Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fontina Macaroni and Cheese

It's no secret that we're cheese lovers at my house. Nor is it a secret or surprise that we also love macaroni and cheese. I grew up eating the stuff in the blue box and honestly when I was little, I didn't like homemade mac and cheese. Now that's switched, and I'd much rather have a big plate of homemade than the stuff from the box. I really try and avoid giving it to my kiddos, too, because of all the junk that's put in it. By the way, did you know there's currently a petition going around attempting to get Kraft to remove harmful food dyes from the blue boxed mac and cheese? Interestingly the same product sold in the UK does not contain these dyes because of consumer outcry there. Why not take a second and add your name to the petition? I believe the goal was to get 250,000 names, and it's currently at 249,910! So close!!

Petition to remove harmful dyes from Kraft mac and cheese

I'll get down off my soapbox now and back to my regularly scheduled post.

Although I have a go-to mac and cheese that I make pretty often and we all love, I'm easily convinced to try a new version. The husband helped me meal plan recently, and I pulled up a few things on Pinterest that I'd been wanting to try. This is one he chose because, like I said, we're a family of suckers for mac and cheese. Plus I love fontina cheese, so I jumped on board with the idea. We made sure to have it before a big cardio workout day to really justify having it as our main course instead of a side.

Fontina Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Annie's Eats via Pinterest

1 lb. small or medium pasta shells
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.

Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl. Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave. Cover to keep warm.

Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well. Stir in the warm cream and the Fontina until the cheese starts to melt. Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.

Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan. Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.


Talk about decadent!! Butter, cream, cheese. Yowza! This was definitely a hit with my family. This was definitely tasty, but I don't think it will necessary replace my normal mac and cheese just because it was so rich and decadent. It was definitely a nice change of pace and something I'd make again when I had a hankering for fancy mac and cheese!

I'll admit, it's a little blah looking before going in the oven. I left panko off one end because one of my kids didn't want any on theirs. Worked for me.


Friday, March 15, 2013

GG's Lasagna

I cannot believe I've never done a post about my grandma's lasagna recipe. But, alas, that must be the case because when I went to make it recently I couldn't find it here on the ol' blog. For those of you that don't know her, my grandma is awesome. Seriously, I've never met someone that doesn't love her as soon as they meet her. She'll be 95 in May, and she's still going strong. She takes one medication and only because her doctor thinks a woman her age should be on some sort of medication. Sheesh. She grew up on a farm in Hale, Missouri during the Great Depression, and I (still) love when she tells me stories about her youth. She is hands down one of my favorite people in the world.

We all love her lasagna recipe, and it is Boy #1's absolute favorite food in the world. He turned seven last month, and while my brother and his girlfriend were here visiting for the weekend for his birthday we had a lasagna dinner at my mom's. My grandma made her lasagna, and my brother made a vegan one. That was on a Saturday night, I think it was. The boy's birthday was Wednesday, and I asked him what he wanted me to make for his birthday dinner one night that week, and he said, "GG's lasagna." I said, "Really? But we just had that." He said, "I know, it's my favorite." Okay...I can't argue with that! So we had GG's lasagna again later that week. A few years ago I took my scanner to my grandparents' house and sat down with my grandma's recipe box to scan some of my favorite recipes of hers. I love that I have the recipe in her handwriting, too.

GG's Lasagna
Source: my awesome grandma

1-1/2 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 T. dried parsley
1 t. oregano
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. thyme
1 bay leaf

Simmer. Remove bay leaf before using sauce.

Other ingredients:
1 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces lasagna noodles, cooked
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix together sour cream and cream cheese.

Assemble in a flat baking dish and layer:
1/3 cup sauce, noodles, cream cheese and sour cream, mozzarella. Keep layering until mozzarella cheese is on top.

Bake 45 minutes at 350.


This lasagna does not last when I make it. There's maybe one or two servings leftover, and normally Boy #1 has it for breakfast the next day or wants to take it in his lunch. I really think he'd eat this every day if I'd make it that often.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Special Valentines Drink

I'll come right out and say it. I'm not a huge fan of Valentines Day. I kind of attribute it to many years of being boyfriend-less and seeing other girls with flowers, balloons, etc. and I had nothing. It's okay, I know it's a petty reason, but tell me you're not still holding on to issues like that of some sort from high school. ;) Thankfully the husband isn't really a big fan of it either, so we've never made a big deal out of it. Actually when we first met it was a few weeks before V-Day, and he randomly said one night, "So, what are you doing next Wednesday?" My response--not realizing what day that was--was something along the lines of, "Probably working late, maybe having some wine when I get home." You know, because my roommate at the time and her boyfriend would be there being all lovey-dovey. So we've never made a big deal out of it. But now that I have little boys, I really want to teach them that they should make a big deal out of it, so I'm trying to mend my ways. This year I planned a bunch of secret stuff to do for them while they were both at school. I dropped off Boy #2 at preschool and headed to the dollar store for some decorations. Note to self: next year get them ahead of time because there's not a whole lot left at the dollar store on Valentines Day. But I made do. I wanted to give my boys a fancy, fun snack when they got home from school and I had seen this on Pinterest. They rarely get soda--especially one whose main ingredients are HFCS, corn syrup, sugar, and red dye #40--so I knew they'd freakin' flip for this. It probably helped I also bought them each a bag of Cheetos.

A Special Valentines Drink
Source: Adapted from Sweet Cheeks Tasty Treats

Strawberry sherbet
Red Fanta (I think it's strawberry flavor?)
Whipped cream
Valentine sprinkles

In a tall glass (or short glass if you want a little drink), place one or two scoops strawberry sherbet. Slowly pour soda over the sherbet. Top with a swirl of whipped cream and Valentine sprinkles.


Easy peasy! The original recipe called for raspberry sherbet and raspberry ginger ale, but I couldn't find those at my store, so I went the strawberry route. Actually I think it was a strawberry sorbet that I got, if you want to be all fancy. Want to know one of my pet peeves? When people say sherBERT instead of sherBET. There's no "r" in the word! It drives me freakin' nuts and no one believes me when I complain about it that they're pronouncing it wrong. So I've learned to keep my mouth shut about it.

Anyway, my boys loved this. I made one for myself, too, and it was quite tasty. This could easily be adapted to any holiday, just change the color of your ingredients. If I can figure a non-Mountain Dew green soda I may make it again for St. Patrick's Day using lime sherbet. I guess I could do Sprite and that would work.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spicy Sweet and Sour Pork

My Wine Pie post was the swift kick in the pants I needed to get back to my blog. I really have quite a few things to share that I've made recently, so hopefully now I can get back on track and make my ol' blog here a priority again. I mean, right now I should be cleaning up my kitchen and putting a load of towels into the washer, but I'm sacrificing those things to write this. Ha! Like that was a tough decision.

I've been trying to have the husband help me meal plan some each week, and this was one of his choices a couple weeks ago. I pulled up some recipes I'd saved on Pinterest and had him flip through them and see what looked good. This is one he chose. I'm always down for a stir fry, and my kids love sweet and sour anything, so I figured this would be a good choice.

Spicy Sweet and Sour Pork
Source: adapted from Cooking Light

1 pound boneless pork chops, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoons Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped green bell pepper

Combine pork, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce; toss well to coat. Drain pineapple in a sieve over a bowl, reserving juice. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, vinegar, and next 3 ingredients (through Sriracha), stirring with a whisk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup onion, ginger, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in pineapple and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Serve.


The original recipe called for pork tenderloin, but I had pork chops on hand. Although, instead of grabbing two packages of pork chops from my freezer, I accidentally grabbed a package of pork chops and a package of chicken breasts. Oops. So ours was a pork/chicken combo. It worked out okay, and my kids thought it was kind of fun to try and figure out which pieces were pork and which were chicken. Anyway, it also called for more Sriracha, but I cut back on it since my kids don't like spicy food.

This was a total winner of a dinner! Everyone in my family loved it. Boy #1 even wanted to take leftovers to school for lunch the next day!! What?! I believe he rated this a "triple A+, 100" which is pretty freakin' good. I'll definitely make it again since my whole family enjoyed it!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wine Pie

Oh, dear blog, how I've missed you. I have no good excuse for why I've been away (except maybe Candy Crush Saga). As I was scrolling back through pictures in my "Cooking Blog" photo folder, I saw these and giggled and thought it would be perfect, albeit probably not very helpful or interesting or even entertaining to anyone except Jen.

In 2011 Jen and her family came and celebrated Thanksgiving with my family at my mom's house. It was a blast. This past Thanksgiving it turned out her family was going to be alone again, so they joined us for 2012 Thanksgiving as well. We were both taking a side dish and pie. Neither of us are bakers, and the husband had plans to go out with a friend the night before Thanksgiving, so Jen came over here and we threw back a few bottles of wine and made our pies together. I don't remember what hers was...something with pudding maybe? At some point (maybe because I had an extra crust?) we had the idea to make a pie with random ingredients and see how it turned out. Wine Pie was born.

We started with taking any potential pie ingredients out of my pantry, fridge, and freezer. I'm not sure if the Goldfish were out as a consideration or had been left out after my kids had a snack. And maybe Jen's pie was pumpkin of some sort, hence the opened can of pumpkin.

We systematically went through the ingredients to figured out what was realistic to use and what wasn't. By process of elimination, this is what we ended up with. Cool Whip, Nutella, Bananas, Puffins cereal, Teddy Grahams, chocolate chips, pudding mix, Cookie Butter (although I don't see it in this picture), almonds, a Toblerone bar. I think that was it. Oh, I think we dug through my kids' Halloween candy buckets, too.

Now, how to proceed. A layer of cookie butter spread on the crust. By the way, if you haven't tried Cookie Butter, I'm really torn on whether or not to advise you to try it. Crack in a Jar is what it could easily be called. My brother bought it when he was here for Boy #2's birthday, and we all ate it by the spoonful. And it's vegan! Or at least I assume it is because my brother is vegan. It's the consistency of peanut butter but tastes like cookies.

Cookie Butter was topped with another crack-like ingredient, Nutella.

Lovely Jen layering on some bananas. The bananas were a delicious addition to Wine Pie, but the husband and I had to run to the store the next morning to get some for fuel before a seven mile run. Oops. We were a couple bottles deep at this point.

Next: vanilla pudding.

Topped with Cool Whip...because what's a pie without Cool Whip on top?

And to really show off how drunk we were, the toppings. Mini chocolate chips, sliced almonds, crumbled Puffins cereal and Teddy Grahams, and to make it really festive: candy corns.

So, the verdict? This pie was AWESOME. Seriously, it was so good!! So don't let the lack of an official recipe for something hinder your kitchen creativeness. Great things can come from randomly combining ingredients you have on hand!

And the last picture...the pie after having been cut into on Thanksgiving: