Tag Archives: Bacon

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

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This recipe was obviously created on one of my cheat days. My roommate introduced me to America’s Test Kitchen magazine a few months ago–I am officially obsessed. The particular issue she brought home was their 20 favorite american dishes–all the staples including my ultimate guilty pleasure, macaroni and cheese. There are infinite ways to make this favorite childhood dish, but rarely does it come out JUST RIGHT. With the whole premise of America’s Test Kitchen being that they’ve tested and tried every possible method for you and shared the best results, I just HAD to try their recipe. But I have to admit, I couldn’t even stick to their recipe as is. I have a habit of tweaking things even as I’m reading a recipe for the first time. My first issue is that they cooked the macaroni past the point of Al Dente, which I have been raised to believe is a SIN! According to the test results, they found that al dente pasta will release starch into the sauce as it continues to cook, giving the sauce a gritty texture, which makes good scientific sense. But I still couldn’t bring myself to intentionally overcook pasta. And I have to say, that my sauce was nowhere near gritty and the pasta was perfectly cooked. The verdict is still out on that one…

So after all, here is my own version loosely based on the results of their experiments. I would love to hear if anyone tries the original (found here). I will have to do that some dreary day when I am especially in need of some nostalgic comfort food.

The end result was a rich, creamy, decadent macaroni and cheese that I thoroughly enjoyed, not to mention, it was topped with bacon I just happened to have lying around. Yet I would still make some adjustments. This might be a lifelong venture for me to find a mac n cheese recipe that is just perfect. Though, I left the rest of it for my roomie to enjoy and she said it was just how she likes it! All in all, I’d say it was a success. My all-time favorite macaroni and cheese (and believe me,  I’ve tried A LOT of different versions), was at this wonderful gastropub in Cambridge, MA, Lord Hobo. I’ve come very close to replicating their heavenly cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheese sauce, but it still is not quite right. Don’t worry though–I will master it one day and I will of course share it with you.

Macaroni and Cheese (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

(Difficulty-Intermediate; Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/2 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp.
  • 1/2 pound organic pasta, I used organic imported Fusilli from Trader Joes
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces Havarti cheese, grated or finely chopped
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 4 ounces parmesan, grated
  • 4 slices organic applewood smoked bacon
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

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Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente; drain pasta.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add flour, mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt,  and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Off heat, slowly whisk in all but a 1/3 cup of the cheeses until completely melted. Add pasta to sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

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Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet and add panko bread crumbs. Cook, stirring occasionally until the crumbs are lightly toasted, about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread-crumb mixture. Broil until topping is deep golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile cook bacon strips in a skillet until crisp and crumble into pieces. Top macaroni with bacon crumbles. Cool casserole for 5 minutes before serving.

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Chicken Sweet Potato and Apple Skillet

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Here’s another perfect primal dish full of fall flavors and inspired by the Penzeys catalog. This is a very quick meal, yet completely satisfying and delicious!

Chicken Sweet Potato and Apple Skillet (adapted from Penzeys)

Difficulty: Easy

Servings: 6-8

1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless organic chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp. Poultry Seasoning

1/2 tsp. Mural of Flavor

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. rosemary

1/2 tsp. sage

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. marjoram

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. extra virgin cold pressed olive oil

6 slices organic applewood smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 cups organic brussel sprouts, quartered

2 organic sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 organic braeburn (or preferred variety) apples, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth

Bring a medium pot of water to boil, add sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Season chicken with Poultry Seasoning, Mural of Flavor, paprika, thyme, rosemary, sage, allspice, marjoram, salt and pepper. Add oil to large skillet and heat on medium-high. Add chicken to hot skillet and saute, turning so all sides are browned, about 6 minutes. Place chicken in a bowl and set aside.

Add the bacon pieces to the same pan and cook until it starts to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, abour 5-7 minutes. Add the apples, garlic, cinnamon, and one cup chicken broth and cook until broth is almost evaporated. Add the chicken and remaining broth to the pan and cook until chicken is cooked through completely, about 3 more minutes. And enjoy! Works great for leftovers!

  

Mixed Greens with Pear, Toasted Pecans, Bacon and Goat Cheese with Maple Balsamic Dressing

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This salad was created for my fall dinner party. I had this amazing maple balsamic dressing in mind that reminds me of Fall in snowy Vermont. I got this recipe from my favorite little ski resort, The Green Mountain Inn, in Stowe, VT. If you are on the East coast or visiting, Stowe is an adorable little ski town that is completely white during the winter and is lined with cozy little shops and restaurants to explore after a long day on the trails. It is the perfect getaway for a long weekend. And I am particularly fond of the outdoor heated pool at the Green Mountain Inn and the Cactus Cafe, where oddly enough I’ve some of the ‘better’ Mexican food in the Northeast. Believe me, it is hard to come by. If you like spicy foods, and can really handle SPICY, try their homemade jalapeno poppers.

Stowe, VT

I typically make this dressing for a grilled chicken salad, but I wanted to use signature fall flavors aside from the usual squash, pumpkin, and apple. Pears don’t get quite as much hype this time of year, but they are definitely one of my fall favorites. In fact, one of my favorite seasonal items at Trader Joe’s is their Pear Cinnamon Cider– you have to try it! I also make a great cocktail with it that I will post soon.

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For the Dressing:  (Adapted by The Whip Restaurant at The Green Mountain Inn)
1/2 cup organic low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup organic pure maple syrup (I prefer Trader Joe’s Grade B)
1/8 cup organic honey
1/8 cup Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic
1/2 tsp. ginger
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
 
Combine soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, honey, Dijon, garlic, and ginger in a blender and pulse until well combined. Slowly add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
 
For the Salad:
 
1lb organic mixed greens
 
1/2 lb. organic applewood smoked bacon
 
1 cup pecans, toasted
 
6 oz. organic goat cheese
 
2-3 organic pears, thinly sliced
 
These flavors compliment each other very well and go perfectly with the maple dressing. Definitely one of my new favorite salads!
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