Rainy Day Mac

After some really bad few days that I had over the weekend I really needed some good hot comfort food. Of course macaroni and cheese is at the top of the list for comfort food, along with white chili, and seeing as we made white chili about two weeks ago it was time fore the mac. Also, while in Ireland I had a couple of tuna melts and fell in love and I had a partial craving for tuna also. Of course you can put tuna in mac and cheese and so I did that. Also I used my cast iron skillet, which made it a whole lot more comforting.

To start you should boil some water and salt it, then throw a couple cups of elbow mac in and let it cook to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, defrost about a cup of peas, or clean the fresh ones and set them aside. Also, get your tuna out of it’s pouch or can and fluff it a little bit with a fork. The next step you cannot skip so read carefully…

Give a small piece of tuna to each cat in the house and watch them be so happy about fish out of a can/pouch.IMG_7191

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Now, once the pasta is going and your fish and peas are ready, start to cheese sauce thing. Melt a couple of table spoons of butter IMG_7193in a skillet and add the same amount of flour. IMG_7194Whisk it into a nice little roux and cook it until it smells nutty. IMG_7196Then add half a cup of milk to the roux and two ounces of cream cheese, whisk this until the cream cheese is melted and then add another half cup of milk.IMG_7197

From here you should probable let it cook for a couple minutes so that it thickens up, but it won’t need much time.

Now add your cheese, about a cup to a cup and a half, and stir it until it melts. Add the tuna now.IMG_7200

Drain your pasta if you haven’t already, and pour it into the cheese sauce, and mix it all together.IMG_7201 Finally add the peas.IMG_7202

Top with some bread crumbs and shredded cheese and pop it into the oven at 375 for 10 minutes, turning the broiler on for a minute after and letting the top just slightly brown.IMG_7205

Take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few moments, then serve._MG_7213

Enjoy on a dark rainy day, when it has rained for like 30 hours straight, and you really don’t remember what the sun looks like. Share it with your loved ones, but not your cats because they don’t deserve people food because they scratch at the bedroom doors at night to get attention.IMG_7203

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Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

Last night my mom and I were on our own again for dinner (yes, it was a supper bummer that she and my dad couldn’t spend Valentine’s Day together, but it happens, his schedule is crazy). We couldn’t go to Newbo or go out because it would have been crazy to try to go where hip young couples go, so we stayed in and made a warm, creamy pasta.

The title is misleading, there was to macaroni in this dish, it was penne. The whole thing was super grown up and would have been perfect for a date night, we definitely  enjoyed ourselves.

A while back I made Ree’s Spinach Artichoke dip, and fell in love with the stuff, so when I found this recipe I knew that I had to try it sometime. Except we messed up the directions, so I will tell you how we made it, and offer some advice on alternative ways of making and or serving it. I hate to say that someone’s directions are terrible, but they are and they will mislead you.

Start by cooking a box of penne pasta, making sure to salt the water enough. Set it aside once it’s done.

Then wilt some spinach or defrost the frozen spinach (either is fine, honestly). And chop up the canned artichoke hearts, make them pretty small. If you don’t want veggie hunks in your sauce, you can throw each into the food processor separately and puree them (just mix them into the sauce really well).

Make the topping thing, mix the cream cheese, half the spinach and artichokes, the parm, the onion, and half of the garlic, and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it just starts to get brown on top.

Start the sauce with a roux, make sure to not cook it too long or too short, you want it to just start to smell nutty but don’t let it burn. Then mix the milk in slowly, then the mustard and the cheeses.

Then mix the rest of the spinach, artichokes, and garlic into the cheese sauce. Then mix the pasta in, making sure to that the spinach isn’t in clumps or only on one side of the pan.

This is where I didn’t follow the instructions, I just scooped the oven stuff out of it’s pan and mixed it right into the pasta, and it was nice and creamy. If you want to be like the other recipe, you would scoop up the pasta, then top it with the oven dip. We didn’t do that though, and it still really tasted wonderful.

Another way of serving it would be to not ever put the oven stuff (I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO CALL IT!! I’m sorry.) in the oven and just set it aside until the sauce is made and pasta’d. Then you dish each serving into an oven-safe boul or ramakin, and then top each one with a little of the mix. Top with some bread crumbs or panko and pop it under the broiler untill the top gets melty and crispy.

That presentation sounds awesome, I’ll upload pictures if I ever get to that. I told my mom that I would make it again for my brother sometime, so I might do it that way when he is home next.

AHH! I keep forgetting to upload photos for this. I’m sorry, follow the link if you want to see stuff. So I just posted it the way that it is now, I’ll edit the pictures in soon.

Macaroni and Feta

I have said it before, and I will say it again, I love pasta and I love cheese. I especially love them together, I found a really cool webpage made by the Wisconsin Milk advertising group (or something like that) that has a bunch of different types of macaroni and cheese recipes. I found one that I thought would turn out well with only a little forethought (and even less extra shopping) and be a quick turnaround from beginning to end, I love baked mac and cheese, but I hate having to wait for it, even more so on a week night.

I found a lot on that page that meet those requirements and I want to try them all, but I finally decided to do one that has pancetta ( I’m so sorry, I used bacon this time), feta, and sun-dried tomatoes. We had bacon from the night before when we had breakfast for dinner, so we only needed to buy the tomatoes and the feta. The other ingredients are typical, butter, flour, milk, salt and pepper, ect. Please, if you don’t normally have these things, get them. Oh, also we didn’t use any spinach, I forgot to get it at the store honestly.

It’s a simple process of making the dish, the uniqueness is only from the flavor combination. You make a roux of butter and flour, add milk and pepper and stir until it thickens, then the feta goes in (make sure the crumbles are really small . Finally the bacon and tomato goes in once its melted.

Be mindful of keeping a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta, it’ll be good to add to the sauce if it ends up too thick, plus it helps it stick to the pasta when you mix it together. Also, for this sort of cheese sauce I prefer to use a rotini pasta as opposed to an elbow macaroni, so I suppose that the title is misleading. The other kind of pastas aren’t going to hold it as well, plus rotini is more fun then elbow macaroni. Obviously any type of pasta that you have works fine, even if it is kitty cat shaped.

The dish actually turned out really good, except for the sun-dried tomatoes. I should put this out there that I despise raisins and other dried berry-like fruit. Of course this means I didn’t like the tomatoes, but I gave it a shot. I didn’t like them in the dish at all, so next time I’ll try it with fresh cherry tomatoes so the icky raisin tomatoes don’t ruin it. Maybe, to keep a little bit of the sweet tomato flavor, I would dice up some romas and let them get nice and tasty in the oven. I just would want to avoid adding too much extra liquid, which could be an issue with the fresh tomatoes.

Overall, the flavor of the feta was able to shine through and the salty-ness of the bacon was nice. I am gonna give this one another shot with the real tomatoes, once I try some other mac and cheese recipes. I would share it with others it’s so good.

Carbonara

Before you continue, I made this pasta (and this post) a while ago, but it never got posted. I kind of wish it had been, because the lighting in the pictures is better than a lot of my more recent ones. I hope you enjoy!

It’s an exiting day when you get to have pasta for lunch  It’s even more exciting when you get to make it fresh for yourself. What’s even more exciting than that is when you get to use pancetta.

It was a first-time pancetta experience for me, I mean I’ve tasted it before and I’ve watched others use it, but I had never used it myself. I’m not completely sure I did everything the “right” way, but it didn’t burn and it still ended up tasting really good.

Crispy pancetta

Wednesday was an early dismissal  so I didn’t have to eat lunch at school. On those days sometimes I run to Hy-Vee to pick up some Chinese or pizza, but I really wanted pasta on Wednesday. I had to fight my way out of the KPL to make it home with reasonable time to cook for myself.

I have been really interested in trying some new things with pasta, other than the basic tomato or alfredo sauces. I looked into some carbonara recipes after seeing some really yummy looking pictures around the internet. I looked up the actually way of doing things, that had a good explanation and I could follow, because this was something completely new to me.

I went with this recipe, but it’s written to serve four people, and I’m only one person and I didn’t know if i would like the leftovers. I had to cut it down then, and because of that I messed up the cheese and egg ratio, and I probably had too little pasta.

You can read the recipe on your own, it’s pretty simple, I don’t need to tell you everything about it. However, make sure you salt the past water enough, even if you think you have, add a little bit more, it’s your only chance to salt the pasta. Still on the lines of pasta water, put some aside before you drain the pasta, this way you can bring the temp of the eggs up by beating a little water into them so they don’t fry when they hit the pan. I didn’t do this, so the eggs were thick, and it wasn’t quite right.

You should cook the pancetta before you start thinking about beating the eggs, but it goes back in when the eggs do, so I’ll explain something helpful here. Cook the pancetta so it’s a little crunchy, but be careful not to burn it. It’s really nice to bit into a fork of pasta and get a crunchy little piece of salty meat.

The longest thing about this lunch was cooking the pasta, the pancetta cooked quickly, the and then you pretty much just add everything together. I was happy that I was able to have such a good, filling lunch on a half day, and I didn’t have to go out and buy it. I also really like this meal because it’s different from normal, but we always have all of the ingredients on hand. It might be one of my go-to half-day lunches now. I’m honestly really pleased with this, you should defiantly try it, or at least have some sort of pasta for dinner.

Macaroni and Cheese

My life is crazy, it’s absolutely crazy right now. Three weeks from Saturday I have an audition for the Iowa All-State Music Festival. It’s the biggest honor band you can take part of in your high school career, and it’s the hardest to prepare for. you have to know your scales, and they have to be accurate and in time, at a tempo that just seems ridiculous for a French Horn player. It’s not out of reach, it’s just creating a lot of stress.

Also while preparing for All State, it’s the middle of the marching band season. It was homecoming week, as well. The marching band had to march in the parade and play the half-time show at the game Friday. Saturday was the dance, and during the day, you guessed it, we have a competition. We are “hosting” it (with the two other schools in the district), so we can’t be judged with the other people, but we still get comments and we have to be serious about it. Then, Saturday night, we have the homecoming dance.

Currently, I feel like I have no time to sit down and enjoy what I want to. If I don’t have a band practice I should be studying, if I’m done studying I should practice horn, if I’m done practicing I should plan food to cook for this blog, and if I’m done planning that I should be cooking. I have to fit classes and sleep in there at some point. I just sometimes want November to be here, yeah we have finals, but band calms down and things are so much easier outside of the classroom.

A lot of people have their own techniques of stress relief. One of mine is cooking and eating macaroni and cheese. Another would be dancing around my house singing along with my iPod to songs that aren’t really meant to be danced to. But really, macaroni.

I’ve been trying all sorts of different combinations for the perfect mac and cheese. I have been close  but I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I have been close several times. I don’t always have the time to mix up a homemade sauce every time I want to eat it, though, so I have also looked into finding a good box mix. I also sometimes eat the Stouffer’s frozen mac and cheese, it’s kind of gross, but it’s a cheesy guilty pleasure.

On Thursdays, I have a marching band practice, I don’t have time to cook. I have been stressed and I want macaroni. I attempted to make a boxed one that I got from Target.

I didn’t have high expectations, and that was probably alright.

When you make boxed mac and cheese, all you have to do is follow the instructions on the box. I can abridge them for you, though. Boil water, cook pasta, drain pasta, add sauce, then serve. There you go, it’s that simple. But I wanted it so bad I was okay that it was pretty much terrible. I don’t mean that it tasted horrible, but I mean that it was clearly from a box.

The pasta was a cute elbow macaroni, it was big and reminiscent of shells. Cheese sauce, though, came in a little pouch, and it looked like canned cheese product. I don’t know what I expected, I don’t know why I ended up sad.

It turned out the way that it was supposed to. It tasted fine, it served its purpose. But it is driving me to make a good batch from scratch soon. Maybe next Thursday night I’ll have time. Anyway, I wouldn’t really look forward to eating this stuff again, but I would if I had to.

Bonus video, because it reminds me of dancing cats.