Recipe 67: Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera

I recently made dinner for my dad, but don’t worry!  Mom hasn’t been left out!  Today is her birthday (happy birthday, Mom!), so a few days ago I had her over and made her lunch.

Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients

8 ounces penne pasta (I used corn and rice elbows)
1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks (Loverman got a summer squash, so I used that instead)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup Wisconsin ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Wisconsin parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, zest and juice

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small skillet; add carrot, bell pepper, zucchini, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until vegetables soften but retain their bright color, about 5 minutes.
In small bowl, combine ricotta, cream and parmesan cheese; mix until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Drain pasta and immediately toss with cheese mixture; stir in vegetables. Serve with additional parmesan cheese for topping.

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Verdict: 3/5 – This claimed to only serve two, but both of us had seconds and there was still some leftover.  The different vegetables added lots of texture elements, but the flavor was a little meh.  The lemon was bright, a nice burst of citrus in this cold winter, but you definitely needed that extra Parmesan to punch things up.


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 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!


Recipe 59: Mexican Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been away for a while, and boy have I been craving mac.  Adventurous types, simple types – anything really.  But I’ve just been letting it slide.  Other meals are simpler, and it’s easy to fall into a routine.

Well, I saw this recipe, and I decided I needed to shake things up a bit.
Mexican Macaroni and Cheese (from Gimme Some Oven)
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. uncooked macaroni or other pasta I used corn shells
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional) I left it out because I’m a wuss
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles (I should have chopped them; they were a little big from the can)
  • 1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 oz) can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. (about 2 cups) shredded Monterrey Jack or Colby Jack cheese (I used Monterrey)
  • 1 avocado, peeled pitted and diced
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped (this is for garnish so I just used a pinch dried)
  • tortilla chip strips (or crushed tortillas)

Directions

Heat a large stockpot full of salted water until it comes to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

At about the time that you actually add the pasta to the boiling water, heat oil in a (separate) large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and jalapeno (if using) and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender and translucent.

While the onion is cooking, add the evaporated milk, egg, cumin, salt and pepper together in a small bowl or measuring cup, and whisk until combined. Set aside.

Back to the saute pan. Once the onion is cooked, stir in the garlic and chopped green chiles and saute for an additional minute until the garlic is fragrant. Then stir in the black beans and corn, and saute for an additional minute.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta and add it to the veggie mixture in the saute pan. (Or you can do the reverse and add the veggies and pasta back to the stockpot and complete the recipe there.) Immediately stir in the evaporated milk mixture, and stir until the mixture is combined. Cook for 1 more minute until the milk mixture is heated through. Then add the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

Serve immediately topped with diced avocado and chopped cilantro and tortilla chips.

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Verdict: 3.5/5
The only reason this doesn’t score higher for me is because even with just the green chiles, this was a bit too spicy for my admittedly wimpy palate.  I will say though that the heat isn’t just there for the sake of heat; there is real flavor here, and it rocks.  The corn and beans make this extra filling, and the avocado added to the creaminess.  Wait to add the tortillas on each person’s helping individually though: I didn’t and as a result I had limp tortilla bits instead of crunchy goodness.  When I made this, I was super-hungry and assumed I’d need seconds, but one bowl was more than enough for me.

Recipe 58: Gouda Bacon Mac and Cheese

I think I’ve mentioned before that I like to use local foods when possible. I don’t make a hard and fast rule about it, but I think it’s nice to support local farms and businesses given the chance. So when a local publication, Edible Finger Lakes, featured a mac and cheese recipe using a regional cheese, I had to try it. If you can find a smoked Gouda with bacon from a creamery local to you, go ahead and use it, but ohmygoodness Yancey’s Fancy has all kinds of great cheeses, you should check them out.

Gouda Bacon Mac and Cheese (from Edible Finger Lakes)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups small pasta like orzo, stars, or alphabet letters (I used twisty corn pasta)
  • 1/4 pound bacon slices, cut in half length-wise – you may use more if you want crunch in your mac
  • 1/4 cup flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • Salt and pepper as desired
  • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 2 cups shredded smoked Gouda – I used Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda with Bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil and add the pasta, cooking until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large high-sided skillet, cook bacon over medium heat to desired crunchiness, draining on a paper towel and chopping roughly. Allow the reserved fat (roughly 1/4 cup) to cool slightly, then whisk in flour and desired salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until incorporated. Gradually add the shredded cheese until melted and smooth.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir until the sauce evenly coats the pasta. If using additional bacon within the mac, add just before serving with a quick stir to incorporate. Divide into bowls and top with remaining bacon crumbles.

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Verdict: 4/5
I was worried this would be too smokey. My worries were baseless. This was simply delicious. I gobbled this down in no time flat.


Recipe 57: Mushroom Taco Mac

It felt like a while since we’d had a good mushroom recipe on here, and I’m not sure we’ve ever done a truly tex-mex flavored dish.  So why not combine the two?

Mushroom Taco Mac (from The Mushroom  Council)

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried whole grain elbow pasta, enriched (substitute penne or other types of pasta if preferred) (we used small corn shells)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • 4 teaspoons taco seasoning mix, low sodium (if available) (We used a homemade mix)
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa (ours was mild because I’m a wuss, but use what you like)
  • 1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded (ours was full-fat, because that’s how we roll at the Casa de Mac)

Directions

Add water to pot and bring to a boil. Add pasta, cook uncovered for 10-13 minutes, or until pasta has reached desired firmness.

While pasta is cooking, heat a sauté pan on medium, add oil and swirl to coat the bottom of pan. Add mushrooms and 2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix, sauté 5 minutes.

When pasta is done, drain water and return to pot. Heat on low while stirring in salsa, mushrooms and remaining 2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix for 2 minutes or less.

Divide into four portions, top each with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.  We just mushed the cheese in here, then divided things up.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Very filling without feeling too heavy.  Felt almost more like a casserole that just happened to have cheese and noodles rather than a mac itself.  Flavors blended well.  Not too spicy.  A solid choice overall.

Loverman and I served this to two guests, both of whom like Tex Mex and one of whom is a vegetarian.  I was received well by both our guests.  I think I’ll had a Tex-Mex tag in addition to faux-ethnic.


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.