recipe.  It involves pork belly, which, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a giant slab of bacon before it gets sliced into strips.  I clarify this because one of my friends, who was going to be present at the get-together at which this mac was to be served, asked his wife, “So… what is pork belly?  Is it, like, pork guts or something?  Am I going to like this?”  She assured him he would.

This was another recipe from Food in My Beard – the third I have made.  I blame the author, Dan, for offering so many tempting variations on mac and cheese.  I am going to have to take a forced haitus from it – not because it is bad (unless by “bad” you mean “so bad that it’s AWESOME”), but just to add some new sources.  Oh don’t worry; I shall return in due time.

The website says this recipe “Feeds probably about 5 fatties or up to 8 normal adults.”  I love that description – partly because I know I have at times marveled over recommended serving sizes (“How is that one serving?!  Are they feeding an anorexic five-year old?!”).  At our get-together, there were eight food-loving adults, seven of which partook of the mac (one does not eat red meat), and a toddler who also had some.  There was only one small helping left at the end of the night.  If most of us had not loaded up on appetizers (and OK, salad too), I am thinking it all would have been gone.

Pork Belly Mac and Cheese (from Food in My Beard)

Ingredients

  • Mesa BBQ sauce (recipe here.  I used a Memphis-style BBQ sauce from the store instead; it’s 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 lb pasta, elbow macaroni is good (I used rice elbows)
  • ½ lb gruyere
  • ½ lb mozzarella
  • 1 ½ lb cheddar.
  • Breadcrumbs (gluten-free for me)
  • Parmesan (I confess, I used “parmesan” from a green shaky-tube, as I did not have fresh)
  • 1 head cauliflower (I used a frozen bag from our CSA; it seemed like about a head)
  • 1 ½ lbs pork belly
  • Red onion
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour (I used Pamela’s)
  • 3 cups milk (I used skim)

Directions

Place the sauce in a deep pot.
Sear the pork belly on all sides in a very hot pan.
Add pork to pot with sauce and simmer on low partially covered for about an hour and a half. Add water if pork is not fully covered.
Grate and combine all cheeses
Bring water to a boil, cook pasta 3 minutes less then box says
Heat and whisk 3 tablespoons of butter and flour on medium low until combined and lump free. About 5 minutes.
Add 3 cups of milk, simmer for 5 minutes
Add most of the cheese. Stir till somewhat smooth
Remove pork belly from braising liquid
Dice and remove unwanted parts (if there are any), return to sauce with cauliflower and a small amount of diced red onion.
Drain pasta and put in baking dish
Add pork belly, cauliflower, and red onion with its coating of sauce
Add cheese mixture
Fold and mix
Grate some parmesan on the top, add the rest of the cheese, if it fits (all of the cheese didn’t fit for us) and some breadcrumbs
Put in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes, if the top doesn’t look delicious, broil it for 2 minutes.  (I didn’t need to broil)
The hardest part – let sit for 5 or 10 minutes before scooping!

Here it is cooling.

Verdict: 3/5

You may have noticed I’ve tagged this recipe as being due for a do-over.  It didn’t come out bad by any stretch, but I don’t think I achieved the best possible results in my preparation.  I think that’s due to mistakes I made rather than a fault of the recipe itself.

Like I mentioned, I used a store-bought BBQ sauce.  It had a good flavor (not sure as epic as Dan from Food in My Beard says the Mesa sauce is), but I needed to use water to fully cover my pork belly.  However, it ended up being more water than sauce.  I think if I had cut the pork belly differently, it may have turned out better, but as it was the sauce was so, so watery.  There was only the barest hint of a BBQ flavor, and that really bummed me out.  That would have added such a smoky, slightly tangy element that was missing.

Not only that, but because the meat was cooked in mostly water, the texture was… Odd.  I also could have cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces to make them a bit more manageable.

Y’all know by now I’m not a professional chef, right?  ‘Cause it’s kind of obvious.

All that having been said, some people had seconds.  One person even had thirds and tried to call dibs on the one helping of leftovers remaining.  Even the toddler ate it after insisting on making a napkin-dress for her sippy-cup.  Despite having used shaky-cheese (I’ve been trying to stick with cheese in their natural formats), I loved the topping and could eat it on most macs.

So all in all it was good – but I know it could have been better.  I’ll have to give it another shot in the future.