Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Green Chiles & Mushrooms

I have a macaroni and cheese obsession. Actually mostly just a cheese obsession. It's hard to describe to people just how much I love cheese, but I think Hannah Hart from My Drunk Kitchen describes it the best

Is this a little southwestern? Maybe. Did I do that on purpose? Not really. Were the ingredients dictated by what was available in my very sparse refrigerator? Yes, Definitely. So, even if you try to be creative, you still end up inside the box it seems. But it tastes really good in any case. And it has cheese. SO THERE.

-8 ounces of dry pasta (macaroni, penne, wheels, etc.)
-1/2 lb of mushrooms (button, portabella, etc.) - sliced
-1 cup chopped fresh parsley (cilantro would work nicely as well)
-1/2 cup chopped roasted green chile (I used canned)
-2 Tablespoons butter + 1 Tablespoon
-2 tablespoons flour
-2 cups milk
-1/2 cup yellow onions, finely diced
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1 egg (lightly beaten)
-1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, etc.)
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot (no heat).

In a small pan, saute mushrooms in 1 Tablespoon melted butter over medium heat until mushrooms are soft and golden brown.

In medium pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden brown and smells like pie crust. Stir in the milk, onion, and paprika. Simmer (do not boil) for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Take of the heat and temper in the egg. Add 3/4 of the cheese and whisk until melted.

To the pot with pasta, add the mushrooms, green chiles, and parsley. Toss to combine. Add the cheese mixture and toss to coat evenly. Pour the pasta into an 8-by-8 pyrex baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 min. until the top is golden brown and slightly crispy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Endless Projects: Charms

New Charms available on Etsy! Woodland Creatures: Fox, Owl, and Skunk 

Australian Animals: Kookaburra, Koala, and Platypus

Sea Creatures: Seahorse, Shark, Narwhal

Anatomy Charms: Skull, Hand, Brain, Foot, Pelvic Bone, Heart, and Lungs

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spiced Apple Clafouti

It's the beginning of March and flowers and rain and all that poetry related spring stuff is going to be attacking the hills with green sprouts pretty soon. Not to mention all the green shamrocks and unfortunately short men dressed in leprechaun costumes. I'm celebrating early with these very green crunchy apples. 

(One of the coolest tools in my kitchen: check it out!)

Nebulas in my egg mixture.

Really my only excuse for making this was that I needed to use the apples I had so that they wouldn't go to waste. Otherwise, this was purely to cure my baking bug (and my incessant sweet tooth). But out of my craving to bake, I think I discovered a winner. I love happy accidents. 

Ingredients (serves about 8) 
Clafouti batter based on recipe from the Flour Bakery Cookbook

-1/4 cup butter (half stick) melted, plus 1 Tablespoon
-2 apples, cored and sliced
-1/2 cup sugar (1/4 for fruit)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-4 eggs
-1/3 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup milk
-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-confectioners sugar for topping (optional)

Heat oven to 400°F. Swirl melted butter in a 9-by-13 inch pyrex dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add about 1 tablespoon water. Add the apple slices, 1/1 cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Cook on medium heat for about 5 min until the apples have lost some of their firmness and the mixture is bubbly and syrupy.

Spread fruit evenly in the 9-by-13 inch dish over the butter.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. In another bowl whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. Whisk flour mixture into the egg mixture. Add milk and extracts and mix. Pour batter evenly over the apples.

Bake for 40-45min until golden brown and puffy. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve! It's best eaten the day it was made but can be covered and kept for a day more.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Flour Bakery

I loved the movie Julia & Julia. Probably because it was all about cooking and wearing aprons and pushing yourself in the kitchen to the point of tears (it has happened). I've always wanted to do some sort of 365 day or 52 week challenge, although I don't think I could necessarily cook from the Julia Child The Art of French Cooking book for that many weeks. But I COULD bake from Flour Bakery's Cookbook.

If you visit Boston (or live in Boston and don't know about it) make sure to visit Flour Bakery with locations in Back Bay, South End, Fort Point, and Central Square. Everything from their sticky-buns to their homemade pop-tarts to their portabella mushroom sandwiches to their coffee--is AMAZING. You won't regret and you just might find yourself there every morning for the next month after discovering it.

Sadly, I don't live in Boston anymore and miss Flour Bakery dearly, but I do have their cookbook to keep me company (and keep me on the treadmill). These chocolate cupcakes with buttery frosting are quite possibly the best cupcakes I've ever had and these oatmeal raisin cookies (my favorite cookie) are chewy and irresistible (eat-5-in-a-sitting good).

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Potato-less Spinach Gnocchi (with quinoa flour)

I've been doing this thing where I want to cook random amazing sounding food from whatever is in my refrigerator. It sounds like a good plan right? Be more creative in the kitchen by forcing yourself to use what you have? Well, for me this often means...Oo! Let's bake a pie or brownies or cupcakes and eat all of them in one sitting and not be able to stand up ever again! Yeah...I really need to stop doing that. So I feel a little better about myself for coming up with this one because there's spinach and egg and ricotta and quinoa flour, and those things are healthy, right? There's no sugar in this recipe. Although I did smother it in a creamy white sauce...

Ingredients (makes about 24 gnocchi)
-about 5-6 cups of fresh spinach
-1 cup fresh ricotta
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon melted butter
-parmesan or italian cheese mix (about 1/4 cup)
-salt, pepper (to taste)
-a dash of nutmeg
-3-4 tablespoons of quinoa flour

For the white sauce:
-1 tablespoon butter
-1 tablespoon quinoa flour
-1 cup milk
-1 tablespoon creme fraiche or sour cream
-2 tablespoons parmesan
-salt, pepper (to taste)

Heat about a tablespoon of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add spinach and cook till wilted. Squeeze spinach to drain water and chop finely.

In a bowl whisk the egg lightly. Add ricotta, spinach, cheese, butter, and nutmeg. Mix until incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. Sift in the quinoa flour and mix just until any flour streaks disappear (don't overmix). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours or overnight.

Fill a medium saucepan with water (about 3 inches) and bring to a simmer. To form the gnocchi shape, use two spoons. Scoop about half a spoon's worth of the dough with one spoon. Then, scrap this dough onto the other spoon to create the shape and then use the other spoon to gently push the gnocchi into the water. Cook about 6 gnocchi at a time for about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

For the white sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the butter completely. Whisk in the quinoa flour and cook until golden brown and smells like pie crust. Add the milk and whisk until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the creme fraiche, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Do not let the mixture boil if you let it sit on the heat or else it will curdle and separate. Serve over the cooked gnocchi.

Mind Over Mind

 I've been battling lately with the fact that I don't know what I'm doing with my life at this moment. I think in circles, trying to sort my life out based on uncertainties, but all that leads to is, well, nothing at all. Worries and chaotic brainstorms. Not helping. So I've been trying to distract myself. Part of the problem is that I've applied to grad school and now is the waiting game. I kind of feel like if I don't get into at least one of these schools that I'll do something completely off the wall like move to Africa. Except, I'm not going to move to Africa. But you get the idea. 

 I think I just have to remember to be amazed and entertained by the little things that life throws at you. Not everything has to be so grandeur. This parking garage, for instance, which has a fortune for every stall, made my day in its own small way. 

As did the board above the kitchen at Original Joe's in San Francisco. 

 And buying a banjo.

 And making felt iphone/ipod cases. 

 And folding origami zombies. 

And letting your mind think through your pen.