Friday, August 29, 2008

"Grown Up" Mac and Cheese

This dish actually started with my mom - she would make it for us from time to time, and I always loved it. So, about a year ago, I was trying to impress my in-laws. We had just gotten engaged, and I was desperate to prove to them that I was a good MIT (Martha In Training). It was all in my head, because of course they approved, but the result of my paranoia was a string of experimental dishes, and this update to my mom's mac and cheese was one of the more successful results.

I played around with different cheeses, and I am happy with my three choices below. The asiago gives it bite, the Gruyere creates depth, and the cheddar is always a classic. Feel free to play around with your own combination of cheeses and come up with a flavor that works best for you!

-1 pkg of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
-2 c cold milk
-4 tbsp butter
-4 tbsp Wondra flour (you'll find it near the flour and sugar at your local grocery)
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (add more for a bigger punch)
-1 tbsp ground mustard powder
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1 c shredded asiago cheese
-1 pkg shredded sharp cheddar (enough for about 2-3 cups)
-1 c shredded Gruyere cheese
-1/2 c Ritz crackers, crushed

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the milk and flour, whisk together. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce, whisk again. Let the whole thing come to a boil, stirring constantly.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the asiago and Gruyere cheese, stir well until it melts into the sauce. Mix the sauce and macaroni together in a large pot or bowl.

In a 9x9 casserole dish, layer macaroni - cheddar cheese - macaroni and so on, until just below the top of the dish. Top it off with more cheddar cheese and a good layer of Ritz crackers. Bake the casserole at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crackers are slightly browned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Turkey Chili (pt 2)

Martha! Martha! Martha! Why must you have me totally and completely convinced that all soups must be made in a Le Creuset dutch oven? Not that I am complaining, mind you, I love the even heat distribution and the overall indestructibility of the cast iron. But it's just SO BIG and SO HEAVY. (Photo note: I forgot to take a picture until 10:00 last night and we had already scooped the chili into a smaller pot so it would fit in the fridge). My husband is convinced that I am just looking for excuses to use the dutch oven, and maybe he's right. I mean, chili in August? I'm getting sweaty just thinking about it.

The chili turned out pretty good, but it was a little too hot for me. The overall heat of a dish is really hard to figure out as you are cooking it - just tasting from a spoon isn't always a good indicator - sometimes it takes a few good bites before the spice kicks in. If you make this chili, and want to keep it mild, omit the jalapeno and cayenne pepper. If you don't have to have a dutch oven to make it, a large pot will do just fine. Instead of putting the pot in the oven to finish cooking, just simmer it on very low heat on the stovetop.

Turkey Chili

-1 lb ground turkey
-1 large green bell pepper, chopped
-1 small to med yellow onion, finely chopped
-1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
-2 or 3 big carrots, diced
-1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
-2 cloves garlic, cut as thin as you can get it (MM: a garlic press works wonders)
-2 cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
-1 large can of diced tomatoes
-3 tbsp cumin
-3 tbsp chili powder
-pinch cayenne pepper
-pinch nutmeg
-salt and pepper
-olive oil
-3 cups water

Heat the pot over a low to medium flame, and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and carrots, sautee for several minutes until the onions are translucent. Then add the rest of the veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let it slowly cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies and set them aside, and pour out the excess oil. Brown the turkey in the pan, then drain off any fat you can. Dump in the tomatoes, beans and veggies. Add the water and spices. (You can use more or less water, depending on how soupy you like your chili). Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, or as long as you please. The longer it cooks, the richer the chili.

If you have a dutch oven, just take the whole pot and throw it into the oven at 200 degrees. You can leave it there for hours, it sort of acts like a crock pot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Turkey Chili

I am going to attempt to make turkey chili in a dutch oven this afternoon - wish me luck!

(any pointers?)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Awesome couscous dish

This dish never fails to impress. It looks great, tastes great, and makes your guests believe that you spent hours slaving over a hot stove to create a fancy Martha Stewart-like side dish.

Trust me: you will make this again and again.

-1 c couscous
-1 1/2 c chicken stock (see: easy chicken stock recipe)
-1/4 c pine nuts (MM: toast the pine nuts over medium heat until they are beginning to brown to bring out their flavor)
-1/4 c craisins
-1 small to medium shallot
-1 tbsp butter
-Salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan, and finely chop the shallot. Once the butter has melted, start to carmelize the shallot over medium to low heat. Add as much or as little salt and pepper as you prefer.

Once the shallots are beginning to carmelize, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then, add the couscous, pine nuts and craisins, stir it all once, cover the pan and remove from the heat.

DONE! Just let it sit for a few minutes, then fluff it up with a fork before serving.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fruit Crisp


-4 or 5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (think apple pie size)
-1/4 c flour
-1/4 c sugar
-1 tbsp cinnamon
-1 tsp nutmeg (Martha moment: I recommend using freshly ground nutmeg, just get a spice grinder and some fresh nutmeg from a cooking store, it makes a huge difference)
-Juice of 1 lemon
-Pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients until they are well incorporated, then add the apples and lemon juice, mix well, and set aside.

-1 stick of very cold butter, diced (MM: dice the butter and throw it into the freezer to chill)
-1/2 c oatmeal
-3/4 c flour
-1/2 c white sugar
-1/2 c brown sugar
-Pinch of salt

Pull out your trusty mixer and mix all of the above ingredients together on low until the butter is pea-sized and mixes with the dry ingredients. You want the consistency to be dry and kind of clumpy - not so thick that you have one big ball of dough. Pour the apple filling into any 9 x 9" baking dish, then crumble on the topping so that the apples are totally covered. The apples will bake down some, but you don't want the dish to be overflowing or it will drip into your oven (lesson learned). Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes.

This is a pretty easy dish to make, the hardest step is prepping the apples.

I encourage you to find your own fruit combinations to use as filling. I tried peaches a few weeks back, and it was very good. I just cut back on the cinnamon and stepped up the nutmeg a bit. Pears would be awesome, and I would love to try out plums. If you have a variation to share, please let us know in the comments!

And I'm back!

A week in the Caribbean was exactly what the doctor ordered. In a very fabulous un-Martha kind of way, of course, because my 9-year-old sister doesn't qualify as an "entourage".

New feature! I'm adding "Martha Moments", or MM for short. Keep your eyes peeled for them - it usually means adding a step or ingredient that seems lavish and unnecessary, but can make all the difference in the taste of a dish. OR, it can just mean a shortcut that I have found to be handy.

I would love to share some amazing tropical recipe with you all, loaded with fruit and rum and coconut, but all I can think of is the apple crisp that I made last night. We coupled it with several Bay Breezes (coconut rum, pineapple juice and cranberry juice) to relive one last moment in the tropics before going back to the real world.

Here's a photo of Ryan and I sailing around St. Thomas...ahhhhh the life...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lil' update

Hey there!

Leaving tomorrow morning for a week in the tropics, so I won't be posting anything for a little while.

I'm totally packing Martha-style, minus the entourage of stylists and sous chefs and interns to smack around. And the private jet. Or hand-knitted ponchos.

Oh who am I kidding?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nutty brownies

Forgive me, Martha, for I have wronged you. I cheated on you with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa (and a personal hero of mine).

These nutty brownies are adapted from one of her recipes - beware, the portions are HUGE, and these brownies are anything but healthy.

-1 pound butter (4 sticks)
-1 pound chocolate (I recommend half semi-sweet, half bittersweet)
-6 oz unsweet chocolate
-6 eggs, at room temperature
-3 tsp coffee
-2 tsp vanilla (note: vanilla and coffee actually enhance the flavor of chocolate when used in small doses)
-2 1/4 c sugar
-1 c flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-peanut butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar together, slowly add the cooled chocolate.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Add it, a little at a time, to the chocolate batter.

Transfer the mix to a greased pan - the one I have is 9x13 and really that's not quite big enough.

Now, onto the nutty goodness!

Decide how much peanut butter and Nutella you want to use - then scoop them into small separate bowls and microwave for 30 seconds so it's soft but not too runny. Scoop blobs of PB and Nutella into the brownie mix, alternating as you see fit, and then use a spoon or knife to swirl it throughout.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Please don't stop loving me, Martha. I promise, it's only a fling! Those Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in my kitchen mean nothing to me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Pudding

4 cups corn, drained
6 T flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick margarine
4 eggs
2 cups 1/2 & 1/2

Mix corn, sugar, & flour. Add eggs and stir well. Melt margarine and add to mixture. Stir in
1/2 & 1/2. Pour into buttered 9 X 13 dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Stir often (every 10-15 minutes) while baking.
Serves 6-8

*Suggestion: This portion is huge. Therefore, I usually half the recipe and cook it in a square Pyrex dish. It works great for 4-6 people.

Yummy Easy Cobbler

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a 9 X 13 inch glass pan, melt one stick of butter or margarine in the preheating oven.

Mix the following ingredients together, stirring well:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
Pour evenly over the melted butter.

Add 3 cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) that have been mixed with 2/3 cup sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. During baking, crust will rise over the fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

*When using peaches, allow to soften for 3-5 days until very ripe.

It's pudding time!

I wonder, would Martha approve of using so much dairy? Actually, I take that back. She probably milks her own cows.

This is my comfort food!

Bread Pudding

-10 slices of bread, cut into cubes (Most types of bread work - I learned the hard way that baguettes don't work very well)
-1/4 c melted butter
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 c raisins (I sometimes use Craisins because we always have them lying around)
-6 eggs, beaten
-3/4 c sugar
-2 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 cups of milk

Whisk the cinnamon into the melted butter, then toss in a bowl with the bread and raisins, pour into a casserole dish. It's like a bread marinade!

"Scald" the milk over the stovetop - basically, bring the milk to an almost boil (it start to look a little foamy on top), and stir it a lot because milk can burn easily. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt together. When the milk is cooled, whisk it into the egg mixture. If the milk is too hot, it will scramble the eggs. Once that is all mixed together, pour it over the bread.

Sprinkle some nutmeg over the whole thing, then bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. If your bread is sort of floating at the top of the dish, let it soak in the custard for a few minutes first. Otherwise, you get sort of crusty dried-out bread floating on top. (Lesson learned!)

Old-fashioned Rice Pudding

Note: you can make this thick or thin, however you prefer - my mom and husband like it thin, but I like more of a pudding texture. The recipe is for a thinner pudding - to thicken it, just cut out a cup of the half and half.

-3/4 c raisins
-2 tbsp dark rum
-3/4 c white rice
-1/2 tsp salt
-5c fat-free half and half (my attempt to be healthy - you can also substitute a cup of milk to thin it out)
-1/2 c sugar
-1 egg, beaten
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Soak the raisins in the rum.

Boil the rice in 1 1/2 cups of salted water for about 10 minutes.

One cup at a time, stir the half-and-half into the rice, and simmer for about 25 minutes. Carefully mix in the egg (no scrambling!). Remove from heat. Add the vanilla and raisins.

Pour the mix into a bowl to cool. To avoid getting a skin on the surface, just cover it directly (like, on the actual pudding) with plastic wrap!

Easy chicken stock

A friend and I were just talking about chicken stock today, because now that I have cleaned out the fridge, I'm going to make stock. She uses canned stock, because it is easier. And while that is true, the real stuff tastes so darn good!

I promise you, this is easy. It doesn't require any fancy chopping or peeling, because you just throw everything out once it's cooked (or compost it all, if you are able). It is also easy to customize - you can make more or less, just adjust your herbs and garlic so it's not overpowering.

-Chicken carcass (previously cooked)
-20 cups water
-Whole onion, quartered
-3-5 carrots, cut into pieces
-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (just whack it with the flat part of your knife)
-3-5 celery stalks, cut into pieces
-1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp pepper
-2 tsp each of the following herbs (fresh is better, but dried is fine): rosemary, dill, sage

Put everything into a stock pot, cover, and set the burner to low. Simmer 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain out all of the solids, and put the liquid into the fridge to set overnight. Simply skim off the fat the next day, and freeze until you need stock!

Do you think Martha would give me one of her super fancy chickens to find out if they make better stock than the rotisserie chicken I bought from Albertson's on Monday?

Leftover casserole

Martha would be proud - this tasted great, and it emptied out my fridge entirely. Now I have room for the gallon or so of chicken stock that I'll be boiling up from the leftover rotisserie chicken!

-Shredded leftover rotisserie chicken
-1 cup of week-old rice (previously cooked)
-About 1/2 cup of leftover broccoli-cheese soup
-Shredded cheddar cheese
-Salt and pepper

Mix the rice and soup together in a tupperware container until it's well incorporated. It will be a little soupy, but we all know how dry and weird week-old rice can get when it's been left in the back of the fridge.

Microwave for about a minute.

Add the cheese and chicken, stir well.

Microwave another 2-3 minutes.

Serve with whatever else you find in your fridge that is still edible. Last night, that meant day-old green beans and peach cobbler.


I hope this site takes off - I have a bad habit of starting projects and not fininshing them. How very un-Martha of me!

When I decide to be crafty, or garden, or create something in the kitchen, I ask myself one question: WWMD - What Would Martha Do?

Hopefully, this blog will help me find the answers.