Homemade Macaroni and Cheese comfort food simple and delicious

As you are reading this my husband and I are in Key West FL for good friends of ours wedding.  My son is home taking care of the house, dog and my husband’s construction business. While I know he will never go hungry I still wanted to make sure he didn’t survive on takeout pizza.  He must have been thinking the same thing as he asked me if I would teach him how to make a few dishes.  The funny part of this is we both were thinking the same dishes. So Sunday morning we made chili, shepherd’s pie, lasagna and macaroni and cheese. All can be frozen and keep really well – we packaged them up into small meals for him.

Comfort Food - Alex 526 Comfort Food - Alex 527 Comfort Food - Alex 528 Comfort Food - Alex 529

When making this many different dishes you really want to make the most of prep and cooking so you don’t spend the rest of the day doing dishes.

We used one pot to cook the meat one meal at a time and set aside. We browned the burger for the pie, sausage for the lasagna and the burger, sausage and ground turkey for the chili. We cooked the pasta as directed on the box for the mac and cheese then use the same pot for the potatoes, rinsed and wiped it out so we could use it for the sauce for the lasagna. We diced and sliced the onions and garlic for all the dishes and then the veggies and set aside. I bet we had all dishes made and assembled in about 2.5 hours and all but 1 pot fit in the dishwasher. It was a very successful morning.

While I do use the internet and magazines to find recipes to try I know they are just a starting point, there are so many ways you can take a recipe to make it to you and your families tastes.  Everybody’s shepherd’s pies is a little different; I use creamed and niblet corn to add moisture. I know of a family the use pre-bought gravy to add moisture to theirs. There is nothing like good homemade comfort food.

Easy Mac and Cheese that has great flavor and comes together quickly

1 small onion diced very small

4 tbs. Butter

4 tbs. Flour

2 cups milk

1 box elbow macaroni or other small pasta

4-6 cups shredded cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, Provolone your favorite combination works here

3-4 slices American cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In salted water cook the pasta according to the direction on the box; drain and set aside. In a sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions and cook to translucent about 3 minutes. Add flour stirring to mix.  Let cook about 2 minutes, it helps remove the flour taste. Using a whisk add the milk all at once. Whisk thoroughly till all incorporated.  Let this thicken on low heat, do not boil just simmer and stir frequently.  Remove from the heat and add all the cheese.  Lightly stir to incorporate.  Add the cooked pasta and salt and pepper to taste.  If you chop the onions small enough the kids won’t even know they are there.

Eat as is or bake for 15 minutes in a 350’ oven.  Add a crumb top or not – whatever is your preference

Banh Mi

My daughter has started her second year living in Japan; she has done some traveling to different countries in Asia and she is also a foodie she shares with me some of her favorite finds.  I have tried making Ramen and Gyoza from Japan and she especially loved the street food in Vietnam. I have been toying with the idea of trying to make something that you might find on the streets of Vietnam.  The guys and I do enjoy a nice sandwich so we were excited to try making a Banh Mi a Vietnamese sandwich.

banh mi 019

With our weekends being booked up for the last few weeks and the next few coming up; I wanted to make it somewhat simple so I could make it during the week without stressing out too much.  I blended the ingredients for the marinade, sliced the pork and placed both in a Ziploc bag overnight.  The next night I cut up some of the veggies and grilled the pork. I placed everything out on the island and you could add what you wanted to your sandwich; it went fairly quickly and the end result was quite tasty.

She just got back from the Philippines we need to catch up soon so I can work on my next Asian inspired dish.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI 001 STUFFED ZUCCHINI 005 banh mi 016 banh mi 017 banh mi 018

Makes 6 sandwiches

2-3 lb boneless pork shoulder

3 large cloves of garlic chopped

1-2 shallots chopped

1 stalk of lemongrass, trimmed and coarsely chopped (if hard to find and not sure how to work with it, you can substitute lemongrass in a tube) (I had to as my local market did not have the stalks)

¼ tsp black pepper

2 Tbs sugar

2 tsp soy sauce

2 Tbs fish sauce

1 Tbs canola oil

Cut the pork across the grain into strips about 4 to 5 inches long about ¼ inch thick set aside.

In a blender or food processor add the remaining ingredients blend until semi-coarse puree.

Add everything to a Ziploc bag and massage the meat.  Place in the fridge over night; you could leave on the counter for an hour if you don’t want to wait.  If you place the bag in the fridge take it out let it sit for an hour or so to come to room temperature.  You can cut up some veggies while you wait.

You can skewer the meat or not, if you have small pieces and are grilling you may want to.  I did not; I started the grill and let it get real hot.  I spent like 5-7 minutes cooking the meat – I believe they cook theirs longer till very dark, I did not, I wanted the meat a little tender.  I also grilled the buns slightly to harden them a bit.

Possible vegetables – Pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, cabbage, carrot, chili’s, pickled veggies (brine removed), fresh herbs, avocados.

Add Mayo and salt and pepper or you can add soy sauce.  Mine was veggies I had on hand and Mayo.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup (from my garden)

So I harvested all of my garlic yesterday as well as several zucchini and cucumbers but only one summer squash and a few tomatoes and a couple of onions. We have been getting broccoli pretty steady for a couple of weeks now. My garlic ended up with pretty small bulbs but there are 68 of them so I think we should be OK for a bit. I need to figure out how to grow larger bulbs; the small ones don’t really keep very well. Once it cures for a couple of weeks I will probably have to peel and freeze all of it. Once frozen the only way to use it is crushed but I do that more than anything else so I am pretty OK with it.

broccoli - garden 034

Broccoli Cheddar

 

 

 

chicken divan 003

Chicken Divan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broccoli really doesn’t keep very long in the fridge once harvested so I had to do something with it. I have already frozen a couple of gallon bags so this morning I decide to make something with it. I love broccoli cheddar soup so that took care of some of it and my son loves Chicken Divan so that took care of the rest. We had the soup for lunch and the divan is actually in the oven as I type.

 

broccoli - garden 019 broccoli - garden 024 broccoli - garden 026 broccoli - garden 027 broccoli - garden 029 broccoli - garden 030 broccoli - garden 031 broccoli - garden 033

 

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 TBS melted butter

1 medium onion chopped

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup flour

1 Cup half and half

1 Cup milk

2 cups chicken stock

Head of broccoli (use less if you want) trimmed

1 cup julienne carrot

¼ tsp nutmeg

8 ounces grated good sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Sauté onion in butter and set aside

I had a potato that I peeled for breakfast and didn’t need it SO I cut it up; ,boiled it and used my potato ricer and added it to my soup, it helped thicken the soup even more, which we all love.

Melt butter and add flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Stir constantly and add the milks. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. You can puree this if you want or leave chunky (I left mine chunky) return to heat and add cheese. Stir in nutmeg and enjoy. My son doesn’t like broccoli cheddar soup but he did like and eat this one.

Cooking with Red Wine

I mentioned last week I would talk a little about how I cook with red wine.  I don’t recall ever using red wine for anything that didn’t have some sort of beef product.

I frequently use red wine to make a delicious au jus, just brown the beef and deglaze the pan with red wine, some crushed garlic.  Boil down till half add some salt and pepper to taste.

My husband refers to this beef stew as my “quick one” which actually kind of irritates me because though it cooks relatively quicker than most, it still has the same amount of prep and chopping. Maybe one of these days I will have him just whip this up!

Beef Stew

3 pounds of stewing beef (trim and cut to 1 inch pieces)

Kosher salt and Fresh cracked black pepper

Olive oil to brown the beef

3 Cups diced yellow onion (about 2 medium)

3 large cloves garlic, mined

2 bay leaves

2 Tsp dried thyme

3 TBS flour

2 Cups red wine

2 Cups water

Carrots

Potatoes

Turnip (or whatever veggie you like if you don’t like turnip)

Adjust rack to lower middle of oven, pre-heat to 450’F

Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy based Dutch oven or like.  Shoot for a 9 to 11 inch in diameter pot that can also go into the oven at high temperature

Salt and Pepper beef and brown all over – the brown is where all the flavor comes from

Work in batches, you do not want to crowd the pot.

Quick Beef Stew 020

Once all the beef is browned, set aside in bowl to capture all the liquid as you will add it all back in the pot.

Add the onions and garlic to the pot; season with salt and pepper; if it looks dry add more oil a tablespoon at a time.  Cook till they are softened about 5 minutes.  Add the thyme and bay leaf, stir cooking for about 30 seconds; add the flour and stewing liquid (wine and water).  Return the beef and drippings to the pot.  Cover tightly and cook – what cuts down on the cooking time is that you are going to use tinfoil to get as close to the beef as you can.  Lay a sheet of heavy-duty foil over the pot, and being careful press down (preferably using a towel) so it just about touches the stew.  Press against the sides of the pot; crimp the foil around the rim for a tight seal.  Turn up the stovetop until you hear the juices bubbling; add the pot to the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Quick Beef Stew 029 Quick Beef Stew 028

Cook the veggies separate; I tend to boil all three together to save on dirtying dishes, you can sauté or steam if you would rather.  You know how most beef stew recipes have you cook all ingredients together for several hours. The veggies tend to lose their identity.  Cooking them separate and adding them later to meld they truly keep their flavor. It is a nice change you should try it.

Remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the foil and stir in the veggies.  Cover again with the foil and lid; remember the pot and cover are super-hot.  Let stand so the meat rests and the veggies meld with the stew about 15 minutes.  If needed you might need to add a little  more water or beef stock if it is too thin.  I just made this today and I had to add more liquid for our liking.