Monday, November 14, 2011

Baked Mac N' Cheese

Sometimes you just need comfort food... and at our house - this dish screams comfort all the way!!!

 

This is a favorite with my boys... and I much prefer this over the box variety!  It's so quick and easy, and fun to add variation to also.

Here's what you need: (for recipe scroll to bottom)


2 cups dry pasta, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, salt & pepper (and some ham if you want to add meat).

Start by cooking your pasta according to box directions.  I like to use different pastas than the regular old elbow macaroni... so I usually let my little man choose what kind of "noodle" we'll use.  We'll walk down the pasta aisle inspecting all the boxes while Hayden "hums" and "hahs" examining all his choices.  This particular pasta has been very popular the last several shopping trips... Trottole.  It's a big fat spiraled fun-looking pasta and it works great with this dish.  The recipe calls for 2 cups of dry elbow macaroni...but since this pasta was so fat, I just used approximately 10oz (just over half the box).








While your pasta cooks, melt your butter in a medium sized pan.


Add your flour and stir it together, allowing it to cook for a couple minutes all together.


Add the milk all at once and stir together until mixture thickens and becomes bubbly.  Also season with salt & pepper to taste.


Stir in the cheese.  I use regular medium cheddar, but this would be a great recipe to experiment with some sharp cheeses, or use a blend.  Even pepperjack would add a nice kick if you want to get really crazy!!


Drain your pasta and add the noodles in to your sauce.



My husband is of the philosophy that a meal with no meat is not really a meal ... so at this point I throw in my cubed ham too - you could go one step further and make it a Hawaiian dish by throwing in some pineapple chunks with the ham too.  Or forget that and go with some nice chunks of bacon or your favorite sausage.


Combine it all together - then pour into a baking dish and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes at 350'F.


If you like a "crust" on top... you can broil it for the last couple minutes to brown the cheese on top and make a semi-crunchy layer.

Mmmmmmmmmm..................... it's delicious!!


Then dish yourself up a generous portion with some steamed veggies and you've got yourself a winner of a meal!  I sprinkled a bit of paprika on ours - it adds some extra flavor and it's just pretty!!


And there you have it...easy, tasty, and oh so comforting!!




BAKED MAC' N CHEESE

Ingredients:
2 cups dry elbow macaroni (or other pasta)
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 - 1 1/2 cups cubed, cooked ham (optional)

Directions:

1.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a medium pan melt the butter, add flour and stir together, cooking for 2-3 minutes, but do not brown.  Add milk all at once, and salt & pepper and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles.

3.  Add cheese and mix until cheese is completely melted and combined.  Stir in pasta (add meat) and pour into a baking dish.

4.  Bake at 350'F for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top.  For a crisper top layer, broil for a couple minutes at the end.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

We pulled up our garden a couple weekends ago and Dave picked all the unripe tomatoes that were still on the vines before throwing away the plants.  So for the past week I have been staring at this gigantic bowl of green tomatoes wondering what on earth to do with them.

Then today it hit me - FRIED GREEN TOMATOES.

I've never had them before, and until today my only reference to them was from the movie of the same title (love that movie by the way).  But I looked up several recipes and got inspired!  Here's the recipe I used... next time I'll make a few changes (like adding parmesan cheese to the breading) but it was a great base recipe.

So here's what I did!


Ingredients: 4 firm, unripe green tomatoes, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs, kosher salt & black pepper to taste, 1-quart vegetable oil.


I started by slicing my tomatoes into 1/2" slices... discarding the tops & bottoms of tomatoes.




 In a medium bowl, I added two eggs and the milk and whisked them together.



Then in a separate bowl I combined the flour, cornmeal & bread crumbs.  I also added salt & pepper to this mixture.



Setting up my assembly line, I dipped the tomato slices into the egg/milk mixture and then coated it with the breading.



In a skillet, I heated vegetable oil over medium heat.  I put in enough to coat my skillet 1/2" deep.  Then carefully I added my tomato slices, 4 or 5 at a time so as not to crowd the tomatoes.  I let them cook for approx. 4 minutes on each side, or until nice and brown.

Please excuse this photo... I forgot to take a picture until my last batch and by that point the pan starts to look a little nasty...but the tomatoes still turned out great!!


Drain excess oil from tomatoes on paper towels before serving up and sprinkle with some kosher salt.


The outside was crisp and crunchy.  The insides were soft but not mushy and they reminded me quite a bit of deep fried zucchini spears. 


I served mine up with a little ranch dipping sauce... and delicious!!!  Who knew eating unripe tomatoes could be so tasty!!!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall SATC

Life is a story...scrapbook it!

This past weekend was our biannual Scrap Around The Clock (SATC) and it was WONDERFUL! 24-hours of straight scrapbooking bliss, combined with movies, music, vendors, yummy food, door prizes & contests and creative inspiration - not to mention the social aspect that comes from scrapbooking with 48 other ladies who all love the same thing you do!

What we look like in action!


This time we had 49 ladies from all over Oregon and Washington, 9 of which were brand new to our event and had heard about it from friends and/or advertizing.  13 traveled over an hour to join us and 49 people all said they'd be back in Spring.  These women are die-hards!!! I love walking around and seeing the newest products and technology they're using... our gymnasium never sees more outlet use and extension cords than at Scrap Around The Clock - printers, personal die cutters, laptops, desk lamps and more, and they mean business!  Some pulled in RV's to our parking lot for quiet sleeping quarters, some brought sleeping bags and used our sleeping rooms, others drove home for a few hours and came back the next morning and a few crazy folk stayed up the entire 24-hours straight...

One of those crazies this year was someone very near and dear to me - my mother!

Notice the myriad of beverage containers from multiple caffeinated "keep me awake" type drinks.

Mum was a first-time registrant to our event, and because we offer free wi-fi, she bought her laptop down to work on her digital Hawaii album!  It was so fun to have her there, and not just to see me & Jodi in action as Scrap Staff, but to let her experience a hobby that we enjoy so much.  Not being a traditional scrapbooker, I don't think Mum ever really "got it" before...but she loved it!  And I loved having her there!

Mum & me

I got to sit with two of my dear friends - whom I don't get to see NEAR enough, so I really enjoyed my weekend with them.  This picture was taken on the first night when I still felt pretty alert!

Denae & Krista (sisters) and myself! 

24-hours later I was dragging my feet a little more...

My favorite page of the weekend
And yes, I'm a little behind.
Okay, a LOT behind!  These pictures are from August 2008, but I keep reminding myself that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time... so slow and steady wins the race.

Also... it is crazy to look back at pictures of Hayden when he was a baby...wow has he ever changed!!

How did I not notice how HUGE his head was???
Someone inherited their grandfather's genes (yes Dad, I'm talking about you).


All in all it was a great weekend.  We had fabulous vendors (Christina, Sarah, Kourtney, Cristy) who set up tables and sold their goods during the weekend, we had our espresso cart open (thanks Laurie), we had a massage therapist who came and gave massages for our ladies (thank you Cassie), we had fantastic caterers who prepared such amazing meals for us... and I was too busy devouring the food to remember to take pictures... but it was delicious!!  (Thanks Angey & Amy.)  And of course, all the great people that came.  Here's just a few:












I already can't wait for our Spring Scrap next March... we're making it even bigger: 33-hours straight - OH YEAH BABY!
Maybe I'll even make it into 2009!
(one can dream).


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DO NOT BE FOOLED

Behold the mighty pout
Before your heart begins to melt and you succumb to the power of the Elijah Pout - let me entreat you with all that is within me... DO NOT BE FOOLED!

Sure he "looks" innnocent.
Sure he's adorable.
Sure you just want to pick him up and cuddle him and say "Oh honey... come let me make it better."

But let's just say he's got nothing on the mommy pout... which is what I displayed when I walked into my bathroom to find this...for the third time this week!!!!!

CAUGHT RED-HANDED!!!

Oh do not be fooled.  This boy is quick.  And dangerous.  And into everything!!!  So go ahead and pout that you have been been found out Elijah... I'm onto you!!!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Curried Butternut Squash & Pear Bisque

After being spoiled with beautiful weather all September long, October has swooshed in and brought rain, drizzle and downpours -  and we're only five days in!  The one positive thing I can say about the weather right now is that it has marked the return of "SOUP NIGHT" at my house.  There's something about the cooler weather, the clouds, the rain that makes me long for a good bowl of soup with some delicious bread - and maybe a blanket and a good book to curl up and enjoy on my couch.



This particular recipe is a little more labor intensive than most soups I make... but it's WELL worth the energy because it's UNBELIEVABLY DIVINE!!!

Here's what you'll need:

Olive Oil, Pears, Salt & Pepper, Butternut Squash, Mild Curry Powder, Onion, Apple Juice, Heavy Cream

Start by prepping your fruits & vegetables.

Peel the butternut squash (this would be the labor intensive part to me) and then cut it open and remove the seeds and stringy flesh with a large spoon. Chop the squash into roughly 1" pieces.







Peel and chop your pears also.  I used very ripe Bosc pears because they needed to be used up... but I would have preferred some firmer fruit, mostly for how much easier they would have been to peel!



Also cut an onion in half and then slice it thinly.



Now that the prep work is done... it's time to start on the soup.  In a large stockpot, heat 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat and then add your onions... stirring for several minutes until they start to soften and turn translucent.




Add in the butternut squash and the pear and season with salt & pepper.


Decrease the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to soften a little and slightly caramelizes, about 15 minutes..


Add in 4 1/2 teaspoons of a good curry powder.  I used Madras curry powder which is very mild and almost sweet - if this is your first adventure in curried soups... my caution would be to start off mild and work your way up the curry heat scale in further batches.  The idea of this soup is not to be spicy... but rather bursting with flavor!


Stir the curry powder in and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to allow the curry to "bloom" which is fancy kitchen talk for "make your whole house smell glorious and really infuse the flavors into the squash."

Then add in 1 cup of apple juice or apple cider, depending on what you have handy.


Increase the heat to medium and add 3 cups of water, then let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes or until squash is cooked all the way through.



When your squash is fully cooked, add 1 cup of heavy cream.


And take one last opportunity to season with salt & pepper to your taste.


VERY CAREFULLY, and in small batches transfer the soup into a blender to liquefy and get that beautiful smooth bisque texture.


Then serve it up with a nice dollop of creme fraiche (or sour cream) and some fresh dill if you're into that sort of thing.  I'm not...and I didn't have dill but it would have looked nice presentation wise!


This soup absolutely screams FALL and I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as my family did!  It's definitely a favorite of mine and the hubby's!



CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & PEAR BISQUE
Prep time: 10 minutes     Cook Time:  50 minutes     Ready in: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, strings & seeds scooped out and cut into 1" cubes
1-2 large pears, preferably Bosc, peeled, halved, cored and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
4 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 cup apple cider
3 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
Creme fraiche or sour cream, for garnish

Directions:

In a 6-qt stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the squash and pear and season with salt and pepper.  Decrease the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash softens and slightly caramelizes, about 15 minutes.

Add the curry powder and continue stirring for 1 minute to let the curry flavors bloom.  Pour in the apple cider.  Increase the heat to medium, add the 3 cups of water, and simmer until the squash is completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the cream and return the soup to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  In batches, carefully liquefy the hot soup in a blender.

To serve, pour the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.