Mac and Cheese 3

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In preparation for the big snow, I decided to have another go at macaroni and cheese. As I’ve said before, I have odd intolerances that result in a hybrid of dairy/not-dairy whenever I recreate this classic dish.

Here are my previous attempts: 1) is a crockpot version that was my first serious attempt at homemade mac. 2) is a baked version that came straight from a book, and provided some very loose inspiration for this third attempt, which is my original baked creation.

 

Mac & Cheese 3:

Ingredients

1 stick Aged Cheddar

1 ball Mozzarella

3 slices American cheese

1 handful pre-shredded “Mexican blend” cheese

1 slice Pecorino Romano from the block, about 2″ x 3″ x 1/2″

Table Parmesan from the shaker (about a teaspoon)

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt

A splash of rice milk

A box of pasta, I used tiny shells

2 3/4 stick of butter

Bread crumbs-about a tablespoon

Fancy Cracker crumbs- about a teaspoon

Dijon Mustard

 

Tools:

Casserole dish large enough to fit everything

Large metal bowl (conducts heat)

Large spoon

Small measuring spoons

Mini-chopper

Knife & cutting board

Spatula to serve

Lid or plastic wrap to store

Butter spray

Microwave & microwave-safe small bowl

 

Method:

For the mac base, I…

Set the oven to 350F

Sprayed the casserole dish & set it aside

Boiled the pasta water & added pasta when ready (followed box instructions)

Cut the cheddar into blocks, then pulsed them in the mini-chopper

Dropped the cheddar into the bowl

Diced the mozzarella & added to bowl

Tore the American cheese & added to bowl

Diced the Pecorino & added to bowl

Melted butter in micro-safe bowl in microwave, about 35 seconds

Added a tablespoon of mustard (was a bit too much for me, fyi)

Poured butter into bowl with cheeses

Added yogurt, then a splash of rice milk

Drained pasta

Poured pasta into bowl

Stirred

Filled casserole dish & packed down

 

For the crust, I…

Sprinkled the fancy cracker crumbs over the top of the cheesy pasta

Then sprinkled the bread crumbs on top of the mixture

Then added a layer of “Mexican shredded cheese”

Then sprinkled Parmesan on top of that

 

Baking:

I baked it for about 45 minutes, checking after the first 30

 

Serving:

Obviously, it’s best if you can wait a little bit for it to set, but I ate the first portion almost immediately. I use a flat spatula to portion it out into card-deck shaped pieces… although the depth is about 2 packs!

 

Storing:

Then, I just put plastic wrap over the casserole dish, wait for it to cool down, and keep it in the fridge. I usually finish in about a week. I wouldn’t recommend keeping it past that.

 

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Back On the Water

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After a long, hard, winter of gazing longingly at every body of water, trying to evoke seasonal change by sheer force of will, boating season has finally arrived.

One thing I like about leisurely kayaking is that I’ve been able to do it while my weight fluctuated up, down, and all around. The same goes for my fitness level. Basically, if I can fit inside and my health is reasonably good, I can do it. Plus, you know, fresh air!

Since this is more or less a food blog, I figured I’d share with you some of the snacks I’ve packed over the years. Please note, I did not receive compensation of any kind for mentioning the products I chose. Also, keep in mind that I am not an athlete, just a person who appreciates a good snack.

I’ve always been at least slightly aware of the need for protein- hence the cheese, but what I’ve found is that with experience, I naturally migrated over to healthier foods. I can tell you that it has made a difference. Weighing less at the start of the season this year has meant that so far, it’s been easier. In the past, I’ve gained weight nearly every summer. I’m really only 5 pounds lighter than I was at the start of last season- but I am about 10 pounds from what I was at the end of the season, and that is the difference that I felt at first blush.

It is easy to see the culprits early on- overly processed food and too much junk food. But, the trend continued even as late as last year. Perhaps I was drinking too many supplements. The ones I use are food-based, rather than amino acid based, from what I remember. I tried the other kind, but ugh, acid regurge!

I also remember being ravenously hungry after a run in the past. The first few years, I would chow down when I got home, even if I’d just eaten. Then, I tried Gatorade. Then, supplements. I’ve only gone a couple of times so far this season, but I wasn’t hungry afterwards. Some of this might have to do with the fact that I don’t stay out as long. These days, I’d rather do shorter trips and be able to go back again sooner, without needing a few days’ rest for my aching muscles. There’s something to be said for learning from experience.

Snack Time:

  • I started with cheese sandwiches on white bread with potato chips. I now bring a small insulated bag with an ice block. I did not do this originally. That’s a lot of melted cheese on squished bread.
  • I still pack a little cheese, but now it’s usually string cheese or these. It keeps better, but does still melt a little.
  • I always packed plenty of water and I still do. (This goes without saying, but never drink alcohol while boating. You never know when you might need your full coordination).
  • I used to pack junk food sometimes: Devil Dogs & those little snack containers of Cheez-Its/Oreos/Chips Ahoy (which I re-used).
  • The Gatorade years.
  • Some people pack nuts. I can’t do this and would prefer that others did not. Otherwise, don’t think I’m antisocial if I won’t linger around talking to you. In place of nuts, sunflower seeds are good.
  • Protein powders. There are really only a couple that are safe for me.
    • Apparently, this one is vegan. I forgot. It *does* act as a diuretic for me, just FYI. I used to drink this every time I came home. Now, I drink it whenever I need a protein boost- certain flavors only, due to allergies.
    • This is the brand of energy powder I use, but not all of the products are safe for me. I liked using them, and brought multiple pre-filled bottles in the past. But, these also are a major diuretic for me, which can be terribly inconvenient when you are out on the water. I’m out of them right now, but this season, I will probably cut back to one drink per run.
  • Chickpea snacks. Love them. Haven’t had them in a while. I am pretty sure these are the ones I used to get.
  • I love these snap pea and lentil crisps too, but don’t take them out because they are so fragile. A solid container would work fine for them, though.
  • I’m currently going through a Triscuit and hummus phase. This is extending into the rest of my life as well. Some hummus triggers a reaction, (I’m looking at you, Sabra!), some doesn’t.
    • These are handy little travel hummus packages. I like the garlic & red pepper flavors.
  • I’ve packed apples, but don’t really like dealing with leftover apple core. In the car, this wasn’t as big a deal. I’m sure it’s just a mental thing. My new thing is baby carrots, which also work with the hummus.

Hope this gives you some ideas! Enjoy your summer! πŸ™‚

Potatoes Romanoff 2

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I liked the Potatoes Romanoff recipe so much that I made them again for the holiday weekend. Here is the basic recipe. This time, I used red potatoes, a bag of fat-free mozzarella shreds, 1 cup of full fat diced cheddar, 3 green onions, fat-free sour cream, and sprinkled nutritional yeast to taste.

What I’ve found is that this time, they were a little drier. Basically, this demoted a stellar recipe into a very good recipe.

 

I have a couple of theories:

1. The fat free mozzarella shreds: To be fair to myself, I suspected as much, which is why I used the shreds as a topping, rather than in the body of the potatoes.

2. I think I used more sour cream last time: Because I had much larger potatoes, I am pretty sure I actually used 2 cups and forgot to make a note of it. I’ve since updated the original post.

 

Miscellaneous:

1. 4 small/medium red potatoes were not enough, so I ended up with a shallow casserole. Not a huge deal, but still something I want to remember for later.

2. “What’s up with the fat-free cheeses?”, you may wonder. Longtime readers will note that I use cheese in many of my recipes. Unless stated otherwise, this usually means full fat cheese. I gravitate to fatty foods if I stop actively thinking about it. So, as a stop-gap, I am mixing fat-free ingredients with my usual ingredients to offset this. This is new territory for me, so I cannot promise to stick to it in every future recipe henceforth into infinity πŸ˜‰

I may do a post devoted to this topic later, I may not. But after the next post (which is on the heavier side, but delicious), there will be a series of low-fat dishes, just in time for the warmer weather. After that, who knows?

3. Serving size. I forgot that a deck of cards-sized serving of this is plenty. Despite a portion looking deceptively small, it is a very filling dish.

 

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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I made this a while ago, but just now got around to posting it. Mac & Cheese seems to fit in well with my recent comfort food theme, anyway.

*Just a little caveat to prevent confusion for my long-time readers before I begin: I still have issues with whole milk. Whether it’s an allergy, or an intolerance, or a medical issue is still to be determined. But, I was in a particularly contrary mood when I made this, so I went with the whole milk, and subsequently had problems later. I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING DOING THIS. It was a boneheaded move prompted by frustration, but it doesn’t mean I should deprive you of a good recipe recommendation, either.

I have a Crockpot Mac & Cheese recipe that uses dairy but no whole milk here.

This Baked Mac & Cheese recipe came from page 117 of the book, “Everyday Vegetarian Recipes”, published by Hinkler in 2011. For copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce it in its entirety, but it’s under $5 used. For overseas friends, note this book uses both Centigrade and Fahrenheit, as well as Gas Mark notations.

Below are my substitutions:

  • Β I skipped the onions because, “What? No.”
  • I didn’t have breadcrumbs, so I mixed 1/4 cup cornmeal with 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast. This produced too much topping, but I didn’t really mind- it was good.
  • They have it listed at a 15 minute bake time. It took 30+ minutes to bake, plus finishing it off with 5 minutes on the Broil setting to brown the top.

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Easy Ziti

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This was my first time baking ziti! It was just made from what I had around. YUM!

 

What I used:

Sauce from a jar (3 cheese flavor)

Field Roast Meatloaf 1/2 loaf

4 string cheese sticks

a 2″ x 2″ block of mild cheddar

oregano

basil

black pepper

garlic powder

grapeseed oil

shredded Italian blend cheese

grated parmesan cheese

nutritional yeast

fry pan

metal bowl

large spaghetti pot

things to stir with

mini chopper

cutting board & knife

large ziti pan

garlic infused olive oil spray

 

Steps:

1. I put the “meatloaf” in the mini chopper. Then, browned it in the fry pan with the grapeseed oil.

2. I cooked the ziti in the spaghetti pot until it was al dente. I used the entire box.

3. The sauce needed some help. I added oregano, basil, garlic powder, and pepper to give it more flavor. Then, I added the “meat” to the sauce, chopped the string cheese into little circles, diced the cheddar, and added the cheese to the sauce, stirring well.

4. I drained the pasta, then added it to the sauce, and stirred.

5. I sprayed the ziti pan with garlic flavored olive oil, then added the ziti mixture to the pan.

6. Then, I topped it with a layer of Italian blend, a layer of parmesan, then some nutritional yeast.

7. I baked it at 350F for about 30 mins. So yummy!

 

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Potatoes Romanoff

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“I never cared for stroganoff.” “You said that like a Romanoff!” -from the film, Anastasia

Well, I tried to look up the connection of the name to these potatoes, but so far have had no luck. So, I’m just going to go ahead and imagine the animated Anastasia enjoying these potatoes.

Despite the Russian nod, these would make an excellent addition to any St. Paddy’s day meal. This was my first time making them. I found the recipe here.

Changes, etc.:

My potatoes were extra large. I used my mini food processor on them. If you have a regular-sized one, that would be easier.

I used green onions because I bought the wrong thing by mistake. It looked pretty and was delicious, just don’t use the entire bunch like I did. (Onion breath and a little heartburn- not a huge deal, but still…)

I used fat free sour cream because that’s how I roll. I used 2 cups, instead of the 1 cup the recipe calls for.

I used cheddar for the filling and Italian mixed cheese for the topping.

I topped it with a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast.

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Pizza Part Deux

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This is my second attempt using the KitchenAid pizza dough recipe.

As before, my pizza is deep-dish style, where their original photograph does not look deep-dish to me. My guess is that the bread flour I use gives it a little extra oomph.

Something you might notice when comparing my first try and this attempt is that this pizza is larger. I finally broke down and bought a rolling pin. I also had canned pizza sauce this time, and the square-shaped, drier mozzarella. It was delicious, but be advised, a pizza this size does not take an entire can of sauce. I over-sauced it purposefully, and still had about 1/2 a can left, which I saved for the garlic knots. The pizza is topped with dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder.

I’ve found that the pizza can stay in the oven a touch longer than the recipe requires, but keep in mind, this is all about personal preference and the individual quirks of your oven, and is, therefore, ultimately your decision. I also confirmed than the quantities are a little off for me. Inevitably, I end up using a little more water than the recipe requires, and finishing off the kneading by hand. Otherwise, it was delicious and easy-to-follow, and this is why I’ve gone back to it.

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Deep Dish Pizza

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This was the first time I made pizza from near-scratch, and not bragging, it was delicious.

The recipe for the dough came from the KitchenAid Stand Mixer manual. Their picture didn’t look like a deep-dish crust to me, but so much the better. (It may also be because I’d slightly altered the recipe by adding a touch more water to the dough, because it was still too dry to form into a ball.) In any case, I was thrilled with their recipe and will be using it again sometime. Mine looks a touch underdone compared to theirs and to the usual “golden crust”, but you know what? I loved it!

The sauce wasn’t sauce at all, but diced plum tomatoes with some basil. Store-bought, because I had it around, this particular kind had only the tomatoes and basil in it, and nothing bizarre added to the ingredient list.

The slices were fresh mozzarella, obviously.

The small cubes of cheese were smoked Gouda, just for a little something special. Obviously, they didn’t melt, and honestly were not needed, as cute as they were. Next time, I will probably leave them off.

The onion/mushroom mixture was cooked up by my lovely girlfriend, and though she has described that magic to me, I have yet to master it.

To finish it off, I just added a touch of oregano and garlic powder, since the basil was already in the sauce.

πŸ™‚

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

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Let me preface this post by saying that my uterus demanded bean and cheese enchiladas. (PMS). While I love these (maybe a little too much), I haven’t had them in about 2 years, and had never made them myself. Yes, I know they’re fattening. In fact I could tell you long tales of precisely how I know this information, but let’s just leave it at “yes, you can be vegetarian and overweight.”

So, this was a blast from the past for me. But, I felt really confident and proud of myself that I am in such a better place now: to realize that I can now enjoy these without having them every weekend was really a breakthrough moment. I never had an eating disorder, but I did have some really bad eating habits back in the day. To be able to allow myself to eat things that aren’t so healthy once in a while, to get it out of my system and move on… well, it’s just good.

It was fun to actually look up the recipe (mostly for quantities’ sake), to pick up the items, and to give it a whirl. So forgive me for going with the easiest route, and choosing this basic recipe. I’m certainly not advocating one brand over another in this case, but their recipe was easy and filling, as promised.

My modifications weren’t all that complicated. I obviously used vegetarian refried beans. I used 3/4 of a can of salsa, and 1 can of enchilada sauce. I skipped the onion. I used farmer’s cheese for the top, and sprinkled them with cilantro. Because I wasn’t feeling 100% while preparing them, I took advantage food chopper for the cheddar, and the “stir” setting on the mixer for the filling.

Next time, I will absolutely go for 2 cans of enchilada sauce, with salsa at the ready. And obviously, there are a thousand other ways to make enchiladas, which I might try later on to lighten them up a bit. But for now, this was perfect.

Wordless Wednesday: Cheesy Bread

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These were pretty awesome! The bread really worked for this- crunchy, yet still chewy enough to be satisfying. They’re sprayed with evoo, topped with mozz, garlic, basil, oregano, and nutritional yeast, then broiled. I made this several times since I had two baguettes to work with. This batch needed a little longer, but I ate them anyway and they were delicious.