Saturday, February 17, 2018

Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn't love the stuff?  I wanted to see if Sam would like home made as much as the stuff out of a box so I found a recipe on line, a well-reviewed one from the NY Times. 

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 T butter (1 T for to butter the dish, the other for the top during baking)
1 c full fat cottage cheese
2 c (non-skim) milk
1 t dried mustard
pinch cayenne
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated  (1/4 c reserved for the top during baking)
1/2 lb elbow macaroni, not cooked

Heat oven to 375F.  Use 1 T of butter to grease a 9" round or square baking pan.

In a blender (I used the food processor), puree the cottage cheese, milk, and spices.  In a large bowl mix the milk mixture, grated cheese, and dried pasta.  Pour into prepared dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover, stir gently, sprinkle on the reserved cheese and dot the top with butter. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

So let's just say it makes a lot of dishes for something that would seem to be so simple. It smelled great as it baked, but that wasn't enough to pull Sam from the video game he was playing with a friend...I'm not sure that a fire could interrupt the game though so it's probably not a fair expectation. The browned cheese on the top looks spectacular.

But creamy?  Not really.  It was kind of grainy but also delicious.  The pasta was pretty soft and I like a little more chew so I think it would have been better with smaller elbows (I used the large ones) or perhaps some other type of pasta if you're not a traditionalist.  And I'm not! 

I think I'd make it again but try using some cream cheese to see if that would up the creaminess factor a bit. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fancy Pot Luck Bread

Pot lucks are interesting.  People like things that are familiar but at the same time they're also supposed to be special.  I struggle.  Lots of times I'll make pie because people think pie crust is hard but today I wanted something a little different.  One of the other criteria today is that I don't want to have to leave the house to get ingredients.  It's windy and cold, and there is a nor'easter heading our way.

I decided to make bread, white bread, rich white bread.  I also wanted something showy so I spent a little time on google and found this recipe.  She's calling it happy bread but I'm calling it fancy.

I did find that the recipe didn't call for enough milk to get the dough to hold together.  Perhaps that's partially due to bad conversions.   Here's my version.

Fancy Pot Luck Bread

2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1/4 c warm milk

Cover and place in a warm area for 10 minutes, until it is nice and bubbly.

Remainder of the dough:
4 c (500g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c warm milk (approximately)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice

Mix the flour and salt until well mixed.  Make a well and add the remaining ingredients above, as well as the starter, holding back some of the milk to add as needed to get the desired texture.  Mix in the mixer with the dough hook until it is a soft, somewhat sticky dough and you can stretch a piece thin enough to know gluten has formed, about 7 minutes.  Turn it out on a lightly floured counter and knead a bit, just to make sure it's ready. It should be fairly soft and smooth but not sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and proof until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

6 T (3/4 stick) butter, melted and cooled

Punch down the dough, then cut it into 8 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a rectangle between 1/8" and 1/4" thick so each piece runs about 4" by 6".  Coat the top of each piece with the melted butter then place one piece on top of another so there are 4 rectangles.  Roll each of the double layers along the long side so they form a log.  

Cut into pieces:  first cut off the ends, approximately 1" pieces.  Next cut the remaining logs with alternating diagonal cuts into 4 triangular pieces.  Arrange the end pieces with the cut side down, in the center of a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Use the triangular pieces to make a ring around the center pieces, alternating the wide and narrow ends.  Place the greased ring of a spring form pan around the dough to guide it's upward rise.  Cover and proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40-50 minutes.

Glaze and bake:

Preheat oven to 350 F

1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons sesame or poppy seeds

Mix the egg yolk and milk.  Brush the top with the glaze, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.   Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  Brush with melted butter as it comes out of the oven.

I made this twice, once with sesame seeds on the top only, the other with poppy seeds both on the top and in the rolled up logs.  The poppy had a lot more flavor.  I baked the sesame one in the ring and it turned out to be cake-shaped, I baked the poppy without the ring and it's more free form with more crispy bits.  I liked it better that way but it isn't quite as showy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ina Garten's Pie Crust

I can't take credit for this one but I was seeking a pie crust recipe that I can make ahead and wouldn't be hard as a rock after spending a bit of time in the refrigerator.  It also needed to be flaky and easy to work with.  This Recipe qualified.

It makes a HUGE amount of pie crust, more than is needed for an 8" or 9" pie.  I made one and a third recipe and was able to make two 9" one crust pies, one 8" two crust pie, a tart crust, and some of my favorite piecrust pinwheels with the leftovers.  Plan accordingly unless you like your pie crust to be thick.   Of course, it never hurts to have a disk in the freezer....


12 T very cold butter (I used frozen)
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1/3 c shortening
6 to 8 T of ice water

Cut the butter into cubes and put it back in the freezer/refrigerator.  Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in the food processor, then add the shortening and butter.  I mixed those in well before I turned on the machine.  Pulse 8-12 times until the butter is the size of peas, then with the machine running, add the ice water.  Mix until it begins to form a ball although it that never really happened before I was too worried about it being tough so I checked it frequently and when it began to hold together as curds I stopped the machine.  Shape into flat disks and refrigerate for about 30  minutes.

I made it a day ahead and it rolled out beautifully.  Three pies are heading over to the Fakesgiving dinner.   It's not really fake, just early!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


One of my absolute favorites.  Unfortunately, not one of Sam's but he'll eat it.  I freeze individual servings for lunch and the smell tortures my co-workers in a good way, not in a reheating fish in the microwave way.

Dice to preferred size approximate amounts of the following
1/2 lb andouille sausage
1 lb chicken
1 very large onion
3-4 stalks celery
2-6 cloves garlic depending on size
1-2 bell peppers

Olive oil
28 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes, sometimes more
Chicken stock…to texture
About 1 1/2 uncooked rice

1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
2 bay leaf

In Dutch oven, brown the sausage, then the chicken in the olive oil.  Add half of each the onion, celery and all the garlic.  Cook until onions are translucent.   Add spices and cook for about a minute or so, until fragrant.  Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and remaining veggies and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and add the rice.

Bake for 45 min – an hour at 350F until rice is cooked.

Makes a lot, about 8 good sized servings.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spicy Red Lentil Dal

A classic, easy, and tasty.  I like to make this and then freeze, with brown rice, in lunch-sized containers.  I'm not sure my co-workers appreciate the smell but there are times I just don't care.

Oil – sesame or olive oil
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 c water
1 c red lentils
1 t cumin…or a bit more
1 t coriander
1 t turmeric
1/4 t cardamom
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Saute onion, garlic, ginger in oil until onions are clear.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until lentils are nice and soft.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Addictive Coconut Bars

I was heading over to some friends for a little hanging out and football and wanted to bring something with me.  While the traditional football treats tend to be salty and greasy, I figured that people wouldn't mind sweet and chewy instead.  These were very easy and people really liked them

Chewy Addictive Coconut Bars
350 F

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar

Mix together and press into a parchment lined 8"x8" pan.   Bake 10 minutes.

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c brown sugar
2 T flour
1 c coconut
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the filling thoroughly.  Spread the filling over the warm crust.  Bake 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cherry Cobbler

I grew up in Wisconsin and I've found through my various moves that many parts of the United States aren't as enamored with cherries as though of us who grew up near Door County.  We used to drive there, pick cherries, and then spend time pitting them.  The best pie is cherry pie!

Last year we discovered that a nearby orchard has a row of cherry trees that they don't advertise and we were able to pick enough that we could occasionally make a cherry pie and dream of summer so . They were also outrageously expensive so this year I put two trees in the back yard. There was one cherry on the tree and the birds ate it.

Still, I thought we'd still be able to pick them them but alas, we were notified that there was no crop due to a late spring frost.  So disappointing but today we were partially saved when my neighbors said to come over and pick the cherries on the trees they planted three years ago.   The trees were small, but loaded.  They picked.  We picked.  Now I have enough in the freezer for two precious pies.

But for dessert tonight, after a meal of pesto made from the basil and garlic from our garden, I thought I'd try something slightly different, something that was quicker than pie. Something that didn't need to be rolled.   Cobbler!   This is directly from Epicurious and I didn't change anything....and it was delicious.

Sour Cherry Cobbler
4 cups sour cherries, picked over, rinsed, and drained well
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits


    Working over a bowl pit the cherries, discarding the pits and reserving the cherries and any juices in the bowl, and into the cherries stir the cornstarch, 2/3 cups of the sugar, the lemon juice, and almond extract. In a small bowl stir together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and the butter, blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, and stir in 1/4 cup boiling water, stirring until the batter is just combined. In an 8-inch cast-iron skillet or flameproof baking dish bring the cherry mixture to a boil, drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto it, and bake the cobbler in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden. Serve the cobbler with the ice cream.