Baby Macaroni and Cheese

Since we are now introducing table foods, I have been trying to come up with interesting table foods for our little cupcake to eat. I had looked at the little jars of baby macaroni and cheese at the store and found that the list of ingredients was long and complicated. I then started looking through my cookbooks at home and came up with my own version of macaroni and cheese for babies. It is a small amount, as we are not eating very much of it yet. It is simple and takes the same amount of time as making it from the box!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of mini fusilli

1/2 tbs of butter

1/2 tbs of olive oil

1/2 tbs of flour

3 tbs of whole milk

1 slice of mild cheese

Instructions:

Cook fusilli in a small saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for about 15 minutes (this is past package directions, but you want it to be soft and mushy for babies. Especially mine who still doesn’t have teeth!).

In another small saucepan melt the butter and olive oil on low heat. Once melted whisk in the flour and let cook for one minute. After flour has cooked whisk in milk. After milk has cooked for a minute, break cheese into chunks and whisk in. Stir until smooth.

Once fusilli has finished drain and then add to cheese mixture. Stir pasta with cheese. Make sure the macaroni and cheese has cooled before serving!

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English Muffin “Pizzas”

When I was little one of my favorite snacks was English muffin pizzas. In fact the year I turned seven I had a luau birthday party and we made English muffin pizzas with all sorts of topping choices. The other day my mom and I were looking for something for lunch and I put these together. These are a bit of a grown up version of the pizzas I used to make. Add more or less vegetable proportions depending on your taste! (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

Two whole wheat English muffins

Five large fresh basil leaves sliced thinly or chopped

1/2 of a yellow or red pepper sliced thin

About fifteen thin strips of red onion

1 Roma tomato sliced thin

1 cup of mozzarella cheese shredded

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese shredded

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Heat a broiler on high heat. (I say broiler, as you may have an oven with a broiler function, or you may have a separate broiler…like on Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals)

Split English muffins so you have four halves and toast them. Place them on a cookie sheet. In a saute pan on medium heat, cook the yellow pepper and onion in about 1 tbs of olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper, until tender. After onions and peppers are tender add in tomatoes and about 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar and cook until the tomatoes soften about 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the saute mixture among the English muffins. Top with basil leaves, then the cheese. Toast in broiler until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Serve and enjoy!

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Pasta Sauce with Wagon Wheels

They are called rotelle, but I call them wagon wheels. I have started buying them because they are fun for our little sweet pea to munch on and go well with the pasta sauce I created here. You can easily add hamburger meat to this sauce to enrich it, but I like it with just the peppers and tomatoes.

Ingredients:

1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes

1/2 can of diced tomatoes (or you can dice two fresh Roma tomatoes)

1 half of a yellow pepper (you can substitute red)

About 7 large fresh basil leaves sliced thinly (or you can tear them like lettuce)

A handful of flat leaf parsley chopped

1 small yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

Dash of salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more if you like your sauce spicy)

2 cups of wagon wheels

Heat a large soup pot of water until boiling. Salt water and cook wagon wheels according to package directions.

While you are bringing the water to a boil, begin making the sauce (you can also make the sauce in advance and re-heat the next day, or just let it simmer on low on the stove the same day. The longer it cooks the better it will be!). In a heavy bottomed and higher sided large sauce pan saute the onions and garlic on medium heat in olive oil for about five minutes. Add in the peppers and saute for another ten minutes. Add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until it begins to bubble a bit then add in the basil and parsley. Turn the heat to low and let simmer until pasta is ready. Toss pasta and sauce together and sprinkle with a bit more parsley if you like.

The finished product
The finished product
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Cheesy Beefy Burros

These were a standard in my family growing up. I think it’s a recipe that my Mom found in a magazine years ago. There are two ways that you can make them, baked or fried. I’ll give you the recipe for both! It’s basically meat and cheese, but the sauce is really what makes the recipe. I introduced these to my husband when we first met and it quickly became one of his favorites and most requested for dinner recipes. It may sound complicated with the folding, but with a few tries it is easy and also really cost effective!

Ingredients

1 lb at least 85 percent lean hamburger beef

1 block or 1 bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

1 16oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

Tortillas

shredded lettuce

sour cream (optional)

green chilies (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a high sided skillet to medium-high heat. Break up beef in pan and cook thoroughly then drain off excess fat. Mix in cheese with beef until well melted. Heat tortillas on griddle (or in microwave for 20 seconds). Roll up about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of meat inside the tortillas (picture instructions below). Basically fold the tortillas like a hot pocket over the meat. Spray a 8 x8 inch dish (deep sided) with cooking spray. Place folded “burros” in pan and cover with foil. Cook in oven for 20-25 minutes.*

While cooking meat, in a blender combine diced tomatoes, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cumin. Blend until well combined and tomatoes are broken down. Pour into saucepot and heat over medium-low.

Spread lettuce over plates. Place a cooked burro on plate and cover with sauce. Top with sour cream and chilies.

*Alternatively: Heat about a quart of vegetable oil in a large soup pot. Heat oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a frying thermometer. Place tortillas carefully in sauce pot and cook two at a time for about 5 minutes each, until golden brown and crispy.

Step 1
Step 1
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Step 2
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Step 3
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Step 4
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Grilled Pepperjack Chicken

This is a fairly easy recipe that my mom told me about. It’s best grilled (you can use an outdoor or indoor grill), but you could bake the chicken if you prefer. I do not have pictures of the particular recipe because I am fairly new to grilling, as we finally have a place where we can use a grill. While I was grilling the chicken I decided I would just throw the onions and the bacon on the grill that I was planning to top the chicken with. If you have ever grilled before you can probably imagine what happened next. If so, you can skip to the recipe below, haha, if not I will explain further.  Bacon has a lot of fat in it and unless you are a very experienced griller should not be cooked on a grill. I tossed everything on the grill, shut the top, and left it for five minutes (oh and I did look up grilling bacon and I had the grill on low heat). When I came back and opened the grill all of the bacon was on fire, as well as the onions. I shut the grill ran in the house and got my husband to come help me put out the fire. After we pounded out the fire with a spatula, the bacon had completely disintegrated within the grill. However, we did get some tasty charbroiled onions and chicken out of the mess. So I suggest frying the bacon or cooking it in the oven (on a cookie sheet) per package instructions.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2, but can be easily doubled):

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 slices of sandwich friendly pepperjack cheese

2 thick full sliced rounds of onion (with all the center rounds)

2 pieces of bacon (cooked per package instructions)

Barbecue sauce (you can buy your favorite, or make your own)

Olive oil

kosher salt and pepper

Instructions:

Set a grill to medium-high heat. Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Place some barbecue sauce in a plastic bag. Insert chicken into plastic bag, close tightly and shake bag to cover with barbecue sauce (You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if the sauce is particularly thick). Place in fridge to marinate for fifteen minutes (you could also do this early in the day and the chicken will be just even more seasoned). On a separate dish coat onions with olive oil. Keep onions in tact, don’t separate rings.

Place onions and chicken on the grill. Let onions cook for about 15 minutes, and remove when they begin to caramelize and become soft. Let chicken cook for about ten minutes then turn. Cook for another ten minutes and then check temperature. Continue cooking for five minutes at a time, turning each time you check it, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees. After the chicken has reached the appropriate temperature, evenly distribute onions, bacon, and lastly cheese on the chicken. Turn the grill to low and let the cheese melt thoroughly on the chicken. Remove chicken and eat!

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Salmon with Almond Pesto

I made this recipe after coming upon many different pesto recipes that use pine nuts. While they are a tasty addition to a pesto recipe I find them in only small quantities and quite expensive. This recipe will make enough for two, but can be easily doubled

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets

2 cups of fresh basil leaves

¼ cup of sliced almonds

¼ cup of bread crumbs

1 lemon

¼ tsp of salt

¼ tsp of fresh cracked pepper

Olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor combine basil leaves, almonds, salt, and pepper. Grate about one tablespoon of the lemon’s peel into the food processor as well. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze one half of the lemon’s juice into food processor. Place the cover on the food processor and pulse several times. Slowly stream in about ¼ cup of olive oil to the food processor until the pesto has thinned some, but is not soupy. Cover a pan with foil and place the salmon fillets on the pan. Evenly divide the pesto on top of each piece of salmon. Then place one slice of the leftover half of lemon on top of each piece of salmon. Finally, divide the bread crumbs on top of the pesto and lemon covered salmon. Sprinkle some olive oil on top of the bread crumbs so that the bread crumbs will turn golden in the oven. Cook the salmon for fifteen minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Salmon with Pesto
Salmon with Pesto
Salmon with Pesto with Lemon Slices
Salmon with Pesto with Lemon Slices
Salmon Baking in the Oven with Breadcrumbs
Salmon Baking in the Oven with Breadcrumbs
The Finished Product
The Finished Product
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Cheesy Chicken Orzo

Ingredients:

1 tbs of olive oil

2 tbs of butter

2 tbs of flour

¾ cup of milk

½ to ¾ of a block of extra sharp white cheddar cheese grated

1 and ½ cups of orzo pasta

¾ cup halved grape tomatoes

1/8 cup of chopped fresh basil

1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken (or you can shred a poached boneless skinless chicken breast)

Fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

*While creating cheese mixture boil 1 to ½ cups of orzo pasta per package instructions.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet on medium heat. After butter has melted into oil and begins to bubble whisk in flour. Allow flour to cook for a minute then slowly whisk in milk. Whisk milk until clumps disappear and it thickens a bit. Whisk in the cheese a handful at a time until it melts into milk. Turn heat to low and stir in grape tomatoes, basil, and chicken. Let cook for about five to ten minutes occasionally stirring, until the tomatoes and chicken are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

After orzo pasta is finished, add pasta to cheese mixture. Mix all ingredients together and dash parsley on top. Mixture will thicken a bit upon standing. If mixture looks too thick add a ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Tips: The orzo may not look like much but it grows considerably while you cook it. If you like spicier dishes I occasionally add a dash of cayenne pepper.

Cheesy Chicken Orzo (*Note. This picture does not feature the chicken as I didn't have any the night I took the picture.)
Cheesy Chicken Orzo (*Note. This picture does not feature the chicken as I didn't have any the night I took the picture.)

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Roast Beef Sandwiches and Gravy

This is a sublimely easy recipe, but these are the recipes I love. It’s super quick and may be one you already know, but I wanted to share. We usually eat it with chips, but you can also make mashed potatoes and use the gravy on the mashed potatoes as well. The recipe below is enough for 2, but can be easily doubled.

Ingredients:

Crusty Sub Rolls (I recently found some called Filone rolls which are delicious, but any crusty sub roll will do. Don’t get soft ones as they will fall apart in the gravy.)

Sliced roast beef (I usually get a half pound for my husband and I)

Sliced cheese (provolone or sharp white cheddar)

1 tbs of olive or vegetable oil

2 tbs of butter

About 3 tbs of flour

1 can of beef broth

About 8 oz of milk

Instructions:

Turn on oven broiler.

Turn on a medium saucepot to medium heat. Drizzle olive oil in saucepot and add butter. Melt butter into oil. After butter has melted in oil whisk in flour slowly and let cook for about 3 minutes. Whisk in beef broth, then whisk in milk. Bring to a low simmer and and let simmer for about 5 minutes then turn to medium low. Stir occasionally while you fix sandwiches. Split rolls in half and butter. Place in broiler for a few minutes until the butter has melted and sides of the bread begin to turn brown. Remove rolls and place a slice or two of cheese on each roll. Place back under broiler for a few minutes until cheese begins to melt (watch carefully! Don’t let rolls burn). Then pile sandwiches with roast beef. Transfer gravy to bowls and dip sandwiches in the gravy.

Bubbly butter and flour
Bubbly butter and flour
Gravy Cooking
Gravy Cooking
Finished Roast Beef Sandwiches and Gravy
Finished Roast Beef Sandwiches and Gravy
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Cinnamon and Chocolate Croissants

Chocolate and Cinnamon Croissants

I created this recipe after having run into a cooking conundrum (not unusual). I was going to make Giada De Laurentiis’ cinnamon twists, but the puff pastry I had defrosted had somehow gotten dried out in the freezer. In addition I didn’t have the cardamom the recipe called for. What I did have was a package of croissants and chocolate chips, which became the recipe here.

1 tube of store bought refrigerated croissants

1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

½ tablespoon of cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of ginger

1 egg

Preheat oven according to croissant package directions. In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Beat egg in small bowl. Brush each croissant triangle with beaten egg. Place about a half of a tablespoon of the brown sugar mixture on each croissant. Then line each croissant with 4 chocolate chips. Roll flat croissant into the normal croissant shape (haha). Brush tops of rolled croissants with beaten egg mixture and place on a sheet pan. Cook according to croissant package directions.

*Tip: I place the croissants on parchment paper on the sheet pan, it keeps the bottoms from getting to brown

*Side Note: I have to give credit to my in-laws for this idea as well. They always have chocolate croissants when we come to visit and they are hard to find where my husband and I live.

Cinnamon and Chocolate Croissants

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Jack Bauer Quesadillas

These are in honor of our semi-yearly (January through May) commitment to spend at least one hour a week clenching our fists in tension as we wait to see what will unfold on the next season of 24. I made these one Monday night and they earned their moniker because they contain a jack with an intense kick!

Ingredients:

1 lb of chicken tenders

1 package of monterey jack cheese

1/4- 1/2 cup of store bought mesquite marinade

2-4 tablespoons of hot sauce

Jarred pickled jalapeno’s

1 package of tortillas

Sour Cream (optional)

Salsa (optional)

Instructions:

Dice chicken into bite size pieces. Place into a medium hot skillet with about 1/4 cup of the marinade. Add about 2 (or more) tablespoons of hot sauce to the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked through heat tortillas on a griddle or in a skillet. Place some chicken on one half of the tortilla, add some monetery jack cheese, and as many jalapeno’s as you like. Fold the empty half of the tortilla over the covered half. Slice and dip in sour cream or salsa.

Chicken Quesadillas Cooking in the Skillet
Chicken Quesadillas Cooking in the Skillet

Chicken Quesadilla Filling
Chicken Quesadilla Filling
Folded Chicken Quesadilla
Folded Chicken Quesadilla
Tada!
Tada!
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