Thursday, September 18, 2014

5-Minute Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and a Panko Herb crust (Pressure Cooker Style)

Before I talk about this creamy, dreamy homemade Macaroni and Cheese that I made last night, I want to say that I am deeply touched, and encouraged, by all the supportive comments I received on my "Spaghetti Pie" post, and on my Facebook Fan Page. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I shared some health issues I've been dealing with, and that I'm going to be a bit scarce. I'm still struggling with fatigue, but I'm starting to feel better.  Your encouragement really lifted my spirits and I'm starting to think a lot more about getting back into the kitchen.
So, with a slow resurgence of energy, I am wanting to make easy (but delicious) dinners for my wonderful husband, who is always appreciative of whatever I make. I do enjoy sharing a meal together, and talking about our day at work.

A while ago, I had bookmarked this recipe from one of my most used books on pressure cooking: "Pressure Cooking Perfection".  When my son was a little boy, he'd beg me to bring home those "Blue Boxes" of mac 'n cheese.  Now that he's all grown, he doesn't eat those any longer (thank goodness).  So, I don't make Mac 'N Cheese often. But this recipe got my attention because it looked so easy, and it sounded really good. I liked their variation of adding tomatoes, so I set my mind to making this for dinner.
NOTE: If you don't own a pressure cooker, please know you can still make this recipe on a stove top. It'll just take a bit more time, but it's worth it.  

I've written several recipe posts on pressure cooking, and I hope that I can convince more folks that there is nothing to fear about pressure cookers.  I wish I could hold your hand, and show you how easy it is to plug in an electric pressure cooker.  This macaroni and cheese recipe is the perfect "starter" way to personally learn how fool-proof pressure cooking is.

The first thing you do is measure out 8 ounces (two cups) of macaroni, and 2 cups of water.  There's no pot of salted water to bring to a cooked pasta to drain. No-siree!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Easy Spaghetti Pie-- and my brief food blog leave of absence

This recipe for Spaghetti Pie is something I would often make for my son, when he was a little boy. He loved it, and I appreciated that it was fast to make.  This photo, I admit, doesn't begin to do justice to the flavor of the meat filling-- which is not made from bottled spaghetti sauce.  The crust is made with cooked pasta, eggs and Parmesan cheese, with a layer of fresh ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese). The topping has plenty of melted, gooey mozzarella.  I'm going to share this recipe, for Spaghetti Pie in the next few paragraphs. Pinkie promise. After all, that's why you're here, isn't it? 

I wasn't going to post this recipe, because I was underwhelmed by the photographs that I took.   I did share it on the website where I store all of my recipe cards, so that I would have it as a quick reference. I was surprised at how popular the recipe card became! So, I decided to share it with all of you-- and as a segue for me to explain why my recipe posts have become so few and far between.

I'll try to keep food blog etiquette, by trying not to write super long paragraphs. Though, please indulge me, this one time. I have something really important I need to tell my readers and internet friends. I'll try and break up the paragraphs with photos of this recipe. Then, I'll tie the whole thing together. Okay?

Thank you. Truly.

So, here's what's been going on, with me. (Deep breath): Until recently, I've been blessed with pretty good health. Granted, I've struggled with a bum left knee, ever since I had my first major surgery at the age of 14. The short explanation is that I have "loose connective tissue". That is, when I least expected (or wanted) it, my knee would go the opposite direction where I was headed. Ouch. Over the last few decades, I had two more surgeries, to try and improve my knee  Still,  it never stopped me from my years as an equestrian and a few ski trips.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Vanilla Bean Snickerdoodles

I remember the first time I ate a Snickerdoodle Cookie. It was in the mid 60's (not 1800, thank you very much). The reason I remember is that my mother, being German, rarely baked any kind of "American" recipe. A co-worker had brought some to her job, and she was smitten. She handed the recipe to me, and the rest is history.

It's interesting that when I googled "who invented the Snickerdoodle cookie" the most common answer is that, perhaps, the name snickerdoodle is a hybrid of the German word schneckennudeln, a type of cinnamon dusted sweet roll.   Who knew? I thought the recipe came from Betty Crocker, because I have always made that version-- which has a combination of butter and shortening.  It's a great recipe, and a true classic.

What? You've never had a Snickerdoodle?  Impossible!  They're made with the basic of ingredients-- butter, flour, eggs.  One cannot forget to add the cream of tartar, salt or baking soda. Or, it just wouldn't be a Snickerdoodle cookie, right?  Last, but not least, you roll the cookie dough into a ball and give it a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar. This, my friends, is what makes this cookie so irresistible.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

("Creamless") Creamy Cauliflower Soup

In almost six years of sharing recipes on my food blog, I think this is the longest dry spell I've had in the kitchen. I was battling against heavy fatigue (wacky thyroids), and I just couldn't muster the energy to cook, photograph, write and edit a recipe post-- let alone have an appetite to eat dinner with my husband.
Most times, I'd just fall asleep within moments of arriving home, from work.

Worse, I quit visiting food blogs and reading my favorite cooking magazines.  This is so out of character for me, because my happiest place, at home,  is in the kitchen.  I'm starting to feel better, so I'm hoping to share many of the recipes I've made, and are waiting for me to edit and write-- like this delicious soup.

Today, being Labor Day Weekend, I can start thinking about my favorite type of Fall cooking-- braising meats, making stews, baking bread and making soups for dinner.  Fortunately, our climate rarely gets into the trip-digit temps that many of my East Coast and Southwestern friends endure.  Plus, I do a lot of pressure cooking so that the kitchen stays nice and cool.

With our average temps in the low 70's,  I had no problem making this fabulous soup, this summer.  I loved it so much, that I've made it a few times.  With the exception of the cauliflower "croutons" that are cooked in browned butter, this soup is low-fat-- and there is no chicken stock nor cream, in it!

One of my favorite Cooking Magazine is "Cook's Illustrated" and I also subscribe to their website, so I can watch their videos, on demand.  This is where I saw this recipe, and here is CI's explanation of the recipe:
For a creamy cauliflower soup without cream, we relied on cauliflower’s low insoluble fiber content to produce a velvety smooth puree. To ensure that cauliflower flavor remained at the forefront, we cooked the cauliflower in seasoned water (instead of broth), skipped the spice rack entirely, and bolstered the soup with sautéed onion and leek. We added the cauliflower to the simmering water in two stages so that we got the grassy flavor of just-cooked cauliflower and the sweeter, nuttier flavor of long-cooked cauliflower. Finally, we fried florets in butter until both browned and used each as a separate, richly flavored garnish.

As you can see, I trimmed the "core" of the cauliflower and sliced it thin.  No waste!

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