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Baked Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

1lb package medium shells or penne pasta
2 cups cream
2+1/4 cups grated cheese (I use 1+1/4 cup asiago, 1/2 cup white cheddar, and 1/2 cup gruyere)
1/4 cup panko
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP flour
1 tsp each salt, pepper, and nutmeg

optional additions:
1) 1 cooked shredded chicken breast plus 2 cups chopped spinach
2) 1/2lb cooked chopped bacon plus 1 cup diced broccoli/cauliflower
3) Meat of 1 cooked lobster
4) 1 cup cubed ham plus 2 cups chopped spinach

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. In a medium saucepan over med-low heat, make a roux using the butter and flour. Whisk until bubbly.
3. Add cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to roux. Continue whisking.
4. Cook pasta until hard al dente (2-3 minutes less than recommended cooking time).
5. When cream is bubbly, add cheese (set aside extra 1/4 cup) and whisk until cheese is melted.
6. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add meat, veggies, and sauce. Stir well.
7. Pour into 9x9" pan and top with panko and last 1/4 of cheese.
8. Bake 20-25 minutes until topping is lightly browned.

Crock Pot Five-Spice Pork

Ingredients:

2lb hunk of pork* (I used a bone-in roast, but you could do a loin or ribs)
1 cup beef broth, divided
1 TBSP Chinese five-spice powder
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1 TBSP honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp black pepper

Choose 2 vegetables:
4 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise
1 can whole water chestnuts, drained
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned, large ones cut in half
2" diameter bundle long beans, ends trimmed
3 large carrots, cut into 2" long pieces

Directions:

1. Place pork in a container big enough to hold it laying flat, preferably one with a lid (if no lid, cover with plastic wrap or foil).
2. Whisk together ingredients for marinade, only use 1/2 cup broth at this point. Pour over pork.
3. Marinate pork for 24 hours, turning every 6 hours (trust me, do it this long).
4. Arrange vegetables in the bottom of the crock pot.
5. Pour marinade plus 1/2 extra cup broth over vegetables.
6. Place pork on top of vegetables. You don't want the pork on the bottom of the crock pot, so you're using the veggies as sort of a prop.
7. Cook 7-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high**, making sure pork is cooked through. Baste with marinade every hour.
8. Serve with rice if desired, or just with the vegetables.

*if you are preparing from frozen, make sure you thaw it for at least 36 hours prior to marinating for the most tender meat.
**I prefer the longer method for more tender meat.

Chocolate Almond Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 stick butter, room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
4oz package sliced almonds (you might not use all of it)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vegetable oil or light corn syrup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F
2. Beat together butter, sugar, and almond extract.
3. Add flour to dough slowly, mixing as you go.
4. The dough will be dry, but keep mixing until it comes together. If it doesn't and stays crumbly, add 1 tsp milk.
5. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Press with a fork or fingers to flatten, to 1/2" thick.
6. Arrange 4-5 almond slices on top of each cookie, points toward the middle like flower petals.
7. Bake 25 minutes until set but not brown. Transfer onto rack to cool immediately.
8. In a microwave safe dish, melt chocolate chips with oil in 30 second bursts, stirring after each, until smooth.
9. Dip fully cooled cookies into chocolate as desired, you can dip half or the top or drizzle the chocolate on.
10. Lay on parchment paper for the chocolate to set.
11. Crumble some of the remaining sliced almonds and sprinkle over the chocolate before it sets.

Baked Shrimp

Ingredients:

1lb shrimp - peeled, deveined, tail off
1 stick butter, melted
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp each dried parsley, cumin, salt, pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Whisk together butter, lemon juice, wine, garlic, chili powder, cumin, parsley, salt, & pepper.
3. Toss shrimp in to coat.
4. Add half the parmesan and breadcrumbs and mix well.
5, Pour into a greased 9x9" pan, make it even.
6. Top with remaining parmesan and breadcrumbs.
7. Bake 10-15 minutes until topping is lightly browned.

Beer Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken broth
12oz bottle/can beer
1 cup cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
3 red potatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp mustard powder (or 1 TBSP dijon mustard)
2 tsp worchestershire
1 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
dried parsley for garnish
popcorn for garnish

Directions:

1. In a stock pot over med heat, sautee onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil until onion is clear.
2. Add broth, beer, potatoes, and seasonings. Bring to a simmer.
3. In a small saucepot, melt butter over med-low heat and heat to bubbling.
4. Add flour to butter and stir until it bubbles and starts to turn golden, 3-4 minutes.
5. Add cream to roux (butter/flour), and stir until bubbling.
6. Add cheese to cream and stir until melted.
7. Add cream/cheese mixture to stock and vegetables.
8. Stir until combined and it reaches a low simmer.
9. Serve sprinkled with parsely and popcorn.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

3 - 8oz packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
16oz sour cream
1/4 cup corn or potato starch
2 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch salt

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 TBSP butter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F
2. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup melted butter, and 1/4 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of a springform pan lined with parchment paper.
3. Bake 15 minutes. Set aside on a cooling rack.
4. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, and condensed milk.
5. Beat in sour cream.
6. Add baking powder, starch, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice. Beat until smooth.
7. In a double boiler (or in the microwave) melt chocolate chips and 1 TBSP butter and stir until smooth.
8. Spread a thin layer of chocolate on top of the graham cracker crust.
9. Pour in half the cheesecake batter.
10. Pour half the chocolate on top in stripes (or a spiral) and use a knife or spatula to swirl it.
11. Pour in the rest of the cheesecake batter.
12. Pour the rest of the chocolate on top in stripes/spiral and swirl it.
13. Bake 60-75 minutes until edges are starting to turn golden and center is jiggly. DO NOT open the oven before 30 minutes or the cake could fall.
14. Turn off oven and open it a crack. Leave cake in it for another 30 minutes.
15. Remove cake from oven and set on a cooling rack for 2-4 hours until it's room temperature.
16. Cover with plastic wrap or parchement and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
17. Open & remove springform and peel away parchment, using a knife to separate the parchment from the cake if necessary. Gently slide onto a serving platter. Cut into 12-16 slices.

I don't use a water bath because I like the look swirled cheesecakes get when they crack, but you can, just fill a 9x13 pan with water and put it on the bottom rack under the cheesecake.

Creamy Olive Risotto

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
24-30 (depending on size) pitted Nicoise olives, roughly chopped
1 TBSP olive juice
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
a handful fresh parsly, chopped
2 TBSP butter
salt & pepper

Directions:

1. In a microwaveable 4 cup measuring cup, microwave broth for 1 minute
2. In a pot over medium heat, melt butter. Sautee rice and garlic until rice starts turning golden.
3. Reduce heat to med-low.
4. Add 1/2 cup hot broth and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until liquid is mostly absorbed.
5. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time each time stirring until liquid is mostly absorbed.
6. Once all broth is added, heat cream for 20 seconds in microwave.
7. Add the cream, olives, olive juice, cheese*, parsley*, and salt & pepper to taste.
8. Stir until cream is mostly absorbed and cheese is melted in. Risotto should be loose and not stay in a mound when plated.

*You can save aside a little Parmesan and/or parsley to use as a garnish for each serving if desired. 

Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients:

Tortillas of choice
2 chicken breasts
1 medium onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, diced (or 1 can green chiles if you want a milder flavor)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp each cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
handful fresh cilantro, chopped
olive oil
optional - sour cream and/or grated queso fresco for topping

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan over med heat, combine onion, tomatoes, peppers, chiles, garlic, and seasonings (except cilantro). You may need olive oil so the veggies don't stick to the pan.
2. Trim and cook chicken breasts (microwave is fastest), set aside to cool.
3. Bring veggies to a simmer and reduce heat so it continues cooking at a low simmer.
4. Shred chicken breasts and add shredded meat to veggies. Stir well.
5. Simmer for 15 minutes until veggies are cooked and chicken is well seasoned.
6. Either drain excess liquid or use a slotted spoon to serve into tortillas.
7. Top with cilantro, sour cream, cheese.