Sunday, January 30, 2011

Four Cheese and Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese

I've finally found a mac 'n' cheese dish that my whole family enjoyed. This recipe takes a little work but the end result is worth it.

This recipe was featured in a Family Circle magazine last year along with 10 other recipes for mac 'n' cheese. If you didn't see that article, you can see it here

Four Cheese with Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese
my recipe with changes:   

2 boxes cavatappi pasta
8 sliced bacon, diced
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 tbsp. flour
4 c. 2% milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 1/2 c. colby - jack cheese, shredded
1 1/2 c. pepper - jack cheese, shredded
12 slices of American cheese - cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 350*

Cook pasta for 8 minutes, and then drain well. While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Reserve 4 tbsp bacon drippings in the pan. Add butter. Melt the butter into the bacon dripppings.

Whisk flour into the melted butter until smooth. In a thin stream, whisk in milk. Stir in salt and peppers. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.

Toss all of the cheeses together in a large bowl.

Remove thickened milk from heat; whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the cheeses. Stir until all of the cheese has melted into the sauce.

Crumble bacon into small pieces and toss into the remaining shredded cheese.

In your pasta pot, combine the pasta and cheese sauce. Mix well until all of the pasta has been coated completely. Pour half of the pasta into a 9x13 dish that you've lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle a half of the remaining cheese and bacon over the pasta. Repeat with another layer of pasta and top with remaining cheese and bacon.

Bake for 20 minutes. Increase oven to broil and broil for 3 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

This makes a lot of mac 'n' cheese. I had a full 9 x13 dish with a small 8x8 pan left over. I always use the extra in my husband's lunches during the week. The mac n cheese warmed up well in the microwave.

It's cheesey and delicious. My family raved about this for days. It's a keeper. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chipotle Shredded Beef Tacos

This was an AFC Championship winning dinner! I cooked this all day on Sunday before my Steelers won the game! It was delicious! Definitely made for a quick, easy meal and easy clean up.

Chipotle Shredded Beef Tacos
original recipe from All You


1 - 7-oz. can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 -  15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon  lime juice
1 onion, chopped
3  cloves garlic, minced
1  2-lb. beef chuck pot roast, fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
Corn tortillas - we prefer flour tortillas
shredded lettuce & cheese, sour cream, all optional
cooked white rice, optional


In a blender or food processor, puree chipotle chiles with adobo sauce until smooth.

Spoon 5 Tbsp. into slow cooker; reserve remainder for other uses. Add tomatoes, lime juice, onion and garlic; stir to combine. Season beef with salt and pepper and add to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high until beef is tender enough to shred easily with a fork, about 6 hours. Using two forks, shred meat; spoon into a serving bowl with sauce.

I served the beef with warmed flour tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

I also served white rice alongside. My husband and son love to add rice to their tacos. :)

**Note** This is a spicy dish. If you don't like it really spicy, cut back on the chiles. The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 tbsp and that would probably be more than enough to give this dish just a hint of spice without it being hot.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Banana Cream Cheese Nut Muffins

I like to bake muffins for a quick grab-n-go breakfast in the morning. It's hard to get my kids to eat anything before school - I guess they take after me in that respect. I never ate breakfast when I was in school. Yet, I've read all of the studies that say breakfast is "brain fuel" and that it has been proven that kids do better in school when they eat breakfast. I've found that if I mix it up and don't allow the foods to become a routine, they will grab something and eat it. Case in point, these banana cream cheese nut muffins.

You can't bribe my daughter into eating a banana right out of the peel. Once in a great while my son will eat one. I love bananas and since I've been craving some banana bread, I decided to try a banana bread recipe that I've had for a while, making muffins instead of bread. The recipe is from a Southern Living mag from 2005.

One of Alexis' favorite things to do is stick her finger in the batter of whatever I am making. She has to taste it. When she realized that I was making banana muffins, you should've seen her face. She thought that I had ruined the whole experience for her. Her curiosity got the better of her, though, so she had to taste the batter. It was SO good! The combination of cream cheese, bananas, sugar and ground pecans worked for her! I was shocked that she was raving over the batter. Even better, she ate a whole muffin right out of the oven. My son also loved them. He had two as soon as I took them out of the oven.

Here's the original recipe with only one slight change in bold.

Banana Cream Cheese Nut Muffins

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 - 8 oz- cream cheese, softened
2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas - about
4 medium
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted - I used 1 c. ground pecans
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter evenly into 24 paper-lined muffin cups.

Bake at 350* for 25 minutes. (*Note* - my muffins only baked for 20 minutes.)

Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Makes 24 large muffins.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pizza Bites

I was doing a search a couple of weeks ago for an easy recipe for something to nibble on during our Steelers game. I found a super easy recipe from Our Best Bites called Stuffed Pizza Bites. One word to describes these little bits.... delicious!!

Whenever possible, I like to bring my kids into the kitchen to help out. My daughter decided that she would help me. This recipe is great for kids to help make.

We decided to make one batch of plain cheese pizza bites and one batch of hot sausage and cheese pizza bites. Instead of using shredded cheese, I decided to use Mozerella cheese sticks cut into fourths. My daughter was able to cut the cheese sticks, help fill the dough squares and roll the dough into balls.

Pizza Bites

1 roll refrigerated thin crust pizza dough
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
mozzarella cheese sticks (at least 10)
Pizza toppings of your choice - I cooked hot sausage and crumbled it
pizza sauce for dipping


Preheat oven to 400*

Unroll your pizza dough. Stretch the dough until it's about 12" x 12". Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 24 squares. I didn't bother to measure it, I just eyeballed it.

For plain pizza bites:

Cut mozzarella sticks into fourths. Place one piece of the cut cheese on each square. Pick up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings, forming a ball. Pinch all edges to make sure each ball is sealed. Place the balls in a pie pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

For sausage and cheese bites:

Place a small amount of hot sausage onto each pizza square. Cut mozzarella sticks into fourths. Top the sausage with a piece of the cut cheese. If the piece of cheese seems to be too big, I sliced those pieces into two or three and stuck them around the sausage. Pick up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings, forming a ball. Pinch all edges to make sure each ball is sealed. Place the balls in a pie pan that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

To bake:

Brush the tops of the dough balls with melted butter and sprinkle with the garlic powder, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Ours baked 20 minutes. 

Serve immediately with warmed pizza sauce.

These are perfect little snacks for the football games! If you are having people over for a party, you can make several different kinds and store in the frig until ready to bake.

I guarantee that these won't last long!! 

Go Steelers!!!! 

Portobello Spaghetti Bake

I adapted this recipe from an old issue of Cooking for 2 that I bought last summer at a thrift store that sells magazines for 10 - 25 cents each. For the last month I have been sorting through many, many magazines that I have had stored away here and there. I've made it a mission to sort through them, keeping only the recipes that I want. I've been giving away bags of the magazines that I didn't use or hardly used. One less thing cluttering my space now!

Here is the original recipe. Keep in mind that the recipe is for only 3 servings. I need most of my recipes to feed 4 people, including a growing teenager!, and then have enough leftover for my husband's lunch.

Portobello Spaghetti Casserole
original recipe from Cooking for 2


4 ounces uncooked spaghetti
3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/4 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the mushrooms, salt and pepper in oil until mushrooms are tender; drain.
In a large bowl, combine the egg, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, parsley, flour, garlic powder and pepper flakes. Drain spaghetti; add to sour cream mixture. Transfer to a 1-1/2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with mushrooms and marinara sauce.
Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 3 servings.

** My version **

Portobello Spaghetti Bake

1 1/2 lb uncooked spaghetti
3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
and thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp minced garlic in olive oil
3 eggs
1 c. sour cream
5 tbsp Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp flour
4 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp minced garlic in olive oil
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
4 cups red spaghetti sauce
1 3/4 c. shredded Italian cheese


Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

While the spaghetti is cooking, saute the mushrooms in oil and chicken broth. Sprinkle on 2 tbsp Italian seasoning & 1 tbsp minced garlic. Saute until mushrooms are tender.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, flour, remaining Italian seasoning and garlic and pepper flakes. Drain spaghetti; add to sour cream mixture. Transfer to a 1-1/2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Top with spaghetti sauce and mushrooms

Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Uncover; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 10 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chicken Eggs Rolls

This was my first time making egg rolls. For some reason, I've always thought that it would be much more complicated that it was. This recipe is really easy and it leaves lots of room to play with different ingredients to change the flavors. I used chopped chicken in place of the usual pork or shrimp because that's what I had on hand. You could even make these totally vegetarian and not miss the meat at all.

Chicken Egg Rolls

1 package egg roll wrappers
1 - 16 oz - package of coleslaw
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp fresh grated garlic
2 tsp sesame oil
1 c. cooked chicken breast, cubed into very small pieces

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Add 2 tbsp oil to a frying pan. Toss coleslaw mixture into the frying pan and heat until the cabbage has softened. Stir continually to avoid any sticking. Remove from heat. Cool for 5 minutes.

Unwrap egg roll wrappers. Lay one wrapper flat on the table facing you in a diamond shape. Brush outer edges with water. Add 1/3 c. of filling to the center of the egg roll wrapper.

Fold one end to the center of the wrapper. Fold the left and right edges in on each side. Roll up, making sure all edges are sealed. I ended up with 13 egg rolls.

Deep fry the egg rolls in 3 inches of oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes on each side. Watch carefully as they will brown very fast. Remove from oil onto a plate lined with paper towels. 


Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

Nothing screams comfort food like these two items. Everyone seems to have their favorite recipe for each of them. I'm sharing mine tonight.

Meatloaf #2

I made a variant of this recipe.

2 lbs ground meat
1 c. plain bread crumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/3 c. ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Bake at 375* for 45 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle.

Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs. Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a rolling boil. Cook over medium high heat for 8-12 minutes or until fork tender. Drain well. Return potatoes to pot. Add 2 tbsp. butter and 1/2 c. chicken broth. I like to use my hand-held mixer to "mash" the potatoes. Cover to keep warm until ready to eat.

Serve with brown gravy and green beans!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken & Mushroom Penne

Chicken & Mushroom Penne

3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed into small pieces
1 lb. penne pasta, cooked and drained well
8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms
1 small onion, diced into small pieces
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
1 - 10 3/4 oz- can of cream of mushroom soup
4 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 tsp sage
2 tsp creole seasoning (optional but it adds a nice kick)

In a medium frying pan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan and sautee until soft.

Into a large stock pot, stir together onions & mushrooms, 1/4 c. chicken broth, chicken and seasonings. Heat until warm.

Add mushroom soup and Velveeta cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted. 

Spoon the penne into the pot of sauce. Stir well to blend.

Serve immediately with crusty bread on the side.

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