Roasted Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

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I’ve never been much of a runner – I dreaded running “the mile” in middle school and freaked out when I didn’t have my inhaler – so I never thought that I’d attempt to run more than 5 miles in my life, let alone a half marathon. But somehow (probably riding on the high of the Tough Mudder), I ended up signing up for the BAA half marathon and running it a few weeks ago.

I loved the training, because honestly there are few things better than running along the Charles River during the fall in Boston. On the day that I ran 10 miles I felt both triumphant and completely in pain, but it was cool to be running 10 miles at a 9:15 pace. I never thought that would happen.

On the night before the half marathon, I was paralyzingly nervous. I knew that the race was going to hurt. And so I made comfort food: Mac and cheese. I’ve been looking for a good mac and cheese recipe for a long time, and this is the best one I’ve found. It makes a creamy, thick cheese sauce and the roasted veggies are key. Check it out:

For a 9 x 9 pan of mac ‘n cheese, which is 3 or 4 servings, you’ll need:

1 red or yellow pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

3 small mushrooms, diced

1 cup broccoli, cut into small chunks

1.5 cups pasta

1/8 cup butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1.5 T flour

3/4 c milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 t red pepper flaked

1/4 t cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

2 T shredded parmesan cheese

Although the veggies above are the ones that I used and that I recommend, you can get away with using a lot of other things – carrots, squash, asparagus, zucchini, or whatever you have in your fridge. To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and toss your veggies onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water and drain. While the pasta cooks, work on your sauce. Heat the butter in a large skillet and add minced garlic. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, and cook it for about 30 seconds or until it starts to make your kitchen smell amazing. Then sprinkle flour onto the butter and whisk the flour consistently for a full minute. If you stop whisking, the flour may burn, so be careful. This is called a roux and it’s what will thicken your cheese sauce!

After you’ve cooked the flour and butter for a minute and it starts to turn brown (light brown, not burnt!), add milk in a slow stream to the pan. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Once you can tell that the mixture is thick (it will look fluffy), take the pan off of the heat and add in the cheese. Once that’s incorporated, add the red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and veggies. Then mix in the pasta.

When the whole dish is combined, put it into a casserole pan and turn up the oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle the macaroni with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, then put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top becomes golden brown.

That’s it, easy-peasy! I have to admit: I hated running the half marathon. At no point during the race did I think, “Wow, this is so fun!”. But I did feel pretty accomplished afterwards, and despite the fact that I couldn’t move very effectively, I woke up from a 2 hour post-race nap and had another bowl of this delicious pasta. It’s going on my new rotation of recipes.

Enjoy!

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Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

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This is Sean’s favorite sandwich of all time (in fact, he says it’s the best thing I make), so I decided that it needed a place on the food blog.

You’ll need:

2 slices of crusty bread (I like Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)

2 slices of Swiss Cheese

2 slices of Rosemary Ham (from Trader Joe’s), or another type of yummy ham

2 T mayo

1 T Dijon mMustard

one sweet or yellow onion

1 T brown sugar

pinch of pepper

4 T butter

The caramelized onions are what make this sandwich amazing (let’s be honest, caramelized onions make everything better), so I always start with those. Slice an onion into rings, then put 2 T butter in a pan to melt. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. If the pan looks dry and the onions start to char, add more butter. I usually end up adding about 4 T by the end.

Once the onions look like this…

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…add 1 T of brown sugar and a pinch of pepper and stir to combine. Let them sit over the heat for 3 more minutes so the sugar will caramelize, then remove from the heat.

Then assemble your sandwich! Cover one side of the bread with dijon mustard, and layer the sandwich with cheese, meat and onions. You won’t use that whole batch of onions for one sandwich, but you can save them in your fridge or freezer for other recipes.

Put the sandwich together, then cover the outside of the bread with mayo. Little known fact: making paninis with mayo on the outside makes them turn golden brown while cooking because of the egg in the mayo. It’s a little bit like making your grilled cheese french toast style.

Then put the sandwich on a grill, a panini press or a pan. I prefer to use a panini press. Leave it for 5-10 minutes, flipping once, and you’re done!

Enjoy 🙂

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Vermont Cheddar Bread

Hil and I are done with finals and have been planning to make homemade bread for oh, I don’t know, basically the whole semester, so we decided that today was the day! Hil made a variation of this bread last year with some of her rowing friends and loved it, and it was just as awesome tonight as it was last year. It made me remember that there’s nothing like a good slice of warm homemade bread with melty butter. Yum!

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This recipe made two of the loaves that you see above. To make it, you’ll need:

3 cups of 100 degree water

1 1/2 T active dry yeast (that’s one and a half packets)

1 T salt

1 1/2 T sugar

6 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup grated cheese

cornmeal (for dusting)

1 cup of warm water (to set in the oven)

To start, mix the water, yeast, salt and sugar together in a bowl. The water must be between 100 and 110 degrees F so that it doesn’t kill the yeast. Leave those ingredients in the bowl for 10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble slightly (which means that the yeast is activating).

Then add to that mixture the flour and grated cheese. You can stir it with a spoon, but you may have to incorporate the last of the flour with your hands. You can knead it slightly in the bowl, but over mixing will make it tough. Once everything is combined, set the bowl in a warm place (we put it on top of the oven, which was on a bit earlier in the day) and cover the bowl with a moist towel. Let it sit for 2 hours – get excited, it will double in size!

When you come back after two hours, your dough should look like this:

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Take it out of the bowl and divide it in half, patting it into two long ovals. If you’d like smaller loaves, you can divide it into four smaller pieces. Dust two cookie sheets with cornmeal and place the dough on the pans, dusting the tops of the loaves with flour. Cover them again (they should look like the below picture) and let them rise for another hour.

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When you come back, they should be doubled in size. Using a sharp knife, make a few cuts across the tops of the loaves at a diagonal and put them into a 450 degree F oven. You should also fill a small baking dish with the remaining cup of water and put that water into the back corner of the bottom of the oven. Putting water in the oven will make the crust of the bread crispy.

Our loaves cooked for 35 minutes each, but I would start with 25 minutes on the clock and check the loaves after that time period. When they are done, they will be golden brown and will sound hollow when you tap them with your finger. Smaller loaves will require less baking time. Once you’re done, cool them on a wire rack and then slice them. The recipe that we based this off of said that it should be eaten within seven days because of the cheese in the bread, but we’re not worried. Pretty sure it’ll be gone in a couple of days.

Enjoy 🙂

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

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I actually made this recipe a few weeks ago, but didn’t have time to blog it due to the hectic nature of my grad school life. I think I actually might be forgetting how to relax. Luckily, I haven’t forgotten how to cook (yet).

Because I live with a vegetarian and a pseudo vegetarian (only for Lent), I’ve been cooking vegetarian-friendly lately. This recipe certainly is veggie friendly, but it’s also just delicious. I had Sean over for dinner and he woofed down two of these too, then enjoyed two more leftover enchiladas for dinner the next night.

For this recipe for a pan of 6 Sweet Potato Enchiladas, you will need:

6 tortillas (I prefer flour, but you could also use corn)

1 can enchilada sauce

1 large onion, diced

3 medium sweet potatoes

1 can black beans

1 bag frozen corn

1/2 bag spinach

3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 avocado

1/2 lime

2 T cilantro, minced

First, cook your sweet potatoes. You could boil them or bake them, but I prefer to microwave them because it’s faster. Simply rinse them off, prick them with a fork and put them in the microwave for approximately 7 minutes, depending on size. While those are cooking, quickly saute the spinach and onions.

When the sweet potatoes are done, scoop the innards into a bowl, and add 3/4 can drained black beans, 1/4 cup frozen corn (thawed) and the sautéed spinach and onions to the mix. Stir to combine.

To assemble the enchiladas, lay out a tortilla. Pour a few Tablespoons of enchilada sauce down the middle, and cover it with grated cheese and the sweet potato mixture. Roll the tortilla up and lay it in a pan. Repeat with each tortilla, laying them in a row, then cover all of the tortillas with more enchilada sauce and the remaining cheese. The more cheese the better!

Bake them at 375 for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. While the enchiladas cook, mash the avocado in a bowl and combine with the juice of 1/2 lime and the cilantro. Once the enchiladas are done, serve them immediately and garnish with a spoonful of the avocado mixture. These keep great for leftovers and freeze nicely as well, plus they are very healthy.

Enjoy!

Love, Jenni

Easy Cheese Fondue

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Jenni’s family has a tradition of making fondue every Christmas Eve (cheese fondue before the candle light church service and meat fondue after), and since Hilary and Danielle had never tried cheese fondue, she decided to buy a fondue pot and make it for Danielle’s birthday last December. It was such a hit that we made it again for our friend Damon’s birthday last night… looks like it’s becoming a tradition!

To make this fondue, you’ll need a fondue pot. Our pot is from Amazon and only cost $30, but make sure you read the reviews before you buy it. KitchenAid makes some great ones, but there are brands that heat up too fast and will burn the cheese.

To make the Swiss Cheese Fondue above (it feeds 4 people for dinner; for an appetizer course, make 3/4 of this amount), you will need:

1/2 lb Ementhaler Swiss cheese, grated

1 lb Gruyere cheese, grated

3 T flour

1 t nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4 c dry white wine

1 garlic clove, minced

Various ingredients for dipping

Grate all of the cheese in a bowl. Then put the flour, nutmeg and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in the bowl and mix it so that the cheese is covered in flour.

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In a saucepan, bring the wine and minced garlic to a simmer.

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Then slowly add handfuls of cheese to the wine mixture, stirring until it looks smooth. Once you’ve added all of the cheese, access the situation. If it looks too runny, add a sprinkle more flour. If it looks too thick, add a bit more white wine. Then transfer the mixture to your fondue pot and enjoy!

We like to dip crusty french bread (cut in chunks), apples, broccoli, carrots and peppers into the cheese. If you come up with any other dipping inspirations, let us know!

 

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