Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Holy Macaroni and Cheese

I needed to be comforted, so I gave my old friend macaroni and cheese a ring. This here is a serious triple threat of yummy. A lovely little restaurant offers these toppings as add ons to their mac and cheese and I aways get it with all three. With a mixture of rain and snow falling from grey skies outside, I was forced to make it myself.

I like roasting my veggies. I think the texture is far superior than boiling and blanching. Put some broccoli tossed in olive oil and salt in a pan with a few strips of bacon. In a pre-heated oven of 425, this should take about 15-20 minutes. If you want the bacon crispy, remove broccoli and cook bacon another 5 or so minutes. Chop into smaller pieces and set aside. While you're chopping, do the same with a few sun-dried tomatoes. You'll wanna get this prep out of the way before you dive into the sauce. 

It all starts with a roux. A roux is basically fat and flour. It's a traditional thickening agent used in many sauces. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and, stirring fairly constantly, add a teaspoon of flour. Then pour in a quarter cup of milk and stir. Let it come to a simmer and good golly watch that roux thicken. Stir, stir, stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add cheese. I used half a cup of cheddar and just a nibble gorgonzola. The first time I tried mac and cheese I definitely over-gorgonzola-ed the crap out of it. Unless you l-o-v-e blue cheese, watch out. So, yea, gorgonzola. Just a nibble. Stir some more. 

Try to time your pasta cooking and cheese sauce concocting the same. I used conchiglie, aka, shells. This pasta is primo for creamy sauces. It will catch all the cheesy goodness inside the shell and outside on the ridges. When the pasta is al dente, add to your cheese sauce and mix in the awesome additions.

This comfort food is so fantastic, especially when its crappy outside. The cheese sauce is just cheesy. Next time I want to try adding some swiss. I've been told a jack is also a welcomed addition. The sun-dried tomatoes add a bright tang, the broccoli brings incredible texture, and the bacon...well, bacon is always a fatty, salty, welcomed guest in my book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Slammin' Salmon

Salmon is my favorite fish. While all fish are delicate and lovely, there is something special about salmon. Whether it's raw, smoked, fried or broiled, its almost hard to make this aquatic creature unappetizing. This may be why salmon is the go-to seafood for all the seafood haters out there. Whatever your fish fancy, you'll like this.  

The ingredients are few and inexpensive. You'll want to start by sautéing a yellow onion. Put a tablespoon of butter and a swirl of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Stirring often, cook onions until they start to opaque. Add a sprinkle of sugar and a touch of paprika. Throw in a bell pepper and soften those bad boys up as well. 


Any oven friendly baking sheet or gratin will do. I wrapped my baking dish in tin foil for easy clean up. Plop in your lovely filets and season with salt and pepper. Squirt a friendly helping of honey all over the salmon, about 3 tablespoons for an 8oz filet. Cover the fish in the sauteed onions and peppers and put in a 350 oven for 20-25 minutes. Now thats not all folks. When the fish is about done I like to turn on the broiler and stick it right underneath the flames for another minute or two so the honey and veggies get a nice crispy brown crunch. 

Serve a top a bed of fluffy rice pilaf and crown with fresh chives. The finished product warms the soul with a balance of sweet and savory. It also leaves you with the perfect fullness. Everything on this plate is incredibly healthy (have you heard about omega-3's? They're the ones who got the chilean miners out safely and are currently working on the mess in Egypt). When you gladly devour every last drop of this here slammin salmon, you will experience a happy guilt-free euphoria that is rare when acting as a glutton.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goat Cheese and Basil on a Tater

"I like baked potatoes. I don't have a microwave oven, and it takes forever to bake a potato in a conventional oven. Sometimes I'll just throw one in there, even if I don't want one, because by the time it's done, who knows?"

The late, great Mitch Hedberg always had some epic advice to live by. Baked potatoes sure do take forever to cook but by golly they're worth it, especially with some super awesome jazzed up sour cream on top. 

For the tater, stick it in a conventional oven for a long time. More specifically, an oven preheated to 350 for about an hour. You'll know it's done if a knife pierces to the middle with ease. That is it. 

Jazzing up your tater topping is a cinch. Use equal parts sour cream, greek yogurt, and goat cheese. Stir together and mix in as much chopped up basil as your little heart desires, a pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Make sure you let your goat cheese get to room temperature so it blends well with the rest of the ingredients. 

I know that chives are the go-to for a baked potato but I wanted to stay away from anything oniony. Basil, on the other hand, is a far more refreshing herb that really meshed well with the sour cream concoction. The addition of a tart yogurt with a mild goat cheese added layers of flavor to the standard and traditional sour cream dollop that will surly lead to three or four more dollops. It turned out to be quite the no-fuss starchy treat Mitch Hedberg would have enjoyed thoroughly. 

The Hardy Mr. Oatmeal

If oatmeal were a cartoon, it would be a super hero. Oatmeal is tough. Oatmeal has got your back. Oatmeal is power. The Hardy Mr. Oatmeal is here to save the day.

There's a million ways to enjoy a bowl of oats. You can use fresh fruit, brown sugar, honey, cream, crème, jelly or jam. I went the old-fashioned route this morning. Put a cup of oats, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and the tiniest pinch of salt in a little saucer. Add a cup and a half of boiling water and stir. Chop a hand full of nuts and yellow raisins, slice up a bit of banana, and top it off with maple syrup. These toppings had a nice balance of rustic and crunchy with smooth and buttery textures.

One of my favorite things about oatmeal is its purity. While Cheerios lowers cholesterol too, look at the back of the box. The second most prominent ingredient is sugar and they have to add preservatives. Look at the Nutrition Facts on an oatmeal cylinder and all you'll find is "100% ROLLED OATS." Because of its absorptive qualities oatmeal will keep you full right until lunchtime, unlike Cheerios. It's also ridiculously easy to make a thousand different ways, whereas milk an cereal gets kinda old. Besides, nothing beats a hot breakfast when there's a snowpocalypse outside.

Now I have no beef with Cheerios, cause that'd be an odd combination (hahaa). Cheerios truly are a delicious cereal option, honey-nut especially. I've never saved the world, though, after a bowl of cereal. Only moments after my bowl of old-fashined oatmeal I rescued two kitties out of a tree, helped an old lady cross the street, and solved world hunger. Don't thank me, thank The Hardy Mr. Oatmeal.