weelicious mac & cheese ~ more than a wee bit yummy!

Sometimes you just need an easy dinner.

And by easy I mean, barely needing to lift a finger.

Do you have a rice cooker?

I found this recipe on Weelicious. And I’ve sung it’s praises before.

But now it has become a staple in our house.

It takes me closer to 40 or 50 minutes.  My rice cooker is a combo deal, so I set the oven timer.

The first part I do in 15 min, the second another 25-35 minutes.

This is great with an variety of different cheeses.

I typically use the Costco Mexican shredded blend. (Remember I said easy)

I like to add dry mustard, probably a couple teaspoons.

Just before serving I’ve been known to add an assortment of cooked chopped veggies (microwave).

Or some bacon bits with chives on top (can’t go wrong with that!)

Or mixed in leftover cooked chicken, or sausage, or hamburger meat.

Plane and simple, this recipe requires your attention 2 times, the middle and the end.

And you get a super, creamy, delicious mac and cheese.

You just can’t go wrong.

See the cute Weelicious video program here.  Her son Kenya is a doll!!

Weelicious Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese:

Ingredients:

2 Cups Pasta (I use fusilli or penne)
1 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Whole Milk
1 1/2 Cups Cheese (I use a shredded, Mexican blend from Costco)

* Option: You can also add a cup of finely chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash or frozen peas. Do so in step #2. (I have not done this, I have only added cooked veggies to the end)

  1. Place the first 3 ingredients in the rice cooker and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Open the lid, add the milk and cheese, stir to combine, close the lid and cook for an additional 20 minutes (Mine takes 25-35 minutes, just keep checking and stirring). *Rice cookers can cook at different heats, so make sure to check the mac & cheese after if cooks for 30 minutes once or twice.
  3. Serve.

barefoot contessa’s roasted shrimp orzo

Ever since returning from Thermador’s Steamy event, I’ve been on a bigger than normal cooking kick.  Plus because it’s Summer and the garden is bursting with great herbs and veggies to use, it just MAKES you want to cook.  But it DOES NOT MAKE me want to clean up dishes, or be slaving in a hot kitchen when we are in the middle of a heat wave.  So I’ve been searching out quick and easy dinners, that are super flavorful, AND that everyone in the family can enjoy.

I started to watch Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, ages ago.  I loved her design eye and the glimpse into her kitchens.  I also loved that she left a job at the White House to pursue her dreams.  The more I watched her, the more I fell in love with her recipes.  They are always simple, never with complicated steps.  They use great ingredients that really bring out the most in a dish. Ina Garten’s goal is easy entertaining as she doesn’t feel the host should be stuck in the kitchen throughout a dinner party.  Amen! I love this as it also translates to a family dinner, where mom doesn’t want to be tied to the oven all night! Amen again!

This is a great pasta dish.  It is meant to be prepared with Orzo, but really, any pasta will do.  I use Orzo sometimes as it looks like rice to my kids, other times, I do it with Penne or Fussili as it’s easy for their cute, chubby fingers to pick up.

Another reason I love the simplicity of this meal is that you can complete things in short 15 minute windows.  While the kids played with their little kitchen this AM, I quickly chopped up the veggies and the herbs, and mixed the dressing.  Done in under 15 minutes. Which is good, because I would have had more helping hands than I needed if it had taken any longer!  But now that I’m done, and it’s in the fridge waiting for tonight, I can go about the rest of my crazy day knowing the bulk of dinner is waiting for me.  Left to do?  Roast the shrimp, cook the pasta and add it all together with Feta.

Roasting shrimp couldn’t be easier.  I use frozen shrimp from Costco.  They are cleaned and deveined with the tail on (and is super easy to pull off).  I do this on a foil lined baking sheet. Less clean up in the end, just roll up and toss in the trash!

5-6 minutes and you’re golden….errr, opaque.  Which is what you want.

Add the shrimp with the veggies & herbs, to the pasta, toss in the feta and dressing, mix together and serve.  It has a wonderful lemony dressing…one bite of this dish just screams “SUMMER”!  Nice served with a fresh Baguette.

We also enjoyed the leftovers as a side with cheeseburgers a couple of nights later.

Here’s to easy, impressive dinners, that everyone in the family will enjoy!


Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted Shrimp with Orzo
Food Network

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
Good olive oil
3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
  3. Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!
  4. Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

what to do with summers bounty? zuchinni carbonara!

Got Zuchinni? Got Squash? Need a recipe to help use up a summer bounty??  I know Momfluential does!  Have you seen her veggie wagon!?!?!?  My garden is not quite in that league, but we had a nice first crop when I got back last week, so I went in search of a recipe.  This time it was Jamie Oliver that saved the day.  Oh man was it good. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for the leftovers for lunch the next day! Packed with flavor, super easy, super quick.

Beautiful Zuchinni Carbonara
Adapted from Jamie Oliver on the Food Network

Don’t let the length of the recipe discourage you!  I think it took 20 minutes total from beginning to end….at the MOST!  I served this with Grilled Peaches for dessert.  Another SUPER FAST recipe!  These are both perfect for summer entertaining, or flavorful dinner for your family.  People will be amazed you can cook like this AND have kids!

Ingredients:

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
4-6 medium green and yellow zucchini
1 pound pasta (penne, fussili, something easy for the kids)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 good handfuls freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
12 thick slices pancetta or bacon, cut into chunky pieces (could also use the Trader Joe’s ready chopped pancetta)
A small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped.
Optional: a few zucchini flowers, any fresh herbs you have available.  I used basil and chives along with the thyme.
Optional: chicken stock.  I forgot to reserve cooking liquid as the recipe suggested, so I grabbed a container of chicken stock…I think it actually added well to the flavor!

Directions:

  1. Before you start cooking, it’s important to get yourself a very large pan, or use a high-sided roasting pan so you can give the pasta a good toss.
  2. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. You can prepare the zuchinni 1 of 2 ways. Halve and quarter any larger zucchini lengthwise. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and A.) slice the zucchini at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the pasta. or B.) Use a mandoline, which is what I did, to slice everything super thin. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the package instructions.
  3. To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Heat a very large frying pan, add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the zucchini slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, along with any other fresh herbs you’re using.  Give everything a stir, so the zucchini is coated with all the lovely bacon-flavored and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
  5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the zucchini, bacon and lovely flavors, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
  6. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any zucchini flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately.

Enjoy!

Flat Belly Diet ~ Crunchy Mac and Cheese

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook

4 Servings / 328 Calories / MUFA: Olive Oil

Ingredients:

4 ounces multigrain elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again. Set aside.
  3. Combine the bread crumbs and 2 teaspoons of the oil and stir with a fork to evenly coat.
  4. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon oil ot a large saucepan.  Set over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour, paprika, salt, adn pepper until smooth.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly.  Cook, whisking, for 5 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the cheese until it melts.  Stir in the macaroni. Pour into the baking dish.  Top evenly with the crumb mixture.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Flat Belly Diet ~ Penne Pasta Salad

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook

4 Servings (2 Cups Each) / 424 Calories / MUFA: Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

6 ounces multigrain penne pasta
2 cups broccoli florets
12 ounces precooked skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  Add the broccoli to the pot for the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Drain the pasta and the broccoli, rinse under cold water and drain again.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the chicken, tomatoes, pesto, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss well.

broccoli noodle stir fry

I found The Steamy Kitchen recipe blog site from The Pioneer Woman and ordered the book, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbookby Jaden Hair.  Very often Chinese is our dinner once a week, stir fries, fried rice, meat, veggies & eggs in a wok are super easy and fun for kids to watch and/or help with.  Plus you get a pretty healthy dinner.  So I was excited to find The Steamy Kitchen and start trying her recipes!  This recipe I actually got from her site and can be found in the cookbook, Noodles Every Day by Corinne Trang.

Broccoli Noodle Stir Fry

(Image from Steamy Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, sake or dry white wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 pound beef sirloin, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh or 10 ounces dried noodles (Chinese or Spaghetti is fine)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large garlic cloves, crushed and
finely chopped
1.25 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound Chinese broccoli or regular common broccoli, cut into bite-size chunks or florets
Freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon each soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until completely dissolved. Stir in the tapioca starch and continue stirring until smooth. Add the sesame oil and beef, and mix well. Marinate for 20 minutes. Drain and discard the excess marinade.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles until 1 minute shy of done and drain. (We’ll finish cooking the noodles at the end)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a skillet or wok over high heat and stir-fry the garlic until fragrant, about 1o seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the Chinese broccoli, stir frying so that the oil coats the Chinese broccoli. Pour in the 1/4 cup of the stock, turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook the Chinese broccoli until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the Chinese broccoli to the same plate.

Add the remaining cup of stock and the remaining 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and rice wine to the same skillet and bring to a boil over
high heat.

Add the noodles and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, leaving the noodles lightly moistened,2 to 3 minutes. Return the beef and broccoli to the skillet and toss to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Season with pepper to taste and serve.

Easy Lasagna

I have been making this lasagna for so long but have never written down the recipe.  I wing it every time!  So here goes nothing!!  Lasagna to me is a great leftover meal to make especially if you have a ton of veggies to use up.  My sister and her husband are vegetarians and so I have gotten used to making this lasagna packed FULL of any veggie that she has in her fridge that she needs to use up.  When we are with them I just make 2 simultanoulsy, one with meat, one without.  If it’s just for us, I make 1 for dinner, and 1 to freeze or to take to a friend.  You can bake it from frozen in twice the time – usually 2-2 1/2 hours.  Just throw a tented piece of foil over it, that you remove after an hour.

Also, I’ve found this is a GREAT way to get Addie to eat veggies.  I chop them extra fine and she has no idea they are in there!  Such good news!

EASY LASAGNA

Ingredients:

– 8 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles (I do not cook mine ahead of time, just buy regular lasagna noodles – no need to splurge in the “no boil” kind)
– 1/2 lb ground beef or ground turkey or spicy Italian sausage (or if you have all 3 to use up, by all means! I usually do sausage and turkey as both are always in my freezer.)
– 4 cups (~ 2 jars) Classico Sweet Pepper or Italian Sausage Sauce (or mix whatever you feel like – sometimes I buy 2 different kinds to keep ’em guessing)
– 1 jar Classic Alfredo sauce (or any other brand you like)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
– 2 cups ricotta cheese
– 1 small container of basil pesto (optional)
– 3 cups shredded mozzarella
– 1/2 cup grated parmesan
– An assortment of fresh veggies, chopped/diced – I like to use red & yellow bell peppers, onion, zuchinni, & yellow squash – but truly you can use ANYTHING, including cooked leftovers.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Add marinara sauce, water, salt and Italian Seasoning.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate pan, saute veggies in olive oil for just a few minutes, start with hardier veggies first and then softer (i.e. onions, carrots, peppers, yellow squash, zuchini, mushrooms…) they do not need to be cooked through. Salt & pepper to taste and then sat aside.
  4. Use the now empty pan to cook the meat and then add to the sauce.
  5. While meat is cooking, grate the cheese and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta in with the pesto (if you are using) to your preference.  I think I mix about 3 – 4 tablespoons of pesto in with the ricotta.  Set aside.
  6. Layer in a 9 x 13″ baking dish – the deeper the better.  Sometimes I prefer to make this in a deep foil pan (or 2 smaller deep foil pans).
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until noodles no longer feel crunchy when knife is inserted.

Layers – does not need to be perfect!!

1/3 Meat Sauce
1/2 Noodles
1/2 Alfredo Sauce
1/2 Ricotta with Pesto
1/2 Mozzarella
1/3 Meat Sauce
All Veggies (Can also add these to the sauce instead)
1/2 Noodles
1/2 Alfredo Sauce
1/2 Ricotta with Pesto
1/2 Mozzarella
1/3 Meat Sauce
Parmesan

Serve with a big green salad and warm, buttered french bread.  I usually pull out a mini baguette from the freezer from Costco.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

We love Spaghetti in our house.  As a kid, I remember growing up with the smell of this sauce simmering on the stove and sneaking a piece of  meat out of the sauce every time I passed by it. (Which I made sure I had to do A LOT). It’s super simple. I make a big batch and freeze or pass to a neighbor or friend as it’s an easy way to give a mom a dinner break for the night.

You will have to forgive me a I’ve been making this blind for years now!  It’s so simple, there isn’t that much to write about it.

Ingredients:

1 lb + ground turkey, beef, or hot Italian sausage (or any combo of this.  I normally do turkey and sausage mainly because I buy both in bulk at Costco) quantity depends on how “meaty you like it” to me, the more the merrier.
1 medium onion, chopped
4 – 28 oz cans of tomato sauce
2-3 Bay Leaves
2-3 pinches of Italian Seasoning, or Herbs de Provence.  Whatever you got!
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Brown the onions and meat.  Transfer to a large stock pot.  Add tomato sauce, bay leaves, Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer at least an hour, longer the better.  Salt & Pepper to taste and continue simmering.

Serve over spaghetti noodles (or worms).

Leftover Suggestion:

We loved spaghetti sandwiches as kids.  The spaghetti can be hot or cold, although we preferred (and still make them this way today) cold spaghetti on warm bread.  Toast and butter (butter is key) 2 slices of bread, scoop the cold spaghetti in and sandwich the second slice on top.  Makes a GREAT second dinner (or fun lunch for kids).  Serve with some sliced fruit to make life easy!

The Pioneer Woman’s Mac & Cheese (Heaven!)

The Pioneer Woman’s Mac & Cheese (Heaven!)

PW Mac & Cheese

I made this the week before Thanksgiving so that there would be something all the visiting kids could munch on.  Um hello, it lasted a day. Even the youngest 9 month olds were going crazy for it.   I think next time I’ll separate into 2 dishes to freeze one and have it for a second dinner….of course, that’s assuming we don’t decide to devour the rest of the week.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

4 cups Dried Macaroni
¼ cups (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
2-½ cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
1 whole Egg Beaten
1 pound Cheddar Cheese, Grated
½ teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
½ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme

Directions:

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

beef stroganoff

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2008

4 Servings

I love a good comfort food meal.  This one is super easy.  Paula Deen is a yummy southern cook, not afraid of a little butter! I usually make this to use up any red meat I have left over….filet, flank steak, stew meat, anything.  But you can also prepare as below if you do not have leftovers. My notes are in italics.

1 1/2 pounds cubed round steak, cut into thin strips (I usually use left over steak from earlier in the week)
House Seasoning, recipe follows (I use Lindberg Snider Porterhouse & Roast Seasoning 2.75oz.)
All-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, sliced (I chop so Addie will eat too)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can beef broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
Salt and black pepper
1 cup sour cream
Cooked egg noodles

Directions:

Season the steak strips with House Seasoning (or Porterhouse), then dust with flour. In a large skillet, quickly brown them on both sides in the olive oil and butter. (If using left over, I cut into bite size strips and do the same as above without the flour) Remove the steak from the pan. Add the onion slices and mushrooms to the pan drippings. Saute for a few minutes, until the onion is tender. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flour. Put the steak back into the pan with the onion and mushrooms. Add the mushroom soup and beef broth. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, covered. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in the sour cream the last few minutes, right before you serve. Serve over cooked noodles.

House Seasoning:
I have never made, but I’m sure it’s good. I’m just lazy and use the Lindberg Snider Porterhouse & Roast Seasoning 2.75oz. on everything!

1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Yields: 1 1/2 cups