To make a healthy version of macaroni and cheese? A recipe that one might actually crave and daydream about? Is it achievable? I have the answer ladies and gents, simply put; yes.
I recently stumbled upon"Deceptively Delicious" , Jessica Seinfelds book, in the discount bin at TJ Maxx. A close friend of mine owns it, and I was fairly impressed with the dishes I'd already sampled. Seeing as veggies are an important key to any good diet, and that it's sometimes hard for adults (not just kids) to get their daily amount, I was intrigued by this book. Each recipe not only features at least one veggie hidden within, she in general, cleans up classic American recipes. The outcome is not only veggie laden dishes, but healthy ones as well. In theory, a very good idea. I'm not saying the book is bad, but I've only tried this one recipe myself, and I altered it a bit. But if the rest of the recipes are reminiscent of this dish, I think I've just made a wise $6 purchase!
Gosh, I could just rave on and on about this macaroni and cheese. Dare I say I prefer it over my deadly seven cheese laden homemade mac n' cheese? Probably not. But it's a close second. It is a recipe that is a good go-to week night dinner though, and you don't have to feel guilty about indulging, in fact, you can feel pretty good about eating this for dinner. The sauce is velvety, thick, and creamy, even though it's made with 1% milk and low fat cheeses. I think the the roasted butternut squash that you puree really lends to sinful texture of this dish. Not to mention the sweetness imparts the lovliest flavor hidden amongst the sharpness of the cheese. It's so well balanced, and tastes so incredibly sinful. I adjusted a few things about the recipe. Jessica suggests using olive oil and flour as the base of your cream sauce. I used butter. I know, I know, you may be saying to yourself 'butter that's not as healthy as olive oil." Well, you're right and wrong. I recently went to a conference held by a well known nutritional counselor in Seattle. She informed us that we should be eating 1/2 - 1 stick of butter a week. Butter has important enzymes in it that attach to your organs and do some very good things for our system. These enzymes can't be found in anything butter, so, eat butter, just don't go butter crazy *cough* Paula Deen *cough*. And since I never really eat or cook with butter (olive oil is my best friend in the kitchen) I took this opportunity to use a little butter. Secondly, I topped the dish with 1/4 cup of gruyere and 2 slices of pancetta for a little salty crunch. I also used cavatappi, I prefer it over macaroni, but it's very hard to find here in Bellingham, let alone in a wheat or 'smart pasta' variety. Jessica doesn't suggest using a healthy pasta, but if I had the opportunity, I definitely would. All in all the recipe remains a sensible yet decadent choice for dinner.
To prep for this recipe you need to roast a butternut squash in the oven. Cut into cubes and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 375 for about an hour, let it cool, and then blend for 3-5 minutes in a food processor to get a silky smooth puree.
Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n' Cheese
Adapted from "Deceptively Delicious"by Jessica Seinfield
2 cups cavatappi
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon flour
3/4 cup 1% milk - hot
3/4 cup butternut squash puree
1 1/2 cups low fat cheddar - shredded
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
salt - to taste
pepper - to taste
paprika - to taste
2 slices of pancetta baked until crispy and chopped
1. Cook cavatappi according to package directions
2. In a saucepan add butter, melt, then flour, stir well and allow to cook about two minutes
3. Slowly add the milk whisking until it thickens (only a few minutes)
4. Reduce heat to very low, add cheddar, cream cheese, and squash and whisk until smooth and creamy.
5. Pour cavatappi and sauce into the same baking dish you roasted the squash in, or a prepared baking dish.
6. Top with gruyere, pancetta.
7. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until warm and gooey.
For fun, I calculated the nutritional information for my adapted recipe:
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 11.1 g
Saturated Fat: 5.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 26.8 mg
Sodium: 300.5 mg
Potassium: 134.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Sugars: 1.4 g
Protein: 15.0 g
Vitamin A : 30.0 %
Vitamin B-12: 6.4 %
Vitamin B-6: 3.7 %
Vitamin C: 4.3 %
Vitamin D: 3.2 %
Calcium: 28.8 %
Iron : 6.5 %
Phosphorus: 28.6 %
Riboflavin: 13.9 %
Selenium : 26.5 %
Thiamin: 9.7 %
Zinc: 9.9 %
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
To make a healthy version of macaroni and cheese? A recipe that one might actually crave and daydream about? Is it achievable? I have the answer ladies and gents, simply put; yes.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Our cooking group has gone through some major changes since our January dinner. A few of us girls slowly came to the realization that we had a different style, and skill level, than the rest of the group. So, we set off, on our own, in search of a few more members. And, slowly, we're finding them. But, so as not to be far behind in dinners, and because we enjoy our monthly meetings so dearly, we went ahead with a dinner in February with the two newest members of the group. One of our newest is a very talented pastry chef, one whose blog, skill and life experience I've admired ever since I stumbled across her about a year ago. We're honored to have her, and although she may not be able to make every dinner, I look forward to the delicious food and insight she will bring to the group. Our other newest seems to have a real understanding of food, and seems to simply enjoy it. The three 'oldies' were so delighted by our February dinner. It absolutely perfect. Every dish was a delight, the company, while new, was really relaxed and delightful. Quite a difference than what we became accustomed to.
We have a few other women interested, whom I really hope join in, each one seems quite talented and like a good fit. I'm really looking forward to the future of this group, and (hopefully) all the amazing dishes I'll taste!
So. . . for our February dinner we wanted to choose a theme that paid homage to the air that lingers in February, love and passion. Am I right? With Valentines, it's surely one of the love-iest months in the year. We toyed with a color theme, but ended up choosing a French theme. French cuisine is so classic, and Paris, if you weren't aware, is a city made for lovers. There's just something magical and romantic about France. Plus, miss Rachelles apartments every corner is infused with gorgeous parisian flair. It was simply a perfect choice on various levels.
Our hostess kicked off the evening with a tall, cold, prosecco cocktail infused with a touch of rose water for each of us. If you haven't read this yet, a good sparkling wine is definitely on my top ten list of things I love in life. There is just something really special, and kind of magical about sparkling wine. It's a happy drink. The addition of the rose water is so simple, but quite lovely. Perfect for toasting special occasions. Rachelle used a prosecco. Prosecco is generally quite dry, but is the most common sparking wine used to create bellini cocktails (champagne and fresh fruit puree, traditionally peach). Likely, prosecco is your best choice for this drink as well. If you wanted something with a pink flush you could use a nice sparkling rosé.
To make this cocktail simply add a drop or two of rose water to a champagne glass, top with champagne with one fresh rose petal for garnish. The amount of rosewater will depend on the strength of your rosewater, if using the kind in the little blue bottle in the 'mixers' section of the grocery store, you will want to probably use a couple of teaspoons as it's not as concentrated as other varieties.
I knew immediately what I wanted to make; mini croque monsieurs on homemade brioche. I read once that, when in a french cafe, if a croque monsieur is not on the menu, it is not a good cafe. It's their 'standard' ham and cheese sandwich. If standard means smothered in a delicious cheese laden bechamel, sign me up! I haven't made croque monsieur in over a year, so I was happy to use my standard recipe. To make it a little more special, I chose to make my own bread. Brioche, because it's slightly sweet, soft, buttery, and chewy. I knew the combo would be too good to pass up. Unfortunately, my pug Bub, had different plans for my brioche. After it was neatly packed away in my bag, he jumped on the table, opened the bag, and ripped the loaf to smitherines. So, rushedly, and luckily with a few hours to spare, I whipped together another loaf (which, of course, had to have it's own set of challenges). So, the dish wasn't the magnificent feat of appetizer-y I had in mind, but it tasted delicious, so I couldn't complain, well, not too much at least.
I used le tartine gourmands recipe for brioche. I came across a few in my search, one of which took over a day and a half to make, and chose tartines because although it looked very simple, it also looked perfect. And it was! Recipe can be found right here. And as for the croque monsieur? Ask and ye shall receive!
Croque Monsieur (to make a Croque Madame simply top sandwich with an egg!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 cups Gruyere, grated
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 slices fresh brioche, crusts removed
8 ounces baked honey ham, the highest quality you can find
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. 3. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened.
4. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
5. Cut breads into little squares.
5. To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
6. Brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere.
7. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.
8. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned.
Serve directly out from the oven, hot!
Our pastry chef brought along a gorgeous salad with butter lettuce, fennel bulb, dill, toasted walnuts a simple vinagrette and two thick slices of french blue cheese. With a lovely baguette on the side. Yum!
Over at Rachelles blog Roses and Lemonade you can find the beef bourguignon recipe. She spent days, literally, making this main dish. And she's dedicated quite a lengthy post, including the recipe on her blog. So hop on over there and check out what she has to write, as well as the recipe. Another newbie brought the delicious spinach au gratin, which was heavenly, and a wonderful pairing with the whipped potatoes and beef, unfortunately I do not have the spinach recipe. All I can tell you about the bourguignon is, whatever she did, it was entirely worth it. If you want to impress your family, special someone, or just yourself, this is the recipe for you. Deep complex flavors, buttery beef, whipped potatoes. Oooooh, swoon. My stomach just started gurgling up at me. . . .
After dinner there was a little unexpected surprise. A splash of lillet served over a generous helping of ice cubs and fresh blood orange rounds. I'd not yet experienced lillet. It's a fortified french aperitif wine from Bordeaux. It's a blend of 85% wine and liquers made from various oranges. It's also kind of fun to say. Lillet! It's extremely smooth, with a hint of honey sweetness. The blood oranges were an incredible addition. I can't wait until I can sit in the sun, or lay in my hammock, on the back porch, in the warmth of summer, and slowly sip an icy glass of lillet. Definitely something to look forward to. . .
My dear Ashley made the creamiest, most delightful creme brulee. So silky smooth and creamy, with the exactly perfect amount of crunchy caramelized sugar crust on top. Even though I was stuffed, it was nearly impossible not to devour the whole heart ramekin full! Some people don't seem to understand how ridiculously uncomplicated, not to mention rewarding, making your own creme brulee is. This recipe couldn't be easier or more delicious!
Recipe: Fail Proof Creme Brulee
Adapted from Alton Brown
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
1. Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. 5. 5. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.
6. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
7. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
8. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
9. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
10. Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top.
11. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top.
12. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
There are recipes in life that are go-to recipes. The dishes we make when we're strapped for time, tired, broke, or lazy, but still don't want to sacrifice an incredible and comforting meal as a result of those. This is my dish. My ultimate. One I've been making consistently for about a year now, but still haven't blogged about. Which is kind of crazy, if you were aware of how often a vat of it was sitting in tupperware packed in my refrigerator. When it comes to this recipes success, it is truly about the elements. They all must be 'just so' in order for it to be swoon worthy delicious. Procuring these things shouldn't be an issue. The most important ingredient is Isernio's chicken italian sausage. I'm one of those girls who makes meatloaf with ground turkey instead of ground beef, and I always loved ground turkey, that is until Isernios came into my life. They are perfectly seasoned, low fat, low calorie sausages. One large link has 100 calories and 3 grams of fat, no additives, preservatives, or msg. Yet, they taste so incredibly decadent. I couldn't live my life happily, or eat this pasta ever again, if I did not have Isernios Italian chicken sausage. . . I mean it. I am an Isernios convert. Even when I'm broke, I'm willing to pay the higher price for these links.
Beyond that, I have one particular pasta sauce I have to use. Yes, it's a jar, from the grocery store. I will admit I have always wanted to buy an exorbitant amount of tomatoes late summer and have an all day pasta sauce making, canning extravaganza (maybe this year I can talk Miss Rachelle into joining me, and actually do it). Alas, I don't have delicious jars of homemade marinara sauce sitting in my pantry I use jarred. And it must be a particular brand, and a particular type. Rinaldi Sweet and Tasty Tomato. You might life, some foodies may even turn their noses up in disgust. But only this jar of sauce will do for my pasta!
The result is a creamy, tangy yet slightly (naturally, thank you carrots) sweet pasta. It just doesn't get any better than this. I promise you!
And now, for my neurotic list of ingredients and the recipe:
Recipe: missmallorys take on Bolognese
Serves 4 (I usually double the recipe)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized sweet onion - thinly sliced
4 medium carrots (preferably organic, with curly bottoms and green tops) - diced
4 Isernios Italian Chicken Sausage, casings removed, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 jar of Rinaldi Sweet and Tasty Tomato pasta sauce
4 Tablespoons half and half or cream
1 box Ronzoni smart pasta - spaghetti
Flat leaf italian parsley for garnish
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium/high heat
2. Toss onions into skillet and saute until tender (about 5 minutes)
3. Reduce heat to low, salt and pepper to taste
4. Caramelize onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
5. Add carrots to the onions and continue to caramelize on low for another 15-20 minutes
6. Remove veggies from pan, throw in chicken sausage, cook sausage until done
7. Return caramelized veggies to pan and add garlic (sometimes, if I have it, at this step I will de-glaze the pan with a splash or red wine)
8. Add pasta sauce, cover, and simmer for 10-20 minutes on very low heat
9. While the pasta sauce simmer cooks the spaghetti noodles. Drain.
10. Add cream then noodles to pasta sauce. Toss until thoroughly coated.
Top with fresh parsley and pecorino, and enjoy. Trust me, enjoy you will!! I wouldn't be surprised if this one became a regular in your home too!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Post valentines day, my mother came over for an afternoon lunch. We were actually going to go out and do some window shopping, but we ended up staying in. Which turned out to be a much better choice. I have four giant windows in my kitchen which allows the sun to trickle through all day long (when the sun is shining mind you). It bounces off the walls and creates the lovliest warm glow. Guaranteed to turn even the winteriest of hearts. Today was a perfect day to just lay around in the sun (inside of course, because it's still 40-something outside and inside is the only place you can actually tell that the rays of sun are warm). Our cat started her morning laying on top of the barbecue in the backyard, in the sun, for over an hour. Inspired, my mother and I decided to copy cat, sans the barbeque lounging of course. I made a large lovely salad (above) with pickled beets, goat cheese, and toasted almonds which we ate slowly, enjoying the warmth coming through the windows. For dessert (below) she brought along tartlettes she purchased on our trip to pike place on valentines day. Gorgeous little almond tartlettes filled with fresh marionberry or pear. I served them with a large strong pot of black tea. Just what a Sunday should be. Warm, relaxing, and delicious.
Recipe: Green Salad with Pickled Beets & Goat Cheese
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup arugula
1/4 to 1/2 cup microgreens
3 oz. goat cheese
4 Tablespoons pickled beets, diced
1/2 anjou pear
1/8 cup toasted nuts, roughly chopped
Reduced Balsamic to drizzle over salad
1. Mix first three ingredients in a bowl
2. Top with following four ingredients
3. Drizzle with balsamic and a little olive oil if you like
4. Eat and enjoy
I must say I didn't know what ot expect but the beet and pear were truly exquisite together. The sweet, light, crispy pear played off the earthy tartness of the beet.
Plus, two straight days of blue skies and sunny weather? For the northwest, this might mean spring is trying to creep in a bit early this year, a girl can dream. . .
I know I'm a day late (isn't that always the case?) but I suppose it was because I was too busy enjoying the gorgeous sunny Valentines day we had yesterday. I must admit I didn't really spend it with my special someone, well, not that special someone. I spent the day frolicking around Seattle avec ma mere. We walked through pike place, sipping coffee and eating croissants. There were so many flower vendors, the market throbbed with the smell of petals. And down the street a little gypsy band played. The sun was so warm on our feet and faces. It was truly lovely. I could almost sense spring in the air.
Thomas and I aren't too valentines-y. He's never done much, and I've never cared much. But when I got home (late) I was surprised to find that he'd made a gorgeous beet and goat cheese salad, purchased chocolate gelato, made me a lovely card, and there was a beautiful little pot of green and white orchids on the kitchen counter. Plus, the house was clean and the candles were all lit. So, we enjoyed our salad and gelato curled up on the sofa with the pugs and finished watching the first season of the x-files on vhs (you can laugh if you like, but it was so enjoyable, even if it bordered on uber-dorky)!
Yesterday I happened upon my first french macaron. I know they are popular in other areas of the world, but I hadn't found one yet, not even in Seattle. I've always dreamed of making them and selling them (along with other goodies) at the outdoor market here in fairhaven. Imagine my excitement when there, in the brightly lit case at the little (very) french bakery in pike place, they were. Like little colored soldiers. Just looking back at me. I squealed. Which caused a few people in the long line behind to look ahead with a raised brow. Well, I was so damn excited, it sort of just slipped out. I just chose the color I liked the most, since the flavors weren't labeled. And stupid me, I only bought one. Don't ask me why. I think the excitement clouded my brain and thus my pastry purchasing judgement. I wanted to eat it immediately, but then realized I needed to wait until this morning so I could document my cookie with photographic proof. It was lovely pistachio. Crunchy, chewy, and a little creamy. Oh swoon. Amazing. Now I can't wait to try my hand at making them. I've refrained because I was hesitant to create something I'd never tasted, and thus, had no idea what it should taste like. I may have gone a little photo crazy, but I'm posting them anyway. It's just too thrilling not to post!
I hope everyone had an enjoyable saturday full of sun and loveliness, even if you don't celebrate v-day.
This is the card I gave to Thomas it reads:
IF YOU HAD KETCHUP PACKETS IN YOUR GLOVE BOX I'd have french fries on my floorboard. If you had an "I'm with stupid" shirt, I'd have a pro-wrestling hat. If you shouted "Yahtzee" at climax, I'd shout "Bingo". If you produced a television show called "America's Funniest Animal Attacks", I'd suddenly get mauled by a panda. What I'm trying to get at here is that somehow, someway, you and I just seem to
be made fore each other.
(thank you to the always stunning beth for this amazing froggy v-day card)
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Me So Thorny + Trophy Cupcakes = One happy kitchen
Yesterday, Thomas Kelli and I headed down to Seattle to pick up our lovely girl Rayne from Seatac. She was flying back from her last school trip (she's a senior, yay!) to Guatemala. I picked up these little gems during our trip. Trophy Cupcakes, or course. Kelli had never been there, and I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it. She looked at Thomas and said "If Mallory were a store, this is what she would look like." She's probably right. . . . And when we got home there was a package on my porch, a delivery from Scent of Scandal Candles. I first saw these candles down at Inside Out a swoon worthy store down in Snohomish. Anyone that knows me well knows I've always been a little candle obsessed. For the last couple years it's just been tapers and tealights. I much prefer candlelight over artificial lighting. Recently, I've discovered the joy of high quality scented soy candles. I'm not a big "scent" person, I don't often wear perfume (it gives me a headache) but a really good candle that smells like pear or honey is just so nice. Like so many things in life, it's all about quality of ingredients.
Anyway, I saw these candles down at Inside Out, but didn't purchase one, it's a treat to purchase a nice candle, so I don't do it too often. But I couldn't get them off my mind, so I checked their website, got a coupon for 20% off and ended ordering two. Each candle has a clever "dirty" little name. I got "Me So Thorny" which is pictured and smells like fresh cut roses, light. And "Bee-otch", honey, also light. Nothing overpowering. Since they're kind of funny but really nice, they'd make a fun little hostess or valentines gift. Check out their website for more info and scents. And if you're in Snohomish, you cannot miss Inside Out it's one of the best home stores in the northwest, truly!
Enjoy your Saturday and don't forget to stop and smell the roses. . . .