Recipe 71: Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage

I know the blog hasn’t been busy, but rest assured, I’ve been busy collecting recipes to try.  This one comes courtesy of an ad for Carnation Evaporated Milk.

 

Italian-Style Mac and Cheese with Chicken Sausage – from Nestle

Ingredients

2 cups (8oz) dry elbow macaroni

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups (8 oz package) shredded Italian-style or 4- or 5-cheese blend

2 links fully cooked Italian-seasoned chicken sausage cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 Tablespoons finely sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, sausage, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat.  Add drained pasta to cheese sauce; stir until combined.  Add tomatoes and basil; stir gently until mixed in.  Makes six servings, one cup each.

Verdict: 4/5 – Oh man.  Yum.  As you can see, I neglected to snap a picture of this one.  The real reason is I just forgot, but another believable reason would be that I glommed this down so quickly that I didn’t have time.  My one complaint is that the sauce was a little soupy, but the flavor was spot on.

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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!

 

 

 


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 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 48: Gluten-Free One Pot, No Drain Mac ‘N’ Cheese

I think you all know me well enough by now to know that I like when recipes are EASY.  Any exotic ingredients or unusual steps?  Kind of a hassle.  I have a whole set of recipes tagged “easy mac” because if it just involves stovetop cooking, it deserves some special recognition.

I’ve seen recipes before claiming to be one pot, no-drain recipes, ones where you make the sauce while cooking the pasta, but they were all “normal pastas,” i.e. not gluten-free.  This sounded like a great idea, but I had no idea if this concept would work with GF pastas.  Then I found this website: All gluten-free.  I think we all know I had to try this just about right away.

Gluten-Free One Pot, No Drain Mac ‘N’ Cheese (from Flippin’ Delicious)

Ingredients

  • 3 c. gluten-free elbow pasta (or penne or other short pasta) – I used corn elbows
  • 2 1/4 c. milk – I used skim, though the original recipe discourages this
  • 2 1/4 c. water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2-2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

Dump all ingredients, except the cheese, into a large saucepan.  Stir, cover, and heat over med-high heat until it comes to a boil (admittedly, with the milk this smells a little weird.  Trust the process).  Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked al-dente. The liquid will thicken as it cooks creating the sauce.  Once the pasta is cooked stir in the cheese and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve while hot.
IMG_7348Verdict: 4.5/5
This might be the easiest recipe of all my easy recipes.  This is a very simple flavor, so this could easily be the base for any of the mac hacks listed, or any other you might come up with.  Don’t have a blue box on hand, but have some cheese?  MAKE THIS.
Not to give too much away, but there is totally another mac coming soon that I’m excited about.  Hopefully the flavor pleases me as well as the idea.  Have any macs you’re excited about?  Let me know!

Recipe 36: Pasta with Mascarpone and Sage

OK.  So clearly full-time employment and weekly blogging on a very specific theme do not agree with me.  I’m not proud of that.  Seriously, I read these blogs written by people who work and parent and still manage to make fabulous food (not to mention keep a space on the counter clean enough to photograph the product of their labors), and I turn absolutely chartreuse with envy.  I have been cooking, but not as much mac as a person who runs a mac and cheese blog “should” (quotations used because really, should anyone try to make as much mac as I’ve been aspiring to?).  Instead I’ve been experimenting with game meats, savory jellies, and finding creative uses for the overabundance of certain herbs from the garden before the evening frosts have killed them all.

Speaking of herb-gardening, this particular mac features sage as a key player.  At Loverman and my old apartment we had a sage plant that somehow managed to survive the terrible neglect we forced it to endure.  In fact, it seemed to have more lives than a cat.  It would wilt and brown, but then when we remembered its existence (along with the existence of our other potted herbs) and tended it, it would bounce back like Mario with an extra Life.  That sage gave many leaves to this recipe, which I made multiple times in that apartment, and it was not forgotten.  Could you use dried sage instead?  Sure – heck, I have plenty of times.  But it’s not going to have quite the same earthy, green notes as when you use fresh.

Pasta with Mascarpone and Sage (unknown source; I wrote the recipe on an index card)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, any small shape (I usually use spirals or elbows, but really any small shape would work fine)
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1/4c bread crumbs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves (if you use dry, use a 1:3 ratio dry:fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1c mascarpone cheese
  • 1c Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.  To a medium-hot skillet, heat oil and add breadcrumbs, sage, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sautee 3 – 4 minutes.  It smells amazing!  In a large bowl stir mascarpone and Parmesan cheese.  Add to pasta and toss.  Top with bread crumb mixture and serve.  It is seriously that easy.

Verdict: 4.5/5

As you can see, there is no photo.  The real reason is because I misplaced my camera when I made it (oops), but an equally believable reason would have been that it was so delicious, it got all glommed down in no-time-flat.  It is so easy to make there is no excuse not to try it.  The mascarpone is creamy and a little sweet without being too sweet, paired with the saltiness of the Parmesan and the earthiness of the sage makes this perfection in my mind.  The sage makes me think of autumn or even winter, but really there is no bad time to eat this mac.  It’s surprisingly light and just so good.

 

Since we are entering the home stretch, I am thinking of doing a blog where I can type about my non-mac cooking endeavors, as well as other attempts at domesticity.  It will likely be sporadic (as this one has become!), but a gal can’t live on mac alone.