Baked Mac and Cheese

Sooooo…. how do you get wax off carpet?  Red, cinnamon scented wax.  A spot the size of a large pickle.   That is all I can come up with.

 A pickle.  

Stan is none too pleased with me.  His place in front of the fire has been disturbed.  I am none too pleased with me, because there is red wax on my white carpet.  Awesome…. 

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‘Tis the Season…for cookies

I love Christmas season, or the holiday season, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it, for many reasons.

Reasons that include my faith.

The baby in the manger.  Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

Time spent with family and friends.

Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows.  ( ER always had good ones)

Christmas movies.  Favorite?

It is a toss up between sweet Charlie Brown and swooning Bing Crosby.

The smell of a Blue Spruce.

Twinkle lights.

(if you are hanging them on your house, to outline your home, please, pretty please, hang them straight)

Rudolph.

Believing in Santa.

The magic.

And…

IT IS BAKING SEASON.

Kind of my favorite thing.  Ever.

Last year at this time, I made a decision to only post cookies.

Only.  Cookies.

From shortbread cookies to chocolate mint.

Biscotti to pecan sandies.

I haven’t decided if this will happen again this year.

Maybe it will.

Cookies are awesome.

But before I decide that…I figured I should recap last year’s cookiestravaganza.

Good luck in your cookie exchanges and happy baking!

My brother’s favorite.  A sucker for shortbread.

Chewy Toffee Chip were a fan favorite.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Pineapple Upside Down Cookies

Pecan Sandies w/ Mini Chocolate Chips

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

Chocolate Chocolate Mint

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Snowballs or Wedding Cookies (so many names for such a small cookie)

Butter and Jam Cookies

Pecan Craisin Cookies

And there are many more cookies in my recipe index….

 What is your favorite holiday cookie?

I have a feeling I will need some more ideas this go around!

A Manhattan in Cleveland

Tonight (Wednesday) is the biggest bar night of the year.  So they say.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  When most or a majority of folks are staying with relatives.  Traveling some sort of distance to spend a day or the whole weekend (4 entire days) with loved ones.  In close quarters with brothers and sisters.  Niece and nephews.  Aunties and Uncles.  Adults find themselves in bunk beds or camped out on their parent’s living room floor wrapped up in a New Kids on the Block sleeping bag from elementary.  Yeah, sometimes you need a drink before that happens.  Reason 1, why the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a busy night at the local watering hole.

Reason 2?  Old friends.  Catching up.  Rehashing.  Laughing.  Remembering.  Having a cold beer with people who knew you in 4th grade.  When turtle necks and stirrup pants were the fashion.  Friends that you passed notes with in study hall.  Or played MASH with on the bus.  While we may have dispersed, all going our separate ways, leading our own lives…the Wednesday before Thanksgiving brings most of us back home.  Prompting an impromptu reunion of sorts.

Having to cook a dinner for a crowd.  Hosting Thanksgiving.  If I had to do all the cooking for 15 people…once the house was clean, the prep work complete, and the turkey submerged in a brine, because you refuse to serve a dry bird, a drink would be needed and deserved.  Reason 3.

Since I will not find myself at a bar Wednesday night, I wanted to share with you a cocktail I enjoyed Tuesday night.  A night early.  I spent last night baking this chocolate tart and an apple pie and mixing up an obscene amount of puppy chow.  Baking and cocktails…my kind of evening.  Oh!  and Mark Harmon, he was on TV, not sitting at my kitchen island enjoying a Manhattan.  Total bummer.

Anywhoooo….yes, I made Manhattans.  Not a drink for the faint of heart or for those that aren’t in love with whiskey.  Because it is whiskey and vermouth and bitters.  That is it.  Simple and straightforward.  Bourbon whiskey is what I had laying around, but rye whiskey is more traditional…however, both get the job done.  However, if you use scotch whisky it is considered a Rob Roy.  There’s a Wednesday cocktail fun fact, for ya.

Safe travels to those that are hitting the road today and over this long holiday weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Gobble Gobble.

Manhattan
 
Serves 2
Ingredients
  • 4 Ounces Whiskey
  • 2 Ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 3 to 4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherries and orange peel (optional) for garnish
  • Ice
Instructions
  1. Combine whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass with several ice cubes. Stir to combine.
  2. Strain into 2 cocktail glasses, or tumblers, or mason jars, or jam jars, or a low ball glass…you get the idea.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and perhaps an orange peel.
  4. Sit, sip, and relax.
  5. (I like my cocktails very cold, so I added ice to my jar….)

 

 

Intense Chocolate Tart w/ Gingersnap Crust

I loved the pie lady.

We never knew her real name.  Maybe my mom knows.  Moms know that sort of thing.  She lived two miles out of town.  Calculating miles in the country is easy, each stretch of road between crossroads, is almost always one mile.  So the one stop light in town to  The Pie Ladies house was and still is 2 miles.  Her house sits across the road from the Pig House ( it was once painted pink and the front windows and porch made the house look like an oinker…ha!) The pie lady no longer sells pie from her home.  But we still refer to the house as the ‘Pie Ladies’.  I wonder if she even still lives there.

There was a simple hand made sign that leaned up against a tree in their front yard when there were pies.  The sign was a beacon to fellow pie lovers.  A candle in window, or was it two candles in the window?  It was candles, right?   When it was leaning, we stopped.  Almost always.  Sometimes we made the two mile trek to see if the sign was out.  And then we stopped.  By the time I was 12, I knew the power of pie.  I also knew that I LOVED pie.

She had all the flavors ….fruit and cream pies to feed the masses and please the tastebuds.  While secretly I wanted the deep dish blueberry or the apple…we always got a banana, coconut, or chocolate cream pie.  Favorites of my father…he had the final word, which was fine, because who is really going to complain about his choices?  Only a crazy person and his 12 year old daughter…I really wanted the blueberry!  But I dealt.  And I ate banana, coconut, and chocolate cream pies.  And I disliked the chocolate one the most.

Her chocolate cream pie was super-duper chocolate.  Homemade dark chocolate pudding was just too much for my young tastebuds.  Tastebuds that were only sophisticated enough for creamy milk chocolate from a man named Hershey.  Or pudding from a box and every once in a great while…pudding from those plastic containers that strangely didn’t need refrigerated and was found in the cool kids packed lunches or your lunches on field trip day, right next to the pop wrapped in tinfoil.  This was the pudding I was accustomed to.  And now, as an adult, I wish I had all those pies back.  Kids are so stupid.

This chocolate pie is not a cream pie, but its flavor is just as intense as the chocolate cream pie I turned my nose up at a hundred times over as a child.  Again, kids are so silly!  Thankfully, evolution has fixed this issue as witnessed by yours truly.  My niece and nephew, aged 3 and almost 7, ate more of this than any of the adults…

A few notes on the pie itself.  Use quality bittersweet chocolate.  This is not the time to use chocolate chips.  Trust me.  Spend good money for good chocolate.  You will be thankful that you did.  And the ginger snap crust, use it.  Do not substitute with vanilla wafers or graham crackers (unless you can’t find ginger snaps, then I would totally understand)  But otherwise, trust me.  I was a little leery of ginger in combination with chocolate ( I don’t like my chocolate flavored beyond chocolate), but the crust only adds a light gingery undertone, one that is pleasant and wonderful against the rich chocolate.

Oh!  I recommend topping this pie with freshly whipped cream that is slightly sweetened.

Boy, do I love pie.

 
Intense Chocolate Tart w/ Gingersnap Crust
 
You will need a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 8 Ounces, About 32 Ginger Snap Cookies
  • ½ Stick (4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • pinch of salt
  • Filling
  • 12 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Large Egg
  • ¼ Cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
  • ⅛ Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Finely grind gingersnaps in a food processor. Add melted butter and salt, and pulse until crumbs are moistened. Firmly press crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
  3. Combine chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a medium sized saucepan and place over low heat. Whisk until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, pepper, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Slowly, so not to cook the eggs, whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until smooth.
  6. Pour filling prepared crust and place tart in oven for 30 minutes until the center is softly set (it’ll have a little bit of give when gently pressed)
  7. Remove from oven and place on wire rack and let cool.
  8. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
  9. Serve with whipped cream.

Adapted From Bon Appetit December 2007

Baked Risotto with Roasted Vegetables.

I don’t eat a lot of meat.  Be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner…meat is not likely to show up on my plate.  Now don’t go thinking I am a vegetarian, because you would be wrong, and I don’t like telling people they are wrong.  I feel very awkward when bringing it to someone’s attention, that perhaps what they said might be all kinds of not right.  I will try my hardest to get them to notice their mistake before I have to flat out tell them.  Anything to avoid the awkwardness.  And if the mistake isn’t going to harm anyone …i.e. calling me Melody instead of Mallory.  Or Mindy, or Valerie, or Molly.  OK, fine … if it starts with an ‘M’ or rhymes with Mallory…I’ll answer.  For reals.  Or perhaps you like calling my cat a she instead of a he…thats cool, he is actually an ‘it’ anyways.

I am a fan of letting things slide.

But mistaking me as a vegetarian would be all kinds of wrong…seeing how a few short hours ago, I devoured a medium-rare steak and was moments away from licking the plate had the waitress not arrived at the table.  So, yeah, this gal is not a vegetarian…I however, very rarely, if ever cook meat in my own kitchen.  I’ll order the hell out of it at a restaurant….but I halt when it comes to dinner at home.  It is not that I can’t or don’t know how or lack the skills….I just don’t.

It is what it is…Honeslty, it has a lot to do with my lack of preparedness.  Who remembers to pull out chicken breast from the freezer at 5:30am?  Not me.  For those of you that do …big high-five.  You are totally winning this game we call adulthood.  Point, you.

You see, it dawns on me around noon, that once again, the chicken is still in the freezer.  And since I don’t have a land line and Stan doesn’t understand English..the chicken remains in the depths of my freezer.  Aw shucks.  Therefore, most nights…I have an egg sandwich and a salad.  Or I roast some vegetables and warm a bowl of lentil soup.  These are a few of my go-to’s.

This fall, I have added a new go-to that is quick, simple, and versatile and pairs wonderfully with roasted vegetables.  Baked risotto.  I have whipped this up at least 3 times this fall already, which is saying something since I have a 1.65million recipes that I have bookmarked, dog eared, and post-it noted that I am just dying to make…Baked Risotto with Roasted Vegetables is great as a main dish with a glass of red wine on a cold evening, or can be a side dish to roasted chicken or pork chops.  Baked risotto is all kinds of creamy and cheesy and comforting and requires absolutely no stirring, no hovering over the stove for an eternity while your rice slowly absorbs multiple ladles of warmed chicken broth…nope, none of that.  The oven does all the work…giving you twenty minutes to unwind and enjoy that glass of red wine that has been calling your name since noon!

Enjoy!

Baked Risotto with Roasted Vegetables.
 
Serves 2-3 as main dish. 4 to 6 as side.
Ingredients
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Sweet Potato, cut into large chunks
  • 10-15 Brussel Sprouts, cut in half
  • 3-5 Medium Carrots, tops removed and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 Yellow Onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 Head of Broccoli, stem removed and cut into large chunks
  • 8 Ounces Whole Mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • ½ Yellow Onion, small dice
  • ¾ Cup Arborio Rice
  • ¼ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 + ¼ Cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • ½ Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese, plus extra for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil and lay chopped vegetables, minus mushrooms, in a single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until fork tender.
  3. Add mushrooms when 20 minutes are left in cooking time.
  4. Meanwhile, once vegetables are in oven begin risotto.
  5. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven or another pan that can be transferred to oven. Add onions and cook until translucent – about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add rice and stir to coat with oil.
  7. Add white wine and cook until most of the wine is evaporated ( about 3 minutes).
  8. Add 2 Cups of chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil.
  9. Cover with lid and place pot in oven during the last 20 minutes of roasting time for roasted vegetables. Check risotto after 20 minutes, most if not all of the liquid should be evaporated and the rice just cooked.
  10. Remove risotto from oven and stir in remaining ¼ cup of chicken broth, butter, and parmesan cheese.
  11. Remove vegetables from oven once fork tender (everything should be done at the same time!)
  12. Serve vegetables over risotto. Top with extra parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Epicurious May 2012.