Updated: Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever

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I know I said this was the best macaroni and cheese recipe, ever, but I was wrong. This one is. I promise. It’s delicious no matter the season and equally good in the dead winter as it is on a hot summer day.

Ingredients:
1 box Elbow macaroni uncooked
1/2 cup Butter (1-stick)
1/4 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper (if you’re feeling adventurous, use white pepper)
1/4 teaspoon Dry mustard (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Milk (we use skim)
2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese (8-oz), grated (you can use more, we occasionally use up to 10 ounces, it just becomes cheesier and more delicious)
About 1 cup panko crumbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling water cook the pasta to al dente. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly (this is important or it bubbles over). Boil for about one minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in cheese and cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Drain macaroni and gently stir into cheese sauce. (Or pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni (whichever pot is bigger). Just make sure to mix it all together. Pour the entire mixture into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle panko on top. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set broiler to low (or high if you’re adventurous!) and broil until the top is a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

My opinion:
While this looks complicated, it really isn’t and is easy to make for a weeknight meal. We make the whole batch at once and then usually freeze half. It is deceptively filling. If eating for a hot summer (or later summer dinner) let it come to at least room temperature before eating. Winter, eat it hot. Enjoy!

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Chicken Fried Steak

Jason had been craving this for a solid two weeks before we had a chance to make it from this recipe. Despite the hot oil concerns, it was pretty easy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided (leave 1 teaspoon for the gravy)
1 3/4 teaspoons black pepper, divided (leave 1 teaspoon for the gravy)
4 (4 ounce) cube steaks
38 saltine crackers, crushed (we used a whole sleeve in a ziplock bag with a rolling-pin. Great for aggression relief!)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1/4 cup is for the gravy)
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 3/4 cups milk, (divided into 4 cups and 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups Vegetable Oil (you want enough to cover at least half the coated steaks)

Directions:
Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper evenly over steaks. Set aside. Combine cracker crumbs, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, red pepper, and baking powder into a shallow dish. Whisk together 3/4 cup milk and eggs. Dredge steaks in cracker mixture; dip in milk mixture, and dredge again in cracker mixture. Pour oil into a 12″ skillet; heat to 360 degrees (do not use a nonstick skillet, we used the cast iron skillet). Fry steaks 3-4 minutes.

 

Turn and fry 2-3 minutes or until golden. Remove steak to wire rack over a cookie sheet to let it drain. Keep steaks warm in a 225 degree oven.

Carefully drain hot oil, reserving cooked bits and 1 tablespoon of oil in dripping in skillet. Whisk together remaining 4 cups of milk, 1/4 cup of flour, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper. Add milk mixture to reserved drippings in skillet; cook, whisking constantly, over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until thickened. You’ll think this is never going to come together. Keep whisking. After about 5 minutes it should start to come together. Whisk for a few minutes after you think you should stop. Should be a light grey color at first and darken slowly. Serve gravy with steaks.

My opinion:
Disclaimer: Be careful draining the oil. And don’t send it down the sink! Find a metal coffee can or other receptacle to help with this. Obviously, hot oil is hot. Be careful! As for the dish, it’s the right amount of salty and rich. I don’t normally love gravy, but topping the steaks with this gravy makes the dish. It’s even better the next day, though not as crispy.

C’s Blueberry and Peach Buckle


My sister has a gift. The gift of making extremely amazing baked goods. This is one of my new all time favorites. Right up there with her pound cake recipe. She created this dessert using a hybrid of the recipes from Alton Brown and Joy of Cooking.

Ingredients:
1 large ripe peach, halved, pitted and cut into small chunks (or 4-5 if you’re just using peaches)
Combine with:
1 1/2 cups blueberries or boysenberries
whisk together:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (you can use up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Combine in another bowl and beat until light and fluffy:
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup sugar if the peaches are very sweet)
1 large egg
Gradually beat in 1/2 cup milk

Struessel topping:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
In addition to the directions above, position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan or 9-inch square baking dish (C uses shortening instead of butter). Combine all the dry ingredients and then cut the butter up into pieces, using a fork to blend in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

Add the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the fruit. Spoon into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the struessel topping over the batter. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick (or butter knife) inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

My opinion:
Like an extra delicious coffee cake. Perfect at any time of day for any occasion.

Robert Irvine’s Eggplant Parmesan


I’m rather picky when it comes to Italian food. I blame my trip to Florence for spoiling Americanized Italian food for me forever. Luckily, there are a few recipes that measure up to my expectations and one of them is this delightful Eggplant Parmesan from the Food Network with a few modifications.

Ingredients:
eggplant, peeled (we particularly enjoyed an heirloom variety) and cut into disks
2 cups buttermilk
4 cups vegetable oil (we used our deep fryer)
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder (we used a bit more)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (we used about 2 tablespoons, since we didn’t have fresh oregano)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or minced fresh if you have it)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (we used a little more of this too, about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups egg wash (which for us, was four eggs and one cup milk)
1 pound penne or fusilli pasta, cooked (we used bowtie because that’s what we had)
2 cups red sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (we used Mozzarella)
cooking spray of your choice (we used Pam Olive Oil spray)

Directions:
To bread the eggplant, first add the eggplant disks into the buttermilk and allow to soak, 1 to 2 hours (we let it soak for about an hour and a half).
Next, over medium heat, bring the oil to 350 degrees F in a wide shallow saucepan or deep fryer; then hold the oil warm until frying. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan powder, garlic, parsley, oregano and pepper in a bowl. Remove the eggplant from the buttermilk, and then coat with flour and tap off the excess. Dip the eggplant in the egg wash and finish with the breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture, coating well. Repeat the process with each eggplant, and then fry in the preheated oil. Allow the eggplant to brown, and then flip the cooked eggplant to ensure even cooking. Once golden brown on both sides, remove the eggplant and place on paper towels to allow the excess oil to drip off.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Drain the cooked pasta and once all the water is removed, toss with 3/4 cup of the red sauce. After tossing the pasta with the sauce, portion the pasta on plates. Place the cooked eggplant on a cooking spray covered baking sheet and finish with the remaining sauce. Add some cheese and bake, 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. After baking, place the eggplant over the sauced pasta and serve.

My opinion:
This is the best and simplest Eggplant Parmesan recipe we’ve found. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to friends and family.

Green Chicken Enchiladas


Using the tomatillo salsa recipe as a base, we made these amazing Green Chicken Enchiladas. While a bit time consuming, the recipe makes more than enough to freeze half and reheats very well. If you plan to freeze, just leave off the cheese!

Ingredients:
1/4 to 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (for the chicken mixture), plus 1/4 for the bottom of the pan and about 1/2 to 2/3 cup for the top (under the cheese)
2 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium Onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
1/4 cup All-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
Chopped cilantro leaves
3 pounds boneless, skinless Chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 large Flour tortillas (we used the burrito sized ones)
1/2 pound Monterey Jack (or Mexican blend) cheese, shredded
2 cups Sour cream, if desired
Chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves for garnish, if desired

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast chicken in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until cooked though.  Let cool and then shred.  Set aside. For more flavor, season the chicken with salt, pepper and cumin prior to roasting.  While the chicken is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized , approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin then cook for another minute. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure the flour doesn’t burn.  Gradually add the chicken stock. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add 1/4 cup of the tomatillo salsa and some additional fresh chopped cilantro and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

To make the Enchiladas, take a large baking dish and smear the bottom with some of the reserved tomatillo salsa. Mix the salsa, cheese and the chicken mixture together in a bowl.  Put a scoop of the shredded chicken-enchilada mix  in an Enchilada. Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll to enclose it. Place the tortillas in the baking dish and continue to do the same with all eight tortillas. Finally pour the reserved enchilada sauce and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top. Garnish with cilantro and tomato, sour cream and guacamole if desired.

My opinion:
Perfect for a hot, summer evening.