If at first you don’t succeed, keep tryin’ until you make that biz your b****

So I have some mild-to-severe perfectionist tendencies. Nothing like crippling or anything….but enough that I find things massively frustrating if they don’t come out right. It can be SUPER annoying because for the most part other people’s reactions tend to be things like “it still tastes good” “shake it off” “don’t worry about it.” My brain does not work that way.

I have gotten better at hiding my crazy in most aspects of my life though. But I’ve found it harder to master that crucial brain control in the kitchen and in craft-type settings because, unlike most areas of life, they are soooo controllable. So when small setbacks happen I have to fight my instincts…you know…the urge to throw a 4-year level tantrum or just chuck the whole lot into the trash can because the cake is uneven (or it tipped over) or the onions burned. (CONFESSION: I did chuck out an entire meal in front of my BF not too long ago because I thought it was a disaster…but that hardly ever happens anymore lol).

I’m telling you this as sort of a background into my motives for this post. I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my signature dishes is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it since I was like 10 and its one of those recipes that is burned into your brain so you never even have to look it at. For some mystery reason, lately I kept screwing it up (like this time). It was making me CRAZY…just ask my mom who received all my “AHHHHHHH WHAT THE HECK?!?!?” phone calls.

Normal people can shake this stuff off. But it’s been nagging at me for WEEKS. So finally I decided to just beast this thing out. And prove to myself that I’m not a total idiot who has forgotten how to cook (see how my brain makes me treat me?)

I recently discovered how AMAZING caramelized onions are. Shortly after that I discovered that I am not great at making them WOMP WOMP. I kept burning them. I’m telling you this because I had had the genius idea to add caramelized onion to my mac and cheese….so the fact that I messed BOTH of them up at the same time was driving me insane.

But I figured it out (for the most part) and BOOM I made that biz my b****.

FINALLY got it right!

FINALLY got it right!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own Swiss/NY Sharp Cheddar Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese:

-box of noodles (elbow, penne, or the spirals work best)
-1 block swiss cheese
-1 block NY Sharp Cheddar (or Vermont, or regular Sharp Cheddar)
-2 cups milk (1% at the LOWEST, cream tastes best but is fattier)
-2 Tbsp butter (or butter like spread)
-2 Tbsp flour
-spices (salt and pepper etc)
-breadcrumbs (optional but nice…especially Italian spiced)

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Ok so if you’ve never made a cream-type sauce before I’m going to explain it. Read this BEFORE you start so you’ll know what to do because you have to move a little fast in the beginning. On MEDIUM HEAT Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Start whisking it immediately with a fork or whisk…slowly add some milk (room temp if possible) and KEEP STIRRING. It’ll be sort of paste like with some clumps…you want to get’em all. Add the rest of the milk and stir. DON’T LET THE MILK BOIL. It will ruin your sauce by causing the cheese to separate. When the clumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken a little add the cheese and spices. Once the cheese is melted you should have a nice thickish cheese sauce.  Add caramelized onions (which I’ll tell you how to make in a minute).

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese....

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese….

Cook the pasta regular. Add cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 until top is browned.  EAT UP.

Caramelized Onions:
-1 large onion
-2 Tbsp-ish better
-1 Tbsp oil
-dash of salt

Cut onions. Melt butter in a skillet…add the oil. Add the onions and coat in the butter/oil and turn burner down to low heat. Stir occasionally, if you stir too much they won’t brown. Add salt after like 5 mins. Honestly I got that from a website…I’m not 100% certain what it does but I guess it helps. The onions will reduce down and eventually turn a lovely golden/brown color.  Mine cooked for like EVER…like over and hour… but again, I’m new to this and haven’t gotten it perfect yet. I’m certain it doesn’t have to actually take that long.

Cut even slices of the onion

Cut even slices of the onion

 

Coat onions in the butter/oil

Coat onions in the butter/oil

 

Nice golden color... cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

Nice golden color… cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

In the end I had a lovely meal to last the week. Also it made me feel soooo much better to have figured out what I was doing wrong with my mac and cheese so that I will never screw it up again!

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Take your chicken and STUFF IT…with pesto and cheese…

I feel like I eat a lot of chicken….its pretty versatile and super available (also its frequently on sale). But, if you’re like me, you can get BORED as all get out with it. So I decided to try something a little different to zazz it up.

I modified a recipe I found on Pinterest to suit my lazy level. And it worked pretty well. Also it was really easy.

Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Chicken served with a steaming side of garlic mashed cauliflower

Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Chicken served with a steaming side of garlic mashed cauliflower

So it’s really easy to make this…you need 3 things: chicken breasts, pesto, and cheese (this girl used mozzarella string cheese).

You start by slicing your chicken in the middle (I didn’t cut all the way through…I left one side connected). Open that guy up and spread on about 1-2 Tbs pesto and then layer on some cheese. Close it up and bake for about 45 mins on 350. NOM NOM.

The side dish is super easy as well…are you sensing a theme here?

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

-Small to Medium head of Cauliflower
-garlic
-butter
-1 Tbs cream cheese
-spices (I use Montreal Chicken Spice and salt and pepper)

Start by chopping your cauliflower into small pieces. Boil them until soft. While hot, add the rest of the ingredients and mash/blend (a food processor/immersion blender work great). Then BOOM you’re done.

It’s not very much work and it makes for a tasty meal!

mmmm…mmmm Appetizers

Well…not JUST appetizers…you could also call them sides. Or ‘small plates’ if you’re being fancy.

So last weekend was the Super Bowl. As my team was not in it, I really had very little interest in watching it. But, never one to pass up a gathering of pals, I went to my friend L’s place for some snacks and the game….aka food, wine, commercials, and BEYONCE (I mean the girl KILLED it right?!).

The other day I had tried out a new recipe for cheesy cauliflower bread sticks and they were super good, so I decided to make it for the Bowl.

Grate the cauliflower

Grate the cauliflower

 

The great thing about this recipe is that its SUPER easy AND its healthy! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup raw cauliflower, grated
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
  • 1 cup shredded 2% reduced fat mozzarella
  • garlic (to your own tastes)
  • seasonings (salt, pepper….I use Montreal Chicken Spice)

Mix grated Cauliflower, egg, and most of the cheese together. Add the spices. Spray some cooking spray on your pan and spread the mixture over it….try for a thin layer (similar to pizza dough). Bake at 350 for about 30-40 mins. Take it out, top with remaining cheese and cook for 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Then est up!

I didn't have enough cheese so I cut up some string cheese lol...it worked okay

I didn’t have enough cheese so I cut up some string cheese lol…it worked okay

 

Spread into a thin layer.

Spread into a thin layer.

It'll get firmer as it bakes in the oven

It’ll get firmer as it bakes in the oven

Top with the melted cheese. So cheesey and delicious!

Top with the melted cheese. So cheesey and delicious!

We also had some other amazing snacks

medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese, and wrapped in bacon NOM

medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese, and wrapped in bacon NOM

Caramelized onion and goat cheese crostini

Caramelized onion and goat cheese crostini

These crostini are AMAZING. And incredibly addictive. check out the recipe here.

I can’t wait to make these apps again. They work really well for get togethers of all kinds.

 

 

Remaking A Classic: Kraft Mac&Cheese

Here’s the thing: Kraft Mac&Cheese is great. I’m a big fan. And I know there are lots of you out there just like me who can’t resist the appeal of that Blue Box treat….and then eat the whole thing in one sitting cough cough…

But there are times when you want to eat something a little more dynamic. This was the case last night. My friend and I wanted to eat something good, but weren’t in the mood to go all out. So we decided to ramp up a classic. We decided to add some salsa and sour cream to our mac&cheese; thus prompting us to call it mex&cheese.

To make this fun revamp here’s the how to:

1. make the mac&cheese per box instructions
2. add about 4 Tbs of salsa (we used medium)
3. add about 2 Tbs of sour cream

Now this was a tasty creation. We did realize that for this to be truly magical we needed to add something crunchy. I recommend adding crushed fritos/doritos/torilla chips.

We also decided to make a classy yet super simple appetizer to snack on while the noodles were cooking: chabbata and brie with raspberry jelly. All you do is slice up the bread, slather on some jelly (fig jam is also INCREDIBLE with brie) and add a slice of brie. If you want to take it up a notch, toss that guy in the toaster over for a minute or two. BOOM.  Super easy and tastes great.

Dinner Time

So I’ve had this eggplant in my fridge for like a week. I finally used it all up last night (hooray!). I’m not super familiar with eggplant so I went with something simple and delicious…some eggplant parm.

I sliced the eggplant, put it on a cookie sheet, and brushed it with some olive oil and spices. I roasted it for about 15-20 minutes. Then I placed a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of half the eggplant slices. Put some marinara sauce on top of the cheese, add another eggplant slice, and cover with sauce. I topped it with the cheese I had left to finish it off.

I baked it for about 15 minutes…until the cheese was all melty. It was really yummy!

 

I also got a SWEET new apron the other day! SOOOO pumped to cook/bake in it! (Its got pockets and everything!)

Super Bowl Super Fondue

This week Crocket took a break….partly because I ran short on time this week. BUT I did break out the new fondue pot! I was really excited to use it and when more perfect a time than to whip up a Super Bowl treat.

I started looking online for some fondue recipes (I went cheesy rather than chocolate for the Pot’s maiden voyage FYI) and found some good ones. Fondue can be super heavy calorie count wise, which can be a bummer, but I managed to find a low fat cheddar recipe that ended up being perfect. I also learned some new tricks from this recipe…those of you who have cooked with low fat cheese before probably know that it can be a little challenging….the cheese doesn’t melt quite right. A great trick to remedy this melting problem is by using a mix of regular cheese and low fat cheese, and also using a white bean puree..which helps keep that silky smooth texture.

Additionally, the dark ale that you put in adds great flavor. If you’re like me and know little about beer (if its not Bud Lite, Blue Moon, or PBR I’m in the dark about its “qualities”) asking the people at the liquor store is a smart move. I had a lovely conversation with the guy at my local liquor store…he recommended a suitable dark beer (I gratefully took it) and he told me tales of his honeymoon in Switzerland and the fondue he and his wife had there. Good times had by all.

I put the recipe I found at the bottom of the post. It can be expensive building a pantry from scratch and my budget is tight so I made some substitutions. I don’t have Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or dry mustard, so I used regular mustard, cayenne pepper and some other spices. I got some french bread, broccoli and cauliflower from good’ole Stop & Shop and used those guys as dippers.

For my first attempt at fondue I’d say it went pretty well. I liked it, my friends liked it. And best of all you get a great taste for less calories…and no one will even no the difference!

Cheddar and Ale Fondue:

Ingredients 
15 1/2-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained (such as great northern, navy or cannellini)
12- ounce bottle dark ale or other beer
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste

Directions 
In a food processor, combine the beans and   1/4 up of the ale. Puree, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until very smooth, about 4 minutes.(I used my new Magic Bullet type thing for this and it worked great!)

In a medium saucepan, combine the bean puree and the remaining ale. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to simmer.

Add the cheeses in handfuls, stirring constantly, until the cheese has melted. Stir in the dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Transfer to a warm fondue pot.

Per serving: 105 calories; 5g fat (3g saturated); 15mg cholesterol; 7g carbohydrate; 6g protein; 2g fiber; 187mg sodium.