4/26/11

Mac n Cheese

I've never met anyone who didn't like Macaroni and Cheese whether it be the homemade creamy kind, the breaded topping kind, or the blue and white box kind.  I love macaroni and cheese that is creamy but have never found a homemade recipe that didn't seem dried out and less than flavorful - until now.  If you're like me and you're searching for a mac and cheese recipe that delivers creamy goodness with great flavor, the search is over.

Pioneer Woman delivers a delicious version with her mac and cheese recipe.  The trick to the creamy texture is to serve it immediately after you've added the cheese to the pasta.  If you prefer a baked version, feel free to put this mac and cheese in a baking dish and bake it.  I tried it both ways.  I tried it before and after baking, and I definitely prefer this before baking.  The picture below shows the creamy texture before the pasta is baked. 

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Macaroni and Cheese
Ingredients: 
4 cups Dried Macaroni 
1 whole Egg Beaten 
¼ cups (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter 
¼ cups All-purpose Flour 
2-½ cups Whole Milk 
2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired 
1 pound Cheese, Grated (Don't buy the shredded kind.  Buy a block and grate it yourself.  Trust me on this.)
½ teaspoons Salt, More To Taste 
½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste (I use Lawry's Seasoned Salt.)
½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper 
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme (I didn't use any of these.)

Directions:  

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain. In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.  Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.  Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.  Add in cheese and stir to melt.  Add salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.  Serve immediately (very creamy)(This is my preference!) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Source:  The Pioneer Woman

4/11/11

Frosted Bake-Sale Brownies

Someone recently asked me why I make things from scratch when it's so much easier to buy pre-made or a box mix.  I find a certain satisfaction when I make something from scratch with no shortcuts.  It also means I know exactly what ingredients are going into my food, and I always get "brownie points" from my taste-testers.

Brownies are one of those desserts that are delicious when made from a box mix, but, as I mentioned, I enjoy making them myself.  Take a look at the ingredient list on the side of the box the next time you pick up a brownie mix in the grocery store.  This version from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook  is the perfect brownie.  They are sturdy enough to cut into squares and serve individually.  They're easy to make, and with the addition of chocolate frosting, these brownies are perfect. 

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Bake-Sale Brownies
Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 ouncesunsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:
Heat oven to 350.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, then coat lightly with vegetable oil spray.  Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly. 

Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until combined.  Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 22 to 27 minutes. 

Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares. 

For the frosting:
After the brownies have cooled for at least an hour, melt 2/3 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Cool the mixture until barely warm, about 5 minutes, then spread out over the brownies with a spatula.  Continue to cool the brownies until the glaze sets, 1 to 2 hours. 

Source:  The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

4/2/11

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Look at these peanut butter oatmeal cookies with peanut butter filling.  Need I say more?  You should definitely make them as soon as possible.  They're delicious.  I've already eaten 3 (or 6 depending how you're counting). 

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
Yield: about 18 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup quick-cooking oats

For the filling:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tbsp. heavy cream

Directions:
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir together with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Stir in the oats until evenly blended.

Use a small cookie dough scoop to portion out the dough (about 2 teaspoons), rolling each portion into a ball, and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, a couple inches apart.  Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.  The cookies will be light golden brown and slightly puffed.  Let cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cook completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.
Once the cookies have cooled completely, pair them up by size.

To make the filling, combine the butter, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Cream together until well combined.  Mix in the heavy cream until smooth and fluffy.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip to pipe a swirl of filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie and press down so that the filling reaches the edges.

(Note: This filling recipe makes *just* exactly enough to fill the cookies.  If you like a large amount of filling or just want to be sure you have enough,  you might consider increasing the amount of filling by 50%.)

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Source: from Annie's Eats, adapted from Savory Sweet Life, originally from Allrecipes

4/1/11

Easy Week Night Meal

I'm always looking for recipes that are easy enough to make on a weeknight but nice enough to serve to company.  This meal meets all of these criteria.

Pork tenderloin can be intimidating.  I will admit that it looks disgusting in the packaging - a long tube of slimy, raw pork.  The pre-seasoned Hormel pork tenderloin is only slightly less disgusting-looking.  If you can get past the initial repulsiveness of it, pork tenderloin is not a bad option.

Pork tenderloin is a lean meat which means there is not a lot of fat to keep the meat moist during baking thus making it easy to overcook.  To avoid  an overcooked, tough tenderloin, I highly recommend using a meat thermometer.  Cook the tenderloin to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  I used to think that, like chicken, a pork tenderloin shouldn't have any pink in the center if it were cooked correctly.  I was so wrong.  As long as the pork reaches 160 degrees, no more and no less, it will be perfect.

This recipe for pork tenderloin is quick and easy, and it is delicious.  This recipe will definitely be on the menu again soon.

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 Island Spice Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients:

For the spice rub:
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 pork tenderloins (about 2-2½ lbs. total)
2 tbsp. olive oil

For the glaze:
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
1½ tsp. Tabasco sauce (I used Texas Pete.)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Stir together with a fork to blend.  Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins.

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet (I used my dutch oven.) over medium-high heat.  Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.
 
Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended.  Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 20 minutes, until an instant-read themometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 160˚ F.  Loosely tent the skillet with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: from Annie's Eats, adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Gourmet Cookbook
 
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