a99kitten’s Musings

I blog about a WHOLE LOT of stuff :)

I haven’t made homemade mac and cheese in a very long time so I decided it was time! I found this recipe a few years ago in the Macaroni & Cheese cookbook put together by Joan Schwartz (easily obtained on Amazon!) I like this one because it has some spice!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups salsa – I used Frontera (Rick Bayless) Chipotle salsa
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt
  • 1 lb dried pasta (I used elbow macaroni but can also try cork-screw cavatappi or the spiral rotini or fusilli)

 

Pour 4 quarts of water into a large pot, cover and set over high heat.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in a glass measuring cup or bowl in the microwave), warm milk for about 1 minute.

Add the warm milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done.

When the water has come to a boil, add the dried pasta. Stir well to keep the pasta from sticking together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add the pasta to the sauce. Stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce.

You can eat it this way. But I decided to put the mac and cheese in a baking dish and top with some fried onions (or buttery bread crumbs could work as well) and bake in a preheated 375 oven for 10-15 minutes, until browned and crisp on top.

macncheese

 

 

I love Buffalo Chicken Wings (prefer boneless though.) I love Buffalo chicken pretty much anything. I hate when people call anything spicy “Buffalo” but whatever. Use Frank’s and you are pretty good :)

2 (10 ounce) cans chicken breast
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot original cayenne pepper sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (Fage)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Mix in Frank’s Red Hot, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and yogurt. Stir in chicken until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture evenly into a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. I serve with pita chips and sliced cucumbers (also carrots and celery but yuck.) :)

Mmmmmmm

Mmmmmmm

TOTAL last minute party. Decided on some favorites of mine that would also be kind of easy to make Sunday AM. #1 is a dip I had at a cooking class called Bubbles and Bites. It was actually already made when we arrived for the class (so I’ve never tried making it) and we got the recipe to try at home. I did change it a bit for me (noted). This is my first time not just using Lipton for my sour cream dip!

Caramelized Shallot and Bacon Dip aka A More Time Consuming Onion Dip So You Can Feel Better About Not Using A Processed Packet (that is still delicious, don’t get me wrong) :)

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (original recipe is for vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup chopped shallots (original recipe called for 1.5 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt(I added this)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5 strips thick sliced, cooked bacon, crumbled (make sure cooled before stirring in) (original recipe is for 4 but MOAR BACON)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (original recipe is for 3/4 cup)
  •  1 cup sour cream (original recipe called for 3/4 cup)

 

  • Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the shallots, cover and cook for 10 minutes and then add balsamic vinegar and salt. Continue to cook (covered) until the shallots are deep golden brown in color, stirring to make sure not burning, about 20 minutes or so. Let cool.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium bowl to blend. Add shallots and bacon. Season dip to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover dip and refrigerate until flavors blend, about 2 hours, or even overnight (I did mine early in the AM of Superbowl Sunday.)
  • Serve with thick potato chips (YAY!) or veggies (for that 1 weird healthy-eating person at every SB party.)

    YUM!

    Dip

    It’s been 1 year since I adopted Smokey. He has 2 different birthdays (Feb and April) on his old vet records so we don’t know when his actual birthday is or his age (2 different years). So this means I am using his adoption date as his birthday and I decided on his age (6) :)

    On January 27th 2014, my ex and I went to look at 4 dogs, all available through NorSled (where we adopted Shadow.) I brought them with me so we could see how Shadow interacted with the dogs. He was going to have to be friends with him (or her) so best to have him help interview too!

    Smokey was the first dog we met as he was in the Woodland area and the rest were in the bay area. So we met him on the way down. When I walked in and met him and hung out with him for a short time, I instantly loved him. He was not black & white, like all of the others I was going to see that day and he was not as fluffy as Angelus and Storm or Shadow and we had no idea of his mix beyond husky and/or malamute mix. But he was the sweetest guy ever. I left there to go look at the others to make sure I wasn’t just taking the 1st dog I met since losing Stormy in August but I knew I loved him.

    Met 3 other fantastic dogs who were all gorgeous, lovable, sweet and needed homes but Smokey stayed in my mind. So after all day of driving and meeting dogs and foster moms and dads (and frankly I think Shadow was getting stressed thinking he was being dropped off somewhere!), we decided to stop and eat for the 1st time that day. Buffalo Wild Wings. Mmmmm.

    I sat there thinking how would I feel if I drove home and didn’t get Smokey – and I felt immediately sad. So we called the foster mom and told her we were coming back to see him again – this time letting Shadow have more time with him. We took Smokey and Shadow for a walk along with the foster mom – who I think was sad to lose Smokey (she was originally going to keep him but that didn’t work out for non-Smokey reasons).

    That was it – I decided then to do it. Signed all of the paperwork, wrote a check and loaded him in the car. Had Shadow in the backseat and Smokey in the back back. I think Shadow was starting to wonder what the heck. But he did get along best with Smokey as well. I think he was most happy I didn’t get the girl husky as she was half his size but kept kicking his butt as female huskies are likely to do!

    First night in his new home!

    First night in his new home!

    Got home around 11pm. Smokey was pretty stressed – obviously. New house after stranger took him away from his mom of 11 months. We woke up 3 or 4 times during the night. I was worried he had to go potty, but I think he just wanted to walk back to his old house.

    It took a few days for him to calm down a little and settle into a routine but I’m good at routines :) Angelus and Storm trained me. He still gets stressed when his routine changes. But he has settled into a pretty darn calm and happy guy :) And honestly, he has been a dream. How anyone could have not wanted to keep him (and hurt and abandon him) is beyond me. He had gone through several homes and all this proves to me is that people generally suck and most probably have no business being responsible for a pet rock. But I’m a wee bit cynical.

    After losing Angelus and then Storm, I was pretty sad for a time there. Now, I am happy literally every day. And I hope he feels the same way. I’m pretty sure he does. :)

    His 1st snow! 1/30/14

    His 1st snow! 1/30/14

    1st beach visit at Mavericks! 2/14

    1st beach visit at Mavericks! 2/14

    Full of smiles :)

    Full of smiles :)

    Snow fun with Shadow 1/15

    Snow fun with Shadow 1/15

    Happy Birthday Smokey Dokey :)

    His daily adventures can be followed at http://packdog.com/smokeydokey

    And anyone can donate to NorSled. These people work endlessly to find northern breeds homes from bad (and sometimes VERY bad) situations and need every penny: http://www.norsled.org/how-to-help/

    Even though it has not been terribly wintery all January (pretty much do **not** like you at all right now Mother Nature), it’s still pretty darn chilly at night. So warm and wintery dinners sound good. I found several recipes for beef stew and thought I’d try that!

    As a a kid, I LOVED Dinty Moore beef stew. There is nothing short of a zombiepocolypse that could get me to eat that now (no clue what that meat is…), but boy oh boy did I love it when I was 10-11yrs old. So I combined several recipes that I found that kinda sorta looked like I remembered and changed it a little for my tastes:

    Ingredients:

    2 lbs of beef cut into 1″ (ish) cubes – I asked the guy at the meat counter for the best type/quality of beef (you need some marbly fat)
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 clove of garlic – minced
    1 bay leaf
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 shallot – chopped (all recipes I found called for onion but ick)
    2 cups beef broth
    1/2 cup red wine
    4 baby red and 4 baby white potatoes – quartered (left skin on)
    4 carrots – peeled and sliced
    10 oz white mushrooms – sliced (no recipe I found called for this but I love mushrooms)

    For later: 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cream

    All of the recipes called for celery – also yuck. But if you like it, go for it.

    Directions:

    Place meat in the slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Pour over the meat and stir to coat the meat with the flour mixture.

    Stir in the garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, wine and veggies. Then put in the bay leaf and stir in but kind of on top.

    IMG_6973 copy

    Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. The cook on high option says 4-6 hours but I always prefer the low cook.

    At around 9.5 hours I thought it looked a little watery for stew. So I added the additional 1/4 cup flour and cream. This pretty much made it perfect. It cooked for another 1hr 15 mins and YUM!

    Plus I’m guessing it will be even better tomorrow!

    beef stew

    I’m thinking next time, use 1.5 cups of broth to prevent the wateriness. Maybe? Or maybe just keep the cream ;)

    Another yummy sounding winter recipe that I found after digging through my big box of recipes (that I really need to get sorted out.) Plus it sounded like a fairly easy one and I like those :) I did change it to suit my tastes AS USUAL!

    INGREDIENTS:

    4 (to 6) boneless chops about 1″ thick
    1/2 cup flour, divided
    1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    10 ounces sliced mushrooms (original recipe called for 8oz and I say the more mushrooms, the better!)
    6 tablespoons butter, divided (I used unsalted)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup chopped onion (I used a whole small shallot)
    1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (I did not use, but did mic in about 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed)
    1 cup chicken broth
    1 cup milk (I used non-fat as that’s what in my house…probably even creamier with whole milk)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    Preheat the oven to 350°.

    In a wide, shallow bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the flour, the paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; Stir to blend well. Dredge the chops lightly to coat all sides.

    In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter; add the mushrooms and cook until tender and golden brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.

    Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and brown the pork chops on both sides, for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the pork chops to a baking dish and set aside.

    Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and add the onion and celery (seed). Cook, stirring, until onion is tender. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the skillet and stir to blend into the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth and milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the mushrooms and add salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice.

    Pour the sauce mixture over the chops in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

    Mmmmmm

    I served over Jasmine rice because I could live off of the saucy white rice combo :) This was DELICIOUS. It was like a homemade cream of mushroom recipe. So, less people (yes..talking to you pretentious foodies) might not be AS condescending about using not an actual can of cream of mushroom soup in a recipe. Maybe. But probably not. But then, if I cared about that, I’d probably not have a #zombiepocolypse supply of blue box mac and cheese in my pantry. :)

    We feasted on pea risotto and Hunters chicken, both from the Cipriani cookbook, plus some roasted Brussell sprouts with maple and bacon on Christmas Eve.

    Then the hashed brown sausage scramble casserole Christmas morning.

    Then some neighbors came over and we had champagne, cheese and an amazing homemade antipasti they brought over around 3. So by the time Christmas dinner time came around, we felt some more cheese and a few bites of leftover chicken and risotto was sufficient while we watch a great Christmas classic, Trading Places :)

    So December 26th became the planned Christmas dinner time! On the menu was Caramel Apple Pork Chops with au gratin potatoes, green bean casserole (because I need this at least once between Thanksgiving and New Years and had not yet had it!!) plus apple sauce.

    Ingredients:

    4 (3/4 inch) thick pork chops
    1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced
    3 tablespoons pecans

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. Place a medium dish in the oven to warm.

    2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush chops lightly with oil and place in hot pan. The original recipe said to cook the chops for 5 to 6 minutes but I found they took about 8-9 minutes but they were probably 1″ chops. Turn the chops every couple minutes to cook evenly. Transfer to the warm dish, and keep warm in the preheated oven.

    3. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add butter to skillet, and stir in brown sugar mixture and apples. Cover and cook until apples are just tender. Remove apples with a slotted spoon and arrange on top of chops. Keep warm in the preheated oven.

    4. Now, according to the original recipe there should be some sauce to continue cooking sauce but we found there was almost none so added some butter and brown sugar and spices to create a little more. Cook this uncovered in skillet, until thickened slightly. Spoon sauce over apples and chops.

    5. The recipe called to just sprinkle pecans on at the end and serve. But next time, I will roast or brown the pecans first (perhaps in the sauce at the very end) as they seemed bland. Although the tastes combined were good. I just think the pecans needed something.

    Yum

    I would make it again for sure but would use thinner chops and dress up the pecans. But very yum!

    Christmas morning breakfast needed to be something to tide us over to dinner. And fuel us for snow hikes! Oh…this did! My interwebz were basically down yesterday (on Christmas) as the tourist hordes come up here and everyone tries to use it at once. And apparently Suddenlink doesn’t realize Bay Area tourists use the internet like water so refuse to upgrade (oh…I’ll be sending off a scathing letter to corporate as my technician suggested.)

    ANYHOO….didn’t get this recipe up ON Christmas.

    Hash Brown and Egg Casserole

    Ingredients:
    1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes – THAWED. I used the Alexia brand with onions, garlic and white pepper
    The original recipe called for a diced small onion which I did not use as the potatoes had it and I’m not a huge fan of onion.
    1 pound pork sausage – cut up in small pieces
    5 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    salt and ground black pepper to taste
    12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    Directions:

    0. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan – I used a nonstick pan and did melt about 2 tbspns of butter and spread it around. Place the hash brown potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. The original recipe did not have this step but I baked the hashed browns in the pan (pour some melted butter over the top to add yumminess) for about 30 mins.

    1. If you have a double oven, pre-heat the second oven to 350 degrees. If not, lower single oven to 350.

    2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook and stir the sausage and onion until the sausage is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and pour over the potatoes. Layer with half the cheddar cheese, the sausage mixture, and the remaining cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

    3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 – 60 minutes. Remove cover; return casserole to the oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

    This WAS SO GOOD. Mmmmmmmm.

    Brown Butter Blondies with Cherries, Chocolate, Cashews & Pecans

    Found this recipe on Williams Sonoma. First time trying it so who knows but let’s face it…how can it possibly taste bad??

    Ingredients:

    16 Tbs. (8 oz.) unsalted butter
    3 cups (21 oz.) firmly packed dark brown sugar
    4 eggs
    1 Tbs. vanilla extract
    2 Tbs. bourbon
    2 tsp. salt
    2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
    3/4 tsp. baking powder
    1 cup (4 oz.) coarsely chopped cashews
    1 cup (4 oz.) coarsely chopped pecans
    1/2 cup (2 oz.) dried tart cherries
    2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil and grease well. I melted a bit of butter and spread it in there.

    In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter, stirring constantly, until it turn golden and the butter has a nutty fragrance. Be careful not to let the butter burn. Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar. Set aside and let cool slightly.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, bourbon and salt. Whisk in the cooled butter mixture, then fold in the flour and baking powder.

    Making sure that the mixture is almost at room temperature (to prevent the chocolate from melting), stir in the nuts, cherries and chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the top is shiny, set and slightly cracked around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

    IMG_5429

    IMG_6007

    We just “tested” these. WOW!!!! SO GOOD!!!!!

    Mmmmmmm

    Merry Christmas!!

    It’s cold & snowing outside and my 49ers just lost and got booted out of play-off contention so comfort food is needed. Stat.

    First. Put this on.

    :)

    Then….

    Slice up spicy Italian sausage (I used 5)
    Slice up some mushrooms (I used a package of mushrooms – 10 oz)

    Brown them in some olive oil

    Meanwhile, boil some water

    Make some pasta – I used a box of Gluten-free, non-GMO Quinoa rotini (yeah…we’ll see…)

    Once both are done, mix in a baking dish, pour in a jar of sauce (or gravy if you prefer Corleones) and a few handfuls (big giant football player handfuls) of mozzarella. Make sure mixed well and bake at 350 (oh yeah…preheat your oven) for 25 minutes or so. FYI – I used “Rao’s Homemade Arrabbiata” sauce to keep with the spicy theme.

    Then sprinkle Parmesan on it and bake a few more minutes.

    Mmmmmmm

    Eat.

    Simple.

    And if your team lost and you are out of play-off contention, pour a glass of red too :)