Loaded Broccoli Mac-n-Cheese

As I was prepping this dish I came to the realization that I have never posted a mac-n-cheese recipe!? That kinda blew my mind considering what a cheese-head I am, coupled with my love of pasta! Anyhow, my recipe for mac-n-cheese is a derivative of Alton Brown’s original recipe. I discovered it years ago and use his rue as a base for many of my sauces, most notably the cheese sauce in my mac-n-cheese. This version of the classic incorporates goat cheese for added creaminess, broccoli for veggie power (and a pop of green) and bacon… just because everything tastes better with a little bit o’bacon on top! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: feeds 6

  • 12 oz of your favorite pasta (I used orecchiette)
  • florets from 3 medium broccoli crowns
  • 5 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • 6 oz shredded cheddar jack, plus extra
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 4 slices precooked bacon, diced

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. Steam broccoli florets in an inch of water in a covered, microwave safe dish for 5 – 6 minutes or until they are tender yet bitey.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the sauce; in a large shallow pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent. Add the mustard and flour to the pan and whisk to incorporate the ingredients. Slowly add the milk and then half and half while continually whisking. Whisk until there are no longer any lumps.
  4. Reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally as sauce begins to thicken. Add the goat cheese and then the cheddar jack and mix. Season to desired taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Using the empty pasta pot, combine the cooked pasta and steamed broccoli. Gently fold in the cheese sauce.
  6. Transfer mixture to a greased 9×13 casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350.
  7. In a small saucepan melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter over medium – low heat and add the breadcrumbs. Stir to coat the breadcrumbs and allow them to cook long enough to start to brown.
  8. Top the casserole with a sprinkle of cheddar jack cheese, the toasted breadcrumbs and the crumbled bacon. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and broil for an additional 3 minutes.

Cold Noodle Salad Jars

So here it is… the recipe 86% of my Instagram Story followers asked me to post, lol! Love these salad jars because they make lunch quick and easy all week long; just grab and go! If you like the peanutty flavor combo of Chinese restaurant Cold Noodle, you’ll love this salad jar version with added fresh veggies and seasoned ground chicken. Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Makes 5, 10 oz salad jars

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 9 oz cooked rice noodles
  • 2 cups shredded broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 cup zoodles (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • shelled, unsalted roasted peanuts for garnish
  • fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Trader Joe’s EBTB Sesame seasoning for garnish

Directions:

  1. Brown the ground chicken in a skillet over medium heat. Halfway through cooking, add the garlic, ginger and oyster sauce. Season with salt and pepper, set aside and let cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the next 7 ingredients (peanut butter through sugar). Prepare the noodles according to package directions, drain and rinse. Toss warm noodles with 3 – 4 tbsp of dressing and set aside to cool.
  3. To assemble the salad jars evenly divide and layer the remaining ingredients in the following order: chicken, broccoli slaw, carrots, zoodles, red pepper, rice noodles. Add a tablespoon of dressing in between the chicken and slaw layer and the red pepper and noodle layer. Top with a sprinkle of roasted peanuts, fresh cilantro and EBTB seasoning if desired. Seal and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  4. Serve by gently shaking the jar and then pouring contents onto a plate or into a bowl. Or… simply eat right outta the jar!

Comments:

You can use whatever vegetables you like in this salad, the sky’s the limit really. I simply grabbed what I had on hand which included broccoli slaw, shredded carrot, a lone zucchini and a half of a left over red pepper. I like the broccoli slaw over cabbage slaw because it doesn’t get soggy that easily. You will also end up with some extra dressing; save it and dip apple slices as a snack!

 

 

Beef Ragú with Herbed Ricotta

This dish was inspired by one of my favorite foodie Instagram-ers and made for the perfect rainy Sunday supper tonight! It takes only minutes to prep, leaving your slow cooker to do all the work. Serve the hearty and flavorful ragú over your favorite pasta with a dollop of herbed ricotta and you’ll wow everyone at your dinner table any night of the week. Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 4 – 6

  • 2 lbs flank steak
  • cooking spray
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1, 28 oz can chopped tomatoes ( I use fire roasted tomatoes)
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 oz chopped carrots (approx. 3 large carrots)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 – 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 lb of favorite pasta (I use fusilli or pappardelle)IMG_7367

Directions:

  1. Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Rinse and pat dry flank steak. Cut into large chunks with a sharp knife.IMG_7366
  3. Place steak in the bottom of the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour in the stock. Add garlic, carrots and spices including bay leaves and thyme.IMG_7368
  5. Top with chopped tomatoes and cook on high for 6 hours.
  6. While meat cooks, combine the ricotta, parmesan and parsley in a small bowl and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
  7. Remove meat from slow cooker using tongs and shred.
  8. Add honey to the sauce and using an immersion blender, gently purée. Take care, as slow cooker is shallow and sauce will be hot!
  9. Return shredded meat to the sauce and set slow cooker to the lowest setting.
  10. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare pasta of choice according to package directions.
  11. Serve sauce over pasta with a dollop of herbed ricotta and garnish with additional parmesan.IMG_7410

*Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Easy Slow Cooker Broccoli Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is all my own; created out of love for both macaroni and cheese and my slow cooker! I used chick pea pasta for added protein as well as broccoli to help get more nutrients into my kids! My version of slow cooker mac-n-cheese is super creamy, delicious and sure to please! Enjoy.

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • cooking spray
  • 12 oz frozen broccoli florets
  • 8 oz uncooked pasta (I use Banza chick pea pasta)
  • 1, 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • 1/4 lb of butter sliced into 4 – 6 pats
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • dash of paprika
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Place the frozen broccoli in the bottom then add the pasta.
  3. Nestle the block of cream cheese in the center and place pats of butter throughout.
  4. Pour milk and stock over the mixture and sprinkle with seasonings.
  5. Spread the shredded cheese on top, keeping it from touching the sides of the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on LOW for 2 – 3 hours or until pasta is cooked to your liking. One hour into cooking, give everything a good stir. Stir once more before serving!

Note:

  • Chick pea pasta can get mushy… quickly, and in this recipe tends to lose its shape/consistency. If you want your mac to remain intact/whole I suggest you use regular pasta!

Meatball Marinara with Gnocchi and Burrata

This is a semi-homemade, one skillet, made in under 30 minutes masterpiece that will wow everyone at your dinner table! Simple shortcuts make is quick and easy while still maintaining authentic flavors and textures. This will make you feel like it’s Sunday at Grandma’s (when it’s only Wednesday night)!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 18 – 24 prepared meatballs (I used Shady Brook Farms All Natural Turkey meatballs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes, do not drain!
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1, 25 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 16 oz mini gnocchi potato pasta
  • 8 oz burrata, chunked

IMG_5444

Directions:

  1. In a large, shallow, enamel coated saucepan with lid, heat the oil over low – medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown them for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.IMG_5442
  2. In the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic until soft and then add the tomato paste. Mix in the diced tomatoes and spices and let simmer for a few minutes allowing flavors to develop. Add the marinara, mix well and allow it to heat up.
  3. Next, add the uncooked gnocchi to the sauce and stir to distribute them evenly. Add the meatballs back in, nestling them evenly as well. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring gently half way through.
  4. Turn heat off and right before serving, drop the chunks of burrata into the mixture, in and around the meatballs and gnocchi. Close the lid one more time and allow them to melt, taking approximately 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately in bowls with crusty bread and a green salad.IMG_5446

Monday Minestrone

Sometimes I find it difficult to cook on Monday nights… just because it’s Monday, after all!? But this easy Minestrone soup comes together quickly, feeds a small crowd and will leave you not only full but proud of how you started off your week of suppers!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes with juice (I like Muir Woods, Fire Roasted)
  • 1, 15 oz can dark kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 3 – 4 carrots chopped
  • 1 cup chopped kale (I use Lacinto)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (something small in size like Pipette)

Directions:

  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, combine the other ingredients and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until veggies are fork tender. Remove rosemary stem.
  3. Drain pasta and add to the soup. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper if desired.

Suggestions:

  • This soup can be made ahead and reheated. If planning on doing so, leave out the pasta until you’re ready to reheat and serve or it will soak up all the liquid!
  • Try adding additional protein like meatballs! Leftover meatballs work great but if not, I always have Trader Joe’s mini party meatballs in my freezer and they work like a charm!

 

Lobster Luvah Mac-n-Cheese

I make home made mac-n-cheese all the time so adding lobster meat didn’t seem like a stretch when my daughter asked me to jazz things up for her special birthday meal! Although I used Monterey Jack cheese, you could try a mix of cheddar and jack or even something creamy and decadent like mascarpone. I added truffle oil to my sauce just because it seemed like the right thing to do as well as Old Bay seasoning to the breadcrumb topping! Overall, this dish was an utter hit and everyone at the table, including the birthday girl, was blown away! 

Ingredients: Feeds 8 – 10

  • 1 1/4 lbs of steamed lobster tail meat*, chopped
  • 1 lb. Cellentani macaroni (or any medium spiral shaped pasta)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2  small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pint light cream (at room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk (also at room temp)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 12 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (plus additional for topping)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to box directions. Drain and set aside when done cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tbsp of butter over low to medium heat and sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Add the mustard and the garlic. Then add the flour to the mixture and whisk to combine. The mixture will appear lumpy.
  3. Slowly add the cream and the milk and then the truffle oil. Whisk until well incorporated and mixture has little to no lumps. Leave sauce to simmer over low heat. Stir frequently while allowing sauce to thicken. Do not let sauce boil over!
  4. While sauce cooks, combine 2 tbsp butter, the Panko and Old Bay seasoning in a small lidded pot. Cook over low heat until butter melts and bread crumbs are saturated and lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 325.
  6. Once the sauce has begun to thicken and has reduced some, start adding small amounts of shredded cheese as you continue to stir. Once all the cheese has been blended in, add the fresh pepper and salt to taste.
  7. In a large prep bowl, combine drained pasta, cheese sauce and steamed lobster meat. Mix well and transfer to a lightly greased glass 9×13 casserole dish. Top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Sprinkle with toasted/seasoned breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, covered. Remove foil and broil 3 – 5 minutes to crisp up the bread crumb topping.
  9. Serve immediately and prepare yourself for the onslaught of compliments sure to follow!! Enjoy 🙂

Suggestion:

* I bought three, 7 oz,  frozen lobster tails from my local seafood market. I unwrapped them and defrosted them in a colander in my kitchen sink. Once thawed, I steamed them in a large pot for 10 minutes, then rinsed them under cold water directly to prevent them from continuing to cook. Once they could be handled, I used my kitchen shears to remove the shells and then chopped the meat using a large chef’s knife.