Fall Food Fiesta Episode 3

I think this will be the last in this fall food series…sigh. Although I haven’t completely resigned myself to starting to cook winter type foods just yet. It feels more like I’m simply refusing to give up apples than anything else lol. Oh well. YOLO. (ugh…I’m THAT girl…)

Basically I’m just obsessed with apples…

In this post I’m sharing two gems with you that I’ve recently discovered…a dinner AND a desert. Boom.

The first I’m going to share with you is somewhat similar to this recipe that I made last year, which I really didn’t care for. So I tried again. Its another attempt at Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Apple, and Bacon. So many things that I love…apples, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon…This time its all arranged in a way thats more delicious.

I won’t take too much time explaining how to make this recipe because I’ve done it a few times before. So I’ll just explain how to make it different from plain caramelized onion mac and cheese.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

To make this you basically just add the bacon and apples to the recipe I linked to above. It’s not difficult. It tasted good. My one note on it was that I used Maple Bacon…which in hind sight was a little off…I think that regular bacon would work best…or maybe smoked.

I also tried my first ever crockpot desert…Crockpot Apple Crisp. Because seriously…how can you not, right? It’s actually really easy to put together. Here’s the biz you’ll need:

  • ~5 granny  apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c butter
Apples on apples...

Apples on apples…Put your peeled and sliced apples in your crockpot and coat with lemon juice.

steps 2 and 3

In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, oatmeal). Then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or some forks. Then top the apples with your crumb mixture.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

This recipe will make your house smell AMAZING. A substitution I made was to use about half the oatmeal and use cereal for the other half (Special K Vanilla Almond to be specific, but anything corn flake-like will do). I mixed the crumbs into the apples rather than let it just sit on top so it did make the consistency a little different (not much of a crunchy top) but it still tasted good. You can also add pecans like the original recipe calls for.

When I make this recipe again I will consider using one of those crockpot liners because this was a little bit of a pain to clean up…worth it…but still work.

FUN ACTIVITY ALERT: My lady pals and I had a fun adventure a couple weekends ago so I figured I’d share it. We went to our first ever Blacklight 5K. It was SO FUN. It’s basically the Color Run except its a night and the colors glow under blacklight. It was most definitely NOT 5K…I’d guess it was maybe like 1.5 miles and in terms of logistics it was a bit of a shit show but it was still super fun to walk (running for fun is not my jam) and there was a big dance party at the end and they were throwing tons of color into the crowd.

The Before and After shot

The Before and After shot

I think I may have gotten some color on me....

I think I may have gotten some color on me….

 

What fall foods will you miss most?

 

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!

Sometimes I Can’t Afford Groceries…

Except seriously.

Sometimes being in your mid-20s can be rough. And sometimes between paying your heating bill (because winter refuses to end), rent, and student loans (cough Sallie Mae sucks cough cough) you just come up short and sacrifices have to be made. Like groceries.

This is one of those moments for me. And I imagine that many of you out there have been in the same position. So I figured I’d share my go to recipe for when your pantry is as empty as your checking account.

This recipe is a simple dish that is perfect when your pantry is particularly low. I call it Fake Mac and Cheese…so called because in reality there is hardly any cheese in it, it just tastes like homemade mac and cheese.

This is really all you need...plus parmesan cheese

This is really all you need…plus parmesan cheese

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Pasta (any kind will do)
-bread crumbs (italian seasoned work best)
-flavored  bouillon cubes (chicken or veggie work well)
-Parmesan cheese

Simple Cook the Pasta with the bouillon cubes

Simple Cook the Pasta with the bouillon cubes

All you do is add the cubes to the water you boil for the pasta. Cooking the pasta in broth adds such a good flavor. When the pasta is drained you add some breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese (almost equal parts). And BOOM. DONE. It tastes almost the same as homemade mac and cheese and involves practically nothing.

Just add the bread crumbs and cheese

Just add the bread crumbs and cheese

Its a step up from just pasta and cheese…especially when you’re like me and ran out of butter…

Boom. You got yourself some fancy poor kid food.

Boom. You got yourself some fancy poor kid food.

And the fact that it tastes great distracts you just a bit from the fact that you’re poor lol.

Apples to Apples: Part 4

I imagine at this point many of you are getting sick of this apple business. I get it. But maybe now its becoming clear for you just how many apples I picked that fateful Saturday…

This being the 4th installment of my apple series I’ll share 2 of the more unique recipes I tried. The first that I’ll talk about is a tasty Fall Apple Sangria….mmmm sangria….

Sangria is one of the easiest things to make because it is very forgiving. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for sangria because it satisfies so many needs…the need for some booze and it also is a tasty snack. Win win. Here’s how I made this fun fall beverage:

1 bottle sweet white wine (I used a Moscato)
1 bottle champagne (I used a Dry Cooks)
3 bottles of hard cider (out of like a 6 pack)
1.5 Tbs sugar
1/2ish lemon juice
1-2 apples

All you do is dump all this biz in a bowl, let it sit for a little while and DRINK UP!!! Hello Friday!…..I may have drank most of this myself one weekend….

The second recipe I’m going to talk about is one I found on Pinterest…shock I know lol. Its a shake up on Mac and Cheese. Its a Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with bacon and apples.

Now my first issue with this was that I simply couldn’t find canned butternut squash….so I subbed in canned pumpkin instead. You can find the recipe here.

So the picture on the website made it look super good. Even mine photographed pretty well (even without the bacon). I have mixed feelings about the recipe. It has an “interesting” taste. I think that it’s because of the broth that the recipe calls for. Its not bad…its just very different. I’m not sure I would make it again. But I’m really happy I tried it out. And as weird as it may seem, the apples TOTALLY worked. They were crunchy and tart and went so well with the mac and cheese aspect of the dish. Plus, who doesn’t love bacon?

This actually concluded my mini-series on apples!!! And at the present moment I only have about 5 apples left that I’m just snacking on.

How has apple season been for you folks?

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.

A Lesson In Failure Brought to You by the Makers of Fat Free Cheese…

Ok…so  everyone has those few signature dishes that they are especially good at. One such dish for me is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it for YEARS…I don’t even need a recipe, and not to totally brag…its delicious. So it came as an annoying and irritating surprise that I royally screwed it up the other night.

I had decided that I would make come broccoli mac and cheese and that’s what I would eat for the week. Admirable plan. Totally a doable thing….Until it wasn’t.

Mac and cheese isn’t the healthiest of foods. And I generally try to make my meals as low in fat as I can. So I substituted butter for a lite butter-type spread (Brummel and Brown I think), whole milk for skim, and full fat cheese for 75% fat free sharp cheddar cheese. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference. Turns out it really does lol.

The all low fat cheese sauce ingredients don’t work well together. What happened was that the cheese and milk didn’t incorporate. The result was that there was just a bunch of melty cheese and milk.

These are my go-to spices for jazzing up my mac and cheese. I tend to use these in most of what I cook actually…

Whole wheat noodles with fresh broccoli.

This is how my “sauce” came out. Not cool fat free cheese…not cool. I had to dump out the extra milk from the sauce because milk noddles didn’t really appeal to me.

In the end it wasn’t a COMPLETE failure. I totally ate it all week anyways. Lesson learned though.

Here is my mac and cheese recipe:

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
~2 cups cheese (I like extra sharp cheddar but mixing in others is great too)
spices of your choice
box of pasta (whole wheat elbows, penne, and rotelini  work well)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (optional)

Cook pasta per box instructions.
In a sauce pan, melt butter and stir in flour. Slowly add in the milk, stirring continuously. When the milk starts to thicken up (not boil though) start to add in your cheese. When the cheese is mostly melted add in your spices.
Put pasta into a baking dish and pour cheese sauce over it. Give it a quick stir to make sure its all coated. Top with bread crumbs. Bake on like 350 for about 20-25 minutes until top gets golden. (you can add all kinds of things to it as well…like broccoli, tomatoes, ham, chicken, etc).

Its REALLY easy and tasty. Just watch out when you’re choosing your cheeses! Next time I’m going with regular cheese and keeping my skim milk!