Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fontina Mac and Cheese

Alright, my friends, I'm a huge fan of cooking from pantry staples.  The possibilities are endless.  The impact on my bank account isn't too painful.  It's win-win all the way.  But pays to go out and buy an awesomely spectacular ingredient for the dinner menu.  Case in point: Fontina cheese.  (Find it in the specialty cheese case of the grocery store.)  Fontina melts somethin' fabulous.  Smooth like mozzarella.  Rich.  Creamy.  Slightly nutty tasting.  SO. GOOD.  I usually don't go for more expensive ingredients, but every so often, I'll splurge on fontina...and then (more often than not) use it for this recipe.  It's not too far out of my budget, and the results are divine.  Trust me.  You'll never go back to the fake-orange, boxed mac and cheese again.

As an added plus, the leftovers are a dream.

COOKS NOTE:  If you don't have fontina, just substitute your favorite cheese instead.  I've made this before with nothing but cheddar and parmesan (as far as cheese goes).  You can also stretch your dollar by subbing half fontina-half some other cheese.  But please don't sub out the parm.  Flavor-wise, it's kind of important.

Also, feel free to exercise your parent-power and up the nutritional value by adding: (thawed) frozen chopped, spinach, peas, (blanched) chopped kale, sauteed leeks, etc. to the noodle mixture before baking.  The sky's the limit.  I highly recommend spinach.  Frozen boxes of spinach are so inexpensive, packed with nutrients, and mild in flavor and texture.  There's enough cheese in this recipe to mask much of the flavor of the veggies, making it a great way to introduce some harder-to-eat leafy vegetables to kids. My two year old practically inhales the additional "green stuff" without making so much as a peep.

Cook Time: 25 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Makes:  About 6 servings

Butter, for greasing dish
12 oz wide egg noodles
2 cups heavy cream
2-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for pasta water
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (packed) grated Fontina
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
4 oz cooked ham, diced (optional)
Lightly cooked veggies (optional)
2 T finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Butter a 13x9 inch glass baking dish and set aside.  Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.  Drain well, but do not rinse.

Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper in a large bowl to blend.  Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ham and veggies (if using), and parsley.  Add the noodles and toss to coat.  Transfer the noodle mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend.  Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture.  Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

-From the kitchen of Alyssa H.; adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Friday, March 4, 2011

Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

I don't have any fancy title for this recipe, but it does have three different kinds of cheese, so...


This picture totally looks like an ad for Great Value products. Ha.
1 pkg. jumbo shells
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 onion, minced
1 egg
garlic salt
Italian seasoning
1/2 lb. hamburger (optional)
1 jar spaghetti sauce


Note: I have these steps in a specific order that makes the timing of everything work out nicely. Before you rearrange anything, make sure you read through it all so you know what you're changing.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Combine ricotta cheese, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan, and the egg. Season to taste...sorry I don't have more specific numbers on those. My family likes a lot of garlic, so we go pretty heavy on the garlic salt and just enough pepper and Italian seasoning that you can still see it when everything is mixed.

2. Place the cheese mixture in the fridge while you prepare the shells and sauce. This helps it set up and makes it easier to fill the shells later.

3. Boil water and prepare shells according to package directions.

4. Brown the hamburger. Add the onion, season to taste.

5. To prepare your baking dish, line it with tinfoil. This isn't critical, but it makes a HUGE difference in clean up time! Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. This prevents the shells from sticking to the bottom of the pan without adding any extra oil.

6. Add the remaining sauce and parmesan cheese to the meat. Set aside.

7. To stuff the shells: Put your cheese mixture into a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Cut a hole in one corner. You can hold the shell in one hand and squeeze the cheese in with your other hand. Super easy!

8. Once all of your shells are filled, top them with the meat sauce.

9. Top that with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

10. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until shells are slightly firm. Remove the cover for the last 5-10 minutes for the cheese to fully melt.

Tasty stuff!

from the kitchen of laura w.
adapted from various recipes at

Friday, February 18, 2011

Basalmic Chicken Pasta

Sorry, no pics for this recipe because my two year old accidentally deleted them! But, this is delicious and easy to make.

1 lb. pasta of choice (I use penne because it's easier for my little guy to eat)
4 chicken breast cubed
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 to 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 cups minced fresh basil
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbl capers (optional)
Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile toss chicken, tomatoes, and all other ingredients except Parmesan cheese together in a big bowl. Spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet, or baking sheet with a 1 inch lip. Broil for 7-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Toss the mixture with the pasta! Use a rubber scraper to get every bit of the yummy seasoning from the baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve!

I also add yellow squash, mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant to mine. I saute the veggies with a little olive oil and garlic and then add them to the mix before broiling!

From the kitchen of Megan

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I have tried dozens...yes DOZENS...of popover recipes in my short lifetime.  Because here's the thing the thing about popovers...only a select few recipes manage to make the popovers pop every time.  So there I was, staring, yet again, at the family recipe passed down to my Danish grandmother, to my dad when he married, to my mother (obviously), and finally to me...all of whom had to deal with seriously faulty recipe.  The success ratio was about 50-50.  "And let me tell you," said my dad, reminiscing about his childhood, "It was a bad day for the whole house when the popovers didn't pop." 

This just wouldn't do.

So, dear reader, to you I present the ultimate popover recipe.  It pops every time.  No matter what the weather.  Or political affiliation.  Or mood swings.  Or what you happen to be wearing that day.

Because the secret is...*drumroll*...BLENDING.  Yes.  That's right.  Oh, and also try to use room temperature ingredients.

Keep that in mind for later, but for now...

Let's introduce the cast of characters.
Yeah, there's only five.
One of the many reasons that breakfast food rocks.

While you're measuring them all out, make sure the oven's preheating.  It has to be completely heated to 400 degrees before sliding in the batter.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 T melted butter
1/2 tsp salt

4-3/4 ounces flour (by weight)

Which turned out to be about 1 cup + 2 tsp.  But flour volume changes from day to day depending on humidity, age of the flour, and all sorts of random stuff.  So, just to be safe...weigh it.

Dump everything into a bowl with a pouring spout.
DON'T MIX YET!  Phew.  This is popover life or death.  Seriously.

Generously grease your tins.  
It'll make your dish washing existence SO much easier.
I drop about 1/4 a tablespoon butter in the bottom of each well and pop it into the oven to melt.

While that's meltin'...

Blend the batter until frothy.
I use an immersion blender.  If you don't have one, a regular stand-blender works just as well.

But, here's the key: You want all those little bubbles in the batter to expand in the oven.  For that, you have to blend it RIGHT before it goes in the oven.  A whisk just doesn't cut it.

Fill the tins.

And bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes (for crispy crusts).

Or (if your husband begs for it like mine does) at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 (do not open the door) and bake for another 20 minutes (for softer crusts).


Unfortunately, I failed to use room temp ingredients today.
Otherwise they would have popped higher.

That is why patience is a virtue.

So, what do you do with popovers?
First, tear them open.
The inside will be miraculously hollow.  Cool, right?
Second, fill with fresh fruit, jam, and whipped cream (preferably homemade).

And then sink into culinary bliss.
Because this, my friends, is what breakfast really should taste like.


Makes 6 large popovers

2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
4-3/4 oz. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs butter (melted)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven COMPLETELY to 400 degrees F.  Generously grease popover tins.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. (Do not blend until both oven and pans are ready).  Fill tins 2/3 full and bake for 40 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Storing leftovers:  Vent popovers as soon as they are cool enough to handle (just poke a hole in the top) to prevent the insides from going mushy.  Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 days.  To reheat, place directly on the middle rack of a 400 degree oven for 3 minutes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blueberry Cake

Pretty much the easiest cake, seriously. Two ingredients.

1 box Angel Food cake mix
1 can Blueberry Pie Filling

1. Mix all TWO ingredients together--you only need the cake mix and pie filling, no eggs or oil or anything else--and pour into a 9x13 pan.

2. Bake at 350 degrees, for roughly 35-40 minutes.

To tell when it's done: The cake will rise almost two inches above the edge of the pan. The top will turn golden brown and start to crack. When the cracks feel dry and not sticky, it is done. And just a note--it will deflate when you start cutting it.

Variations: Ummm...pretty much any fruit pie filling you want to try. Sweet.

posted by laura w.
as made in my kitchen by my sister
recipe originally from

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Creamy Carrot Soup

Before I begin, let me say that this meal is EASY...and fast...and cheap...and did I say EASY?  And I guarantee most of the ingredients are right there in your fridge or pantry.  Need I say more?  Besides that's it's utterly DE-lish.  The fresh ginger adds that special kick that sets it apart from most of my other throw-together-at-the-last-minute soups.  I've never met a man, woman, or child who didn't like this dish...and that's including my two year old who recently decided that he won't eat carrots.

That is, unless mom is sneaky enough to blend them into a soup.

Haha.  Moms are so smart.

Anyway, moving on.

Start by dicing the carrots.

(Note: I'm making a double batch here, intending to freeze the extra soup and pull it out for a mid-week dinner pinch...because I'm lazy like that.)

Start the butter a-meltin'.  Aren't they beautiful?  Don't skimp on butter.
Butter = delicious.

And again, keep in mind that I'm making a double batch here.

Dice the onions.

And now, introducing...

Fresh ginger.

If you've never cooked with it before, (or if you think it just looks plain weird) never fear.  It's super easy.  And PLEASE...please, please...for the love of all things good and yummy, DO NOT substitute with powdered, ground ginger.  Your soup will be crying if you do.  Seriously.  Take my word.  You can pick up this fresh ginger root in the produce aisle for about $0.40.  

Peel it with a veggie peeler and give the appropriate amount (about 1-inch of ginger root per batch) a rough chop.

Wrap up the remaining root in sturdy plastic wrap and freeze.  It'll freeze well for a month or two, during which time you can pull it out and cut off chunks as needed.

Throw the carrots, onion, and ginger in with the butter and cook until onions are translucent.

And meanwhile...while the veggies are all getting comfortable in the pot...

Ready the stock.

The recipe calls for vegetable stock, but I'm using chicken.  For the sake of rebellion.  And because going to the store again with a toddler sounded like death.

Ready the potatoes.

When the carrot-mix is ready, pour in the potatoes n' liquid.  Put the lid on and let simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, kick your feet up and revel in the awesomeness of letting the stove do the cooking part for you.To check for done-ness, try crushing a piece of carrot with a fork.  If it crushes, it's ready, and you can proceed to...

 Blend the heck out of the thing.

This can be done in small batches in a blender, or...

An immersion blender.  If you don't have one, I would seriously consider buying one.  Sorry, I don't usually promote products in my posts, but if I could have a love affair with a kitchen appliance, (sorry, hubby) this would be IT.  Making blended soups, spaghetti sauce, pancake batter, popover batter (oooh, that is a WHOLE 'nother post) and a whole lot more SOOOO much easier.  For this recipe, you can blend the soup right in the pan without getting a steam-explosion facial.

And last, but not least, TAKE THE PAN OFF THE HEAT to add in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper...and a dash of nutmeg, if you're feeling adventurous.  (Note: Never, ever let the cream boil.  It'll curdle it.  Blegh.)

Again, DO NOT substitute with half and half or milk.  That would be beyond scandalous.  The taste of real cream is absolutely essential.  If you want to cut back on fat, add a little less cream (I often do that).

If you need something to use the extra cream on (besides making this soup again), pour it over fresh berries or canned peaches with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  Voila.  Instant dessert.

Serve with a crusty french or garlic bread.

Can I say, de-li-cious?

My husband could eat this stuff all week.
Enjoy, my friends.

Makes:  About 5-6 servings

2 T butter
2 cups diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp (about 1-inch) diced ginger root
1/2 cup cubed potatoes
4 cups (or 2 cans) vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Sweat the carrots, onion, and ginger with the butter.  Add potatoes and broth, and then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.  

To blend, strain liquid into a separate container.  Put vegetables into a blender, and pour in just enough of the liquid to cover the vegetables.  Puree in stages if necessary.  Return vegetable puree and remaining broth to the pan.  (This can also be done in the pan with an immersion blender.)

Stir heavy cream into the pan with the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat but do not boil, and serve immediately.

-From the kitchen of Alyssa H., adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Homemade Mac & Cheese

1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
3 T. butter
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Colby cheese

Preheat oven to 350 and grease baking dish. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk;. Stir until mixture is thick and bubbly. Decrease heat to low and add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Combine cheese mixture with macaroni and place in baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes until heated through.