Bacon and Kale Mac-n-Cheese

Many of you asked for the recipe, so here it is! Bacon and Kale Mac-n-cheese. I have a basic mac-n-cheese recipe that I change up, probably every time I make it 🙂 Not too long ago I shared my Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese recipe with you all. This one is not very different. For every mac-n-cheese, I make a roux (gluten-free flour and butter), add some spices, acid (lemon or vinegar to cut down the richness a little), then the shredded cheese and whatever extras you want to include, if any.

Bacon and Kale Mac-n-Cheese

Ingredients

1-12 to 16 ounce package of your favorite GF pasta (I used Wegman’s GF Fusilli)

1 cup of kale, washed, pulled of stem and chopped finely

½ pound of bacon, chopped

2/3 cup of butter

1/2 cup of Cup4Cup gluten free flour

1 Tablespoon brown spicy mustard

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

About 2 cups of 2% milk (you can use whole milk)

1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar or juice of ½ a lemon

About 10 ounces of cheese (I used about 6 ounces of Cabot extra sharp cheddar and 4 ounces of an Aged Gouda)

Directions

Prepare pasta according to directions on the box. Place a cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat. Add bacon to the cold pan and let it heat while the pan heats. Cook bacon for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add kale. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bacon has browned and started to crisp. Save bacon and kale mixture on a plate until ready to mix with pasta and cheese sauce. In the same cast iron skillet, melt butter and whisk in the flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes and then add the milk. Whisk together until all the lumps are out.  Stir in vinegar or lemon juice then add the cheese. Mix to melt the cheese and take off heat. Add drained pasta, bacon and kale. Mix through and serve!

I am, honestly, not a big fan of kale. Others in my family like it, so I’ll appease them by making it…covered in cheese 🙂

Mac-n-cheese is a great basic recipe to master and then you can play with it, using different vegetables, meats and spices to create new meals.When I don’t have time or the ability to be at the stove cooking for 20 minutes, I make a quick version of mac-n-cheese using mascarpone. Check it out here! It is a great easy meal.

What is your favorite mac-n-cheese topping or mix-in?

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

The calendar may say it is spring, but walking outside into 16 degree temperatures this morning, it definitely did not feel like spring! While the weather is still chilly, warm up inside with a new spin on mac-n-cheese. This recipe combines my favorite spinach and artichoke dip with gluten-free pasta. The first time I ever made it I simply used the leftover dip from a party and mixed it with the cooked pasta. Great way to use up leftovers, however making it from scratch as a pasta dish is even better!

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

Ingredients

1-12 to 16 ounce package of your favorite GF pasta

1/3 cup of butter

¼ cup of Cup4Cup gluten free flour

2 cups of 2% milk (you can use whole milk)

3 ounces of cream cheese

1 Tablespoon brown spicy mustard

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

4 to 6 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1-10 ounce jar of artichokes, drained and chopped

8 ounces of cheddar, shredded (the Alpine Cheddar from Cabot works really well)

Directions

Prepare pasta according to directions on the box. In a large shallow pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for a few minutes and then add the milk. Whisk together until all the lumps are out.  Stir in cream cheese, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add spinach and artichokes. Combine and heat through, then add cheddar. Mix to melt the cheese and take off heat. Add drained pasta and serve.

Spring warmth and fresh recipes will come soon enough! For today, I will sit on the couch under a warm fleece blanket and watch movies with my daughter (home sick with strep) and dream of spring. What are you most looking forward to in the spring?

Crowd Pleasing Chili

If you are having a crowd over for a big game or just hanging out with friends and family around the holidays and need a big satisfying meal, chili is always a great option. It is a blank canvas and does not require a lot of hands on work. It is also very easy to make gluten free, vegetarian or allergy friendly, which is great when you have a large crowd and don’t know what everyone’s food allergies or preferences are. I don’t think I have ever really made chili the same way twice, but I made this one recently to fuel up some friends before we enjoyed a long walk.

Quinoa Pumpkin Chili for a Crowd

Ingredients

1 to 2 pounds of your favorite beans or mixture of beans

½ of a large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1-24 ounce can crushed tomatoes

About ½ a 15 ounce can of pumpkin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar

¾ cup of chicken stock (or vegetable or beef stock)

1 ½ Tablespoons brown sugar

½ cup of quinoa

Optional, add 1 to 2 cups of leftover roasted vegetables and/or turkey, chicken or beef

Directions

Pour all the ingredients into your slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low 6-8 hours. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions.

This is yet another way to disguise Thanksgiving leftovers. To stretch the meal even further, you can serve it over mac-n-cheese, as I did for lunch the day after I made it.

quinoa-chili-for-a-crowd

When you are entertaining for the holidays, having easy meals that can stretch to feed a crowd are very useful. This is a healthy meal and a hearty meal that will give you the fuel to warm you up after hiking, skiing or keep you going during overtime of your favorite team’s game.

What are your favorite crowd pleasing meals? Stay tuned for an extra post this week with some gluten free holiday entertaining ideas and a recipe!

Here are some past crowd pleasing or tailgating recipes and ideas for using leftovers (Always the same disclaimer that they are from before our family started eating gluten free so make adaptations as needed or ask me how I do it! mammascooking@gmail.com

Fall Football and Tailgating

Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving and Cooking in the Aftermath

Pre and Post Thanksgiving Ideas with a Potluck Recipe thrown in

Happy Thanksgiving

Taco Tuesday – Step outside the Taco Shell (Gluten free!)

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and italian sausage mac-n-cheese (I think I’ll make this mac-n-cheese GF tonight!)

Thank you to Mamapedia for highlighting Mamma’s Cooking 3 Easy 10 Minute Meals on Mamapedia Voices on Friday!

Super Easy Pasta Night

I keep hearing from friends and readers that they wish they could cook what I do. Truth is…you can. Yes, I love to cook. It is my passion and stress reliever, but I completely understand (and have those nights or weeks!) of not wanting to cook or not having the time to cook.  I do make more complicated meals some nights, but everyone needs to have super easy meals that they can make with very few ingredients and with very little effort. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites over the next couple months.

I have been sharing my “theme night” meals (Breakfast for Dinner, Tex Mex Tuesday, etc.), to show how I keep organized and take the stress out of my cooking. Easy meals like this Pasta with Mascarpone can help change up your pasta night. This recipe is very easy and a new take on mac-n-cheese if you are looking for something a little lighter.

Pasta with Mascarpone
Ingredients
1 pound elbow pasta (use GF pasta or even roasted cauliflower if making GF)
1 – 8 ounce tub of mascarpone cheese
2 Tablespoons of grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic paste
Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
Grilled, sautéed or cooked vegetables, chicken or shrimp, optional


Directions
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.  Reserve the pasta water. Pour the pasta into a serving bowl. Add the mascarpone, parmesan, onion powder, salt, pepper and garlic.  Add a ladle of pasta water, or more if needed to help melt the cheese and create a sauce.  Serve. 

This makes more than enough for a family of five as a main meal with some vegetables and leftover chicken. We usually have enough for all five of us for lunch the next day too! You can also use it as a side dish.



A great friend of mine (who just launched an AMAZING blog: Momma to Go), tested this one for me. She is a busy mom with 2 young kids so understands that dinner needs to be easy and needs to be good. This got a thumbs up! Thanks Harmony for testing and for the picture!

What is your favorite super easy meal? 

While I’m singing praises of another blogger, I will remind you that Tuesday, October 25th is the release of Nicole Hunn’s Gluten-Free Small Bites, so you only have two days to get the pre-order goodies available here! I’ve already made good use of mine! 


Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and Italian Sausage Mac-n-cheese

Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away and I love to cook for the holidays! I do not love spending more time in the kitchen than with my family (my kitchen right now is too small to have anyone but me and sometimes my 4 year old in it!), so I try to keep it simple. The one area that I do complicate the dinner a little bit is that after listening to many episodes of TheSplendid Table , I have heard chefs say over and over that they do not cook the turkey whole (except for one for show that is not eaten at the restaurant). So a couple of years ago I decided to breakdown and butcher a turkey myself. It was a satisfying experience that took me an hour and a half! Last year it took me only 45 minutes and a few cuts and scrapes on my hands J I put all the dark meat and giblets in a large pan and braise it for a couple of hours on the stove. The white meat is roasted in the oven. That way everything cooks evenly. I then use the braising liquid to make amazing gravy.  
I do not want to butcher the turkey this year. I just don’t have the time or energy, so I’m trying to find a place where I can have someone do it for me. I started calling around the grocery stores and most of them responded something like, “Um, you want to do what? Why? I guess we could figure out how to do that for you.” Not a satisfactory answer. You can buy separate turkey breasts and wings and thighs in most grocery stores, but it doesn’t give you the giblets, which I have no desire to eat, but really do help make the dark meat and gravy taste better. 
Yesterday I went into a butcher shop nearby and asked the woman behind the counter. She was very friendly (but did kind of seem confused as to why I would want that done) and went to the back to ask the butcher if that was something he could do. She came back and told me that the butcher’s father could probably do it. Their price per pound is also the same as the supermarket, so I will probably go through them, but I’m going to do a little more searching to see if I can find a butcher who sees eye to eye with me J I’m prepared that that may not happen this year, but then I have a whole other year to keep looking! 
While I was in the butcher shop yesterday, I figured I should try out some of their meat. I knew I was planning on making mac-n-cheese last night and I saw their homemade sausages, so decided to get a long link of their sweet Italian sausage. It was delicious! 
Mac-n-cheese with Sweet Italian sausage
Serves 6-8
1 box of pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 stick of butter (sliced)
1 sweet Italian sausage
½ cup of flour
About 1 ½ to 2 cups of milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp ground coriander
½ Tbsp lemon pepper
1 tsp salt (add more if you like. I’m notorious for under salting things)
4 oz of cream cheese
1 jar of puréed carrot babyfood (can use any pureed veggie you like, butternut squash would be good too)
8 oz of shredded cheddar (use 10 oz of cheese, whatever combo or single cheese you like)
2 oz of shredded mozzarella
Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make pasta according to package instructions. In a large sauce pan, throw in a couple pats of butter. Take the sausage out of its casing and cook in the butter. Remove the sausage when done and try to keep as much of the drippings in the pan. Put the heat on medium high and add the remainder of the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes or so to get rid of the flour taste. Then slowly add the milk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add mustard, coriander, pepper and salt and mix together. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little more milk. Add cream cheese and puréed carrots. Whisk together. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as you like. Take pan off the heat and add shredded cheese, mix together with a spoon and then add the cooked pasta and sausage (use a sauce pan that is large enough to accommodate all the pasta – one less dish to wash!).  Mix together, flatten top and sprinkle lightly with panko bread crumbs. Put in the oven for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.
I completely forgot to take a picture! Oh well. It was a big hit with the kids and my father in law. Tim and I got to go out on a date, so I’ll have some leftovers for lunch today!
Since I can’t lift anything over 5-10lbs right now, I had my father in law help me put the water on the stove to boil, put the pan in the oven and take it out. So thank you to him for his help. Also, thank you to Adriane for giving me the idea to make a “fancy” homemade hamburger helper type meal.  Her version sounds really good and super easy too! “Macaroni, ground beef (browned while pasta cooked), a little milk, Tillamook cheddar, Beechers cheddar, and South African smoke added for the adult portions. Mmmmm.”
Send me any of your easy and go to fall meals! We all can take inspiration from each other to spice up our menus!

Cooking down the fridge and pantry and how to use holiday leftovers

So I didn’t find the time I thought I would have with 2 weeks off! That’s the way things go. Happy New year to everyone!

With all of our holiday visitors I stocked our fridge and freezer and cooked for 7 days straight! Now its time to empty out the fridge and clean out the pantry and see how long I can go without grocery shopping (except for essentials like milk and other fresh items as needed.)

Great thing to do with leftovers from a crowd is to make mac-n-cheese. I had a bunch of cold cuts and sliced cheese and had all the makings for spinach and artichoke dip on hand (in case we needed more food), so I decided to make a spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese. I based it off of the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for spinach dip that I use and used the abundance of sliced swiss, colby and havarti that I had in the fridge along with some whole wheat pasta. Delicious!!! Make a basic cheese sauce (1/3 cup of better, 1/3 cup of flour, 2-3 cups of milk). Here is the link for how to make this sauce. I then added worchestershire sauce, a little lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 8 oz of cream cheese, about 2 cups of shredded cheese, 1 jar artichokes – chopped, and thawed 10 oz package of spinach. Mix with pasta and top with panko breadcrumbs and cook for about 40 minutes at 375.

With the leftover mashed potatoes (or extra potatoes you didn’t cook) you can make shepherds pie. I usually keep ground beef or turkey in the freezer, so made this with the leftover peas from dinner as well. Put a layer of mashed potatoes at the bottom of the pan. Cook the ground beef with onions, salt, pepper and coriander or use a packet of onion soup mix for 1 -2lbs of beef. I used the soup mix because I ran out of onions and had that from dip I made. Once beef is cooked, add 2 Tbsp of sour cream and mix well. Place layer of ground beef on top of potatoes then layer with peas and repeat. I had my 3 year old layer the peas on top to help. Put a last layer of potatoes on the top then cook for about 30 -45 minutes (depending on your oven) at 375 degrees.


Another item you may have are leftover roast or ham. You can easily use these as a filling for quesadillas, tacos or enchiladas or add into this delicious soup recipe that I use from Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites from Southern Living. Take 5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed, 1 medium onion chopped, 28 oz of chicken broth, 12 oz of diced ham (or beef), 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, 2tsp bottle minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt and 3/4 tsp pepper and add all these into the slow cooker and cooked on high for 1 hour and then reduce to Low and cook for 6 hours. (I also cook it on the stove in about and hour or when the potatoes are tender). Process half of the soup mixture in a food processor (or use a hand held immersion blender) and then pour it back into the pot. Add 2 cups of cream (I used fat free half and half) and 2 cups of cheddar (or you can also use your leftover cheese from a cheese plate).

If you are like me and live in the Pacific NW, salmon is very often a part of a holiday meal. I use leftovers for making a fritata the next morning. To about 5 beaten eggs add in some leftover mashed potatoes and shred some of the cheese from the cheese plate you put out the night before and you have an easy, delicious meal! You can add in the leftover salmon or ham or bacon or just leave as potato and cheese. Bake for about 20-30 minutes (until edges are brown and eggs are cooked in the center) at 375. Here is a picture of the bacon wrapped salmon I made at Christmas (maple smoked bacon, wrapped around salmon which as been seasoned with thyme, rosemary, lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar, wrapped in foil and baked for 30 min at 375 – 3lbs of salmon).


If you have leftover squash – make soup with it. I made butternut squash soup from the leftover squash at Christmas dinner and a bag of squash I happened to have in the freezer.

To be able to use all the random pantry, fridge and freezer items I accumulated over the holidays, I created an inventory and a meal plan. My hope is the meal plan will last us for the next 2 weeks and will use up all the items in my fridge/freezer. It took a while to get organized. I first inventoried all the food + condiments we have (and finally threw out some old spices! If I haven’t used the garam masala in 3 years, I’m probably not going to use it now). Then looking at my inventory, I created meals. I made it through 2 weeks and then lost steam. This is a great way to save money (New year’s resolution # 1) and get organized with a fresh start. A week into it, we have stayed on track!

Happy New Year and happy cooking!

Pot Pie and Caramelized Onion + Bacon Mac-n-cheese



I made my own pastry dough the other day. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. Here is the recipe I used from Gourmet. I made a chicken pot pie with it. I used leftover chicken from a roast chicken I had made a couple days earlier and added it to a mixture of cream of chicken soup (I buy the low sodium, low fat), 1 cup of chicken broth, a handful of frozen petite onions (you could use 1/2 of a medium size white onion) and about 2 handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables (you can use whatever you have on hand, frozen or not). To flavor the mixture I added a dash of balsamic vinegar, dash of Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and a couple of sprigs of thyme and let it cook down.



Then I rolled out 1/2 of the pastry dough and placed it in the bottom of the pie plate. Then filled the pie plate with the chicken mixture and cover with the rest of the dough, pressing the edges to seal. Then I brushed it with a beaten egg (actually egg substitute because that is what I had in the fridge) and then made a couple of holes for the steam to escape. I baked it for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees (adjust based on your oven) until the crust was a golden brown. What a treat on a cold day. Karina liked it too.

Mac-n-cheese update and recipe:

I unfortunately didn’t even get a call from the Tillamook people about my mac-n-cheese recipe. I’m not too surprised though, I’ve made some much better ones since then (I sent them only my 3rd try). Here is the basic recipe I’ve tweaked and then I’ll write some additions at the bottom:

16 oz – dried campanelle pasta (you can use any time of noodles that you like)

¼ cup – unsalted butter

¼ cup – all purpose flour

2 ½ cups – fat free half and half (or any kind of milk you like)

¼ tsp – onion powder

½ tsp – ground coriander

1 1/2 – tsp – chili powder

1/4 tsp – cumin

1 Tbsp – yellow mustard powder

1 pinch – nutmeg

1 tsp – minced fresh garlic

¼ cup – minced shallots (you can use onions as well or just add more onion powder)

1/8 tsp – ground black pepper

1/2 tsp – kosher salt (separated)

zest of 1/2 a lime

3/4 cup – canned pureed pumpkin (or 1 large sweet potato that has been baked and then mashed without the skin)

8 oz – cream cheese (room temperature + cut into cubes) (I use neufchatel cream cheese that is lower in fat but still tastes good)

2 1/2 cups – cheddar cheese shredded (you could also use colby jack or any mixture of cheeses you like) 1/2 cups – mozzarella cheese shredded

3 Tbsp – plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot bring water for pasta to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to directions on package. Cook to the minimum time given on the package so that the noodles are al dente. Pour the noodles into a colander and drain. Set aside.

In a large deep sauce pan melt the butter over medium high heat. Once melted add the flour and whisk together. Keep whisking for about 3 minutes. Slowly add in the fat free half and half (or milk), about a ¼ cup at a time. Keep whisking and add in onion powder, coriander, chili powder, cumin, mustard powder, nutmeg, garlic, shallots, pepper, lime zest and 1/4 tsp of salt. Whisk continually for about 5 minutes. Then mix in the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is mixed in, turn burner down to simmer. Add cream cheese and whisk until incorporated and sauce is smooth. Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the shredded cheeses. Whisk until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth (only lumps should be the shallots).

Once sauce is smooth, taste for more salt and add the remaining ¼ tsp if needed. Pour in cooked pasta and stir. If your saucepan can go into the oven, smooth out top of casserole and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. If it cannot, pour into casserole dish and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

50 minutes to prep

20-25 minutes to cook in oven

Serves 8 people.



For some additional toppings you could caramelize onions and sprinkle them over the top before baking and then put the breadcrumbs over the onions. If you like bacon, you can cook about 4 slices of bacon (I used turkey, you can use any kind you want) in a saute pan until crispy. After you remove the bacon from the pan, add about 1 Tbsp of butter and then caramelize the onions in the butter and bacon with some thyme. Add the onions to the top of the mac-n-cheese and then crumble bacon over as well. This was amazing!



I know it seems like a long list of dry spices to include, but this is just the best mixture I’ve found. It still tastes great without the lime or if you don’t have coriander or nutmeg, it’s ok to leave them out or use your own favorite mixture of spices.



Continuing my cooking on a budget…breakfast, bbqs and evening with friends

Limiting myself trips to the grocery store is really helping our budget and my creativity 🙂 Life still happens when you’re on a budget however and I love to play hostess, so when we had a couple of evenings in one week where I was hosting a group of people for dinner, it was a challenge to stay in budget and still make good food, but I think I pulled it off! I based my menu around what was on sale.



One night I had the girls from my book club over and we wanted to enjoy the backyard, so I made grilled pizzas. I bought a veggie tray from Trader Joe’s as the appetizer so the girls could nibble while I grilled the pizzas. Here is the link to my blog about how to grill a pizza. First pizza was a caesar salad pizza, with chicken (marinated in caesar dressing and cooked in advance). Dough is topped with a thin layer of caesar dressing, light covering of mozzarella + chicken while on the grill. When you take it off of the grill, add the caesar salad and some shredded parmesan. Second pizza was a traditional magherita with fresh mozzarella tomatoes and basil. Third pizza was a caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza. Dough was topped with caramelized onions (made in advance) and goat cheese. This was the favorite!

Dessert was simple. 1 package sugar free white chocolate pudding, 1 package sugar free chocolate fudge pudding, chocolate chips, and sliced strawberries. Just layer ingredients and you have a trifle!

Another night we had a friends from PEPS over. I made a quinoa salad (thanks Jodi for the idea!!) and baked lemon chicken. I also was feeling very domestic and made oatmeal white chocolate chip craisin cookies. Cook the quinoa like you would rice. I used chicken stock in stead of water (you could also use veggie stock or water). Let the quinoa cool and prepare a vinagrette or use a salad dressing you like and have on hand and pour over quinoa (once cool). I used Paul Newman’s olive oil vinagrette and mixed in some pepper and lemon juice. Then add whatever you usually add to pasta salad. I used cubed colby jack, roasted zucchini and diced tomatoes. Chill and serve. [Another twist on pasta salad can be found at Family friendly food, a blog I follow.]

Baked Lemon chicken is something I have made for years and varies depending on what I have on hand. I cut the boneless chicken breasts into smaller pieces so they would cook faster and marinated them in lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon zest and honey. Put the chicken into a baking pan, drizzle with honey, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Then take the foil off and bake for another 30-45 minutes (depending on size of chicken pieces).

Some weekend mornings I actually have the urge to make a big breakfast. I really wanted eggs benedict but have never made hollandaise sauce and didn’t have the time or energy to look it up at 8:30 in the morning (it was my morning to sleep in. Tim and I switch off each weekend day). I decided to make a cheese sauce (which I just learned from all of my mac n cheese experiments). I made a lighter cheese sauce (2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp flour, 1 ½ – 2 cups of milk, 3-4 sprigs thyme, salt, pepper, yellow mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder and 1 ½ cups skim mozzarella) and put that over the poached egg and tomatoes (diced and mixed with garlic, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar) on wheat toast. It was soooo good. I had enough cheese sauce leftover that I boiled some water while we were eating our breakfast and made pasta, mixed pureed pumpkin in with the cheese sauce, poured the cheese sauce over the pasta and baked it for 20 minutes. We spent the morning at home and then after Karina’s nap were able to go out for the rest of the afternoon and enjoy ourselves. We came home just before dinner. I reheated the mac-n-cheese and dinner was served in 10 minutes!

Luckily these meals provided leftovers again for lunch and dinners on the nights in between when I didn’t cook. Making cooking easier by giving yourself nights off is important. Those nights off don’t have to be about takeout (unless you want them to be). If you are trying to save money, make enough of one dish to have leftovers. If you don’t want to eat the same thing all week, freeze the food and then you can take different items out of the freezer and reheat on nights you don’t want to cook. But, like I have said from the beginning with this blog, everything in moderation. Not everyone is organized to cook every night and have freezer foods on hand, etc all the time. I know I’m not. Don’t beat yourself up about ordering pizza or going through the drivethru every once in a while. Taking the time to read this blog and other cooking sites shows you care about what you and your kids eat, even if you just think about trying the recipes. It’s the thought that counts J On that rogue day that you have some time and are in the mood to cook, you have an arsenal of recipes and methods in this blog, cookbooks (and more cookbooks)I mentioned and just by Googling. (Yes I think that is a verb now).



Happy cooking! Coming up…hopefully some recipes with food from my garden. My zucchini is not looking happy…



Sorry there are no pictures this week. The hard drive of our laptop died and our photos are on it! Luckily the Geeksquad was able to retrieve the info, but the computer I am working on now doesn’t have a dvd drive to read the info. Couple more weeks and the computer will be back and pictures of my garden will be up!

From the farmer’s market….

So I decided to try something new recently. Goat. I had seen it a couple of times at the Ballard Sunday Farmer’s Market and finally convinced my husband that we should buy some. So I bought a pound of stew meat. I looked online for some recipes. Most of the ones that sounded really interesting involved peanut butter or something else that I figured was probably not a good idea to give Karina (yet! only one more month and she’ll be a year old!) and I really wanted her to try the goat 🙂

I ended up cooking it in the crock pot when I worked from home one day last week. I just put some salt, pepper and coriander on the goat meat, cut up some potatoes and yellow zucchini squash (from Tim’s boss’ garden), and added about a cup and a half of liquid (beef stock, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce) to the pot. After 3 and a 1/2 hours on high, it was done! Karina loved it! She usually goes for the squash first, but this time ate all the goat meat, then the squash and then the potatoes. I guess I’ll have to make it again 🙂

Tonight she really enjoyed some roasted cherry tomatoes from Pike’s Market. I just roasted them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (about 8-10 min for a pint of tomatoes). She ate those before the chicken and potatoes. (Chicken: olive oil, salt, lemon pepper, rosemary and thyme – seared in the pan and then cooked in the oven for 8-10 min + leftover mashed potatoes from when I made shepard’s pie earlier this week).

Last week I made homemade mac-n-cheese for the first time. It is intensive, but was worth it. I also roasted a spaghetti squash. I had a friend over with her two kids (6 and 2 years old). Her new mealtime habit is to put her hands in her hair 🙂 We taught her to put her hands in the air when you ask her how big she is…since she gets such a great response from that, she likes to do it when her hands are covered in food and really work the food into the back of her hair 🙂 Needless to say she has been getting many more baths this week.

Recipes:

My Shepards Pie: For the mashed potatoes: I usually use yukon gold potatoes. Stick them with a fork and cook in the microwave on top of a papertowel. When they are cooked, I thrown them into my Kitchen Aid Mixer, with salt, pepper, milk, butter, neufchatel cream cheese and then turn it on.

For the meat, I tend to use ground turkey. I don’t tend to plan ahead enough to have defrosted turkey ready when I want to cook, so I cook it straight the freezer. First, I saute some onions, garlic and herbs (coriander, sage and pepper) in a skillet (with a cover). Second, I put the frozen turkey straight into the skillet and put the cover on. A few minutes later, I use a wooden spatula to scrape some of the defrosted turkey off the top, turn the turkey over, scrape the cooked turkey off the bottom and repeat until all the turkey is cooked. Then add some salt and other herbs to taste. Third, I put a little sour cream (or cottage cheese and a little milk, if no sour cream). If I don’t have any dairy or don’t want it, just leave this step out. You can also add a can of peas or other veggies if you have them on hand. Fourth, layer the baking pan (I use a pampered chef stoneware deep dish pie plate or lasagne pan), turkey and then potatoes, and repeat. On the top layer of potatoes sprinkle a little paprika and then cook at about 375 for 30-45 min.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

***Bread Crumb Topping*** [Instead of making this, I used plain store bought breadcrumbs]

6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality), torn into rough pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold) — cut into 6 pieces

***Pasta and Cheese***

1 pound elbow macaroni [I used whole wheat rotini]

1 tablespoon table salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) [I left out the cayenne]

5 cups milk (see note)

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese — shredded [I used havarti instead]

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese — shredded

1 teaspoon table salt

Directions:

For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.

For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9-by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.

Recipe Notes It’s crucial to cook the pasta until tender–just past the “al dente” stage. In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking the pasta. Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work well in this recipe. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broilersafe baking dish. If desired, offer celery salt or hot sauce (such as Tabasco) for sprinkling at the table.

This recipe from CDKitchen for Classic Macaroni And Cheese serves/makes 8

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash, butter, herbs, salt, pepper, water.

Cut the squash in half + removed seeds. Place cut side down in dish. (I used a lasagna dish). Cover the bottom of the dish with water. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes (time depends on size of squash). Once soft, use a fork to take the squash out of the rind in spaghetti strands. Mix in a tablespoon or two of butter (to your taste). Add salt, pepper, a sprinkling of fresh herbs [I used sage] and serve.