Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Creamy Spicy Chili Mac n Cheese

My favorite dishes are the ones that are inspired by the people I love. My sister just came to visit from Maine and we had a lovely time churning out delicious food from my small kitchen. It brought to mind a memory of making late night nachos with my sister and how amazing they tasted (granted, we’d been drinking sparkling wine most of the evening, so pretty much anything was going to hit the spot). Those nachos and my fabulous foodie sister inspired this semi-fusion dish. Why combine Chili with Mac & Cheese? Creamy cheese sauce is perfect in combination with spicy chili. Starchy, earthy beans are just marvelous with pasta as well. I served it with an avocado, cilantro and greens salad tossed in a garlic-y dressing. I recommend garnishing each serving with crushed tortilla chips.

Chili Mac n Cheese

Serves 8

15 ounces chili*

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

12 ounces elbow macaroni

3 cups milk

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, then cook according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, make your roux: sift together flour, mustard powder and cayenne. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-low flame, whisking almost constantly, until the mixture turns golden and the flour no longer smells raw. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until you’ve incorporated a half cup of milk with no lumps. Then you can add the rest of the milk at a more steady pace.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season roux and milk mix with pepper and salt and bring it to a point just before boiling. Turn off heat. Add 3/4 of the cheese and mix until melted.

4. In a greased, 9 x 9” baking dish, combine pasta and cheese sauce, then stir in chili. Top with remaining cheese and heat 10 to 15 minutes, or until chili is heated through and cheese has become melty.

Serve hot garnished with crushed tortilla chips and accompanied by a salad.

*I used Annie's medium chilli to make things easier, but if you'd like to use homemade I suggest my beef and bean chili.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Best Breakfast Burritos

In honor of National Burrito Day I’d like to share with you my favorite on the go breakfast: breakfast burritos.

My two year old has places to go and things to examine and tinker with. I never thought about stocking my freezer with homemade ready made meals until I found myself grabbing freezer burritos and toast for breakfast most every morning; pretty much anything I could munch one handed and make easily as I looked after my busy baby. Toast wasn’t very nutritious or filling and freezer burritos were starting to get expensive, not to mention even the best of them had preservatives or more sodium than I was comfortable with.

My foodie friend Justine has introduced me to homemade breakfast burritos. We have made them a few times to stock up on quick and easy breakfasts, or pre-packed lunches for our toddlers. Through trial and delicious error, we’ve found a recipe we really love. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as our family does!

Best Breakfast Burritos

Makes 20 servings

20 flour tortillas

2 cans black beans, drained

3 large russet potatoes, diced

13 jumbo eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 large zucchini, grated

1 ounce raw spinach, roughly chopped with stems removed

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 jar (16 oz) chipotle or other medium tomato salsa

9 ounces sharp cheddar, grated

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a 13 x 9 baking sheet and lay potatoes in a single layer. Season lightly with salt and pepper and spray all over with cooking oil spray. Roast potatoes for 15 minutes.

2. While potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan and saute onion and zucchini until nearly cooked through. At the end of the cooking time add spinach to slightly wilt.

3. Whisk eggs together with milk and a small pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the pan with the veggies and cook the eggs until they are just slightly underdone. Set aside.

3. When the potatoes have roasted 15 minutes, remove from oven. In a large heavy bottomed pan heat oil. Toss potatoes into the pan, along with salsa and beans. Cook until the potatoes are soft and have started to absorb the salsa.

4. Assemble the burritos: lay a small amount egg scramble across the center of the burrito. Top with a sprinkling of potato/bean mixture, then sprinkle with cheddar. For each burrito you will probably need less than 1/2 ounce grated cheese, around 1/4 cup of beans and roughly 2/3 scrambled egg. To form burritos: fold two parallel sides of the burrito in tightly. Rotate tortilla so the folds are facing in a vertical direction from your body. With your pinkies resting gently on the folds, roll your burrito up snugly. Wrap (those you aren't eating immediately) in aluminum foil.

Enjoy one or two burritos while they are fresh and freeze the rest. To reheat from frozen: wrap in a napkin or paper towel and microwave on high for 50 seconds. Flip and microwave on high an additional 50 seconds. Let stand 1 minute.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Reuben Style Beer Poached Bratwurst

One of my favorite things to do is to cook with my foodie friends. Together we can tackle bigger projects than we might attempt alone. So when a friend suggested we make homemade sauerkraut I eagerly agreed. It came out exceptionally tasty, with more personality than the store bought stuff. Unlike the canned sauerkraut, homemade sauerkraut contains loads of beneficial probiotics. More than that, it has been inspiring me to cook some especially lovely sausage based meals of late.

Recently I was inspired to try my bratwurst “reuben” style and it was my favorite experiment yet!

Some of you might be wondering what a “Reuben” is. It is a sour and sweet, salty sandwich style which is usually served with roast beef, pastrami or brisket as the protein. I have had a marvelous version with tempeh, so the sandwich style is very versatile. It always includes sauerkraut, thousand island dressing (what I refer to as sauce below) and warm, gooey Swiss cheese. It also includes such variations as mustard and sauteed onions. It is a fabulous, complex combination that delivers tart, salty, sweet, rich and fatty all in a single bite.

These can be made with hotdogs, or even be made vegetarian with soy hotdogs (just poach in water).

Try it out, especially if you are planning to grill tonight.

“Reuben” Style Bratwurst
(Makes 5 servings)

For the sausage & poaching liquid:

1 lb pork bratwurst (should be about 5 per pkg)
10 oz ipa or darker beer
1/2 onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce:

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1/2 Tablespoon dill pickle relish

Toppings & extras:

5 buns or small rolls
Homemade sauerkraut (store bought is a fine substitute)
~3 oz sliced Swiss cheese

1. in a pan over medium heat, bring the beer to a low boil with onions, garlic and butter. Add sausages, cover and reduce to a summer. Poach for about 14 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl, cover and set in fridge.

3. Remove sausages and onions from liquid. Drain pan and pat sausages dry. If you are going to grill the sausages* brush them with oil. Allow them to brown on one side over indirect heat for 3 - 5 minutes.

3 Flip and cover with cheese, then cover with a baking dish so cheese gets properly melted while the other side browns. If you like to toast your buns/rolls, put them on the grill over indirect heat while the sausages brown, another 3 - 5 minutes (watch them carefully because they burn quickly).

4. Remove sausages and rolls/buns from grill and serve sausages in buns/rolls. Pile with onions, sauerkraut and sauce. I served mine with baked seasoned fries and steamed peas.

*You can pan fry the sausages in the olive oil for ~5 minutes per side, and you can also use the same process for melting the cheese.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quick Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Nutty, slightly sweet and very mild creamy butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish to throw together when you're recovering from a surgery. Which I am. An elective surgery that will take more than a week to heal properly and unfortunately takes me away from my wonderful toddler. My husband has stepped up to care for both me and our two year old son. It's an exhausting double job and hasn't left him any time to cook. This recipe, which turned out surprisingly delicious, was an attempt to use what we had in the pantry and to be a snap to assemble.

To make this into an exceptionally easy recipe will require getting your hands on some pre made butternut squash soup*, or having some leftover to hand. Once you have that this is probably the quickest, easiest pasta dish you will ever prepare in your life. And it is delectable and warming on a cold night.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

1/2 cup butternut squash soup
12 ounces small pasta shells
1 ounce grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon butter
Tiny pinch grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste

1. In a large pot bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Drain pasta. While the same pot is still hot, melt butter and add a sprinkle of nutmeg. Stir in the soup, then the pasta while it's still hot. Grate parmesan generously over pasta and stir to melt.

Serve hot, garnished with minced parsley.

*our premade soup was very basic and had only stock, squash puree and a small pinch of powdered onion and garlic.