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Baked Teriyaki Chicken

9 Apr

One of our family’s favorite weeknight meals is a really good Teriyaki Chicken.  We lived near several yummy hole-in-wall Teriyaki joints in So. Cal, and it was as easy as a walk down the street to satisfy that craving.  Sadly, good Teriyaki is mysteriously hard to find in my current midwest ‘hood.  The one at the mall food court the closest thing we could find, and that’s… well… that’s all.

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Fortunately for all of us who love Teriyaki but aren’t in a position to call in an order down the street, great tasting Teriyaki is easy to dish up yourself!  In the warmer months, we like to grill up some chicken or beef for Teriyaki bliss, but in the colder months (Spring, are you coming to town?) we bake it up instead.  Baking makes it super easy as a one-dish meal, and it’s mouthwateringly delish.  It’s all about the sauce, whether you grill it or bake it.

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This is the one and only Teriyaki Sauce that I use and have used for years.  It’s super versatile, and can be used on a variety of proteins.  Even on a Hawaiian Burger!   It’s savory, it’s sweet, it’s thick, and oh-so-addictive.  This sauce opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Teriyaki Baked Chicken

Be sure to have extra sauce on hand.  Everyone will want to drizzle it onto their plates.  Don’t forget the rice (we use brown rice) – you’ll want rice to go with that sauce.

Enjoy!

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BAKED TERIYAKI CHICKEN RECIPE (for 10 chicken thighs)

INGREDIENTS

2 TB corn starch dissolved in 2 TB water
1 cup Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce (each brand tastes different)
1 cup water
1/2 to 2/3 cup white sugar, depending on taste
1 tsp ginger powder
Juice from 3 wedges of a fresh orange (do not use store bought OJ)
10 chicken thighs, bone in, with skin
kosher salt
chopped scallions, optional

DIRECTIONS

Stir all ingredients except for chicken in a medium saucepan.  Cook on medium, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens.  Set aside to cool.

Thoroughly dry each raw chicken piece with paper towels.  Loosen skin from the meat so that marinade can get into the meat, but don’t remove the skin.  Using a fork, poke holes all over each piece of chicken.  Arrange chicken in a single layer in a baking dish and sprinkle top of each piece with a light layer of kosher salt.  Spoon just enough marinade to cover all pieces well, ensuring that tops and bottoms are covered with marinade.  Save 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the sauce for basting and drizzling.  Cover and let sit in fridge overnight or at least 4 hours.

Remove chicken from dish, and arrange evenly in a foil-lined baking sheet (rimmed.)  Bake at 350F for 1 hour, basting with some of the reserved sauce every 15 minutes (separate basting sauce from drizzling sauce.)

Serve chicken with rice, and drizzle with remaining sauce onto plates.  Garnish with chopped scallions if desired.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Note:  The bake time listed is for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.  Adjust your bake time for boneless or other cuts of meat.  If you have leftover basting sauce that you want to use for drizzling, simply bring sauce to boil again, and enjoy!

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Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce

6 Apr

If  the “Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce” label wasn’t tempting enough, perhaps a little illustration will help…

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 5

I’m not typically a sauce-and-sprinkles kind of gal; I’m more of a plain-jane when it comes to ice cream.  One of my favorite indulgences is purely a great vanilla bean ice cream.  I like it simple .   But it’s my sweet boy’s 9th birthday this weekend, and I wanted to make an extra special ice-cream cake in honor of his precious 9 years in our lives. (More to come on how that cake turned out.)  For now, we’ll focus on this decadent hot chocolate fudge sauce.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce

In search of the “best” hot fudge sauce, we padded around the kitchen and tinkered with variations of popular recipes, culminating in the gruesome task of taste-testing each chocolatey creation.  Many recipes for hot fudge sauce include corn syrup, but the hands-down favorite ended up being a recipe with no added corn syrup.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 2

This super chocolatey hot fudge sauce is well balanced with just the right amount of sweetness, buttery-ness, and fudge-y goodness.  It’s smooth and rich, and thickens nicely as it cools.  Lukewarm sauce is perfect for drizzling over ice cream, allowing the fudge to gain that soft chewy texture – the sure sign of a successful hot fudge sauce.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 4

This hot chocolate fudge sauce keeps well and reheats beautifully.  It is delish over fresh fruit, over pancakes or waffles, over cake… let those creative juices flow.  You can’t go wrong with this.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce 3

My boys will probably beg to make their own chocolate milk with this.  Let the fun begin!

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RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE (approx. 1 cup)

INGREDIENTS

3 oz semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 TB brown sugar
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TB regular salted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
small pinch kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in small, heavy saucepan set over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Once it reaches a boil, immediately reduce to simmer.  Simmer and whisk for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to warm or lukewarm before serving.  Keeps well in sealed container in fridge.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from iowagirleats

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

28 Mar

Whoever thought to make a dessert out of carrots was sort of genius.  Who would have thought that shredded carrots would be yummy in birthday cakes or cupcakes?  Carrot cake is one of the most beloved flavors today, and for good reason.  Armed with a great recipe, anyone can bake up a superbly moist, tender, and addictive carrot cake.

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My kids know this yummy treat is called carrot cake, but I doubt they realize there is an abundance of freshly shredded carrots in their dessert.  Lots of good-for-you carrots.  Plenty of plump raisins.  Walnuts, if you like them.  Extra raisins if you don’t.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Over the years, I have made carrot cake in the form of bundts, loaves, and cupcakes.  This time, I opted for a simple sheet cake.  Easy and fail-proof deliciousness.  This fabulous carrot cake recipe is one I’ve loved ever since an old friend shared it with me ages ago.  It’s one of those well-loved recipes that has years’ worth of chicken scratch written all over the margins and is fraying along the edges.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

This carrot cake is perfect for Easter, birthdays, or just whenever.  With or without cream cheese frosting, it’s delish for dessert or even breakfast.   It can double up as a morning coffee cake, right?  After all, carrots and raisins are totally good for you.  Enjoy 🙂

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RECIPE (one 13×9 pan)
Easy one-bowl method for simple cleanup

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cup olive oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups grated raw, peeled carrots
1 can (8-10 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cups softened butter
16 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.  Press a long sheet of foil into a 9×13 pan, with extra foil hanging over edges for easy cake removal.  Grease the foil.

2.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, mixing well.  Form a well in the center.  Add sugar, oil, and eggs into the well and mix wet ingredients by hand.  Fold into dry ingredients until fully incorporated.

3.  Fold in carrots, pineapple, raisins, and optional walnuts.

4.  Bake in greased, foil-lined pan about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out almost clean.  Cool and remove with foil sling.  Frost as desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine butter, cream cheese, and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add sugar gradually and beat well.  If too thick, add small amount of milk.  If too thin, add small amounts of sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Frosting naturally thickens and firms up as it sits.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from my old friend Naomi

Honey Pear Bread

22 Mar

Quick breads are one of my fave things to bake for breakfast.  Now, I don’t wake up extra early to bake.  I’m a bear if awoken too early.  I don’t even try to pretend I’m Miss Sunshine at the crack of dawn.  Instead, my happy night-owl self prefers to strut around the kitchen in the evening, baking something yummy for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Honey Pear Bread makes an awesome breakfast, particularly if it was baked the day before 🙂

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I often bake various quick breads on the weekends so the family has something extra yummy for breakfast when they wake up.  They love this moist, tender, pear-filled bread with the perfect balance of sweetness, thanks to honey and brown sugar.  Honey Pear Bread is loaded with healthful ingredients, making it a no-brainer for both flavor and nutrition.  One loaf lasts about one day in our household.

Honey Pear Bread 3

This Honey Pear Bread is a tasty alternative to apple breads, when you’re looking to deviate from the norm.  I love that this bread uses firm pears, because pears are almost always firm at the store when I buy them, and I don’t have to wait for them to soften!  A bit of immediate gratification.

Honey Pear Bread 4

This recipe makes extra batter, which is perfect for tender muffins – bonus!  Dense, moist, chock-full of goodness, and superbly satisfying.  Make some Honey Pear Bread, and sit back to enjoy it with your morning coffee.  Or afternoon  snack with tea.  Or dessert with ice-cream on top 🙂

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Honey Pear Bread (or muffins) keeps really well.  Both texture and flavor are much better the day after it’s baked.

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RECIPE (one large 9×5 loaf + ten muffins, OR 2 smaller loaves)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 TB vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 TB ground flax meal (dry)
5 cups of very firm pears, peeled and diced

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F, with rack on lower middle position.  Generously grease one large loaf pan and line a muffin pan (or grease two loaf pans for two smaller loaves.)

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, olive oil, applesauce, and honey.  Stir together.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir to incorporate.

In another large bowl, combine salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, all-purpose and wheat flours, and flax meal.  Mix dry ingredients well.  Gently fold honey mixture into dry ingredients, just until completely moistened.  Gently fold in pears, distributing evenly.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s) and/or muffin tin.

For single large loaf, filled almost to the top, bake 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out almost clean, with few moist crumbs attached.

If splitting batter between two loaf pans, bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out with few moist crumbs attached.

For muffins filled almost to the top, bake 20-23 minutes or until toothpick comes out with few moist crumbs attached.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by allrecipes

Honey Baked Ham

21 Mar

I’ll be the first to admit that our family isn’t usually crazy over ham.  During the holidays, we opt for turkey over ham; a big ol’ ham isn’t something we gravitate to.  However, years ago, my girlfriend showed up at a holiday party with a standout Honey Baked Ham that got my attention.  The only homemade ham I’ve ever liked!

Honey Ham

That was neons ago.  These days, I’ll do baked ham about once a year, usually for big gatherings.  Perfect for Easter, coming right up.  This ham is always the one and only recipe that I use, adapted from my friend’s original recipe.  It never fails to impress, and I usually get hit up for the recipe as well.

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Just look at the golden brown goodness.  Courtesy of brown sugar, country style mustard, all dripping with honey.  Non-ham eaters may think twice, with this guy on the table.

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I’m convinced one reason for ham’s popularity is that it’s super easy to prepare and can feed a crowd.  This Honey Baked Ham tastes like you’ve spent much more time on it than you really did.  Be sure to get the spiral sliced ham if you want ease of slicing; plus, the juices really sink in with the pre-sliced ham cooking in the oven.  Enjoy it!

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RECIPE (12-15)

INGREDIENTS

Fully cooked, spiral-sliced ham (4-5 lbs)
1 cup good apple cider
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup coarse ground mustard (the kind with whole mustard seeds in it)
1/4 cup honey

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350F with rack on lower position.

Mix together apple cider, brown sugar, mustard, and honey in a bowl.  Mix well to fully incorporate basting sauce.

Place ham in a 13×9 baking dish.  Coat ham with a generous amount of sauce.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, basting thoroughly  every 15 minutes.

To serve pre-cut slices, arrange slices neatly on a serving dish and brush leftover sauce all over ham slices and serve.  If serving ham whole, be sure to have leftover sauce available for drizzling.  The sauce is what makes this ham so great!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from my old friend Janice.

Lemony Lemon Bars

19 Mar

Spring officially debuts on March 20, like right now.  If you’re living it up in a warm climate, you’re feelin’ the spring.  If you live where the snow is still knee-deep, well… we can surely pretend, right?  It stretches the imagination when I walk into a Target store and see the beach shorts and flip flops front and center.  Because just beyond the doors is a snow storm.  I’m all for letting the imagination fly.

Luscious Lemon Bars

Even though winter is citrus time in much of the country, fresh lemons seem to scream spring.  The pretty bright yellow just makes you happy.  These super lemony lemon bars are like spring’s mascot.  If it doesn’t feel springy, at least it will taste like it!

Luscious Lemon Bars 3

Both Hubby’s parents and my parents live in sunny So. Cal., and they are blessed with all sorts of lush fruit trees thriving in their backyard.  Whenever I get my hands on a bunch of fresh lemons, I think of my father in law’s lemon tree on steroids.  It produces lemons that resemble little grapefruits.  Wish I had a picture of those for you.

Luscious Lemon Bars 2

These lemon bars are ultra lemony.  Superbly lemonish.  The juice of three big lemons plus lotsa zest creates an amazingly tangy + sweet filling that is a burst of happiness in your mouth.  The smooth lemon filling rests atop a tender yet crisp butter crust that is a taste of perfection.  My family adores lemon bars.  My kids beg me not to give them all away when I make them.  Hubby used to buy them from a gourmet pastry shop for me when we were dating.  These are by far the most perfect lemon bars we’ve inhaled, and we think you’ll love ’em too.

Enjoy a little flavor of spring, wherever you happen to be!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 TB regular butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Filling:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
Juice of 3 large lemons (2/3 cup)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp table salt

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:  Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at middle position.  Press a long piece of foil into 13×9 baking dish, so that the ends hang over the dish (helps with removal of bars.)  Grease the foil and set aside.

Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Add butter and process to blend, about 10 seconds.  Then pulse until the mixture looks pale yellow, resembling a coarse meal.  (If you’re doing it by hand, mix the dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of a grater, into the bowl and toss pieces to coat with flour mixture.  Rub the bits with fingers until flour turns pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.)  Sprinkle crust mixture into prepared pan and firmly press into an even layer over bottom of pan.  Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes.  Then bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Filling:  Whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in large bowl.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to incorporate.  Reduce oven temp to 325F.  Stir filling mixture well, and pour into warm crust.  Bake until filling feels firm upon a very light touch, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely to room temp.  Tightly cover and  chill in fridge before serving.  Once chilled, remove entire dessert with foil sling, and cut into squares.

Dust with powdered sugar upon serving, if desired.  Bars will keep well in fridge, covered.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Hearty Sloppy Joes

14 Mar

This weekend marks the end of spring break for us.  The kiddos might not be ready for the end of their vacation from school, but let’s just say I’m good with resuming their school schedule.  The ongoing freeze has made it hard to spend time outside during spring break this year.  Three kids plus a new puppy under one roof equals one exhausted mommy.  Thus, I packed everyone in the car today (puppy included) for a good romp in the empty, snow-laden park fields.  Energy outlet galore!

Hearty Sloppy Joes

Days of chaos render little time for padding around in my kitchen.  Crazy days like these call for simple yet fool proof meals.  Meals that everyone will happily run to the dinner table for.  Meals that can be made ahead of time and easily served.

Hearty Sloppy Joes 2

These tasty sloppy joes are one of my favorite go-to recipes for crazy weeknights.  If I know the next day is going to be hectic, I like to prep the ingredients for sloppy joes the night before.  Then, all I have to do is put it on the stove the next day.  Easy.  Hugely flavorful.  Satisfying.

Hearty Sloppy Joes 3

I often use ground turkey for my sloppy joes, but ground beef works well.  My guys inhale this stuff, and it makes enough for leftovers, which taste amazing!    Be sure to have enough buns on hand, as it’s easy to polish off several of these at one sitting.

Enjoy something yummy for your chaotic days 🙂

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RECIPE (approx. 10 servings)

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs lean ground turkey (or beef)
1 chopped brown onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
2 TB olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 TB mustard
2 cups ketchup
1 cup tomato paste
2 TB brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
Shredded cheddar cheese for topping
Buns

DIRECTIONS

In a large pan, brown meat with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper over medium heat.  Drain and set aside.

In same pan over medium heat, stir together olive oil, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp pepper until veggies are soft.  Drain liquids.  Add back the browned meat to pan.

Stir in mustard, ketchup, tomato paste, and brown sugar.  Stir to incorporate well.  Bring to simmer.  Let simmer for 30 minutes, covered.  Can be made ahead of time, and reheated for serving.

Serve warm, with shredded cheddar cheese on hamburger buns.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

10 Mar

We’re getting into that silly time of year.  Did anyone else miss that all-important hour of lost sleep for daylight savings like I did?  March equals rain and slush around here, with some days stuck in winter and other days hinting at the upcoming spring.  Warmer, cooler, sunshine, snowstorm… March cannot make up its mind, and it’s all wishy-washy this time of season.

Thank goodness we can depend on the yumminess of brownies when we need something consistently satisfying!

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 3

These sweeties aren’t just any brownies, either.  They are Mint Chocolate Brownies, adapted from my all time favorite chewy brownie recipe.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies

St. Patty’s Day is March 17, which is only a week away.  These deliciously chewy, rich Mint Chocolate Brownies are perfect if you’re looking for something with a little bit of green.

Chewy Mint Chocolate Brownies 2

These mint chocolate brownies are chewy, fudgy, and refreshingly minty.  I used a bit of peppermint extract to enhance the minty flavor, and it turned out nicely subtle, which I like.  If you want to up your minty-ness, just add more peppermint extract to your batter.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup (1 oz) Dutch processed cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 cup + 2 TB boiling water
2 oz unsweetened, good quality solid chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 2 TB olive oil
4 TB regular butter, melted
2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose, sifted flour
3/4 tsp table salt
1 1o-oz bag mint-chocolate morsels, or dark chocolate/mint chocolate combo

DIRECTIONS

Bring kettle of water to boil.  Adjust oven rack to second-to-lowest position and preheat to 350F.

Insert 2 long sheets of foil perpendicular to one another in baking pan, long enough to hang over edges.  Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil against pan.  Grease foil sling and set aside.

Whisk cocoa and boiling water (measure out correct amount from kettle of boiling water) together in large bowl until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.  Whisk in oil and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and peppermint extracts.  Continue to whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.  Sprinkle salt and sifted flour into batter and mix with rubber spatula until just combined.  Fold in 1 cup of the mint/chocolate morsels.

Transfer batter into prepared pan, spreading into corners and smoothing the surface.  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate/mint morsels.  Bake about 30-33 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  It’s done when toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached; should not come out completely clean.  It may seem underdone, but it will set upon cooling.  Do not over bake, or brownies will be dry.

Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove brownies from pan using foil sling.  Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely.  Cut brownies into squares and serve.  Can be stored in airtight container at room temp for a couple of days.

By:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by Cooks Illustrated

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread

28 Feb

Yogurt-Banana-Chocolate-Bread.  That’s quite a mouthful.  There’s no other way to describe this wholesome, rich, moist, thick bread!   This is a densely satisfying bread for breakfast, brunch, and snack.  It’s got everything I love in it, and more.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread 4

We just returned from our regular trip back to So. Cal., where we’re from.  It can be challenging to travel with kiddos, but the memory-making is important to us since our entire extended family is in CA.  Nobody wanted to relocate to the Arctic with us.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread 2

It wouldn’t have been a real trip without the usual visits to our favorite Cali eateries, being the silly foodies that we are.  Actually, any trip we take tends to revolve around food somehow.  Yet no amount of In ‘n Out can rival my mom and dad’s home cooking.  And they cooked up a storm.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chips Bread 3

I’m not sure what all that has to do with this Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread, except that it’s obvious my parents’ love of cooking was passed down to me.  Hopefully, I’m passing it on with all the cooking/baking I do with my own family now.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Back to the banana bread.   This sweetie’s loaded with super ripe bananas, protein-rich yogurt, flax, and a healthy dose of chocolate.  So rich, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweetness!  I’d say this bread lasted about one day in our house.  We never have leftovers with this bread, but I’m guessing it would freeze beautifully.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (1 9×5 loaf)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup softened butter (room temp)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dry flax meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup over-ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels (minis melt into the bread better)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.  Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In large bowl of stand mixer, mix the softened butter and sugar until fluffy and light, several minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In separate bowl, combine flour, flax, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter/egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand until fully incorporated.  Gently fold in the yogurt and mashed bananas with rubber spatula just until combined.  Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips, just until combined.

Spread batter evenly into greased loaf pan.  Bake about 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out with tender crumbs attached (not totally clean.)  Cool loaf in pan 15 minutes and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely before slicing.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Perfectly Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese

22 Feb

For many, mac ‘n cheese means warmth and comfort.  Many of us grew up on mac ‘n cheese and can recall random stories that involve this family friendly pasta dish.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 2

Back in junior high, I would come home famished, and cook myself some stovetop shells and cheese of the Velveeta variety.  That was my after-school snack.  Then, I’d venture on to eat a normal dinner later.  Those were the days.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 3

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve worked through what feels like a mountain of homemade mac ‘n cheese recipes, hoping to capture that rich and creamy texture using fresh ingredients.  No ingredients I can’t pronounce, please.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of hits and misses.  One solid recipe almost made it to post-worthy status, but it was a teensy grainy, so it didn’t make the cut.  Another popular recipe was great right out of the oven, but the leftovers were kind of clumpy.

You know I’m here to share “the one.”  The one mac ‘n cheese made with whole ingredients that is worthy enough to have its own post.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 4

This mac ‘n cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well.  Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy texture.  Pecorino Romano puts this dish over the top.  It’s deliciously pungent, and lends toothsome flavor to the cheese sauce.  Grate your own fresh cheeses, as it makes a difference in the texture too.

With more winter days lying ahead, it’s the perfect time to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese.  Round your people up for a warming, comforting, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (12 servings)

INGREDIENTS
6 TB regular butter
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position.  Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta just under al dente (outside of pasta cooked and inside is a bit underdone.)  Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well, and set aside to drain.

In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside.  In large pot, melt 6 TB butter over medium heat.  When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.

Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.  (To add breadcrumbs, see note below.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, broil a minute or two until desired browning.  Let casserole cool about 5 minutes and serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Note:  I didn’t use breadcrumbs for this recipe by preference.  If you want to include chunky bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into 1/4 in. pieces.  Place pieces in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter and toss well. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

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