Like most children, I grew up eating mac-and-cheese on a pretty regular basis. My grandmother would pick me up from school a couple days a week and bring me back to their house, where she would serve me a heaping bowl of bubbling, cheesy goodness. I’d climb up onto the chair with my Sesame Street fork (which, unfortunately, is not pictured here) and dig in. It’s one of those childhood memories that has always lingered and, as a result, every time I eat mac-and-cheese, I feel like a kid again.
I found it interesting to learn that mac-and-cheese actually dates back to medieval times, when it was called Makerouns, which consisted of pasta mixed with butter and cheese. During this time, many believed that cheese aided digestion, so it was consumed frequently (I’m sure many of you would disagree with this). Unfortunately, since that time mac-and-cheese has developed into something entirely different. Sure it’s cheesy and can, after a night at the bar, be quite delicious. But the packaged kind is highly processed and has none of the same characteristics to make it the comfort food I grew up with.
This recipe came to my attention via Smitten Kitchen. Eric and I throw a BBQ in the middle of winter every year and, in need of a little help, we went over to SK for some suggestions while planning last year’s menu. I found not just one, but three recipes from Deb’s catalog that were perfect for the occasion. But the hit of the evening was this “Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese.”
But, really, how can you go wrong when you are following a 2:1 cheese-to-pasta ratio (not to mention the addition of cottage cheese, milk, and butter)? This is comfort food to the nth degree… just what you want to make and consume on a brutal, blizzardy day. No doubt about it, THIS will put a big grin on your face.
Our Sunday Routine: Walk the Pup (her name is Maki), Prepare Coffee, Read the Paper
The first time I had crème brûlée, I was on a trip with my parents to visit my sister in Paris, where she was studying at La Sorbonne. As it was December and quite cold, we spent most of our evenings in her apartment. The four of us would go to the store and pick up groceries and we would try to cook in her kitchen, which could fit no more than a single individual. It was a challenge, to say the least… one that resulted in lots of laughter. Thankfully, everyone made it through the whole experience with all of their limbs still attached to their bodies. But we decided that it was probably a good idea to go out the rest of the nights.
The City of Lights was just as beautiful in the darkness as it was during the day, though it was hard to appreciate our surroundings as we walked briskly through the frigid winds. When we arrived at the restaurant, we all unraveled our scarves and threw off our mittens and enjoyed what was, for me, a very memorable meal. That dinner marked the first time I had three very different, but equally satisfying, dishes. The first two came early in the meal when we were presented with a plate of pan fried frogs legs and a bowl of escargot in a pesto sauce. And the last ended our dinner in the form of a gorgeously prepared crème brûlée (silky custard in the middle with a thin, crispy caramel-colored layer of sugar on top).
And from that moment on I was a fan. I’ve had it countless times in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Chocolaty, fruity, boozy (salty even).
Yet, with the number of crème brûlée that have been consumed, this was the first time I’d made it. And I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been asked by the Chobani Greek Yogurt company to create a recipe for their blog*. It was an easy decision, actually. I knew that I wanted to make a dessert. Cheesecake, my first choice, has been done before and I wanted to do something a little different.
And, to my very pleasant surprise, it works. In terms of consistency, the Chobani Greek Yogurt didn’t need a whole lot to give it the richness this dessert requires. A little sugar, a spoon of vanilla, a dash of cinnamon and a couple of eggs… and you have yourself the crème for crème brûlée !
*For the sake of full disclosure, Chobani was generous enough to send a box of free (and very delicious) yogurt.
15 oz Chobani 2% plain Greek Yogurt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the above ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until all the ingredients have mixed together.
Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins and place inside a roasting pan. Fill the pan with water so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture looks like Jello when you shake the ramekin (it is key not to overcook them, as they will turn into souffles/mini cheesecakes).
Remove from the pan and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and a half and up to 2 days. When you are ready to eat them, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning the sugar on top.
Sprinkle on top with sugar. Using a torch, melt the sugar until it has turned golden brown and becomes crispy on top. Serve immediately.
I’ve learned that there are some things that divide people in the food world. Beets are one of them (which I can’t seem to wrap my head around). Another is cilantro (Eric tells people he’s “allergic”). And the other is Brussels sprouts.
Growing up, I heard how terrible they were. My parents relayed horror stories of how they were served boiled Brussels sprouts as children and how they vowed after that never to eat them again.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I tried my first brussel sprout. I was out to dinner with some friends and ordered the salmon. What I neglected to pay attention to was what came with the dish. When I saw the little guys sitting next to the fish, I thought, “Why would they serve these? Everyone HATES them?” Reluctantly, I stabbed one with my fork, closed my eyes, and popped it in. And from that moment on, I was hooked.
Now, since that time, I’ve consumed my share of poorly cooked Brussels sprouts. But for those naysayers out there, let me tell you this: almost anything will taste good when it is prepared properly. Just because you’ve eaten something one way, doesn’t mean you won’t like it cooked differently.
In fact, the most flavor comes out when they are roasted or sauteed in a pan. Getting them to brown slightly brings out even more of their natural caramel flavor and, I promise, you can make a lover out of the most skeptical person.
Brussels Sprouts with Canellini Beans and Almonds
(serves 6 as side a side dish)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
15 oz can of canellini beans, drained, rinsed, and dried
2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, sliced into rings
salt and pepper, to taste
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan and set the burner to medium-high heat. Wait for oil to heat up and then add the Brussels sprouts. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, enough for the flavors to come out. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they have browned slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to let cool a little.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add shallot and whisk again.
Move Brussels sprouts to a serving bowl. Add cannelini beans and pour the dressing on top. Mix to make sure everything has been coated evenly. Top with almond slivers and serve.
As sad as it may be for some of you, I am actually quite happy that the holidays are over. The pies, cakes, and other buttery, boozy treats virtually became a food group this past month. It’s time for a break from the heaviness, at least for a brief time.
Root vegetables made an appearance at our dinner table as soon as the temperature dropped below 50 degrees. I adore their natural sweetness and how easy they are to prepare. To bring out their rich flavor, all that is needed is a little salt, pepper, and a coating of olive oil.
They don’t need anything else. But they sure do taste good when you throw in a few more ingredients.
Adding a little pecorino cheese and lemon zest really elevates this dish, a light, seasonal recipe that is sure to satisfy meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.
Zesty Root Vegetables with Pecorino
(serves 6 as a side, 4 as an entree)
1/4 cup pecorino cheese, shaved
parsley, chopped coarsely
salt and pepper, to taste.
Peel all of the root vegetables and cut into thick pieces. Place them in a large mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread the vegetables out on a baking sheet (or multiple baking sheets if needed) and bake until they are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Cook under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until crispy on top (keep your eye on this, because you don’t want them to burn).
Transfer a third of the vegetables to a serving bowl and top with some of the cheese, parsley, and lemon zest. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been added to the serving bowl.
This can be served as is or with couscous if you want to make it an entree.
There is nothing simpler, or more satisfying, than preparing root vegetables. For my first Silent Sunday, I give you some of my favorites: beets, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
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