Creamy Mac and Cheese

– johanna | September 7th, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides

I have been searching for a mac and cheese recipe that does not contain canned soup or processed cheese. Better yet this recipe does not require flour and can be made completely gluten free just by substituting gluten free pasta for regular pasta. The first time I made this I was overcome with shock at how creamy the pasta came out.

Sadly my subsequent attempts were not as successful. This recipe works great with smaller pastas that cook quickly such as elbow and small shells or gluten free varieties. The larger the pasta the longer it takes to cook and more liquid is needed.

I thought the original recipe was a bit bland so I added the minced garlic and a couple tablespoons ghee or oil before adding the remaining ingredients.The original recipe says to use whole milk. This is primarily because their family drinks raw milk. I have used fat free milk and rice milk without any problems. I cut the milk down by a cup substituting water for the third cup.

Pair with grilled fish or shrimp and a side of peas or steamed broccoli.

source: Adapted from Heavenly Homemakers
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
2 1/2 cups elbow pasta (or other small pasta)
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the melted butter until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the pasta, water and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, STIRRING ALMOST CONSTANTLY, until the pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).

Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

– Gluten Free Pastas: rice pasta, quinoa pasta.
– Casein allergies: almond milk, rice milk.
– Cheeses: parmesan/cheddar blend, gouda/gruyere blend, ramano or vegan cheddar cheese.

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Asian Noodle Pork with Bok Choy

– johanna | January 27th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

Normally when I go to the grocery store I stick to my shopping list; the one exception being loss leader items (sale items we use often). During a shopping trip I found the bok choy too tempting to pass by. These mini green lettuce type vegetables looked so beautiful I just had to alter the week’s menu to accomodate them.

I never gave bok choy a second look until I met a friend of mine, Daravahn, who is from Loas. She used them all the time in stir-fry and soup. Bok Choy is a type of cabbage often used in Chinese cooking. It is believed to be one of the oldest vegetables in the Chinese diet.

To prepare the bok choy for cooking, start by trimming the end of the stem off. Separate and wash. Cut the green leaf parts from the cream colored stem. Because the stem takes longer to cook always cook the stems first.

4 pork chops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 baby bok choy
6 cups chicken stock, or equal parts vegetable and chicken stocks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch Cayenne pepper
1 pound noodles

Season 4 chops with salt and pepper. Cut into strips.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet. Cook pork chops 3-5 minutes (depending on how thick they are) each side. Remove.

Add onions. Cook 3 minutes or until tender.
Add baby bok choy stems; cooking until tender. Add leaves, cook until wilted. Remove bok choy.

Add 6 cups broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp ginger ground, pinch cyanne pepper, and 1 tsp seseame oil to hot pan. Bring to a boil, add 1 pound noodles. When tender return pork and bok choy to pan. Serve with green onions.

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Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes

– johanna | November 18th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

Au Gratin potatoes makes a lovely comforting side dish perfect for the holiday table. Slicing the potatoes and onions into thin ring is a lot of work compared to a boxed version, but it is so worth it in the end.

A few things I have learned with each failure to make the perfect creamy, flavorful and tender casserole are:

Covering the top with the foil is MUY importante! It does a number of things — it protects the top from the direct heat so it does not dry out. This system traps in the steam creating a moist environment, resulting in a creamy saucy dish. Use this technique when making macaroni and cheese and roasted homefries. You can uncover the potatoes for the last ten minutes to brown the top or keep them covered.

So many times I have made Au Gratin potatoes by pouring the milk over the potatoes and then topping the whole thing with cheese. The sauce was always runny and curdled. Mixing the cheese with the milk mixture solved the curdled cheese problem. To avoid lumps in your sauce, add the milk just a little at a time into the flour mixture. Keep whisking until the sauce is smooth.

I like to sprinkle a bit more cheese on top. Sometimes I use cheddar, other times I use a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack.

Source: Allrecipes
4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices or thinner
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute until smooth. Gradually stir in milk a little at a time, constantly mixing, until sauce is smooth. Cook until mixture has thickened slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cheese all at once. Remove pan from heat. Continue stirring until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy, about 30 to 60 seconds.

Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes, lifting the potatoes with a fork in certain spots to help the sauce reach the bottom. Top with a sprinkle of more cheese, about 1/2 cup. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven. Uncover the last 10 minutes for a brown crisp top.

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Southern Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

– johanna | November 11th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

Green beans are a true staple of the Americas. They may be eaten raw, steamed, blanched, baked, or sautéed. The peak season for growing green beans is in the Spring and Fall, but they do well most of the year, depending on the area.

There are a variety of terms used for green beans but technically they are all the same.
– Pole beans require a support structure. The early Americans utilized the corn stalk by planting green beans along rows of corn. Allowing the bean vine to climb the stalk.
– Bush beans are identical to pole beans except that they grow on a bush.
– The snap bean refers to the snapping sound the beans make when broken.
– Earlier varieties of beans had a rough string of fiber along the side that had to be removed during preparation for cooking. Thus the name string bean.

Green beans grow in a variety of colors including yellow, purple and green. Combine the three for a beautiful presentation. Serve with baked pork chops or grilled salmon .

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Heather Murphy
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon brown sugar
4 slices bacon, cut into ½ in pieces
1/4 of a large red onion, thinly sliced

Blanch the green beans, by placing them in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. They should remain crisp but not tough. Remove the beans from the water. Immediately set them in a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large saute pan on medium heat until done. Drain grease. Add onion and sauté until tender. Add the butter and sugar. Melt the butter. Saute the butter and brown sugar until it begins to thicken slightly. Add the green beans tossing to coat, warm through. Salt to taste.

– use maple syrup instead of the brown sugar.
– 1 (16 ounce) bag of frozen green beans
– Add 1/4 cup broken walnut pieces. Saute with onions.

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Strawberry Mixed Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

– johanna | August 19th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

My summer canning is done. The pantry is stocked. I love seeing the jars sitting on the pantry shelf. It is a nice warm homey feeling. What is even better is being able to walk outside and pick the fruit from vines in the backyard. I was lazy this year and did not even attempt to garden. The planters I put together last winter are hidden in a torrent of weeds. While mine is a sad story some of my friends have had a wealth of garden gifts to enjoy this summer.

Strawberries are an amazingly versatile plant. At our last home we used strawberry plants as ground cover. They spread like mad in the couple of years after we planted them. Generally strawberries do not last a day around here. When there are a few stragglers the day after they are either pureed into a smoothie or chopped and used in a salad. I love the combination of salt feta cheese with the sweet strawberry. If feta is too salty try using goat cheese.

Serves: 6-8 generously
1 bag baby spring mix salad greens
1/2 bag Arugula
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup crumbled traditional Feta cheese
Champagne Vinaigrette

Mix the arugula and salad greens together in a large bowl.

Evenly top the salad greens with the cucumbers, then onion slices, followed by the strawberries. Sprinkle with Feta cheese.

Toss with vinaigrette immediately before serving onto plates.

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Summertime Fresh Fruit Salad

– johanna | July 29th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Sides, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

Long about March the produce section at the supermarket was looking, well… pretty drab. Apples were out of season. The onions looked like they had traveled a great distance. I was so excited when the local fruit stands started opening up.

I love everything about summer, the warmth, the surf, picnics, being outdoors and the colorful array of fruits. These sweet gifts of nature look brillant in a fruit salad. So many dabs of color and texture. Fruit salad makes a wonderful end to an evening meal or a healthy homecoming after school snack.

Serves 8-10 generously
1 small Watermelon, cubed
1/2 Pineapple, cubed
1 Peach, 1/4-inch slices
1 Red Plumb, 1/4-inch slices
1 pint Raspberries
2 Kiwi, sliced

Place pieces of fruit in a large bowl and toss.

Best eaten the same day. If the leftovers seem dry and tasteless, add enough fruit juice to coat. Let sit a few minutes to absorb.

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Dairy Free Amish Coleslaw

– johanna | July 1st, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

Cole slaw is a type of salad made with shredded cabbage (green and/or red varieties) and optional ingredients such as: shredded carrot and raisins; dressed with a mayo vinaigrette. Cole slaw has long been associated with the South; often viewed as a traditional Southern food typically served at picnics and barbecues. The truth is coleslaw has an extensive history expanding its roots to 4000 years ago in Ancient Asia.

There are many varieties of the cabbage plant. And although the name cabbage is French in dialect Ancient China was home to the cabbage plant. The cabbage cultivated by the Chinese, and Medievale Europe, was a loose leafy version closer in appearance to kale as opposed to the tightly wrapped head of cabbage that we see today. Cabbage was highly favored in Asian cuisine for its propensity to easily pickle. A preferred delicacy in ancient china was pickled cabbage leaves served over a bed of rice.

Around 600 BC pickled cabbage made its way into Roman and Greek cuisines. The Romans believed that cabbage held natural healing properties. Some of our understanding of these medicinal uses of herbs was handed down from ancient Greek Hippocrates in the form of a medical textbook called The Hippocratic Corpus. We know today that cabbage is beneficial in treating constipation, intestinal parasites, stomach ulcers, the common cold, whooping cough, frostbite, mental depression, and irritability. It is no surprise that the Dutch carried sauerkraut with them when on extended voyages to prevent scurvy and gangrene.

Cabbage continued to spread from Asia across Europe by way of Irish Celtic wanders. The Celts returned to Ireland from China and began cultivating the Chinese variety of cabbage. Favored uses of cabbage included pickled with vinegar or a brine, raw salads, and soups. Pickled cabbage, or sauerkraut, remains a mainstay of the German diet. The term ‘Coleslaw’ however, is of Dutch origin, referred to as ‘koolsla’, dating back to the Medieval period. Dutch settlers later introduced koolsla to the American settlers in the 18th century. However, the addition of mayonnaise is only about 200 years old.

I choose this version of coleslaw because Stephen is not a fan of mayo. It took some coaxing to get him to try it but well worth the effort. He was just as pleased as I was.

Source: an old Baptist cookbook
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, thinly sliced (use red or yellow)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2/3 cups canola oil
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard

In a small sauce pan bring the sugar, vinegar, oil, celery seed, salt and mustard to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the cabbage and onion.

Pour the boiling liquid over cabbage mixture while hot. Cover bowl and place in fridge for overnight or 24 hours before serving. Stir well before serving.

– Mix in both regular green cabbage and red cabbage.
– Add any or all of the following: 1 carrot shredded, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts

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Chuncky Guacamole

– johanna | May 6th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

I don’t eat guacamole very often, never at home, because no one around here likes it. Guacamole is reserved for the special occasions when we have company who might like it as a topping with a mexican dish or on Super Bowl Sunday with chips.

I have made guacamole a few times in the past with dismal results. The first time I made it was at a dinner party. I arrived early to help the host with any last minute details. My task was to make the guacamole. Smash the avocados, season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. All the subsequent times I have tried to reproduce the recipe resulted in failure. Then I found this recipe for guacamole and could not fight the craving off any longer. I had to have another go at making a great bowl of guacamole. The guacamole turned out so delicious Stephen is now a convert.

The fresh lime juice and cumin really helped set the stage. Creating a nice subtle combination of flavors. Only use fresh ripe quality ingredients for the best results. Serve with tacos, corn chips or in sandwiches.

Source: Fix Me A Snack

2 ripe Haas avocados
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from one half of a lime

Slice the avocados in half. Discard the pits and remove the flesh from the skins. Place the flesh in a small mixing bowl. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro,and lime juice. Mash it all up with a fork. Serve with tortilla chips.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole in order to prevent browning.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes

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Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta & Onions

– johanna | April 15th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

Brussels Sprouts notoriously have a bad wrap. Usually those claiming to despise them have never tried them or worse were scarred for life the first time they tried a mushy slimy sprout or cabbage.

Brussels sprouts are small little cabbage like sprouts that grow on a stalk. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous family that includes: broccoli, kale, cabbage, mustard, turnips, rutabagas,and wasabi and horseradish. They were believed to have originated in Belgium near Brussels (hence the name) but there is some uncertainty to the claim. Based on historical records we do know that they were first introduced to France and England during World War I where they continue to be a popular food. French settlers who settled in Louisiana in the 1800’s brought them to America. Today brussels sprouts are mainly produced in California and Europe. They are a hardy plant tolerant of poor soil. When eaten regularly they may help prevent certain cancers and improve circulation.

Never ever buy frozen brussel sprouts or asparagus for that matter. Always buy fresh. Sprouts still attached to the stalk are preferable. Avoid sprouts that are discolored (yellow or brown leaves) or loose. Choose instead the smaller sprouts that are green. Brussels sprouts have a very short shelf life. Try to use within a few days of purchase.

The best way to prepare sprouts is roasted with a little oil. First wash then trim the bottom root part off. Not too much that too many leaves fall off. Next slice in half. Toss with a little oil, season with salt and pepper. Some recipes like this one suggest steaming them first. I am not a fan of steamed because they tend to loose flavor and can quickly turn too soft and rubbery.

If you skip the steaming part it will take about 10 to 15 minutes to brown. Ideally I this is your first experience with brussel sprouts cook the onions and pancetta as called for then toss in the sprouts turning to coat. Transfer to an oven safe pan and cook in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They should be tender enough to pierce with a fork but not mushy.

Source: Woman’s Day
1 1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 oz pancetta, diced
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1?2 tsp kosher salt
1?4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)

Bring 1-inch of lightly salted water to a boil in a large, deep skillet. Add sprouts and simmer, covered, until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

Wipe out the skillet. Add pancetta and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel–lined plate.

Add onion to drippings in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add sprouts, salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add pancetta and vinegar, if using, and toss to combine.

Use leftovers in an omelet the next morning.

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Spinach Nicoise Salad

– johanna | April 8th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

Nicoise is a type of salad historically made with raw vegetables. The Nicoise salad is believed to have originated at the start of the 1900’s on the French Rivera in Nice, France. Traditionally Nicoise Salad contained anchovies, artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes and peppers, with a dressing made of olive oil, vinegar and mustard. The vegetables were arranged separately on a platter rather than tossed together.

Years passed before tuna (canned tuna) became the main ingredient in Nicoise salad. Today additional vegetables have been added such as broad beans, chopped boiled eggs, wedged tomatoes, celery, green peppers, red peppers, radishes, capers and onions. Julia Child’s was instrumental in the addition of cooked green beans and potatoes served in groups on a bed of Boston lettuce. Julia insisted that each ingredient be tossed in the dressing separately before assembling them on the plate.

Source: Adapted from “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” by Julia Child
Serves 6-8

Makes about 2/3 cups
1/2 tablespoons finely minced shallot or scallion
1/2 tablespoon Dijon-type mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, (optional)
1/2 tablespoon wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup excellent olive oil, or other fine, fresh oil
Freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl whisk the shallots, mustard and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar until well blended. Add the oil in a slow drizzle whisking until well blended. Beat in freshly ground pepper. Taste (dip a piece of the salad greens into the sauce) and correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or drops of lemon juice. Set aside.

Or add all the ingredients to a jar with a screw top lid. Shake to combine.

16 oz baby spinach
1 pound green beans, steamed and cut in half
1-1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 or 4 ripe plumb tomatoes, cut into wedges (or 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
3 or 4 new potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
3 (5-ounce) cans chunk tuna, preferably oil-packed
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons capers (optional)

Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes. Boil for about 6 min, drain, run under cool water.

Arrange the spinach leaves on a large platter or in a shallow bowl.

Shortly before serving, toss the beans with the shallots, spoonfuls of vinaigrette, and salt and pepper. Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of vinaigrette.

Place the potatoes in the center of the platter and arrange a mound of beans at either end, with tomatoes and small mounds of tuna at strategic intervals.

Ring the platter with wedges of hard-boiled eggs, sunny side up, and curl an anchovy on top of each (if using). Spoon more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers, and parsley, and serve.

To serve place spinach on a plate. Top with and crumble 1 additional can tuna over top. Add 3 hard cooked eggs peeled and cut into wedges, and serve immediately.

Or do it the American way and toss it all together and serve.

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