Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese

 My favorite part of homemade macaroni and cheese is always the top layer.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  That top layer where the cheese and noodles get broiled to a nice dual texture of crispiness and chewiness.  That top layer "crust" that houses all the crispy breadcrumbs and lacks the typical creamy texture of mac and cheese.  This recipe gives you just that.  The baking sheet cooking method allows for a 50/50 ratio of "crust" to innards.  That means I get to enjoy my favorite part in each and every bite!  It's a bit unusual that this mac and cheese recipe did not include a roux, but I guess you may not need it if you're not going for the creamy factor.  We added some leftover lamb shoulder bits before the final cheese layer. Any other precooked mix-in (bacon, sausage, salmon, etc.) could also be added for some variation.  I really enjoyed the outcome of this cooking method and next time I will probably try some different cheeses.

Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from food52
Serves 6

3 Tablespoons butter
12 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
12 oz sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (or gruyere, fontina, bleu, etc.)
1 pound fusilli pasta (or any other small pasta shape)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
salt and pepper
2/3 cup whole milk
1.5 cups panko or breadcrumbs
  1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet (or use parchment paper for easier cleanup and grease the parchment paper). Combine the grated cheeses and set aside 2 cups for topping.  Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small bowl with the panko or breadcrumbs.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes. Drain. 
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne, and mustard.  Salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Spread the mixture in the baking sheet and evenly pour the milk over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top.  Evenly sprinkle the panko crumbs on top.  Bake uncovered, until golden and crisp, for about 15-20 minutes. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Asian Crock Pot Pork Loin Roast

I'm still learning the ropes of what it means to cook for two.  My previous routine of cooking once and having enough leftovers to pack lunch for an entire week are now out the window!  I knew that my husband ate twice as much as I do, but I didn't realize that now means my cooking may only last us one dinner and one lunch meal.  What a difference an extra mouth makes!

This week I came home with a center cut pork loin from the grocery store and no ideas on how to cook it.  I decided to use the crock pot since that seemed to offer the most convenience and food quantity.  This recipe for asian style pork yielded an intensely flavored meat that was delicious atop plain noodles or rice.  Due to the cut of pork, some portions of the meat were a tad dry but the salty, vinegary, sugary sauce more than made up for it.  I could eat a whole bowl of rice with just the sauce drizzled over it.  Saute some bok choy and you'll have yourself a well-rounded meal or two...or more.  This actually lasted us a good 3-4 meals! 

Asian Crock Pot Pork Loin Roast
Adapted from Skinnytaste
Serves 6-8

2.5 lb lean boneless pork roast (I used a center cut pork loin roast)
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice (or use 2 star anise and 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves )
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
8 oz sliced shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Rinse pork with water and pat dry.  Season on all sides with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add some olive oil when skillet is hot.  Brown the pork on all sides for about 8-9 minutes.
  2. Combine the following in the crock pot:  chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, chili pepper flakes, Chinese five spice, garlic and grated ginger.  Stir to mix the contents.  Hint: Peel ginger by scraping off the skin with the edge of a spoon.  Place ginger in the freezer for 15 minutes before grating.  I've found it's much easier to grate frozen ginger and it doesn't get into a big mushy mess.
  3. Place browned pork inside the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. After about 7.5 hours of cooking, remove the pork from the crock pot and set aside for 5 minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms to the crock pot and cover to let cook for the remaining 30 minutes.  Shred the pork with two forks, place back into the crock pot, and stir to make sure everything is covered by the delicious broth.  
  5. Serve pork and mushrooms over dry noodles or rice, being sure to drizzle a few spoonfuls of the sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Costco dinner...

After a week plus of honeymooning bliss in Costa Rica, we returned home to an empty fridge filled only with leftover libations and random condiments.  Off we went to our favorite store, Costco, to stock up on some edibles and other unintended purchases.  Our first formal meal (aka not packaged ramen and candy) in our new home was made possible entirely thanks to Costco.  Sun-dried tomato panko breaded tilapia filets, sauteed french green beans and carrots, and a Mediterranean couscous blend.  The tilapia filets came pre-breaded from the fresh fish section and developed a nice crispy crust with simple pan frying.  We sauteed the veggies with just garlic and olive oil.  For the couscous, we used chicken stock in lieu of water to impart more flavor and also mixed in some sauteed garlic.  It's nice to be home. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

New beginnings!

Something very exciting and thrilling happened to me lately.  I've been waiting and longing for it for over a decade.   I almost can't believe it's happened and it continues to feel surreal.  After 10+ years of constantly housing with 3+ girls, I finally own kitchen. 

My own fridge with its entire capacity free for me to use at my disposal.   Is there such a problem as too much empty fridge space?  I'm sure that will be easy to remedy.  My own sink, free from unclaimed dirty dishes and wide open for washing veggies and filling stockpots.  My own counter space with ample open surfaces for food preparation and ready to be adorned with my own appliances.  My own cookware and tools, freely purchased and used without fear of unintentional mistreatment or negligence.  It's all for me and mine, mine, mine!!  I's all ours. :)

You see, even more exciting than my new kitchen is my new marriage.  My boyfriend, turned fiance, turned newly-married husband and I are incredibly thrilled that God's graciously brought us together in marriage.  As we start this new season of life together, it's been fun setting up our new home and every time I think about our own kitchen I cannot help but thank God for how we even got to this point.  From the generous hearts of our family and friends, we are excitedly stocking our kitchen from new tongs to a new toaster oven.  Plus a long-coveted KitchenAid stand mixer!!  I'm looking forward to the many food adventures to come!