Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

There was a day in June that I decided to have a big barbecue dinner.  It was the day before school got out so I was feeling good.  Even though I actually hate BBQ, I planned to make ribs (I know) with my own barbecue sauce, mac and cheese, cheddar rosemary cornbread muffins, and salad with homemade dressing.  Be on the lookout for those recipes soon!  But today is your lucky day because I am starting off with the best recipe from the BBQ: macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese, but a copycat recipe for the mac and cheese from Panera.

To be honest, I have never had the real Panera macaroni and cheese, but I have friends who swear it's the greatest thing on the planet.  It certainly looks great: the sauce is thick and white and creamy.  You've probably seen the pin on Pinterest, because I think everyone is obsessed with it and trying to make a copycat version at home these days!  That's where I found this recipe.

The recipe is fairly straight forward, and not unlike other macaroni and cheese recipes I have tried.  The sauce is made from milk, butter, cream and flour, with white cheddar and dry mustard.  But it definitely tastes amazing.  We devoured this at dinner and the leftovers were gone in days.  The next time you're craving something cheesy, this should probably be what you end up eating.

Recipe:

copycat Panera macaroni and cheese
from Shugary Sweets
serves 8

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups shredded white cheddar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pound pasta, cooked

Instructions:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions while making the sauce.  Drain and set aside until ready to use.

2) In a large pot on medium high heat, add butter and heat until melted.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add milk, heavy cream, salt, dry mustard, and pepper.  Continue whisking until it begins to bubble.  Reduce to low and add white cheddar.  Stir until melted.

3) Add cooked pasta, stirring until combined.  Remove from heat and allow to sit about 5 minutes to thicken.  Season with additional salt and pepper.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vegetarian Bombay Bouse Tikka Masala

I have always loved Indian food for the smorgasbord of vegetarian recipes, the flavorful spices, and the fun-to-pronounce names (how fun is it to say tikka masala?!)  So when my friend Courtney spent a couple weeks in India back in June, I thought it was appropriate for me to make an Indian meal here at home to pay homage to her awesome trip with her mom :)

I was interested in this tikka masala because it is chock full of vegetables, ranging from protein-filled chickpeas to sweet potatoes and lovely little green peas.  Then there are five super flavorful spices including cardamom and garam masala, coconut milk, and lots of fresh cilantro.  Mmmmm!  Serve the whole thing over rice and you're basically touring India with Courtney and her mom.  I've never been to India, or even to the Bombay House for that matter, but I can pretend with this tikka masala.

My family was skeptical but everyone loved this dish.  The leftovers heated up really well, too.  Definitely a great Indian recipe.  In fact, I am looking longingly at my pictures and wishing I had some for lunch today.

A couple notes: this recipe calls for a jalapeño, which I left out of the sauce, as well as a white sweet potato.  I have no clue what that is, and I certainly couldn't find them at Market Basket, so I just used a white potato and it worked perfectly.

Recipe:

vegetaian Bombay House tikka masala
serves 4 - 6

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt
pepper
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup sweet peas
for sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

1) Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Pour the olive oil over a cookie sheet and toss all of the potatoes in it.  Top with a few pinches of kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 - 25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until tender and golden.  The potatoes should be slightly dried as well, not soggy.  The last 5 minutes, add the chickpeas to heat them up.  Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic.  Stir for 30 seconds and then add the seasonings.  Cook for additional 30 - 60 seconds or until fragrant.  This is blooming the seasoning and bringing out more flavor.  Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until thick.  Add the coconut milk and heavy cream.  Whisk to combine and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the veggies and peas and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Serve over white rice with cilantro.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lunch Lady Brownies

Remember school lunch when you were a kid?  It's much different now.  Like, when I was in school, there weren't a bunch of choices ranging from healthy to not so much.  Today's kids get to choose between pizza, smoothies, salads (2 kids in the history of my classroom, ever), sandwiches, cereal, and a daily special.  It's like going out to eat with that kind of menu every lunch!  When I was a kid, if you bought lunch, you got whatever was being served that day.  No "do you want apples or raisins?  Cheese on the chili or on the side?"  You got what was served.  And, if you were super lucky, what was served came with lunch lady brownies on the side.

You know the brownies I am talking about.  They are chewy and rich and fudgy, and then there's chocolate frosting poured on top while they are still warm.  Even better news: they are quick and easy.  The brownies themselves are only made with 6 ingredients, and you only use one bowl.  They're basically the perfect recipe to bring to a family party, like I did, or to make and devour by yourself; I won't tell on you.  You might want to serve them with ice cream just because you can.  You're not a kid anymore - you can have brownies and ice cream for dinner.

Recipe:

lunch lady brownies
from Life in the Lighthouse
yields 12 large or 24 small brownies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
for chocolate frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil and spray foil with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the melted butter and cocoa powder.  Using the paddle attachment, blend until smooth.

3) Add the flour and sugar.  Beat together and then add eggs and vanilla.  Mix until just combined.  Do not overtax.  Batter will be thick.

4) Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread out evenly.  Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in venter comes out clean.  remove brownies from oven and let stand 15 minutes before frosting.  You want the brownies still warm when you frost them!

5) While brownies are cooling, beat together all the frosting ingredients until smooth.  Pour and spread over warm brownies.  Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

Sorry for the hiatus there.  I went on a spontaneous cross-country road trip to help my friend Courtney move home to MA.  It was definitely what I needed, but kept me away from wifi and recipes for about a week!

You'll forgive me as soon as you try these soft peanut butter cookies.  They are soft and chewy on the inside, with a great crust on the outside from rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar before baking.  They were easy to put together and were devoured almost immediately before they even got a chance to cool down!  If you're a peanut butter cookie fan (and who isn't?), then this is a must-make.

Recipe:

soft peanut butter cookies
from Two Peas and Their Pod
yield 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar plus extra for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 35 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3) Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter together until combined.  Add the sugars and beat until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add in the egg and vanilla extract.  Mix until combined.

4) With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

5) Take about 2 tablespoons of dough and form a cookie dough ball.  Roll in granulated sugar.  Place cookies on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

6) Bake the cookies for 9 - 10 minutes or until golden at the edges and just set.  Don't over bake - the cookies will set up as they cool.  Remove pan from the oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 4 - 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Crispy Coconut Lime Baked Cauliflower Tacos

I have long been a believer in the power of cauliflower.  In my opinion, it was underrated for many years, but it's making a comeback.  People are all about cauliflower pizza crust and buffalo cauliflower (both of which are on my list of things to try), and I have been to a restaurant that served baked cauliflower heads that look amazing.  And, of course, there's my old favorite (and Kenzie's!), the pulled cauliflower BBQ sandwiches.  Clearly I was very intrigued when I found this recipe: cauliflower that is breaded in panko and coconut, and baked to a crispy golden perfection that looks a hell of a lot like fried fish!  Then there is an exquisite sweet and sour slaw, and you toss it all into a taco with sour cream.  I know you may be skeptical, because my whole family was, but read on.  And check out these pictures.  And admit that even though you doubt me, you have to admit that they look pretty good.

The secret is cutting the cauliflower into long thin strips that look like fish.  And the other secret is dunking it into coconut milk and lime juice and zest before breading it in panko, cornmeal, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and turmeric (the turmeric adds a good yellow color).  So, secrets divulged.  The sweet and sour slaw is not to be missed either: red and green cabbage and carrots flavored with lime juice, vinegar, and maple syrup.

The send result?  Gorgeous looking tacos that could trick people into thinking they are about to eat fish tacos, but are tasty enough so that they won't be pissed when they realize it's actually cauliflower.  Kenzie was very pleasantly surprised, and we invited her friend Sue and my aunt Susie over to partake as well, and they both agreed that they were delicious.  That's 4 happy cauliflower taco eaters, including me, so you don't just have to take my word for it.  If you're in the mood to try something new for meatless Monday, please give this a try.  The flavors and textures are incredible for something so healthy!

The creator of this recipe has asked that I not write out the recipe here, but direct people to her blog.  See below for the link!

Recipe:

crispy coconut lime baked cauliflower tacos
from Veggie Inspired Journey

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

Thinking about this salad still makes me laugh.  While I thought it was pretty delicious, I will be honest with you and share the following text conversation I had with Kenzie about it:

So clearly this pasta salad isn't for everyone.  But truly I don't understand why!  The roasted tomatoes in this salad are incredible, and please do not skip the step of roasting them yourself.  They are still juicy and incredibly sweet, and definitely the best part of the salad.  But there are also crunchy toasted pine nuts (which Kenzie hates apparently, who knew?), salty olives, fresh basil, and the salty salad cheese of your choice (I used feta).  You also make your own oregano salad dressing for it, which I will admit was a tiny bit strong (maybe a little too much lemon and vinegar for my liking), but still flavorful and delicious nevertheless.

If you try this recipe out, please let me know how it goes.  It was split here between Kenz and I, and I'd love for someone to break the tie.  Has there ever been a recipe like that in your house, where one person loves it and someone else thinks it's "honestly disgusting?" :)

Recipe:

pasta salad with roasted tomatoes
from Smitten Kitchen
serves 8

Ingredients:
for roasted tomatoes:
4 cups grape tomatoes
olive oil
salt
for oregano dressing:
1 big or 2 small cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
for salad:
1 pound dried pasta, cooked until 1 - 2 minutes before doneness and drained
6 ounces crumbles salty cheese, such as ricotta salt, feta, quest fresco, etc.
1/2 cup pine nuts, well-toasted and cooled
1/2 cup pitted and rough-chopped olives of your choice (I used kalamata)
salt and pepper
handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions:

1) Roast tomatoes.  Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Cover 1 to 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.  Cut each small tomato in half lengthwise and arrange cut side up in a single layer on prepared sheets.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in oven for approximately 90 minutes, until somewhat shriveled and dry to the touch, but not fully dehydrated.  Set aside until needed, letting them cool.  Note: if your pine nuts aren't toasted yet, you can place them in the oven for the last 10 minutes, shaking them once or twice for even coloring.  Let cool as well before using.

2) Make dressing: roughly chop the garlic on a cutting board, then add oregano, salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Mince the mixture with your knife until it's a grainy herb paste.  Transfer to a small bowl, whisk in lemon juice and vinegar, then slowly drizzle in oil, whisking the whole time.  Taste and adjust as needed.

3) Assemble salad: in a giant bowl, place drained pasta, roasted tomatoes, cheese, pine nuts, and olives, and toss gently to combine.  Add dressing to taste, along with any extra salt and pepper needed.  Finish with basil.  Salad can be eaten right away, but will keep in the fridge up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

If you live in or anywhere new Newburyport, MA, promise me that you will go to Lexie's.  It's a burger place, and I know it's shocking that I am suggesting that you visit a burger place, but it's true.  They have something for everyone, even your favorite vegetarian.  There are regular beef burgers, chicken burgers, and super delicious and perfectly cooked bean burgers.  There are lots of really cool toppings for whatever type of patty you choose, and also amazing french fries that can come topped with said toppings or just enjoyed on their own.  As far as drinks, you can go with a beer or a milk shake, but you are making a huge life mistake if you don't try the cucumber mint lemonade, which is the most amazing drink I ever had in my life.

Focus.  So, my favorite meal there (we go as frequently as possible) is the Green Lantern on a bean burger.  The crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside burger is topped with cheddar cheese, tomato, avocado, and chimichurri sauce.  I had no idea what this sauce was, actually, and I had to google it sitting in the restaurant.  Once I saw the ingredients are mainly a little vinegar and a lot of fresh herbs, I was intrigued. Now I have never ordered anything different there, and I am officially obsessed with chimichurri.

The good news is that, even if you aren't in Newburyport right now, I am going to give you a way to enjoy chimichurri in the comfort on your own home.  As soon as I saw this steak recipe, I knew I had to try it, even though I clearly don't eat steak.  I was just excited to make my own chimichurri!  Nick took care of the steak part while I worked on the sauce, and when he took it off the grill, the sauce was ready for topping.  And, oh the sauce.  Unlike Lexie's, it isn't pureed together, which part of me liked and part of me didn't, so I might play around with that.  But I threw some of the sauce on a veggie burger and was ecstatic.  The fresh parsley and cilantro, the red onion, the garlic, the apple cider vinegar... this sauce packs a big flavor punch and makes whatever you are eating under it more amazing.  If only for the sauce, you've got to try this recipe.

Recipe:

grilled flank steak with chimichurri
from Skinny Taste
serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
fresh ground pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

for chimichurri sauce:
2 packed tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 packed tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Instructions:

1) Using a sharp knife, lightly score the steak about 1/8 inch deep on both sides in a crisscross pattern at 1/2 inch intervals.  In a small bowl combine the cumin, garlic powder, oregano, freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Season both sides of the steak with spice mix.

2) For the chimchurri, combine the red onion, vinegar, salt and olive oil and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Mix all ingredients together.  Note: this tastes best when the onions have been chopped by hand rather than in a food processor.

3) Prepare the grill on high heat.  Grill the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, turning steaks 1/4 turn after 1  1/2 minutes to form crisscross grill marks if desired.  Transfer steaks to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes.  Thinly slice steaks across grain.  Transfer to platter and top with chimichurri sauce.