Classic Mac …… & cheese

Meals on wheels Mac

Creamy cheesy elbow macaroni hiding under a crispy crackly coating of panko.

Classic macaroni and cheese is one of those comforting dishes for a cool night.  I like to serve this with either cubed ham baked right in with the pasta, or alongside crispy chicken tenders.  Kids love it either way!

I’ve done recipes with the pasta cooked right in with the sauce in the oven; they are great, quick and easy.  But for comfort food, creamy and delicious, it is classic all the way.

You can use skim or whole milk in this recipe, either works just fine.  We used gluten free elbow pasta and it also works just great.

BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

Stir crumbs & seasoning into butter until well coated.  Set aside.

MACARONI & CHEESE

  • 1 tbsp (plus 1 tsp table salt)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • splash Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 cups milk
  • 5 cups shredded cheese, sharp or old cheddar works best

Grease a 9×13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 350

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt and the macaroni noodles.  Boil until just al dente and strain immediately.

Bechamel

Classic béchamel sauce ….. stir, stir, stir until it is creamy and smooth – so easy to turn into delicious cheese sauce for vegetables or this macaroni and cheese bake.

In the now empty saucepan, melt the butter, and stir in the flour, mustard, cayenne and remaining 1 tsp salt.  Whisk until mixture becomes fragrant and slightly deepens in colour, just around 1 minute.  Gradually add milk, drop in a splash of worcestershire, and keep whisking well so you don’t get any lumps and the milky mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.  Allow to come to a full boil in order for the thickening action to get going.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened and is the consistency of a thick cream.  Remove from heat, stir well and then add cheese.  Once cheese has been fully incorporated, add the macaroni noodles and combine it well.  (If you are adding ham cubes this is the time to do it)  Give the mixture a generous grind of fresh black pepper, to taste. (my grandkids aren’t crazy about pepper, so when it is for them, I’m lightly seasoning the pasta)

Mac & Cheese

Turn mixture into prepared baking dish and lightly cover with the panko crumb mixture.

Oven ready Mac

Ready for the oven, this classic dish will soon be crispy on top and creamy underneath.

Bake, just until you see the cheese mixture bubbling and the topping has browned.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Tart and Tangy Thai Pork Noodles

This makes for a quick and easy dinner, using one skillet (or wok), and just involves a bit of chopping.  As always, please please, taste your marinade before adding cornstarch.  If you don’t smack your lips and say yum yum, try adjusting.  Maybe you like it spicier?  – add chile flakes.  Maybe you like it more tart?  – add lime.  Any dish that has Thai in the title should be well balanced, with salty, sweet, spicy & sour in perfect harmony. Once you get that perfect balance add the corn starch.

Pork noodles

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb boneless pork loin,  cut into strips
  • tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • tablespoons soya sauce (reduced sodium)
  •  4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided use
  •  broccoli florets
  • carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • bamboo shoots (optional)
  • water chestnuts (optional)

Realistically – – – all the vegetables are optional, use whatever you like, just make sure you have a good assortment of color and crunch.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  Remove enough just to cover pork and place in bowl.
  2. Add pork, marinate while preparing pasta and vegetables or up to overnight.
  3. Cook (or soak) rice noodles according to package directions, drain.
  4. Heat 1 tsp oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic & ginger for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add vegetables and saute until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
  6. Remove vegetables from skillet and keep warm.
  7. Add remaining oil and pork mixture to skillet. Cook until pork is nicely browned.
  8. Remove pork, keep warm and stir in remaining marinade to skillet.  Cook until bubbly so the cornstarch is cooked through and thickens.
  9. Return pork & vegetables to skillet, add rice noodles, heat through and serve.

Garnishes:  sliced green onions, toasted and chopped peanuts and roughly chopped cilantro.

This dish works equally well if you want to make it a vegetarian dish, or decide to change up the protein, try:

  • sliced chicken thighs
  • prawns
  • seafood

We like rice noodles, but you could easily use any type of pasta you have on hand like chinese egg noodles or spaghetti noodles.

Grilled Shrimp and Cauliflower with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu
The first thing you need to know is that this sauce is A M A Z I N G.  Put it on your sandwich, toss hot pasta with it, fresh veggie dip or meat skewer dip …. it wins every time.  Today’s appetizer included these grilled cauliflower florets, lightly marinated shrimp and green onions.

Ingredients for Romesco

1 1/2 CUPS SERVINGS

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Pulse first 8 ingredients in a food processor until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Romesco can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

romescu

To use as a dipping sauce, heat through until easy to stir and warm.

 

Shrimp and Vegetables

  • 1 head of cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp – tails and shells on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch green onions

Lightly steam cauliflower until just tender crisp – be careful not too overcook it.

Season with salt.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil and lime juice.  Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Grill cauliflower, shrimp and green onions just until heated through (and shrimp is fully cooked) – try to get some pretty grill marks on there!

Arrange on a serving platter with the Romesco and dip merrily away.

 

 

Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood

 

Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

coconut-curry-noodle-bowl

Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

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At this time of year the tomatoes are plentiful, and I do not like to see any go to waste …. also don’t have quite enough time to can it all!  This is my go to, for whatever amount of tomatoes I have ripe at the time.

Fill a roasting dish with tomatoes, (roughly chopped, skin on), garlic, onion, sweet peppers and entire stalks of fresh herbs.  (I also sneak a few carrots in there) Drizzle over some good quality olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for 2-4 hours, very flexible.  This also works in the crockpot.

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Allow to roast until reduced by about half.  Remove the stalks of fresh herbs, they have done their job …..

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Puree with immersion blender or food processor (if you use processor make SURE you have left room for steam to escape or this can be a nasty experience).  Stir in 1 small tin of tomato paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes, you might like to stir in a bit of sugar, but taste first.img_9396

It is easy to just put the cooled sauce in a marked freezer bag, and put it in the freezer to enjoy all winter long.

Lemon, Shrimp & Spinach Pasta

This makes a very quick dinner, fresh and delicious.

IMG_8095.JPG

 

Ingredients
For the lemon oil:
1/2 cup warm extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested (in wide strips)

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup sliced zucchini
16 ounces frozen shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces spinach (about 3 packed cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Optional:  1/2 – 1 tsp chile flakes & 1 tbsp butter

 

For the lemon oil:
Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a small bowl and reserve.
For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and saute until just tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked linguine, lemon juice, lemon zest, chile flakes, butter, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the spinach.  Using a mesh sieve, strain the lemon zest out of the reserved lemon olive oil and add the oil to the pasta. The zest can be discarded. Add some of the cooking water to desired consistency. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately. (dusted with parmesan if you like)