Category Archives: milk

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Because some things never go out of style:

mac n cheese

 

Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

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Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding is the oh so humble dish that is oh oh so good. I mean, who would think that a dish built around stale bread cubes could end up being so impressive. And bread pudding is just that; crusty bread that has been soaked in a rich egg and milk custard and baked. It can be made as is or you can make it fancy with the addition of fruit, chocolate or even nuts. You really can’t go wrong.

Bread pudding is one of my favorite ways to use up old bread. I am so lucky to have really good bread readily available here in Belgium. It tastes wonderful when it is still warm from the oven (which is how it is most often bought here). The bread is so good that it usually disappears before the end of the day but sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t bread pudding is on the menu for the next day.

I love combining fruit with chocolate so this bread pudding is one of my favorites to make. It can be served as either a dessert or a brunch dish. I’ve served it both ways and it has always been met with great appreciation around the table. Because the chocolate chips and raspberries are evenly distributed throughout the dish, you get a bit of their sweet and tangy goodness in every bite. It is really important to use fresh fruit; if raspberries aren’t in season strawberries or even bananas can be substituted. Just be sure to fold them in right before baking so their keep their texture and color.

RASPBERRY-CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD PUDDING

1 day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4 cups milk

1 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

  • Lightly butter an 10 inch souffle dish. Add the bread cubes and spread them evenly throughout the dish.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended.
  • Pour in the milk and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand for at least 1 hour or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  • When you are ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have refrigerated the bread mixture overnight, allow it to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature before proceeding.
  • Sprinkle the raspberries and chocolate chips over the top of the bread cubes and using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the bread. You don’t want to break the berries but you do want them to be evenly distributed throughout the pudding.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with the confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 8

 

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream, For Ice Cream!

Its National Ice Cream day and nothing tastes better than the homemade version. So pick your favorite ingredients and whip up a batch today:

 

A non-dairy option:

 

Technically not ice cream but cold and tasty just the same:

 

Leek & Bacon Quiche

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Quiche is probably one of the most versatile dishes around. It can be served for brunch, lunch or when paired with a crisp green salad, for dinner. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature (which is my preferred serving temperature). And the fillings…..well the sky is the limit. The base is a simple combination of milk and eggs. From there you can go in a hundred different directions. My fillings will include whichever cheeses strike my fancy and whatever vegetables are in season. Meats are optional. So are herbs and spices. You really can’t go wrong.
This leek and bacon quiche has become a go to weeknight dinner for our family when time is limited yet a healthy sit-down dinner is a must. The combination of plenty of leeks and bacon make for a satisfying dish. I will bake it up earlier in the day then serve it at room temperature with the afore mentioned salad and dinner is good to go. And as an added bonus there are usually leftovers meaning you already have lunch made for the next day. What more could a busy family ask for?
LEEK & BACON QUICHE
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
8 ounces diced bacon
2 cups finely sliced leeks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare the crust of your choice.  Roll out the crust to fit a 10 inch deep dish pie crust.
  • Evenly distribute the shredded cheese over the bottom of the pie crust. 
  • Fry the bacon until crispy in a medium sized skillet set over medium heat. Drain with a slotted spoon then sprinkle evenly over the cheese.
  • Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet.
  • Add the leeks and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the leeks to the pie plate on top of the bacon.
  • Combine the milk, eggs, flour, dried mustard, thyme and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Using a stick blender, blend the mixture until smooth and the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the liquids.
  • Pour the custard over the top of the leeks and bacon. Sprinkle with paprika.  
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the quiche is clean.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serves: 6

 

Chocolate Stout Pudding

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The countdown is on to St. Patrick’s Day (its a mere one week from today) so what better way to kick off the week with a truly decadent dessert? Whether you are Irish by birth or by association, this is the season when everyone is a wee bit Irish and nothing is more Irish than Guinness Stout. Guinness is great on its own but when combined with chocolate it only gets better.

This rich pudding, adapted from Food 52, takes decadence to a whole new level. Two types of chocolate combine with cream, milk and Guinness Stout to take a classic kid’s treat and make it swoon worthy for adults. (Of course, in my house kids of all ages love it).

The pudding really is rich, so much so that I like to keep the portions small and of course top them with a dollop of whipped cream (to cut the richness??!!??). It is good served cold but I also like it slightly warm–it reminds me of the rich hot chocolates I’ve enjoyed in Eastern Europe. But after just one bite, regardless of the temperature or the season, you’ll never go back to instant pudding again!

GUINNESS STOUT PUDDING

tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup sugar

tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

teaspoon espresso powder

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

cup milk

1/2 cup Guinness stout

4large egg yolks 

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 ounces good quality smooth dark chocolate, broken into pieces

tablespoon unsalted butter

  • Combine the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and espresso powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan set over low heat, warm the cream on medium-low until just steaming.
  • Stir in the cocoa mixture and continue stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  • Add milk and stout to the pan. Increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture is very hot but not simmering.
  • While liquid is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the brown sugar, and the vanilla extract.
  • When chocolate mixture is hot, use a ladle and gradually drizzle about 1 cup of the milk into the egg mixture while constantly beating the eggs with a whisk. You do not want the eggs to curdle rather you want them to become emulsified into the milk mixture.
  • When the milk and eggs have been thoroughly combined, pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan.
  • With the heat still at medium and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and slightly bubbly but not simmering; about 10 minutes.
  • Move the saucepan off the heat. Add in the chocolate pieces and butter and stir until completely melted.
  • Let cool slightly then pour into individual serving dishes.
  • Cool completely or serve slightly warm topped with whipped cream if desired.

Serves 6

Chicken Corn Chowder

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I don’t know about where you are, but here in Belgium it is still soup weather. (Actually, most of the year is soup weather but I digress)….. And this is fortunate since I am a huge fan of soups. They are warm, comforting and satisfying in a way that few other foods are. Plus, with our increasingly busy schedules, they make for the perfect quick dinner. You can make them ahead of time and then reheat when you are ready to eat. And I find that most soups actually taste better this way so it is a win-win.

This chowder is filled with chicken, corn and potatoes making for a filling meal. My preference is to always use fresh corn but when it isn’t in season, as is the case now, canned works. And even when I use fresh corn I also like to include a can of creamed corn since it makes the soup that much thicker and richer tasting. And most importantly, don’t skip the sherry; it infuses a wonderful taste to the entire soup.

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ounces pancetta, diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups baby red potatoes, skin on and diced

1 14 ounce can whole kernel corn

1 14 ounce can creamed corn

1 cup heavy cream

3 1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup dry sherry

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the pancetta and stirring occasionally, cook until crisp and browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add in the onion, celery, carrots, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.
  • Stir in the cubed chicken and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes and both types of corn to the pot and stir to combine then pour in the cream and milk.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to almost a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  • Uncover the pot, stir in the sherry and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serves 6

 

Cheesy Corn Casserole

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Side dishes have never been my forte; I have a tendency to focus on the main dish and the dessert leaving the accompaniments to be an after thought to the meal. But one of my cooking resolutions for 2015 is to change all of that. After all, a simple protein dish can be dressed up when accompanied by a more complex and interesting side dish.

And because we are still in the heart of winter, this is the season for comfort food. Here in Belgium the days are still short and dark and the weather is almost always damp leaving me craving rich foods that both satisfy and warm me up. This creamy corn casserole, adapted from Saveur Magazine, fits the bill to a tee. It is rich, creamy and oh so good.

I baked it in a single casserole dish and served it family style at the table but if you wanted to make the dish a bit more formal, bake it in individual ramekin dishes. Serve it alongside grilled rib eye steaks or tangy bar-b-que chicken and you will have a dinner that is flavorful and satisfying to the whole family.

CHEESY CORN CASSEROLE

4 ounces pancetta, diced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/4 cup flour

1 cup milk

4 ounces cream cheese

1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 15.2 ounce can whole kernel corn

1 15.2 ounce can creamed corn

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Cook the pancetta in a large saucepan set over medium heat until it is crisp and brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the butter and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the flour and stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute.
  • Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add in the cream cheese, grated cheddar cheese and paprika. Stir and cook until the mixture is smooth.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the corn.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the mixture to a 3 quart casserole dish and bake until the top is browned and bubbling, about 40 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly before serving.

Serves 6

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