Monday, August 29, 2011

Comfort Food: Smokey Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is  my favorite comfort food.    When I was in college I ate a lot of Macaroni and Cheese in a box.  I  then graduated to frozen mac and cheese.  Now a days, I like to make my own from scratch.  Nothing can beat it and it is easy to make.  This recipe uses a blend of smokey cheeses which make the sauce creamy and delicious.  The chipotle chili powder  compliments the sauce wonderfully.                                 

Smokey Mac And Cheese

12 ounces dry large elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
½  teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2-1/2 cups milk
1-teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded smoked cheese – Trader Joe’s Shredded Cheese Blend Smoked*
1 cup grated Velveeta cheese

2 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup shredded smoked cheese – Trader Joe’s Shredded Cheese Blend Smoked*


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Cook Macaroni according to package directions.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.  Set aside.
2.  In a medium saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Add flour, onion powder, and chipotle chili powder to melted butter and whisk together until combined.  Make sure it is free of any lumps.  Cook for 3 minutes stirring frequently.
3.  Stir milk into the butter and flour mixture.  Add salt, pepper and stir.   Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.  Be sure to stir.
4.  Remove from heat.  
5. Stir in the Smokey cheese(s) a little at a time making sure all the cheese has melted before adding more.  Repeat with the Velveeta cheese.
6.  Fold the macaroni into the cheese mixture until well coated.
7.  Grease a 1-½ quart round baking dish.
8. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the baking dish.
9.  In a small bowl combine the melted butter and the breadcrumbs.  Mix until the breadcrumbs are well coated.
10.  Sprinkle the cheese over the macaroni and top with the breadcrumbs.
11.  Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
12.  Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes before serving.

*If you cannot find Trader Joe’s Shredded Cheese Blend Smoked use half shredded smoked cheddar cheese and half shredded smoked mozzarella or shredded smoked Gouda cheese. 

Yield:  Six servings
Tasty Mac and Cheese

Monday, August 22, 2011

Salt: A Culinary Adventure

Salts In My Pantry
Salt has been around forever.    It has been used as a preservative for foods and at one time it was used as currency.  Thus, the expression, "Any man worth his salt ."

From it's humble beginnings, salt has evolved into a shopping adventure.  You can find salt from black to pink.  Crystal to flake. Salt is harvested by evaporation and most  salts are nutritionally the same.  Sea salt does have some trace amounts of minerals that are not found in mined salts.

Culinary Salts

Black Salt:  Black salt is a blend of  minerals characterized by a sulfuric order. It is used in vegan and authentic Indian cooking.   I understand it is used in Mango Smoothies.  I must try it and let you know how it is.

Fleur de Sel de Guérande:  Known as the "caviar of salt." This is a high quality grey sea salt from France.  The salt is hand- harvested once a year during the summer.  It is great on salads, cooked fresh veggies, and grilled meat.

Grey Salt:  Grey Salt is organic sea salt from the coastal area of Guérande Brittany France.  This salt is considered by many to be the best quality salt around.

Hawaiian Sea Salt: This salt is from the Hawaiian waters.  A natural mineral called "Alaea" is added to the salt  which gives it a pink color.  Hawaiian sea salt has a more mellow flavor than regular sea salt.  Used in seasoning Prime Rib and Pork Lion.

Smoked Sea Salt
Smoked Salt:  High quality smoked salt has been smoked with speciality woods.  Lower grade salt has artificial smoke flavoring added to it.  Great for soups, salads, pasta, oven roasting, and grilling.

Kosher Salt:  This salt is an additive free coarse grain salt.  It is used in the production of kosher meats.  It draws the blood out of the meat.  Chefs like Kosher salt because it disperses more readily.

Table Salt:  By far, the most common salt used.

Pickling Salt:  Salt is used for the making of pickles.  It has enough purity that it prevents cloudiness in the pickling brine.

Roasted Salt: Roasted salt has been heated over a fire in a container that transfers flavor and aroma to the salt.  It is great for sprinkling over roasted/grilled meats and veggies.

Rock Salt:  Rock salt is mined from underground deposits.  It can be used as a block salt for livestock, coarse salt for grinder, fine ground salt for popcorn.

Cooking With Salt

1.  When making soup, stew, or sauces that will reduce during cooking add a little salt at the beginning.  The flavor will concentrate over the cooking time.

2.  Add salt to the surface of baked goods and desserts to enhance sweetness and provide a fuller flavor.

3. Salt added to taste at room temperature will taste less salt after chilling.

4. Add salt to boiling water when cooking boiled veggies.  They will cook slightly faster and nutrient loss will be minimized.

Salt and Health

Our bodies need sodium to regulate many of its functions like heartbeat, nerve impulses, and circulatory volume.   However, you need  to use salt in moderation.


So there you have it - a quick lesson in salt.  As you can see, there are a lot of different salts out there for the tasting.  Go out and enjoy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bread Machine Goodness: Chipotle Chili Cheese Bread

I  finally got my bread machine out and  began experimenting with recipes.  My motivation came not only from my hunger  for home made bread but all the delicious breads they have in the store now-a-days.  I also love the smell of bread baking.

During the past week  I have concentrated on three different breads.  Italian Herb Bread, Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Bread, and Chipotle Chili Cheese Bread.  I am still trying to get the Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Bread right.   The other two breads were gone before the day was over.

I decided I would share the recipe for the Chipotle Chili Cheese Bread ( it won out by a very small margin). The bread has a mellow cheese flavor with a hint of spiciness.

                                                    Chipotle Chili  Cheese Bread

  This makes a 2-pound loaf

1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water (80-90 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons dry milk
1 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
1 teaspoon Chipotle Chili powder
1 teaspoon bread machine yeast or 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1. Place the ingredients as listed in your bread machine pan.
2. Place the pan in the bread machine and select the White Bread setting or Basic setting .
3. When done, remove the bread pan from the baking chamber.  Remove the loaf of bread and place on a wire rack to cool.

Note:  If your bread machine has a delayed baked feature do not use for this bread.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Cheese Enchiladas

I try to make one meatless dinner a week.  Tonight, I am making Cheese Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, and Black Beans.  The enchiladas have a seasoned cheese filling and the corn tortillas are dipped in Enchiladas Sauce.  The enchiladas, I believe, are more flavorful prepared this way.  Below is the recipe for the enchiladas.

                                                                  Cheese Enchiladas


         1 dozen corn tortillas
         9-11 tablespoons olive oil
         1-15 oz can red or green enchilada sauce
         4 1/4 cups shredded Mexican cheese
         1/2-cup sour cream
         2 teaspoon red chili powder
         2 teaspoons garlic powder
         2 teaspoons onion powder
         1-teaspoon cumin
         Sour Cream
         Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
         Coat the bottom a 9x13 inch-baking dish with enchilada sauce.
         1.Place 2-3 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet – enough oil to cover bottom of pan. Heat oil.
         2.Put tortillas in oil and cook for about 10 seconds on each side until soft – not crunchy. Remove tortillas with tongs and let oil drip back into the pan.
         3. Put tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
         4. Repeat with all tortillas adding oil as needed.
         5. Put 4 cups of cheese in a large mixing bowl.
         6. In a small mixing bowl combine the sour cream, red chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin.
         7. Add the sour cream mixture to the cheese and mix until the sour cream mixture and cheese are well incorporated
         8. In a 9-inch pie pan, pour enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and turn over to coat the other side. Place tortillas on a plate and spoon 1½ tablespoons of the cheese mixture in the center of the tortilla and spread the length of the tortilla.
         9. Roll the tortilla and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all tortillas have been made into enchiladas.
         10. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and top with 1/4 cup of cheese.  Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
        11. Remove from the oven and serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Serves 6


    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    What's For Breakfast: Blue Corn Pancakes

    Pancakes are one of my breakfast favorites.  I love experimenting with different batters, fillings, syrups, and toppings.

    Today, I made blue corn pancakes.  Blue Corn has a different taste than yellow corn meal.  It has a nice sweet taste.  In addition, I added some anise seeds which complimented the flavor of the blue corn.    I serve the pancakes with maple syrup and butter.

                                  Blue Corn Pancakes


    1 cup all purpose flour
    ½ cup blue cornmeal
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1-teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon anise seed
    1 egg beaten
    2 tablespoons butter melted
    1 ½ cups milk


    1. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
    2. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the egg, butter, and milk
    3. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is combined. 
    4. Ladle the pancake batter on a prepared grill*.   When bubbles begin to form on the surface of the pancake and the griddle-side of the pancake is golden flip.  Cook for and additional 2-3 minutes or until pancake is set.
    5. Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.

    Makes 14- 4-inch diameter pancakes.

    *Note:  The grill is preheated when sprinkled with a few drops of water it dance across the surface of the grill.  Lightly butter the grill and wipe off any excess.