Category Archives: Recipes

The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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Italian 101

A lot of times, all I want for dinner is something simple, something that will take me 20 minutes and minimal ingredients, and something that will fill me up and leave me happy. So here is a simple tomato sauce recipe that takes almost zero effort and can be used in everything from lasagna to chicken parm. And if you’re cooking for one, you can make the full batch and freeze what you don’t use for the next time you want something quick and easy. Way better than takeout and way more satisfying than a jar of Prego.

On the menu:
Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce over pasta

Sauce:
Makes 3 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, 1/4 chopped and 1/4 chiffonade for garnish
1 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped basil to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the ingredients in the pot are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Cook the sauce for around 5 minutes, taste, and add salt to taste. Let sauce simmer for another 15 minutes.

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pound chicken breasts so that they are each around 1 inch thick. Mix together panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Dredge in egg, and then in parmesan/panko mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on each side over medium heat, for around 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Make pasta according to directions on the box. Plate pasta and chicken and pour sauce over the top. Grate more parmesan over the top and add chiffonade basil.

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Donuts, Donuts: The More You Eat the More You Go Nuts

I love the TV show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network, where chefs and restaurateurs talk about the most delicious meals they’ve ever had. It prompted me to go to Serious Pie and Dahlia Bakery in Seattle, and order the Yukon Gold Potato Pizza at Five Points in Manhattan. So when I watched the episode on snacks and saw the donut muffin at Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg, California, I knew I had to recreate this little piece of heaven. It’s a DONUT. That you BAKE. In your own OVEN. No frying, no oil, minimal mess but the same fluffy, crunchy-crusted, sweet and spicy treat you come to expect from a donut. Commence lip smacking.

On the menu:
Best Baked Donuts
from the classic upstate New York cookbook, Applehood and Mother Pie
Makes 18 donuts

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter with 1 cup of sugar
Add eggs and mix well
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg
Add to butter sugar mixture
Blend in milk and mix thoroughly
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes (the donuts will be brown on the sides but not on top, so don’t wait until they’re visibly brown on top to take them out)
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Melt the remaining 6 Tbsp of butter
While the donuts are still warm, dip the tops in butter and then coat in cinnamon sugar

These would be perfect at a brunch as a sweet complement to a savory main course. Or if you just can’t make it to brunch, they’re perfect as a midnight snack, too. Not that I ate any at midnight. I’m just… saying.

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Becca Does Tilapia: Part Deux

As I mentioned before, sometimes being a single lady means eating the same meal over and over and over again until all of the ingredients are gone. So if you have a couple leftover tilapia filets in your freezer, as Becca and I did, you make it work. And if it is warm enough to eat outside, you grill.

On the menu:
Grilled tilapia with pico de gallo
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Corn chips! (optional… obviously)
Serves 2

Tilapia
2 tilapia filets*
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Brush filets with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a gas grill (or a grill pan if weather, sadly, does not permit) over medium heat for 6 minutes on each side. If your filets are thicker than 1/2 an inch, you may need an extra 2 minutes on each side.

*You can substitute any mild white fish for tilapia here

Pico de gallo (this recipe will leave you with extra, perfect for eggs the next morning or as an accompaniment to late night chip-dipping… ain’t no shame)
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 small white onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (more or less depending on taste)
1-2 jalepenos, chopped (more or less depending on taste)
2 Tbsp lime juice, or the juice from half a lime
salt to taste

Mix together all ingredients. Let sit for at least 2 hours before serving. Plate tilapia filets and spoon pico de gallo over the top.

NOTE: Can we talk about how healthy this meal is for a second? There isn’t a drop of heavy cream OR butter in it, and only 2 tiny little tablespoons of oil. Don’t worry. I ate a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie for dessert to negate all the vitamins and nutrients I obtained during the main course. Nutritional balance is the priority of my life.

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Look to the Cookie! Or the rice crispy treat. Same diff.

Inspired by Molly at lv, molly I decided to whip up some rice crispy treats. I loved Smitten Kitchen‘s high-brow take on the standard treat but I’m a little more old school myself. A little more old school, and a little more “how many delicious dessert ingredients can I add to this to make it even sweeter than it already is.” And I love anything that combines chocolate and vanilla. This is what I came up with.

On the menu:
Black and white rice crispy treats

1 stick unsalted butter, divided in half
1 10-oz. bag of marshmallows, divided in half
6 cups of rice crispies, divided in half
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate

*You’re making 2 separate types of rice crispy treats here that will be joined in sweet matrimony by a layer of melted chocolate. So you’ll need two separate pots. Dig?

Procedure: In each pot, melt half a stick of butter. In Pot #1, add half bag of marshmallows and stir until melted. Meanwhile, add cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt to Pot #2 until fully incorporated; add marshmallows to Pot #2 and stir until melted. In a double boiler (or the microwave), melt the bittersweet chocolate.

Assembly: Spray an 8-inch cake pan with non-stick spray. Spread contents of Pot #2 into the pan. Press the mixture down with greased up fingers (I sprayed my fingers with the non-stick spray and it worked brilliantly). Spread the melted chocolate over the first layer, covering the entire layer. Next, spread the contents of Pot #1 over the still-warm melted chocolate, starting with a heap in the middle and using greased up fingers to press the mixture outward, careful not to mix the melted chocolate into the white layer of your treats. Let cool. Cut into squares. Ingest. Enjoy.

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And they call it buona notte…

One of the reasons I love to cook is because I love to eat. And so does my family. The main topic of conversation at breakfast is what’s for lunch, and by the time two o’clock in the afternoon rolls around, all we can talk about is where we’ll go for dinner. So when my mother suggested that I cook the family dinner this weekend, I was flattered and nervous all at once. Let’s just say no one holds back their true feelings when it comes to the quality of a meal.

It was in this vein that I chose an Italian classic, crossed my fingers, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

On the menu:
Chicken cacciatore
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Serves 4

Chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into roughly 12 pieces
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like your chicken with a kick)
1 cup dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shiitake)*
3 cups dry white wine (2 cups to soak mushrooms**, 1 cup for cooking chicken)
1 cup water
3 cups chopped tomatoes with juice

*Your local grocery store should have dried mushrooms in prepackaged pouches
**Half an hour before you start cooking, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 2 cups of white wine over them to soak, soften, and marinate the mushrooms. Before you add the mushrooms as directed below, drain them and discard the used wine

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, garlic, and a little of the olive oil.
Put the rest of the olive oil in a large skillet and heat until very hot (the oil HAS to be hot to crisp the skin of the chicken). Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and garlic to the pan, and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side (if the garlic starts to burn, place it on top of the chicken).
Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and add the rosemary, turning down the heat to medium.
Add the red pepper and the remaining cup of white wine to deglaze the skillet.
Once the wine has reduced by half (around 10 minutes), add the marinated mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with juice and the 1 cup of water. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
Put whole skillet in oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked throught. If your chicken pieces are huge, they may need a couple extra minutes in the oven.

Broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
salt and pepper

Turn oven to 450. Cut broccoli into individual stalks. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet so there is space between the stalks. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Remove broccoli, toss with lemon juice and a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper. Return to baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes.

Here are pictures of Wednesday’s carrot cake. WOW this came out well. The cake is dense and spicy, with the perfect complement of smooth, cheesy frosting. The decoration was a total flop, so I’m pretending that it never happened and giving you a picture of the inside instead. Way prettier, I promise.

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He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother… but he will be soon, because he’s about to eat his birthday cake

This month my brother turned 27 years old. One year closer to 30. Terrifying. Because I’m right behind him. Remember when we were 5 and 7, Christopher?! I do.

Please note the crimped hair and giant glasses – we’ve always been a stylish family

This year my older brother asked if I would bake him a cake for his birthday. Now, I myself belong to the school of “nuts ruin baked goods” but Christopher wanted walnuts in his carrot cake, so I included them. If you try this recipe, feel free to leave them out. Trust me – you don’t need them.

On the menu:
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

*The only change I made to the Epicurious cake that I link to above is I made a double layer cake instead of a triple layer, and I did not use parchment paper in the baking pans. All you have to do is spray non-stick spray and coat the entire pan, bake for around 40 minutes.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a picture of the finished, decorated cake and a slice of the inside!

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