Friday = Macaroni & Cheese!

Given that we still observe the meatless Fridays, this recipe is a go-to one especially when the day is going faster than I can catch up with it and dinner time appears out of no where! I never cared for Macaroni and Cheese when I was growing up until I discovered the major difference in using ‘real’ cheddar cheese and not the processed stuff! If you want to sneak in some vegetables, steam and puree a cup or so of cauliflower and mix it in the cheese sauce! A small can of diced chilis (mild or hot) makes an interesting change of pace. In fact, you can substitute the bread/panko topping with crushed tortilla or corn chips.

Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups grated, sharp cheddar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound macaroni, just cooked. It should be a tiny bit underdone as it will finish in the oven.
1 cup milk. You might need a bit more
1/4 cup butter
Panko or bread crumbs

Toss the cheese with the dry ingredients.

Gently heat the milk and butter until very warm. Add the cheese mixture and keep stirring until it is melted and well combined. If the sauce seems too thick, add spoonfuls of milk until it reaches the consistency you want.

Pour the sauce into the prepared macaroni and mix well. Top with either the Panko crumbs or bread crumbs. Instead of drizzling melted butter or margarine on the topping, I just spray it with vegetable spray. It cuts the calories and helps it brown.

Put into a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot through.

For variety, I like to mix in a can of drained, diced tomatoes into the dish.

Meaty Chef’s Salad

Summertime salads are great but, sometimes, you want a little more protein in a salad that your spouse declares to be dinner because it is too hot outside for meat and potatoes! This one seems to fit the bill and has enough protein and greens to satisfy. AND, if that isn’t sufficient, consider it a prelude to a really big ice cream sundae because it is too hot outside for any more vegetables right now!

Meaty Chef’s Salad
6 c. torn lettuce
1 c. shredded carrot
1 c. diced celery
1 c. cooked ham OR 4 oz.deli ham, cut thick, in strips
1 c. cooked chicken cut thick, in strips
2 tomatoes, diced
3 T. sliced green onions, greens also
2 c. shredded sharp American cheese
2/3 c. milk
1 small can chopped green chilies, drained
3 T. sliced, pitted ripe olives
2 c. corn chips
Cut ham and chicken into julienne strips, then measure. In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce, carrot and celery. Arrange ham, chicken, tomatoes and green onion on top. Just before serving, combine cheese and milk in saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until cheese melts and is smooth.
Stir chilies and olives into cheese; pour over salad, toss lightly. Serve at once. Pass corn chips to sprinkle on top. Serves 6. Cheese sauce can be made ahead of time and served cold. Increase milk to 1 c. chill till serving time.

Chinese Noodles . . . A Gluten-Free Possibility?

The best part of a Chinese meal has always been the crunchy noodles for munching or dipping in the hot mustard or spicy tomato sauce. Have been on a gluten-free menu for almost five years now, that hasn’t been happening. I realized that Google can find just about anything in the world so ran this request through the search and about two links down . . . SUCCESS! The recipe was simple, the preparation very easy, and I now have a surprise for my hardworking husband when he gets home from work this evening.

OH? Uh, what? You said that YOU wanted the recipe?

http://www.food.com/recipe/gluten-free-crunchy-chinese-noodles-158973

Enjoy!

Fast Rice Fritata

I like to cook but I also like the evening where the cooking doesn’t keep me in the kitchen for TOO many hours! This was always a favorite growing up and it is a quick standby for those busy days. I like to cook extra rice just to have some on hand for something like this.

Fast Rice Fritata
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups cooked rice
4-ounce can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

In a large frying pan, brown the onions in the butter until tender.

Beat eggs with milk and seasonings. Stir in Rice, chilies and tomato. Pour into the frying pan with the onions. Turn the heat down low, cover and cook until top is almost set, about 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand about ten minutes before serving.

Benevolent Bread Pudding

Ever have one of those days when you don’t know how you are going to get dinner on the table much less come up with dessert? My favorite go-to has always been the ‘lowly’ bread pudding . . . only bread pudding doesn’t have to be considered at the end of the wanted list for dessert. Another plus with bread pudding, that it takes care of the aging bread on the counter.

Benevolent Bread Pudding

3 cups cubed bread
4 cups whole milk, scalded
3 beaten eggs
1/3 granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Add bread cubes to milk. Combine eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, spices to the bread mixture. Pour into greased pan and dot with the butter. Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes our until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Ideas:
White bread is not the only ingredient you can use. Think about sourdough bread, raisin bread, Hawaiian bread, etc.

Adding dried fruit like crasins, raisons, diced fresh apple, diced peaches . . .

Want to go wild for the children, chocolate chips and serve with ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Chopped nuts are allowed, too!

The Lowly Potato . . .

Since we have cut back the carbs in our diet drastically, potatoes aren’t often on the dinner menu. However, when we want to splurge on our Sunday meal, you might just find some sort of potato dish in the vicinity of the dinner table.

This evening, I made a new favorite. It is super simple, fun to make, and there have been rumors of altercations over the last serving up for grabs. Thought I’d confess before it came out on Wikileaks!

Not sure what you would call this dish which is why I remembered to take a picture.

Basically, you sort of thinly slice up three for four large Russet potatoes. How much you use depends on how many are at your dinner table. Put all the slices in a large mixing bowl and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, very thinly sliced onion, and bacon bits. Now, the fun part! Get out your trust cupcake tin and spray each cup lightly with vegetable oil spray. Now take up three or four slices and stand them up in the cupcake tin adding more so they are all sort of upright. Make sure each serving gets their fair share of bacon and onion tucked between the slices. Give them all a quick spray of vegetable oil spray and put into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, however, as it will depend on how thinly/thickly your slices came out.

The finished result is usually a browned top with crisp edges and the part in the tin is usually browned and sort of creamy in texture. There are always a variety of outcomes but I hope you find this a handy idea and your family enjoys it. It is a recipe open to lots of creativity. I put in a couple teaspoons of chia seeds and some finely grated Parmesan or cheddar takes it to another level.

Meatloaf That Takes Time When You Are in a Hurry!

I’m always putting aside finds for shortcuts in preparing meals. Although I enjoy my time in the kitchen, there are times when I have other obligations that make time of the essence. This is a recipe that helps out on ‘one of those days’.

Meatloaf in the Crock Pot

About 1 ½ pounds of ground beef
3/4 cup milk (almond milk works fine, too)
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup finely minced onion (white, brown, or red, your choice!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of chili flakes

Combine all the ingredients and form into a loaf size that will fit into your crock pot. Cover and cook on the low temperature for 5-6 hours. Sometimes, crock pot temperatures vary so check after four hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, combine the following:

½ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon or water or broth

Mix well to combine and pour over meatloaf and cook on high for about 15 minutes.

If you prefer your meatloaf plain, you can skip this step.

Ideas:

*Add a half cup of grated cheddar cheese to the meat mix before cooking.
*Try using a spicy stir fry sauce instead of the recipe above for that last 15 minutes.
*A tablespoon or two of crumbled bacon in the meat mixture is most welcome.
*No dry bread crumbs? I’ve broken down a couple slices of sourdough bread into crumbs, toasted them very briefly under the broiler and used them with success.