Spicy Orecchiette and Broccolini with Jus’ Garlic

Spicy Orecchiette and Broccolini with Jus’ Garlic

Jus’ Garlic: The Garlic Lovers Condiment

There are unsung heroes in your kitchen that deliver quick flavor to even to even the simplest meal. I think half of my fridge and pantry are just taken up by various condiments. I adore a salsa, fancy mustard, hot sauce, even a pickled veggie or flavored oil! If I am just not in the mood to cook, I can use these magical little flavor boosters to make my life so much easier. So when local entrepreneur Vinh Banh reached out to me and offered me a free sample of his Jus Garlic, I was excited to try it! Mr. Banh started out just making this condiment for his family and friends, but before long they were all insisting that it was time to share Jus’ Garlic with the world. I was so excited I made a whole recipe just to highlight all this yummy, crispy goodness in a Spicy Orecchiette and Broccolini with Jus’ Garlic.

Let’s Make Some Pasta:  Orecchiette and Broccolini

Jus’ Garlic is perfect for the garlic lover in your life (is that you? ok good… me too!) It is the crispy garlic of your dreams. This condiment is packed in neutral oil, so the flavor you get is pure garlic and a little spice. Jus’ Garlic can be dolloped on just about anything. A quick look at the Jus’ Garlic Instagram feed shows the product on lots of Asian noodle type dishes and soups. My first instinct was to put it in a nice bowl of ramen or pho… (which is incredible, do it!) I decided to go a different route though. I decided to go Italian, and I made a garlic-y Italian pasta. YUM. 

This pasta is a great option for a quick weeknight vegetarian meal. The aleppo pepper and garlic pack in a lot of flavor. My favorite part is that you can get this pasta done in less than 30 minutes!

Here are a few other ways you can use Jus’ Garlic

  1. On eggs
  2. In a taco
  3. In soup
  4. On beans
  5. On fried rice
  6. On a salad
  7. On your hotdog
  8. On chili

…I think you get the idea! Use your imagination and use this stuff anywhere that sounds delicious to you! Jus’ Garlic is not in stores yet, but you can order directly from him via Instagram or by calling 469-333-0813.

Spicy Orecchiette and Broccolini with Crispy Garlic

Spicy Orecchiette and Broccolini with Crispy Garlic

Broccolini and Pasta come together for a quick weeknight meal with a nice hit of heat and garlic.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Broccolini
  • 12oz Orecchiette
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Aleppo Pepper Flakes
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan
  • Jus' Garlic

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a simmer. (Taste your water, add enough salt to make it as salty as the summer sea!)
  2. Add your broccolini and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from water and coarsely chop.
  4. Bring the water up to a boil again and add your orecchiette. Cook to al dente.
  5. While the pasta cooks heat olive oil to medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold your pasta, veggies.
  6. Add the aleppo pepper to olive oil and sizzle for until you can smell the chili.
  7. Add two ladles of pasta water and stir or whisk vigorously to emulsify.
  8. Add the broccolini and toss in emulsified sauce then add the pasta and toss well until coated in sauce.
  9. Toss pasta in parmesan cheese (as much as makes you happy!)
  10. Pour out pasta into serving bowl and stir in Jus' Garlic to taste.
  11. Serve with an extra grating of cheese and a spoonful of Jus' Garlic on top.
  12. Enjoy with people you love!

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Quick, Healthy, Delicious: 5 Easy Ways to Have a Delicious and Healthy New Year

Quick, Healthy, Delicious: 5 Easy Ways to Have a Delicious and Healthy New Year

Its that time of year! The time when we all try and recover from all the sweet treats and fatty foods we ate during the holiday season. More veggies you say? Eating clean? Going low carb or Keto? Here are five foods you can prep to make sure you can always throw together a delicious meal no matter how busy you get.

Roast Carrots

Peel a bunch or carrots, toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 400 until soft and with ever so slightly burnt ends.

  1. Eat these as is as a side dish
  2.  Toss into your salad
  3. Add to a sandwich or wrap

Other veggies to roast: Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, white potato, sweet potato, beets, Brussels sprouts, onions

Boiled Eggs

Perfect jammy eggs are a wonderful luxurious touch you can add to any meal. They are easy to make and make even the simplest salad feel fancy!

Let your eggs come to room temperature. Prep a large bowl full of ice water. Bring water to a boil. Gently slip in your eggs and boil for 6.5 minutes. Remove eggs from pan and slip into the ice water. Chill until they are just a little warm, about 2 minutes. Peel

  1. Add to salad
  2. Make avocado toast and eggs
  3. Add to chicken or tuna salad
  4. Add to asian noodle soup (use spiraled zucchini for your noodles if you are going low carb for the new year)
  5. Grate over roasted asparagus
  6. Eat as is with salt and pepper

Cooked Beans

I know you can buy these in a can… but they are extreamly simple to make and just so much more delicious when you make them at home. I promise!

Soak black beans, white beans or chickpeas in salted water for 18-24 hours.

Drain and rinse then simmer with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bay leaf or a bit of lemon peel until soft and creamy

  1. Serve as a side dish
  2. Transform into a soup
  3. Puree and use as a sandwich spread or a dip
  4. Toss in a salad

Vinaigrette

These are not just for salads. Seriously a little vinaigrette can brighten up almost anything you are eating 

Have it on hand to:

  1. Toss with your roast veggies
  2. Dress your salad
  3. Dress your sandwiches or eraps
  4. Marinate chicken or fish
  5. Drizzle over roasted meats

Basic Vinaigrette

1 part Vinegar or citrus juice

2 parts good olive oil

1-2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp minced shallot

salt/pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a jar and shake until thoroughly combined. Dip a lettuce leaf in and taste. If it tastes too tart add some olive oil. If it does not taste tart enough add more vinegar. Taste again and continue to adjust until you like the balance. Adjust seasoning once you have the tartness level where you want it.

Nut Butter Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon your favorite nut butter: tahini, peanut butter, cashew butter or almond butter

2 tablespoons acid: lemon, lime, Apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar

A pinch of seasoning: salt, pepper, chili flake, minced shallot, onion powder, garlic powder, soy sauce, fish sauce, mustard

Add all ingredients into a jar and shake until thoroughly combined. Dip a lettuce leaf in and taste. If it tastes too tart add some olive oil. If it does not taste tart enough add more vinegar. Taste again and continue to adjust until you like the balance. Adjust seasoning once you have the tartness level where you want it.

Quick Pickle

This one takes a little more planning ahead, but minimal effort. Once you have them, you can quickly grab them and jazz up any meal!

  1. Add to sandwiches
  2. Eat as a snack with a little prosciutto or smoked turkey
  3. Add to a taco
  4. Use the brine as a marinade
  5. Use the brine in your vinaigrette
  6.  eat with roasted meats like carnitas, brisket, chicken, pulled pork

1 lb Veggie of your choice: Onion, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, cauliflower, fennel, yellow squash or zucchini.

a few sprigs of herbs of your choice: oregano, dill, rosemary, fennel fronds

1 tsp whole mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander, or juniper (or combine your faves)

1-2 cloves smashed garlic (optional)
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar rice or apple cider
1 tablespoon kosher salt (diamond crystal)
1 tablespoon sugar (also optional)
2 pint size jars or 1 4 pint jar

WASH your jars and lids and dry thoroughly
Prep your veggies (wash, peel and cut to the desired size. Spears, slices, dice whatever you want)
Add herbs and spices and garlic if using to jar
pack in your veggies. Leave 1/2” space at the top. Put in as much veg as you can without breaking or crushing them.
in a saucepan combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil stirring to ensure everything is dissolved
Pout into jars, leaving a 1/2 inch from the top.

Gently tap the jars to get out any air bubbles and add more brine if needed. Top and allow them to cool at room temp. Once totally cooled you can put them in the fridge. You can open and use after 48 hours, the longer they sit, the better they will taste. Date your jars, they are edible for about 2 months…. if they last that long!

Want More? Check out these recipes!

 

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Spanish Style Shrimp and Garlic

Spanish Style Shrimp and Garlic

Gambas al Ajillo

I think the first meal that hit me as “Spanish” is a classic tapa called gambas al ajillo. At that moment I realized it was going to be harder to navigate a Spanish menu than I anticipated. This was quite a surprise to me. I speak and read Spanish passably well. I hardly ever have a problem reading a menu written in Spanish when I am at home in Texas. Well, Spanish in the Americas and Spanish in Spain are two different beasts.

The differences make sense in some ways. There are ingredients in Spain that are not that common in Latin America. They are thousands of miles apart with very different climates. The food traditions share a common root, but many dishes have diverged wildly from their sources. In the case of the word “gambas,” I had never once heard this word until I arrived in Spain. The word has always been “camarón.”

There are Actually THREE Words for Shrimp

So in the United States, we use the word shrimp. On rare occasions, we may say prawn. For most of us, a shrimp is a shrimp. The Spanish have a much deeper love affair with fish and seafood and for them, using one word is not enough. There are three main words, and each one indicates a SIZE of shrimp. The largest version of shrimp is a langostino. Say langostino in Central America or Mexico and you can expect to get a lobster. But in Spain, it is a jumbo shrimp. The next size down and most common is the gamba. This is the average size of shrimp. The size of any shrimp you might find on an American table. The smallest size is camarón. Except if you say camarón to a Spaniard, they have no idea what you mean. It is a gamba. So while in Spain, order gambas.

About the Shells

One thing you take away from this is that shrimp shells bring a lot of flavor to the party. I hate peeling shrimp before I cook them. But, lots of people DO NOT LIKE to deal with the peeling the shrimp when they eat their meal. For me, I love the messiness of it. I love licking all the golden spicy, garlicky, shrimp infused olive oil off my fingers. I take great pleasure in the silky oiliness of it all. Leaving the shell on makes me happy. This may not be a great pleasure for you. You may even serve these to guests. In that case, shell the shrimp before you cook them. Its ok, it is still a delightful little plate of food.

 

Spanish Style Shrimp and Garlic (Gambas al Ajillo)

Spanish Style Shrimp and Garlic (Gambas al Ajillo)

Yield: 4 people
This recipe is a magical combination of shrimp, garlic, olive oil, and chili. I like a squeeze of lemon juice too. Play around with the basics of this, but no matter what it will be tasty and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Shrimp, med, shell on
  • 3 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 fresno or jalapeño pepper, red
  • 1 cup Olive Oil, EVOO
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, kosher

Instructions

Prepare all your ingredients

  1. If you are shelling your shrimp, remove the shells, but leave the tails on.
  2. Peel your garlic being careful to keep them whole. If you have a mandolin use it to slice your garlic, this will give you lovely even slices. If you don't have a mandolin slice the garlic with a knife. Try and slice the garlic as thinly and evenly as you can.
  3. Do the same with your red chili.

Cooking

  1. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on med heat. When the olive oil is shimmering, add the chilis, the slices of garlic, salt, and the shrimp into the oil. Distribute the ingredients evenly. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the shrimp are opaque and pink.
  2. You want to keep an eye on the garlic and the chilis while they are cooking. You want the garlic slices to be crispy and golden. Do not let them burn. If they burn, they will be bitter and gross. Once the garlic turn golden and crispy remove them from the pan. When they are all the ingredients finish cooking, transfer everything into a serving dish. 
  3. You can serve everything in one big bowl and let people tuck in and help themselves. For a slightly more elegant experience divide into four separate plates. Make sure each serving gets plenty of garlic and chili. Sprinkle everything with parsley and serve. Don't forget to have plenty of good bread on hand so people can mop up the oil. You won't want to waste a bit of that golden, garlic infused oil.

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Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas

We Love Chicken Enchiladas

Tim is a huge fan of enchiladas. If we go to a Tex-Mex restaurant, I know exactly what he is ordering. That enchilada special is hard to resist! If you have spent more than a day in Texas, you know, we love our Tex-Mex. Listen, I have lived all over. I’ve lived in Latin America. I’ve lived in Southern Florida. I’ve lived in Chicago. The place I have lived the longest is in Texas. There is not a single person in my family that has any roots in Mexico, but Tex-Mex food is in my blood. There is no more iconic Tex-Mex dish than enchiladas.

The search for the perfect restaurant enchiladas is never-ending. All Texans have an opinion about which restaurants make the best ones. They don’t get made at home all that much, and it makes me sad, but many homemade enchiladas aren’t that great. In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons for these tragic enchilada dinners.

1. Most people use canned enchilada sauce.
2. Most people aren’t picky enough about their tortillas.

The nice thing is that it is easy to have a delicious chicken enchilada dinner at home.

The Secret to Better Chicken Enchilada Dinners

The simplest way to get delicious results is to start with quality ingredients. So that means homemade enchilada sauce. (I promise this is EASY to make) You will also need good tortillas without any added ingredients. The best tortillas are nothing more than masa and water. So when you are buying tortillas look for a brand that has the LEAST amount of ingredients possible, 3-4 MAX. No manufactured tortilla will be 100% free of additives. Don’t cut corners on these two things. Enchiladas are just tortillas in a chili sauce. So no matter what else you include these two things have to be great.

Ok, now let’s get started.

Enchilada Sauce

I prefer a combination of chilis. Each chili adds a depth of flavor and complexity to that the sauce. This complexity pays off for you in the final dish. Remember, enchiladas are simple food. There aren’t very many elements so the more attention you pay to each detail the better. My preferred combination of peppers is Ancho, Pasilla, and Guajillo.

The Chilis

Ancho chilis: Dried poblano peppers. They are deep also black brown and super wrinkled. They bring some plumy-raisiny flavors to the party and a little bitterness. As far as heat goes, they are usually medium hot.

Pasilla chilis: Sometimes called chile negro. They are a bit smoother in texture than anchos and tend to be longer and skinnier. They are smokey and have a light citrusy flavor with medium heat. Sometimes stores will mislabel pasillas as anchos. Look at them carefully before purchasing.

Guajillo chilis: These chilis are narrow and smoother in texture than the ancho and the pasilla chili. They have a sweet, mild heat, are a little tannic, with hints of pine, berries and light smoky undertones.

The above is my favorite combination, but play with the combinations and see what you like!

The Method

I learned this method for enchilada sauce in Diana Kennedy’s wonderful Mexican cookbook “My Mexico.” Using this method, you soften and blending your peppers with a little water, salt and garlic. Then you fry and simmer the sauce. It’s super simple and well worth the effort. You can make this sauce up to a week ahead. Work ahead and make your sauce on the weekend. Then you can assemble and bake your chicken enchilada dinner any night of the week.

Use two ancho chilis, one pasilla, and one guajillo. Remove the stem end and shake out all the seeds. Tear the peppers into pieces and put in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Put the pan on medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat and soak an extra 5 minutes.

Remove the chilis from the water and drop into a blender jar with one garlic clove and one cup of water.

Blend until perfectly smooth.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat add one tablespoon of lard (seriously use lard here. Get good quality lard from pastured pork. I like Fatworks)

Let it melt and heat then pour in the chili mixture. At this point, taste it. It will seem sharp and bitter. Use this as a baseline to determine when you think the sauce has cooked through enough. Let it fry for 3-5 minutes and taste it again. Notice how the sharper flavors have softened a bit. Add a pinch of kosher salt, stir it in and taste. Add more salt if needed. Then add another cup of water and allow the sauce to cook for another 5-10 minutes. Try again and add more salt if needed. Continue to simmer the sauce reduces by half. Reduce for less time if you prefer a thinner sauce. Total simmer time will be close to 30 minutes give or take.

The Filling

Use leftover roast chicken or a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Shred the chicken and set aside, you will need 2 cups of shredded chicken.

Dice 1/4 of a medium onion into small dice. If you don’t have onion, you can use green onion (2) or shallot (1) here too. Whatever member of the onion family you have handy, use it. Put the diced onion into a small bowl and add a pinch of kosher salt and soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and add to the bowl with the chicken. Add 2-3 tablespoons to the enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the chicken and onion mixture. Stir until combined.

Assemble and Bake Your Chicken Enchiladas

Preheat your oven to 450F. In a separate frying pan, heat corn oil on medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the oil. Make sure the oil is hot enough the tortilla sizzles when you touch the oil. Fry for 30 seconds, flip and fry for another , 30 seconds. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the tortillas.

NOTE: Do not let them get crispy or brown. You want the tortillas pliable, not breakable.

Grab a baking dish large enough for ten rolled enchiladas. Take your first tortilla, add one or two tablespoons of chicken filling roll the tortilla and add to the pan. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas until the pan is full. Ladle the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas evenly. Top with remaining shredded cheese.

Put the dish of chicken enchiladas in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove when you see bubbly melted cheese that is beginning to brown.

Serve with rice and beans and a small salad if you are feeling healthy!

Red Chili Chicken Enchiliadas

Red Chili Chicken Enchiliadas

Yield: 4 people
Step up your enchilada dinner. Make your own enchilada sauce! Made of a delicious combination of Ancho, pasilla and guajillo chilis you will never want canned enchilada sauce again. 

Ingredients

Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 Ancho chili
  • 1 Pasilla chili
  • 1 Guajillo chili
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 Salt, Kosher
  • 1 tbsp Lard

Enchiladas

  • 2 cups Chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup Enchilada sauce
  • 1/4 Onion, diced
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 10 Corn Tortillas
  • 1 cup Cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack, shredded

Instructions

Enchilada sauce

  1. Use two ancho chilis, one pasilla, and one guajillo. Remove the stem end and shake out all the seeds. Tear the peppers into pieces and put in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. 
  2. Put the pan on medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat and soak an extra 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the chilis from the water and drop into a blender jar with one garlic clove and one cup of water.
  4. Blend on until perfectly smooth.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat add one tablespoon of lard (seriously use lard here. Get good quality lard from pastured pork. I like Fatworks) 
  6. Let it melt and heat then pour in the chili mixture. At this point, taste it. It will seem sharp and bitter. Use this as a baseline to determine when you think the sauce has cooked through enough. 
  7. Let it fry for 3-5 minutes and taste it again. Notice how the sharper flavors have softened a bit. Add a pinch of kosher salt, stir it in and taste. Add more salt if needed.
  8. Then add another cup of water and allow the sauce to cook for another 5-10 minutes. Try again and add more salt if needed. Continue to simmer the sauce reduces by half. 
  9. Reduce for less time if you prefer a thinner sauce. Total simmer time will be close to 30 minutes give or take.

Filling:

  1. Use leftover roast chicken or a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Shred the chicken and set aside, you will need 2 cups of shredded chicken. 
  2. Dice 1/4 of a medium onion into small dice. If you don't have onion, you can use green onion (2) or shallot (1) here too. Whatever member of the onion family you have handy, use it. Put the diced onion into a small bowl and add a pinch of kosher salt and soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes. 
  3. Drain the onions and add to the bowl with the chicken. 
  4. Add 2-3 tablespoons to the enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the chicken and onion mixture. Stir until combined.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Assemble and Bake
  2. In a separate frying pan, heat corn oil on medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the oil. Make sure the oil is hot enough the tortilla sizzles when you touch the oil. Fry for 30 seconds, flip and fry for another 30 seconds. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the tortillas. 
  3. NOTE: Do not let them get crispy or brown. You want the tortillas pliable, not breakable. 
  4. Grab a baking dish large enough for ten rolled enchiladas. 
  5. Take your first tortilla, add one or two tablespoons of chicken filling roll the tortilla and add to the pan. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas until the pan is full. 
  6. Ladle the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas evenly. Top with remaining shredded cheese.
  7. Put the dish of enchiladas in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove when you see bubbly melted cheese that is beginning to brown.
  8. Serve with rice and beans and a small salad if you are feeling healthy!

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How I Came to Love Mac and Cheese

How I Came to Love Mac and Cheese

There are Two Kinds of Mac and Cheese

There are two schools of thought when it comes to macaroni and cheese. The first school believes that creaminess is king. The other thinks that the real king is a crisp topping. I am Switzerland. There is no bad macaroni and cheese. Every iteration brings new delights and its own set of charms. Macaroni and cheese is so pervasive in US culture that most people don’t remember the first time they ate it. We assume that every child in America adores it and that their mac and cheese of choice comes in a navy blue box. This was not the case for me. My mother made baked macaroni and cheese for me when I was little. Mostly this was because we moved around a great deal, and not every place we lived had Kraft Mac & Cheese available. I was probably seven years old before I discovered the wonders of nuclear yellow powdered cheese and thin pasta tubes.

I Fell Hard for the Big Blue Box

I was visiting family in Texas for the summer. School was out, and it was time to come to the US and see Grandma and Grandpa. My grandmother was an excellent cook, but she, like every other American woman, knew that children adore mac and cheese. So one night for dinner, we had the most ubiquitous of American meals: Mac and cheese, chicken fingers, peas and carrots, and ketchup. I was in love. So much so that when we got back home to Honduras, I wanted nothing but bright orange-yellow mac and cheese.

There is No Replacing the Big Blue Box

We were fortunate enough at the time to have help at home. My mother and father both worked full time and living in Central America afforded us the luxury of Lila. Our amazing cook. I was always under Lila’s feet. Watching what she was making, asking her questions, and offering to “help.” So when my mac and cheese addiction came into full bloom, I begged her to make my sister and me some for lunch. She agreed and whipped up a batch of her macaroni and cheese. The one she always made for me. Ever helpful, I mentioned that it was the wrong color. “Can you make it more yellow?” I asked. She thought for a moment and got the food coloring. She added a few drops and stirred it in. “Asi?” she asks… “like this?” “Noooooo” I reply. “More yellow, it should be brighter” she adds more, looking worried, but willing to try. “Asi?” she asked again. “No! Brighter!” I demanded. Poor Lila continued trying until she couldn’t take it anymore. “No mas, ya es bastante! No more, that’s enough!” Bratty seven-year-old that I was, I pouted. This mac and cheese was totally wrong. She had used the wrong noodles, and it was entirely the wrong color. UGH. (Lord, I was an entitled little brat.)

This disappointment in the color and quality of my mac and cheese was short lived. First, it was delicious, and second, I adored Lila, so pouting about her food and making her feel bad wasn’t exactly my favorite activity. She continued to make that mac and cheese for me as long as we lived in Honduras. Always adding that yellow food coloring (with a little added orange) to make me happy. Can we all take a moment to wonder in amazement and awe at this patient and kind woman?

I Find My Own Perfect Version of Mac and Cheese

Fast-forward ten-plus years and I cook for the family most nights. We are living in the US, and Kraft Mac & Cheese is readily available. At this point, while I still love it, I am also in love with the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Her classic recipe is a baked mac and cheese. It is simple, it is massive, and it has a perfect golden crispy crust. I made this recipe about once a week. My mother never said a word about the heavy rotation of baked mac and cheese and neither did my siblings. Until one fateful Thanksgiving when my brother finally told me, he thought it was gross. Poor kid, he ate that baked mac and cheese for ages and all he wanted was some Velveeta Shells & Cheese. I am no Lila. However, I rallied and discovered that delights of thick, gooey, cheesy non-baked mac and cheese. I’ve been hunting for the perfect version for years, and I finally found it. A combination of great melting cheeses and good ol’ Velvetta get you the perfect consistency every time. It’s quicker and easier to make than the baked kind which is another huge point in its favor. Have I changed allegiances once again? Am I now a creamy, gooey mac and cheese person? Nope. I love them both. What’s your favorite version? Are you team baked or team stovetop?

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

A cheese-filled mac and cheese that will make even the pickiest tummies happy. You can put this together with just a few simple ingredients and in well under an hour, including boiling and baking!

Ingredients

  • 24 oz Large Elbow Macaroni
  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz Velvetta "Cheese", diced
  • 2 tbs Unsalted Butter, (plus an additional tsp)
  • 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • Tellicherry Pepper, fresh ground
  • 1/4 cup Breadcrumbs, Panko or Homemade

Instructions

  1. Fill a large stock stock pot full of cold water, add a handful of kosher salt (I suggest Diamond Crystal for this). Bring it to a boil on high heat.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400F
  3. Once the water is boiling, pour in your elbow macaroni and stir so that the noodles don't stick together and the are not stuck on the bottom. Bring back to a boil and cook about 2 minutes less than pack instructions. You want these to still have a but of resistance when you bite it.
  4. Place a colander in your sink and once the pasta is cooked, pour it all into the colander and drain. Return the pasta the pot (make sure you have turned off the burner!) 
  5. A quick note about your cheese here. You want it to melt and get creamy and deliciously gooey. If you buy pre-shredded cheese you are greatly reducing your chances of this happening. So buy block cheese and grate it at home. It won't take that long, even if you have to use your box grater (but if you have a food processor use that, its take seconds!) Stir in all the cheese, butter and milk. Stir until everything is melted and evenly coats the pasta. 
  6. Add a few grinds of pepper and stir in. This is to taste. I love pepper so I add quite a bit, but add the amount that tastes good to you. There is no right or wrong here, it just depends on what you prefer.
  7. Prepare your casserole dish by spreading the butter evenly all over the inside of the dish. The pour in the macaroni spread it evenly in the dish, but don't press down or compress it. Just make sure that it is evenly distributed in the dish.
  8. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni. 
  9. Slide the filled casserole into your pre-heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then switch to broiler and brown the top. Your breadcrumbs can go from brown to burnt really fast so keep an eye on this! Remove from oven when the top is golden brown.
  10. Serve while hot and enjoy!

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Missing My Mama, So I Made Soup

Missing My Mama, So I Made Soup

Summer Has Become a Rough Time of Year for Me

July marks the three year anniversary of my Mother’s death. I’ve been missing her a lot these days. I have so many things I want to discuss with her. So many changes so many new things I want to bounce off of her. She was a comfortable woman to talk to, and I mean really easy. When I was a little girl, I remember standing in the checkout line at the grocery store (I think it was Lakeland Florida, so I would have been seven or eight at the time) while the cashier told my Mother her every heartache. My Mom just stood and listened, and when we left, I could tell the woman felt comforted and lighter. As we walked back to the car, I asked my Mom “Do you know that lady?” My Mom said, “No, people just tell me things.” It was true. Something about my Mom gave people space to tell their pain, heartaches and secret shames. It’s probably no surprise she was big on her comfort foods, too; she was a Texas girl born and bred after all! One of her go-to favorites was Navy Bean Soup.

My Mama and Food

My Mom was a great cook, but she did not enjoy it and pretty much stopped doing it when I was a teenager. She wanted homecooked meals but left to her own devices she would eat fried chicken and Wendy’s salad’s every day. When I could, I would make a week’s worth of food for her and leave it in her fridge. She loved simple foods. It made her crazy when I tried to fancy things up. She loved pimento cheese, summer squash and onions, navy bean soup, baked beans, fried chicken, saltine crackers with butter, cucumber and tomatoes, and field peas and rice. If I tried to add herbs to her squash and onions, she would fuss and fuss at me, and there was no sneaking a little extra something in the marinade for the grilled chicken. She also knew there was nothing better than ripe summer tomatoes fresh from the field. She might have loved simple food, but it was always high in flavor.

When the weather turned cold, she loved to have a big pot of chili or a bowl of navy bean soup. The one she made started with canned beans, and you can do that too if you want. I start with dry beans because I think the flavor is better AND its just so much cheaper to buy a bag of beans than it is a can of beans. My Mom’s navy bean soup did not include the parsley I add to mine, but otherwise, this is pretty much my Mama’s soup. I know its the high heat of summer right now, but for some reason, I had to make this soup recently… maybe because no matter how delicious cucumber and tomatoes are, they lack the comforting feeling that a bowl of soup gives ya? Who knows. All I know is I wanted this soup more than anything.

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