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! 🙂

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BFF Vegan Chili

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One of my BFFs threw a party a few weeks back & served this amazing chili. The recipe itself is vegan, though there was a cheese option for those who wanted it.

She found the recipe here. For my milk allergic friends, vegans, and/or those who want to cut back on milk, it looks like it could be a good resource. I can tell you from firsthand experience that this chili was amazing. Yum!

Enjoy! 🙂

Ravioli and Peppers

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…That thing where someone brings over something yummy (in this case, peppers), but you don’t eat all of it, and it’s not really a meal all by itself.

As far as I can tell, the mixture was originally sliced bell peppers and white onions that were sauteed in a lot of olive oil. I was looking for something that would absorb the oil, while providing a little balance to the dish. I had frozen ravioli- large or small to choose from. I went with the smaller ones, based on my desire for balance. This is not all that complicated, but here goes…

 

I…

…Removed the container with the leftovers. Btw, olive oil coagulates like woah in the fridge. Some say it hurts the taste, some say it doesn’t… but so far, no one has said it can hurt you. I will tell you it looks very funky, but don’t let that deter you.

…Started up the pot of water to boil.

…Put the peppers & oil into a metal mixing bowl. (Metal conducts heat. Science!)

Once the water was boiling, I dropped in the ravioli. They took another 5 mins or so to cook.

…Strained the ravioli & then placed them on top of the peppers.

…Let them sit like that a minute while I rinsed off the pots & pans…

Which made the oil melt- more science! Then, I stirred them,

…and that was it! It didn’t require any seasoning (but feel free to jazz it up if you like, you know I skew bland!)

 

You can’t beat leftovers that turn into 4 more meals. Yum!

Enjoy! 🙂

 

Air-Fryer: First Try!

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Please note, this is not a sponsored post. But, if Phillips wants to send me some attachments or ingredients to try more recipes, I wouldn’t stop them, and of course, I’d tell you all about it!

I was delighted to receive a used air fryer as a gift recently. I like fried foods, but don’t eat fried food all that much anymore.  However, some things just taste better fried. I’ve been interested in air-frying for about a year or so, but hadn’t had a chance to try it out.

As I understand it, Air-Frying seems to mostly operate on convection, though it can produce a crisp as well. To test it out, I tried a recipe straight from the source: Crispy Potato Skin Wedges, from pg.4 of the Avance Recipes book.

To make a long story short, I wasn’t entirely enamoured with how this particular recipe turned out, but I am going to give the fryer a few more trials. I had made some modifications to the recipe, which may have contributed to the less-than-desireable results. In the process of taste-testing the results, I also discovered that there is also one ingredient that I needed to modify, but didn’t.

 

Picture Key:

  1. After boiling, cooling, & dicing: coating the wedges with oil and seasonings
  2. After air frying

 

Modifications:

I used olive oil because I don’t have any canola oil & I thought olive would taste better.

I used Eastern potatoes because they were on sale, and the Russet potatoes were regular price: In retrospect, I think the Russets would have been better for producing a crisp, since they have thicker skins.

 

Ingredient note:

This recipe uses 1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika: I like paprika, I’ve had it before. But 1 1/2 teaspoons is just too much for my system. The fries tasted good, but paprika is a laxative. It can cause nausea and heartburn as well… not things I need in my life.

Next time, I will either cut back on the paprika, have them plain, or give Mrs. Dash a try.

 

Thoughts on using the fryer:

It was very easy to use. Most of the work is in the prep. The oil went on the food, not in the fryer. All I had to do after pre-heating was drop the potatoes into the basket & set the temp & timer.

Pre-heating only takes 3 minutes. The prep time was longer, so I ended up setting & re-setting the timer several times. Next time, I will set the pre-heat timer for longer.

On the analog model, you basically have to wait the pre-heat timer out if you finish prep beforehand. You can’t force the dial like you can with tabletop analog timers.

You should know the machine gets very hot. It heated up my kitchen, which was fine on a cool day, but important to note for warmer days.

I used an extra large trivet to sit the machine on to protect the counter-top.

 

Thoughts on the results:

The fries did taste good, but they seemed under-done in the center, and not crispy enough on the outside. Since it is the crispyness that I am interested in, I plan to try different approaches to see if this is my error, or the limitations of the machine.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

 

Cherry Tomato Sauce 2

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By the time I got to my stash of ripened cherry tomatoes, some of them had gone south. I was left with about a plateful of useable tomatoes, so I just did a quick modification of my first attempt at making a sauce.

This was more paste than sauce. I liked it that way, so I left it. I decided to use this on sandwiches instead of pasta, where its thickness was an asset.

Key:

  1. Raw tomatoes on plate
  2. Tomatoes with garlic-infused olive oil, garlic powder, basil, oregano, a dash of black pepper
  3. After broiling them on HIGH/electric. I started with them on the middle rack for about 5 minutes, constantly checking them, and then topped them off for about a minute or two on the top rack- also constantly checking them.
  4. After pureeing in the mini-chopper
  5. Adding pureed tomatoes and residual tomato oil to a can of tomato paste
  6. After stirring
  7. After adding in a glug of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of water

Enjoy! 🙂

Ground “Meat” Burrito & Sloppy Joe Shortcut

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This is the companion to the faux chicken burrito– a “ground beef” burrito. I used another Quorn product for this one-  mostly because I was trying to clean out the freezer, but also because I do genuinely like it & find it useful. I also had leftovers from the last batch of burritos. It kept things fresh enough, so I didn’t feel like I was being too repetitive. It’s also worth mentioning that this is not a sponsored post, even though there are a lot of links. I don’t get anything one way or another if you happen to try the things I had around my kitchen.

Like the chik’n recipe, this can be reverse-modified for omnivores pretty easily, though Quorn is one of those foods that seems to be popular with omnis and veggies alike. I also don’t like things very spicy, so I’d definitely recommend tasting it as you season. You can always add, but it’s much harder to take away.

The method is pretty similar. The only real difference is that I tried using water, as McCormick suggests (to adhere the seasoning). That wasn’t super-effective for me. Even though I’ve been trying to cut back on my use of oil, I preferred the oil.

 

So basically, I…

Got out a large stainless steel fry pan & coated with grapeseed oil. Turned the burner up to HIGH just to heat the oil, then back to medium, while I put the crumbles in the pan & stirred.

Sprinkled 1/3ish of the seasoning on the crumbles, added a little olive oil, and stirred.

Added in some cherry tomatoes from the garden, stirred, then turned the burner to MEDIUM/HI and stirred continuously until brown.

…and then the filling was done.

 

You don’t need a lot of filling to make these burritos, so I had plenty of leftovers. What you see above is one of several variations I made using the leftovers. For this variation, I put about 1/4 a cup of filling in a microwave-safe bowl, sliced a stick of marbled string cheese, covered everything with cling-wrap, and microwaved it for about a minute. (This will vary widely according to your specific microwave. If I was making this in an unknown oven, I’d check after 30 seconds & then decide if it needed more time or not.) This was enough for two burritos.

The lettuce is nothing exciting- just some iceberg that I happened to have left over. I sliced it with a sharp knife on a cutting board, which made it easy to deal with.

The wraps are another of my favorites, but they DID NOT stand up well to heat AT ALL. Every time I made this, the filling fell through. So, there’s that, but I do like the taste and the shape, for what it’s worth.

 

Sloppy Joe Shortcut:

This is actually a variation of the way I used to make Sloppy Joes years ago, but could never quite replicate. This way works, and can be reproduced, so here you go…

I took the leftover filling, heated it up, then stirred in some BBQ sauce.

Then, I put the mixture on some bread. Instant Sloppy Joe!

 

Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

Fakin’ Bacon

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I was never one of those bacon-obsessed people as an omnivore. Frankly, I don’t get it, and it has nothing to do with being vegetarian. Sure, you can enjoy or even love a certain food, but to the point of obsession? Nah.

I haven’t had actual bacon in decades, and while not having a substitute was not a huge deal, it would’ve been nice when recreating certain recipes. Soy-based bacons are pretty ubiquitous in my experience. But soy-based meat substitutes do not work for me due to allergies, so I get a little touchy when soy producers try to edge Quorn out of the market. It’s one of the few substitutes I actually can eat, and not being able to find it has become a problem in recent years.

So, you can imagine my delight when gf showed up with a surprise package of Quorn bacon for me to try.  Some women like chocolates… well, I like those too… but I also like allergy-safe special treats, and this certainly qualifies.

 

Un-boxing:

They basically looked and smelled a little bit like cold-cut bologna. During the process of un-boxing and cooking the pieces, I basically came to the conclusion that they were not trying for American-style bacon. If anything, it’s vaguely similar to Canadian bacon, so let’s get that out of the way now.

 

Method 1: Indoor Grill

First, I tried grilling them on the indoor grill for about 4 minutes.

Result: Grilled bologna-type product that tastes like bacon. Not bad, but disappointing. Bacon should crunch. I decided I’d try frying the leftovers.

 

Method 2: Frying

*First, I heated up some grapeseed oil on high in a small/medium frying pan.

*Then, I fried the bacon for about 2-3 minutes total, turning them over about halfway through. I used tongs for this.

*Then, I let them de-grease using a paper towel placed on top of a plate.

*This smoked up my whole kitchen. You should know that, in case that sort of thing bothers you.

 

Conclusion:

While I did get some parts to crunch up when frying, it’s more like Canadian bacon overall. I was hoping for American-style bacon. I was hoping for the crunch. I didn’t get it.

As far as the taste goes, it did taste like bacon when fried. I did like it. It was good. It just wasn’t what I had in mind.

Based on the flexibility and taste, I’m thinking it will probably be good in a breakfast sandwich or grilled cheese. I tried it in a wrap, and it worked well in that context.

 

Note:

Obviously, I wasn’t compensated by Quorn in any way to provide my opinion. But, if they’d like to compensate me, crunchy Quorn bacon would be most welcome. 😉

 

 

Decadent Improvised Garlic Bread

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While I was making the Cherry Tomato Sauce, I decided to make some garlic bread to go with it. This was prompted by the wonderful garlic smell that was emanating from the oven at the time, the fact that the bread was starting to stiffen, and the fact that there was so much leftover flavored olive oil from the sauce recipe.

Consequently, the times and temperatures- in fact, even the methods I used- were a little wonky. So bear with me. I wouldn’t be sharing this craziness if it didn’t result in something wonderful.

 

Method:

1. I cut the rolls in half.

2. I put a little olive oil in a small mixing bowl, and added a generous sprinkle of garlic powder, then dried basil and oregano, and finally a little dried parsley and stirred.

3. I dropped the slices in and stirred with a large spoon.

4. Then, I got some faux butter out, put a heaping soup spoon full in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwaved it until completely melted.

5. Then, I poured the butter onto the bread and stirred again.

6.Then, I lined a cake pan with foil & placed the bread inside, as shown.

7. The oven had been going on 400F for about 45mins at this point. I put the cake pan in the oven, turned off the oven, and attended to my tomatoes.

8. At that point, I saw all of the leftover seasoned tomato drippings & decided to use it on the bread. So, I took the bread out, dunked it in the juice, set the pieces in the lasagna pan, and put them back in the oven on broil/hi (electric) for 5mins- which was slightly too long.

  • Things I’d change:
    • Next time, I’d put them back in the cake pan. The bottom of the bread got soggy. Keep in mind, most of these pieces were intended to be leftovers, so re-heating them took care of it.
    • I also would tweak the time, the oven setting, or the rack placement.

9. This bread was actually even better as leftovers, because I could really bring out the desired crispy-ness.

Note: This is the kind of bread that you should really only savor one piece of at a time. I had three that first night. I could barely move afterwards. So delicious!

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Cherry Tomato Sauce: First Try!

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My tomato plants were obviously more prolific prior to the onset of black spot (which I treat by trimming the plant and applying fungicide). Still, I managed to accumulate 3 soup bowls full of tomatoes in the weeks prior. By the time I had that many tomatoes, I knew I wanted to try a sauce. Plum tomatoes are typically used, but I don’t grow those. So, I looked up a recipe that called for cherry tomatoes and gave it a whirl. You can find that recipe here. Please note, it is a recipe for a sauce, not a gravy. As I understand it, gravy contains meat drippings, whereas sauce does not. I’ve also been told there can be a difference in thickness- a sauce can be thinner, but doesn’t have to be.

All my life, I’ve had a taste for homemade sauces. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to occasionally eat at Italian restaurants featuring generational recipes. I’ve also watched sauces being built from scratch, happily taste-tested, and have a sense of what goes into a good one. For years, I’ve dreamt of making a sauce myself, but the amount of patience and meticulousness involved was a turnoff. Sure, I can savor it on the table… but to work for hours building it? I just wasn’t sure…

All this to say, my personal bar is rather high for homemade sauces, so, naturally, I personalized the recipe.

 

Method and Modifications:

*I read the comments on the original recipe, which influenced my choices when making modifications.

  • Because so many people commented that 425F was too high, I dropped it down to 400F and baked for 45mins.
  • Because others mentioned the liquid that would result from the cooking, I opted for a lasagna pan & lined the pan with foil for easy cleanup.
  • After baking, there was an excess of watery/oily/tomato-y juice in the bottom of the pan. I used a slotted spoon to retrieve the tomatoes & used the drippings for garlic bread. More on that later.

*I had some leftover plum tomatoes, so I sliced them & added them to the cherry tomatoes.

*Obviously, a single row of tomatoes was out of the question.

*I seasoned the tomatoes before cooking because I wanted the seasonings to seep in. I did not have fresh basil. I went heavy-handed on the garlic, dried basil, and oregano, and light-handed on the onion powder before baking.

*I may have used too much olive oil. I had a coating of garlic-infused evoo on the bottom. Then I drizzled plain evoo on the top, and stirred to adhere the seasonings to the tomatoes.

*I fried one pepper and about 1/4 cup of onion for taste, and added them to the tomatoes before I pureed them.

*I used a mini-chopper instead of a blender.

*Even though I drained the tomatoes before pureeing them, the sauce was too thin for my taste.

*Many sauces use tomato paste as a thickener. I had about a cup and a half left from a mixture of chunky commercially produced sauce with a can of paste added, so I used that to thicken the pureed tomato mixture.

*Finally, I added more seasonings after thickening- including ground black pepper.

 

Picture Key:

  1. Raw tomatoes over garlic-infused olive oil
  2. After seasoning & adding more oil
  3. After 30 minutes
  4. After 45 minutes
  5. After pulsing
  6. After adding tomato paste & sauce mixture to thicken

 

Post-script:

If I were to make this again, I would intentionally set out to establish a hybrid recipe. This means looking up a traditional recipe just in case I’m missing anything. Even though I ended up knowing a lot more off the cuff than I thought I did, it’s still nice to have the security of something written down to reference.

One of the things I liked about this meal was that it was entirely made from things I already had around. I served the sauce atop leftover ziti noodles that were mixed with peppers and onions, with the garlic bread on the side. Needless to say, it was delicious. I had about a week’s leftovers from the original leftovers+harvest. Yum!

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Re-learning BBQ

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While I’ve certainly eaten my share of BBQ, can you believe I’d not yet made myself any since starting this blog? It’s been ages since I BBQ’d- so long, in fact, that I’d forgotten how to do it. So, these are my first and second attempts at BBQ.

 

BBQ #1:

Quorn cutlets marinated in BBQ sauce

Baked Beans

Corn

 

BBQ #2:

Same as above, with pepper and tomato substituting for the corn.

 

Dessert:

Smores, obviously.

 

Leftovers:

So far, my favorite thing to do with the leftovers is dice the patties, place them in the beans, cover them with something microwave-safe, and heat them up together. Yum!

 

Observations:

I made some mistakes, but I’m learning.

  • I forgot to soak the corn before grilling. I will probably search for an actual recipe to maximize the flavor.
  • At first I didn’t realize you had to stir the beans.
  • The tomatoes did nothing on the grill. I would say “don’t bother”, but I’m pretty sure this failure was due to inexperience.
  • The grill took a very long time to heat up both times. It turned out that I needed to clean it. …Done.
  • While one of the first Quorn patties looks burnt at first glance, closer examination reveals that it was just a surface coating. Both sets tasted absolutely delicious. In fact, the patties from the first BBQ were actually better than those from the second!