Layered Mac’n’Cheese

This recipe has my husband’s name written all over it. In fact, he’s the sole reason I’ve made it. Aside for the servings we had for dinner, he ate all the leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside. Cook & drain macaroni according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef until done. Drain grease. Season with salt & pepper.

In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Stir in milk & cook for 5-6 minutes; stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Stir in chicken broth. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Fold in macaroni.

Spoon 1/3 of macaroni mixture into casserole dish, top with half of beef, layer with another 1/3 of macaroni mixture, top with remaining beef, add remaining macaroni mixture & top with bread crumbs. Bake uncovered 25 – 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown.

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Mocha Cake

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I recently celebrated a birthday and made my own cake for the occasion. Some people are surprised by that, but since I enjoy baking and trying new things, I actually look forward to it & contemplate various ideas throughout the year. I’ve loved coffee for as long as I can remember so it seemed fitting to try my hand at this cake. Happy Birthday to me!

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Ingredients

for the cake: 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

for the buttercream: 

  • 1 lb unsalted butter
  • 2 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream, more for desired consistency
  • 1/2 tsp salt

for the Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

for garnishment: 

  • Chocolate covered espresso beans

Preparation

for the cake: 

Spray 2 9 inch round pans; set aside. When using round pans, I always grease, apply parchment paper, and grease again just to ensure the cake comes out in one piece, but by all means, you do you & spray those bad boys, if you prefer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa & espresso powder, soda, & salt. Add the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract & beat on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and slowly add the boiling water, beat on high speed for 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Bake for 27 – 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.

for the buttercream: 

Sift together the powdered sugar, salt, cocoa, and espresso powder into a bowl. In a standing mixer, whip the butter on low to medium speed for 5 minutes. Slowly incorporate the sugar mixture, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla and cream. I didn’t measure how much, but I added more cream.

for the ganache: 

Heat the cream in microwave and pour over chocolate, cover, and allow to rest for a few minutes before whisking until smooth.

Once the cakes are cooled completely, (I’d even recommend freezing them for 40 minutes to an hour as they can be a bit delicate) apply the buttercream. Or apply a crumb coating first, freeze, and then finish with the buttercream. Using an offset spatula, add the Ganache to the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Finish with piping swirls of buttercream on top and place a chocolate covered espresso bean on each swirl. Enjoy!

Recipe for the cake: https://addapinch.com/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-ever/

Recipe for the buttercream: https://preppykitchen.com/mocha-cake/

 

 

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Blueberry Buckle

Sunday is brunch day. Yesterday I made this blueberry buckle & green chili egg casserole; both of which make great leftovers. I’d never made, or have had, for that matter, blueberry buckle before. It was light & not overly sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp flour

Preparation:

Spray a 9×9 pan with nonstick spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter & sugar until light. Add in the egg & vanilla extract; beat well.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk. Mix in the sour cream & fold in the blueberries. Pour into pan.

Assemble the crumb topping by mixing together with a fork. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden brown & toothpick inserted into middle comes clean.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.geniuskitchen.com

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Pork Chile Verde

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You know those moments when you order something and you’re salivating just thinking about it and then when it arrives and you take the first bite and you experience a huge, colossal let down because it has next to no taste? You’re left disappointed and feeling a bit ripped off because you just paid money for that? The upside though is when the exact opposite happens and your taste buds are happy, happy, happy and it was money well spent and you know you’ll definitely be back. You know what’s an even better feeling? Making it yourself, realizing it tastes so darn good, and your people are digging it just as much and you can’t help but feel so very accomplished. I’ll take that feeling any day of the week.

Let me introduce you to pork chile verde. Mmm mmm! I made a big ol’ pot of it and we enjoyed it all week long. When I first made it, I served it with charro beans, Spanish rice, and flour tortillas. But it also goes so well over scrambled eggs with toast or tortillas or just warmed up in a bowl all by itself.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2-4 jalapeños, stems removed (I don’t remove the seeds and ribs, but by all means, you do you)
  • 3-4 Anaheim chiles, roasted
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, removed from stems and chopped
  • 4 lbs pork shoulder/ pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 more garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • pinch of ground cloves

Preparation: 

Season the pork cubes with S&P.

Remove the stems from the Anaheim pepper and husks from the tomatillos. Cut both the peppers and tomatillos in half, and lay cut side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil & sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. Turn broil onto high and allow to broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the skin is lightly blackened. Allow the tomatillos cool to handle. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with Saran wrap and allow to cool. Remove the blackened skin and seeds.

In a food processor, add the jalapeños, cooled peppers, tomatillos, garlic cloves and cilantro and blend until finely mixed.

Using a large cast iron skillet, or other deep skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high heat and cook, browning the pork on all sides. Given the amount of meat you have, it is best to do this in increments to ensure all pieces are cooked evenly and without crowding. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked pork chunks to a bowl. Remove most of the fat from the pan, leaving enough to sauté the onions and remaining garlic. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and fragrant.

Using a large stock pot, add the browned pork, sautéed onions and garlic, chicken stock, tomatillo sauce, oregano, dash of cloves, and mix together to incorporate. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat, allowing it to simmer for at least for 2-3 hours (though longer is just fine, 4-5 hours), stirring periodically. This will allow the pork to become fork tender. Season accordingly, if needed.

*Note: I cut the pork the night before and seasoned it before placing in the refrigerator. I am so glad I did this as it took me much longer than I’d anticipated to cut it into pieces. Also, seasoning it the night before, allows the salt to do its work properly.

Adapted slightly from: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chile_verde/

 

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Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles

What is it about chicken noodle soup that is the perfect remedy to a winter cold? Last weekend it crept up on me out of nowhere. My mind over matter mantra of, “I’m not getting sick, I’m not getting sick” failed miserably, but thankfully, didn’t last long. It started Friday night, hit me hard Saturday, & then by Sunday afternoon after watching food documentaries: Fat, Salt, Acid, Heat; Cooked, & beginning Ugly Delicious (all of which I’d recommend) I was beginning to feel achey from spending too much time on the couch & decided it was time to make some soup. Sure we have the canned stuff at home, but come on, nothing tastes as good as homemade. And I even made my own noodles. It was warm, comforting, & nourishing like wrapping your whole body in a chicken noodle soup blanket, if that were a thing. The hubby even went out, per my request, & bought a baguette from Panera to complement the soup. Perfection!

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour, spooned & leveled
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 milk
  • 2 tsp softened butter

For the soup:

  • 3 tbsps butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped small
  • 5 carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 tbsps Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, pulled & deboned
  • S&P to taste

Preparation:

For the noodles:

In a stand mixer, whisk together the flour & salt. In a small bowl beat the egg & milk together. Add liquid mixture to the flour, add softened butter, & combine with a wooden spoon until it has come together. Add the dough hook & knead for 5 minutes. Cover & rest for 5 minutes. Roll out the dough to an 1/8 of an inch thick, think thin as the noodles will puff up once in the soup. Slice the the dough into strips using a pizza cutter, approximately 2-3 inches long, & 1/4 inch wide; it doesn’t have to be exact. Separate the noodles out so they’re not touching & allow to dry. I found it ended up being the perfect amount of time to dry as I prepared the rest of the soup.

For the soup:

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, & 1 1/2 tsp salt. Stir occasionally $ sauté for 10 minutes. Add in the garlic, sauté for a minute more. Add in the water & turn the heat up to high. Stir in chicken base. Add thyme, basil, oregano, & poultry seasoning. Add the chicken. Once the soup comes to a low boil, lower heat, simmer, partially cover & cook for 10 minutes, until carrots are tender. Turn the heat up & bring to a boil, add the noodles & Cooke for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with S&P. Enjoy!

Source: http://www.thefoodcharlatan.com

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Bacon, Egg, Cheese, & Croissant Breakfast Bake

Fairly regularly we have croissants on hand as the girls like to use them for sandwiches while packing their lunches, but over Christmas break, they went largely unused. Croissant breakfast bake to the rescue.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • S&P, to taste
  • Dash or two of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsps finely diced onion

Preparation:

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray; set aside. Chop croissants into pan. Sprinkle bacon & cheese over chopped croissants, tossing slightly to incorporate.

Whisk together eggs, ground mustard, S&P, & cayenne pepper. Stir in milk & cream. Add in diced onion, mix. Pour egg mixture over croissant mix. Cover with aluminum foil & refrigerate overnight, at least 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake covered for 35 minutes. Uncover & bake an additional 20 minutes or until set. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

*I was originally going to use ham for this, but had the bacon already prepped for a Brussel sprouts dish that didn’t go according to plan. At any rate, it’s a casserole, so feel free to change it up as desired, using different meats & cheeses just be sure to allow it to sit overnight to soak up the egg mixture.

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Books of 2018 & Fave Five

As a lifelong lover of reading, I take joy in books that only another book lover can relate to so I share with you now my list & favorites so another avid reader might find one they love too.

Books of 2018:

1. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

2. Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give A Fuck

3. Tips For Living, Renee Shafransky

4. All The Secrets We Keep, Megan Hart

5. Everything Happens For A Reason And Other Lies I’ve Loved, Kate Bowler

6. A Dark Lure, Loreth Anne White

7. Go, Kazuki Kaneshiro

8. I Can’t Breathe, Matt Taibi

9. The Book of Joe, Jonathan Tropper

10. Feast: True Love In & Out of the Kitchen, Hannah Howard

11. When Never Comes, Barbara Davis

12. The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boon

13. The Light of the Fireflies, Paul Pen

14. The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy

15. The House By The River, Lena Manta

16. Ten Women, Marcela Serrano

17. All The Bright Places, Jennifer Niven

18. Calypso, David Sedaris

19. Come Matter Here, Hannah Brencher

20. A Place For Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza

21. The House of Broken Angels, Luis Alberto Urrea

22. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, Michelle McNamara

23. Whisper Me This, Kerry Anne King

24. The Storyteller’s Secret, Sejal Badani

25. The Thinnest Air, Minka Kent

26. Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis

27. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI, David Grann

28. You’ve Been So Lucky Already, Alethea Black

29. Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together, Kara Tippets & Jill Lynn Buteyn

30. The Infinite Pieces of Us, Rebekah Crane

31. Fail Until You Don’t: Fight. Grind. Repeat. Bobby Bones

32. Swan Song, Robert McCammon

33. A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

34. Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty

35. The River Widow, Ann Howard Creel

36. Becoming, Michelle Obama

37. Tears of the Silenced, Misty Griffin

My Top 5, in no particular order, with excerpts & my thoughts:

 

 

“What if we all stood equal in one another’s eyes & felt pride at our reflection? I speak of utopia & chance being ridiculed, but sitting in a village thousands of miles from everything, I will roll the dice. For one day only, maybe we could put aside our differences & come together in our sameness. For one day, we could see that past all the variations, we are all the same with similar hopes, dreams, fears, strengths, & weaknesses. For one day, we could stand together, not apart, & treat others as we would hope to be treated.”

 

A beautifully written novel that weaves together the intricacies of class, culture, love, friendship, & family.

“It’s not that I’ve emerged from my cocoon a butterfly. It’s not that I have escaped the taskmaster that lives in my brain & shouts & shouts an endless loop of fear, worry, shame. But I do know that the taskmaster’s voice speaks only some garbled, deeply skewed version of the truth, and that’s no truth at all. I’m less afraid to fall into the depths of my fear, worry, shame. I’ve been there before, & I know the way back out again. I have a flashlight. The darkness cannot devour me, & it certainly cannot stop me. Every bad moment is not a judgment. Every bad decision is not a life sentence.”

I love memoirs. I tell my children often that we all have our own stories & this one resonates deeply with me. And her writing was purely poetic, I’ve not ever read anything quite like it with its style & prose.

“I keep having the same unkind thought – I am preparing for death & everyone else is on Instagram. I know that’s not fair – that life is hard for everyone – but I sometimes feel like I’m the only one in the world dying.”

“We’re all sinking, slowly, but one day, while everyone watches, I will run out of air. I am going to go under. Even explaining it, I feel more & more frantic. There will be a day when I can’t take my next breath. And I will drown. I can picture it so clearly. People talk about heaven like it’s a hop, a skip, & a jump. A veil between heaven & earth will part & I will pass through it. The promise of heaven to me is this: someday I will get a new pair of lungs & I’ll swim away. But first I will drown.

Another memoir, and this one written by a woman with incurable cancer who, as a new mother, is trying to reconcile a belief she formerly ascribed to.

“At the end of the day, all he really knew was that he was a Mexican father. And Mexican fathers made speeches. He wanted to leave her with a blessing, with beautiful words to sum up a life, but there were no words sufficient to this day. But still, he tried. “All we do, mija,” he said, “is love.” Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.”

I had the distinct pleasure of attending a book reading & signing by this author & if you ever get the opportunity to do it, I’d highly recommend it. As a white girl married to a Hispanic man, I could appreciate the cultural component of this book and laughed & cried throughout.

“Most violent criminals smash through life like human sledgehammers. They have fists for hands & can’t plan beyond their sight lines. They return to the scene of the crime, as conspicuous as tin cans on a bumper. But every so often a blue moon surfaces. A snow leopard slinks by.”

“Tracking back the killer’s predatory development was like watching a horror movie in reverse, but rewinding was important. “A criminal is more vulnerable in his history than his future,” writes David Canter, a leading British crime psychologist, in his book Criminal Shadows. Canter believes the key to solving a series of crimes is to find out what happened before the first crime rather than establishing where the offender went after the most recent one. “Before he committed the crime he may not have known himself that he would do it,” writes Carter, “so he may not have been so careful before as afterwords.”

I’ve always been intrigued by true crime & long fascinated by forensic psychology even briefly entertaining the idea of pursuing it as a career. I can spend hours watching shows like Dateline so this book certainly piqued my interest

especially given the after effects.

Happy reading in the New Year!

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