beef mac and cheese…my way

Beef Macaroni and Cheese

1 stick of butter

A few tablespoons of Wondra gravy flour

Dash of nutmeg

A couple of dashes of Tabasco

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded mixed cheddar cheese

6 ounces chopped Velveeta cheese (the kind that comes in a block)

14 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

12 ounce can of vitamin D evaporated milk

1 – 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1 lb ground beef

1 small red onion, chopped small

1 pound bag of Gemelli pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

I have never written this down, so bear with me.

First I sauté the pound of ground beef in a nonstick pan with the red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Because I am using a nonstick pan I don’t grease it. Remove from heat.

In another pan I make my cheese sauce. It starts with a roux which is butter and flour. I just eyeball the flower and I use Wondra which is a great flower to use for things like this and gravies because it’s very fine. So I say a few tablespoons, it’s either that or a few dashes.

After the flour and butter have kind of cooked together, I had a dash of nutmeg and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Then I add the buttermilk.

I incorporate everything together whisking constantly and then I add the can of milk. Next I add the Swiss and Gruyere mix, whisking constantly until it’s incorporated. After that I add the cheddar and then I stir in the Velveeta chunks. As everything comes together you may have to add a little more milk. It just depends.

After it’s creamy and smooth I add the can of tomatoes which I do not drain. I then let the cheese sauce kind of meld together and I keep on stirring it. When I think it’s the proper consistency I turn it off and put a lid on it.

In a big Dutch oven I cook the pasta as per the package instructions and then drain. First I put the pasta back into the Dutch oven. Then I stir in the ground beef mixture. Then I slowly incorporate the cheese sauce until everything‘s together.

I always make a little more sauce than I am expecting but you just let your pasta sit for a few minutes with the lid on in the Dutch oven and the heat off on the stove and a lot of the moisture from the cheese sauce will be absorbed.

Serve with a salad and it’s magically delicious.

Thanks for stopping by.

pizza, pizza

One of the things I think that has suffered in the pandemic is pizza. I just kept finding that the pizza we were ordering no matter where it was from, was uneven in consistency of product delivered to the customers. Sometimes when we would order, the pizza was fabulous. Other times when we would order not so much or rushed or they forgot things on the order (like a couple of times completely forgetting the toppings we ordered for the pizza) and with everyone suffering from pandemic economics, you don’t want to call and say “oh your pizza sucked.” So we stopped ordering pizza. And I started making pizza.

I am capable of making the dough but one of my really good friends told me about Wegmans pizza dough. You can buy regular or organic. I will keep a couple in the freezer now and the dough freezes nicely for the short term.

The day before you are going to make your pizza, put your dough in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. The day you are baking, get your dough out of the refrigerator and put into an oiled mixing bowl, and lightly oil top of dough ball itself, cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in your kitchen to rise for a couple of hours. Make sure it is in a warm part of your kitchen, or it won’t rise right.

I am not someone who can throw pizza dough, so next when I am ready to bake I get out my silicone sheet that I roll out pie crusts and cookie dough on, lightly flour and roll the dough out. It does take a few minutes to roll the dough out properly because you need to get it thin enough that it fits a sheet pan. I do not have a pizza stone so I use a half sheet pan, which is a little over 17 inches long and 12 inches wide.

I should mention that before I get my dough rolled out, I preheat the oven to 450°F BUT I bake it at 400°F. I have just learned from baking bread that everything works better when I preheat my oven slightly higher than I’m doing the actual baking. I do not do this with cookies or biscuits, however.

When I put the dough down on the sheet pan I do not use a silicone baking sheet on the pan I use that Reynolds wrap nonstick foil. The first time I made pizza like this, I used one of my silicone baking sheets and when we sliced the pizza we turned the baking sheet to ribbons.

I layer sauce, then toppings and it goes into the oven and baked at 400°F for 20-23 minutes. Everybody’s oven is calibrated slightly differently and I have discovered generally speaking the 23 minutes is my optimum cook time for my pizza. And that’s it. It’s very easy and it’s really good.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from Wegmans Pizza dough. I had tried the premade dough years ago from Giant Food Markets and they changed how they made it because it went from being really good to being kind of gross. But the pizza dough from Wegmans is completely consistent. I have also been told that the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s is awesome.

And if you have small kids, making pizza is a really fun activity and it gets them familiar with the kitchen other than the microwave.

As for sauce and toppings that’s entirely up to you. You can make a little bit of your own sauce up but I recommend making it thick because it’s going on a pizza and baking in the oven. I have done it all sorts of ways I have made my own sauce with leftover sauce that I had from another meal, I have used Wegmans store brand premade pizza sauce, and Mezetta Spicy Marinara Calabrian Chile. The Wegmans sauce is well-made but for my taste I need to spice it up by adding herbs and garlic.

So yes my homemade pizza can also be considered semi-homade but try it! It’s fun!

Thanks for stopping by and stay warm today it’s cold outside.

snow day sauce day: bolognese

Well I woke up in the middle of the night and it was snowing and when we all got up this morning there was a fresh coat of powdery snow, so pasta it is. Snow day sauce day it is!

Today I am making a Bolognese sauce. I do make a nod to Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, but my recipe is very much my own. My sauce pretty much cooks all day. That’s why you make it on a snow day because you’re home.

I start with ground meat. My Bolognese has a pound of ground beef, a pound of veal, a pound of pork. If I can’t get ground veal I will use ground lamb.

The first thing I do is sauté two onions in a little extra virgin olive oil with five or six minced cloves of garlic. I use a sweet onion and a red onion. Once the onion is starting to get that slightly translucent look I add in the ground meat and a pinch of nutmeg and salt. I also add a large grated carrot. I do not add celery. A lot of Bolognese recipes call for celery.

As the meat browns, I keep stirring it to make sure it is consistent in size. When I serve this I want every bit of sauce to be married with a bit of ground meat. Then I add a cup of whole milk. Yes milk. You cook it until the milk solids kind of cook off which is about 20 minutes or so.

Next I add a cup of white wine. I will also use red wine. It’s basically whatever is open and I can get my hands on first. Today the wine was a little sweet it was this Moscato, but it cooks fine just the same.

As the wine is cooking down (again you want 20 to 30 minutes), I take one of those six or 8 ounce containers of cremini mushrooms and slice them thin. I add them to the meat onion and garlic mixture. I allow everything to cook together for about five minutes.

Next comes the tomatoes. Two 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. I like one can to be crushed, and the other can the whole Roma tomatoes in a purée. I shred the whole tomatoes by hand one by one into the pot and then I’ll incorporate the can of crushed tomatoes. Finally, I add a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.

The next step are the herbs. Oregano and basil, and to make it a little different I add a couple teaspoons of ground Aleppo pepper.

Now my sauce is cooking down on low and I will leave it to simmer for probably a few hours just stirring occasionally. And when I say summer I mean it is the lowest I can have my burner without turning it off.

I will then turn off the sauce and let it sit for a while. And then I will serve it tonight over pasta I could do linguine, but I might do just regular spaghetti.

All you need is a little grated Italian cheese and a green salad. Enjoy!

snow day = sauce day

Yes I make sauce not gravy. All of the sauce I make is based off of the way I learned to make it from my father and my Great Aunt Millie.

Millie lived at 11th and Ritner with my Great Aunt Josie and Great Uncle Pat (who we called PJ). In the early 2000s I won this awesome basket of Italian things courtesy of bon appétit and Epicurious. I came in second in this Italian cooking recipe contest. I did reload that recipe to the Epicurious website again in 2015.

But you don’t always have all the ingredients for any particular recipe and with all the snow outside, it was a snow day = sauce day but it was with what I had to cook with.

I started with sautéing two chopped red onions with six chopped cloves of garlic in a little olive oil. To that I added a tomato that came in a vegetable box that was getting a little disreputable looking and three bay leaves and some red wine vinegar (just a couple of good dashes.) Salt and pepper to taste. And 1 grated carrot. My father always did this.

Once the onion was starting to get translucent I added 10 oz of sliced up baby Bella mushrooms. I slice the mushrooms, I don’t buy sliced mushrooms.

Next comes 2 pounds of Italian sausage. 1 pound of hot and 1 pound of sweet. The sausage I had in I had gotten from the Artisan’s Exchange in West Chester. I had tried it on a whim and I have ordered it again. It’s really nice sausage. Yes it’s a little pricey but once in a while it’s OK to treat yourself and your family. The sausage is made by Mangia Famiglia. Usually my sausage comes from Cappuccio’s or the Shop Rite in West Chester. Shop Rites have great butcher sections and a wide selection of ethnic foods.

Next I added about 2/3 of a cup of milk. Today it was actually buttermilk because I had it left over. I don’t do as well with acid he foods as I used to so you do this with a Bolognese sauce and it also cuts the acid a little.

After the milk mostly cooked off I added 2 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. One can was crushed with purée, and one can or whole plum tomatoes that I then squished up by hand into the sauce. Then I added a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.

Next I added some shredded fresh basil and dried oregano. And that’s pretty much it. I don’t have any fresh flat leaf parsley so I didn’t add any parsley. I simmer it on the stove and let everything come together and cook through. I am going to serve it with spaghetti and a nice salad on the side.

Snow day dinners. It’s homemade. Thanks for stopping by!

bread quest 2021

White bread recipe from the Amish Baking Cookbook

So in 2020 I learned how to make sourdough bread thanks to my friend Tracey Deschaine at Dixie Picnic in Malvern. But I don’t want to be a one trick pony and by year end I had made German Christmas Stollen and no knead bread as well.

I heard this Amish Baking cookbook was a good one, so I decided to order myself a copy. Why? Because some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted has been Amish baked. And I had a Pennsylvania German grandmother who was an amazing baker, so I was curious.

As much as I like to cook, baking bread from scratch was very intimidating to me. So I just keep trying new recipes, and today it is the “white bread” recipe from this cookbook.

I was going to mess with it and split it in half but I just decided to make the recipe as written the first time to see how I did.

Here is the recipe:

1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

1 tsp. sugar

2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, divided

1 1/4 tsp. salt (I would increase this a smidge next time.)

1/3 cup sugar (white or organic white)

1 3/4 Tbsp. shortening (I used butter)

7-8 cups flour (I used a scant 8)

1. Dissolve the yeast and teaspoon of sugar in half cup lukewarm water. Do this in a little bowl and put to the side.

2. In a large bowl mix 2 cups of water, salt, sugar, and shortening. Then add the yeast mixture and, gradually, the flour.

3. Knead the bread until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover and sit in a warm place to rise until double. For me, this took about 45 or 50 minutes and I greased the bowl with canola oil.

4. When the bread has done its first rise, punch it down again. Let rise until double again.

5. Split into two loaf pans lined with parchment and let rise until double again.

6. Bake at 350°F for 1/2 hour

Super puffy and fun bread to make. Two nice loaves. I will add more salt next time, however.

Try the recipe and buy the cookbook! I bought my copy used off of eBay.

white chocolate chestnut bread pudding

Other snow food I am making includes a delicious bread pudding. Bread pudding is a great way to use up leftover things and isn’t that labor-intensive. With my résumé I give you options on the milk because not everybody has big containers of half-and-half or heavy or whipping cream in the refrigerator.

One loaf of stale challah or white bread cubed and 1 inch cubes.

5 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
4 cups whipping cream, 1/2 and 1/2 or evaporated vitamin D milk (Carmation)

1 1/2 cups of white sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/4 c brewed coffee (no sugar or milk) at room temperature

1 small bag (the ones that keep in the freezer or 5.2 ounces each) of roasted and peeled chestnuts, chopped and toasted quickly in a small pan with teaspoon or so of butter.

12 ounces of white chocolate chips.

I warm up the milk in the microwave. I add that to the eggs, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla after I have whipped all of that together and the sugar is dissolved. I use a whisk.

Incorporate the milk slowly into the egg mixture with the sugar because you do not want to scramble the eggs .

Butter generously a 9“ x 13“ baking dish. Place bread cubes in neatly. Scatter white chocolate chips over bread cubes evenly. Next pour half of the milk and egg and sugar mixture onto the bread cubes. Allow bread to soak it up it only takes a few minutes. Press gently on the bread cubes in the pan, and then slowly pour the rest of the egg milk and sugar mixture over the top.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and let mixture rest for a good couple of hours prior to baking – you want it to soak everything up and it pretty much will.

When you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 350°.

On a lower rack in the oven put a pan of water similar sized to the pan you are making the bread pudding in. You are making a Ban Marie of sorts and the bread pudding will cook more evenly and retain moisture – you will cook the pudding on the rack above this pan with water.

Bake covered with foil for 45 minutes, then remove the foil covering and bake for another 15 minutes until the pudding is golden brown and set. Cool slightly.

A lot of people like to serve it with a caramel sauce or another kind of sauce. I’d prefer my bread pudding slightly warm to just room temperature and either plain or with a little bit of whipped cream.

Enjoy!

vintage cookbooks

I love vintage cookbooks. Some of my favorites are these local or regional ones that are put out by nonprofits, schools, churches. They are usually for fundraising.

I scored three the other day, all local to Chester County. This one from Grove Methodist is the best of the three. It could also be because that is one of my favorite little churches in Chester County.

My cookbook is from 1991. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes. This is one of those cookbooks that doesn’t have any Michelin stars attached, it’s just good home cooking.

You can find these little gems in many places – I found this one on eBay. I had seen it in somebody’s house years ago and I don’t know what made me think of it but I went looking for it.

I figure since we are still home so much because of COVID-19 some new recipes are in order! Thanks for stopping by happy Thursday!

just a good dinner.

I love Mexican food and the flavors of the American Southwest. And sometimes I just crave this one particular no name meal I make.

My cousin asked me what I called what I made for dinner, and I couldn’t exactly tell her because I don’t know anybody else that makes it. It’s kind of pork carne asada inspired burritos meets enchiladas. Those are the things that inspire this yummy winter dinner.

So this is my attempt to write it down. I always remember how to make it but so many people keep asking me I figured I would try to get it written down.

I sautéed pork (six small boneless pork chops sliced as if I was making fajitas) with 1 sweet onion, cilantro, 1 red onion, a couple jalapeños (not seeded), bell peppers, Mexican spices (Tajin seasoning and Hatch chili powder, garlic powder, Goya Adobo, oregano, basil) , 2 limes grated for zest, juice of two limes and 1/4 cup water.

Then I make a little Mexican inspired tomato sauce with chili powder, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, grated lime zest, juice of one lime, small can diced tomatoes, 1 6 oz can tomato paste.

Next I lined a 9” x 12” pan with non stick foil and rolled up in large tortillas one at a time the pork mixture, shredded Mexican cheese and fat free refried beans. Line up side by side – you can fit six. Layer on tomato sauce, top with shredded Mexican cheese blend, a little more sauce. Cover pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with Mexican inspired rice, sour cream, pickled jalapeños if you choose, more cilantro, etc.

yes, semi-homemade…split pea soup with ham!

The weather said split pea soup with ham.

The soup is made using green and yellow split peas.

It’s made from part of a ham I had leftover and a ham bone (I always save the ham bones and toss them in the freezer for occasions just like this one), chopped celery, a chopped onion, a chopped bunch of carrots, two bay leaves, fresh herbs which are still growing in the garden.

I didn’t have any bone broth made so I simply used one salt free beef broth and two vegetable broth. Each container is 32 ounces so it gives me enough liquid as per the instructions on the bags of dried split peas. That is your semi-homemade component for this soup.

How you put it together is first you sauté your diced up vegetables in a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil with some salt. Then you add the ham and the hambone. Then you add your fresh herbs – in my case it was sage and thyme and even a little rosemary. Then I added the dried peas, and after that, the broth.

Now it’s just perking along on the stove at a super low temperature. After a while I will turn it off and let it cool down and see where I am.

For those of you who know I like Great Jones pots this is their big stock pot.

Bon appétit!

pumpkin bread with sourdough starter- mmmmm

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (yesterday I used bread flour it was all I had)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup puréed pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 cup sourdough starter-( fed within the last week and you have to let it warm up from out of your refrigerator for at least two hours)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup or even 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut or raisins
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions: Mix all wet ingredients except for sourdough starter.

Add spices. If you don’t like as many spices in a pumpkin bread as I do just decrease it. I am a cinnamon fiend I love cinnamon.

Stir in sourdough starter.

Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed. everything has to be incorporated so you’re just going to have to pay attention. I do this by hand not with a mixer.

Pour into a lightly greased Bundt pan and bake at 350° for approximately one hour. I use a metal skewer the skinny kind like you used to close the back of a turkey to test to see if the baking is complete. Toothpick or skewer should come out clean.

Cool in pan at least 25 minutes before removing from pan.

My final COVID-19 cooking note is if you can find canned pumpkin at a reasonable price by it because the prices attached to it now are absurd.