Recipe 68: Crab Mac and Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes

There are a few recipes that I say are “due for a do-over,” which usually means I’m pretty sure I did something wrong to make the dish less than perfect. However there was one mac I made that inspired an entirely new one. I wish I could take credit for it, but it was Loverman who came up with it. When I made the lobster mac and cheese, he came up with several changes to the recipe that he thought would make it even better. I’m finally getting around to trying those changes. So here we are, another Weekly Mac original!

Crab Mac and Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes
Ingredients
8 oz. cheddar(I used sharp yellow)
8 oz gruyere
2 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/4 onion, diced
3 tablespoons flour (or gluten free substitute)
3 tablespoons truffle oil
1 lb pasta (I used corn elbows)
8oz lump crab meat (my container said it was best for crab cakes)
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1/4 cup chopped basil
about 6oz chopped sundried tomatoes (mine came with “Italian basil seasoning” already on them)
1/4 c breadcrumbs
Blue cheese to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Cook pasta according to package directions while you make the sauce.

Take about a tablespoon of butter and saute the onions in it. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter and as it is melting, add the flour. Whisk it in and keep it moving, scraping the bottom. Get out all the lumps so it is a smooth mixture. Cook constantly stirring for 2 minutes. Add the milk. when the milk is almost boiling, slowly add the cheese in handfuls and make sure it is fully incorporated before adding the next. When all the cheese is in, add the truffle oil, herbs, and sundried tomatoes. Mix the pasta with the sauce and crab. Throw mixture into a 9″x13″ dish. Top with breadcrumbs and as many crumbles of blue cheese as you see fit (I used the better part of a 4oz container).

Put dish in oven and cook for 20 minutes. I didn’t want to do too much longer because I didn’t want to overcook the crab. Wait about 5 – 10 minutes for it to cool before serving.

Verdict: 2/5 – I gotta tell you, this was a real let down for both of us. The crab was too fishy. The sundried tomatoes, pre seasoned, were too loud, drowning out all flavors but the fishy crab. The best part was the blue cheese, and that was just the topping.

Do you have any recipes you think I should try? Let me know!

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Recipe 51: Easiest Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

You may remember that I once tried a vegan mac and “cheese” a while back. You may also remember that it wasn’t that great. Naturally, I was dubious about trying another. But when another vegan recipe presented itself, I decided I needed to soldier on.

No More Ramen is a great recipe website, though not for the usual reasons. It helps those who are on a limited budget who want to make things beyond the usual rice and beans (though you can find some recipes for that, too!). It also takes into consideration those with food restrictions and health concerns which may make high-energy or longer recipes difficult. It’s a labor of love compiled by a lone blogger, but anyone can contribute. I heart this website.

This recipe was pretty simple in terms of putting it together, which made me hopeful.

Easiest Vegan Mac and “Cheese” (from No More Ramen)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raw cashews or cashew pieces (soaked for 2+ hours beforehand if you don’t have a high-speed blender) OR 2/3 cup canned white beans, drained – I used canned beans
  • 2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbs miso (if you can’t have soy, omit this- I’ve made the sauce before without it and it’s just fine) – I left this out because I didn’t have any
  • 3 tsp soy sauce (or tamari, or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs lemon juice
  • 3 tsp mustard
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 4-6 tbs olive oil
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4-1 cup water
  • 8 oz cooked macaroni – I used corn elbows

Directions

In a blender, blend cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, soy sauce, salt, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, olive oil, pepper, and water on high until completely smooth. Toss with cooked macaroni (that has been returned to the pot after draining) until the noodles are completely coated. That’s it!

Verdict: 1.5/5

I said I wanted to solider on with a new vegan recipe, and that I was hopeful about it. Both were in vain. The sauce was watery and tasted of nothing but lemon and vinegar. Neither Loverman nor I wanted seconds. There is no picture because it was that bad.

Here’s to a better recipe next time.


Recipe 49: Dessert Macaroni and Cheese

After the success of the breakfast mac and cheese, I felt pretty saucy about trying non-traditional macs. Well, I’ve done a breakfast mac, so the next major new territory was for a dessert mac. Yeah, you read that right. After all, cheesecake is good, and couldn’t a sweet mac and cheese be like a deconstructed cheesecake? The logic seemed sound, but I was seriously scared.

So naturally, I made this and served it to a huge group of friends.

Dessert Macaroni and Cheese (from Annie Capell)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups macaroni noodles
  • 12 oz cream cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup white chocolate
  • 1 recipe streusel (recipe follows)
  • ½ cup sugar

Struesel Recipe

  • ½ cup flour (I used Pamela’s)
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cold and cubed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

1. Cook the noodles in a pot of sugared water. Take water, bring to a boil with about 2 Tbsp sugar in it and cook the noodles, strain and cool
2. In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese, softened, sour cream, vanilla and 1/c cup sugar until smooth
3. Melt the white chocolate in microwave and whisk into the mixture.
4. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more sour cream or sugar to smooth it out. Taste and adjust seasonings, add more vanilla if needed or more melted chocolate
5. Add the noodles and mix until they are coated
6. Preheat the broiler
7. Pour into a pan and pat down
8. Sprinkle the streusel on top covering it (streusel ingredients should be combined until crumbly, but not dry)
9. Bake in the broiler until the topping is just beginning to brown. Serve warm or cold (see my note on this below!)
Rating: 1.5/5

I was scared about making this, and lemme tell you, I had every reason to be. This was actually pretty terrible. But some of the reasoning might be because of my gluten issues. Let me explain.

The recipe said to eat this hot or cold, so I served it cold. After all, that’s how you eat cheesecake, right? Everyone agreed, this made the texture terrible. Texture with gluten-free pastas can be iffy anyway, so cold? Gummy, gluey, waxy chunks of food that sits heavy in your belly. The taste was good, especially with the strudel topping, but the texture ruined it all.

One friend had the thought to warm it up in the microwave, maybe 30 seconds. She said it was much better warm. However, this friend is pregnant and I thought this might affect her taste (everyone has stories of weird cravings, it seems). I warmed it up. The texture was better, but now I didn’t like the taste.  As another friend described this recipe, “It’s so almost-there.”  Almost, but not quite.  Still, the original poster of the recipe says her friends all loved it, so take that into consideration as well.  My group of eight disagreed.

Now all this is not to say that I think dessert mac and cheese is bad all around. I still think there are some recipes that could work. But I admit, I’m a little leery about trying them any time soon.

Have a mac I should try soon? Let me know!


Recipe 40 (first of 2013!): Instant Mug O’ Mac & Cheese in the Microwave

Hello, my dear Weekly Mackers!  I hope 2013 has been treating you well thus far; and if not, I hope it gets better for you soon.  More importantly, I hope you haven’t missed me too much!  As you might imagine, I needed a good, long break from mac and cheese recipes for a while to give my tastebuds (and waistline) a rest.  As I mentioned before, I will continue to post sporadically, but it will not be the same mission as it was for 2012 – well, the first half or so of 2012 anyway.  I am still toying with the idea of a domesticity (with a twist) blog, but I also wonder if another blurb in the blogosphere is really necessary.  Meh, I may indulge myself anyway.

Today’s mac is one I consider halfway between a recipe and a hack (thus it being tagged with both Categories).  It’s basically a copycat recipe of that famous college delicacy, the microwave edition of the Blue Box.  As an undergrad living the dorm-life, I confess I never quite mastered the Micro-Blue, as we shall call it.  I never was able to eyeball the water quite right, and so ended up either with a watery cheese sauce or crunchy noodles, and as a result I began to actually  enjoy the watered down sauce since I knew the alternative was even worse (hey, at least the noodles were cooked); I’d add a healthy dose of pepper and it actually wasn’t too terrible.  You know, for dorm food.

I found this recipe purporting to recreate the ease of Micro-Blue, but using real ingredients as opposed to powdered cheese product.  I was intrigued.  And since earlier I was looking for a quick and easy bite to eat, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.

 

Instant Mug O’ Mac & Cheese in the Microwave (from Babble)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pasta (I used corn elbows)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk (I used skim)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Combine the pasta and water in a large mug or bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, then stir. A lot of times the water will overflow while it heats up. It is OK if this happens. If you don’t want it to overflow just make this in a very large microwaveable bowl (I should have used a bowl). Repeat this for at least 2 to 4 more minutes, stirring at each 2-minute interval. The water should absorb completely and the pasta will be cooked through. If the pasta needs another minute it is okay to add one more teaspoon of water and microwave for another minute. My pasta cooked through in 4 minutes every time, but my microwaves tends to be very powerful (mine took about 6 minutes; not sure if this had to do with my pasta, my microwave, or both).

Remove it from the microwave and stir in the milk and cheese. Microwave for another minute. Stir the cheese thoroughly into the pasta and eat up!

Verdict: 1.5/5

Ugh.  Ick.  Bleh.  I would prefer a bowl of watery Micro-Blue right now.

As I mentioned, I should have used a bowl, because at every interval the water overflowed – I even used one of my larger mugs in hopes of avoiding puddles in the microwave, but alas, it was not enough.  OK, fine, I got the pasta cooked after a bit and added my milk and cheese and blasted it for the last minute.  This is where things got ugly.

It’s one thing to have water overflow in the microwave, but milk and cheese-goo overflowing is quite another.  When I tasted it, all I got was hot milk and globs of cheese interspersed.  No amount of stirring incorporated the cheese with the milk at all.  I even tried adding a little more cheese in a desperate attempt to get some sort of cheese-flavor, but all I got was a bigger glob of cheese.

Not a great picture, but I hope you can see the globs.

Not a great picture, but I hope you can see the globs.

Remembering my trick from my dorm room days, I ground a bunch of black pepper into the noodles.  Even that wasn’t enough to bail out this sinking ship, so I dowsed the whole thing in ketchup.  Classy.

So why is this 1.5 instead of 1?  Well, it could always be worse, I guess.

I’m sorry to say that this concept really was too good to be true, at least in my case.  Such a shame.  It could be that using different cheese or 1% milk or some sort of magical microwave would result in a tasty product, but alas, it was not the case for me.  If any of you give this a whirl and have better luck than I do, let me know!  I have no problem being told just what I did wrong.  Well, in this case, at least.


Recipe 18: Penne with Cabbage and Gorgonzola

I chanced upon the $35 a WeekProject either while looking for recipes or just on the WordPress frontpage.  I like the concept: Recipes that will feed a family of two for $35 a week or less.  The author breaks down the cost for individual items and approximately what each serving costs.  This is smart regardless of your personal economic situation, but especially families with children (those kids can get expensive!) or families with a limited income.  Heck, even if you have a good income, who doesn’t like to save money?

I confess I had misgivings about trying this recipe.  It had nothing to do with number or type of ingredients or even degree of difficulty; in fact, this recipe calls for simple ingredients and couldn’t be much easier to slap together.  No, it had to do with one of the main ingredients: Cabbage.  I am not a big fan of the stuff.  Maybe it has to do with not eating much of it as a kid (in fact, I’m not sure I had it as a kid at all), but I know there are plenty of things I didn’t try growing up that I love today.  But I tend to find it unpleasant – kind of a bitterness that reminds me of something gone bad.

Loverman, on the other hand, is fine with cabbage.  Maybe calling him a fan would be too strong, but growing up in a family with strong Eastern European roots (Polish and Hungarian), he ate plenty of it in traditional foods, and he has often praised his mother’s cole slaw forever putting him off any other lesser slaws.  Well, this challenge is to help me try new foods, so it was worth another go, I figured.  Besides, I know I like gorgonzola (well, blue cheeses in general, really) – and maybe the caraway would be good too?  Why not take a shot?

Penne with Cabbage and Gorgonzola (from The $35 a Week Project)

Ingredients

  •  8 oz. gorgonzola
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 lb. penne (or other short shape) pasta (I used corn rigatoni)
  • Parsley leaves for garnish (I left this out because meh, garnish)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until smoking (yes, that is right – above calls for vegetable oil, but here it says olive oil. I used vegetable oil). Add the cabbage, caraway seeds, and a pinch of salt and cook until cabbage is lightly browned.

Reduce heat to medium-low (if you have an unresponsive electric stove like I do, you may want to just remove it from the heat) and stir in the gorgonzola. Add a little water or chicken broth if necessary to help the melting (I didn’t find it necessary). Set aside.

When the water is boiling, add pasta and salt and cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta to the cabbage mixture, stirring well to evenly distribute, adding pasta water when necessary to keep things moving (I don’t think I needed any of the water). Add salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Loverman's and my dinner

Verdict: 1/5

This is another time I feel the need to repeat the caveat that this is all based on my opinion.  I do believe I went into this with an open mind, but that cabbage was just too much for me to bear.  I picked all around it when eating my bowl.

But it wasn’t just the cabbage.  Even Loverman, who has eaten piles of it over the years, found it distasteful.  This is a guy who will generally eat just about anything put in front of him and he ate even less of the stuff than I did.  After a hesitant bite, he offered doubtfully, “I don’t think I like gorgonzola.”  I reminded him that gorgonzola was just blue cheese, which I know he likes – and besides, we had had this exact same cheese a few days ago at a get-together, and he liked it then.  He was fine with the cabbage (though he thought it still a bit to crunchy even after cooking down a good deal) and the pasta was fine.

It turns out neither of us like caraway.

Thankfully, I only made a half recipe.  I soldiered on and ate the pasta, though as I mentioned, I couldn’t stand to have more than a few nibbles of the cabbage.  Loverman was even worse: He had a few bites – then decided that it was too off-putting, threw the rest of his bowl out, and had an ever-so nutritious meal of snack mix.

“You know,” I ventured, eying him askance, “we do have some leftovers of actual meals in the fridge.”

Unrepentant, he crunched another handful of snack mix.  He glanced briefly at the bag before protesting, “But it has 25% less fat!”

That’s my man.

If you folks like cabbage, gorgonzola, and caraway, you will likely gobble this up.  We did not.  The author of the $35 a Week Project calculated it cost about $1.25 per serving to make (using regular pasta, not gluten-free), and hey, if you like all those ingredients, you will surely get your money’s worth.  We did not, alas – but at least little was wasted.

Two recipes in a row that weren’t that great.  Blast!  Here’s hoping the next one makes up for the disappointment.


Recipe 10: Macaroni and Cheese Pancakes

As I mentioned in my last post, this week is apparently National Pancake Week.  Who knew?  Well, what better way to celebrate than trying a new pancake recipe?  But since this is Weekly Mac, of course I have to offer something that somehow combines pancakes and macaroni and cheese.

This inspiration wasn’t just some harebrained idea of mine – it was someone else’s harebrained idea, thank you very much.  To be fair, I was curious if there existed a macaroni and cheese recipe that was breakfast appropriate (there is – more than one, actually), and in my browsing I found this recipe.

The author says it’s perfect hangover food given its density and combination of two classic American comfort foods.  Well, I certainly wouldn’t know anything about that (*cough*), but the theory behind it is a fair one.  Sure, combining two good foods can result in some scary results – but it can also result in mind-blowingly amazing hybrids that come to more than the sum of their parts.  There was no way to discover which this would be without trying it.

Macaroni and Cheese Pancakes (from Hey, That Tastes Good!)

  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t Kosher salt
  • 3/4 c boiling water
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 T oil
  • 1/2 flour (I used Pamela’s)
  • 1/4 t xanthan gum (if you use normal flour, you probably don’t need this; it’s good for gluten-free flours)
  • 1 c cooked macaroni (I used leftovers from my last recipe)
  • 1/2 c shredded cheese (I used colby jack since we had a lot)

Directions

Combine cornmeal, honey and salt in a bowl. Pour over the water, stir, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add the baking powder, milk, oil, flour mix, and xanthan gum and stir to combine. Heat up your griddle or cast iron pan with a tiny bit of oil, until when you drop a drop of water onto the pan it sizzles. Spoon batter onto hot pan, and when one side is done (bubbles have risen to the surface and popped, cake moves easily when pushed with a spatula), sprinkle some macaroni evenly over the uncooked side, then top with cheese. Carefully flip over, press down with the back of the spatula and let cook a few minutes until crispy on the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Not much to look at

Verdict: 1/5

This was not a harmless hybrid like a mule or a labradoodle.  This was an epicurean abomination.

This was indeed rather heavy from the cornmeal alone.  The macaroni and cheese were barely noticeable additions – and I used more cheese than called for.  I thought mine was too salty, which is funny since there really isn’t much salt in there at all.  It was dry and unpleasant.  The website recommended adding barbecue sauce, and while I initially thought that sounded batty, it actually tasted better that way – though still not at all to my taste.  Loverman added both barbecue sauce and hot sauce and thought it was thoroughly “OK.”  I couldn’t even finish mine and ended up eating a bowl of cereal for dinner.  Classy, I know, but we can’t win ’em all.  Here’s to a better recipe next time around.


Recipe 3: Macaroni & Cheese Deluxe

Good news!  Thanks to the technical ministrations of Loverman, the computer is back up and running!  Bad news: The computer is still refusing to talk to the digital camera (or is it vice versa?), so the pictures for the last post and this one will be delayed a bit further.  Alas.  Edit: Added!

Anyway, I promised I would give you folks a recipe that didn’t come from Food Network (not that the recipes are bad, just to provide some variety), so here it is.  I’ve downloaded some cookbooks on my Kindle, and one jumped out at me in my browsing: One that is all mac and cheese recipes from the Gooseberry Patch!

Brief tangent: I received my Kindle as a gift a few Christmases ago from my mother-in-law.  I probably wouldn’t have bought one for myself, but now that I have one, I actually really like it.  Sure, there are definitely times I prefer to pick up a physical book and thumb through the pages, but when it comes to traveling, even just to appointments, it’s great to have a wide selection of books available without taking up much weight.  Plus the cost of books is often cheaper.

Anyway, the recipe… Well, maybe I should let the verdict speak for itself:

Macaroni & Cheese Deluxe (from Circle of Friends Cookbook – 25 Mac & Cheese Recipes by Gooseberry Patch)

Ingredients

  • 2 c. cream-style cottage cheese (notes on this below)
  • 1 c. sour cream (this was about an 8oz. container)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 t. pepper
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 8 oz. package shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp white)
  • 1 1/2 elbow macaroni, cooked (I used quinoa)
  • Optional: Paprika

Directions

In a bowl, combine cottage cheese, sour cream, egg, and seasonings.  Add cheddar cheese and mix well; add macaroni and stir until coated.  Transfer to a greased 13″ x 9″ baking pan.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees (pet peeve: seriously, could you not have told us to preheat the oven back at the beginning?) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through.  Sprinkle with paprika, if desired (I did desire).  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

...and looks like this after you take it out and uncover it.

Verdict: 1.5/5

Guys, this seriously bummed me out.  I was actually kind of excited at the prospect of what seemed like an extra-creamy recipe and the unorthodox addition of cottage-cheese.  But what exactly does “cream-style cottage cheese” even mean?  Does it mean ricotta?  Why not just say that then?  What I did use was small-curd 4% milkfat cottage cheese.  Was it the right choice?  I don’t know. 

Also, the way they put the measurements of the pasta was different than many other recipes: in cups rather than the size of the packageDid they mean measure the pasta dry or after it’s been cooked?  I measured when it was dry and used a bit more for good measure, and it still seemed the pasta-to-cheese ratio, as Loverman put it, was off.  I love me a super-cheesy mac, but there was way too much cheese and not enough mac.

What I do know though is that despite all those creamy ingredients, the dish turned out anything but creamy; in fact, it was watery.  Should I  have drained the cottage cheese – or used a different type entirely?  Maybe.  I drained the pasta as thoroughly as I ever do, so I don’t think that was the issue, but regardless, as I dished out the mac, there was a veritable kiddie-pool at the bottom of the dish.  Yuck.

That having been said, I don’t think the flavors were necessarily bad.  The problem was more with a lack of clarity in the directions (at least in my opinion – I shouldn’t have to guess what they mean!) but even more so with texture.  It was… squishy.  Were it not for the puddle in the dish and the unpleasant texture of the dish, the flavors themselves might have been all right, but I just couldn’t look past the mushiness.  This recipe might be worth a re-visit in an attempt to correct the many wrongs in this dish – inspiring me to add the tag “due for a do-over.”

On an amusing note, you may remember that when I posted my first recipe, an Alton Brown creation, I mentioned that my husband, Loverman, is a bit of an Alton fanboy.  When I was getting ready to serve dinner tonight, Loverman indicated he had e-mailed me a recipe that he felt should be our next mac and cheese attempt.  Lo and behold, it was the Alton Brown mac we had already tried.  He was in disbelief that it could have been a gaffe from his beloved Alton.

But I do always need ideas for new mac and cheese recipes to try!  If you have a recipe you’d like to see me try, e-mail me at weeklymac*AT*yahoo*DOT*com!