Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slow Cooker Recipe Box

My Uncle Dale sends out a lot of emails.What does this have to do with cooking you might ask? Well, in one of his emails he sent was a very cool link. Wait, I mean links. The email contained tons and tons of slow cooker meals and by clicking on the dish title you wanted, it would then take you to that recipe. I would love to get into making more meals in a slow cooker and have been trying it out more since I got a nice new crock pot for Christmas from my mom.

I have clicked on a bunch of the links and looked them over, but have yet to try any of the recipes out. It's one of those can't decide which to do first moments. During this week sometime, I will post which one I tried, how it turned out, and anything I would change if needed. Want to join me?! Come on, it should be fun! Check out the link below and let us know what you try.

Slow Cooker Recipe Box

Monday, January 24, 2011

Three Cheese Macaroni with Bacon

My Birthday was a couple of weeks ago and to celebrate my husband took me out to eat to our favorite restaurant, J. Alexander's. They have a nice atmosphere, wonderful service and excellant food. Our favorite side dish to order is the NYO Mac and Cheese, it is out of this world good! (The NYO stands for Not Your Ordinary). Everytime we leave there after a dinner, I always promise myself that I will try to make a macaroni and cheese like least try. Well, I finally did! Try, that is. Although it is no NYO Mac and Cheese, this one is pretty good.

I must warn you will use a few pans and dirty your kitchen. Somethings are worth it though.

I started first by frying some bacon and an onion that I had diced. While the bacon and onion got nice and crispy, I shredded some cheese. This really is the time to buy blocks of cheese and shred your own. Trust me. It goes pretty fast if you have a food processor or this cheese grater from Pampered Chef. I grated a monterey jack cheese and a nice Vermont cheddar. Here is the Vermont cheddar that we are fond of.

After the bacon and onions were crisp,

I scooped them onto a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Then I got a big pot out to cook my pasta. I used a whole wheat rotini but any short cut pasta is fine.

While the water came to a boil and the pasta cooked, I made the cheese sauce. I started off by melting butter in a saucepan and then whisking in flour. After it cooked for a couple minutes, I slowly added in warm milk.

I whisked the mixture until it was thick and smooth and added in the seasonings. I turned the heat off once I could draw a line through the mixture with my finger on the back of a wooden spoon.

I then stirred in all of my cheese and drained the pasta once it was tender. I then stirred the pasta, cheese sauce and bacon all together. If you wanted, it could be done at this point. Its really creamy and good.

But I like my mac and cheese baked and I wanted to add a third cheese. So, I spread it into a baking dish and sprinkled it with grated parmesan cheese and put it in the oven to bake.

When it came out it was all bubbly, brown, and had a crunchy cheesey crust.

How good does that look?! Tender pasta, creamy cheese sauce, crisp onions and crunchy bacon! Yum!

Three Cheese Macaroni with Bacon

6 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
12 oz vermont cheddar cheese
8 oz monterey jack cheese
4 cups milk
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp salt plus some for pasta water
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 pound short cut pasta
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Fry bacon and onion together until crisp. Drain on paper towel lined plate. While bacon and onion fry, shred cheddar and monterey jack cheeses. Set cheese and bacon both aside. Set a large pot with salted water over high heat. When water boils, add pasta and cook until tender. Meanwhile, melt butter in a sauce pan and add in flour. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes while whisking and place milk in microwave to warm for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk that has been warmed into flour and butter mixture. Stir in salt, pepper and chili powder. Mixture is thick enough when a line can be drawn with a finger through the mixture on the back off a wooden spoon. Turn off heat. Slowly stir in cheddar and monterey jack cheeses and whisk till combined and mixture is smooth. Cheese sauce will be very thick. Stir together drained pasta, cheese sauce and bacon. Spread into a 13x9 baking dish and sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cupcakes at Tiffany's

Or rather, with Tiffany. My youngest niece Tiffany has been wanting to come over and bake with me and yesterday we were finally able to. We made mini-cupcakes in four different flavors! The flavors we made were Chocolate Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Mocha, Lemon, and Cherry Vanilla. Unfortunately, in all the fun, I forgot to take pictures! I did however, snap one at the end with my phone of Tiffany and all of our cupcakes.

We started with two box cake mixes, one plain yellow (for the Lemon and Cherry Vanilla) and the other a milk chocolate (for the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Mocha). This is how we spilt the yellow cake mix to get our Lemon and Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes.

There was 3 cups dry mix so we placed 1 1/2 cups mix in two separate bowls. The directions then called for 1/3 cup vegetable oil. I measured the oil and "eyeballed it" pouring about half in each bowl. It then called for 3 eggs. We beat 3 eggs together and poured them into a measuring glass. The beaten eggs measured to 2/3 cup so we poured a 1/3 cup beaten egg into each bowl. Lastly, the box directions called for 1 1/4 cups water. This would be roughly 5oz. of liquid for each half of mix and this is where we took the opportunity to add additional flavor.

For the Lemon we added 5oz. of water and the zest of half a lemon.

For the Cherry Vanilla we added 5oz. of maraschino cherry juice.

Our chocolate cake mix called for the same amount of liquid, eggs and oil so we split it the same as the yellow mix.

For the Chocolate Peanut Butter we added the 5oz of water with 2 Tbsp of peanut butter.

For the Dark Chocolate Mocha we added 5oz of cooled coffee.

Once all our cupcakes were baked, we made the following icing:

Butter Cream Icing

2 sticks softened butter
2lb powdered sugar
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp milk or water
1 tsp vanilla

Beat everything together until fluffy. If icing is not coming together, add more milk or water 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing in between each addition.

We divided our icing into quarters and flavored it for each type of cupcake.

Lemon: Added 1 Tbsp lemon juice and yellow food coloring to icing. Topped frosted cupcakes with white sprinkles.

Cherry Vanilla: Left icing as vanilla but added pink food coloring. Topped frosted cupcakes with a maraschino cherry.

Chocolate Peanut Butter: Added 2 Tbsp peanut butter to icing. Topped frosted cupcakes with Reese's Pieces.

Dark Chocolate Mocha: Added 2 Tbsp coffee and brown food coloring to icing. Topped frosted cupcakes with a shard of dark chocolate coffee flavored candy bar.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

I first came up with this recipe shortly after my wedding and it seemed to be an instant hit. It has become my husband's favorite dish that I make. He just loves it and I hope you will love it as well.

It started off by browning one pound of ground beef with a chopped onion and bell pepper. I used an orange bell pepper just because that is what I had on hand.

After the beef was browned and the veggies were tender, I added frozen corn and a package of burrito seasoning.

I sprayed a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray and layered in soft shelled tortilla to line the bottom. I cut each one of my shells in half but depending on what size you buy, you may have to cut some in quarters. Just make a single layer on the bottom, slightly overlapping each piece of shell. I'm using whole wheat tortillas in this version but any variety is fine.

I spooned in half the meat mixture.....

.....and sprinkled 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the top.

And repeated with a second layer.

I topped my two layers with another layer of tortilla shells and poured a can of enchilada sauce over the top.....

and sprinkled on some more cheese. I then placed it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

When it was done baking, I let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.

It is perfectly good by itself or......

you can add sour cream, a side of salsa and tortilla chips.

Mexican Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (any variety is fine)
1 cup frozen corn
1 pack of burrito seasoning (taco seasoning would also work fine)
1/2 cup water
1 package soft tortillas shells (any variety or flavor)
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 10oz can enchilada sauce

Brown and crumble ground beef on stove top with the onion and bell pepper. When beef is cooked through and veggies are tender, add in corn, water and seasoning pack. Stir to combine and turn off heat. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray and place in a layer of soft tortilla shells, cutting them as needed to fit the dish. Layer in half of meat mixture and sprinkle with one cup of cheese. Add another layer of tortilla shells as before, 2nd half of meat mixture and another cup of cheese. Add a final layer of tortilla shells and pour the enchilada sauce over the top, completely covering tortillas. Sprinkle on the last of the cheese and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

* I have also made this in a deep dish pie plate that was the same size as my tortilla shells. I would use only a third or quarter of the meat mixture in each layer (you end up with more layers this way) and then just use a whole tortilla shell without needing to cut it to fit.